Kurt Helin

Five Takeaways from NBA Thursday: Cavaliers “took a step backwards” in loss to Nets


What you missed around the NBA while you were re-living the highlights of Garry Shandling’s career….

1) Cavaliers look lost on defense, fade in fourth quarter, lose to Nets 104-95.
At this point in the season, coaches of playoff teams are looking for their squads to start getting into that mindset — focusing on the details, bringing energy every night, taking every opponent seriously and not coasting for a quarter (let alone a game). The reality is in late March we tend to still see a lot of mental vacation nights from teams where their focus is elsewhere.

Enter the Cleveland Cavaliers in Brooklyn Thursday. From the start, they were throwing lazy passes that got picked off (seven first quarter turnovers) and having ugly defensive lapses. Brooklyn was getting buckets from Brook Lopez (22 points on the night) and a balanced attack behind him with four other Nets in double figures. LeBron James was not the problem — he was 7-of-7 shooting in the first half, 13-of-16 for the game dropping 30 points — but the rest of the Cavaliers shot 35.6 percent on the night. Kyrie Irving was 6-of-22 and Kevin Love 5-of-14. Cleveland made a third quarter push to take the lead briefly, but in the fourth looked like a team on a back-to-back and scored just 12 points in the fourth. The loss isn’t going to cost the Cavs the top seed (they are still two games up on the Raptors) but they didn’t look like a contender. LeBron put it this way:

2) J.J. Redick knocks down game winner to beat Portland. As a whole the game felt like it was played in mud (both teams on the second night of a back-to-back), but when it mattered first Jamal Crawford stepped up for the Clippers — he hit the game-tying three, was fantastic in the second half, and finished with 25 points. Then with the game on the line, it was Chris Paul to J.J. Redick (after the game C.J. McCollum owned up to Redick being his man and he said he lost him).

3) Knicks sweep home and home from Bulls. Chicago may be the nine seed in the East and be on the outside looking in at the playoffs as you read this, but the theory goes their schedule is easier down the stretch than Detroit’s, so the Bulls can climb back into this thing. But not if they play like this — the Knicks just swept a home-and-home from the Bulls, winning in Madison Square Garden Thursday 106-94. Derrick Rose dunked for the Bulls, and outside of that there is nothing good to report. Fivethiryeight.com now says the Pistons have a 61 percent chance to make the playoffs, the Wizards (still a game back of Chicago but with a soft schedule) are at 30 percent, and the Bulls are just 13 percent (all that adds up to more than 100 percent because there is a four percent chance the Pacers fade out of the picture from the seven seed).

The Bulls’ front office has a lot of work to do this summer.

4) Knicks’ Jose Calderon finds Derrick Williams for a three-quarter court alley-oop. When things are going right for the Knicks, they are going right.

5) Back to Nets/Cavs: Watch Donald Sloan‘s behind-the-back move drop Matthew Dellavedova to the ground. It was just that kind of night for the Cavaliers’ defense.

NBA questions 2017 All-Star Game in Charlotte after new North Carolina discrimination law


Last month, city leaders in Charlotte passed an anti-discrimination law that included protections for gay, lesbian, and transgendered people in the city.

Wednesday, the North Carolina legislature overruled them, passing a law that limits city’s ability to pass those laws and rolling back the Charlotte ordinance as it relates to the LGBT community. Specifically, the legislature used the red herring of transgendered people in bathrooms to scare people and pass a law that opens the door for discrimination against all gays and lesbians. The Governor signed it. This is now the law in North Carolina, one that opens the door to discrimination against a segment of society.

The NBA is scheduled to host the All-Star Game in Charlotte next season, Stephen Curry‘s hometown and Michael Jordan’s team, but that was put in question by a statement released by the league Thursday.

“The NBA is dedicated to creating an inclusive environment for all who attend our games and events. We are deeply concerned that this discriminatory law runs counter to our guiding principles of equality and mutual respect and do not yet know what impact it will have on our ability to successfully host the 2017 All-Star Game in Charlotte.”

The NBA wasn’t alone. Apple is a big employer in the state and released this statement.

“Our future as Americans should be focused on inclusion and prosperity, and not discrimination and division. We were disappointed to see Governor McCrory sign this legislation.”

Good on the NBA. If your values as a business conflict with the regressive, backwards laws some places choose to pass, take your business elsewhere.

The challenge to moving the All-Star game is logistical — the All-Star Game is a massive traveling show that is not easily altered less than a year from the event. Arenas need to be open, thousands of hotel rooms need to be available, a place for the All-Star Jam to happen needs to be available, plus there are countless side events with the NBA and its business partners already focused on Charlotte. Moving it would bet a logistical nightmare. Could a major market and place used to massive events — Los Angeles (scheduled to get the game in 2018), New York, New Orleans, Miami, Las Vegas — absorb the event on short notice?

It’s something to watch. But if the NBA can’t move the event, expect some very public moves by the league to include a LGBT presence at the game next February.


Mike Krzyzewski not down with idea Stephen Curry is ruining the game


There was a time when some people used to say Michael Jordan — because of his isolation play, his taking of difficult shots — was ruining the younger generation of players who idolized him and tried to mimic his style. Then it was Kobe who was ruining the game.

Now it is Stephen Curry — and his three-point shooting — who is ruining the game.

Just don’t try selling that to Duke and Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski. Here’s what he said at the NCAA Tournament (via ASAP Sports and Ball Don’t Lie).

Q. In an era where all kids love Steph Curry, how do you remind your guys to not necessarily play like Steph Curry?

MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: No, I’d like them to play like — I’ve coached Steph twice, and if they can play like that, that would be cool, man. It would be a lot better.

I think Steph is a great example of preparation and consistent preparation and love of the game. You see it manifested in his talents and what he does. But the preparation that he has and the attitude that he has on a day-to-day basis to do his best are amazing examples for kids. I think he’s an amazing example for constant improvement, constant love of the game, constant hunger to show that he can do it again, never satisfied, all those things are alive and well with Steph Curry. Those are great examples for our guys to watch. So we like when they watch him.

Last season Curry was the NBA MVP and led his team to an NBA championship. This season he came back better — not just with more confidence from three (as if he needed that) but his ability to finish in the paint. He is attacking more and getting a much higher percentage of his shots at the rim, and his two-point shooting percentage has jumped from a 52.8 percent to 57.4 percent. He’s knocking down his long twos at a high percentage. He knew teams were going to play him to take away the three, so he’s improved in the areas that make that make teams pay for their choices.

And that’s just this season, his defense, ball handling, passing, and court vision have all made huge leaps while he was in Golden State.

If you don’t think that’s a good example for young players, I can’t help you.

Rockets have green guy with popcorn tub on head pop out of trash can to distract shooters

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I’ve seen some pretty creative attempts to distract free throw shooters (usually at the college level), but what the Houston Rockets went with Wednesday night — a modern day Oscar the Grouch if he let himself go? — was right at the top of the list.

Sorry, you can’t unsee that.

It didn’t work, Rodney Hood hit the free throw. And it mattered, as the Jazz went on to beat the Rockets 89-87 to pass them and take over the eighth seed and the final playoff slot in the West.

Manu Ginobili to play for Argentina in Rio Olympics

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Argentina has qualified for the Rio Olympics this summer; they came in second at the FIBA America’s tournament last summer. The did with a roster led by Luis Scola of the Raptors and former NBA player Andrés Nocioni, plus some quality players making their money either in Europe or the Argentinian leagues.

Now you can add Manu Ginobili to the list.

Ginobili helped lead Argentina to the Gold Medal in 2004, but last year said he was “98 percent sure” he would not play internationally again. Clearly he has changed his mind, something confirmed on the official Argentinian national team site.

Ginobili, who will be 39 at the Olympics, has had a fantastic season off the bench for the Spurs, averaging 9.4 points a game and shooting 36.5 percent from three, plus he’s still one of the more clever passers in the game. Him playing is a boost to Argentina (although they are not expected to medal).

The question is, will this be Ginobili’s graceful exit from the game? He was expected to retire at the end of this season. He could be looking to exit on an international stage.