Kurt Helin

DeAndre Jordan, Samuel Dalembert, Dirk Nowitzki

Best dunks of 2014-15 NBA season (VIDEO)

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I know, the new NBA schedule is out and we should all be looking ahead, not back.

But when I saw NBA.com put together a mixtape style video of the best dunks from last season… well, what’s wrong with one more look in the rear view mirror?

LeBron James, Damian Lillard, Andrew Wiggins, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and of course Zach LaVine all make cameos.

 

Blake Griffin, DeMarcus Cousins, Draymond Green teammates USA Basketball exhibition Thursday in Las Vegas

Blake Griffin
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After what happened last year at the USA Basketball meaningless exhibition game in Las Vegas — the Paul George injury — nobody should be shocked that a lot of the big names you can expect to see playing in 2016 at the Rio Olympics begged out of the USA Basketball exhibition game at the end of traning camp on Thursday.

So few players wanted to take part a handful of guys who were not part of the regular camp had to be called in to play in the game.

Still, there’s some star power out there.

USA Basketball announced the rosters for the showcase, as reported by Sam Amick of the USA Today.

Blue Team (Monty Williams, coach):

Harrison Barnes, Bradley Beal, DeMar DeRozan, Andre Drummond, Kenneth Faried, Rudy Gay, Amir Johnson, Victor Oladipo, and Elfrid Payton.

White Team (Tom Thibodeau, coach):

Arron Afflalo, Michael Carter-Williams, DeMarcus Cousins, Draymond Green, Blake Griffin, Terrance Jones, Kawhi Leonard, Mason Plumlee, Klay Thompson, C.J. Watson.

I’ll pick the White Team, for two reasons. First is, I like that roster better — Cousins on the inside, Green and Leonard playing defense, Griffin owning everyone, and Thompson shooting from somewhere out on the strip and knocking them down.

Then there is Tom Thibodeau — he’s got nothing else to do, he’s probably watched 12 hours of film prepping for this game.

Let’s just hope everyone stays healthy.

Ten must-watch games from new NBA schedule

Cleveland Cavaliers v Los Angeles Lakers
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It’s the reason broadcast networks are paying ungodly sums of cash to secure rights to leagues like the NBA — you need to watch live. This isn’t Top Chef where you can set the DVR and then watch it later in the week, when it comes to sporting events you need to carve out the time to watch the games.

But what games are good enough you tell your girlfriend you have to work late that night, and then head to the bar with your buddies to watch because you don’t want to miss them? (Remember, do not post pictures of yourself at said bar to social media that night.)

That’s why we’re here. The following are 10 games you do not want to miss this coming season.

• Oct. 27, New Orleans Pelicans at Golden State Warriors: The championship banner is going up at Oracle Arena, the first title for the Golden State franchise since before Led Zeppelin broke up. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and the entire Warriors band are back to defend the title. Well done by the NBA to set the Pelicans as the opponent — their new coach is Alvin Gentry, who last season masterminded the Warriors’ offense. Also, Golden State swept New Orleans out of the first round of the playoffs, but this is going to be a better Pelicans team.

• Oct. 28, San Antonio Spurs at Oklahoma City Thunder: I can sum up why to watch this game in five words — how does Kevin Durant look? The former MVP battled foot injuries last season but is back and expected to be ready opening night. While you’re at it, see how LaMarcus Aldridge looks in Spurs black and gray. 

• Nov. 11, San Antonio Spurs at Portland Trail Blazers: There was only one big time free agent that switched teams last season — Aldridge, who jumped from Portland to San Antonio, where he teams up with and becomes the heir apparent to Tim Duncan. But he’s got to go back to Portland some time, and that is Nov. 11. How will Blazers fans treat Aldridge? You can be sure Damian Lillard will be pumped up to get the win.

• Nov. 11, Los Angeles Clippers at Dallas Mavericks: I know how Mavericks fans are going to treat DeAndre Jordan, who first said he would come there as a free agent then changed his mind. The Clippers were already one of the more hated teams by many fans around the league, this just played right into that narrative.

• Nov. 23, Philadephia 76ers at Minnesota Timberwolves: Who did you think should go No. 1 last draft, Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor? Flip Saunders had the only vote that counted and he cast it for Towns, and while that may be the right call long term (I think it will be) Okafor will be the better rookie. Watch these two young bigs go head-to-head (on League Pass because the Sixers are not on national television once this season).

• Nov. 30, Los Angeles Lakers at Boston Celtics: There has been no better rivalry in NBA history than the Celtics and Lakers, and Kobe Bryant has added to that with a must-watch Finals series. Kobe very well may walk away from the NBA after the season, and if so this will be his final game in the Boston Garden. That will be emotional.

• Dec. 23, Dallas Mavericks at Brooklyn Nets: Deron Williams returns to Brooklyn. The Nets paid a lot of money for him to turn their franchise around in a Chris Paul kind of way, and they did not get their money’s worth. So they just paid him to go away. Now he returns, and he should not expect a love-in from Nets fans.

• Christmas Day, Dec. 25, Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors: Were you not entertained by the NBA Finals? It had Stephen Curry and LeBron James, and that helped draw the biggest NBA television ratings since the Jordan era. The NBA puts its biggest stars on its biggest stages, and this is that. The difference is this time LeBron has Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love healthy.

• Jan. 18, Los Angeles Clippers at Houston Rockets: The Clippers were up 3-1 on the Rockets in the second round of the playoffs, and were in total control of Game 5. And then the wheels came off. The Rockets played better, the Clippers looked exhausted (worn down by an epic series with the Spurs the round before), and Houston came back to take it. This eats at Chris Paul like you would not believe. Clippers/Rockets is becoming a real rivalry and all their meetings this season will be entertaining.

• April 13, Utah Jazz at Los Angeles Lakers: Is this Kobe’s final game? It will be the last game of the season for the Lakers (who are unlikely to make the playoffs in the loaded Western Conference). Kobe does not know right now, and there’s a chance he may not know when this game tips off, or at least not be saying publicly. But this game could be the end of one of the great careers in NBA history, and that is as must watch as it gets.

New NBA schedule reduces “four games in five nights,” back-to-backs. It’s a start.

Denver Nuggets v Houston Rockets
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More and more, coaches are resting their best players during the regular season — because the analytics tell them to. Guys bodies wear down from the grind — 82 regular season games plus playoffs, cross-country travel, games packed tightly together. It has become a growing story around the NBA in recent years — fans are paying big money for tickets to watch Blake Griffin or LeBron James, only to seem them in street clothes because the team is playing four games in five nights.

Back All-Star Game weekend, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the league would look into this and find a way to space games out more starting the next season.

They certainly did.

Last season there were 70 times teams had four games in five nights (almost always on the road), this season there are just 27. Eight teams have none of them, including the Spurs.

This season teams have an average of 17.8 back-to-back games, down from 19.3 last season. The number of “long distance” back-to-backs (across a time zone) went from 111 last season down to 84 this time. The system is not perfect — Golden State, Detroit, Houston and the Los Angeles Clippers — still each have 20 back-to-backs, but it’s an improvement.

That’s some steps in the right direction.

It’s not going to instantly end the rash of injuries to star players that we saw last season, but it’s a start to reduce the wear-and-tear on NBA players’ bodies which accumulates into injuries.

Next year the NBA schedule could start even a week earlier, and that space would be used further reduce those congested games.

Ideally that will mean fewer games where stars are rested, but we will have to see how that plays out.

In the end, this is about good business and the product on the court. As scientific evidence mounts that fatigue both impacts the quality of the game and increases the chance of injury, reducing that fatigue is going to happen one way or another. If the league can’t do it through better scheduling — and we all know the owners and players are not going to agree to reduce the number of games — then the coaches will take matters into their own hands. As Gregg Popovich has done for years.

Adam Silver has been wisely proactive with this schedule. But it is just a first couple steps.

 

Baron Davis working out, is serious about NBA comeback

Jordan Brand Melo M9 Shoe Launch
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The last time we saw Baron Davis on an NBA court it was the 2011-12 season, and he played an unimpressive 29 games for the New York Knicks. He’s sat out three full seasons since then, working off the court with the Knicks, making video spoofs, being abducted by aliens, and planning an NBA comeback.

Wait… what was that?

Yes, at age 36 he is still thinking about an NBA comeback, he told Jared Zwerling of Bleacher Report.

I will confess a bias here — Davis has long been a favorite of mine. Off and on the court, and when he is focused on it he could ball with the best point guards in the NBA.

That said, this is about as likely to happen as Keanu Reaves becoming a Broadway Star. Davis’ work ethic has never been his strongest attribute and his body was starting to betray him. Maybe he has some NBA games still in him, I’d love to think so, but no way there is 20 minutes a night there.