<span class="vcard">Kurt Helin</span>

Kemba Walker

Kemba Walker drops 30 on Orlando, lifts Charlotte to win

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Kemba Walker is known for his quick first step, his ability to get into the lane and break down defenses.

But he dropped 30 on Orlando Saturday night doing it mostly with the jump shot — he was 4-of-6 on above-the-arc threes and his jumper was working. We’ll add working mostly because the Magic gave him space — he was 8-of-13 on uncontested shots but just 2-of-8 when they got in his face.

The win snapped a five-game losing streak for the Hornets.

Tobias Harris throws it down, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist ends up in poster (VIDEO)

Tobias Harris
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It wasn’t Orlando’s day — Charlotte went on a 22-0 run to close out the first half and never looked back — but Tobias Harris had a good day with 18 points and 11 rebounds.

And two of them came on a spectacular dunk — one all over Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

Harris is really having a quality season for Orlando scoring 18.3 points per game with an above average .560 true shooting percentage. If you’re going to put up those numbers, the year you’ll be a restricted free agent is a good time  to do it.

Add Kobe Bryant to list of smart people slamming AAU player development system

BKN-NBA-GRIZZLIES-LAKERS
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You can go ahead and point out the irony of Kobe Bryant complaining about a system that encourages a start mentality and players to play in isolation sets, ignoring teammates.

But the fact is Kobe is one of the most fundamentally sound players in the game, a guy with impeccable footwork honed over long hours in the gym. He plays a high IQ game. And when he trusts his teammates (as he has the past few games) is a very smart passer that is a couple of steps ahead of the defense.

Kobe sees the young players coming out of Europe with those fundamental skills. The ones coming into the NBA out of America’s AAU system… not so much, he told Arash Markazi of ESPN.

“I just think European players are just way more skillful,” Bryant said Friday night after the Los Angeles Lakers’ 109-106 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. “They are just taught the game the right way at an early age. … They’re more skillful. It’s something we really have to fix. We really have to address that. We have to teach our kids to play the right way….

“AAU basketball,” Bryant said. “Horrible, terrible AAU basketball. Its stupid. It doesn’t teach our kids how to play the game at all so you wind up having players that are big and they bring it up and they do all this fancy crap and they don’t know how to post. They don’t know the fundamentals of the game. Its stupid.”

Kobe and his Lakers had just lost a game to the Marc Gasol led Grizzlies (and of course Kobe played with Marc’s brother for a couple of rings). Kobe and the rest of us saw a heavily European roster of Spurs play the beautiful game on their way to the title last June. He’s frustrated.

And he’s right.

Kobe joins a long list of NBA people who despise the AAU system, both because of the style of play it produces and because it’s a dirty business (there are few things more fueled by under the table money like AAU/college recruiting). Even at the NBA level talent tends to win out but with the talent disparities seen in high school age kids if you can get two or three potential NBA-level guys on one team you can dominate — now Kings’ coach Ty Corbin once said the “big three” in Miami was the product of the AAU system. Worse yet, those AAU coaches with stacked teams don’t really have to coach the players and get them to improve. There is little defense, little teamwork and off-the-ball movement in a half-court set. We could go on and on, but you get the point.

Of course, pointing out the system is broken is easy, fixing an entreated system designed to create stars that can be lucrative for certain people and businesses is another. People are protective of their fiefdoms. And any dramatic overhaul of a system is messy and complicated.

Kobe hopes the fix can be simpler than that.

“Teach players the game at an early age and stop treating them like cash cows for everyone to profit off of,” he said. “That’s how you do that. You have to teach them the game. Give them instruction.”

Stephen Curry with emphatic dunk, Draymond Green triple-double as Warriors beat Raptors (VIDEO)

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That would be MVP candidate Stephen Curry showing second tier MVP candidate Kyle Lowry how they do things in Cali.

The Raptors have lost three of five on a rough road trip, the latest coming to the NBA-leading Golden State Warriors. Golden State went on a 20-3 run starting early in the third quarter, led by as many as 23 and cruised in for the 125-105 win. There are moments when Toronto’s defense looks pretty good (although it is 21st in NBA) but Golden State’s passing was at it’s peak and they just torched the Toronto defense.

Another reason for the win? Draymond Green’s triple double of 16 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds. When the Raptors were pushing to make a fourth quarter comeback Green was grabbing all the boards and setting up teammates to keep Toronto at bay.

Top 10 circus shots of 2014 (VIDEO)

Oklahoma City Thunder v Sacramento Kings
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It may be 2015 now, but our head is still in 2014. Heck, we’ll probably write that date on some checks for the first three months of this year.

Since our head is still there let’s go back and relive the best circus shots of 2014. Of course there’s some Lance Stephenson and Jeff Green, but personally I would have had Kevin Durant’s shot in the playoffs as he is fouled by Marc Gasol at the top of the list.

Thanks to the people at NBA.com for compiling this.