Kurt Helin

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Utah’s Alec Burks has arthroscopic surgery on left knee, ankle

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Alec Burks played a significant role off the bench for Utah last season — scoring 13.3 points per game and shooting better than 40 percent from three, he was one of the better playmakers on the roster, and he drove the second unit. Well, he did until the December day when he suffered a broken leg. He eventually needed surgery to repair it, and that sidelined him for three months until almost the end of the season, where the injury-plagued Jazz just missed the playoffs.

Now Burks is having some clean up work done on his left leg done during the summer — he had arthroscopic surgery on left knee and ankle on Tuesday, the team announced.

Burks is expected to be ready for training camp.

This is the time of year to get these kinds of things done. Utah’s guard situation will be interesting this summer as they get Dante Exum back from injury and they will have options (which could mean a trade). Burks was a great fit with the second unit, and if the Jazz have better fortune on the injury front this year, they should be able to bounce into the playoffs next season.
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Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant help promote new Ghostbuster’s movie

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I have no idea if the new Ghostbuster’s movie is any good, but I’m certainly not going to get into the pathetic, over-the-top reaction to the reboot starring an all-female cast. If you don’t like the idea, my suggestion is to not pay money to see the film. Just a thought.

The NBA has partnered to help promote the film and brought in some star power — Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis, Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant (all guys who had no playoffs to interfere with a shooting schedule), Spike Lee and others are all suiting up in Ghostbusters “uniforms.” I kind of like the Knicks’ one.

Warriors vs. Cavaliers NBA Finals Game 3 preview: What will Cavs do about Draymond Green?

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The Golden State Warriors are up 2-0 and didn’t just win those first two games, they won them in historic fashion. LeBron James is right, Wednesday night’s Game 3 is must win for Cleveland because if they go down 0-3 it is over. Here are five things to watch for on Wednesday night that will help determine the outcome (and if you want more detail, check out the PBT Podcast looking at Game 3).

1) What will the Cavaliers do about Draymond Green? Through two games the Cavaliers’ defensive strategy has been clear: They are not letting Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson beat them by raining threes. The Cavs have extended their defense out and focused on shutting those two guys down, taking away opportunites. It’s worked, those two have a combined 47 points through two games and not shot well. The problem is, the Warriors have a whole lot of other guys who can beat you. In Game 2 the Cavaliers chose to leave Draymond Green open, and the All-NBA player made them pay hitting five threes on his way to 28 points. It was Warriors assistant coach (and soon to be Lakers’ head coach) Luke Walton who pushed Green to fire away in Game 2.

“He was on me a lot last game about shooting the basketball,” Green said of Walton. “He’s like, ‘Man, you’ve got to shoot. We know you can make the shots. You know you can make the shots, but I need you to take those shots with confidence when you’re open. Stop hesitating.'”

He stopped, and the game became a blowout. The Cavaliers can assign a guy to stick with Green, but that will leave another Warriors role player open — and if you think those guys can’t hurt the Cavs may I remind you of Shaun Livingston‘s 20 in Game 1.

“We just want to win. It doesn’t matter who scores the points or who gets the credit,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “We do feel like the strength of our team is our depth, and we’re not overly reliant on one player, even the MVP. So our depth has shown so far, and I’m sure we’ll have different players continue to step up as the series goes on.”

I heard someone say all the Cavaliers are doing with their defensive coverages is dictating which Warrior wins Finals MVP. So far that is true. If the Cavs are to have any shot in Game 3 they need much more energy and much more mental focus on defense. Because the Warriors aren’t changing who they are.

2) Cleveland needs to play with urgency. My preferred style is to talk about matchups — which completely favor the Warriors so far — or to look at the analytics of a game, which also completely favor the Warriors through two. Often coaches will try to mask strategy and matchup concerns saying their team just needs to play with more energy/desperation/urgency/force.

In the case of the NBA Finals, the Cavaliers really do need to start playing with more energy/desperation/urgency/force. The Warriors have won the offensive rebounding battles, they are getting to all the 50/50 balls, and they are just competing harder than the Cavs. One team looks like they want it more, and it isn’t the one from blue-collar Cleveland. If that doesn’t change in Game 3, nothing else matters.

“We haven’t lost here all Playoffs,” Cavaliers’ coach Tyronn Lue said. “We play very well, and our guys understand that. They’re a good team. That’s why they won 73 games this year, and they play well at home. They had two big games and now we’ve got to come home and protect our home court.”

3) If Kevin Love is out, who steps up? Officially, Kevin Love is questionable for Game 3 as he goes through the NBA’s concussion protocol. There reportedly is optimism in his camp he will be ready to go, but if he does have a concussion that may not happen. It’s a game-time decision.

If he can’t go, what do the Cavaliers do? Tyronn Lue would not tip his hand, but most likely he starts Richard Jefferson and slides LeBron to the four. Iman Shumpert could get more run, and we may see more Timofey Mozgov. Jefferson was the Cavaliers’ second-best player in Game 2, and the only guy outside LeBron playing with real energy, but how many minutes can he go?

If LeBron does go to the four and more offense falls on him, he has to hit some jumpers — he was 1-of-9 outside the restricted area in Game 2. The Warriors are isolating one defender on him, bringing help when he puts it on the floor, and daring him to take midrange jumpers or threes. If he doesn’t hit some of those, the Warriors’ defensive strategy will make it hard on every other Cav.

It feels like no matter what the Cavaliers do, the Warriors have a counter move and better matchup they can fall back on (for example, remember they ran Mozgov off the court a year ago). Cleveland needs one of their role players to step up and change that dynamic.

4) Kyrie Irving has to be special. Do we really need to rehash the folly of the “if the Cavaliers just had a healthy Love and Irving everything would be different” argument? Things are different but not better because with those guys the Cavs want to play smaller and faster — which is right in the Warriors’ wheelhouse. Plus Irving and Love are not great defenders, they Warriors just keep exposing them.

Irving needs to have a big game. He’s been the ball stopper, the guy pounding the ball up and down too much, the guy playing too much isolation. The result has been him shooting 12-for-36 through two games, 1-for-7 from three, and he has six turnovers to just five assists He needs to be more decisive and get back to playing downhill.

“Just talking to Kyrie about attacking, attacking early on in the shot clock,” Lue said. “Don’t let the switching make him stagnant. But he’s one of the players that we have on our team that can go one-on-one, because they’re switching one through five. But he has to make sharp, quick moves. He understands that, but we need Kyrie to be aggressive.”

5) The Cavaliers need to hit their threes. Cleveland got to the Finals on a wave of threes — they shot 51 percent from three against the Hawks in the second round and better than 40 percent as a team heading into the Finals. Through the first two games they have shot 27 percent from three. In Game 3 the Cavaliers need to hit their threes, but if the Warriors keep closing out hard on those shooters as they have been the Cavs need to make them pay.

“In the half court, they’re doing a good job of shrinking the floor,” Lue said. “They’re long and athletic, so they’re closing out hard, so we have to drive the basketball. Richard Jefferson did a great job in the last game of catching it, straight line drive four times and got us four lay-ups. So we’ve got to do a better job of reading the situation. Because they’re running us off the three-point line and they don’t want us to take those shots. Now we have to be able to drive the basketball and get to the basket.”

Part of this gets back to ball movement. The Warriors defensive switching has the Cavs being hesitant, slowing down to look for mismatches rather than keeping the ball moving — if the Cavs keep the ball moving (and do some dishes off those drives) they will get some more looks from three. Then they need to hit them for a change. That means LeBron, Smith, Frye, maybe Love, and the rest have to just make some shots.

Is everyone overestimating how much guys will get paid this summer? Mark Cuban says maybe.

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Bismack Biyombo could get paid $17 million a year.

Hassan Whiteside may well be a max player. Same with Bradley Beal. Same with Nicolas Batum.

Those kinds of numbers turn heads and show just how having a $22 million bump in the salary cap in one season — thanks to the new NBA television deal kicking in — will impact salaries this summer. Teams with cash to spend are going to try and poach players with potential and overpay to see if they can land them.

But are we overestimating how many guys are going to get massive contracts this summer? Mavericks owner Mark Cuban says yes, as he told Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“Every player thinks it’s just going to be a money train this summer. There’s a lot of money; there’s not THAT much money. … And I think there’s going to be teams that save their money for next year, because it’s a better free agent class. People just presume now that everybody’s going to get paid a lot of money, and it’ll be interesting to see if that happens.”

One thing Cuban says you hear a lot from people around the league: Teams are going to keep their powder dry this summer if they can’t find a top player they like because next summer is a much deeper free agent class. This summer is going to see guys get paid — Biyombo and Whiteside numbers will turn heads, but bigs are always overpaid in the NBA based on supply and demand — but how much will guys such as Jeremy Lin or Dion Waiters or Ryan Anderson or Kent Bazemore get? More than they would have a year ago, but how much more?

The other thing you hear consistently: Nobody is sure how things will go this summer. This is uncharted territory; nobody has been here before because this kind of cap spike has never happened before. There will be unintended consequences.  Because the rookie salary scale will not spike, those contracts will become even more valuable (which could lead to a lot of trades on draft night). The smart teams will have a plan and stick with it, but this summer is going to be fluid and a bit crazy.

 

There is going to be a lot of money for some players, but how far that money trickles down to the lower rungs remains to be seen. Cuban thinks it may not go as far down as some agents are probably betting on.

Tyson Chandler not looking for trade from Phoenix. Yet.

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At age 33, Tyson Chandler isn’t looking to be part of a rebuilding process.

Are the Phoenix Suns rebuilding? That wasn’t the plan with a backcourt of Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight, but injuries robbed the ability to know how well those two can work together (it wasn’t pretty when they were healthy together, but the sample size is small). They have something in guard Devin Booker. Alex Len may be a nice piece. But they need an infusion of talent to push for the playoffs, and the question is do they go after veterans or rebuild with youth?

Which brings us back to Chandler not wanting to be part of a rebuild. Does Chandler want to be traded somewhere he can win more games, maybe compete for a title? Not yet, he said on ESPN’s “The Jump.”

“Me and management have a great relationship and we communicate,” he said on ESPN’s The Jump with Rachel Nichols Monday. “If there is a decision and they want to go young and stay young, then we’ll have that conversation. But we’re not there….

“I’m happy where I am,” he said Thursday. “I feel like the Suns have a bright future if we continue to build and build the right way. It’s all about building the right way.”

The Suns were on a slower rebuild process a few years ago when they surprisingly won 48 games (but just missed the playoffs in the deep West). With that, the Suns tried to jump start the process and doubled down on the three-guard lineups and rotations, but nothing worked as well. The Suns have missed the playoffs for six seasons in a row and could bend toward youth and rebuilding, and if so they could shop Chandler. Especially considering next summer they will need to pay Len, and it’s going to be expensive to keep two more traditional centers on the roster.

Don’t be shocked if Chandler is moved this offseason, but right now he’s not pushing for it. At least not yet.