Kurt Helin

Associated Press

Magic’s Aaron Gordon ready to accept small forward challenge

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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — During his first two NBA seasons Aaron Gordon was known much more his slashes to the basket and gravity defying dunks than his jumper.

Now the third-year Magic forward is being asked to be much more in the system of new coach Frank Vogel. Perhaps more than any of his teammates, Gordon will have the biggest shift moving from power forward to small forward with the goal of becoming a complete player who can impact the offense much the way Paul George did for Vogel in Indiana.

It’s a move Gordon feels naturally suits him.

“It gives me more freedom, I can control the offense a little bit more, direct traffic,” said Gordon, who at this point is best known for his acrobatics in the 2016 slam dunk contest. “But like I’ve said I’ve been playing basketball, I’ve played at multiple positions. I’m happy where I’m at.”

Only his production will tell just how happy the Magic are with the shift. The 6-foot-9 Gordon hasn’t displayed an ability to do much of what the move requires so far in his NBA career.

In addition to becoming more of a focal point of the offense, the Magic’s 2014 first-round draft pick out of Arizona will need to be consistent perimeter shooter in the offense, as well as a facilitator while also taking on tougher defensive assignments guarding quicker players. Veteran Jeff Green, acquired this offseason, is much closer to the complete package but the Magic seem committed to giving the 21-year-old Gordon every opportunity to win the starting job.

Gordon, who shot 47 percent from the field last season, converted just 30.1 percent of his jumpers while shooting only 30 percent from 3-point range, according to Basketball Reference. He started 37 games last season, averaging 9.2 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.6 assists while shooting 47 percent from the field.

Gordon’s transition has been slowed because he missed the first week of camp and the first couple of preseason games after rolling his ankle while training in California three weeks prior to reporting.

“It’s only going to get better,” Gordon said. “I (had) been physically off the court and off my feet in game-like situations for about four weeks, so I’m a little slow.”

In time, Vogel believes Gordon can become the player he needs at the small forward spot. The coach envisions Gordon in the mold of George, who went from coming off the bench to becoming the Pacers top scorer and one of the best defensive small forwards in the league under Vogel.

“We are going to ask him to do it all,” Vogel said of Gordon. “We will put a lot of pressure on him. We are giving him a lot of responsibility. He is going to have the ball in his hands. He is going to be asked to beat defenses over the top with his 3-point shooting and to get out and play his game in the open court.

“It’s going to be process with him. He is not used to playing (small forward) but that is going to come. He has the skills and ability to do it or I wouldn’t be putting him in that spot.”

George remembers being put in the same spot early in his career. Under Vogel, George blossomed into a three-time NBA All-Star and made the all-defensive first Team in 2014.

Not unlike Gordon, George faced questions too as he moved from shooting guard to small forward so he understands the challenges Gordon faces this season.

“The small forward is really the glue guy,” George said. “You’ve got to play both sides of the floor, you’ve got to take the defensive matchups and you’ve got to be able to produce, you’ve got to be able to score, you’ve got to be able to be a knockdown shooter. It’s a little bit of everything, you’ve got to rebound. I think in his system the small forward is the guy. You’ve got to be able to do everything on the floor.”

Gordon spent much of this season working with Magic shooting coach Dave Love. His shot has still looked a little shaky in the preseason but his confidence seems to be growing.

The Magic declined to make Love available, but Vogel said he is pleased with the shooting progress both point guard Elfrid Payton and Gordon are making under Love.

“These guys are developing shooters,” Vogel said. “They obviously both need work on it and they are both improving. (Love has) really worked a lot on their technique and that’s where it starts. When you develop a shooter you have to start with the right technique when it comes to recognition and shot selection and all of those types of things.”

Gordon is confident he will thrive in his new role.

“I don’t think anybody worked as hard as I did” this offseason, Gordon said. “I’m going to bank on that.”

Kevin Durant on going to Warriors: “I damn sure wasn’t going there if they’d won”

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Everyone sensed it. Kevin Durant finally admitted it.

If Draymond Green had been able to keep his hands to himself and not gotten suspended. If LeBron James hadn’t stepped up and had three of the best Finals game performances ever. If Andrew Bogut had been healthy. If Stephen Curry could have better defended all those pick-and-rolls he was dragged into. If Kyrie Irving had missed.

If the Golden State Warriors had closed out their 3-1 NBA Finals lead, Durant would not be in the Bay Area.

Durant admitted as much in a profile in Rolling Stone out this week.

Durant had wanted (Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals) so bad, he did something he never did: let himself savor winning before it happened: “Man, I saw us in the ball caps and T-shirts, with our fans going crazy and dancing. That town was so good to us, showed us love even when we lost. I wanted it more for them than even me.” He went home crushed, replaying his every miss – and there’d been plenty. He acquitted himself better in Game Seven, but Westbrook was strictly on fumes then. Some part of Durant knew he’d already punched his ticket. “It felt like that whole thing was set up for me to leave,” he says, “especially after they blew a lead in the finals, because I damn sure wasn’t going there if they’d won. But after Game Seven, I called up my agent and said, ‘Damn, dude, Golden State – what if?’ “

The Warriors were prepared for that “what if?” Like Pat Riley bringing LeBron and Chris Bosh to Miami, it took a lot of foresight and planning, then a lot of luck when it was time for things to fall into place. The Warriors had laid the groundwork, but it was still going to take some breaks along the way to make it happen.

Breaks such as the Warriors stumbling and the Cavaliers taking full advantage with three brilliant Finals games.

That was the big step on Durant’s path to the Bay Area. Like we all knew, if they win that Finals the NBA has a very different landscape right now. KD just finally confirmed it.

As a side note, it’s worth reading the entire Rolling Stone article to get Durant’s perspective of the sacrifices he made, both as a player and a person, that led him to his decision this summer, and other decisions in his life. This is a thoughtful man.

Report: LaMarcus Aldridge may not be happy with Kawhi Leonard getting Spurs spotlight

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As LaMarcus Aldridge was leaving Portland the rumors trickled out — he was frustrated being the No. 2 guy in the hearts of fans. Or, at least that’s how he saw it. First it was Brandon Roy, and right as his body betrayed him Damian Lillard became the star.

Now is it the same thing in San Antonio with Kawhi Leonard?

Of course, there will be denials from Aldridge and the Spurs coming. Yet, rumblings of frustration between Aldridge and the Spurs are bubbling up, which has led to some trade speculation. Don’t bet on a deal getting done this season — San Antonio just paid big money to Pau Gasol and Manu Ginobili to go all in for one more season, they are not just going to blow that up.

But the idea Aldridge is unhappy to some degree seems to have legs. From Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News:

Those close to the situation suggest Aldridge may not be happy at the moment. The belief is the Spurs pitched him on becoming the center of their offense when they recruited him in 2015, and that hasn’t occurred with the rise of Kawhi Leonard. However, a team source said there are currently no problems with Aldridge, adding he is apart of the Spurs’ future.

Aldridge likely was told he would be at the heart of the Spurs offense, but he got fewer touches and shots — both total and per minute — than he did playing with Damian Lillard. And Lillard likes to shoot.

That said, Aldridge knew he was signing up for the most selfless, team-first organization and coach in the NBA. It was always going to be about what worked, not feeding egos. And Leonard works — he deserves the touches. He’s efficient, can score a variety of ways, and will be in the MVP mix this season.

If that rubs Aldridge the wrong way, and the Spurs are not in the conference finals at least, then maybe something comes of this.

 

Marreese Speights: Warriors’ Draymond Green, Klay Thompson “got into it a lot”

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From the outside it looked like basketball heaven — the team played fast and loose, they had fun, the ball flew around the court like no other team, and they won. A lot. The Golden State Warriors won 73 games and seemed to have a good time doing it. It was what drew Kevin Durant to the Warriors last summer.

But pull back the curtain and it was not exactly a fairytale.

Draymond Green‘s hard-charging, heart-on-his-sleeve emotional leadership was at times abrasive and wore on teammates. While team chemistry was not terrible, there were plenty of rough spots. It a well-researched story at ESPN Ethan Sherwood-Straus lays out how Green is irreplaceable to the Warriors on the court but rubs teammates the wrong way at times off it. This quote from now former Warrior Marreese Speights sums the article up best (but you should read the entire thing).

“Draymond f—ed up practice and s—,” then-Warriors center Marreese Speights says. “Draymond’s a good guy, but I think at the end of the day, it hurt the whole chemistry of the year.” One player in particular, he says, took much of the heat: “Draymond and Klay got into it a lot.” (Thompson declined to comment for this story.

A code of conduct exists within the NBA. Some yelling is expected, but vets do not accept frequent Bobby Knight — style haranguings from younger players. Or, as Speights puts it, “Guys don’t respect you if you yell at them in front of all these fans. We’re not trying to lose the game. F — .”

If your thought is, “Maybe the Warriors would be better off without Green,” go back and watch Game 5 of the Finals last season (not that the return of Green changed Games 6 and 7, but the Warriors in Game 5 were not the same). The game where Green was suspended because he couldn’t stop from hitting LeBron James in the nuts, the Warriors lacked enough fight. The Warriors are not the same team without him — all those pretty shooters on the perimeter like Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson need someone in the paint doing the dirty work. Someone who makes their defensive switching schemes work. Someone who brings grit and fire. Green does all of that and better than anyone in the league. They need him.

But that kind of fire and passion comes with a cost, both in the locker room and off the court. Remember this summer Green was involved in a bar fight in East Lansing, then sent out a picture of his, um, “privates” to the world. That was after he was in the middle of the Warriors historic blown Finals lead.

The most competitive guys in the league do rub teammates the wrong way sometimes — Kobe Bryant certainly did, Kevin Garnett did at times, Chris Paul can grate on teammates — but the best teams need that passion. What the Warriors would hope to see, however, what Kobe and Garnett and CP3 can do, is separate the on-the-court guy from the guy off the court. They have a level of maturity and control Green has yet to display consistently.

For Green, it’s a goal. Outside of injuries, only chemistry issues could keep these Warriors from at least a return to the NBA Finals. They are that talented. If there are going to be chemistry challenges, it could start with Green. He’s not the best player on the Warriors, but he’s important to what they do. They need him right, and right with the team.

Derrick Rose rape lawsuit trial heading to Los Angeles jury

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — The rape lawsuit trial of NBA star Derrick Rose is heading to the jury.

A Los Angeles panel is scheduled to begin deliberating Wednesday in a civil suit that claims Rose and two friends gang-raped his ex-girlfriend in 2013 at her Los Angeles apartment after she passed out from drugs or drink.

Rose’s attorneys call the sex consensual and contend the woman is simply seeking a $21.5 million payday.

In closing arguments Tuesday, Rose’s lawyer argued that the 30-year-old woman was suing for money and for revenge because the New York Knicks point guard ended their relationship.

However, the woman’s lawyer told jurors that she was the victim of a “classic” gang rape.