Kurt Helin

Toronto Raptors v Cleveland Cavaliers

LeBron James pumped to play with Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving again

10 Comments

For Cavaliers’ fans, last season led to a question of “what if?”

What if Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving had been healthy through the playoffs and into the Finals? What if the threesome found a more comfortable groove earlier in the season? Would the drought have ended?

LeBron James is thinking the same thing, based on this Instagram post from Sunday night.

When Irving, Love and LeBron were on the court together last season (1,441 minutes), they outscored opponents by 13.6 points per 48 minutes. After the All-Star break, they were +14.7 and did that mostly with a defensive rating of 99.2 (points per 100 possessions). For the season, the trio had an offensive rating of 113.5 points per 100 possessions when paired, which was 5.8 per 100 better than the team average and 3.7 per 100 better than the best offense in the NBA for the season (the Clippers).

LeBron is right to be excited — they should be better this season.

If they can stay healthy, if David Blatt can use the increased depth on the roster to keep that trio rested, the Cavaliers are the team to beat. And not just in the East.

Utah Jazz reach non-guaranteed deal with big man Jeff Withey

Jeff Withey, Luis Scola
2 Comments

Jeff Withey was buried in the New Orleans front court last season, behind Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson, Omer Asik, and Alexis Ajinca. Withey only got on the court in garbage time. That said, Withey’s numbers suggest he might be a solid backup center if given the minutes.

Utah may do that. They are at least going to take a look, having reached a deal with him reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports (Withey has since confirmed the signing).

Free agent 7-footer Jeff Withey has reached agreement to sign a two-year, partially guaranteed contract with the Utah Jazz, league sources told Yahoo Sports… Withey’s deal includes a team option in the second year, a league source told Yahoo.

It is possible Withey makes the Utah roster, but once again it will be difficult for him to get run. Clearly Rudy Gobert is the starter for the Jazz at center, but the minutes behind him are up for grabs. Rookie Tibor Pleiss will be on the roster, as will Trey Lyles, but throw in Derrick Favors and Trevor Booker (at the four) and space is limited along the front line. Jack Cooley has a partially guaranteed deal as well and will be fighting for a roster spot along with Withey.

Withey puts up good shot blocking numbers in the paint, he’s a solid rebounder, although his lack of NBA-level athleticism limits him. But even if he defends well, the question becomes his raw offensive game too much of a drag to make him worth it? Has Withey taken steps forward on the offensive end we have yet to see? Maybe a midrange game?

If Withey can prove that he learned and grew his game the past couple seasons on the bench in New Orleans — that he’s more than just another tall body — he will get some run in Utah. But he’s going to have to prove it, they have options.

Manu Ginobili, Carlos Delfino both sitting out FIBA Americans for Argentina

manu-ginobili-argentina-fiba-americas-championship
3 Comments

It’s the season of Olympic qualifying tournaments: Australia is already in, AfroBasket is going on, EuroBasket starts next month, and don’t forget there is FIBA Americas where teams from north and south America try to join the already qualified USA (World Cup winners) and Brazil (host nation) in Rio.

Argentina, which won the gold medal in Greece in 2004 and the bronze in 2008 in China, will again be trying to qualify for the Rio Olympics, but they will have to do it without a couple stars — Manu Ginobili and Carlos Delfino.

From Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun (Canadians are following closely because they believe they can win the FIBA Tournament and qualify).

Gregg Popovich is smiling somewhere. Ginobili is 38, coming up on likely his last NBA season, but the Spurs will still count on his creative playmaking off the bench. They don’t want him worn down.

Delfino has battled injuries, hasn’t been on an NBA court since 2013, and is currently unsigned. He’s not healthy enough to pitch in much.

Argentina still has Luis Scola, but their “golden generation” that helped change international basketball has started to age out of competition. Which is a little sad, that was a fun team to watch, but father time always wins the race.

Dallas’ Wesley Matthews says he’ll be ready to go opening night

Memphis Grizzlies v Portland Trail Blazers - Game Three
1 Comment

Back on March 5, early in the third quarter in a game against Dallas, Wesley Matthews started a drive and went down without contact. It turned out to be a ruptured Achilles tendon.

By pretty much the next day, Matthews talked about coming back sooner rather than later — and even a standard timeline would have him back around the start of the season. That drive is part of the reason Dallas signed him to a four-year, $70 million contract this summer.

Sunday, Matthews was again talking quick return, speaking to Tim Cato of Mavs Moneyball.

“I’m getting stronger every single day, doing more every single day,” Matthews told Mavs Moneyball, saying that he’s currently shooting and dribbling on the court. He’s also taking pull-up jumpers off the bounce, but the next thing that he will be cleared to do is just “more basketball activity using more force, more explosion….

“I’m gonna say I’ll be ready by opening night,” Matthews said. Later on, when asked if would put that prediction in stone, he said yes.

“Anybody that knows me in this league knows that I’m going to give 150 percent,” Matthews said. “You’re going to have to kill me to stop me from going. Only thing that I can do is how I attack my rehab.”

This is going to set up an interesting push and pull between Matthews and coach Rick Carlisle (and Dallas management). Carlisle has talked about taking it slow with Matthews, not rushing or risking injury for a player they signed for four years. They don’t want him rushing back, not feeling comfortable, compensating with another body part, and suffering an injury. Think Kobe.

By the end of the season, when Dallas is likely fighting for one of the bottom playoff spots in the West, they are going to need Matthews and everyone else on the roster to make the push. But expect Carlisle and company to win the early battle — don’t be shocked if Matthews has limited minutes at the start of the campaign.

 

Watch Dallas’ Salah Mejri shut down Portland’s Al Farouq Amimu at Afrobasket

Anadolu Efes Istanbul v Real Madrid - Turkish Airlines Euroleague Play Off
2 Comments

Right now, AfroBasket 2015 is taking place in Tunisia, with the best teams on the continent playing for a berth in the Rio Olympics next summer.

Maybe the play of the tournament so far — watch Dallas’ big man Salah Mejri shut down Portland’s Al Farouq Aminu at the rim. That seemed to set the tone for the game as Tunisia went on to win and advance out of group play with an unblemished record.

Aminu is going to be fighting for minutes and a chance to prove himself in Portland.

Mejri (who played last season for powerhouse Real Madrid) has a guaranteed contract and with that almost certainly makes the Dallas roster. However, he will end up battling guys like JaVale McGee and Samuel Dalembert for minutes if they make the roster. If Mejri makes more plays like that, he’ll be just fine.

Hat tip Jeff Taylor.