Kurt Helin

Milwaukee Bucks v Cleveland Cavaliers

Sixers’ Marshall will not be ready to start season

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Who is going to be the starting point guard for the Sixers, Tony Wroten or Kendall Marshall?

Yes, that’s a serious question (and one reason the Sixers will not win many games this season). It’s also got an easy answer, at least to start the season — Wroten.

That’s because Marshall, coming off a torn ACL from last January, is not going to be ready to start the season. It’s something Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer said in his chat this week.

When Marshall comes back, he may battle for the starting job with Wroten. Expect Isaiah Canaan also to be in the mix, while Pierre Jackson bounces between the Sixers and the D-League for a season.

There are things to like about Marshall if you’re a Sixers’ fan. He’s 24, has fantastic court vision and knows how to feed guys the ball (which you want with Jahlil Okafor in the post). But I’m not sure Marshall will stick long term — the Sixers moved on from Michael Carter-Williams because he couldn’t shoot the rock (they want a point guard who can shoot), and Marshall hasn’t been a great shooter either. Marshall did improve and hit 39.1 from three last season — he needs to sustain that. There are also serious questions about Marshall’s defense.

But we’ll have to wait a while, until he’s back from the ACL injury, to know how he will answer those questions.

Blake Griffin works on pull-up jumper, post moves

USA Basketball Men's National Team Training Camp
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It was one of the big narratives with the Clippers last season — Blake Griffin added a jump shot defenders had to respect.

It was true. He improved, and if he’s out just past the elbows or near the top of the key, he can knock it down with some regularity. But he fell in love with the jumper at times and didn’t attack, and that was fine with defenders because even that improved jumper was less dangerous than a dunk. Check out his shot chart from last season:

Shotchart_1442644907794

Still, the added jumper he worked on last summer opened things up for him and the Clippers. So what has Griffin been working on to add to his repertoire this summer? He talked about it with Basketball Insiders.

As far as what we worked on, a lot of face up, off the post, off the elbow, a lot of short roll stuff, getting into the lane, floaters – just because we get so much of that with our spacing of the court and how many pick and rolls we run with CP. [I worked on] a lot of stuff actually off the dribble too, just like one dribble pull-ups and things like that. A lot of post-ups too. This summer, I really did a whole lot and kind of mixed it up. Like last summer, I did so much shooting – a lot of catch and shooting, a lot of pick and pop – and I still did that this summer a lot, but I just tried to kind of focus on literally everything this summer….

This year, I’m really trying to perfect that balance of pick and pops versus putting it on the floor and making plays, so that’s kind of why I focused on everything this summer. Just being able to use the spacing of our floor, having J.J. [Redick] out there spacing the floor and the same thing with CP when he gets doubled team, [I] just really wanted to being able to have an array of shots and not just focus on pick and pops and catch and shoots.

Griffin touched on the key thing if he is going to take that next step forward — decision making. When to pop out for the 18-foot jumper, when to roll to the basket, when to use that half roll, when to put the ball on the floor and drive to create or create for others. It’s a matter or recognizing what the defense is giving you then making them pay for it.

All that will help, although the Clippers’ offense was already the best in the NBA last season. The added depth on the Los Angeles roster, more shot options for Griffin will help, but the offense is only going to get so much better. The bigger questions are can they play better defense consistently, and can the added depth on the roster with guys such as Lance Stephenson and Josh Smith come through for them in the playoffs?

Watch best alley-oop passes of 2014-15 season

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If watching a couple entertaining EuroBasket games was not enough of a basketball fix for you this time of year, how about a couple of quality NBA alley-oops.

Over at NBA.com they posted this best-of video the other day, and I can’t think of a better way to start the weekend. Well, that’s not true, I can think of a lot of ways, but this is as good a basketball fix as you’re going to get on a September night, so enjoy.

And Dirk Nowitzki‘s celebration from the All-Star Game remains the best thing ever.

Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski heaps praise on Kobe Bryant

USA Men's Practice
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Coach Mike Krzyzewski has a special bond with Kobe Bryant.

These are two men who bring something special to the basketball court, and part of that is a fighting spirit. They were friends before, but that bond grew during the Olympics when for a few years (particularly in Beijing in 2008) it was Kobe’s team, and guys such as LeBron James and Dwyane Wade learned about the dedication needed to win from him.

The Duke head coach was on Time Warner Sportsnet in Los Angeles Friday (that’s the Lakers’ high paying cable channel) and heaped praise upon Kobe. Ryan Ward of the Lakers Nation saw it and passed along the highlights.

Krzyzewski also believes this will not be Kobe’s last season, that if Kobe is healthy he will continue playing. That is certainly possible, although there are few superstars who have ever been better prepared for life after basketball than Kobe. When he leaves, he will leave, there will be no Jordan with the Wizards moment.

What Coach K talks about is something I have mentioned before and will say a lot this season — about Kobe, about Tim Duncan, about Kevin Garnett — we need to savor watching these guys. A great generation of players, some of the best of all time and groundbreakers, are about to hang up their high tops. (Yes, I know Kobe wears low tops now.) Watching what Kobe, Duncan and KG do is special, and if you’re a fan of the game soak it up now while you still can, because soon it will be gone.

Jonas Valanciunas slams on Serbia (VIDEO)

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If you’re a fan of beautiful basketball, Lithuania’s big EuroBasket win over Serbia Friday is not something you’re going to save on the DVR.

But there were a few quality highlights, and this sweet bounce pass to Jonas Valanciunas for the slam was one of them. That’s Mantas Kalnietis with the pass and he kind of summed up this game for Lithuania — he had nine assists and eight turnovers. He vacillated between brilliance and disaster all game long.

But he had one more assist than turnover, and that was good enough to send Lithuania to the EuroBasket finals and the 2016 Rio Olympics.