Kurt Helin

Top 10 blocks of soon-to-be Hall of Famer Dikembe Mutombo’s career

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This weekend, Dikembe Mutombo enters the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

He was a better offensive player than people remember, and he was strong on the boards. But none of that is why he is going into the Hall.  The four-time Defensive Player of the Year is going in because of his ability to get stops. And block shots.

We can argue if there have been better shot blockers in the league, but none have been as much fun as Mutombo. So savor this Top 10.

Rudy Gobert rejects Marcin Gortat during key French win over Poland at EuroBasket

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It may not have been the most dramatic, but the showdown between unbeaten France and Poland at EuroBasket Monday was the key game of the day in Group A — two undefeated team and the winner is in the drivers’ seat to win the group.

It started with history — Tony Parker became the all-time leading scorer in EuroBasket history with France’s first bucket of the game.

Once again Jazz big man Rudy Gobert was making some plays — he had eight points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots. One of those you can see above — it’s not easy to reject Poland/Wizards big man Marcin Gortat.

France held a small but relatively steady lead most of the second half, but they were never comfortable, and Poland made a push. It wasn’t enough, Les Blues were able to make enough plays to get the 69-66 win. One of the guys making those plays? Gobert.

Just how dysfunctional are Clippers? Does it even matter?

Los Angeles Clippers Fan Festival
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It is possible to turn a dysfunctional franchise around. It’s never a smooth road, and there is a learning curve for all owners — remember when Warriors’ fans booed Joe Lacob at a game? — but it can be done. Golden State is living proof.

That was the expected narrative when Donald Sterling was pushed aside and Steve Ballmer swooped in and overpaid for the Clippers. This team already had a great core of players, now the franchise would turn things around on and off the court and take a step forward. Some things instantly got better — for example, equipment the training staff long wanted was approved and purchased. But it hasn’t been a smooth ride and Bill Simmons said publicly what others around the league had whispered: Things may better with the Clippers, but they were not good.

Maybe it is new owner learning curve — every owner has one, some are steeper than others — but this franchise has made some silly mistakes in the past year:

• They hard-capped themselves with the Spencer Hawes signing, then had to surrender a first round pick to get out of that mess.

• They got caught this summer illegally offering a bonus (a Lexus sponsorship contract) to DeAndre Jordan as part of their formal pitch to the free agent, which got the team fined.

Austin Rivers? The coach’s son? Really?

And the list goes on and on — have you read Jamal Crawford‘s tweets? — but in spite of it all Doc Rivers the GM had a good summer and the team looks poised to contend. It would be so easy to look past it.

However, TMZ kept digging and Monday wrote a story saying there is an internal struggle between the business side.

TMZ Sports spoke with multiple sources within the organization — including players — who tell us the drama all centers around Gillian Zucker, the team’s president of business operations.

Long story short … several players and key staffers feel she’s not just stepping on Doc Rivers’ toes, but she’s creating a divide … leaving many wondering who’s really calling the shots in Clipperland….

But we’re told Zucker has been increasingly more involved on the basketball side … inserting herself into things like player development and playing time decisions … and it’s leaving many people confused, since she’s often not on the same page as Doc.

Things that don’t happen with the Spurs include…

First rule of anonymous sources: They are telling you something for a reason. They have an agenda; they are spinning things to their advantage. Just keep that in mind as you read about someone saying Zucker is overstepping her bounds. She may be, she may not, but someone has an agenda.

Simmons, however, semi-confirmed this:

Whatever is going on falls to Ballmer to clear up. There should be a wall between basketball operations and business operations in an NBA organization. Of course, there should be a little cooperative bleed over — the two sides are still on the same team working toward the same goals — but basketball people should make the basketball decisions and the marketing people the marketing decisions and on down the line. Stay in your lane. If someone is getting out of their lane, that’s on the owner to fix.

Here’s my bigger question:

Does it even matter?

From Billy Martin managing the Yankees though the current San Francisco 49ers, throughout sports there have been dysfunctional organizations with ownership allowing odd choices that continue to win.

In the NBA, think of the Michael Jordan era Bulls — GM Jerry Krause and Phil Jackson were in a power struggle, Toni Kukoc and Jordan were in the thick of it all, the owner was oblivious and just counting the dollars, and that team won six rings.

The level of dysfunction within the Clippers and who or what is causing it is up for debate, but this organization has and continues to make some odd decisions. And it may not matter. The core of the team is together, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan apparently worked out whatever it was they needed to work out, and so long as CP3 and Blake Griffin stay healthy this team is a serious threat to win it all.

Whether Ballmer has built Spurs West or not.

Tony Parker becomes top scorer in Eurobasket history

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BERLIN (AP)Tony Parker became the all-time leading scorer in European championship history when he made France’s first basket in the game against Poland on Monday.

Parker hit a jumper with 6:34 remaining in the first quarter to make it 2-2 in Montpellier.

That gave the San Antonio Spurs guard a total of 1,032 points, two more than former Greece star Nikos Galis. Parker tied the total in France’s 81-54 win over Bosnia-Herzegovina on Sunday.

Parker has previously played 61 games in eight separate European championships and averaged 17 points in his opening two games in this tournament. Parker led France to its first title two years ago.

Galis was on the Greek side that won the European title in 1987 and played in 33 European Championship games during his career.

51 Questions: Who is the second best team in the East?

NBA Play-offs. Washington Wizards at Toronto Raptors
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51 Questions in 51 Days. PBT is previewing the 2015-16 NBA season by tackling 51 big questions that we can’t wait to see answered once play tips off. We will answer one a day right up to the start of the season Oct. 27.

In the Eastern Conference, the Cleveland Cavaliers set the bar — and set it clearly above every other team. The defending conference champs are going to be healthy and deeper. That brings us to today’s question:

WHO IS THE SECOND BEST TEAM IN THE EASTERN CONFERENCE?

Kurt Helin: Washington Wizards

The second tier of the Eastern Conference is one of the fascinating storylines to watch this season, as the Wizards, Hawks, Bulls, Raptors and Heat could finish in about any order and I wouldn’t be shocked. Nor would I be shocked if the Bucks or Celtics jumped into the top six (especially if one of those other teams stumble). But enough caveats:

I’ll take Washington.

I’m not completely comfortable that pick, but I’m higher on the Wizards than most — this is the season they take a step forward and reach the conference Finals. For that to happen, I’m betting on Bradley Beal staying healthy all season and playing like the guy from the playoffs who looked like he deserved a max contract. I’m expecting Beal and John Wall to take a step forward together as clearly the best backcourt in the East. I’m betting on Otto Porter playing like the guy from the playoffs (actually better than that, it’s been overstated how well he played). I’m betting on Porter, Jared Dudley, and Alan Anderson being able to fill Paul Pierce’s shoes. I’m betting on (and expecting) coach Randy Wittman to play a lot more small ball with Porter/Dudley at the four, spacing the floor and allowing Wall to penetrate and break down defenses. I’m betting on Nene being healthy for the playoffs (I’m not crazy enough to expect an injury-free season from him).

That’s a lot that has to go right, but I think the odds of those things happening are better than rookie coach Fred Hoiberg being the missing ingredient in Chicago, or everything going right in Miami, or Atlanta playing as well as they did the first half of last season.

Dan Feldman: Chicago Bulls

This is a wide-open race with about five legitimate contenders and another few teams capable of surprising in a weak conference beyond the Cavaliers.

I’ll take Chicago, because the team is flush with talent, and I don’t think Tom Thibodeau’s defensive culture will erode overnight. I very well could be overrating Fred Hoiberg after watching Steve Kerr’s masterful job with the Warriors, but a new coach could do wonders in raising the Bulls’ ceiling. Simply splitting up the Joakim NoahPau Gasol combo and pairing each with one of Nikola Mirotic and Taj Gibson would go a long way.

An interesting side question: How many teams would you need to answer this question and feel you had at least a 50% chance of being right. It’s definitely at least two — probably three, but maybe even four.

Sean Highkin: Miami Heat

There’s no sure thing in the Eastern Conference once you get past Cleveland. All the likely candidates either lost a key player (DeMarre Carroll for the Hawks, Paul Pierce for the Wizards) or have major injury concerns (Chicago and Miami). But none of them are more intriguing — or have a higher ceiling — than the Heat. The starting lineup of Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside was one of the on-paper best last season, but they never actually got to play together after Bosh was diagnosed with blood clots in his lungs immediately following the deadline trade for Dragic. This year, they will. There’s a lot of versatility in that lineup: everyone can defend, and the presence of Dragic and a healthy Bosh will limit the offensive burden on Wade. Even factoring in the 20-plus games he will inevitably sit out (that’s just his reality at this point), there’s enough scoring firepower there to get by.

Pat Riley has also done a good job retooling the bench. Justise Winslow fits the profile of a long-term replacement for Deng; even if he doesn’t start in his rookie season, he can still contribute, especially on the defensive end. Amar’e Stoudemire and Gerald Green were smart minimum signings who can still help a team in limited minutes. All of this could fall apart if one of the starters misses an extended period of time, or if Whiteside can’t sustain his out-of-nowhere success for a full season. But all the pieces are here for a team that could be dangerous.