Kurt Helin

Draymond Green, Chris Paul, Chris Bosh headline All-Star reserves

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Fans get to pick to pick the starters for the NBA All-Star Game. No matter what DeMarcus Cousins wants. Those players were announced last week:

Western Conference: Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Kobe Bryant, Kevin DurantKawhi Leonard

Eastern Conference: Dwyane Wade, Kyle Lowry, LeBron James, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony

NBA coaches pick the All-Star reserves, and those players — two guards, three frontcourt players, and two wildcards per conference — were announced formally Thursday (but had leaked online about an hour earlier).

The reserves are:

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Draymond Green (Golden State)
Anthony Davis (New Orleans)
DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento)
LaMarcus Aldridge (San Antonio)
Chris Paul (LA Clippers)
Klay Thompson (Golden State)
James Harden (Houston)

Guys with a beef not making the cut: Damian Lillard, Dirk Nowitzki, and Blake Griffin (if he were healthy, but he punched a guy).

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Paul Millsap (Atlanta)
Chris Bosh (Miami)
Andre Drummond (Detroit)
Jimmy Butler (Chicago)
John Wall (Washington)
Isaiah Thomas (Boston)
DeMar DeRozan (Toronto)

Guys with a beef not making the cut: Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving (he has only been healthy a few weeks but is an elite point guard), and Pau Gasol.

New technology to virtually light up 3-point line on ABC

OAKLAND, CA - JANUARY 27: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors shoots against Wesley Matthews #23 of the Dallas Mavericks on January 27, 2016 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
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BRISTOL, Conn. (AP) — The 3-point line will virtually light up during Saturday prime-time NBA broadcasts on ABC this season.

ESPN said Thursday that it is using new technology to show viewers when a player attempts a jumper from beyond the 3-point arc. “ESPN Virtual 3” will debut for Saturday’s matchup between the Cavaliers and Spurs.

For a made 3-pointer, the line will briefly remain lit up. For a miss, the illumination will end immediately.

Senior coordinating producer Tim Corrigan says “it will give viewers instant clarity on whether a 3-point shot has been attempted, which hasn’t been consistently evident during a live telecast.”

WNBA changing playoff format to eliminate conferences. NBA next?

Minnesota Lynx players celebrate with the championship trophy after beating the Indiana Fever 69-52 in Game 5 of the WNBA basketball finals, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)
Associated Press
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The WNBA has decided it wants the eight best teams in the playoffs. Who cares what conference they are in.

The NBA’s women’s league is changing its playoff format next season to go with the eight best teams, and changing how those teams are seeded and have to play their way through the bracket. Howard Megdal broke the news at Vice Sports and explains the changes well.

The previous WNBA playoff system should look familiar to NBA fans: the top four teams from the Eastern and Western Conferences made the playoffs, and were seeded 1-4, playing best-of-three conference semifinal series, then best-of-three conference finals series, then a best-of-five WNBA Finals between the East winner and the West winner.

The new setup will seed the top eight WNBA teams, regardless of conference. The top two seeds receive a double-bye to the third round, while the third and fourth seeds receive a bye to the second round. Round 1 is single elimination: 5 plays 8, 6 plays 7, loser goes home.

Round 2 is also single elimination: 3 plays lowest remaining seed, 4 plays next-lowest remaining seed. Then come the semifinals: these are a best-of-five, a significant change from the best-of-three semifinals of years past. The one-seed plays the lowest remaining seed, the two-seed plays the other remaining team. The WNBA Finals will remain a best-of-five series.

I like this plan.

Will the NBA follow suit? In the

In the past, the WNBA has been used as a laboratory for changes being considered for the NBA. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has said it’s not time for a no-conferences playoffs, balanced schedule in the NBA, but is this the league starting to take a serious look at this?

Only part of the plan would work in the NBA — eliminating the conferences. There is zero chance the owners are going to vote to have first-round games be one-and-done — playoff gate receipts are huge revenue for the owners because the players have already been paid (salaries run during the season), so they keep the cash.

I like this idea; I want the NBA to eliminate conferences and seed the playoffs 1 through 16. Is it going to change much? No. But a couple of deserving teams on the outside of a deeper conference could get into the dance. If the NBA did it this season, as of right now (1/28) the only difference is that Charlotte would supplant Portland as the 16 seed (the team going to get steamrolled by Golden State). What this would do is potentially set up a better Finals — Golden State and San Antonio would be the top two seeds and may make a better Finals matchup than Cleveland. But the changes will not be significant (although there could be more travel, like San Francisco to Charlotte in the first round).

If there is a legitimate complaint about the NBA playoffs, it’s that the “chalk” wins too much — the betting favorites, the best teams always win. What do we love about March Madness? That on one given day Long Beach State could knock off Kentucky (GO BEACH!). The NFL playoffs are one-and-done. In the NHL, low seeds with hot goalies win the cup all the time. Even major league baseball’s seven games there is real randomness. Not so in the NBA. We go into the season with a pretty good idea what handful of teams could win a title, and by Christmas that list is fine tuned to somewhere between three and six, and even then it’s really only the top couple. Outside of OKC and the Doc Rivers household, is anyone betting on a team other than Golden State, San Antonio, or Cleveland to win hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy this season?

If the NBA wants to make a move that shakes things up, make the first round best-of-five again. Or maybe even best-of-three. Add some random outcomes to the mix. Just like seeding without conferences it may not mean a huge change, but it would add some drama.

 

 

Report: Tension in Minnesota between old-school coach, young players

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine, left, confers with head coach Sam Mitchell during time out against the Denver Nuggets in the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec.11, 2015, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Associated Press
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This wasn’t how things were expected to go in Minnesota this season — Flip Saunders was supposed to be on the bench guiding the development of the young team he put together. A veteran coach that drafted many of these guys, they trusted and had a good relationship with him.

Then Saunders was taken from us — screw you, cancer.

That left his old-school lead assistant coach Sam Mitchell — a former NBA head coach in Toronto — in the big chair.

Mitchell has a different style and pushed his young players — Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Shabazz Muhammad, and on down the line . While the team has struggled to a 14-33 record, it’s easy to see the potential for how very good they might be in a few years.

However, the players are not happy about how they are getting there, reports Jon Krawczynski of the Associated Press.

There is a battle of wills going on in Minnesota between an old-school coach and a roster built around new-school talent. The team’s surprising 8-8 start has been followed by a sobering 6-24 stretch that has left many players quietly grumbling about their 52-year-old interim coach….

But nearly half the roster of 15 players privately expressed concerns to The Associated Press about Mitchell that centered on three basic tenets: His outdated offensive system, his tendency to platoon his rotations and a lack of personal accountability for the struggles. The players spoke on condition of anonymity because they did not want to publicly criticize their head coach.

In a lengthy Q&A recently, Mitchell talked at length about the challenges of developing young players who didn’t understand things like setting screens at different angles, or the other intricacies of high-level basketball. For that matter, he thought they lacked even basic fundamentals. He talked about the limitations of this roster. He said the same things in this latest piece, but what he’s said doesn’t play well in the locker room.

“We went to the basics because what we realized is because they haven’t gotten it,” Mitchell said earlier this year. “I’ve been doing slide drills since the eighth grade. AAU don’t do slide drills because the guy that owns the hardware store, he runs the team.”

This has induced some eye-rolling in the locker room, since NBA players have jumped to the pros either straight from high school or after one season in college for 20 years now. It also has given some the impression that the blame is being placed solely on their shoulders.

Mitchell can rail against the system and tell everyone to get off his lawn if he wants, but other coaches have gotten past this. Telling players their youth coaches sucked isn’t going to win guys over. The best coaches at player development strike a balance between criticism and praise that earns the players’ respect.

Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor said at the start of the season that Mitchell — as well as GM Milt Newton — would get the entire season to show what they can do. That’s only fair. There is no reason for a mid-season course correction.

But if the players are frustrated with and starting to tune out the coach — whether you think his old-school ways are right or not — that has to be a factor when looking at what to do next this summer.

Lakers to give Shaquille O’Neal statue outside Staples Center

O'NEAL
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Magic Johnson has one. So does Jerry West. And Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The most photographed one (based on the lines outside the building pregame) is probably Chick Hearn’s.

Now Shaquille O’Neal is going to get one — a statue outside Staples Center (the Lakers’ home).

Can you dig it?!

Shaq learned about this on Jimmy Kimmel Live Wednesday.

The Lakers confirmed the news. Here is the statement from Jeannie Buss.

“We look forward to having Shaq join the other legends who have been honored with statues at STAPLES Center. He is a giant not only in size, but also in stature and in what he accomplished as a Laker. Shaq literally broke the ground for the site, and was hugely responsible for not only getting STAPLES Center built, but for making it one of the most successful and famous arenas in the world. It’s an honor that is well deserved.”

She’s right, the draw that was Shaq and Kobe Bryant (who will get his own statue in a couple of years) helped make the economics of Staples Center work. The building was built and is owned by AEG, which owns the L.A. Kings and also owns a minority stake in the Lakers. The Kings’ alone were not enough of a draw, the Lakers made the construction of the building (which has become the hub a revitalized downtown Los Angeles) possible.

This statue is well deserved, and I like the design hanging over the others.

It’s getting crowded in Star Plaza outside Staples. Besides the Lakers’ statues both Wayne Gretzky and Luc Robitaille of the Kings have ones, as does Oscar De La Hoya.