Kurt Helin

SAN ANTONIO, TX - MAY 8: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors controls the ball against Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs in Game Two of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2013 NBA Playoffs on May 8, 2013 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. 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 the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photos by D. Clarke Evans/NBAE via Getty Images)
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PBT’s NBA Power Rankings: Finally Spurs/Warriors decide top spot on court


Finally this week the top two teams in ProBasketballTalk’s power rankings (and everyone else’s too) face off. The Clippers slid a little but get Blake Griffin back this week, which should help return their bench rotations to normal. The Lakers “reclaim” the final spot.

source: 1. Spurs (38-6, LW 1). It’s about the most Gregg Popovich thing ever that Tim Duncan will sit out Monday’s showdown with Golden State. So many interesting angles for that game, such as how the Spurs second-best in NBA transition defense handles the Warriors when they get out and run. Golden State isn’t the only challenge to the Spurs 13-game win streak this week — San Antonio has Houston next, then on Saturday they are at Cleveland in another much-anticipated test.

source: 2. Warriors (40-4, last week No. 2). When Steve Kerr’s Warriors can’t keep up the 39-4 pace Luke Walton’s team had, or blow the 38-game home win streak, be sure to blame the coach and not the fact the schedule got much tougher. In their last 10 games the Warriors have the NBA’s top offense and third-ranked defense. However, the bench has struggled holding leads the starters have built, that could be trouble Monday against deep and efficient San Antonio.

source: 3. Thunder (33-13 LW 5). Winners of seven in a row — until they got mentally snowed-out in Brooklyn on Sunday night (they stay in New York until Tuesday against the Knicks, we’ll see if OKC can dig out). Starting center Steven Adams has a sprained elbow and starting two guard Andre Roberson has sprained his knee — losing both of them at the same time for a few games will mean a hit to the Thunder’s defense (as the loss to Brooklyn showed).

source: 4. Raptors (29-15, LW 6). Winners of eight in a row, and this past week that included quality victories over the Celtics, Heat and Clippers. Toronto has emerged as the latest “team that will break out of the pack in the East” and grab the two seed, and remember they are making this run without DeMarre Carroll healthy. Thank DeMar DeRozan for that — he should be an All-Star. Their games this week — at home against the Wizards/Knicks/Pistons — are the kind of games they should win if they are to be the eventual two seed.

source: 5. Cavaliers (30-12, LW 3). New coach Tyronn Lue wants to make some system tweaks — getting the ball to Kevin Love in better spots, and getting the team to play faster. Both good ideas, but what matters most is getting real buy in and commitment to the system from players who simply did not do that for Blatt. Big test Saturday against San Antonio.

source: 6. Clippers (28-16, LW 4). Blake Griffin is expected back early this week, and just in time. The Clips bench was absolutely smoked by Toronto’s bench on Sunday, but it was not because of little-used Josh Smith being shipped out. The Clips bench wasn’t good with him (which is a bigger issue). Next trade? Expect Lance Stephenson to get moved. Check out last week’s PBT Podcast for a full hour of Clippers talk.

source: 7. Hawks (26-19, LW 7). Jeff Teague has not been the same of late (10.5 points, 4.3 assists per game shooting 38 percent in January), so him admitting he’s playing through an ankle injury helps explain some things. That means more Dennis Schroder for your fantasy team, but it’s not good for picking up wins.

source: 8. Grizzlies (25-20, LW 9). Their offense is clicking, but their usually-stout defense has taken a mid-winter vacation and that is holding them back. They are 16-7 at home and are there all week against a pretty soft schedule (Magic, Bucks, Kings), they can rack up some wins with just a little defense.

source: 9. Pistons (23-21, LW 10). Stan Van Gundy is clearly, understandably frustrated with a pistons team that tends to play to the level of it’s competition, saying Detroit is “firmly committed to being mediocre.” The issue has been on the defensive end, something they need to clean up before facing Cleveland and Toronto back-to-back this weekend.

source: 10. Bulls (25-18, LW 8). Chicago remains a yo-yo, having lost three of four then turning around Saturday and making the Cavaliers. Thursday starts a seven-game road trip that starts in Los Angeles and takes the Bulls almost all the way to the All-Star break.

source: 11. Rockets (24-22, LW 13). Josh Smith is back and added a boost on Sunday — they started their third-quarter comeback against Dallas with a 15-4 run when he entered the game. Who do you think ordered the barrage of fouls on Andre Drummond last week: Coach J.B. Bickerstaff, or was he told to do it by GM Daryl Morey?

source: 12. Celtics (24-21, LW 12). Isaiah Thomas is on the bubble for the East All-Star reserves — he, John Wall, DeMar DeRozan and others are battling for just one or two spots (depending on if the coaches put Kyrie Irving in the game). In Thomas’ last 10 games he is averaging 24.5 points and is shooting 40.7 percent from three. He is the Celtics’ offense, he deserves to be in Toronto, but probably just misses the cut.

source: 13. Mavericks (25-21, LW 11). Zaza Pachouli came within 14,000 votes of being an All-Star Game starter, and he got more votes than Dirk Nowitzki and DeMarcus Cousins. I’m okay with that — it’s just an exhibition, people. Rough loss, blowing a lead and falling to the Rockets on Sunday, they bounce back with three winnable games this week (and facing Golden State).

source: 14. Wizards (20-21, LW 17). How good could this team be if it just got healthy remains the question — right now Bradley Beal and Otto Porter remain out. That said John Wall has the offense clicking at a high level of late, just another sign he should be a lock as an All-Star reserve.

source: 15. Pacers (23-21, LW 14). They dropped three-of-four on a Western road trip, plus two more at home just before the trip started. It doesn’t get easier with the Clippers, Hawks and Cavaliers in the next four games on the schedule. On a bright note, Myles Turner is all the way back and contributing in an important way.

source: 16. Kings (20-23, LW 19). They have won five in a row, and in those five games DeMarcus Cousins has been a beast: 32.6 points per game shooting 50.5 percnet (and 71.4 percent from three), plus is pulling down 14.8 rebounds a contest. The man is a lock to be an All-Star. They remain the eight seed in the West and it may not be easy to shake them from that spot.

source: 17. Heat (23-21, LW 15). They have lost four in a row, seven-of-eight, and in their last 10 games they have been outscored by 10.7 points per 100 possessions. Injuries are at the heart of the problems, but playing on the road hasn’t helped. Interesting test against Chicago this week.

source: 18. Knicks (22-24, LW 18). The Knicks have lost four of six, Carmelo Anthony is battling a sore knee, and now the schedule is about to get tough — Thunder, Raptors and Warriors up this week. There are always All-Stars who take the weekend off to heal injuries, is Carmelo that guy this year?

source: 19. Trail Blazers (20-26, LW 22). While Utah fades, the Trail Blazers remain the nine seed pushing Sacramento for the last playoff spot in the West (1.5 games back). That’s all because Damian Lillard and particularly C.J. McCollum propelling the offense to those wins. Lillard is on the bubble to be an All-Star reserve — he deserves it but the West is deep with great guards, it’s a tough call.

source: 20. Jazz (19-24, LW 20). The good news is they don’t get blown out and hang around seemingly every game. The bad news is they don’t win enough of those close games, including two overtime losses last week. Eric Gordon being out for at least a month makes it much tougher to trade him as the deadline approaches.

source: 21. Hornets (21-23, LW 24). They won three of four last week, showing signs of hope. The challenge is the Hornets are 5-15 on the road this season and have a heavy stretch of road games the next three weeks. Fortunately, nobody in Charlotte will pay attention thanks to the Panthers playing one more game.

source: 20. Pelicans (16-27, LW 25). They have outscored opponents by 3.7 points per 100 possessions in their last 10, which should have led to better than the 5-5 record we have seen. Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson are playing well together (Davis at the five destroys teams) but will the Pelicans move Anderson and think long term at the trade deadline? Or will thin-ice GM Dell Demps look for the move that gets more wins now?

source: 23. Magic (20-22, LW 16). They have lost five in a row and 9-of-10, as the Scott Skiles boost has work off a little. You could see it when the team blew a 19-point lead and lost to Charlotte. Will they make a trade to try and change things? Don’t bet on it, patience has been their modus operandi. Schedule toughens up this week, including a home-and-home with Boston.

source: 24. Bucks (19-27, LW 21). Jason Kidd returns to the bench this week, and the team could use his guidance after dropping games to the Pelicans and Rockets over the weekend. There have been flashes of good play from the starters — reminiscent of last season — but it doesn’t last. Consistency remains an issue.

source: 25. Nuggets (17-27, LW 23). The Nuggets needed to make a push up the standings during their eight-game homestead that ends Monday (against Atlanta), but they have gone 4-3 so far. They’ve suffered some close losses, but they still count as losses. Starting Wednesday and through the All-Star game it’s a heavy road schedule for the Nuggets (they are a respectable 8-13 away from Pepsi Center).

source: 26. Timberwolves (14-31,LW 26). As should be expected from good young teams, they are playing teams close but are just falling short and suffering a growing pile of tough losses (they did beat Memphis over the weekend). The big question lies with ownership: are GM Milt Newton and coach Sam Mitchell doing enough to keep their jobs this summer?

source: 27. Nets (12-33, LW 27). The Nets remain a bad basketball team that can occasionally surprise with a strong night — just ask Oklahoma City about Sunday, when Brook Lopez dropped 31 on them. The best news out of the GM search is that they are not going to throw a ton of cash and power at John Calipari.

source: 28. Suns (14-31, LW 30). They have been less bad of late, even beating the Hawks over the weekend. Archie Goodwin has been putting on a show and deserves a little more run, but the wings can be crowded with developing young players in Phoenix (T.J. Warren, Devin Booker). On the road all week, including a tough stop in Cleveland.

source: 29. 76ers (6-38, LW 28). They have dropped seven of 10, and even the steady point guard play of Ish Smith (relative to everyone else they have) is not enough most nights. Smith is setting up other Sixers well, but teams are now trying to force him to shoot and that’s not his forte.

source: 30. Lakers (9-37, LW 29). Losers of six in a row and nine of their last 10 — it was enough to frustrate Kobe Bryant, who ripped the team in a postgame meeting Saturday. As it has been all season, the big problem is the Lakers’ defense, which has allowed a league-worst 111.9 points per 100 possessions in their last 10 games (that’s 3.5 per 100 worse than their season average).

PBT Podcast: Twitter questions trade talk, starting in Cleveland

Kevin Love timofey Mozgov
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You the listeners got to program the latest ProBasketballTalk podcast. I reached out on Twitter and Facebook asking for topics — and you wanted to talk trades. So PBT’s Dan Feldman and I obliged.

That starts in Cleveland, where we talk about the firing of David Blatt and hiring of Tyronn Lue, and how that may impact their trade decisions at the deadline. If you’re one of those Cavaliers fans rooting for a Kevin Love trade, you’re going to be disappointed.

We also discuss what the Bulls might try to do, if Brandon Jennings will get moved from the Pistons (maybe, but not likely to the Knicks, who have little to offer), what may happen in Orlando, and if Ryan Anderson is on the move in New Orleans.

As always, you can listen to the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunesdownload it directly here, or you can check out our new PBT Podcast homepage, which has the most recent episodes available. If you have the Stitcher app, you can listen there as well.

Report: Two new names join Colangelo, Ferry in front of Nets’ GM search

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 25:  The Brooklyn Nets logo adorns center court prior to the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at the Barclays Center on November 25, 2012 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. 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 the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Some of the best GM prospects out there are not names known by hoops fans, but are people well respected inside NBA circles.

It seems the Brooklyn Nets are considering some of those men — in addition to the already-known big names of Bryan Colangelo and Danny Ferry — in the search for their new GM, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports. And so far, the biggest name on the rumor mill seems to be on the outside looking in.

Denver Nuggets assistant GM Arturas Karnisovas and Houston Rockets executive VP of basketball operations Gersson Rosas have emerged as serious candidates in the process, league sources told Yahoo Sports…

So far, ownership has balked at the idea of paying Kentucky coach John Calipari the $120 million package he’s seeking for a return to the NBA, league sources said.

First things first, that’s smart on Calipari — he’s not worth that to Brooklyn.

Look for the Nets to move sooner rather than later, getting a GM in place before the Feb. 18 trade deadline (where the Nets could be active).

The Nets are doing their due diligence on Karnisovas and Rosas, calling around the league for information. Karnisovas comes with the advantage of being Lithuanian, speaking Russian, and having ties to people Mikhail Prokhorov knows in hoops circles, Wojnarowski reports. Rosas has been the right hand of Rockets GM Daryl Morey and helped build the current roster.

The Nets also continue to consider former Suns GM Colangelo and former Hawks GM Ferry, both of whom have more established track records building teams.

The question is will Prokhorov let the new GM build the team his way. He has indicated he wants to turn things around sooner rather than later, but the new GM has to fight any effort to move even one more future asset to get better now — the Nets don’t control their own first-round draft pick until 2019. This rebuilding process is going to take years because of that. The new GM has to push back against any effort to move a future asset to get marginally better in the short term. This is a team that needs to take the long view, and be patient.

Three takeaways from NBA Sunday: Some days Durant, Westbrook not enough

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) slaps hands with Russell Westbrook (0) following a basket during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. Oklahoma City won 112-94. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
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While you were watching Peyton Manning and Cam Newton set up a generational showdown, the NBA kept on playing with four games. If you chose not to watch, we understand, so here is what you need to know from a Sunday around the Association.

1) Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook combine for 59, not enough to keep Thunder win streak going. Coming in having won seven straight, the Thunder just didn’t seem to have their heart in this one. Blame the snowstorm that battered the East Coast and delayed the start time of this game four hours if you want. Blame the fact Steven Adams sprained his elbow and missed this game (and will miss the next couple) which meant more Nick Collison and Enes Kanter. Blame the fact Andre Roberson had to leave the game after banging knees with Russell Westbrook. Blame Donald Trump. Whatever the reason, the Thunder defense was disinterested and the Nets took advantage scoring a season-high 116. Brook Lopez scored 31, grabbed 10 boards, and led a Nets team that dominated the paint in winning 116-106.

OKC relied offensively on its usual heavy dose of isolation plays, but the shots were not falling (Durant was 2-of-10 from three and missed some clean looks). Durant still put up 32, and Westbrook added 27, but they were not their usual, efficient selves. Combine that with a Thunder defense late on rotations and slow on closeouts, and you get a comfortable Brooklyn win.

I don’t imagine we’ll see that version of the Thunder team again for a while.

2) James Harden drops triple-double, but it’s Josh Smith that sparks Rockets win. Josh Smith had no steady place in Doc Rivers’ rotation in Los Angeles. He was sitting, and Cole Aldrich was getting more and more run. But back in Houston, a couple of games and Smith feels like a new man.

Dallas was up by 11 and in control when Smith entered in the third quarter, he brought energy and defense, and quickly the Rockets went on a 15-4 run to make it a ballgame. It was the role players that won the game in the fourth quarter — Smith had 8 of his 16 in the quarter, Trevor Ariza had 8 in the final frame and 29 on the night (on 15 shots), and Ty Lawson had 7. James Harden had a triple-double on the night but didn’t score in the fourth. Houston got the 115-104 win and continue to show flashes of better play, the trick now is sustaining that level for an extended period.

3) Brett Brown is a frustrated man in Philly. For all the losing in Philly this season — from the rough start to the season through the improved-but-not-good play of late under Ish Smith — one thing has remained true: Philadelphia played hard for coach Brett Brown. They lost games because they were not talented enough, but the effort was there. Not Saturday against Boston. The Sixers were flat; the Celtics are a quality team, and the result was a 20-point win for Boston that could have been much more.

After the game, Brett Brown had little to say and was biting his tongue, trying not to completely rip his team to the media.

Brook Lopez scores 31, Nets end Thunder’s seven-game win streak

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NEW YORK (AP) — Brook Lopez scored a season-high 31 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, and the Brooklyn Nets snapped the Oklahoma City Thunder’s seven-game winning streak with a 116-106 victory Sunday night.

Kevin Durant had 32 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, but Oklahoma City never led in the game that was delayed four hours by the blizzard that dumped more than 2 feet of snow on New York on Saturday.

Russell Westbrook finished with 27 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists as the Thunder lost for just the fifth time in 27 games.

Taking advantage of a Thunder team missing starting center Steven Adams, Lopez shot 11 for 19 from the field in bouncing back from one of his worst performances of the season. He had been limited to just eight points Friday in a loss to Utah.

Lopez, who the Nets nearly dealt to the Thunder last season before Oklahoma City acquired Enes Kanter, averaged 28.5 points in the two meetings this season.

Bojan Bogdanovic added 18 points off the bench and Thaddeus Young had 14 points and 14 rebounds for the Nets, who snapped their five-game losing streak.

The Nets shot 57 percent in the first quarter, matched their best half of the season in taking a 60-52 lead at the break, and extended it to 13 in the third quarter.

The Thunder got within five points midway through the third quarter, but Young and Lopez combined for six straight points as the Nets quickly restored their double-digit lead.


Thunder: The Thunder lost for the first time in 10 games this season when both Durant and Westbrook have double-doubles. … Starting guard Anthony Roberson missed the second half because of a sprained right knee. He was hurt in the second quarter when Westbrook missed a reverse layup and fell into Roberson’s knee.

Nets: Joe Johnson became the 31st player in NBA history to reach 40,000 minutes. He is eighth among active players, behind Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce, Vince Carter and Andre Miller. Johnson finished with 13 points.


The Thunder arrived at their hotel about 4 a.m. Saturday, not long after the storm had started, and with all the snow and travel restrictions, Durant said he didn’t leave it again until getting on the team bus about 4 p.m. Sunday. “Doesn’t feel like we’re in New York City,” he said. He still has time to enjoy it. The Thunder will be in the city a couple more days before visiting the Knicks on Tuesday.


Adams had an MRI that revealed a sprained right elbow. Coach Billy Donovan said he believed the injury happened when Adams dunked in pregame warmups Friday and that Adams was in a lot of pain. He will probably miss the final two games of the road trip and there is no timetable for his return, though Donovan said they don’t believe surgery will be necessary.