Kurt Helin

Paul George

Paul George likely starting power forward for Pacers


It’s been talked about all summer — Indiana going small and playing Paul George heavy minutes at the power forward spot. There’s a lot to like about that idea in an NBA going smaller.

Pacers coach Frank Vogel seems to like it — so much so he all but projected George as the starter at the four, when speaking to the fantastic Candice Buckner of the Indy Star.

“An idea on paper is to have a starting lineup of George Hill, Monta Ellis, C.J. Miles, Paul George and Ian Mahinmi,” said Vogel.

He thinks George is up to it.

I think this would be a smart move by the Pacers.

George, even coming off his horrific leg injury, is big and strong enough to defend the four against most of the guys in the East — especially in a league trending smaller (the West with guys like LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge. George can be a primary defender against most of the fours in the East, such as Carmelo Anthony or LeBron James (against the West, where Anthony Davis, Blake Griffi,k. Offensively George’s shooting would help create better spacing, and his ability to drive past slower-footed defenders. This would let the Pacers bring Chase Budinger, Jordan Hill, and Myles Turner off the bench.

My only question with that starting five is if the Pacers’ would have enough defense. But it would be worth some extended minutes to see if it works.

Nuggets’ Jusuf Nurkic to miss start of training camp

Denver Nuggets Host Special Olympics Clinic
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When Jusuf Nurkic has surgery on his patella tendon back in May, the hope was he would be healthy and back right around the start of training camp. Not going to happen, at least not yet, according to the Nuggets GM, as reported by Christopher Dempsey at the Denver Post.

Nuggets center Jusuf Nurkic will not be ready for the start of training camp as he continues to rehab his left knee, general manager Tim Connelly said Wednesday… Nurkic has begun some on-court activity, Connelly said. But asked if Nurkic would be ready for the regular -season opener, he reiterated he would not put a timetable on his return to full action.

Denver is right to take their time and think about the long term, because Nurkic could be part of the part of the long term in Denver, along with Emanuel Mudiay.

Nurkic is the projected starting center for the Nuggets, and they could use him on the court. He took over the starting role in Denver last season after the Timofey Mozgov trade and he showed a lot of promise. While he averaged just 6.9 points and 4.1 rebounds per game, his per-minute numbers showed potential.

More importantly, he brought solid defense and the Nuggets were 10.6 points per 100 possessions better when he was on the floor.

He should improve this season and beyond, which is why the Nuggets should think long term. In the short-term, if Nurkic can’t go, look for new Nuggets coach Mike Malone to go small (he’s already said he wants this team to play faster). He can start J.J. Hickson at the five and Kenneth Faried at the four, and hope that can provide enough defense to get some wins.

At least until Nurkic gets back, which shouldn’t be many if any games.

Draymond Green: Durant under the radar trash talker

Kevin Durant

Draymond Green is a talker on the court. Constantly. He talks his share of trash (and a couple other people’s share’s too), but he’ll talk about Drake and Meek Mill, the weather, the upcoming Peanuts movie, almost anything.

Green was talking about his trash talking on the Freddie Coleman Show on ESPN radio and threw out props to Kevin Durant for his smack talk. It was transcribed Anthony Slater at the Oklahoman (hat tip Eye on Basketball).

“You know who I always thought (was a great trash-talker), but has been under the radar, I think Kevin Durant,” Green said. “Lotta people don’t know that. But if you play against him you know…

“KD makes you feel bad about yourself, that you ever talked junk,” Green said. “It’s the funniest thing in the world….

“Me and KD have had our battles over the course of my three years in the league,” Green said. “But when he end up with 53 (points), it ain’t much you could say back at that point.”

Green just hit on the core of it. Durant has something going for him that some of the great trash talkers — Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Kobe Bryant, among others — had going for them: He can back it up. Durant has mad game. As Bird used to do, KD could tell the defender what he’s going to do, then do it, and nobody’s going to be able to stop him.

If Durant gets his game back to “you can’t stop him” trash talking levels this season, the rest of the league will be in trouble.

James Harden’s first pitch at Astros’ game not bad

James Harden

His new nickname isn’t Kershaw, but James Harden is looking a lot better than Michael Carter-Williams. In fact, Harden referenced MCW.

Harden threw out the first pitch at an Astros game Wednesday afternoon and while that seems a bit low for a strike, it’s not bad.

Harden then told Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle he was happy with it — and took a shot at Carter-Williams.

The best photo of the day in Houston may be this one.

Lakers’ trainer understandably cautious with Randle

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Just 18 minutes into his first NBA game, Julius Randle fractured his tibia on what was an innocent play.

Longtime Lakers’ trainer Gary Vitti — entering his final season — has blamed himself for that. He shouldn’t, every other medical person consulted on this said there was no way to see it coming, but that’s Vitti. Randle had surgery that put a rod and screws in his tibia, and he spent a year in recovery. (While out, Randle also had foot surgery.) He was healthy enough to play in Summer League in Las Vegas.

But heading into the season, Vitti is still leaning toward caution and thinking long-term, as he told Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News.

“The plan is we get to the first day of training camp, we talk to our doctors and hopefully he will be able to participate in everything. But men plan and God laughs. So that’s the plan. That’s the mid-range plan. I said there were three goals. First is to get him to play in summer league. Second goal was to get him at first day of training camp and get him to do everything. Third goal is to get him to play in the first regular season game without restrictions.”

So what are he and the doctors watching? That answer provides a brilliant look into the advanced analytics available in the NBA that are becoming the trend for monitoring player health.

“Number one is pain. The things that we look at are pain, inflammation and swelling as well as talking to him on how he feels. It’s also his performance on the court and his recovery on the court. We look at things like load and intensity. So when we’re in a game at an NBA arena, we have an eye in the sky. The eye in the sky tells us how many accelerations there are to the left and how many accelerations there are to the right as well as how many decelerations. We can tell how many accelerations and decelerations there are and the trajectory of them. That information goes in an algorithm that tells us the average speed that the player played at. We multiply that by the distance that he ran in a game. We multiply that by his body weight. That gives us a number that we call load. We look at that number. But then we also take that number and divide it by time, which is minutes played, and that gives us intensity. So what we want to see as his load goes up, does his intensity go up with it. If it does, then we’re okay.”

If not, there are changes. It’s that simple. And if/when players start wearing body monitoring devices, that will add another level to the discussion.

Hopefully for the Lakers there are no restrictions on Randle, who needs to diversify his offensive moves as he adapts to the next level of defense he will face.