Kurt Helin

Emmanuel Mudiay blocks Damian Lillard to help preserve Nuggets win

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That’s your shot of confidence for Emmanuel Mudiay.

The Nuggets’ rookie had a big last minute to ensure Denver’s win over Portland Monday. With :56 left in the game he hit a 15-foot fadeaway to put the Nuggets up by four. Then with :18 seconds left he drained to free throws to keep that lead at four.

That’s when Damian Lillard took the ball and attacked the rim — and Mudiay got up and rejected him. You can see the video above.

Mudiay has plenty to work on — his shot, reducing turnovers — but this kind of confidence booster help the learning process along.

Andrew Wiggins with monster slam, monster night

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The Minnesota Timberwolves made a “we are a team to watch” statement Monday, going into Atlanta on the second night of a back-to-back and beating the Hawks.

Andrew Wiggins made a statement with this emphatic dunk off the give-and-go. That and his 33 points.

Minnesota led by as many as 34 and had to hang on at the end for the win, but this is still an impressive victory. Minnesota is 4-2 on the young season and have looked like a team that could be in playoff contention in the West.

Kobe says another Olympics ‘would mean the world’ to him

Kobe Bryant
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MIAMI (AP) — Kobe Bryant says a spot on the U.S. Olympic team next summer “would mean the world” to him.

Bryant spoke with The Associated Press on Monday about the reasons why he wants to play in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, a tournament that theoretically could mark the end of his competitive basketball career if he retires at the conclusion of this NBA season.

The notion of Bryant on the Olympic team has been bandied about since August, when USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo revealed that he had talks with the longtime Los Angeles Lakers star – who previously said he wouldn’t play in Rio – about the potential of being on the team.

Bryant says he feels like he could add value to the Olympic roster “from a leadership perspective” and with his defense.

UPDATE: After announcing Noah would start, Mirotic starts for the Bulls

Joakim Noah, Ben Taylor
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UPDATE 8:45 pm: Just kidding. Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg decided to play fake the media on Monday, he turned in the official starting lineup before the game with Joakim Noah listed as the starter next to Pau Gasol. Then, when the game tipped off Nikola Mirotic was starting next to Gasol, just like always.

I’d say nothing to see here, but the points about the Bulls big man lineups below remains valid — they should start Noah and Mirotic and bring Gasol off the bench.

7:31 pm: The Bulls have made it official — and they could still do better.

As had been rumored earlier, Joakim Noah got the start for the Bulls Monday night in place of Nikola Mirotic. From Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago.com.

I get the idea; Noah is the better defender and the Bulls have lost three of five. That said, I’m glad it’s not settled because I think Hoiberg is not using his best combinations.

While Mirotic had a couple rough games last week, the fact of the matter is the Bulls offense is 7.8 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court this season, and even the defense if five points per 100 improved when he plays. Even when he’s not hitting shots he has real value for them on the court because defenders have to respect him and it creates spacing.

Hoiberg needs to send Pau Gasol to the bench instead of Mirotic. When Gasol and Noah are paired together this season, the Bulls are +0.4 points per 100 possessions, when it’s Gasol and Mirotic it’s -4.1, but when it’s Noah and Mirotic the Bulls are +18.8. This comes with a major grain of salt because of the small sample sizes, but if something seems to be working then stick with it.

We’ll see now the new/old Gasol and Noah front court fares against the Sixers. Which is not exactly the best test.

Nets GM: Trades already explored, Coach Lionel Hollins’ job safe

Billy King
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The Brooklyn Nets are an 0-7 dumpster fire to start the season — they have the worst offense in the NBA and the fourth worst defense. While injuries (such as to Brook Lopez) are part of the issue, the reality is the bill has come due for the “win now at all costs” team that was assembled to help open the Barclays Center a couple of years ago. Brooklyn is finding the price very steep.

What is GM Billy King going to do about it?

Frankly, there’s not much he can do short term. However, he has started calling around in the early, exploratory phases about trades, reports Rod Boone of Newsday.

The Nets do have talent that may draw interest in trades — Thaddeus Young and Joe Johnson, specifically — it’s likely some time before those first calls start to generate any real action.

While there have been rumors about a coaching change because of the slow start, King said coach Lionel Hollins is safe, via Mike Mazzeo of ESPN.

Is Nets coach Lionel Hollins in jeopardy of losing his job with the team off to an 0-7 start? “Not right now, no,” GM Billy King said. “Shoot, I’m in the last year of my deal, too. And that’s why I think I said before it’s not just Lionel. We’re all in this together.”

That it is the last year of Kings’ deal has led to some buzz around the league he could be in trouble, too. However, the hole the Nets are in can be traced directly back to ownership — Mikhail Prokhorov wanted to spend now and buy a contender. The NBA doesn’t work like that anymore. The price tag for aging veterans that got the team to the second round of the playoffs has been the Nets have a mismatched roster and without control their own first round draft pick until 2019. King openly admitted the bill is now due.

“I’m not sitting in here shirking accountability. … It stops at me. I’m the GM. You make decisions along the way, and it’s my job now to figure it out and turn it around. … It doesn’t happen overnight. We knew when we traded (the first-round) picks and went down this road (for Deron Williams, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce) that if it doesn’t go well you have to dig yourself out of it, and that’s what we’re doing now.”

King did a good job clearing cap space that they can spend the next couple summers, but a foundation needs to be built before a serious, cornerstone kind of free agent will even seriously consider Brooklyn. Bottom line Nets fans, it’s going to be a long few years.