Kurt Helin

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Video for a slow off-season Sunday: Best halfcourt shots of last season

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The best part? Zach Randolph is in this video twice.

If Stephen Curry or Kyrie Irving hit a ridiculous shot from distance you just kind of shrug. But Randolph? Twice?

Hat tip to the folks at NBA.com.

 

Raptors coach Dwane Casey talks about shift to more defensive team in Toronto

DeMarre Carroll
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It’s easy to forget because of the drama around the Rudy Gay trade and emergence of Kyle Lowry, but the Toronto Raptors were a top-10 defensive team in the 2013-14 season.

Last season, not so much. The Raptors finished 23rd in the NBA giving up 104.8 points per 100 possessions. They were 26th in opponent field goal percentage, 20th in opponent offensive rebounds allowed, and 19th in opponent assists allowed.

GM Massi Ujiri spent the summer trying to remake the Toronto roster into something better defensively — that started with landing free agent DeMarre Carroll, who gives them a quality perimeter defender (something Toronto lacked).

Raptors Coach Dwane Casey talked with John Schuhmann at NBA.com about the transition to more of a defensive-focused roster, starting with the pitch the team made to win Carroll over.

“We need you. You’re a defensive guy. We want to be a defensive team. We had been until last year. We moved from 30th [in defensive efficiency in 2010-11, the season before Casey was hired] to top 10, and then took a step back unwillingly. He’s a big part of us taking that next step. That was the pitch.”

How does Carroll change things?

“It’s going to help us, with the fact that DeMarre Carroll can guard his position. We’ve been getting by with Terrence Ross and DeMar DeRozan, who are really twos, playing the three and physically trying to go against bigger threes. Whether it’s been on the boards or guarding them, it’s been a challenge for those guys. I thought they did an admirable job two years ago, but it took a toll on us this past year, offensively and defensively. DeMarre gives us some size and physicality at that position.”

The Raptors, after a couple good regular seasons the last two years, have gotten slapped around in the playoffs. Carroll and the other roster changes — letting Lou Williams go, adding Bismack Biyombo — is an effort to put together a team that is better built for the playoffs.

Carroll is at the heart of that.

At the end of games, the trend is to go smaller. Threes are fours, fours are fives, and your roster has to fit that. Adding DeMarre gives us that flexibility. He can play some at the four, with Luis Scola or Patrick Patterson at the five. We’re better equipped to play that way now than we were a year ago.

The Raptors are going to win the Atlantic Division again, although looking at the roster it can bit a bit of a hollow victory. To take a significant step forward when it matters the Raptors will need a lot out of Lowry, and a lot more out of Jonas Valanciunas and the bench. Casey is a smart coach, with a season to figure it all out.

Charles Barkley jokes around about being tired of hearing it from Warriors fans

Champions Tour - Regions Charity Classic - Charter Communications Pro-Am - May 4, 2006
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Charles Barkley spent the weekend golfing at the American Century Championship in Lake Tahoe — one of the most beautiful places on the planet.

Also, a place just a few hours from the Bay Area and a favorite of San Francisco area residents looking to get away for a few days.

That meant a lot of Golden State Warriors fans were on the course this weekend, reminding Barkley — in not always the most polite of terms — that their jump shooting team won an NBA title. That came up in Barkley’s post-tournament interview.

“The only thing that’s been annoying is all these Golden State Warriors fans who want to talk so much now, talk about jump shooting teams,” Barkley said.

“They did win a title,” the interviewer chimes in.

“They did and that’s all. So congratulate them and tell them to shut the hell up screaming ‘Dubs,’” Barkley said, with a joking smirk on his face. “You know they had a great year with Steph and Klay, a great year. But they don’t have to keep saying it over and over again. It’s annoying.”

Barkley was joking, and doing a little passive aggressive complaining at the same time.

Barkley isn’t about to back down from his jump shooting beliefs, he certainly wasn’t yesterday during interviews. Even though the Warriors and the 2011 Mavericks have disproved his theory.

By the way, Barkley’s golf swing looks a lot better.

J.R. Smith is still a free agent, about to take a healthy pay cut

2015 NBA Finals - Game Six
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When J.R. Smith opted out of his $6.4 million contract with Cavaliers for next season, he and his agent thought he would get paid. After all, he had averaged 12.8 points per game in the regular season after being traded to the Cavs, he shot 39 percent from three, and he played quality defense. He played well through most of the playoffs, although getting suspended for the first two games of the Finals (and then having a rough series when he returned, and riding around on a Phunkee Duck) didn’t help his cause. Still, LeBron James was reportedly in his corner, the Cavaliers were going to pay up, right?

Smith is still a free agent on July 19.

The Cavaliers would have been happy if he opted in, but when he chose to become a free agent the Cavaliers decided to look around, too. From Terry Pluto at the Plain Dealer.

When Smith turned down the option for next season, the Cavs weren’t thrilled. At that point, they seriously began looking for another option at shooting guard….

The wise move for Smith would have been to pick up his option. Then go have a good season with LeBron James & Company. Then become a free agent in the “Money Summer” of 2016 when the salary cap will rise at least 30 percent.

Former Nets executive (and summer NBA Twitter sensation) Bobby Marks noted there is even a more fundamental lesson here.

What the Cavaliers want now from Smith is a below-market one-year deal. The reason is they are deep into the luxury tax and every dollar now spent on Smith multiplies because tax — a $4 million contract for Smith adds $14 million to the Cavaliers tax. That’s $18 million next year for J.R. Smith. You can see why the Cavaliers are hesitant (this is also slowing the Matthew Dellavedova and Tristan Thompson talks).

Smith is hoping that another team out there will give him leverage, but the market has been pretty dry.

In the end, I expect Smith and the Cavaliers to reach some deal — he played well for them last season, they could use his depth off the bench.

But I bet Smith would like to have his decision over.

It’s official: K.J. McDaniels signs three-year, $10 million to stay with Rockets

Utah Jazz v Houston Rockets
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We’ve known for a few days that K.J. McDaniels was close to a deal to stay with the Rockets.

It’s now official — and at a price that is much better than what had been rumored initially.

McDaniels himself confirmed the deal on Twitter.

Jake Pavorsky of Liberty Ballers broke the story, and it has since been confirmed by others.

This is a portion of the Rockets’ mid-level exception, they still have some left. This deal is well below the market value McDaniels and his agent thought he might find on the restricted free agent market, but the reality is nobody completely believed the numbers he put up in Philly because… well, Philly.

At this price (especially if there are no options), this is a good signing. McDaniels — coming off a broken elbow that kept him out of the playoffs — could be a good fit with the Rockets. He’s an athletic wing who can score in transition and defend.

He’s just got to prove he can crack the rotation in Houston, where they have Trevor Ariza, Corey Brewer, and Sam Dekker at the three, plus that James Harden guy eats up some minutes out there. McDaniels put up numbers and looked impressive in Philadephia, but they played fast and had limited offensive options, so he got touches. While the Rockets like to play fast, this team is loaded with better scoring options. McDaniels barely got off the bench last season in Houston.

Looks like he’s going to get a few years to prove he belongs.