Kurt Helin

Golden State Warriors v Houston Rockets - Game Four

PBT’s Fast Break news, notes from around NBA: Dwight Howard to sit out Houston opener

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Even in the middle of the off-season there are so many news and notes around the NBA we can’t keep up with all of them, so here is a collection of short thoughts and news items we couldn’t plug in anywhere else.

• We learned this week with the new NBA schedule that the Houston Rockets open the season Oct. 28 against the Denver Nuggets, but Dwight Howard will have to sit that game out as a suspension for crossing the flagrant foul threshold during last season’s playoffs.

• Stephen Jackson says he is the best NBA player alive — on the mic. And by the way, he says Kobe Bryant’s rap career was “horrible.” Which frankly may be kind.

• Jackson may be able to rap a little, but can he lip-sync to Whitesnake like Nick Young?

Bleacher Report’s Jared Zwerling did a fantastic piece talking with Stephon Marbury about being big in China.

• The Atlanta Hawks are about to hire former NBA player Malik rose as their manager of basketball operations, according to multiple reports.

• How much trouble is the Hawks’ Mike Scott in for his arrest on drug charges? Like 25 years in jail worth of trouble. There were drugs in a car where he was a passenger that was stopped by police, then Scott told police the drugs were his and his brother (the driver) did not know about them.

• What will be interesting with the Scott case is how the Hawks and league handle it. He is innocent until proven guilty, and Georgia law calls for the drugs in his possession (marijuana and Molly) to be tested before a court date is set, which takes a couple months. Meaning after the NBA season starts. Do they play him?

• Russ Smith has an Instagram account for his cat.

• Al Horford is going back to his native Dominican Republic for a Basketball Without Borders event there this summer. Corey Brewer and Luc Mbah a Moute also will be there.

• Michael Jordan testified in court this week against now-defunct Chicago-based supermarket chain Dominick’s. The chain ran a 2009 ad for steaks using a picture of Jordan without his permission — Jordan and his attorneies are incredibly protective of his brand, and he sued the chain for $10 million. The worst part, just two people used the coupons to get steaks at the stores. There is no verdict yet.

• Chicago is one of America’s great food towns, and the Bulls (and Blackhawks) are teaming up with Levy Restaurants (the “hospitality partner) at the arena) to bring some of that food to the United Center. Trendy Chicago eateries such as Big Star, Publican Quality Meats, Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap, Leghorn Chicken, Lillie’s Q, LQ Chicken Shack, Frontier, Lottie’s Pub and The Pony will have food at concession stands in the arena. This is brilliant. If you want a boiled hot dog and a Bud Light you can still get it, but now you have options.

• Levy runs the food operations at a number of NBA arenas, and they have been great at bringing in local flavor in a lot of places. Maybe the best arena food is at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where you can get grub from Brooklyn Bangers, Paisano’s Meat Market, Blue Marble Ice Cream, Café Habana, Buffalo Boss, and Nathan’s. That is a fantastic job of capturing local flavor.

• A little news about a former NBA player taking the cash in China.

The officials are official: referees union ratifies new seven-year deal with NBA

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It’s not just the players and owners who are going to see a little extra cash as the new television deal money starts to flood the system, the referees are as well.

The NBA and the union representing the referees had reached a tentative deal in the last few days, and now that agreement has been ratified (hat tip to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports).

Young NBA officials made less than some of the longer-tenured college referees under the previous contract, but the new deal reportedly has “substantial” raises for referees and the officials who staff the league’s replay center in Secaucus, N.J.

This is a win-win. As much as NBA officials are maligned by fans, they do impressive work at a very difficult job. Yes, we all want more transparency and training, but that is true of just about every gig around the league. There is not some better group you could plug-in as NBA officials, they are the best at their jobs.

For the NBA, this is one union dealt with and a deal in place. Now we can look ahead to 2017, when the owners and players can opt out of that CBA.

Draymond Green says don’t count out Warriors, as if anyone actually had

USA Basketball Men's National Team Training Camp
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Professional athletes will go to ridiculous lengths to find slights they can use as motivation.

Enter Draymond Green.

Last week gambling sight bovada.lv ranked the Warriors third in their odds to win the NBA title, behind the Cleveland Cavaliers and re-loaded San Antonio Spurs. Basically, the odds makers are saying the Warriors are title contenders — but Green sees an insult there, as reported on CSNBayArea.com.

“Everybody already said we’re not the favorite — we can’t do this, we can’t do that — so there will definitely be a chip (on the shoulder) there for sure,” Green said on KNBR 680-AM Wednesday night. “We’re the defending champs and everybody is counting us out already after the moves the Spurs made.”

Counting you out? That’s rather a reach. Good luck finding a prognosticator that does not call the Warriors a title contender — including the gambling site he mentions, which has Golden State at 5-1 to win it all, ahead of the Thunder, Clippers, Rockets, and a host of other teams that think they have a shot.

I think the Warriors are serious title contenders, but I’m not going to pick them to win it all. I may not pick them to get out of the West. The road to a repeat is hard and they are not used to having this target on their back. That’s not an indictment of them so much as a realistic look at the West — any of the Warriors, Spurs, Clippers, Thunder, and Rockets could come out of the Western Conference and nobody would blink. Those five teams are all tightly bunched. (I’m not sold on Memphis being on that tier.)

Which means the margin of error for contenders in the West is miniscule. Which means luck is going to be a bigger factor than normal. Last season the Warriors were lucky in terms of staying healthy while the teams around them collapsed. They were fortunate based on the final day of the regular season to avoid the Spurs and Clippers in the playoffs. That’s not to diminish the title the Warriors earned, but luck plays a role in any team winning it all.

Will the Warriors be that lucky again? Maybe. But the Spurs or Clippers or someone else may be as well. Then after the West beats itself up, they will likely face a fresher Cavaliers team in the Finals.

But if that is motivation for you Draymond, go for it. Whatever works for you.

Jimmy Butler says his chemistry with Derrick Rose will get better

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Jimmy Butler just signed a contract extension with the Chicago Bulls and will be wearing red and black for at least four more seasons. Derrick Rose is under contract with Chicago for at least two more seasons.

So while there are plenty of reports of tension between the two guards — which Butler has denied but may have spilled over into the playoffs last year — Butler took a pretty logical approach to it speaking on a Chicago radio show, as transcribed by ESPN.

Both of them are going to be there, so they better figure it out.

“I think we can,” Butler said Wednesday on “The Waddle and Silvy Show” on ESPN 1000, when asked about his chemistry with Rose. “I think we will. And I think we better, because the way I look at it, I don’t think either one of us is going anywhere anytime soon.”

Specifically how do you solve the concerns? Win. This is America and here that cures all ills.

“We didn’t win,” Butler said. “That’s it. When you don’t win, somebody’s got to find something to blame it on….

“Whenever we win, all of this is going right out the window,” Butler said. “Whenever we start winning at the beginning of the season when we’re going through everything, it’s not an issue.”

Last season when Butler and Rose were on the court together, the Bulls were 2.9 points per 100 possessions better than their opponents, which is pretty close to the team’s +3.3 for the season. The Bulls offense was a little better than averaged with the two guards paired, but the defense a little worse.

The question is how both will buy into and execute new coach Fred Hoiberg’s more modern NBA offense next season, one with plenty of ball screens and off-the-ball action (ala Golden State). The offense isn’t going to be as straight ahead like what Tom Thibodeau ran.

Butler is spot on about the big picture — both of these guys are going to be Bulls for a while. If they want to win, they had better get along. The Bulls are one of the second tier of teams in the East that can rise up and try to challenge Cleveland, but they need to get their own house in order first.

That starts with Rose and  Butler being on the same page.

Stephen Curry absolutely owns — and nutmegs — coach guarding him at Team USA Camp (VIDEO)

USA Basketball Men's National Team Training Camp
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It’s hard enough for the elite defenders of the NBA to even slow Stephen Curry down — his ability to both catch-and-shoot and shoot off the bounce may be unprecedented. The world’s best athletes can’t slow him.

So good luck if you are a past-your-prime, a little too heavy coach trying to check Curry during a practice.

That happened at USA Basketball practice this week, thanks to Hoopsmixtape for the video.