Kurt Helin

PBT Extra: Warriors, Pelicans game a little glimpse into NBA future

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In the latter of their marquee games for NBA opening night, the selling points are Golden State getting their rings, raising their banner and starting defense of their title against Anthony Davis. Which are all good reasons to watch.

But as I note in this PBT Extra, the game is also a glimpse into the NBA future.

Not just seeing younger stars like Davis and Stephen Curry, but also regarding style of play — big men spacing the floor to shoot threes, up-tempo styles, and versatile players and lineups. Although, due to injuries in the backcourt, this could be a bumpy start on the way to the future for the Pelicans.

Lance Stephenson will start for Clippers in opener. Probably.

Clippers Lance Stephenson Press Conference
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With Matt Barnes gone, Doc Rivers has had all of training camp to look at his options at the three. That’s plenty time to think about who would start. And the answer is…

Lance Stephenson.

Probably. But Rivers isn’t saying for sure and is trying to dodge the question, reports Dan Woike of the Orange County Register.

“Again, I think you guys are more focused on who starts than me,” he told reporters before Monday’s practice. “To me, it’s not a big deal. It’s who finishes.”

Lance Stephenson, who started the last two preseason games, will “most likely” start Wednesday, Rivers said. However, veteran Paul Pierce worked with the starters as a small forward during Monday’s practice.

It appears the Wesley Johnson as starter nonsense went away once Rivers plugged him in and got a clean look. Clipper fans should be happy about that. Johnson can still contribute in a limited role, especially if he’s asked just to be athletic he’ll be okay.

The idea of Pierce coming off the bench to stabilize the second unit and limit his minutes certainly has some appeal. The question is will Stephenson be up to the task? He certainly still can bring some defense on the perimeter, but his shooting remains worrisome. Check out his shot chart from the preseason:

Lance Stephenson shot chart

Now that’s a small sample size, but Stephenson seemed up and down in the preseason. He’ll get a chance to prove he can play off the ball with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. He’s getting the opportunity to show Indiana Lance is still in there.

If not, Rivers has more thinking to do.

Durant, Westbrook visit victims of Oklahoma State parade crash

Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant
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The tragedy at the Oklahoma State homecoming parade was sickening — a driver crashed through barricades at the parade and into a crowd of people killing four and injuring dozens more. Your heart went out to the victims.

Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and other Thunder players wanted to do a little something to help, so they went and visited victims still in the hospital on Monday.

Well done gentlemen.

(Hat tip Eye on Basketball)

Minnesota owner says Sam Mitchell coach, Milt Newton GM for season

Flip Saunders, Sam Mitchell

Sam Mitchell deserved another shot as an NBA head coach at some point — he had done a good job building up the Raptors when he was north of the border before, he had paid his dues since.

But this is not how he wanted to get that chance.

With the passing of Flip Saunders on Sunday, Mitchell will coach the team for the season, and Milt Newton will take on an expanded role as general manager, owner Glen Taylor told the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

“Sometimes, positives can happen,” Taylor said. “In this particular case, let’s see what these people do, let’s see what their leadership is. Going through difficult times, maybe we’ll see people bloom into what they might not have been otherwise.”


The two of them are going to get a season to see if they can grow and develop this talented young roster. This is about the worst way possible to get a year-long job interview, but as Taylor said he wants to see what they can do.

Taylor said the team will wear a patch honoring Saunders on their uniform or warm-ups, although whether those will be approved by the league and in place for opening night remains to be seen. Before the Timberwolves home opener Sunday there will be some remembrance of Saunders, he added.

Newton said there were some brief discussions with the NBA about postponing Wednesday’s road opening for the Timberwolves, but the talks were never serious.

Mavs cut rookie Ndour to get roster set for regular season

Maurice Ndour
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DALLAS (AP) — The Mavericks have waived rookie forward Maurice Ndour to get their roster down to 15 for the regular season.

The 6-foot-9 Ndour signed with Dallas on July 22 and averaged 4.8 points, 1.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals in 23 minutes per game in four preseason games. He was a target for the final cut Monday after missing the final three exhibition games with a stress reaction in his left leg.

The Mavericks went with experience in the frontcourt over the young Ndour, who averaged 16 points and 8.3 rebounds as a senior last season at Ohio. Dallas kept a third center in JaVale McGee even though the eighth-year player won’t be ready for several weeks because of a leg injury.

Dallas opens at Phoenix on Wednesday night.