Kurt Helin

USA Basketball Men's National Team Training Camp

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

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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

rosebutler
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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.

PBT Extra: Popularity of Stephen Curry evident in new NBA schedule

Stephen Curry, LeBron James
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Stephen Curry is the second most popular player in the NBA. If you want evidence, look at the NBA schedule — only one team has as many nationally televised games as LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, and it’s Curry and the Warriors. The NBA is putting Curry front and center.

Jenna Corrado and I discuss this in the latest PBT Extra, looking at highlights of the NBA’s schedule.

In addition to the Curry/LeBron Christmas Day showdown, I’m looking forward to Nov. 11 when DeAndre Jordan has to play in Dallas, and to see the (likely) emotional farewell for Kobe Bryant on April 13 if this is his last game in the NBA.

Five takeaways from new NBA schedule

Anthony Davis
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The NBA schedule is out and there are a number of games worth watching, from when the banner goes up in Oracle Arena opening night to what could be Kobe Bryant’s final NBA game in Los Angeles on April 13th.

But the schedule is more than just a list of 1,230 games, it tells you about the priorities of the league. Some themes emerged out of the NBA schedule. Some were expected, some not so much.

Here are five takeaways from my reading the new NBA schedule.

1) Adam Silver wasn’t kidding about building more rest into the schedule. We’ve already written about this, but it bears repeating — players are going to get a lot more time off in this season. And that’s a good thing. Last season there were 70 times teams had four games in five nights, that’s down to 27 this season. Teams will average 1.5 fewer back-to-backs, and the back-to-backs where teams travel across a time zone drops from 111 to 84. We knew this was coming, NBA Commissioner Silver had talked about this at the All-Star break, but the fact they did this while not starting the season earlier (as they may well do in future years) and keeping the week break around the All-Star Game is impressive. We will see if this reduces the times coaches rest star players next season, but in a league where the wear-and-tear on players leads to injuries, this is a good first step in dealing with scheduling challenges.

2) The league is finally starting to promote Anthony Davis like he’s a superstar. On the court, Anthony Davis was a top five player in the NBA last season — at age 21. He was an All-Star and led the New Orleans Pelicans to the playoffs. His PER of 30.8 was the best in the NBA — better than LeBron James, James Harden, Stephen Curry and everyone else. Yet the NBA mostly ignored him and the Pelicans, who were on NBA TV a couple of times and on no other national broadcasts. Not this time around. Opening night Davis and the Pelicans take on Golden State on TNT. Christmas Day you get to see Davis and the Pelicans. There will be 13 appearances on ESPN/ABC and TNT for Davis. As it should be. This is (arguably) the third best player in the NBA right now, and in five years or so may well be the best player in the world. He’s a budding superstar, they needed to get him out there. Finally, they did.

3) So much for another easy path for the Warriors. So much for the league playing favorites. Last season, on the way to a title, all the breaks seemed to go the way of the Warriors (particularly in terms of health). They do not catch any breaks with this new schedule. In the first days of the new season they face the Pelicans twice, the Rockets and the Grizzlies (all their playoff opponents from last season). If it’s tight at the end of the year, their final four games are against the Spurs and Grizzlies (twice each). They have 20 back-to-backs, tied for the most of any team in the league and one more than they had last season. The Warriors are still title contenders, but Curry and company are about to find repeating is a whole lot harder than winning the first time around.

4) Yes, you’re still going to see a lot of Lakers. Such is the power of the Lakers’ brand. Such is the draw of what could be the Kobe Bryant farewell tour. The Lakers are not going to be very good this season and yet have 19 games on ESPN/ABC and TNT — the same as the Houston Rockets and more than the Heat, Grizzlies, Wizards and a host of other teams. Why? Because this is a business and you give the people what they want — the Lakers grab eyeballs. Yes, Miami and even Milwaukee may be far more interesting and entertaining, but people watch the Lakers and the business is to deliver viewers to the advertisers.

5) Plenty of teams are unhappy. A lot of teams feel the new schedule is stacked against them. Take Orlando, a team that desperately wants to make the playoffs this season (they have not played the multi-year tanking game). The Magic open the season at home against the Wizards and Thunder, then go on the road against the Bulls, Pelicans, and Rockets, only to return home and get the Raptors — they could very well open the season 1-5 or 0-6. Portland has 20 back-to-back games. And maybe nowhere are people as unhappy as Detroit, something Andre Drummond summed up this way.