Kurt Helin

Stephen Curry

Steve Nash calls Stephen Curry the next evolution of the NBA


There has been a lot of talk about the small-ball revolution in the NBA. The seeds were planted by Mike D’Antoni (and Don Nelson before him) but have fully blossomed with Stephen Curry and Golden State. The NBA can be a copycat league and every team now thinks about small ball lineups (if not starting them).

Steve Nash doesn’t see it as a revolution. It’s an evolution. That’s what he told Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star.

“It looks easy, but the shots he takes are insane,” says Nash. “The speed, range, dexterity, going left, going right, leaning, fading. It feels like the possibilities are limitless. I feel like I could shoot the ball in as wide an array of ways as anybody, but he’s been able to do it with more range and more speed. It’s remarkable. It’s the evolution of the game. I don’t think we’ve ever seen anybody be able to do this….

“It’s a leap,” says Nash. “When you take all factors in, even without the accuracy, just to be able to take those shots at an acceptable rate is itself an evolution. We’ve had a lot of gunslingers, a lot of volume shooters. but to take the shots he takes, even without the accuracy, is a revolution. And then, the accuracy: it’s remarkable.”

It is an evolution. Curry is the at the top of that food chain right now, a guy in the right place with the right skills at the right time.

What the Warriors do on offense has roots going back to the early 2000s decision by the NBA to allow zone defenses and remove hand checking on the perimeter — the Gary Payton physical brand of defense went away. That gave advantages to isolation/pick-and-roll players driving from the wings, and the league adjusted with Tom Thibodeau’s overload defense (something that couldn’t be done pre-zone rules). The zone also made it easier to keep post players in check because you could front and back them, making entry passes hard. NBA offenses responded to that evolution with tempo — get up shots before the defense sets — and using the three to create space and pull defenders away from the paint. Going smaller helps those things. (That’s a very simplistic outline, but you get the idea.)

Stephen Curry and the Warriors are the current peak of that evolution. Curry’s ability to shoot off the catch or the dribble, and the spacing he creates opens up looks inside, his passing skills, all of that is perfect for a modern offense. As Nash said, he makes it look easy but it is not. The Warriors are also an anomaly because of the high-IQ players they have everywhere, plus the ability of Draymond Green to keep the Warriors playing elite defense despite going small separates them.

Curry is the next evolution, and if you want to call it a revolution go ahead.

It will last until the next one.

Kobe Bryant on no sixth ring: “I did everything I could. I’m fine with that.”

Kobe Bryant

The idea that Kobe Bryant would play beyond this season always was rooted in his competitiveness — he wanted to get ring No. 6 so badly he would be willing to take far less money and be the third (or fourth) option on a contender to get it.

Nope. Kobe is going to retire a Laker at the end of the season. That means no ring No. 6. (I think we can safely put the 3-16 Lakers out of the title contender category, not that they were ever in it.) Kobe was asked how he is going to accept finishing one shy of Michael Jordan, and here is his response via Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times.

As I have written before, the most stunning part of Kobe’s announcement to those of us there last Sunday was how at peace he was with the decision. Kobe had made a career out of overcoming obstacles — and inventing obstacles in his mind for motivation if needed. To see him accept that he could not clear this hurdle, that it was time to walk away, was surprising.

Part of that acceptance has to be no more rings. Although the handful he’s got should help him get over it.

LeBron okay with LSU’s Ben Simmons being called next LeBron

Ben Simmons
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Ben Simmons is the presumptive No. 1 pick in next June’s NBA draft. The 6’10” forward playing for LSU has been compared to Anthony Davis in terms of what he can do on the court and his potential impact in the NBA. Some have said he could be a future best player on the planet.

A future LeBron James?

Simmons was in the crowd Friday night when LeBron put up 37 and Davis put up 31 in the eventual Pelicans OT win in New Orleans. After the game, LeBron was asked about having Simmons compared to him, and he’s fine with it, as reported by Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“I don’t mind it,” James said Friday before the Cavs’ 114-108 overtime loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. “Someone’s going to be compared to someone all the time, and I don’t mind him being compared to me. People not only recognizing what he does on the floor, but he’s a great kid, too. He has a great family, great support system, and that’s why he’s able to do what he [does] on the floor.”

Scouts generally hate player comparisons when talking about guys coming out of college, because every player is unique. Compare Simmons to Davis or LeBron or anyone else and those comparisons carry bagage with them that are not necessarily part of the package. That said, the human brain wants to draw connections to things we know, it makes understanding new information easier, and because of that comparisons aren’t going anywhere. Including ones to LeBron.

We are long, long way from knowing if Simmons can have the kind of Hall of Fame career that LeBron has already assembled at age 30.

That said, I had a scout tell me a while ago about Simmons “he might be worth taking for.”

Kobe Bryant ranks 2010 title against Celtics as his No. 1

Kobe Bryant
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Kobe Bryant is a historian of the game. He grew up with a father who played the game and loved it from an early age, with that came his search for his place in it.

That backdrop helps explain why, when on the NBA on TNT Thursday night, when Kobe was asked about his favorite championship, he went back to the Lakers/Celtics rivalry (thanks to Ryan Ward of the Lakers Examiner for posting these).

That was also a Finals that went a dramatic seven games, featured Kobe’s good friend Pau Gasol, and required a lot of Metta World Peace in that Game 7 to get the win.

Kobe also had interesting answers to other questions encompassing his career.

LeBron James needs help in Cleveland, is cavalry on way?

LeBron James

Friday night in the fourth quarter in New Orleans LeBron James looked every bit the guy who has worn the crown of “best player in the world.” On one level, his 23 points in the fourth quarter felt like a message to the anointed next best player in the universe Anthony Davis, a reminder that LeBron still can play at a level few could ever match, and he will not give up even an early December game without a fight.

But more than that, that dominance was what LeBron had to do to get the Cavaliers near a win — Cleveland had trailed by 13 midway through the fourth and LeBron single-handedly dragged them back and into the lead.

It wasn’t enough. Jrue Holiday drained a three tie it, then in overtime Davis had six points (31 for the game) while LeBron went scoreless, the result being a Pelicans upset win. Cleveland coach David Blatt summed it up well, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“We needed to give him a little bit more help,” said Cavs coach David Blatt.

LeBron, as do all true competitors, would have none of that.

“I hope we don’t think that way,” James said. “It’s never that way. When you get your guys back, you prepare just as you prepare before. It’s only one guy in the world, ever, where everything will be all right when he comes back, and that’s Jesus Christ. Other than that, you can’t bank on nobody … .”

But the Cavaliers should be able to bank on the returns of their starting backcourt, Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert. The cavalry is coming. In Irving’s case, he’s been cleared to practice and is likely just a few weeks away from a return.

Bringing back an All-Star point guard will change the dynamic for the Cavaliers, as will the defense of Shumpert when he returns (likely after the first of the year). They need those two, the Cavs have questions to answer. From the last three games of the Finals last season through Cleveland’s loss to Washington this week, the team has struggled against small ball lineups (Washington went basically five out against the Cavs, and it worked). But if that remains the case when Irving and Shumpert are healthy, when the Cavs could play a front line of Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson together to counter, remains to be seen.

What LeBron has worked to bring to Cleveland the past year plus is the mentality he learned in Miami — the one evident so long in San Antonio — and part of that is they can grind you down and win no matter who is on the court. It doesn’t always work, but when the Spurs rest a star (or when LeBron’s Heat teams did) nobody assumes a loss. Someone else will step up. That has not held the same way in Cleveland, the consistency is not there from the role players. So LeBron is calling a team meeting after a loss in Toronto, he needs to get these messages through to a younger team and show them the way. Miami taught LeBron how to win as an organization; he’s trying to instill that in Cleveland. Right now the Cavaliers feel more like a collection of individuals and not a team.

There is an urgency with LeBron because he knows the Cavaliers are the best team in the East (despite Chicago being ahead of them in the standings as of this writing), but he looks up at Golden State right now and they have that mentality — Harrison Barnes is missing time, Klay Thompson is battling injuries, Andrew Bogut missed time, it just doesn’t matter. Golden State’s swagger is undeniable. If LeBron wants to bring a title to Cleveland this season he sees where the bar is set and realizes right now his Cavaliers can’t clear that. He’s got until June to change that.

Getting Irving and Shumpert back is part of it. But it’s not all of it.