<span class="vcard">Kurt Helin</span>

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Adam Silver talks about a mid-season tournament coming to the NBA… eventually

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If you follow the Barclays Premiere League you know that the ultimate prize is the league championship. But there are other team trophies to win as well: the domestic FA cup, as well as European competitions such as the Champions League or UEFA Europa League. (As a Newcastle fan I’m not sure I ever expect to see any of those so long as our ownership stays the same.)

In the NBA, there is the Larry O’Brien trophy. And that’s it.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver is thinking about changing that by adding an NBA mid-season tournament. He floated the idea back in August and it garnered a little buzz — our Brett Pollakoff broke down how it might be put together — but that’s not just sizzle to the league.

Silver talked about it in more detail with Howard Beck of Bleacher Report in a video interview (it’s worth watching all of it, they cover some other interesting topics).

“I and others at the league office have spent a lot of time studying the Champions League for European soccer and other types of cups and mid-season tournaments,” Silver said in the interview. “Now there there’s a long tradition, but maybe there’s the opportunity to create a new tradition. And to create more competitions. Right now everything is about the Larry O’Brien trophy but soccer operates a little differently, they have different cups, which may not be as important as the championship but in their own right are highly significant.

“Those are not the kinds of changes that are going to happen in a year, or maybe even in two or three years, but they are the kinds of development for the league that needs to be studied over time.”

The idea of a mid-season tournament raises a lot of interesting questions. Assuming it’s a single-elimination, NCAA style tournament with all 30 NBA teams, do you just do it over 10 days in the middle of the season (maybe with the “final four” at the All-Star Game week/weekend)? Then do you need to shorten the 82-game regular season to accommodate that? How would some teams feel about losing home game dates to make room for this?

Silver said that right now things are exploratory.

“Conceivably what a mid-season tournament could look like is you have some number of teams — it could begin with all the teams and have a single-elimination type tournament — and this is a case where by floating the idea I got some good suggestions back over the transom, so to speak. It may be a chance to bring in some international clubs,” Silver said.

That’s an interesting idea, for a single-elimination tournament you would need 32 teams, so why not try to bring over Barcelona and Maccabi Tel Aviv (or whoever)?

Of course, the real question is money. And incentive for the franchises.

The team that wins the FA cup in England will get 1.8 million pounds, (nearly $3 million). Winner of the Champions League gets the equivalent of $13.4 million. Teams get money for each round they win as they move up the ladder in that tournament.

If you want the best of the NBA to showcase in this tournament, you’re going to have to provide an incentive for players — meaning some healthy cash — and you’re going to have to provide a quality incentive for the best teams not to just tank it and get their stars some extra rest. That could come in the form of confirmed playoff seedings (automatic home court in the first round) or maybe an improved draft standing in some way. You need a reason that even Gregg Popovich would be willing to play guys in this kind of tournament and try to win it.

Adam Silver is thinking out of the box in a way David Stern did not. It’s refreshing. But if these kinds of things were easy or did not have tradeoffs they’d already be done. It’s going to take some give to get.

If this happen — and it’s certainly still an if — it is years away.

But it is not out of the question.

Dwight Howard says he wants to move on from Kobe, Lakers. Actions show feud going strong.

Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant
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LOS ANGELES — For a little more than three quarters, the Dwight Howard vs. Kobe Bryant storyline was shoved aside in their opening night showdown to make room for the “damn, James Harden is insanely good” storyline. Or maybe the “we knew the Lakers were bad but not THIS bad” storyline.

Then this happened.

“They just don’t like each other, simple as that,” said Lakers coach Byron Scott post-game, putting a voice to what we all saw. Howard and Kobe wouldn’t even shake hands pre-game and the animosity (and Kobe’s frustration with losing) eventually bubbled over.

Both men tried to sell the “it’s just basketball” line after the game, but you tell the way they went at each other — the way Kobe calls Howard “soft” and all the finger pointing — that there is more than just smoke to the feud talk. Neither has moved on. (Remember when people tried to sell us Howard not returning to the Lakers had nothing to do with Kobe? That was a funny. Louis CK funny.)

When asked about the incident Howard went to the “I’m just happy we won the game” card over and over. He did his best to avoid the topic, but the questions about Kobe and Howard’s exit from Los Angeles — which brought lusty boos from the Lakers faithful at Staples Center opening night — just kept on coming.

“What do you all want me to say, because I’m not fitting to give you nothing. It’s stupid. We won the game. It’s over with,” Howard eventually said. “I mean, there’s no need to go into it. We won the game. It’s about basketball. I mean it’s over with. It’s nothing. I’m not even focused on it.

“I mean people are always going to talk (about him leaving the Lakers). I had a good time in L.A. It didn’t end how everybody wanted it to. Life happens. Things happen, and I’ve moved forward from it….. I think it’s over with. I made a decision for myself.”

Kobe seemed to have a sarcastic tone in his voice when asked about Howard and the incident.

“You can’t help but like him, He’s a teddy bear. He’s a really nice kid, and I really mean that,” Kobe said. “When you compete and you have a goal in mind, I know one way to get there. He elbowed me in the face and I’m going to let him know that I don’t like that. It’s that simple.”

That was as much as anyone would say, especially on a night when the terrible Julius Randle injury cast a somber mood over both locker rooms.

Still one other thing was clear Tuesday night besides the fact the Kobe/Howard rivalry is alive:

Howard clearly made the best basketball choice for himself moving on to Houston.

A lot of us said that at the time, but it was crystal clear Tuesday. Howard and Harden make a far more formidable force than Howard could have with the aging and inefficient Kobe we saw Tuesday in Los Angeles. Make no mistake, Kobe was as good as anyone should have expected, but right now Harden is simply better. It doesn’t hurt that Howard’s back is clearly the healthiest it has been in a couple years.

Plus, with Kobe’s still largest in the NBA contract, it would have been hard for the Lakers to build much around the pair. The Rockets are struggling with that, too, but still right now they have role players like Terrence Jones and Trevor Ariza that are better fits in their system than anyone the Lakers role out. Plus the Rockets as a team buy into an up-tempo offensive system that works for them. The Lakers have another coach and are on another quest to find their identity.

None of that changes the bottom line — it’s not just smoke, there’s real fire in the Kobe Bryant/Dwight Howard feud. Their words may play it down, but their actions tell the real story.

Watch Anthony Davis have his way against Magic (VIDEO)

anthony davis red
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After how he played this summer for Team USA, it’s been trendy to say he will have a breakout season.

Well, how about 26 points, 17 rebounds, nine blocks, three steals and two assists on opening night? Is that breakout enough for you?  Davis spearheaded the Pelicans attack in what went on to be a 101-84 New Orleans  win.

I have a feeling we’ll have a lot more nights like this from Davis..

 

NBA Opening Night Winners/Losers: Big nights for The Beard and The Brow

Orlando Magic v New Orleans Pelicans
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It’s a make or miss league. With that comes the simple fact every night in the NBA there are winners and there are losers.

In this new column at PBT, five nights a week we will lay out the nights winners and losers in NBA action for you — not just the teams and on the scoreboard, but in every facet of the game. No better time to start than on an interesting opening night.

source:  New Orleans Pelicans’ front line. We told you just how great Anthony Davis (third best player in the NBA?) was on opening night, but the guy next to him along the front line, Omer Asik, had a monster night, too. The pair combined for 40 points, 34 points and 14 blocked shots. They were defensive beasts and just overwhelmed the Magic (although Nikola Vucevic played well). This is not a one-off performance. These guys are why the Pelicans are a playoff threat. —KH

source:  Every Spur besides Kyle Anderson. The Spurs returned an impressive 14 players from their 2014 title team, and they received their championship rings before Tuesday’s game. Getting the rings is special, but for so many players who battled together last season to get the jewelry together, it adds another level. At least the rookie Anderson, the team’s lone newcomer, got an up-close look at the ceremony and San Antonio’s 101-100 win over the Mavericks. —DF

source:  Chandler Parsons. Parsons, whom the Mavericks gave a near-max offer sheet this summer, didn’t live up to the billing in his first game with Dallas. The small forward scored just five points on 2-of-10 shooting and had no assists in 34 minutes against San Antonio. There’s no sense drawing conclusions from one game, but if Parsons had played just a little closer to expectations, the Mavericks might have won. —DF

source:  James Harden. While all the talk leading into the opening night was about the feud between Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard (and they had their little moment) the night really belonged to Harden. All game long he abused the Lakers in transition, he hit a step-back jumper over Kobe, posted up Ronnie Prince and generally did whatever he wanted to. The Lakers had no answers. Harden finished with 32 points on 17 shots (he got to the line 16 times). He looked like what he is — the best two guard in the NBA.—KH

source:  The hopes of Lakers fans everywhere. Not only did the Lakers look utterly lost on defense, not only did their offense look unimaginative and it led to too many midrange jumpers, not only did Dwight Howard and the  Rockets just own the Lakers, but then on top of it all their prized rookie draft pick Julius Randle goes down with a fractured tibia in his right leg. That likely means surgery, it certainly means missing a healthy chunk of the season. Ugh. This season is looking like a dreary slog for Lakers fans.—KH

James Harden proves too much for Lakers in what is dreary opener for Los Angeles

James Harden
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LOS ANGELES — Kobe Bryant vs. Dwight Howard. The Lakers’ cornerstone vs. the guy who spurned the team. That’s how it was billed, that’s how it was sold on talk radio in Los Angeles. And the two men had their moment. They clearly don’t like one another.

However, maybe people should have talked more about James Harden.

He torched the Lakers in transition all night, he was draining threes, he was hitting step backs over Kobe, he was posting up Ronnie Price, he was slashing into the lane, he was basically doing whatever he wanted on the way to 32 points on 17 shots (he got to the line 16 times). When the Lakers made a third quarter push to cut the lead of a blowout game down to 7, Harden got a big and-1 on Kobe Bryant to stem the tide and restore order.

That led the Rockets to a relatively easy 108-90 win over the Lakers in the season opener for both teams.

This was a game overshadowed by a tibia fracture to promising Lakers rookie Julius Randle, who went down in the fourth quarter. He was taken to the hospital where surgery is likely. While no timeline for his return has been given, think in terms of months, this is a weight-bearing bone.

After the game that injury put a damper on things… and the Lakers were already pretty down after a rough first game.

“They’re a good basketball team and now we know we’re a ways away,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said after the game.

Particuarly defensively. Houston was able to get the ball inside, posting up Howard a few times but mostly from the slashing of Patrick Beverley and Harden. Then they either finished or kicked out (and made an extra pass) to get guys open looks at the arc. Look at it this way — only 3.7 percent of the Rockets points came on midrange shots, the least efficient shots in the game. They got their points at the free throw line, in the paint or at the arc — Trevor Ariza made five buckets all night and all of them came on uncontested three pointers (according to Sports VU data from the game).

“I thought we played really well tonight, and there are things we can really build on and learn,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said.

The very efficient Rockets offense scored 31 points on 23 possessions in the first quarter and finished the game with a 113.7 offensive rating (points scored per 100 possessions). Terrence Jones had 16 points and 13 rebounds for the Rockets, Howard had 13 points (on 3-of-5 shooting) and 11 rebounds.

Lakers fans — and their coaching staff — are left scouring the film trying to find bright spots.  As a team Los Angeles shot 35.4 percent, with a true percentage of 37.3 (compared to 50.7 for the Rockets).

One bright spot is Kobe Bryant looked about as good as one might have hoped after missing a season and having two major surgeries. He had 19 points to lead the Lakers, but he took 17 shots to get there as Trevor Ariza did a solid job on him all night.

Jeremy Lin struggled in the first half with Patrick Beverley on him. Kobe had a team-high 19 points but on 6-of-17 shooting. Ed Davis played well again (as he did in preseason). Carlos Boozer added the empty 17 points, although like with his time in Chicago it felt fairly meaningless. The Lakers also showed a stretch of better, more energized play in the third quarter, they just couldn’t sustain it.

For the Rockets, it was a win and they will take it, no matter how pretty.

For the Lakers… well, things have to get better, right?