Author: Kurt Helin

LeBron James

LeBron “surprised” by comments of former teammates


What did LeBron James expect them to say?

When your ex dumps you for a younger, sexier model is the general reaction “I totally get why he/she did that, it’s completely understandable and I wish him/her all the best.”

No. LeBron yelled at Mario Chalmers for four years, did he expect to be sent bouquet when he left? Chris Bosh sacrificed a lot of his game and happily played the third banana in the Heat’s offense, how could anyone be shocked that he’s spreading his wings and chirping a little now?

LeBron, however, apparently didn’t expect this, he told ESPN while in Brazil to take on the Heat in a preseason game.

“I know a lot of words have been coming out of their camp as of late and some of it is surprising,” James said Friday after Cleveland’s practice. “We’ve got so much history together. … It doesn’t take away from what we accomplished [in Miami] and I know that.”

“I’ve talked to D. Wade. Obviously I haven’t talked to Chris. But I haven’t seen them,” James added.

The Heat and Cavs players are not really intermingling down in Rio.

LeBron no doubt will forever look back fondly on his Miami years, or as he described it his going away to college years. Pat Riley and the Heat put the talent around him to win and more than that taught him about what it really takes to be a professional, what it takes to win rings. LeBron may have gone in wanting to recreate his high school team experience in some ways but learned both that those days were gone, and that he needed to do things differently to reach the mountain top. Now he’s bringing all that knowledge back to Cleveland.

Miami — and those players — wouldn’t have a couple rings without LeBron, they will look back fondly someday too. But you can’t expect the forsaken to move on so easily.

Wizards’ Kris Humphries has finger surgery, out 3-4 weeks

Kris Humphries
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While there may be no more ridiculed player off-the-court for his choices (as much as we try to ignore and repress all things Kardashian), on the court he is a solid reserve big man — an efficient scorer who doesn’t use much offense, strong on the glass and physical inside. Just what the Wizards needed to help keep Nene’s minutes down.

But maybe not for the first week or two of the season.

Humphries had surgery to repair nerve damage to the little finger of his right hand after he “lacerated his hand on the rim, between his fourth and fifth phalanxes (small and ring finger)” during the Wizards preseason game this week against the Bulls, the team announced on Friday.

Humphries is expected to be out the three to four weeks. That should have him back early in the season.

As J. Michael notes at, Humphries’ absence could be an issue on opening night, where the Wizards are already without Nene and DeJuan Blair, both of whom were suspended by the league for leaving the bench during the silly Joakim Noah/Paul Pierce incident. For opening night it could be Marcin Gortat, Drew Gooden, Kevin Seraphin up front for the Wizards. Maybe Pierce can play a little four in a pinch, but that first game could be interesting down in Miami (where Washington tips off the season).

ProBasketballTalk 2014-15 NBA Preview: Utah Jazz

Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Quin Snyder

Last season: The Jazz were not good, a 25-win team well out of the playoffs in the West. But frankly that was kind of the plan. They are rebuilding through the draft and that takes time, that takes putting your young players out on the court and letting them make mistakes and develop. What really held the Jazz back at the start of the season was Trey Burke being out with a thumb injury — he was clear and away the best point guard on the team and they were better on offense with him back (although still 25th in the NBA in points per possession). The real problem was they were the worst defensive team in the league. By a lot.

Signature highlight from last season: If you’re looking for one play that could foreshadow hope for the future, how about this game winning three against the Magic.

Although… it’s hard not to go with this.

Key player changes: The biggest change wasn’t a player it was the coach — gone is Tyron Corbin, in comes Quin Snyder, who was one of the top assistants in the league and spent years with the Spurs organization. Snyder is known as a player development guy (the Spurs are good at that, in case you missed it) and a discipline guy, two things very much needed with the young Jazz.

As for the roster of players, the big move was matching the four-year, $63 million max offer Charlotte made to Gordon Hayward. He’s getting paid like a foundational piece now. The team drafted Dante Exum and Rodney hood, while adding veterans Trevor Booker and Steve Novak. Gone are Marvin Williams, Richard Jefferson, and Andris Biedrins. Well, mostly just Biedrins’ contract.

Keys to the Jazz season:

Player development. Let’s just be clear: The Jazz are not going to be a good basketball team this season. They are not going to reach the playoffs, they are not going to reach .500, they will not pass “go” and will not collect $200. But paired with that statement needs to be this: The Jazz have assembled one of the better core group of young players in the league (15 guys invited to training camp were under age 25). I think they still lack a true No. 1, but their roster has potential. They key is getting that out of the players. This is another season about building for the future, showing signs of improvement, and player development — there was too little of that under Corbin and Snyder needs to change that dynamic. Jazz management has said wins are not the measuring stick and this year they shouldn’t be, but there needs to be real progress.

The Jazz now have paid Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors like foundational players, they need to step up and lead like it. Trey Burke showed promise as a rookie but has big steps to make still. Rudy Gobert showed promise at the World Cup for France, he needs to build on that and be the shot blocker the Jazz need. I am firmly in the “I like Dante Exum” camp but he is a genuine project a couple years out from really paying off and Snyder has a lot to do there. The biggest questions to answer this year is just how good are Enes Kanter and Alec Burks — both can be restricted free agents next summer (assuming a deal on an extension is not reached by Halloween) and the Jazz need to decide how much they are willing to pay to keep them in the fold.

Play some defense. The Jazz were the worst defensive team in the NBA last season, giving up 109.1 points per 100 possessions (via To say their help defensive rotations were bad would be to acknowledge their existence, not sure I can do that. All this needs to change. There has been a lot of talk around the Jazz about revamping and upgrading the offensive sets, but that’s all moot if they don’t get stops. Between Kanter, Favors and Gobert someone needs to become a feared shot blocker. Utah has to get better defensively on the perimeter. They just need to be better everywhere, frankly.

Who is the go-to scorer? For all the things to like about the young core on this team, it still feels like a roster loaded with good young complimentary players lacking that elite, superstar, Top 10 guy to lead them. That can show in crunch time — who gets the rock? The first answer here might be Gordon Hayward because he is often the guy with the ball in his hands anyway, a guy who can create some looks for himself and others, plus he’s now getting paid like an alpha dog. When I saw Hayward at Team USA camp in Las Vegas the first thing you notice is he’s filled out physically a little and will be stronger, which would help in this role. However, I think this could become Trey Burke’s role — he showed it at Michigan and again last season at points (see the video above) that he is cool under pressure. He just can make big plays. That said, the Jazz don’t really have a “clear out the side and isolate our star” kind of guy on the roster, so Snyder needs to run plays, not just isos.

You’re young — get out and run. All that young talent, dynamic playmakers in the open court like Burke and Hayward, bigs who can run the floor like Favors, and the Jazz played at the 26th fastest pace in the NBA last season. Not good. This team doesn’t have to play at a Showtime Lakers pace, but get out and run and pick up some easy buckets in transition. Create mismatches before the defense can get set then exploit them. Make things easier on yourself. Snyder has said that is the plan, but every coach says he wants he is team to play faster next year. We need to see it.

Why you should watch the Jazz: This is a young, dynamic, improving team that has a lot of potential — Favors is a quality big man inside, Hayward has a well-rounded game out on the wing, Burke is a good young point guard, plus there are guys poised to make a step forward in Burks, Kanter and Gobert. This is a team on the rise and those are always the most fun to watch.

Prediction: 33-49, which lands them back in the lottery and not with a thrilling record, but this needs to be a bridge season to better things in the coming years. If they play better defense, run more, find those go-to scorers and if Hayward steps up this is a season that can be a step forward, it’s just hard to predict that translating to many more wins because they are in the brutal Western Conference. The measuring stick shouldn’t be wins, it should be if we see development to what could be wins in a couple years. The Jazz have been amassing young talent for a while, it’s time for some of that to start paying off.

Gordon Hayward throws it down on Joel Freeland (VIDEO)

Utah Jazz Scrimmage

That, Gordon Hayward, is why you are now getting paid max money — we need to see more of that.

Hayward takes the handoff out 28 from the basket, comes around the pick, sees an open lane to the basket and attacks the Portland defense. Eventually Joel Freeland tries to rotate over but by then it’s way, way too late and Freeland just becomes part of the Hayward show.

Utah needs someone to step up and take charge of the offense this season, and Hayward is the guy at the front of line. Utah is counting on a lot of this.

Andre Iguodala breaks nose, expected just to play through it

Andre Iguodala
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Andre Iguodala may soon join the club of masked players in the NBA.

Iguodala was out on the court for Golden State’s win over the Lakers Thursday night (the Warriors’ perimeter players had a field day against the Lakers’ perimeter “defense”) and suffered a blow to his face at one point.

A pretty bad blow apparently, reports Monte Poole of

So, does Iguodala go with the Kobe-style black mask or more the Rip Hamilton clear version?

The good news is that it doesn’t seem that serious. Injuries are going to be a concern in the West, a conference with so little margin for error. So long as the Warriors can keep their core guys healthy — such as Iguodala and, more importantly, Andrew Bogut — their defense should be strong. Combine that with what should be an improved offense (that’s why they brought Steve Kerr in) and this is a dangerous team.

No matter how long Iguodala wears a mask.