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Jamal Crawford says Lonzo Ball should not change his shot

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Lonzo Ball‘s shot has become a running gag around the NBA. During pregame warmups this season it looked like LeBron James and Joel Embiid mocked/tried to imitate it. TNT’s Inside the NBA was asking if it was worse than Charles Barkley’s golf swing, and the crew on that show mocks it all the time.

Ball is shooting 30.3 percent overall this season, and 23 percent from three. He’s shooting just 42.1 percent in the restricted area (it’s not just his jumper that is off). He’s shooting 37.5 percent on pull-up jumpers. He’s shooting 22.5 percent on shots when there is nobody within six feet of him (stats via NBA.com).

Is it time to tear down Ball’s awkward release and rework his jumper? Jamal Crawford, a guy who knows something about getting buckets in the NBA, said no, speaking on CBS Sports’ Flagrant 2 Podcast.

“No, I wouldn’t (change his shot). He’s done it his whole life. Even if he struggled, I’m sure he’s struggled, but when he makes 10 in a row you won’t change it then so I’d just keep it consistent.”

Crawford also said he sees a real star in Ball.

“Star. Absolutely a star. I love watching him play. He plays the right way. He doesn’t play for stats. He’ll give the ball up early when he could easily hold it to get an assist. He’s making the right play if it was a hockey assist he’d get 20 a game cause he’s always passing up early. He seems like a great teammate. If you look at all his interviews…he’s always well spoken he’s always about the team.”

Luke Walton has the Lakers players taking and making 100 threes at each practice, and he continues to encourage Ball to shoot his way out of this slump. Magic Johnson has said the Lakers would not change Ball’s jumper during the season.

But if Ball does not find a rhythm and is under 40 percent for the season on jumpers, come next summer the Lakers have some decisions to make. And tearing down and rebuilding Ball’s shot is a long process that will take more than one summer of hard work.

Grizzlies’ Mike Conley out at least two weeks with sore heel, Achilles

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Injuries are already starting to shape the playoff chase in the West — Rudy Gobert is out for at least a month in Utah, and the Clippers have lost six in a row as they battle injuries to three starters.

Now add the Memphis Grizzlies to the mix.

Mike Conley, the point guard who, along with Marc Gasol, is crucial to Memphis’ success, will be out at least two weeks to rest a sore left heel and Achilles, the team announced Friday. He could be out longer, Conley has had issues with this Achilles before, the team will want to be cautious, and by far the best treatment is rest.

Conley averages 17.1 points per game, is a great floor general running the offense, and is a quality defender at the point.

Memphis is 7-7 on the season and tied with Oklahoma City for the final playoff slot in the West, but the Grizzlies have dropped six of their last eight. What’s more, they are entering a gauntlet part of the schedule without Conley: Their next game is against Houston, then Portland, and in the next 10 they have the Nuggets, Cavaliers, Timberwolves, and Spurs (twice). The danger is they fall far enough back from the playoff chase they struggle to catch up again.

Expect to see a lot more Tyreke Evans, who has been strong as a sixth man but now will have much more asked of him. Also, more playmaking duties will fall to Gasol, working out of the elbow, and both Chandler Parsons and Mario Chalmers will get the ball in their hands. The question is what do they do with it.

Paul George getting comfortable with new Thunder teammates

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Paul George couldn’t find a rhythm on offense his first few weeks with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The four-time All-Star struggled to fit in with fellow All-Stars Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony after he was traded from the Indiana Pacers. He settled for jumpers too often, shot too quickly at times and didn’t get to the free throw line as often as usual. As he adjusted, the Thunder started the season with a 4-7 record.

Once George broke out, the Thunder turned their fortunes. George erupted for 42 points in a win over the Los Angeles Clippers last Friday, then scored 37 points in a victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday. He scored just 13 points in a win over Chicago on Monday, but his shots were higher quality and flowed with the offense better.

The Thunder take a three-game win streak into Friday’s game with San Antonio.

“I’m just staying in attack mode, playing downhill, being aggressive when I have the ball, being aggressive off the ball,” George said.

George leads the Thunder with 21.9 points per game. It’s quite a feat to be the top scorer on a team with Westbrook, a two-time scoring champion and the reigning league MVP, and Anthony, the No. 24 scorer in NBA history. But George has that kind of talent, and he gets to play off the other two stars.

“It’s hard because they have so many options,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “A lot of times you have the one-two option, but they have the one-two-three option. It’s tough.”

George said during the preseason that he was adjusting to how fast Westbrook moves in transition. Now, he’s in better position to attack because he is prepared. That has led to easy baskets and more free throws. He has shot 26 free throws the past three games after shooting just 27 in the previous 11 games.

“I think just trying to get out ahead of him as much as possible, I think, is key,” George said. “That way, when he’s making plays in full court, I’m already in position ready to receive the ball instead of catching up, getting my feet ready, trying to decide what to do. I’m ready to shoot or attack at that point.”

Thunder coach Billy Donovan said George is starting to figure out how to use his shot selection to keep defenses guessing.

“I think he’s just been balanced,” Donovan said. “He’s an elite scorer. He can do it a lot of different ways. He’s done it off the dribble, he’s done it off of catch and shoot, he’s done it off the drive. I think it’s just his balance of getting more comfortable with what we’re doing offensively and trying to figure out spots where he can be aggressive.”

Donovan said the best part of George’s performances against the Clippers and Mavericks was his efficiency – he only took 22 shots in each contest.

Even when George doesn’t shoot well, he’s effective as both an on-ball and off-ball defender. He leads the league with 2.4 steals per game.

“Honestly, defense is the part that I lock in at,” George said. “Offensively it is going to come, defensively is where I like to leave a mark and really try to be special on that end. It’s just sticking to the game plan personally in matchups, sticking to the gifts that God has given me.”

 

Carmelo Anthony likes “level of appreciation” from Thunder fans

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Carmelo Anthony spent six-and-a-half years as a Knick, the focal point of a fan base that is loyal but smart and not going to give away their love and loyalty just because you wear blue and orange. You need to earn it.

Anthony certainly earned it at points but also had more than his share of flaws. Knicks fans understood that. He was not the savior of the franchise some projected.

Anthony is now in Oklahoma City, and the fawning fan response there is more to his liking, as he told Complex.

It’s just a greater level of appreciation here from an athletes’ standpoint, from a basketball standpoint. The fans are very appreciative of me coming here, of Paul coming here, and wanting to be a part of the Oklahoma City community. So from that standpoint, things are definitely going in the right direction. They’ve been every supportive of myself. On court is going to take care of itself….

It’s a small, intimate environment where the fans really get to know the players and the players get to know the fans, really embrace the fans. It’s a hand-to-hand situation out here.

Don’t make the leap to “Anthony didn’t like Knicks fans,” because that’s not what he said. They gave him a lot of appreciation in the past six years. Things are different now. There is a small-town feel to OKC that works for some players. Also, much like a college environment, they are going to support the player regardless of on-the-court issues. They want success, they see Anthony as a path to it.

Whether he is a path to it, or just a footnote on the Thunder’s trajectory, remains to be seen.

 

Kevin Durant says he intended to send tweets critical of Thunder from own account, not burner

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In September, Kevin Durant tweeted that he left the Thunder because he disliked the organization and playing for Billy Donovan and that Oklahoma City’s surrounding cast around him and Russell Westbrook was lacking.

Because Durant tweeted in the third person then quickly deleted the tweets, most assumed he intended to tweet from a burner account – a fake identity used to stick up for himself.

Zach Baron of GQ:

The Internet was alive with a gleeful debate about whether Durant had a second, secret Twitter account. That wasn’t the case, he told me. He did write the posts, but on his own account, he said. He described it as a dissociative episode: He woke up from a nap, and “it just felt like I was on the outside looking in at a conversation. I had to walk in and just be like, ‘Nah.’” Either way, he appeared thin-skinned and a bit disingenuous, inexplicably absorbed in criticism during the pinnacle of his professional life. Even worse was what he’d actually said in the posts: After a year of maintaining a scrupulous, respectful silence about his old coach and his old team, he’d finally let slip what seemed to be the truth about his feelings regarding the Oklahoma City **Thunder.

This re-opens big questions: Did Durant actually dislike Donovan and the organization? Why? What did he find lacking in a supporting cast that, at times, included James Harden and Serge Ibaka and could’ve included Victor Oladipo if Durant re-signed?

Durant has mostly taken the high road since leaving for the Warriors, and he clearly has a second Instagram account he has used to spar with critics. I’m not convinced he doesn’t also have a burner Twitter account that he intended to use on those infamous tweets.

But I’m also not sure why he’d deny it considering the questions it opens about whether he truly meant what he wrote.