Blake Ahearn sets new consecutive free-throw record

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A wise man once said that nobody’s goal should be to break all-time records while playing in the NBA Development League. While that would seemingly be the case the majority of the time — it implies a player’s simply been “developing” a bit too long in the D-League — Blake Ahearn broke the mold this past weekend.

Ahearn, a standout guard for the Reno Bighorns who’s previously spent time on NBA rosters with the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat, did what he does best on Saturday night when he hit his 99th consecutive free-throw this season. The veteran shooter bested his own previous D-League record as well as the big league’s record, held by former Minnesota Timberwolves guard Micheal Williams when he hit 97 straight shots from the charity stripe from March to November in 1993 before Ahearn topped it.

The above video certainly isn’t the most exciting thing ever posted on Youtube, but it should probably be stored securely in the archives considering nobody in history has done what Ahearn accomplished over the course of the past month.

“Breaking records is never something that you set out to do,” Ahearn told ProBasketballTalk, “But you’re fortunate when all your hard work pays off … and, in this case, it did.”

Ahearn, currently leading the D-League in scoring with 24.6 points per game, isn’t exactly a stranger when it comes to breaking shooting records. The 27-year-old point guard holds the all-time college free-throw percentage record as well — thanks to shooting 94.6 percent on 460 foul shot attempts while at Missouri State — but he attributes his success his success to the practice he’s put in over the course of his basketball career.

“I make 102 free-throws per day during the off season,” Ahearn says, “But it’s different during the season just with travel and all that.”

Why 102 and not even 100? Legend has it that Ahearn treats the first 100 attempts as practice shots while he considers the final two as the ones that count, in the clutch. It’s paid off in game situations, too.

“I don’t remember as much from high school, but since college I’ve never missed more than two free-throws in a game,” Ahearn said. “I’ve missed twice in one game, I think, five or six times since the start of college up until right now.”

The most impressive part about Ahearn’s streak isn’t the OCD-like behavior when it comes to free-throws — though the 102 shots theory does make sense — but the fact that he was able to do it while averaging nearly 40 minutes per game for the Bighorns. Fatigue obviously isn’t a problem for Ahearn, however, as his 99 consecutive free-throws have come over the course of just 14 games.

It probably won’t be long — or shouldn’t be, at least — until Ahearn’s given another shot to prove that he belongs in the Association even though he certainly isn’t the purest point guard to ever call the D-League home. Free-throw shooting would seem to be one of the most translatable skills available, and considering his success everywhere in the past, it’d seem counter-intuitive to not have a player like Ahearn on the end of the bench available for late-game situations when big shots need to be knocked down.

Ahearn might never be able to steal away the Mr. Clutch moniker from Jerry West, but it seems safe to say he’s proven he’s the best in-game free-throw shooter basketball has to offer.

C.J.McCollum, Eric Gordon both withdraw from USA Basketball for World Cup

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First Anthony Davis. Then James Harden.

Now add C.J. McCollum and Eric Gordon to the list, as reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic and Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Don’t be surprised if a couple of new players are added to the USA roster for training camp.

The loss of those four stars strips the Team USA of some international experience. As pointed out by John Schuhmann of NBA.com, now only four members invited to USA camp have played in the World Cup or Olympics: Harrison Barnes, Andre Drummond, Kevin Love, and Kyle Lowry — and Lowry just had thumb surgery and is questionable for the playing in China.

USA Basketball can still roll out this starting five:

Damian Lillard
Bradley Beal
Khris Middleton
Tobias Harris
Andre Drummond

Then off the bench have Kemba Walker, Donovan Mitchell, Kyle Lowry, Jayson Tatum, P.J. Tucker, Kevin Love, Brook Lopez.

That’s still enough talent, coached by Gregg Popovich, to win the World Cup. The USA remains the heavy favorites for a reason.

USA Basketball is scheduled to begin its pre-World Cup camp in Las Vegas Aug. 5, with an intrasquad exhibition game at the T-Mobile Arena on Aug. 9. Then the team heads to Southern California for more training followed by an exhibition against Spain on Aug. 16 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. Then the team heads overseas for the World Cup, which begins in China on Aug. 31.

James Harden reiterates it was ‘false talk’ he and Chris Paul were at odds

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The Houston Rockets — not in an anonymous way, but in a “we are putting our names on this, quote me” kind of way — have pushed back hard on the narrative that there was tension between Chris Paul and James Harden that led to the Rockets trading CP3 for Russell Westbrook this offseason. Rockets GM Daryl Morey has denied it, team leader P.J. Tucker called it fake news, and Paul himself has pushed back.

Harden has done that again, speaking at his camp on Saturday.

The counter-argument to this: Chris Paul is in Oklahoma City right now.

People will believe what they want to believe, but the Rockets guys have all gone on the record about this. Nothing leaked and anonymous.

From the Rockets’ perspective, they made a trade for Westbrook that is a roster upgrade. Houston has a dynamic duo that can compete with the Los Angeles teams and the other contenders around the league, and whatever questions fans and the media may have about the ultimate fit of Harden and Westbrook the talent level is not in question.

Do the Rockets make that trade if everything is great between Harden and Paul? Probably, if they saw CP3 as in decline and Westbrook as a talent upgrade (which they did). The Rockets can be a cold, business-like organization in terms of their pursuit of a title.

We will see next season if that calculation paid off. Whether or not Harden and CP3 got along.

Report: Kyle Korver reaches one-year deal to join Milwaukee Bucks

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The Bucks can never have enough shooting around a driving Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Enter Kyle Korver. The veteran sharpshooter will be headed to Milwaukee on a one-year contract, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This is a quality pickup at the minimum (it is a veteran minimum contract). Korver averaged 8.6 points per game last season, taking 72 percent of his shots from beyond the arc and knocking down 39.7 percent of them. The man has gravity and pulls a defender because even at age 38 defenders cannot leave him. Shooting is a skill always in demand.

The Bucks will start Wesley Matthews at the two and have Sterling Brown behind him. They have Khris Middleton and Pat Connaughton at the three. Now they have some reliable veteran depth at those spots and a guy who can hit the big shot for them.

James Harden buys piece of MLS Houston Dynamo

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NBA players being minority owners in a soccer team is not new, LeBron James owns a small piece of Champions’ League winner Liverpool, for example.

James Harden is keeping it closer to home — he bought a share of the Dynamo, Houston’s MLS franchise.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity to join the ownership group of the Houston Dynamo and Houston Dash and proud to be a part of a club with tremendous history and a great future,” Harden said in a statement. “Houston is my home now, and I saw this as a way to invest in my city and expand my business interests at the same time. Soccer in general, and especially MLS, have exploded in this country throughout my lifetime. I’ve been a fan of the game for several years, and I know that Houston has a massive soccer fanbase, so it was an easy decision for me when this opportunity arose.”

Harden reportedly purchased a five percent stake in the team.

The Dynamo — a former MLS cup champion and a franchise that has consistently been strong — is primarily owned by Gabriel Brener, and it has boxing legend Oscar De La Hoya as one of its minority owners.

Harden has earned more than $141 million in NBA salary in his 10 NBA seasons and has four years left on the $228 million contract extension he signed with the team in 2017. In addition, he has a large shoe contract with Adidas and other endorsements.