How to win the preseason

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No one has ever accused the Utah Jazz of being too trendy. Just like John Stockton defiantly ignored the whole “wearing shorts that allow circulation to the rest of your leg” thing late in his career, Utah has completely avoided the recent trend of slimming down and going small. The Jazz will start four players over 6-foot-8 this season and have two 6-foot-10 players in heavy rotation, which makes them one of the biggest teams in the league.

But because bludgeoning teams with size isn’t exactly all the rage these days, the massive improvements the Jazz made this offseason have generally been overlooked. Mo Williams and his career 38.7 percent shooting from 3-point land represent a much better fit than Devin Harris and his career 31.5 percent 3-point shooting. Marvin Williams will replace nearly 1800 combined unproductive minutes of Raja Bell and Josh Howard out on the wing, which will undoubtedly make the Jazz less creaky on both ends. Add in the internal development of Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors, and Utah is the scariest team no one is talking about. Until now.

Previously, it was easy to write off Utah as a return playoff team when there were much sexier options like Minnesota, Dallas and Golden State available, but the Jazz are winning the war of attrition and it’s not even September yet. Already missing Ricky Rubio, Minnesota has lost Kevin Love for 6 weeks thanks to some failed Rocky-style training. Dallas will be without Dirk Nowitzki for a similar time frame as he undergoes knee surgery. And Golden State? Andrew Bogut is still a “maybe” for the start of the season, while poor Steph Curry just sprained his surgically repaired ankle yet again last night.

While other teams vying for the last seeds scurry around for replacement parts, the big questions facing the Jazz are based around having too much depth and not enough minutes to go around. Maybe the crowded frontcourt will create some serious chemistry issues, as trade rumors and expiring contracts have known to sink a team before. But even those fears are being assuaged a bit:

Jefferson’s willingness to help Kanter and young Derrick Favors, the third member of Utah’s three-headed monster at center, certainly hasn’t been lost on Jazz coach Ty Corbin.

“It’s been great the last two years,” Corbin said. “They like each other first of all. They’re good guys. Enes and Derrick both see how effective Al is on the post, so the stuff that he’s telling them and teaching them is stuff that he uses in the game and they see how effective it can be, so why not try and integrate it into their game?

“I think he’s done a great job,” Corbin said of Jefferson. “He has a really good approach with Enes and Derrick, and they’ve responded to him.”

Via Utah Jazz: Al Jefferson, Enes Kanter bonding, becoming like the ‘Odd Couple’ – Deseret News

Ty Corbin has some juggling to do in his second year as a full-time head coach, but there are worse things than having an embarrassment of frontcourt riches. And when you consider the fact that some of Utah’s most productive lineups last year featured Paul Millsap at small forward, maybe Utah is on to something. Maybe size still matters.

For the time being, just by staying upright (and having Jeremy Evans get downright nasty), it’s the unglamorous, trend-bucking, gigantic Jazz winning the preseason.

Jarrett Jack thinks Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant will join Lakers with LeBron

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Jarrett Jack is no longer with an NBA team, but no doubt he is still plugged in and continues to pay attention to rumors and movements around the league.

Of course the biggest rumor heading into the next two seasons is about what will happen with the team surrounding LeBron James on the Los Angeles Lakers. Kevin Durant has been one rumored target. Some kind of trade surrounding New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis is another.

Jack recently decided to weigh in on what might happen with the Lakers in the coming seasons on Twitter and, according to him, Jack thinks that LeBron will team up with Davis and Durant.

Via Twitter:

This is of the utmost hearsay at this point, and it’s fun to look at these type of assertions by folks orbiting the league because of the cultural impact rumors have on just about everyone. The idea that a recent former player would be weighing in publicly about a super secret plan to get three major superstars on one team in the biggest market in the NBA would have been crazy a decade ago.

Now? Not so much.

Of course the reality of the situation is much different. The Lakers will have the cap space to sign Kevin Durant this summer if he chooses to opt out of his contract with the Golden State Warriors. Weather Davis can find a way to the Lakers is another thing altogether.

The Pelicans big man has appeared to say all the right things externally, and the only way New Orleans is giving him up is if Davis decides to force his way out. Even then, it’s not immediately clear what the Lakers could give up in order to get Davis that wouldn’t completely decimate their team.

Keep these rumors coming, to be honest. I am all for everyone getting in on these rumors early. If they turn out to be true, it becomes a fun tinfoil-hat experiment on what kind of secretive potential discussions were had before things were made official. Then again, if Durant decides to join the New York Knicks and Davis stays put in Louisiana for the rest of his career, it’s an odd commentary on nobody wanting to join up with LeBron in LA.

Either way, it’s a wild story.

Charles Barkley says Warriors won’t make Finals without Kevin Durant

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I vacillate back and forth on whether Charles Barkley is a genius or a complete goober. On one hand, Barkley’s comments on TNT broadcasts are often the thing that gets folks around social media talking, and indeed posts like this written about him. From a media executive perspective, Barkley is a gold mine that creates ratings.

Then again, the very thing that makes Barkley’s comments noteworthy is what makes them so inauspicious.

Just listen to what Barkley had to say on Thursday about the possibility of Kevin Durant leaving the Golden State Warriors this offseason.

Via Twitter:

If you’re unable to watch the video above, the idea that Barkley put forth was that if Durant decides to leave the Golden State Warriors, the team will no longer be contenders.

Not just “worse” or “not as good” according to ol’ Chuck. Without Durant, Barkley thinks the Warriors won’t be one of the teams angling for the Finals in the seasons to come.

If you’re a fan of the NBA, or Basketball-Reference.com, or, I don’t know, Googling things, this is patently crazy. Golden State won 73 games before the arrival of Durant, and won the 2014-15 NBA championship without him. They looked unstoppable before Durant, and the former Oklahoma City Thunder star joined Golden State because that’s how he could win a championship. He needed them, not the other way around.

It’s been clear for some time that Stephen Curry — not Durant, or Draymond Green, or Klay Thompson, or Andre Iguodala — is the fundamental building block of this team. In fact, as of publication we’re in the midst of a projected 10-game absence for Stephen Curry due to a hamstring issue. In three missed games the Warriors have lost to the Los Angeles Clippers and played a tight game with the Atlanta Hawks at home at Oracle. They just don’t look the same.

Which brings us back to Chuck.

The great sports loudmouths of our time (pick your favorite, really) all get paid to do what they’re best at in this Era of Hot Takes: state an opinion that’s patently untrue and watch the reaction to it spread like wildfire, all while retaining enough plausible deniability that media executives aren’t forced to issue public apologies or worse, see ratings fall.

This is why I choose to believe that Barkley is one of the best commentators out there from a national, target demo perspective. Execs have to love the guy. Here we are, writing another story about How Chuck Said Some Thing Crazy, and the cycle can continue. Durant will go to the Knicks or the Lakers. The Warriors will be in the Finals again in 2020. And nobody will care about Chuck’s old takes. I think I can feel the wrinkles of my brain smoothing over.

NBA promotes five referees, including two women, to full-time status

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Ashley Moyer-Gleich is eight years removed from playing in the NCAA Division II tournament. Natalie Sago officiated her first game six years ago, and the players were sixth-grade girls.

They’re in the NBA now – as part of one of the most elite sororities in the game.

Moyer-Gleich and Sago are among five officials who were promoted Thursday by the NBA to full-time status, making them the fourth and fifth women in league history to have that designation. They join former league refs Violet Palmer and Dee Kantner and current official Lauren Holtkamp as women to get formally hired.

“It’s difficult not to say Ashley and Natalie aren’t the second and third `women referees’ being added to the staff,” NBA vice president and head of referee development Monty McCutchen told The Associated Press. “But true equality comes when they’re just going to be `referees’ on our staff. And that’s what we’re really trying to achieve, this sense that their work warrants their advancement.”

The league also promoted Mousa Dagher, Matt Myers and Phenizee Ransom to the full-time level. Dagher further adds to the diversity of Thursday’s moves – he was born in Syria and moved to the U.S. as a 15-year-old in 2006. Myers spent more than a decade in the G League, and Ransom was there for six seasons.

“It’s such a momentous experience, to be working toward being part of the top of your craft and joining our staff,” Holtkamp said. “I’ll never forget getting the phone call and the same will be true for all five of these referees. And Natalie and Ashley, to know they’re joining our staff full-time, I’m beyond excited for them and what this means professionally and personally.”

Moyer-Gleich and Sago have both worked five NBA games this season – three regular season, two preseason. That was enough to confirm what McCutchen and other league officials have known for some time.

They’re ready.

“It’s been unreal, really,” said Sago, whose father has been a referee for more than 30 years. “It’s just been a very fast path for my officiating career and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’ve had great role models, Lauren being one, and other NBA referees at these camps who kept saying, `You’ve got something.’ And all of a sudden, bam, I got the phone call and it’s such an honor.”

Sago got the call from NBA senior vice president and head of referee operations Michelle Johnson as her flight from one G League game to another earlier this month was taking off. She had to wait nearly two hours before she could call her father to give the news.

Her rise was also rapid: She got spotted at a Division III game in St. Louis – a Sunday afternoon game before about 15 fans – about three years ago and invited to an NBA camp.

“It’s very unique, how quickly it’s happened,” Sago said.

There will be a day when Moyer-Gleich, Sago and Holtkamp – along with any other women who follow them, something that seems quite likely with 17 other women working games in the G League this season – will get judged like any other referee, without the `female’ disclaimer.

They all know that day isn’t here yet.

“Everything that we do, that’s in comparison to the same exact thing our male counterparts might do, will be magnified,” said Moyer-Gleich, a standout player at Millersville University in her native Pennsylvania before starting her ref career. “What we do will be held under a microscope. Right, wrong, indifferent, I have come to peace with that.”

Palmer worked 919 contests before retiring in 2016. Kantner refereed 247 games between 1997 and 2002. Holtkamp has been assigned 214 games, and former non-staff official Brenda Pantoja – who never made the full-fledged ranks – was part of seven crews in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons.

The NBA has made hiring more women throughout the league a top priority, and that extends to the refereeing roster. Over the summer, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said it was “a bit embarrassing” that the league currently has only one full-time female referee.

“I know that I’m good enough,” Moyer-Gleich said. “I know I belong there.”

McCutchen and other top NBA executives agree. He stressed that there was no mandate to hire women. His charge, he said, was to hire the best refs, period.

“I am committed that this be egalitarian,” McCutchen said. “If you can do the work, if you can stand up to the standards of our league but not the standing of our players and apply the rules, that should be open to any package it shows itself in.”

 

Rajon Rondo to have surgery on fractured right hand

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The Los Angeles Lakers did not want to put a timeline on his return when they announced Wednesday night that Rajon Rondo had fractured his hand. Officially the timeline was “weeks.”

It’s going to be more than a couple of weeks — Rondo will have surgery on his right hand in the next day, something confirmed by Luke Walton.

Lonzo Ball has been starting for the Lakers and that will continue (the 1-3 pick-and-roll with Ball setting the pick for LeBron James was something Portland had no answer for). The challenge is depth beyond Ball, the Lakers don’t have another traditional point guard on the roster. Luke Walton said Brandon Ingram will play some at the point now.

Ball said he is up for the added responsibility.