Kevin Durant says Serge Ibaka’s shooting problems are ‘all in his mind’

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The Thunder are going to need to get Kevin Durant some help on the offensive end of the floor if they’re going to have any chance to win three of the next four games against the Grizzlies to advance to the Conference finals.

Serge Ibaka isn’t traditionally known as one of OKC’s main options offensively, but in the past he’s at least been able to convert the open looks he did get inside at a relatively high percentage.

In this series against the Grizzlies, however, Ibaka has struggled mightily. And it isn’t necessarily the Memphis defense that’s been the reason for his troubles.

Ibaka finished 6-of-17 from the field in Game 3, which is actually somewhat respectable considering how his afternoon started. He missed his first four shots, two of which were wide open dunks that he bounced off the back of the rim. He also missed an easy put-back layup, and some other open looks around the rim that he usually gets to go.

Both head coach Scott Brooks and Kevin Durant acknowledged Ibaka’s issues afterward, but each said they’d continue to stick with him throughout his current slump. Durant in particular seems to feel that whatever is going on with Ibaka, the adjustment needs to be mental rather than physical.

From Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com:

“We have to get him confidence,” Durant said of Ibaka. “We have to get him some shots and get him going. We can’t let him put too much pressure on himself. It’s all in his mind. If he thinks he’s going to make those shots, he’s going to make them.

“He missed a few blocks, a few layups and a few open jump shots. I have to pick him up, and that’s what I’ve been doing.”

Ibaka isn’t necessarily the offensive key to the Thunder’s success, and defensively, he’s been doing a fine job of helping to limit the effectiveness of Zach Randolph on the low block.

But if he’s going to be open for 17 shot attempts as he was in Game 3 — the same amount taken by Kevin Martin, and just two fewer than were taken by Durant, who played 46 of the game’s 48 minutes — then his shot chart needs to look a lot prettier than this if the Thunder are going to have a chance.

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Raptors’ Jonas Valanciunas undergoes surgery on dislocated thumb, out a month

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It was clear it was bad when it happened. Not because of the violence of the play by Draymond Green — no foul was called, and the hand is part of the ball by rule in these cases — but because of Jonas Valanciunas‘ reaction. The man was in a lot of pain.

With 8 minutes to go in the second quarter of the Raptors win Wednesday night, Valanciunas got the ball with Green on him and decided to back down the smaller player, Green reached in and swiped down knocking the ball away but getting Valanciunas’ hand in the process.

Thursday the Raptors announced that Valanciunas had surgery on his dislocated left thumb and will be out at least a month.

This is a blow to the Raptors’ frontline depth, although they still have plenty of talent up front. Serge Ibaka starts most nights at center, and at times the Raptors go small and put breakout player Pascal Siakam at the five. However, Valanciunas is their matchup for other bigger, more traditional centers, or sometimes coach Nick Nurse tries him to force a mismatch. Valanciunas is averaging 12.8 points and 7.2 rebounds a night playing nearly 19 minutes a night, the Raptors defense is 3 points per 100 possessions better, and the Raptors outscore opponents by 5.4 per 100 when he is on the court. It will not be easy to fill his minutes.

The Raptors are 23-7 and the team in first place in the East having just knocked off the Clippers and Warriors in back-to-back nights on the road. They look like contenders, but they could use Valanciunas to help them get through the regular season (he’s harder to play in the postseason, but we’re not there yet).

 

Hornets owner Michael Jordan: Smacking Malik Monk was ‘tap of endearment’

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Hornets owner Michael Jordan smacked guard Malik Monk on the back head of the head, because Monk prematurely ran on the court to celebrate Jeremy Lamb‘s game-winner against the Pistons last night. Charlotte received a technical foul for having too many men on the court, but held on for the victory.

Zach Aldridge of WCCB:

Some people took affront to Jordan putting his hands on Monk – to the point Jordan explained himself.

Associated Press:

Hornets owner Michael Jordan says lightly smacking the back of second-year guard Malik Monk’s head in closing seconds of Wednesday night’s win against the Pistons was a “tap of endearment.”

The Hornets owner, says “It was like a big brother and little brother tap. No negative intent. Only love!”

I doubt any other NBA owner could have gotten away with that.

But Jordan isn’t any other NBA owner.

He’s a former player, widely respected as the greatest of all-time. He’s black. He’s just 55, younger than most of his owner peers.

Jordan and Monk can relate in a way other owners and players can’t.

The power dynamic still isn’t balanced. Jordan is Monk’s boss. When initially watching the exchange, I worried Jordan crossed a line.

But both Jordan and Monk laughed it off. I believe this truly was acceptable in the context of their relationship.

LeBron James on consideration given to signing with Rockets: ‘Not much’

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For a while, it seemed LeBron Jamesfinalists in free agency last summer were the Lakers, Cavaliers, 76ers and Rockets.

LeBron obviously signed with the Lakers. Cleveland remains special to him. His agent met with Philadelphia.

And then there’s Houston.

Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

The Rockets – led by Chris Paul – reportedly recruited LeBron hard.

But LeBron reportedly previously said he didn’t like Houston as a city, and at this point, it’s impossible escape lifestyle as a key consideration for the superstar. He clearly enjoys Los Angeles.

I doubt LeBron regrets dropping the Rockets from consideration early. The main appeal would have been their direction path to championship contention, but they’ve been the NBA’s most disappointing team this season.

Which makes it even easier for LeBron to dismiss his Houston consideration.

2018 NBA playoff teams get new alternate jerseys (photos)

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Did your favorite team or player make the playoffs last season?

Well, someone thinks that might have you invested enough to buy yet another jersey.

Aaron Dodson of The Undefeated:

The Bucks jersey is the best – despite the advertisement patch intruding on the otherwise minimalist look. Milwaukee would be the runaway winner without the ad.

As is, I also really like the Pelicans, Pacers and Heat. I suspect Miami’s fuchsia Miami Vice edition will draw the most attention.

A few of these are rather plain, and that’s always disappointing in an alternate jersey. But I particularly dislike the Cavaliers and Spurs jerseys.