The Extra Pass: Golden State’s Elevator Screen plus Wednesday’s recaps

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The Signature Series takes a look at a play that’s largely unique to one team. Here’s Golden State’s Elevator screen play:

The “Elevator” screen is one of the most aesthetically pleasing plays you’ll see in the league, particularly when it’s run by Golden State.

That’s in large part because any possession that ends in a Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson jumper has plenty of visual appeal. The speed of Curry’s lightning quick release never fails to impress and Thompson’s elbow in, straight up and down release is absolute perfection.

Creating opportunities for Curry and Thompson to fire away should always be the primary objective for Mark Jackson and his coaching staff. It’s no coincidence that Golden State’s offense tends to bog down when the Warriors play through the low post. This is a roster built to bomb from deep, and the Elevator screen allows the Warriors’ shooters to do just that.

Sometimes the name of a play doesn’t provide any clues for what’s about to happen on the court, but the Elevator screen is exactly how you’d imagine it. Courtesy of Kyle Gilreath at Fast Model Sports, here’s a version of it out of the Horns set, which means there are two bigs at each elbow:

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What makes this play dangerous is the threat of the 2 selling the action of a baseline screen for the opposite wing (3). It’s often just enough to get the defender to prepare for a switch and turn his head, which provides enough of a head start for the 2 to dive through the elevator doors set by 4 and 5.

Those doors don’t stay open for long, though. Once the offensive player jets through, they close and wall off the path to contest a shot. By the time a player fights through, runs around, or yells for his guy to jump out and contest, it’s often too late – just like missing an elevator.

Golden State has made this play so successful that teams all over the league are beginning to adopt it, particularly in late clock situations. Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Rick Adelman loves to use it on sidelines out of bounds plays out of a stack formation, with Kevin Love squeezing behind the doors for an open three-pointer. In this setting, it’s a real quick hitter and a great way to take advantage of refs swallowing their whistles and not wanting to call an illegal screen off the ball in a big moment.

For Golden State, though, it’s an all-purpose play that can be used out of many different sets. Take a look at this great compilation put together last season by Mike Prada at SBNation:

This set is just one of the reasons why the Warriors lead the league in three-point percentage above the break (41.6 percent as a team!) and are second in the league in total makes from that zone. It doesn’t hurt that Curry and Thompson are in range as soon as they step in the gym, but the Elevator screen consistently creates clean looks for an offense that thrives on the three-ball.

-D.J. Foster

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We couldn’t choose just one Wednesday. So we bring you the good…

and the not so good…

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Heat 97, Pacers 94: Miami closed the game on a 12-2 run to even the season series with Indiana, a team they’ll almost certainly face in the playoffs on the road to a fourth straight trip to the Finals. The Pacers led by as many as 15 in this one, but foul trouble to Roy Hibbert hindered the defensive effort, and a big-time 12-2 run by the Heat to close the game was the difference. Dwyane Wade had his highest scoring game of the season, finishing with 32 points. — Brett Pollakoff

Wizards 113, Nets 107: The Nets got Brook Lopez back in the lineup after he sat out the last two games with an ankle injury, but his presence didn’t prevent the team from getting crushed on the glass by a 51-31 margin. The Wizards also were deadly from three-point distance, knocking in 60 percent of their looks from beyond the arc. Paul Pierce had a monster game for Brooklyn in the losing effort, and finished with 27 points on just 12 shots in 35 minutes off the bench. — BP

Jazz 86, Magic 82: Orlando was without Arron Afflalo in this one due to illness, and the Jazz had just enough to take advantage. Rookie Trey Burke turned in his best performance of the season, finishing with 30 points, seven rebounds, and eight assists. The Magic had trouble getting shots to fall, and managed to hit on just 28 of their 86 attempts from the field. Victor Oladipo finished just 1-of-12 shooting for three points in 36 minutes. — BP

Pistons 107, Celtics 106: Detroit has been playing really well as of late, and this latest effort in Boston was no different. After losing at the buzzer to the Blazers and then beating the Pacers the very next night, the Pistons overcame a 21-point deficit on the road to come away with this victory. Jeff Green had a decent look at a runner on a drive from about seven feet out, but it was well-defended and barely drew iron as time expired. — BP

Hawks 124, Kings 107: This was actually a close game until the Hawks blew it open by outscoring the Kings 39-20 over the final 12 minutes. Kyle Korver led Atlanta with 28 points, and made eight of his 10 looks from three-point distance — which is fairly inexcusable if you’re the Kings, considering that’s all Korver really does.— BP

Bobcats 104, Raptors 102: Charlotte missed four free throws in the final 20 seconds of the overtime period, any of which would have made this victory a whole lot easier Instead, they relied on Kemba Walker to come through in the clutch. With just a second remaining, Walker caught an inbound pass along the baseline and calmly knocked down a jumper which splashed through the net as time expired.— BP

Knicks 107, Bucks 101 (2OT): The Knicks seemingly keep trying to invent new and exciting ways to lose, but despite their best efforts, a win was in the cards this night nonetheless. Andrea Bargnani took one of the least intelligent shots you’ll ever see at the NBA level, but all it cost New York was an extra five minutes of basketball. If you’re wondering just how desperate these times are for the Knicks, consider that Tyson Chandler returned and played heavy minutes (37), as did Carmelo Anthony (55!). J.R. Smith attempted 17 three-pointers, but made just five. And, Toure Murry even played 10 minutes, simply because the team is running out of bodies. A win is a win, but the story lines surrounding this year’s Knicks team appear to be endless. — BP

Timberwolves 120, Trail Blazers 109: This is what it looks like when everything doesn’t work for Portland and Damian Lillard (36 points) can’t bail them out. Minnesota took control of this game in the first quarter, led by 32 in the second and the final score doesn’t reflect the reality of the blowout. Two key things happened here. First, Portland’s jumpers just did not fall — LaMarcus Aldridge was 7-of-22, the whole team was 14-of-40 from three. Second, the Trail Blazers play small and can be punished inside — Nikola Pekovic had 30 points, Kevin Love had 29 points, 15 rebounds and 9 assists. Minnesota is just a tough matchup for the Blazers. –Kurt Helin

Mavericks 105, Grizzlies 91: Not much to see here, move along. Dallas is a good team and the Grizzlies are reeling right now without Mike Conley and Marc Gasol. Dallas took the lead early and cruised, having answers when Memphis would start to make a good run. Dirk Nowitzki had 20. The one bit of good for Memphis is that Mike Miller played, the way he tweaked his ankle the game before I thought he’d be out a while. —KH

Spurs 108, Suns 101: There are no statement games in December. However, maybe this one can be a “slow down there youngster” game — the veterans took care of upstart kids handily. Credit Manu Ginobili, who had 24 on the night and with the game tied 95-95 he had seven points on the Spurs little run that got them this win, including the dagger. Channing Frye had 22 for Phoenix. —KH

Rockets 109, Bulls 94: On the bright side for the Bulls, there were stretches where this was the best their offense has looked in a little while. However, they struggle with up-tempo teams and the Rockets basically ran them out of the building — Chicago got within three late in the third, the Rockets went on a 15-1 run and that was it. Dwight Howard had 23, James Harden looked fine on his sprained ankle and had 19.—KH

Clippers 108, Pelicans 95: Anthony Davis was back and looked good off the bench for New Orleans with 24 points and 18 rebounds. Aside that, second night of a road back to back for the Pelicans and they looked like it. Credit the aggressive Clippers who took care of business. Blake Griffin finished with 21 points, 10 rebounds and five assists — he showed off the complete game some say he doesn’t have. He nailed some corner threes, made some nice bounces passes. DeAndre Jordan had 20 rebounds and 5 blocks Clippers have won four of five now. —KH

Gregg Popovich shows off some handles, and a midrange game (VIDEO)

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This is where you insert your “if one more player drops from USA Basketball” joke…

Team USA has flown to Australia for a series of FIBA World Cup tuneup games — two against Australia, one against Canada — and they are practicing there for a few days prior to those games. At one of those practices, USA (and Spurs) coach Gregg Popovich showed off a little behind-the-back dribble and midrange game, and Donovan Mitchell caught it on his camera and posted it.

Just as a reminder, Pop did play. Never in the NBA, but he was one of the last cuts of the 1972 USA Olympic team.

That said, I think the coaching gig worked out pretty well for him.

Team USA will play Australia on Aug. 22 and 24, then face Canada on Aug. 26. From there the USA flies to China where its first game is Sept. 1 against the Czech Republic.

Atlanta Hawks promote, extend contract of GM Travis Schlenk

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Trae Young. John Collins. Kevin Huerter. De’Andre Hunter. Cam Reddish.

The Atlanta Hawks have quietly built one of the more intriguing young teams in the NBA the past couple of years, trading up and down in the draft to compile a young roster with a lot of potential. They moved on from Mike Budenholzer (he landed on his feet just fine, thanks) and brought in player development specialist in Llyod Pierce as coach. All that has yet to translate to a lot of wins, but it will — the trajectory of the Hawks is going to take off like a rocket.

Travis Schlenk, the Hawks general manager and architect of all of it, earned the contract extension and new title he was given, something announced by the team on Monday. Schlenk is now Atlanta’s President of Basketball Operations and General Manager.

“We are extremely pleased with the direction that Travis and our entire basketball operations team has us heading as a franchise. He has used the draft to build an impressive young core, hired one of the NBA’s top young coaches in Lloyd Pierce and positioned us to have the cap space, draft picks and financial flexibility needed to have long-term success in the NBA,” Hawks Principal Owner Tony Ressler said in a statement announcing the move.

Schlenk had been an assistant GM in Golden State before coming to Atlanta, and also had spent time in the Miami and Orlando organizations. He’s been in the NBA front office game for a couple of decades.

This is a smart decision by the Hawks. When things are going well, when you have good people in place, keep them there and get ownership out of the way. Let the basketball people do their jobs. Atlanta has figured that out.

The Hawks won 24 games during Schlenk’s first year and 29 last season, but expect that number to jump as the young talent on this roster continues to mature and get added to.

NBA’s Steph Curry helps Howard U. start Division I golf team

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WASHINGTON (AP) Two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry is helping Howard University launch a Division I golf program.

The Golden State Warriors star guard and the school announced the six-year partnership Monday.

The specifics of his contribution were not disclosed.

Howard officials say they plan to have women’s and men’s golf teams for the 2020-21 academic year.

The school had a Division II golf program in the past, along with intercollegiate and intramural club teams.

The 31-year-old Curry, who has won three NBA championships with the Warriors, says he decided to get involved after meeting a Howard student who had been trying to get the university to have a golf team.

Curry says “it’s tough” to hear about students “who have the talent but don’t have a fair shot at the game.”

Cameron Reddish quadruples Zion Williamson’s vote total for ‘best career’ in NBA rookie survey

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Zion Williamson is the NBA’s most-hyped rookie – for good reason. He was incredibly productive at Duke, and his jaw-dropping athleticism should help his game translate with the Pelicans. He wasn’t just the consensus No. 1 pick this year. He was viewed as the best prospect in years.

His peers seem less enamored.

Williamson tied for fourth in the NBA’s annual rookie survey when rookies were asked which member of this class would have the best career. The full results:

1. Cam Reddish, Atlanta — 19%

2. Ja Morant, Memphis — 16%

3. De'Andre Hunter, Atlanta — 11%

4. R.J. Barrett, New York — 5%

Jaxson Hayes, New Orleans — 5%

Coby White, Chicago — 5%

Zion Williamson, New Orleans — 5%

Others receiving votes: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, New Orleans; Jarrett Culver, Minnesota; Carsen Edwards, Boston; Darius Garland, Cleveland; Rui Hachimura, Washington; Keldon Johnson, San Antonio; Mfiondu Kabengele, LA Clippers; Romeo Langford, Boston; Cody Martin, Charlotte; Eric Paschall, Golden State; Tremont Waters, Boston; Dylan Windler, Cleveland

Reddish – the No. 10 pick – is a surprising top choice. He has plenty of talent and fluid athleticism, but he really struggled at Duke last season. That was a dispiriting development that wouldn’t happen to most players bound for NBA stardom.

I wouldn’t read too much into these results. Of the 42 polled rookies, 81% picked someone other than Reddish.

Still, it’s jarring to see Reddish so far ahead of Williamson.

Williamson didn’t get a majority of votes for Rookie of the Year prediction either, though he at least led that category:

1. Zion Williamson, New Orleans — 35%

2. Ja Morant, Memphis — 27%

3. R.J. Barrett, New York — 5%

Cam Reddish, Atlanta — 5%

Others receiving votes: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, New Orleans; Goga Bitadze, Indiana; Brandon Clarke, Memphis; Carsen Edwards, Boston; Darius Garland, Cleveland; Kyle Guy, Sacramento; Rui Hachimura, Washington; Romeo Langford, Boston; Coby White, Chicago; Grant Williams, Boston

It’s close between Williamson and the field for Rookie of the Year. But if picking only one player, how do you pick someone other than Williamson?

Not every rookie takes these questions seriously. Clearly. Here, I think there’s especially an element of wanting to be different. Williamson is such an obvious answer to these questions, I bet many players gave their next answer. When too many do that, it looks silly.

At least the rookies chose Williamson as most athletic. In the only question where someone got a major of votes, Williamson topped 87% of the ballots.