Joe Harris, as role grows, makes compelling case to start for Cavaliers

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BOSTON – Cavaliers coach David Blatt was asked what he could say about Joe Harris, the rookie shooting guard who played the entire fourth quarter of Cleveland’s comeback win over the Celtics on Friday.

“What do I say about him?” Blatt said. “Well, I put him in there, so I guess I said everything I had to say about him. I believe in the kid.”

That faith in Harris could reportedly soon morph into a starting job for the No. 33 pick.

Shawn Marion is still starting at shooting guard, playing regularly in the backcourt for the first time since started at point guard for Vincennes, the junior college he attended before transferring to UNLV. Dion Waiters, who campaigned during the offseason to join the starting lineup and began the year there, remains on the roster. The Cavaliers could are also reportedly interested in trading for Corey Brewer.

But Harris could emerge as a starter in a lineup that also includes LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving.

Wide-eyed and talking a mile a minute, Harris – who’d been sitting alone in a chaotic locker room full of reporters eager to follow Cleveland’s big three – said before Friday’s game he was beginning to get comfortable in the NBA after his four-year career at Virginia.

“You’re just trying to soak it all in and take in as much as you can in your rookie year,” Harris said.

While Harris is doing that, he’s giving the Cavaliers quite a bit.

He hit a clutch 3-pointer against the Celtics and made all three free throws after being fouled on another attempt down the stretch in Boston. Against the Hawks on Saturday, Harris doubled his previous career high with 12 points and raised his season total to 6-of-12 on 3-pointers.

Harris is a Cavaliers-best +62 despite ranking just ninth on the team in minutes.

“Joe Harris is going to be a big piece for our team,” LeBron said. “He’s going to have his rookie mistakes. We all know that. But mistakes can be covered when you play hard, and that’s one thing that kid is doing.”

Most importantly, Harris is showing he fits with LeBron, Love and Irving – no matter whether Anderson Varejao or Tristan Thompson is playing center. Varejao starts, but Thompson has played nearly as much.

With the big three, Cleveland has played well with Marion-Varejao but not Marion-Thompson, well with Waiters-Thompson but not Waiters-Varejao. Harris-Varejao and Harris-Thompson has worked just swell.

Here’s how the Cavaliers have performed with LeBron, Love, Irving and each of the main shooting guard-center combinations on the floor:

Shooting guard Center Minutes Offensive rating Defensive rating Net rating
Harris Varejao 14 132.6 114.2 +18.4
Harris Thompson 10 140.6 113.2 +27.4
Marion Varejao 65 118.1 115.4 +2.7
Marion Thompson 20 81.7 101.3 -19.5
Waiters Varejao 47 99.1 107.4 -8.3
Waiters Thompson 18 134.7 106.8 +27.8

Of course, we’re dealing with small samples everywhere at this point at this point of the season, especially with Harris. And Harris’ increase in playing time has overlapped with the big three getting a better feel for playing with each other.

But an excellent spot-up shooter, Harris seems like a good fit with LeBron, Love and Irving. Citing stats from the Cavaliers, Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal reported Harris made 57 percent of his corner 3s at Virginia last season. Those stars will get Harris plenty of those highly efficient looks.

At 6-foot-6, Harris also has the size to play competent defense in a sound team scheme – especially one where LeBron can roam and create plays.

So, traditional scouting also says Harris fits well with the big three. In a slightly larger sample, the numbers bear that out:

With big three Minutes Offensive rating Defensive rating Net rating
Harris 30 137.2 98.7 +38.5
Marion 98 112.3 107.7 +4.7
Waiters 75 113.9 109.6 +4.3

Of course, regardless of the fit, starting for a contending team is a challenge for any rookie.

Magic Johnson famously started for the 1979-80 Lakers in his first year, but since the NBA began tracking starts two years later, just two rookies having started even somewhat regularly for an NBA champion:

  • Kurt Rambis, 43 starts for the 1981-82 Lakers
  • Marc Iavaroni, 77 starts for the 1982-83 76ers

Of course, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Harris has yet to start even a single game for Cleveland.

But as the Cavaliers search for the shooting guard who fits best in their starting lineup, it just might be Harris.

Stephon Marbury has arrangement to procure 10 million medical masks for New York

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Former NBA player Stephon Marbury told The New York Post that he’s arranged a deal to deliver 10 million N95 medical masks to New York. These masks are much-needed among healthcare workers battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Marbury is having the masks produced at cost in China, where he played the last seven years of his career.

Although Marbury currently lives in Beijing, China, he said “At the end of the day, I am from Brooklyn. This is something that is close and dear to my heart as far as being able to help New York.”

While growing up, Marbury starred at Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn and on New York City’s famed playgrounds. After one year at Georgia Tech, Marbury left for the NBA. The high-scoring guard played for five teams during his 13-year NBA career, including his hometown New York Knicks.

After sitting out for two seasons, Marbury signed to play for the Beijing Ducks in 2011. The move was initially seen as a way for Marbury to prove he could still play at an NBA level. Instead, Beijing became home-away-from home for the New Yorker.

Marbury averaged 21.6 points per game in 271 contests spread over seven seasons with the Ducks.

Georgetown sophomore Mac McClung declares for 2020 NBA Draft

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Georgetown sophomore Mac McClung told ESPN Jonathan Givony that he’s declaring for the 2020 NBA Draft.

McClung first came to national prominence when his high school highlights blew up on YouTube:

In his second season at Georgetown, McClung averaged 15.7 points and 1.4 steals per game. A foot injury in late-January kept McClung out of the lineup for nearly a month. He returned for one game in late-February, but played just eight minutes off the Hoyas’ bench.

The six-foot-two guard is known for his deep shooting range and his highlight dunks. McClung’s shot is inconsistent however, as he shot under 40% in each of his first two seasons at Georgetown. McClung’s defense also needs work.

McClung projects to be a point guard in the NBA, due to his size. To make it as a lead guard, he’ll need to work on his ballhandling and playmaking. With those question marks, McClung is seen as a stretch to be drafted in the second round.

McClung stated he’s signing with an NBA/NCAA approved agent. That will allow him to keep his college eligibility as he goes through the pre-draft process.

Report: NBA Together asks players who have recovered from COVID-19 to consider donating plasma

Jazz stars Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert
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Shams Charania of The Athletic reports that the NBA Together initiative is asking NBA players who have recovered from coronavirus to consider donating plasma:

NBA Together was created in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, as the NBA suspended the 2019-20 season.

One of the efforts NBA Together is supporting is the COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project. This project has brought together top medical specialists to determine if plasma donations could help in treating coronavirus.

Several NBA players have tested positive for COVID-19. This group includes Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz, Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets, Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics and Christian Wood of the Detroit Pistons. All players reported either feeling no symptoms or have recovered from the affliction.

Video: Carmelo Anthony says he’d have won 2-3 titles if drafted by Detroit

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In an Instagram Live chat with friend Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony said he’d “have won 2-3 championships” if drafted by the Detroit Pistons:

Anthony was drafted third overall in the 2003 NBA Draft by the Denver Nuggets. LeBron James went off the board first to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Pistons then drafted Darko Milicic with the second pick. Chris Bosh was drafted fourth by the Toronto Raptors, and Wade was selected with the fifth pick by the Miami Heat.

James, Wade, and Bosh would famously team up in Miami seven years later. Those three and Anthony all put together Hall of Fame careers. Milicic was another story entirely.

Detroit had that second overall pick by virtue of a 1997 sign-and-trade with the then Vancouver Grizzlies for forward Otis Thorpe. Vancouver didn’t even keep Thorpe for one full season, as he was shipped to the Sacramento Kings at the 1998 trade deadline. By the 2003 draft, the team had moved from Vancouver to Memphis.

The Pistons went on to win the championship in 2003-04, despite relatively limited production from rookie Milicic. The seven-footer played in just 34 games as a rookie during Detroit’s title run. Milicic then appeared in just 62 games over the next two seasons before he was traded to the Orlando Magic at the 2006 trade deadline.

Despite never living up to his draft position, Milicic did carve out a 10-year NBA career. On the other hand, Anthony blossomed into a 10-time All-Star.

Anthony went on to make six All-NBA teams over the course of his time with the Nuggets and New York Knicks. He holds a career average of 23.6 points per game, but has yet to win that elusive ring.

Detroit passing on Anthony is one of the more interesting what if’s in recent NBA history. The Pistons only got the one championship, but made the Finals back-to-back years. They had a multiple-year run of contention behind a core of Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton in the backcourt. The frontcourt was anchored by Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince. The one thing that group struggled with on occasion was scoring, which Anthony would have provided.

Had Anthony been drafted by the Pistons, he’d likely have a ring and Detroit would have a fourth banner. Who knows? Maybe they’d each have a couple more beyond that.