Victor Oladipo, focused on effort and defense, still finds time to raise offense

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BOSTON – Victor Oladipo didn’t start a game at DeMatha High School, a D.C.-area prep power, until his senior year. On teams stocked with college talent, it was hard to get noticed.

“I would just play hard. That was my role,” Oladipo said. “Play hard and defend, guard the other team’s best player.”

At Indiana under Tom Crean, it was more of the same. Defense, steals, blocks, hustle plays.

Until Oladipo’s junior year.

As much as his thunderous dunks excited everyone, his 3-point shooting really took him to the next level as an NBA prospect. That year, Oladipo shot 44 percent from beyond the arc, up from 24 percent the two years prior. It’s a big reason the Magic drafted him No. 2 overall in 2013.

But with increased offensive expectations as a rookie – Oladipo’s usage percentage actually went up from his final year at Indiana – Oladipo struggled to find the same efficiency. He shot just 41.9 percent from the field and 32.7 percent on 3-pointers.

This year, after a facial fracture set him back, Oladipo is finding his footing.

He’s shooting 46.6 percent from the field and 42.9 on 3-pointers, and his turnovers are down.

“Everybody talks about hard work, but there are certain guys that take it to a different level, and he’s one of those guys that has the reputation of taking it to a different level,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens, who faced Oladipo’s Hoosiers while coaching Butler. “And you can see it in the game. You can see it with his ball handling. He’s good going both directions. He’s shooting it.”

Oladipo is the only player who received multiple Rookie of the Year votes last season whose win shares per 48 minutes this season (blue) are up from last season (silver):

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That’s not to say only Oladipo has improved while Michael Carter-Williams, Trey Burke, Mason Plumlee, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Gorgui Dieng haven’t. But those other five at least have improved on a scale that’s getting noticed by that stat.

There are other small indicators Oladipo is on the right track, too.

The Magic are scoring 100.0 points with Oladipo on the court and 97.9 when he sits. It’s a small uptick, but it’s remarkably better than last season, when they scored 97.8 with him and 102.1 without him.

How did Oladipo improve his efficiency? Sticking with his original mindset. As he develops, he’s shooting less.

“My game is not taking contested 3s,” Oladipo said. “But the open ones, you shoot with confidence.”

Bucks fans greet team, Giannis Antetokounmpo at Milwaukee airport (VIDEO)

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The Milwaukee Bucks season is over. Giannis Antetokounmpo and his supporting cast couldn’t get things done in Game 6 on Saturday night against the Toronto Raptors in Canada. Now it’s Kawhi Leonard who is heading to the 2019 NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors.

This season was a magical one for Milwaukee, one in which they took the No. 1 overall seed in the Eastern Conference and likely have the league’s MVP in Antetokounmpo.

As you might expect, Bucks fans are happy about that fact, and showed up to the Milwaukee’s Mitchell Airport to greet their returning team.

Via Twitter:

It has to be nice for athletes to get this kind of treatment. Although some may want to just go home and languish in their defeat, the unwavering support of fanatics has to take the bite out of the sting, even if just a little bit.

Nets hire Hawks’ Peterson as assistant general manager

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NEW YORK (AP) — The Brooklyn Nets have hired Jeff Peterson as their assistant general manager.

Peterson replaces Trajan Langdon, who was hired as the New Orleans Pelicans’ GM.

Peterson spent seven seasons in the front office of the Atlanta Hawks, the last three as assistant general manager. He worked there with Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson, who was an assistant to coach Mike Budenholzer.

Nets general manager Sean Marks says Saturday that Peterson is an “innovative basketball executive” whose “extensive scouting and front office experience” will be assets to a Nets team that lost in the first round of the playoffs.

Warriors open as big betting favorites to win NBA title over Raptors

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Kevin Durant is going to be out to start the series, with no exact timetable on his return.

The Toronto Raptors were very impressive — with Kawhi Leonard leading the way and a fantastic halfcourt defense — in eliminating the Milwaukee Bucks.

None of that changes the overall picture — the Golden State Warriors are heavy favorites to win the NBA Finals.

The Warriors are -320 to win the NBA title, the Raptors +260 at the Ceasars Palace sportsbook. What that means for non-gamblers is you have to bet $320 to win $100 on the Warriors, while a $100 bet on the Raptors wins $260.

The Warriors are also 1.5 point favorites to win Game 1 on the road without Durant and coming off a nine-day layoff where rust is to be expected.

Toronto won both regular season meetings between these teams, but both games also were before Christmas.

These lines are the respect the Warriors have earned with two straight titles, three in four years, and a sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers. The Warriors are a dynasty led by Stephen Curry, the Raptors in their first finals, these betting lines were to be expected, and they will follow general public sentiment.

Charles Barkley, on the other hand, picks the Raptors in an upset. Do with that information what you will.

Giannis Antetokounmpo walks out of postgame press conference

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Giannis Antetokounmpo wants to win, wants to make the NBA Finals. Badly. As in he could walk if the Bucks don’t do that in the next couple of years.

Antetokounmpo already showed he was willing to walk — he did so right out of his postgame press conference Saturday night after the Bucks were eliminated from the playoffs by the Raptors.

Khris Middleton‘s “you just leaving me here” face is the best part of this video.

Chalk that up to frustration, on a couple of levels. The question is legitimate — how much this experience helps the Bucks grow and fuels their offseason will say a lot about where they are as a team in a year — but it’s also understandable that in the moment the Greek Freak doesn’t want to talk about it. Or, really, in that spot have the perspective to do the question justice. Middleton went on to say, “hopefully, we learn from this.”

The other part of this is that the reporter, Malika Andrews, wrote a story at ESPN about how Antetokounmpo making the Finals would play a big role in if he stays or not in Milwaukee past this contract. That is not the narrative Antetokounmpo wants out there about him, and sometimes this is how players deal with reporters who write things they don’t like.

Antetokounmpo is one of the league’s good guys, don’t expect this to become a trend.