Does kinesiology tape work? James Harden, Rockets’ trainer believe that it does.

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James Harden is nearing the end of an incredible regular season campaign that’s worthy of MVP consideration, and his ability to stay healthy has been a primary reason for the Rockets’ overall success, when so many of his teammates have been lost for extended stretches due to various injuries.

Harden can be seen regularly sporting KT Tape on his right shoulder, but he isn’t injured — it’s a preventative measure to ensure those muscles and joints are behaving as they should.

Kinesiology tape in general has many in the industry skeptical as to whether it provides an actual health benefit, but Harden is a believer, as is Rockets’ Head Athletic Trainer Jason Biles.

“I’ve been in the NBA now eight years, and I’ve been using it probably seven or eight years, right when I came in,” Biles told NBCSports.com. “I like the KT Tape specifically because it promotes a sort of natural healing response, helping with swelling reduction, encouraging optimal movement and proper movement, the appropriate alignment of the joints. It gives the athlete great feedback of where their body is in space — we want them to be aware of if they’re in a vulnerable position, or if they’re in the proper position they can move optimally from.

“So, it’s the tape that we use for those things and also just to sort of encourage the movement that we would like. So if a joint tends to want to, say, become mal-aligned, then we can apply some tape to encourage the proper movement to achieve what the athlete needs on the court.”

A recent piece in the New York Times from Gretchen Reynolds isn’t so sure, and essentially says the claims of the tape providing concrete health benefits are, to this point, largely unsubstantiated.

“There is no solid, independent scientific evidence that kinesio tape does what it is supposed to do,” said Jim Thornton, the president of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association and the head trainer at Clarion University in Pennsylvania. “It is possible that it has health benefits” like improving muscle flexibility and reducing pain, he added, “but we just don’t know yet.”

Scientifically, the jury may still be out. But if athletes believe it is helping, it can create a legitimate placebo effect, which ultimately can help to achieve the desired result.

“What I would say is that with the use of the tape these days, the athlete, it helps them psychologically to deal with feedback and support, and encourages their optimal movement,” Biles said. “Then, there’s immediate buy-in. So that’s really all that matters when it comes to the evidence that you need.

“We’ve used it on anything from ankle sprains to reduce edema, to help support the arches or the tendons and muscles in the feet and lower legs to encourage them to come back a little bit quicker, and it helps with that. We’ve used it for different tendinitises, whether it’s a common jumper’s knee, low back strains, cervical strains and shoulder strains, they seemed to really respond well to the tape. And one of the major benefits to the tape is postural awareness, and cueing the athlete to be in a good posture so that they can move correctly from that. I think that’s one of the major benefits.”

James Harden isn’t injured, and in fact has only missed one game all season (and that had nothing to do with his health). But he wears the tape anyway, simply as a preventative measure.

“It’s more injury prevention,” Biles said, when asked if the tape was treating a current injury Harden was experiencing. “We have used KT Tape on plenty of the athletes, including James, for injury. But the tape job you see on his shoulder is more for injury prevention. Obviously James is a very physical player, and so he takes a lot of contact on that right side. We just try to encourage as much stability there as we can.”

Harden is a wrecking ball when attacking the basket, and durability is the key to the way he plays the game. He’s made more free throws this season than any other player has attempted, so creating contact is extremely important. And even if the health benefits of the tape can’t be quantified just yet, Harden says the mental aspect of wearing it has been huge for him during what may end up being an MVP season.

“Whenever I’m sore, whether it’s my knee or my shoulder, putting the KT Tape on gets the blood flowing and circulating around my body,” Harden said. “I’m able to go out there and play free, not really thinking about injuries.

“It just gives me that confidence. It gives me confidence to go out there and not worry about getting injured. If you’re playing free and you’re confident, great things are going to happen on the court.”

Report: Tim Connelly rejects Wizards, staying with Nuggets

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Nuggets president Tim Connelly could have led the Wizards’ front office, worked close to his native Baltimore and presumably gotten a raise from his reported $2 million salary.

Instead, he’s stay in Denver.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

This is a huge win for Denver and even bigger setback for Washington.

Connelly has put the Nuggets into a great position. They’re young and good in a combination rarely seen in NBA history. Connelly drafted Nikola Jokic in the second round then built around him a short time later. This season, Denver won 54 games and reached Game 7 of the second round with 24-year-old Jokic flanked by Jamal Murray, Gary Harris and Paul Millsap.

More decisions always lie ahead – notably Millsap’s $30 million team option for next season. But the Nuggets’ core is already in place and mostly under team control.

The Wizards need far more work. John Wall‘s contract is arguably the NBA’s worst. Ian Mahinmi and Dwight Howard are also roadblocks. Several key players will be free agents this summer. If he makes an All-NBA team this season, Bradley Beal be eligible for a super-max extension – a tricky decision for the club.

It would have been great for Washington to entrust Connelly with all that. He has proven excellent at his job.

Troy Weaver, Danny Ferry or Tommy Sheppard might do well for the Wizards. But they’re candidates who offer far less certainty.

Kawhi Leonard tries to downplay leg issue, “I’m good”

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Toronto won a gritty Game 3 at home — and are back in the Eastern Conference Finals — because of Kawhi Leonard.

From the opening tip, he was the man guarding Giannis Antetokounmpo (although in a game with a lot of switching plenty of others also got their shot). It was the biggest adjustment Toronto coach Nick Nurse made — and it worked. Antetokounmpo had 12 points on 16 shots in the game and, according to ESPN’s tracking, was 1-of-9 when guarded by Leonard. On the other end, Leonard had 36 points, nine rebounds, and played 52 critical minutes. He was the MVP of Game 3.

And he did it all through a noticeable limp.

He landed awkwardly on a first-quarter layup and all game this clearly limited his mobility.

When asked about it after the game, Leonard shrugged it off.

For much of the season, whenever Leonard was mentioned so was with the phrase “load management.” He had missed all but nine games the season before with quadriceps tendinopathy — the treatment for that, and whether it was a muscular injury or not, was at the heart of Leonard’s discord with San Antonio — and in Toronto he missed 22 games in the regular season to help keep that issue at bay.

That may not be related to what is bothering him now, but the Raptors and Leonard had gone to great lengths to get him rest during the regular season so he would be ready for the playoffs. He has responded, being the best player in the East through the postseason so far. That includes hitting the game-winner to send Philadelphia home, then on Sunday keeping Toronto alive against the Bucks by force of will. But he has played a heavy load of minutes — physical, playoff minutes — to get there.

Will that slow Leonard Tuesday night in Game 4?

It can’t if they want to even this series. Milwaukee will play better in Game 4, keeping Antetokounmpo bottled up may be near impossible, and other Bucks had off-games as well (they shot 37.3 percent as a team in Game 3). Toronto will have to play better to keep pace. Marc Gasol will need to continue taking and hitting the threes (shots the Bucks dared him to take in the first two games), Pascal Siakam will have to have another big game, as will the Raptors’ bench.

But mostly, Leonard needs to be the best player on the floor again, the guy doing this:

If not, Toronto’s season will be on the brink.

After coaching search, Minnesota reportedly settles on owner-favorite Ryan Saunders for job

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“I think he has a good chance [to get the job]… I would just say I really like him as a person. I have known him since he was a young man, and I am really pleased with how he is starting out coaching this team.”

That was Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor on his interim coach, Ryan Saunders, a statement made with about 20 games to go in the season. The Timberwolves reportedly negotiated the outline of a contract with Saunders, but when Gersson Rosas was brought in as team president, he was given the freedom to run a full coaching search.

He has settled on the guy the owner wanted, a story broken by Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.

Rosas interviewed other candidates and ran a legitimate job search for the position, but it seems the smart political move for the guy new on the job to hire the guy the owner wanted, and the guy the star player bonded with.

That’s not to say Saunders is a poor choice, he earned this chance. Saunders was thrust into the big chair after Jimmy Butler‘s sabotaging of the team’s season led to coach/GM Tom Thibodeau being shown the door. Saunders quickly developed a strong relationship with Karl-Anthony Towns, who played much better under Saunders the second half of the season. There were other signs Saunders was up to the task and would be a good hire, not just a prudent one.

Now it appears Saunders has the job.

The real task for Rosas is to give Saunders a team that can live up to Towns’ potential. It will not be easy with a capped out roster and some anchor contracts (Andrew Wiggins).

Report: Cavaliers hire J.B. Bickerstaff to John Beilein’s staff

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The Cleveland Cavaliers are still trying to figure things out. LeBron James left for the Los Angeles Lakers last summer, and now the team has hired John Beilein to be its head coach. The team doesn’t have a top pick the way it has in years past, and barring any trades they will select 25th overall in the 2019 NBA Draft.

But at least they are figuring out there coaching staff Issues.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Cavaliers have hired former Memphis Grizzlies head coach J.B. Bickerstaff to be its top assistant coach. Bickerstaff was apparently also in talks with the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, and Sacramento Kings.

Via Twitter:

Bickerstaff previously headed the Houston Rockets from 2015 to 2016, and was the top man for the Grizzlies over the last two seasons after the team canned David Fizdale.

This is a solid hire for the Cavs. Bickerstaff has been a respected assistant in the league for the past decade-and-a-half, and he should give some veteran NBA oopmh behind Beilein, who most recently coached at Michigan for 12 years and is headed into his rookie season.