Remember how bad the Cavaliers were just a few months ago? No NBA champion was worse

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The Cavaliers have been historically bad in the years preceding their run to the NBA Finals.

But even this season – once they had LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love – they got off to to a tumultuous start.

David Blatt ripped the team after an opening loss to the Knicks. As Cleveland continued to struggle, LeBron blamed others. He blamed himself. Blatt criticized LeBron. Outsiders criticized Blatt. The Cavs hit rock bottom. Questions emerged about Blatt’s job security.

It appeared unlikely Cleveland, which sunk to 19-20, could get on track quickly enough to do serious damage this season.

As late as Jan. 23, when they were 23-20, the Cavaliers had a worse record than any NBA champion through so many games.

Here’s how Cleveland’s win total (wine) compares with the worst record by an NBA champion through each game (gold):

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Here are the NBA champions with the worst record through each game:

Through games Team Record
82 1978 Washington Bullets 44-38
81 1978 Washington Bullets 43-38
80 1978 Washington Bullets 43-37
79 1978 Washington Bullets 42-37
78 1978 Washington Bullets 41-37
77 1978 Washington Bullets 41-36
76 1978 Washington Bullets 41-35
75 1978 Washington Bullets 40-35
74 1978 Washington Bullets 40-34
73 1978 Washington Bullets 40-33
72 1978 Washington Bullets 39-33
71 1978 Washington Bullets 38-33
70 1978 Washington Bullets 37-33
69 1978 Washington Bullets 36-33
68 1978 Washington Bullets 36-32
67 1978 Washington Bullets 36-31
66 1978 Washington Bullets 36-30
65 1978 Washington Bullets 35-30
64 1978 Washington Bullets 35-29
63 1978 Washington Bullets 34-29
62 1978 Washington Bullets 33-29
61 1978 Washington Bullets 32-29
60 1978 Washington Bullets 31-29
59 1978 Washington Bullets 31-28
58 1978 Washington Bullets 30-28
57 1978 Washington Bullets 29-28
56 1978 Washington Bullets 29-27
55 1978 Washington Bullets 28-27
54 1978 Washington Bullets 28-26
53 1978 Washington Bullets 27-26
52 1978 Washington Bullets 27-25
51 1978 Washington Bullets 27-24
50 1978 Washington Bullets 26-24
49 1955 Syracuse Nationals 26-23
49 1978 Washington Bullets 26-23
48 1955 Syracuse Nationals 25-23
47 1955 Syracuse Nationals 25-22
46 1955 Syracuse Nationals 25-21
45 1978 Washington Bullets 25-20
45 1955 Syracuse Nationals 25-20
44 1978 Washington Bullets 24-20
43 1955 Syracuse Nationals 24-19
43 1948 Baltimore Bullets 24-19
43 1978 Washington Bullets 24-19
42 1955 Syracuse Nationals 23-19
42 1948 Baltimore Bullets 23-19
41 1948 Baltimore Bullets 23-18
41 1955 Syracuse Nationals 23-18
40 1948 Baltimore Bullets 22-18
39 1948 Baltimore Bullets 21-18
38 1955 Syracuse Nationals 21-17
38 1948 Baltimore Bullets 21-17
37 1955 Syracuse Nationals 20-17
36 1955 Syracuse Nationals 19-17
35 1947 Philadelphia Warriors 19-16
35 1955 Syracuse Nationals 19-16
34 1947 Philadelphia Warriors 18-16
33 1947 Philadelphia Warriors 18-15
33 1955 Syracuse Nationals 18-15
33 1948 Baltimore Bullets 18-15
32 1947 Philadelphia Warriors 17-15
31 1947 Philadelphia Warriors 16-15
30 1947 Philadelphia Warriors 16-14
30 1948 Baltimore Bullets 16-14
29 1947 Philadelphia Warriors 15-14
28 1947 Philadelphia Warriors 15-13
28 1948 Baltimore Bullets 15-13
27 1947 Philadelphia Warriors 14-13
26 1947 Philadelphia Warriors 14-12
25 1947 Philadelphia Warriors 14-11
25 2006 Miami Heat 14-11
25 1955 Syracuse Nationals 14-11
24 1947 Philadelphia Warriors 13-11
23 2006 Miami Heat 13-10
23 1951 Rochester Royals 13-10
23 1990 Detroit Pistons 13-10
23 1947 Philadelphia Warriors 13-10
22 2006 Miami Heat 12-10
22 1951 Rochester Royals 12-10
21 2006 Miami Heat 11-10
20 2006 Miami Heat 10-10
19 2006 Miami Heat 10-9
18 1999 San Antonio Spurs 10-8
18 1951 Rochester Royals 10-8
18 1947 Philadelphia Warriors 10-8
18 2006 Miami Heat 10-8
17 1999 San Antonio Spurs 9-8
17 1951 Rochester Royals 9-8
17 1947 Philadelphia Warriors 9-8
16 1999 San Antonio Spurs 8-8
16 1951 Rochester Royals 8-8
15 1999 San Antonio Spurs 7-8
15 1951 Rochester Royals 7-8
14 1999 San Antonio Spurs 6-8
13 1999 San Antonio Spurs 6-7
13 1951 Rochester Royals 6-7
12 1999 San Antonio Spurs 6-6
12 1991 Chicago Bulls 6-6
12 1978 Washington Bullets 6-6
12 1951 Rochester Royals 6-6
11 1978 Washington Bullets 5-6
11 1951 Rochester Royals 5-6
11 1999 San Antonio Spurs 5-6
11 1991 Chicago Bulls 5-6
10 1951 Rochester Royals 4-6
10 1978 Washington Bullets 4-6
9 1951 Rochester Royals 3-6
8 1985 Los Angeles Lakers 3-5
8 1978 Washington Bullets 3-5
8 1951 Rochester Royals 3-5
7 1982 Los Angeles Lakers 3-4
7 1978 Washington Bullets 3-4
7 1955 Syracuse Nationals 3-4
7 1985 Los Angeles Lakers 3-4
7 1951 Rochester Royals 3-4
7 1949 Minneapolis Lakers 3-4
7 1947 Philadelphia Warriors 3-4
6 1982 Los Angeles Lakers 2-4
6 1978 Washington Bullets 2-4
6 1955 Syracuse Nationals 2-4
5 1991 Chicago Bulls 2-3
5 1985 Los Angeles Lakers 2-3
5 1982 Los Angeles Lakers 2-3
5 1978 Washington Bullets 2-3
5 1958 St. Louis Hawks 2-3
5 2006 Miami Heat 2-3
5 1999 San Antonio Spurs 2-3
5 1966 Boston Celtics 2-3
5 1959 Boston Celtics 2-3
5 1955 Syracuse Nationals 2-3
5 1952 Minneapolis Lakers 2-3
4 1991 Chicago Bulls 1-3
4 1985 Los Angeles Lakers 1-3
4 1982 Los Angeles Lakers 1-3
4 1978 Washington Bullets 1-3
4 1958 St. Louis Hawks 1-3
3 1991 Chicago Bulls 0-3
2 1991 Chicago Bulls 0-2
2 1985 Los Angeles Lakers 0-2
2 1982 Los Angeles Lakers 0-2
2 1958 St. Louis Hawks 0-2
2 1955 Syracuse Nationals 0-2
2 1954 Minneapolis Lakers 0-2
1 2004 Detroit Pistons 0-1
1 1998 Chicago Bulls 0-1
1 1991 Chicago Bulls 0-1
1 1987 Los Angeles Lakers 0-1
1 1986 Boston Celtics 0-1
1 1985 Los Angeles Lakers 0-1
1 1984 Boston Celtics 0-1
1 1982 Los Angeles Lakers 0-1
1 1975 Golden State Warriors 0-1
1 1959 Boston Celtics 0-1
1 1958 St. Louis Hawks 0-1
1 1956 Philadelphia Warriors 0-1
1 1955 Syracuse Nationals 0-1
1 1954 Minneapolis Lakers 0-1
1 1948 Baltimore Bullets 0-1

The Cavaliers transformed themselves by trading for Timofey Mozgov, Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith.

Whether or not they win the title, it’s already been a heck of a turnaround.

Tacko Fall’s agent confident if Celtics don’t keep him on roster another team will

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Tacko Fall was arguably the most popular player at Las Vegas Summer League (especially since Zion Williamson only played nine minutes). Fans chanted for him to get in games and then chanted “M-V-P” once he was in. Fall averaged 7.2 points a game on 77 percent shooting at Summer League and every play he made became a viral highlight.

But that was Summer League.

Now things are getting real and Fall is trying to make the Celtics’ roster. Fall signed an Exhibit 10 contract with the Celtics, which is essentially a training camp invite.

It’s a longshot Fall makes the Celtics’ regular season roster for two reasons. First, Fall needs a lot more development to be NBA ready, both physically and in terms of understanding and reacting to the game and how fast it moves. That was evident in Las Vegas. Second, the Celtics have Enes Kanter starting at center with Daniel Theis and Robert Williams behind him, it’s unlikely they keep a fourth traditional center on the roster. Both of Boston’s two-way contracts are already filled.

If the Celtics cut Fall and he signs with Boston’s G-League affiliate the Maine Red Claws, Fall gets a $50,000 bonus.

However, Fall’s agent Justin Haynes says if Boston cuts Fall he believes another team will sign him, something Haynes told Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe.

“If the Celtics release him, I don’t think he goes unclaimed,” said Haynes, Fall’s agent. “I think somebody will take a shot on him because he’s done enough to show he can find a place in the NBA. I’m really hopeful that it’s Boston. I hope they find a way, and they do have a vision for him.”

I could see another team giving Fall one of their two-way contracts, but he needs a lot more development and time on the court. He needs time in the G-League. Maybe a team gives him a roster spot and develops him there, but that seems unlikely. Fall has the potential to be an NBA player, but it’s going to take a lot of work for him to get there.

Work that this year likely will take place in the G-League.

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.”