Justise Winslow’s winning paradox

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NEW YORK – The feeling of success has followed Justise Winslow everywhere he’s been on his road to the NBA. In his freshman season at St. John’s he led the high school to their first Texas state championship since 1979 and then added two more championships to the school’s trophy case before heading to Duke.

In his only season in Durham, Winslow tasted the sweet flavor of championship glory as he helped guide Coach K and the Blue Devils to their fifth championship in school history, but when a player shows the flashes Winslow has shown throughout his life on the AAU circuit through college, a paradox is created when the player decides to head to the NBA.

When a high school kid displays a certain level of excellence, elite college programs will send letters and swag to try and acquire their services. When the kid continues to display a similar level of success at the college level, it’s time to try your luck in the NBA, but the Spurs, Warriors, and Clippers aren’t sending letters or cute little stuffed mascots in order to swing a player’s choice regarding a place to continue their career. It’s the bottom feeders in the NBA food chain that are chomping at the bit to obtain a player that can help them climb back up to the top.

The process puts someone like Winslow in a somewhat awkward spot, because if he ends up landing anywhere in his current draft projection (anywhere between the Knicks at four and the Heat at 10) he’s going to head to a team that has and will likely continue feeling a sensation that Winslow has avoided for most of his basketball life.

Losing.

“Yeah it’s not a concern, but it’s just something that you have to understand. It’s a process. I won a lot,” Winslow said during the pre-draft interviews. ”For me to be able to deal with losing it’s something that I’m going to have to understand. Part of the maturing process is being able to take those losses and get better from them.”

When you watch film of Winslow, it’s easy to understand how he’s put himself in this position. He has the potential to become an elite defender along the lines of Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard. His 6’ 6”, 222 lb frame gives him the ability to switch off of a guard onto a big in a pick-and-roll, a key in this era of the NBA and his 6’ 10.25” wingspan helps him contest shots at the rim just in case a guard does get by him.

So what is it about his defense that makes him so tantalizing on that end of the floor? “I think my ability to use my hands and use my lower body to stay in front of guys,” Winslow told NBCSports’ ProBasketballTalk. “I’m just too physical and athletic that I just wear guys down by the end of the game.”

His offensive game has drawn comparisons to James Harden and when you watch him drive to the hoop or pull up from deep it’s hard to not see a younger, less hairy version of Harden. Winslow and Harden were almost identical in their freshman seasons in terms of threes attempted and made (Harden made 44 out of 108 and Winslow made 46 out of 110). Harden did get to the line much more than Winslow did during their freshman campaigns (270 compared to 156).

Winslow has received some criticism regarding the mechanics of his shot, specifically the trajectory of his shot, but it’s not something Winslow is concerned about, “I haven’t changed any mechanics,” Winslow told ProBasketballTalk. “I’ve just been putting up more reps and building up muscle memory.”

When you’re being compared to Harden on offense and Leonard/Butler on defense, your future is pretty bright to say the least. Justise Winslow just has to make sure the darkness of losing doesn’t gobble up the light of glory that has guided him to this spot.

Twitter – @ScottDargis

Paul George says he knew James Harden/Russell Westbrook pairing would work

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When James Harden and Russell Westbrook share the court this season, the Rockets are +8.9 points per 100 possessions. That is fueled by a surprisingly good defensive rating that has them giving almost exactly a point per possession.

All of that is much better than many pundits predicted, as they questioned how to isolation players with questionable defensive chops would fit together.

Not Paul George. He thought this would work from the start, as he told Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

“I knew it was going to work,” George said at the morning shootaround before the Clippers face the Rockets on Friday night. “Russ is a winner. Russ wants to win, Russ does whatever it takes to win. My time playing with him, Russ doesn’t really have an ego. He puts his ego to the side.

“He allowed me to be myself, he allowed me to be comfortable. And I had one of the best career [years] I had while playing alongside him. Russ is a heckuva teammate.”

James Harden — averaging 38.4 points, 7.5 assists, and 5.8 rebounds a game — would likely agree with George.

George, however, surveyed the situation with Westbrook and OKC — after Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers knocked them out in the first round — and decided to move on and team up with Kawhi Leonard with the Lakers. He may have liked Westbrook as a teammate, but the two of them (with that talent around them and few ways to make real upgrades) had limits on how far they could go.

That remains the question about these Rockets, one that is not going to be answered until next April at the earliest.

Report: Hornets interested in Pistons center Andre Drummond

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Andre Drummond is thriving.

The Pistons are not.

With Drummond headed toward free agency, that leaves major questions for Detroit. Should the 4-10 Pistons hope better health – especially for Blake Griffin – allows them to get back on track this season? Should they keep Drummond and attempt to re-sign him as a key player future seasons? Should they trade him to get value now?

Drummond’s market – both for a trade or in free agency – is somewhat limited. The NBA is overstocked with capable centers. His game, built mostly on rebounding, trends toward old-school. Drummond is better than most players of his ilk. The question is about cost.

But at least one team outside Detroit is apparently interested – Charlotte.

Sean Deveney of Heavy:

The target, according to league sources: Pistons big man Andre Drummond, a player in whom the Hornets have had an interest for at least a year.

Charlotte projects to have about $27 million in cap space next summer. That might be enough to lure Drummond with a multi-year deal.

But Drummond’s player option for next season he said he plans to decline is worth $28,751,774.

So, it might make sense to trade for Drummond now to secure his Bird Rights. That way, the Hornets could exceed the cap to re-sign him.

They’d also get an upgrade at center over Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo this season. Charlotte (6-9) is in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race. Even with Drummond, I wouldn’t pick the Hornets as likely to make the postseason, but that’s the type of low-level goal they often prioritize.

Charlotte has expiring contracts to facilitate a trade – Biyombo, Marvin Williams, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. The Hornets would also have to surrender assets that tempt Detroit (draft picks and/or young players).

There’s a path to a satisfactory trade… if the Pistons are open to dealing Drummond.

Harassment charges against Lakers’ DeMarcus Cousins reportedly dropped

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DeMarcus Cousins got married this past summer, but his 7-year-old son didn’t attend the wedding due to a dispute with the boy’s mother and Cousin’s ex-girlfriend, Christy West. That blew up into an ugly situation where Cousins was ultimately charged in Alabama with a third-degree harassing communications misdemeanor, tied to the domestic situation.

Now, those charges have been dismissed, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Cousins remains out for the Lakers after tearing his ACL this past summer, and he is not expected to return. Because of the surprisingly good play of Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee — particularly as mobile defenders who can show out on the perimeter and recover — the Lakers have not missed Cousins’ presence.

I have no specific knowledge of this case or the truth of what happened between Cousins and his ex. As far as I know, there was nothing to this and should have been dismissed.

However, as someone who spent a chunk of years on a police/courts beat as a young reporter, I feel the need to add this: Domestic violence/harassment cases are exceedingly difficult to prosecute. It can be a he said/she said situation, and unfortunately, often the abused women recant their testimony (whether it was true or not). The situations are a complex mix of emotions and fear, ones that make getting justice difficult. Talk to any prosecutor (or long-time police beat officer) about domestic violence cases and they will tell you horrifying stories. It is a situation that, as a nation, we need to address.

High schoolers Bronny James, Zaire Wade have more national TV games than many NBA teams

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The Wizards are entertaining in their own special way.

Washington games have averaged 241 points this season (120 for the Wizards, 121 for their opponents). That’s the highest mark in nearly two decades. The 1990-91 Nuggets scored 120 while allowing 131 points per game.

But Washington rarely gets nationally televised games.

On the other hand, Sierra Canyon School – which features Bronny James (son of LeBron James) and Zaire Wade (son of Dwyane Wade) – will have plenty of nationally televised games. That drew the attention of at least one Wizard.

Isaiah Thomas:

Of course, the Wizards aren’t alone in getting less national exposure than Bronny and Zaire. On the latest, “Off the Dribble,” Jacques Slade gets into all the NBA teams and stars on national television less often than Sierra Canyon. (For more, watch the video above where Slade also gets into Carmelo Anthony’s Blazers debut.)

The good news: Wizards games can still be found on NBC Sports Washington.