DeMar DeRozan working on three-point shot this summer

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Last season, Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan made his living in the midrange.

Only 8.9 percent of his shots came from three (and he shot just 28.9 percent on them, although that jumped to 34 percent after the All-Star break). Instead, 56.6 percent of DeRozan’s shots came between 10 feet out and the arc, and he shot just below 38 percent on those. While the league-wide pushback on midrange jumpers can get taken too far, if you’re going to take them you better make them. Nobody complains about Dirk Nowitzki’s midrange shots — more than 60 percent of his shots are from 10 feet to the three-point line, but he hits nearly 48 percent of them. DeRozan is dynamic when he can attack the rim, but if there are obstacles in his way he too easily settles for a midrange jumper he does not hit.

This year, DeRozan going to try to become a more reliable threat from three to open things up. New Raptor DeMarre Carroll has been watching DeRozan and talked about stretching out his shot to the Toronto Sun.

“(NBA three-point leader) Kyle Korver told me the three-point shot is just more repetition. The more you shoot it, the better you’ll get at it. I feel like if DeMar will keep working on it, it will eventually come,” Carroll said…

“I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of other things he worked on in his game and he’s a dominant offensive player (already),” Carroll said. “So I think if he adds that three-point to his game it’ll take us over the top.”

The Raptors have overhauled their roster to become more defensive minded — that’s why Carroll was their top free agent target. They wanted a quality wing defender, and they got one of the best.

With this new roster look for even more threes — the Raptors were ninth in the NBA in three-pointers attempted last season and made a respectable 35.2 percent of them (12th in the NBA). If, as expected, Toronto starts Kyle Lowry, DeRozan, Carroll, and Patrick Patterson around Jonas Valanciunas, that’s potentially four three-point shooters on the floor around a big who demands a double in the post. Throw in a quicker pace (the Raptors were bottom 10) and the chance to get a few more threes in transition, and the Raptors could be bombs away from deep this season. Which will be a good thing, especially if DeRozan knocks them down.

The Raptors needed to make changes, their unimpressive first-round playoff exit (and the second half of last season) made that clear. But transitions are rarely smooth, and there are going to be some bumps early on for the Raptors as their focus shifts. Especially if those threes don’t fall for a stretch.

 

Royce O’Neale agrees to four-year, $36 million contract extension to stay in Utah

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Royce O'Neale is a name casual NBA fans may not recognize.

However, GMs around the league recognize him is the kind of role player teams need to win. O’Neale is asked to guard the opposing team’s best wing player nightly, while on the other end of the court he’s shooting 44.3 percent from three. He’s become a critical part of Utah’s rotation.

So the Jazz have locked him up with a contract extension, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The Jazz — who have won 16-of-18 — just got Mike Conley back in the rotation, and have jumped up to a top-four seed in the West (as of this writing). Things are looking up, and also they have set themselves up well financially for the future.

Bigger bills are coming in Utah, in the summer of 2021 the Jazz will need to max out Donovan Mitchell with an extension plus re-sign Rudy Gobert. Which is why locking in a quality role player like O’Neale at a fair price now is a smart move.

Watch Marcus Smart set Celtics’ record with 11 threes, still not enough to beat Suns

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BOSTON (AP) — Devin Booker had 39 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists and the Phoenix Suns overcame a franchise-record 11 3-pointers by Boston’s Marcus Smart and beat the Celtics 123-119 on Saturday night.

Smart shot 11 for 22 from 3-point range and finished with a career-best 37 points. His performance marked the first time in NBA history that a player made 11 or more 3-points in a losing effort, according to Stats.

Deandre Ayton had 26 points and 15 rebounds and Mikal Bridges added a career-best 26 points for the Suns, who have won four of their last five games.

Jayson Tatum scored 26 points and Gordon Hayward added 22 for Boston, which has lost three straight and six of eight.

Three years ago, Booker scored 70 points in a loss to the Celtics in TD Garden. He finished an assist shy of his first career triple-double.

The Celtics were missing two of their top three leading scorers – Kemba Walker (team-best 22.1 per game), out with left knee soreness, and Jaylen Brown (20.0), sidelined for the second straight game with a sprained right thumb.

Boston cut its deficit to 90-85 early in the fourth, but Dario Saric and Bridges answered with consecutive 3s. The Celtics had it down to 114-111 on Daniel Theis‘ breakaway dunk with about a minute left, but Bridges hit a jumper in the lane with 37 seconds to play.

Booker’s two free throws sealed it with 4.8 seconds left.

The Suns led 60-51 at halftime and answered – mainly behind Booker and Ayton – any surge by Boston. The lead never fell below seven in the quarter, with Booker scoring nine points and Ayton getting eight.

The loss of two key players showed for the Celtics in the first quarter when the Suns broke in front 26-10 before Boston’s bench helped spark a 15-0 run.

 

LeBron James gets ‘M-V-P’ chants in Houston

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Laker fans are everywhere.

Decades of stars and success — from Magic Johnson through Kobe Bryant — turned the Lakers into the biggest franchise brand in the NBA, the only thing that might rival it is LeBron James‘ brand. Combine those two and there seem to be loud, at points obnoxious, Lakers fans in every arena.

Case in point: LeBron James got “M-V-P” chants in Houston while the Lakers beat the Rockets.

LeBron called it humbling.

LeBron’s play this season — 25.5 points and a career-high 10.9 assists a game, playing his best defense in years and leading the Lakers to a West best 34-8 record — has him in the hunt for a fifth MVP award (although he’s not who we would vote for right now).

Expect to hear these chants in a lot more buildings this season.

Check out Stephen Curry the sideline reporter (VIDEO)

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Stephen Curry, the most overpaid sideline reporter in the NBA.”

That’s how Curry was introduced on the Warriors broadcast Saturday night as he took over some sideline reporting duties while still out after fracturing his hand four games into the season. What else has he got to do?

Above you can see the best of Curry’s reactions, or check out his walk-off interview with Eric Paschall:

I’d say he shouldn’t quit his day job, but that job also pays a little better.

By the way, the Warriors ended their losing streak with a 109-95 victory over Orlando. D'Angelo Russell led the way with 26 points.