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Five Takeaways from NBA Wednesday: Durant, Westbrook don’t let Thunder blow this lead

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Just a reminder for those of us dads, we may not be perfect, but we could be worse. For the dads who missed the NBA games Wednesday night, here’s what you need to know from around the Association.

1) Thunder hang on to lead this time, beat Clippers at home behind video game Russell Westbrook. This was cathartic for Oklahoma City and its fans — it was what they should have done a week ago. OKC took a double-digit lead against the Clippers into the fourth quarter and held on for a comfortable win, 120-108. Yes, the OKC stars put up serious numbers — Kevin Durant had 32 points, and he described Russell Westbrook’s night of 25 points, 11 rebounds and 20 assists as being like NBA2K on rookie mode. That’s 11 triple doubles this season from Westbrook, and he has become a beast in the post. But what sealed the win for the Thunder was their defense — they held the Clippers to 46 second half points, after allowing 62 in the first 24 minutes. And underrated performance came from Andre Roberson, who stuck with J.J. Redick as well as anyone has this season (Redick still had 22 points, but for stretches the Clippers couldn’t go to him).

This does not wash away the last couple weeks of the Thunder’s play, but it’s a step in the right direction (and it keeps them alone as the third seed). OKC had big games against San Antonio and Portland coming up where they can prove they are again back to being a real threat in the West.

2) Memphis’ Mario Chalmers went down with an injury that looked bad. Non-contact injuries are the worst, and this one looks bad. Grizzlies’ point guard Mario Chalmers tried to plant and take a step forward and just collapsed on the floor in pain in a game against Boston. He had to be helped back to the locker room and was done for the night, officially with a foot injury (he left the arena in a wheelchair). I hope I’m wrong, but this looked like an Achilles injury. He’ll have an MRI on Thursday. Memphis is already without Mike Conley for a couple of games with a foot injury (not to mention Marc Gasol is done for the season, Zach Randolph is out, and frankly we don’t have the space here to list all the Memphis injuries).



3) Warriors get a team win, but Stephen Curry did drain another half-court buzzer beater.
Stephen Curry was human for a night, with 12 points on 12 shots. Of late that has meant trouble for the Warriors, but for the first time in a little while they responded with their most balanced team game of the season, beating Utah 115-94. It was the kind of win the Warriors need more of. That said, after the game all everyone wanted to talk about was another Stephen Curry 55-footer — Curry is now 5-of-13 this season on “heaves” from beyond 39 feet. That’s 38.4 percent. For this one he had to shake Trey Burke then just drained it like it was nothing.

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4) Kemba Walker scores 30+ for fourth consecutive game. When we talk about the top point guards in the NBA, Kemba Walker’s name needs to come up. He scored 35 points on 18 shots — draining five threes and getting deep into the paint for his other looks — to lead the Hornets to a fifth-straight win, 122-113 over the New Orleans Pelicans. When New Orleans made a run and made it a game early in the fourth, Walker responded with six straight points to spark the Charlotte run that kept them in front. Anthony Davis dropped 40 for the Pelicans and did what he could, but it was not going to be enough against Walker and a Hornets team that knocked down 15 threes on the night.

5) Chris Paul may get a fine for smacking Kevin Durant in the, er, “groin.” Chris Paul is the master of making this look incidental, but it happens too often for that to be the case. In this instance, we’ll see if the NBA hits him with a fine. But when he cuts to open space and swings his arms, CP3 has found a way to slow his defender that is effective.

Devin Booker not a fan of being doubled during pick-up run (VIDEO)

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This is going to turn into a thing. It shouldn’t, but it’s the NBA offseason and people are looking for something to talk about, so this — which is really not much of anything — will become a thing. And it’s going to suck for Devin Booker.

Booker was taking part in some summer run, got a pass in the corner, decided to hold the ball and hold the ball, then the double team came. Booker was no fan of the double.

We just do not have enough context from this video to say much. It’s some guys jawing during open gym — if you’ve played five minutes of pickup ball anywhere you know this is how it goes.

But, Booker comes off in this clip as a bit whiny. So for some it will become a thing. Even though it shouldn’t.

It’s going to be interesting to see how different Devin Booker’s game looks next season next to a quality NBA point guard in Ricky Rubio. It could lead to another step forward for the young guard, but like this video we will need to see more before commenting.

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.