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Improved 3-point shooting has Hornets thinking playoffs

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Maybe the Charlotte Hornets are catching Curry fever.

The Hornets, who play about 20 miles from where sharpshooter Stephen Curry starred at Davidson College and who employ Stephen’s long-distance shooting father Dell as a broadcaster, are suddenly one of the NBA’s hottest shooting 3-point teams.

The seemingly playoff-bound Hornets (42-31) are averaging 10.6 made 3-pointers per game, second only to Curry’s Golden State Warriors. Behind the improved shooting of fifth-year point guard Kemba Walker and a revamped roster, the Hornets are hitting 36.3 percent from beyond the arc – sixth-best in the league.

That’s hard to fathom considering just last season the Hornets finished last in the NBA in 3-point shooting efficiency, making just 31 percent.

But an offseason spent revamping the roster by adding long-distance shooters and players with an ability to penetrate and open up the outside game has paid off.

“We have guys with chips on their shoulders; guys with a lot to prove,” Walker said. “For myself I know I had to get my percentages up.”

He’s done that.

Walker is shooting a career-best 37.9 percent from 3-point range, a marked increase from the 31.7 percent he made during his first four seasons.

Veteran power forward Marvin Williams has also elevated his long-distance game, shooting a career-best 40.2 percent on 3s. Walker, Williams and Nicolas Batum all rank in the top 25 in the league in 3-pointers made.

The Hornets are getting smaller, but still significant contributions from rookie 7-foot power forward Frank Kaminsky, and guards Jeremy Lin, Jeremy Lamb and Courtney Lee, all new to the team this season. Charlotte is assured of a winning season, and they had the sixth-best record in the Eastern Conference entering Monday night.

The additions of Lin and Lamb have helped open up more shots because of their ability to penetrate.

“They can make plays off the dribble and draw defenders and get an open guy the basketball and make an open shot,” Walker said. “And we have guys like Marvin (Williams) and Frank (Kaminsky) who can stretch the floor out. There’s a lot of spacing, so I feel like spacing attributes” to the improved shooting.

Third-year coach Steve Clifford is all for the Hornets letting it fly, although he preaches the importance of his team working inside-out and making sure the ball reaches the paint before any shots go up on most possessions.

When Clifford was an assistant coach under Stan Van Gundy in Orlando, the Magic were known for playing four-in, one-out basketball – and knocking down 3s.

So Clifford is comfortable playing that style.

“I think that worked for Mike D’Antoni, who gets a lot of credit for that, and also Stan,” Clifford said. “Stan is doing that same thing in Detroit. I think a lot of the things that we do are things I learned from them.”

The Hornets haven’t had small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist except for seven games this season.

While they miss his defense, hustle and ability to get to the basket, Kidd-Gilchrist has never been considered a dangerous long-distance shooter. In fact, he didn’t even attempt a 3-pointer in 55 games last season.

With Batum playing the 3-spot and Williams at the four, the Hornets are getting more offensive production from long range. Williams has made 135 3-pointers this season and Batum 133.

But Walker’s improvement is most noticeable.

He’s made 158 3-pointers, 14th-most in the league and by far the most of his budding career. He said he’s shooting the ball with a confidence he hasn’t had since his final year at Connecticut, when he led the Huskies to a national championship.

“Over the last couple of years, as far as consistency, it just hasn’t worked out for me. This year it has,” Walker said. “Just the guys that we have helped as well with spreading the floor out and me seeing the basketball go through the net early in the season has given me confidence. I’m trying to stay confident.”

Report: Timberwolves offered Andrew Wiggins to Nets in sign-and-trade for D’Angelo Russell

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Rumors have swirled about D'Angelo Russell signing with the Timberwolves in free agency this summer.

The huge question: How would capped-out Minnesota make that happen?

Darren Wolfson of SKOR North:

I am told there was some dialogue with Brooklyn to see if the Nets would have some interest in a sign-and-trade, Wiggins for D’Angelo Russell. I don’t sense those talks got even a smidge off the ground. I mean, the Nets are not taking on that contract.

Andrew Wiggins (four years, $122,242,800 remaining) might have the NBA’s worst contract. It’ll be hard to find any team that wants him. Brooklyn – which looks like favorites to land Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant – certainly isn’t using its cap space on Wiggins.

Maybe the Timberwolves have other ideas for getting Russell. This one obviously would’ve favored Minnesota. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

But if this was the Timberwolves’ plan, we can put the Russell-Minnesota rumors to bed.

Rudy Gobert says he’ll relinquish DPOY to little girl playing adorably intense defense (video)

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I’ve been looking all day for an excuse to post this video on a site called ProBasketballTalk.

Jazz center Rudy Gobertwho just won Defensive Player of the Year – provided it.

Gobert:

Everyone frets about young basketball players emulating Stephen Curry. But Patrick Beverley apparently also has influence.

Report: Knicks considering offering DeMarcus Cousins big one-year contract if they miss on stars

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The Knicks will reportedly roll over their cap space if they don’t sign Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving or Kawhi Leonard this summer.

Of course, New York must still field a team for 2019-20. After six straight losing seasons – including a franchise-worst 17-65 this season – the Knicks might even want to be somewhat competitive.

A candidate to fill the roster: DeMarcus Cousins.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

If the Knicks are intent keeping cap space clear for 2020 (when the free-agent class looks weak) if they strike out this year, Cousins could make sense. His shot-creation skills would raise their floor. He was a star not long ago.

But leg injuries have sidetracked Cousins’ career. He’ll turn 29 before the season. It’s not certain he’ll ever return to form.

For that reason, Cousins might prioritize multi-year offers with more total compensation, even if the annual average salary is lower. He can’t assume he’ll stay healthy and productive next season and that huge offers will follow in 2020.

Of course, Cousins might not get those multi-year offers this summer. That’s why a one-year deal in New York could work for him. It’d be another chance to improve his stock, much like his season with the Warriors was supposed to provide.

I doubt either the Knicks or Cousins want this. New York prefers better players. Cousins surely desires a larger long-term deal. But they might have to settle for each other.

Kevin Durant reportedly sells home in California, rumored to have bought one in New York

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Kevin Durant‘s company moved its office to New York. He could follow, to the Nets or Knicks, in free agency.

Maybe he’s already on the way?

Neal J. Leitereg of the Los Angeles Times:

Kevin Durant has wrapped up some business in Malibu, selling his oceanfront home on Broad Beach for $12.15 million.

Accounting for real estate commissions and other fees, the sale comes out as a bit of a wash for the 10-time all-star. He bought the place last year for $12.05 million, The Times previously reported in April.

Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report:

sources familiar with Durant’s off-court business say Durant has since purchased a new home in New York and moved his belongings there.

Many NBA players spend their offseasons in Southern California. I’m not sure what to make of Durant selling his house there. This isn’t Durant selling his condo in San Francisco, where the Warriors will open a new arena next season.

Buying a place in New York would be more significant, but a player buying a house in a city where he could sign is a classic rumor. It often gets spread whether or not it’s true. I’m skeptical of the sourcing here.

But if Durant no longer plans to play in California, it could make more sense to sell his Malibu home. Of course, he could buy another house near Los Angeles. We just know he sold this specific place on Broad Beach. We can’t extrapolate with certainty.

And Durant could buy a house in New York for the offseason. He might want to be closer to his company in the summer. That doesn’t mean he’ll play for New York or Brooklyn.

So, I’d nudge the odds of Durant leaving Golden State for the Nets or Knicks slightly higher based on this information. But I wouldn’t overreact to it.