Stephen Curry: ‘I don’t really worry about the shots that I missed’

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CLEVELAND — Stephen Curry has had his shoulder wrapped in this series, been questioned about his level of fatigue, even had his choice of footwear shredded on Twitter.

It hasn’t been the easiest time for the MVP.

He could get the most perfect of endings anyway.

Golden State’s point guard – the two-time reigning MVP who had the most prolific 3-point season in league history by a ridiculously wide margin on his way to a scoring title – has had probably more moments of struggle than many expected in these NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Still, his Warriors are on the cusp of back-to-back titles and could hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy again with a win in Game 6 on Thursday night.

“Definitely the biggest game,” Curry said. “And I’m ready for it.”

The Warriors can only hope he’s right.

Golden State leads the series 3-2 and can win the title on Cleveland’s home floor for the second straight year – which would probably be plenty sweet for Curry, who was born in nearby Akron, Ohio (as was Cavs’ star LeBron James). He could join a very select club of players who won MVP awards and NBA titles in consecutive seasons, the others on that list being James, Michael Jordan and Bill Russell.

Not bad.

But to get there, Curry and the Warriors still need one more win – and a big night from their best scorer would go a long way toward making that a reality. Even with Draymond Green suspended for Game 5 because of too many flagrant fouls, Golden State still felt it had a chance to close the series out at home on Monday night but succumbed to 41-point barrages from James and Kyrie Irving.

“I don’t want to be a prisoner of the moment and say Game 5 was a direct reflection of who we are as a team and who I am as an individual, as a player, as a leader,” Curry said. “I was out there doing what I was trying to do to help our team win and it didn’t work. So that happens in sports. It happens in our game, and nothing’s going to stop me from coming back and doing what I do to help lead my team in Game 6.”

Curry isn’t exactly looking for a breakout game – he already had a 38-point effort in Game 4, when the Warriors won in Cleveland and grabbed a 3-1 series lead.

But the Cavs have not made this simple.

They’ve held Curry under 50 percent shooting in four of the five games so far, kept him under 20 points in three of them and have essentially forced him into one turnover for every assist (23 assists, 22 turnovers). Everyone knows that the Warriors’ attack is fueled by Curry and Klay Thompson, and Cleveland has frustrated both at times.

“We want to continue to not turn the ball over and stop those guys, Steph and Klay, from just having one of these barrages from the perimeter,” James said. “We also want to try to put pressure on those other guys. Those other guys can beat you as well.”

The Warriors reviewed the Game 5 film on Wednesday morning, and Curry didn’t like a lot of what he saw.

It wasn’t his 8-for-21 shooting, 5 for 14 from 3-point land, that made him cringe. Instead, he noticed tons of slippage in areas where Golden State usually excels, and he knows that if those areas get cleaned up for Game 6, the Warriors could cap a year that already includes an NBA-record 73 regular-season wins with the title they need to make this run truly historic.

“I don’t really worry about the shots that I missed,” Curry said. “Those are ones you live with. … The stuff that kind of bothered me the most is on the offensive end there were certain possessions where we had the right reads and right looks, but passes got deflected because they were a little lazy or we didn’t have a crispness to what we were doing. That was a situation where you felt like you had missed opportunities.”

Game 6 is another opportunity.

He believes he won’t miss this one.

“Yeah, I want to honestly play better and more consistent,” Curry said. “But the situation is right now we’re one game away from winning a second championship, and I personally have 48 minutes to do what I need to do to help my team win.”

Wes Unseld Jr., Kenny Atkinson reportedly top list for next Chicago coach

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Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley, the two guys at the top of Chicago Bulls basketball operations, fired a coach in Jim Boylen that the team owner liked. Which means they have to nail the next hire.

Chicago in on to the second round of interviews and four names stand out, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Bulls are narrowing to finalists for their head coaching job and expect to conduct final interviews soon, sources said. Denver assistant Wes Unseld Jr., Philadelphia assistant Ime Udoka, Milwaukee assistant Darvin Ham and former Brooklyn head coach Kenny Atkinson are among the coaches who have had strong interviews so far.

Atkinson has a more proven resume after what he did in Brooklyn, but the other three are top assistants who have earned their shot in the big chair. Unseld Jr. is a hot name right now because his team is still in the bubble and playing well — he’s Mike Malone’s lead assistant on the Denver Nuggets — but every name on this list is qualified.

Whoever lands the job will head a team with plenty of potential but also plenty of questions. The Bulls have quality young talent on the roster — Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Coby White, Wendell Carter — but do they are fit together? How good Chicago is next season may depend more on the growth of White and the health of Markkanen than it does on who gets selected as coach.

Expect Karnisovas to spend a year putting his stamp on this roster and moving players around. First, however, he’s got to find his coach.

Michael Jordan, Denny Hamlin form NASCAR racing team with Bubba Wallace driving

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Michael Jordan is getting into the NASCAR game.

The North Carolina native has teamed up with three-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin to form a new NASCAR Cup Series race team — and they’ve signed Bubba Wallace to drive.

Wallace is the only Black man driving full-time in NASCAR’s top series (the previous three seasons he raced for Richard Petty Motorsports). Wallace has been at the forefront of bringing social changes to NASCARincluding the banning of the Confederate flags at NASCAR events and tracks.

“Growing up in North Carolina, my parents would take my brothers, sisters and me to races, and I’ve been a NASCAR fan my whole life,” Jordan said in a statement. “The opportunity to own my own racing team in partnership with my friend, Denny Hamlin, and to have Bubba Wallace driving for us, is very exciting for me.

“Historically, NASCAR has struggled with diversity and there have been few Black owners. The timing seemed perfect as NASCAR is evolving and embracing social change more and more. In addition to the recent commitment and donations I have made to combat systemic racism, I see this as a chance to educate a new audience and open more opportunities for Black people in racing.”

Michael Jordan becomes the first Black owner of a full-time race team in NASCAR top series since NASCAR Hall of Famer Wendell Scott in the 1960s and early 1970s (he owned the team and drove the car). Bubba Wallace is the first Black full-time driver in the top NASCAR series since Scott.

Hamlin will be a minority partner in the new team and continue to drive for Joe Gibbs Racing.

“This is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I believe is a great fit for me at this point in my career,” said Wallace in a statement. “Both Michael and Denny are great competitors and are focused on building the best team they possibly can to go out and compete for race wins. I’m grateful and humbled that Michael and Denny believe in me and I’m super pumped to begin this adventure with them.”

The car manufacturer, number, sponsors and more will be announced at a later date.

Jordan is the primary owner of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets.

NBA executives pick Luka Doncic as best player under 25 to build around

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Luka Doncic, in his second season, made the leap into the NBA’s elite — fourth in MVP voting and First Team All-NBA. All at age 21.

Not surprisingly, he’s the player under 21 NBA teams would want to build around.

Michael Scotto of Hoopshype polled 15 league executives (including four general managers) and players under 25 they want to build around and Doncic was the unanimous choice.

“To me, Luka is the clear No. 1,” one scout told HoopsHype. “He’s a guy who can be a lead ballhandler. He’s good enough to score and create at a high level, has the right mental makeup and is incredibly smart. He’s been a winner everywhere and will probably be a winner in the league.”

It’s hard to argue when Luka Doncic is already doing this in the playoffs:

Boston’s Jayson Tatum came in second, Phoenix Devin Booker was third, followed by Ja Morant (Memphis) fourth and a tie at fifth between Donovan Mitchell (Utah) and Bam Adebayo (Miami).

An interesting note about that top five: None of them was a No. 1 pick.

Zion Williamson had been on top of this poll a year ago, but after a season where he played just 19 games then looked a step slow in the bubble there are concerns about his long-term health.

“He’s just a special player inside the arc who’s an elite finisher,” one executive told HoopsHype. “Offensively, he can finish at an elite rate. He’s one of the best finishers behind Giannis (Antetokounmpo) and LeBron (James). He can hit the open man. He’s so physically dominant. His shooting shouldn’t be a problem, but we’ll see. I think he’s always going to be hurt, though.”

One healthy dominant season from Williamson and those opinions could shift, but even then Doncic will be an MVP level player the Mavericks can build a contender around. He’s the guy under 25.

Report: Raptors coach Nick Nurse earning $8M salary on extension

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Spurs president-coach Gregg Popovich reportedly had an $11 million salary in 2015 then signed a contract extension in 2019 that keeps him the NBA’s highest-paid coach. Doc Rivers was earning $10 million annually with the Clippers before his latest extension. Warriors coach Steve Kerr, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra also signed extensions in recent years.

What about Nick Nurse, who just signed an extension with the Raptors?

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Raptors coach Nick Nurse signed a new multiyear contract extension on Tuesday — a deal that pays him around $8 million per year, sources say.

That’s a lot for a coach, especially in these times.

But Nurse has proven his value. He might even be the NBA’s best coach right now. He checks so many key boxes.

He has shown the ability to prepare his team for the playoffs then adapt through a long playoff run. His players have developed under his watch. He has dealt with roster upheaval and kept everything humming.

After just two seasons as head coach, Nurse still must prove himself in more situations, especially as opposing teams become more familiar with his strategies. But Toronto should want to keep him.

Credit Raptors ownership for paying to make it happen.

Now onto Raptors president Masai Ujiri