Utah Jazz look to future without injured Gordon Hayward

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Utah Jazz began life without Gordon Hayward on Saturday with the first practice since the franchise player broke a finger on his non-shooting hand. There is no set timetable for his return.

Hayward went down Friday when his finger got caught in another player’s jersey during practice. Coach Quin Snyder was already tinkering with lineups with the addition of veterans George Hill, Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw and now must be even more creative.

Snyder explained that everyone and everything can be impacted, from Rodney Hood to Johnson to Dante Exum. How Snyder can put together situation-specific lineups, such as small-ball, will also be affected.

“You don’t want to wallow over things you can’t control,” Snyder said. “More than anything I feel bad for Gordon. It’s not a pity part for the team. Guys have to step up. We’ve got good players and they’re capable of picking up the slack collectively and individually.

“But that doesn’t change the fact that Gordon’s been our best player.”

The ninth overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft led the team with a 19.7-point average and 3.7 assists last season. Hayward also averaged 5.0 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 2015-16.

The 26-year old missed just two games in 2015-16 and total of 13 in the last three seasons combined. Hood may be most affected as the team’s second-best perimeter scorer. He could slide to small forward in the starting lineup with Hill and Exum starting at the guard positions. Johnson could start at small forward with Hood remaining at shooting guard. Either way, Hood will likely need to pick up some of the offensive load.

“I’ve got to be more aggressive, I think that’s obvious for our team,” said Hood, who averaged 14.5 points in his second season. “Everybody’s got to do more on both ends. We’ve got some time to figure out before the actual season hits.

“Scoring is not really the focus. … It’s about defense and scoring off our defense and doing the little things.”

Injuries are nothing new to the Jazz in the last 12 months. The team lost starters Rudy Gobert, Derrick Favors and Exum and top wing reserve Alec Burks for long stretches last season. Favors is currently dealing with knee soreness and missed the last preseason game. Burks still hasn’t returned from arthroscopic surgery to his knee and ankle in June.

Fortunately for the organization, the Jazz have four more preseason games and don’t start the regular season until a road game against the Portland Trail Blazers on Oct. 25.

Hill played the last five seasons with the Indiana Pacers and was on the roster when their franchise player, Paul George, missed most of the 2014-15 season with a broken leg. Hill averaged a career-high 16.1 points that season.

“It’s just a feel thing,” Hill said. “You don’t try to come in and say, hey, I’m going to do this or that because someone went down. You take what’s there. If the feeling’s there that they need you to step up and score some more points, then that’s what you have to do.

“But it gives everybody a good opportunity to come out and improve their game a little bit more and expect a lot out of other players. … It’s going to take a group effort.”

Report: First round picks will walk across draft stage with two family members

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The NBA Draft is a big moment for many young men entering the league. Before the picks are announced, TV coverage shows players waiting at their tables among parents, siblings, and their agents.

Now, the NBA is apparently turning the first round into even more of a family affair.

According to Yahoo! Sports, first round selections will be invited to bring two family members to walk across the stage with them as they are selected during the draft on Thursday night. Those members will also be in the greenroom, so they will get the full experience of what it’s like to be an NBA draft pick themselves.

Via Yahoo!:

This is going to be pretty neat to see, and it should make the smiles of the players even bigger as they get to experience a lifelong dream right alongside their support networks.

The 2018 NBA Draft kicks off on Thursday, June 21 at 4:00 PM.

It’s the 10 year anniversary of Kevin Garnett’s ‘Anything is possible’ (VIDEO)

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The Boston Celtics were world champions back in 2008. After a whirlwind summer in 2007 where the team traded for both Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, things came together for the Celtics as Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo filled out an impressive roster.

Boston had two consecutive seven-game series to open the postseason in 2007-08, beating the Atlanta Hawks in the first round and then LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second. They then dispatched the Pistons in six games in the Eastern Conference Finals, and Kobe Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers in six in the NBA Finals.

The Celtics hadn’t won the championship since the 1985-86 season, and suffered through patently bad teams or talented ones that tended to get clumsy with early playoff exits.

When Boston finally did win their title, it was Garnett who game us one of the more iconic moments of their celebration, shouting “Anything is possible!” as he was interviewed after the game.

Via Twitter:

A decade later, Boston is again in the hunt for another championship and seemingly set up to do so for years to come.

Report: Minnesota’s Tyus Jones considered asking for trade, Thibodeau eased concerns

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If there was one thing at the top of the list that set off Timberwolves fans on Twitter last season — and that is a long list — it was the burying of backup point guard Tyus Jones on the bench.

Jones played well on the floor — he is an excellent pick-and-roll ball handler, knows how to run an offense, is strong in transition, and can knock down a spot-up jumper — and the Timberwolves were 5.8 points per 100 possessions better than their opponents when he was on the court. Yet coach Tom Thibodeau jerked Jones’ minutes around — he leaned heavily on starter Jeff Teague and backup guard Jamal Crawford, then mid-season brought in Derrick Rose and gave him run. Jones’ minutes were up and down when they never should have been — even Teague went to Thibodeau and said to play Jones more.

It got to the point that after the season, the third-year guard considered asking for a trade, reports Sean Deveney of The Sporting News.

But sources told Sporting News that Jones met with team management after the playoffs, and Thibodeau reasserted his support of Jones and his development. Even if the Wolves re-sign Rose, Jones was assured, his minutes and opportunities would increase because Crawford is not expected to return to the team. Rose mostly played shooting guard with the Wolves last season, so there’s a chance Jones could play alongside Rose as a backcourt bench unit.

Jones had considered requesting a trade, but the meeting with the team defused that notion before it arose. And for now, at least, the Wolves have no intention of dealing him.

Thibodeau is saying the right things, we’ll see if his actions back up his words. Jones will be a restricted free agent in the summer of 2019 and he has a lot of fans around the league in other front offices. If Minnesota doesn’t give him enough burn he will hunt out a place that will (and may pay more than Minnesota wants to match).

It’s one of a number of issues around the Timberwolves that could derail, at least temporarily, a team that is on the rise in the West.

Kyrie Irving on Durant: “He’s on an incredible team but he’s also the best player on that team”

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The backlash against Kevin Durant — for doing what those same people bash other athletes for not doing in prioritizing winning — continues unabated in some corners of the Internet, not to mention the “look at me” world of television punditry and talk radio.

Kyrie Irving had a rational response to all that.

Irving swung by The Bill Simmons Podcast, and they talked about Durant’s critics and how that impacted him during the NBA season.

“I love playing against him, but I also love watching him. He has a presence about him that is really unassuming, but he dominates games. Thirty-plus [points] is easy for him, but then you get 10 assists [from him] some games, eight assists, or 14 rebounds he had in the Finals, or Game 4 where he had the triple-double, and he’s just working on his craft. I think that in itself was like, “OK, I got the championship, now I just want to work on my craft.” And now, of course … everyone just starts attacking, like, “Oh, you’re not enough, you’re not this, you’re not that.” And it’s just, bro, give it a break. Like, seriously, give it a break. Let it go, man. Yes, he’s on an incredible team, but he’s also the best player on that team.”

Irving was good with KD switching teams to the Warriors.

“Yeah, I was happy for him. I was happy for him. At the end of the day, if you can control your experience, he wanted that. So I’m not the one to be opposing in any way of someone making a decision for their life. Which is kind of why I was an advocate of when I came out with my trade, like, “No, I’m just trying to be in my own truth, I’m trying to figure out my life.” No disrespect to anyone else, but this was the decision I had to make for me. And some people understand it, some people don’t, but at the end of the day it just really doesn’t matter.”

Two thoughts.

First, it is up for debate if Durant is the best player on Golden State. I would say that Durant is the best player on that team, and is the second best player on the planet (and second could be too low). Is he more important to the Warriors and their style of play/culture than Stephen Curry? No. Golden State is Curry’s team. But when you consider the ability to get his own shot and defense, I’ll take Durant as the better player. Best and most important do not have to be one in the same.

Second, I think Irving’s sentiments on Durant match those of most players — he earned the right to be a free agent, he earned the right to control his destiny on where he wanted to play, and that he chose rings over “having his own team” is all good then. It was his call to make. He agreed to sacrifice buckets and touches to get wins.

As fans of the sport, that’s something we should celebrate and venerate in athletes, not tear down. If prioritizing rings is what we say we want from athletes, if rings are one of the key benchmarks in a players’ legacy, then we can’t shred them for chosing the path that gets them rings (and in KD’s case last summer, taking a little less money to help keep a title team together). Players, for the most part, have no issue with what KD did, even if it made the Warriors that much harder to beat.