Getty Images

Big3 could become hoops fans annual summer fling

9 Comments

There was a time when the NBA almost went dormant during the summer. After the Finals ended in June there was the draft and a little rush in early July with free agency, but by the time Summer League started — back when it was at the Pyramid in Long Beach, Calif. — few fans cared or showed up, and the league was on a hiatus until fall. Baseball owned the summer.

Now the Summer League is in Las Vegas and selling out the Thomas & Mack center at nearly 20,000 people, plus the games are televised nationally. Interest in free agency is up as moves are analyzed online, and this summer throw in a Kyrie Irving trade request — plus some Carmelo Anthony drama — and the league never quieted down.

The appetite for hoops is robust even in the off-season — and that’s where the Big3 came in and got its foot in the door this summer.

The new league founded by Ice Cube and Jeff Kwatinetz brought some nostalgic names, some physical play, and some 3-on-3 basketball (with a four-point shot) to 10 arenas around the USA — and it worked. It exceeded expectations. The games were entertaining in person, the league averaged 11,000 people in the building every weekend, and Fox Sports was happy enough with the FS1 broadcasts (delayed a day) to pick up their option for the second season.

“In a lot of ways, it was definitely a ‘show me’ year,” Ice Cube told NBC Sports. “Some people actually told us they would wait to see how we did this year before they would want to be a part of it. We knew trying to introduce something this new would have people kind of taking a wait-and-see approach.

“But, at the same time, I know a good idea when I hear it.”

That idea caught on with players quickly — and they have spread the word to other former NBA players.

“People were trying to see if this was a joke or how serious it is, but now the retired players are seeing this game and they’re excited about what is taking place,” 11-year NBA veteran Mike James said. “So from this year to next year, you’re going to see more familiar names playing in this league, you’ll see more ex-superstars that played the game. And then you’ve got guys on their last leg in the NBA, they got something to look forward to.”

“What do we have to do to get players that people want to see to join the Big3?” Cube asks. “That’s our goal.”

The Big3 had stars, although the biggest names — Allen Iverson, Dr. J, Charles Oakley — largely coached. That may change in future seasons (and there will be future seasons). Lamar Odom attended the game in Los Angeles and expressed some interest. Paul Pierce’s name has come up, as has Tracy McGrady. I’m not sure if a Kobe Bryant-level star will suit up (maybe Kevin Garnett would), but guys just a couple of years out of the league might. Players such as Kenyon Martin and Al Harrington were singing the praises of playing in the league.

“One group I didn’t have any problem convincing (about 3-on-3 basketball) was the pros themselves,” said Roger Mason Jr., the former NBA player who is the Big3 commissioner. “The one thing I knew as a former NBA player is that 3-on-3 basketball was something that we played often during the season. A lot of times you didn’t have the guys, the bodies to play 5-on-5 (at practice) but 3-on-3 is something that we do, we compete at a high level and I knew those battles, which fans had never seen, if seen, had a high chance of success.”“As far as players, we feel if we build a great league they will come,” Cube said.

“As far as players, we feel if we build a great league they will come,” Cube said.

The games certainly were competitive — and that’s what the players said they loved.

“Just an opportunity to compete,” James said of why he came back. “When you leave the game, I know the thing I missed the most wasn’t the team camaraderie, it wasn’t any of those things, it was the competition. And here it is, guys that are not playing NBA basketball, but that don’t mean they necessarily aren’t playing basketball, and this gives us a stage to be able to showcase ourselves without going overseas, or going on another stage.”

There were some moments where you could tell these older players mentally knew what they wanted to do on the court but were no longer able to physically execute it the same way. However, they adjusted, and as the season wore on the level of play improved.

What many old-school fans — including Ice Cube himself — liked was the physical style of play. Some of the loudest cheers at the Los Angeles tour stop were when Oakley stepped on the court and was his old enforcer self (racking up fouls and a flagrant).

“I think what caught on with the Big3, more than the names, was the game. Was the style of how the Big 3 is played, which is a style that’s familiar to those of us who have been around sports for a minute,” Cube said. “It’s back-to-the-basket big boy basketball, so I think that is catching on as well because you can’t really see that style anymore in the NBA or in college. I think it’s a pleasing style of play… it’s how they play when they ball…

“I believe people are going to fall in love with Big3 basketball, and not necessarily for who plays but for how they play.”

Stars have always been what sold the NBA, and the challenge for the Big 3 is that often Cube was the biggest star in the building. The next step for the league is to bring in names that allow Cube to transition away from being the face of the league.

“I think time will do that,” Cube said. “As people see the Big3 come around each year with different players. Each of the players we have in this league has a fan base in their own right. Not everybody came to see Allen Iverson play, some people came to see Mike Bibby play. I think as we’re around, and guys start to come right off the NBA court onto the Big3 court, to me, inherently, the players you want to see will be in the Big3.”

The Big3 learned from its first year. It had a good fan experience at the game, but now they want to improve and grow it. Same for the television broadcast.

What will not change is the barnstorming style — one day of games each week, every Sunday, with all the stars and teams coming to one city and arena for a day of hoops.

“To me, that’s the model for success, to go from city to city to city and bring the Big3 to each arena where you can see a lot of your favorite players,” Cube said. “We understand the nostalgic factor in this and we don’t want to lose that by having two teams here and two teams there. To me going city to city is a great plan and we can go anywhere in the world, basically, and play. If you can envision what that can be in the years to come, it’s a lot of possibilities.”

There is space in the basketball calendar for a little summer fling and trip down memory lane. Fans who attended the Big3 in person who I spoke with thought it was worth it, and that word of mouth is how a league gets built.

“We are full of basketball history, and we respect basketball history, and we’re going to honor basketball history,” Cube said. “So anybody who wants to be around that is going to have a good time at the Big3.”

Chris Paul injures right hamstring, status unclear for Game 6 vs. Warriors

AP
Leave a comment

Houston Rockets guard Chris Paul played the part of the hero for the home team on Thursday night as Houston beat the Golden State Warriors in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals to take a 3-2 series lead.

Now, the question is whether Paul will be able to play in Game 6 on Saturday night.

After a game in which the Rockets were not particularly offensively impressive, Paul came up with some clutch baskets despite struggling overall. Paul got the better of the Golden State defense several times from beyond the arc, including one instance in which he gave a shoulder shimmy to Stephen Curry, allowing the Warriors guard a dose of his own medicine.

But Paul appeared to injure his right hamstring on a play with 51 seconds to go in fourth quarter as he was shooting a floater in the lane. After his shot, Paul remained on the ground and down at the Houston end of the floor as possession changed sides. Paul left the game some 30 seconds later, and was unable to finish the game.

The Rockets point guard had already been battling a right foot injury and had to get lots of treatment just to be able to play in Game 5. It’s not entirely surprising that Paul injured himself on his right side. A weakened link in the kinetic chain tends to force other muscles and joints to compensate for injured areas. When overused or improperly used, the chance for a new injury in another part of the kinetic chain — say, up the leg and into the hamstring — is entirely possible.

That seems like what happened to Paul on Thursday night, but we will have to wait for official word from the team before we know whether he will be playing on Saturday. Hamstring issues can the nagging and despite lots of treatment there is also the swelling that will occur when Paul has to fly to Oakland.

Houston coach Mike D’Antoni says that Paul will be evaluated tomorrow and will be continuing to get treatment but he is not worried about someone being able to fill Paul’s shoes. That’s certainly the right thing to say for D’Antoni but we know how Game 6 might go if CP3 is unable to play.

Chris Paul plays the hero as Warriors devolve to iso ball in Game 5 loss

AP
1 Comment

I personally thought a Western Conference Finals game couldn’t get any uglier after I watched Game 4 between the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets.

Boy, was I wrong.

Thursday night’s Game 5 matchup between the Rockets and the Warriors two teams produced three heinous quarters of NBA playoff basketball, made even more unbearable by the fact that we know how good these two teams can be when they’re really humming.

Much as it was in Game 4 it was Houston’s defense that was on display, ironically forcing the Warriors to play much in the way the Rockets do when they lose. Golden State battled the shot clock with isolation ball much of the game, with Kevin Durant getting the ball at the top of the arc as some of the league’s top players — including a two-time MVP in Stephen Curry — widened the floor in a 1-4 flat set for the 7-foot wing.

To their credit, both Curry and Durant were in good shooting form through the first half but as the periods ground on they started to slow. Draymond Green was Draymond-y, scoring 12 points while grabbing a game-high 15 rebounds with four assists. Statistically, it’s hard to understand how the Warriors lost. Golden State shot better from the field, from the arc, and from the charity stripe. But their scoring was concentrated and their offense predictable at just the wrong moments.

Houston’s attack was nothing to shake a stick at, either. James Harden‘s scored just 19 points on 5-of-21 shooting, and as a unit the Rockets doled out 12 assists. Incessant switching and a tendency to hound the ball on defense allowed Houston to force a whopping 18 turnovers from Golden State. It was the most important statistic of the game for the Rockets, who scored 18 points on those turnovers despite being outpaced in 3-point shooting, points in the paint, and in fastbreak buckets.

Then, the fourth quarter happened. Everything changed, and as we are wont to do, the game felt much cleaner. Both teams had their energy up, they traded baskets, and the lead went back-and-forth.

Enter Chris Paul.

Houston’s point guard was the savior, scoring 20 points on a piddly 6-of-19 shooting performance. But Paul’s box score did not tell the tale of his impact on the game. Several times with the shot clock winding down, Paul came up with big beyond-the-arc buckets, at one point hitting one over Curry, giving him back a shoulder shimmy much the way the Warriors point guard did in Game 4.

Paul’s leadership pushed Houston forward, but his commitment during Game 5 might get overlooked after the Rockets point guard was forced to check out of the game after a play with 51 seconds remaining. On a floater in the lane, Paul appeared to hurt his right hamstring. Unable to play, Paul had to watch the final minute from the Houston bench, and his availability for Game 6 is currently up in the air.

It was ugly and it was gritty, but the Rockets beat Golden State on Thursday night, 98-94, to take Game 5 and a 3-2 series win as the Western Conference Finals heads back to Oakland.

Now, we look toward Game 6 in California on Saturday, May 26 at 6:00 PM PST.

Eric Gordon buckets, Draymond Green turnover seals game for Rockets

Getty Images
8 Comments

For the second game in a row, the Houston Rockets were clutch in the fourth quarter and the defending champion Warriors clanked and fumbled their way to a loss.

Houston won Game 3 98-94 because down the stretch Eric Gordon made plays (and free throws) and Draymond Green fumbled away the Warriors chance.

It started with the Rockets up one with less than two minutes to go, when Eric Gordon — who led the Rockets with 24 points — drained a three that gave Houston some breathing room.

Six seconds later, Draymond Green answered with a three to keep it a one-point game.

With 10 seconds left in the game, a Trevor Ariza free throw made it a two-point game, giving the Warriors a chance to come down and tie or win. Then Green did this.

Gordon was fouled, hit two free throws, and it was ballgame.

The Rockets are now up 3-2 in the series and are one win away from the Finals.

Draymond Green thought Warriors might trade him after fight with Steve Kerr

2 Comments

Draymond Green is the backbone of the Golden State Warriors, not just because he was the 2016-17 NBA Defensive Player of the Year. Green sort of does it all, including passing, scoring, rebounding, and myriad other scrap work that doesn’t show up on regular box scores.

But there was some doubt in Green’s mind in 2016 that he would stay with the team. Green was involved in an argument during a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and after things settled down the Warriors big man was concerned the team might trade him.

The thought of doing so is sort of ridiculous, but apparently that was something that flashed into Green’s mind given the tenseness of the situation between he and Kerr.

Via Bleacher Report:

But Green’s mood was still foul, and he left the arena that day believing his days as a Warrior were numbered. He feared the relationship had been fractured, that the Warriors would choose Kerr over him. That he’d be traded.

“One hundred percent,” Green tells B/R. “Especially with the success that he was having as a coach. Like, you just don’t get rid of that.”

The thing that makes Golden State great isn’t just the players, or the system, or Kerr. It’s the human resources management aspect of their organization that allows them to compete on the court in the way they do.

It’s not crazy to think that a player could be shipped out of town thanks to a disagreement with a coach, although the leverage players have these days likely has put a stop to that realistically happening. But that Kerr, Green, and management were able to get things back under control that season was to the benefit of everyone involved.