Associated Press

Report: Warriors “don’t fear” Russell Westbrook due to playing style

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It’s one of the most debated questions around the NBA heading into the season:

What team has the best shot at knocking off the Warriors?

Let’s be honest, “knocking off the Warriors” involves Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, or maybe Draymond Green rolling his ankle (or otherwise being injured) and missing a playoff series. But if that happens, what team has a shot? Cleveland has come closest in recent years and may top that list, and Houston has the tools to score with the Warriors (if they can get stops is another question).

There are some in the Thunder camp — they are a good defensive team that now have added Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to the Russell Westbrook show.

Except the Warriors “don’t fear” Westbrook, something ESPN’s Zach Lowe said on his The Lowe Post podcast, echoing what Jack McCallum said in his book “Golden Days.” The problem, as Lowe put it, is Westbrook’s “style of play is so easy to defend; it’s like cake to them.” (Hat tip Bleacher Report.)

First, do the Warriors fear anyone?

Second, what they say is true of Westbrook’s “me against the world” isolation style of last season, it was defendable by good defensive teams. While Westbrook’s raw numbers were good against the Warriors — 27.3 points, 10 rebounds, and 9.5 assists per game — he shot just 37.5 percent, he averaged 8 turnovers a game, and when he was on the floor the Thunder were outscored by 23.9 points per game.

This gets to the heart of the Thunder’s challenge this season — will Westbrook, George, and Anthony make the sacrifices necessary to win? Will Anthony willingly be a dangerous spot-up guy for stretches while Westbrook and George run pick-and-roll off each other? Can Westbrook forget the raw numbers, focus on getting his teammates involved, and be a true leader of an elite team? More importantly, can all these guys figure it out in one season and be a real threat by the playoffs? (Remember in Miami how it took LeBron’s big three basically a season and a half to put it all together? This squad may not have that much time as constructed.)

The Thunder are potentially the second best team in the NBA, but living up to that is another thing entirely.

Andre Iguodala out for Warriors again in Game 5; Klay Thompson available

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The Warriors missed Andre Iguodala in Game 4 against Houston. They don’t have a Death/Hamptons 5 lineup without him. Without his depth, the Warriors had to lean more on players such as Kevon Looney (who started), Nick Young, and others who are can be a liability at the high level of play in this series. Not having Iguodala to keep minutes down, play fierce defense, move the ball on offense, and be a stabilizing force was one of the issues that led to the Warriors fourth-quarter issues in Game 4.

Now they are without him for Game 5, too.

Having Klay Thompson on the court is huge for Golden State, although it will be worth monitoring to see how he moves.

The Warriors have gotten sucked into the switching/isolation game the Rockets want to play, if they are going to take Game 5 on the road they need to get back to “the beautiful game” they want to play. That would have been easier with Iguodala.

Two years after NBA retirement, Amar’e Stoudemire talking comeback

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NBA teams seemed to have moved on from Amar’e Stoudemire. After an impressive NBA career — five-time All-NBA, Rookie of the Year, six-time All-Star — he wasn’t physically the explosive player that dazzled with the Suns. Teams were interested in getting younger and more athletic, and Stoudemire was doing neither. He retired from the NBA and played for a season in Israel where he won a league title. This summer he’s signed up to play with the Big3.

After that he’,d like another crack at the NBA. When asked about an NBA comeback, here’s what Stoudemire told CBS Sports’ Bill Reiter on ‘Reiter’s Block’:

“I am. I am. I’m definitely planning on (coming back). I’ve been training like you wouldn’t believe, my body feels great. I had an amazing year last year playing overseas and so I’m gonna definitely continue to work my way back to top shape and see if there’s a team that needs my talents.”

I’m not sure there’s going to be much demand. Maybe a team does an old friend a favor and brings him in for some workouts. However, his knees and body struggled with the physical grind of the NBA the final few seasons of his career, and it’s unlikely with age that got better. No doubt he’s worked on his conditioning and strength, but Father Time always wins the race and it already felt like this chase was over.

That said, good on Stoudemire for not giving up on the dream. His agent should be making calls, maybe he can become the second player to make the Big3 to NBA leap.

 

 

Kristaps Porzingis after conversation with David Fizdale: ‘Man im excited!’

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David Fizdale learned a lot of lessons in his first go around as a head coach, spending 101 games with the Memphis Grizzlies. At the top of the list: Build a strong bond with your star player. Or else.

Fizdale is trying to do that, saying he would fly to Latvia this summer to spend time with Kristaps Porzingis. But first came a phone call, and that seemed to go very well.

It’s not just Porzingis. Fizdale was bonding with Frank Ntilikina, Emmanuel Mudiay, and Damyean Dotson on Wednesday night in Boston. A little “this is where we want to be” motivation.

Good on Fizdale for all of this.

The Knicks got the best coach for them on the board in Fizdale, and so far the new front office — general manager Scott Perry and president Steve Mills — are making smart decisions. Knicks fans should be optimistic. Knicks ownership just needs to be patient (not James Dolan’s strong suit), because with no Porzingis for a large portion if not all of next season the team will struggle. Wins will be hard to come by. Fizdale needs a season to develop players and lay the foundation for what he wants to build, while the new front office needs time to clean up the salary cap mess that is New York right now.

With some patience, the Knicks could have something special in a few years. And Fizdale may have found the right home for his talents because he’s already got players buying in.

Report: Police officers involved in Sterling Brown’s arrest suspended 15, 10 and two days

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Bucks guard Sterling Brown was tased and arrested in January despite not being violent or overly combative while being questioned about a parking violation.

Gina Barton, Mary Spicuzza and Ashley Luthern of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

The Milwaukee police officer who first confronted Milwaukee Bucks rookie Sterling Brown outside a Walgreens in January was suspended for two days, the Journal Sentinel has learned.

Two supervisors who later arrived, escalating the situation, were suspended for 10 and 15 days, sources said. Several other officers were reprimanded.

I don’t know whether these suspensions are the appropriate punishment.

But police too often trampling on the rights of people, especially minorities, is a far greater problem than these three officers and this incident.