Gerald Green’s 3-point outburst will force Warriors to start thinking about the Rockets

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A few days before Christmas, Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said that the team was obsessed with ways to beat the Golden State Warriors. That comment perked ears on many sides, mostly due to the audacity of an NBA GM admitting that a large portion of brainpower was being spent trying to beat just one opponent.

Indeed, the Rockets roster is built to battle against the Warriors perhaps explicitly. Whatever the case, Warriors coach Steve Kerr responded by saying that the Warriors themselves don’t happen to think about the Rockets.

This cordial back-and-forth prompted several to invoke a famous scene from AMC’s Mad Men in which copywriter Michael Ginsberg tells Don Draper that he pities the handsome ad man. The response from Draper?

“I don’t think about you at all.”

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmcqrAopaLs&w=560&h=315%5D

Of course, the context from this moment from the long-hailed TV show often gets lost in the monoculture as it continues to get referenced years after its airing.

The irony is that both Ginsburg and Draper’s comments are vastly untrue. Ginsburg — a counterculture jokester with golden ideas — envies Draper despite all his bloviating to the opposite. And indeed, Draper spent much of Season 5 feeling threatened by Ginsburg’s obvious genius, going so far as to leave the copywriter’s idea for Sno-Ball in a taxi as a means of sabotage — the very issue the two were discussing in the iconic scene.

So when this moment gets referenced, especially as a means to find an analogue in the sports world, it gets used in a way which both satisfies what the forgetful think it represents while simultaneously speaking the truth about the coaches, players, and GMs who speak in platitudes; of simply moving to the next game, taking it one day at a time, and living the now.

It’s all complete nonsense, but no side is supposed to speak the truth. You can play it open or play it coy, but the pack will often to try to bluff one another about their true thoughts.

Kerr and the Warriors are consummate professionals, and although the organization isn’t exactly chocked full of guys who are tight-lipped, they do tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to openly calling out or alerting opponents. Perhaps something in their past has prompted this.

At the same time, it was refreshing when Morey said what was ostensibly the only logical, human response when conversation about the reigning champs comes up and you’re the GM of the challenger in that conference. Yes, we want to beat them. Of course we do. You’d be full of it if you said you were answering truthfully any other way.

Houston has done quite a bit to move toward legitimacy as they try to challenge Golden State. They’ve found a way to masterfully integrate an offense that includes both Chris Paul and James Harden. They’ve jumped eight spots on defense, and are now a Top 10 team in terms of defensive efficiency. They look much better on that side of the ball as well, with Harden looking like he’s turned back the clock to his Oklahoma City days in terms of effort.

So too have roster changes signaled an alignment with Morey’s obsession. When the Rockets took a chance on Gerald Green at the end of December, the 10-year veteran fresh off his couch felt like a bit of a stretch.

But instead, Green has played masterfully. He’s averaging double-digit points per-game while shooting above 50 percent both from the field and from 3-point range. In Thursday night’s matchup against the Warriors, Green was near unstoppable, going 8-of-15 beyond the arc to add 29 points off the bench for the Harden-less Rockets.

How’s that for a complete shot in the dark?

While the Warriors won Thursday’s game, 124-114, the caveats were noticeable. Missing Kevin Durant, Golden State really only took over in the final nine minutes. Before that, it took a near-perfect performance from the Warriors to override the Rockets, who played back cuts and floppy patterns for the Golden State shooters well despite missing Luc Mbah a Moute.

The double-digit win for the Warriors didn’t feel like a defeat until the very end thanks to the likes of Chris Paul and Green. There’s hope yet that we will get to see both teams at full strength in the playoffs as we did in the first game of the year, when the Rockets beat Golden State.

For now, it appears that Morey is making good on his statement of being obsessed with beating the champs any way he can, even if that means pulling a former NBA Dunk Contest champion out of obscurity to shoot unlimited 3-pointers.

The Warriors will need to start thinking about the Rockets if, as they say, they aren’t doing so already. Like with Don Draper, I don’t believe they aren’t for a second.

Let’s just hope the Rockets don’t cut off their ear trying to beat Golden State.

Heat, Tyler Herro agree to four-year, $120 million extension (with $10 million in incentives)

Miami Heat Media Day
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Tyler Herro was frustrated — he saw players he felt he was better than getting paid.

Now he has a contract he will have to live up to.

The Heat have signed Herro to a four-year, $120 million extension of his rookie contract, with up to $10 million in incentives) a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and now confirmed by the team.

Herro went to Twitter to confirm the deal himself.

“Tyler is an impact multi-faceted player and we are excited to have him signed for the next five years,” Heat President Pat Riley said in the statement announcing the signing. “His improvement every year since we drafted him has led to this day. We believe he will continue to get better.”

This is a straight four years, no options for either side.

Signing an extension takes Herro off the table for any trades to upgrade the Heat roster this season. Herro had been at the heart of the rumors about the Heat and Kevin Durant, as well as other teams.

Herro’s new contract extension is a big bet on the wing taking another step forward this season and beyond. The deal is a little larger than expected (the conventional wisdom had Herro coming in close to the $107 million RJ Barrett got with the Knicks). Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel and I have discussed Herro’s price before and didn’t quite picture it this high, but with the rising cap over the next few years this deal may not look out of line.

Miami stepped up and paid the reigning Sixth Man of the Year high-level starter money — now he has to earn that job and that paycheck.

Mostly, he has to improve on defense so Eric Spoelstra can trust him at the end of games and deep into the playoffs (while Herro has had big playoff games, his role shrunk deeper in last postseason because of his defense).

Herro puts up numbers — 20.7 points a game on 39.9% from 3 last season — and is the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, but does this new deal move him up in the Heat offensive pecking order with Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler? Probably not in crunch time (and if Kyle Lowry bounces back this season, there could be games where Herro is option No.4).

This locks up part of Miami’s roster going into the season, but they are still on the look for depth at the four. Don’t consider this roster settled.

 

Watch Celtics shooters look sharp in easy preseason win over Hornets

Charlotte Hornets v Boston Celtics
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It’s just one meanless preseason game, but for a franchise that could use some good news the Boston Celtics will take it.

The Celtics’ shooting looked in mid-season form in their preseason opener against the Hornets on Sunday — 57.1% overall and 22-of-47 from 3 (46.8%). Boston just couldn’t seem to miss, especially early.

Jayson Tatum had 16 points in 22 minutes, while Jaylen Brown was the leading scorer with 24 points in 24 minutes.

The one unexpected bright spot was a strong game from Mfiondu Kabengele, who is currently on a two-way contract with the team. He ended up with 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting and showed some hustle.

Kelly Oubre led the Hornets with 17 points, while LaMelo Ball had 14 points, seven rebounds and four dimes.

It’s just one preseason game, don’t read much of anything into it. But the Celtics will take the good news where they can find it.

T.J. Warren still out for Nets; team to reassess status in November

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The Brooklyn Nets bet that the T.J. Warren from the bubble in Orlando — the one who averaged 26.6 points and 6.3 rebounds a game for the Pacers — would re-emerge and give them a quality forward they could mix into a deep rotation.

Instead, so far it has looked more like the Warren who has played just four games since the bubble due to stress fractures in his foot.

Warren is improving and the Nets are bringing him along slowly, keeping him off the court until November at least, reports Brian Lewis of the New York Post.

Small forward T.J. Warren, who has missed nearly two full seasons following multiple foot surgeries, is “doing some shooting” and “a little bit more movement the last two weeks than he was prior,” Nash said. He added that Warren will be reassessed in about a month.

The Nets can afford to be patient. They have plenty of other questions to answer as a team before worrying about what Warren can or cannot contribute. But in the dream scenario where everything comes together for the Nets this season, Warren gets healthy and becomes a valuable contributor off the bench giving the Nets more versatility, scoring, and shooting along the front line.

For now, the Nets and Warren wait.

NBA returning to Seattle for exhibition game; when will it be more?

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SEATTLE — An NBA preseason game may not seem like a benchmark moment, even in a basketball-hungry city like Seattle, but Jamal Crawford believes there’s value even in an exhibition.

“It reignites a whole new generation of kids who need to see this,” said Crawford, a Seattle native who has been a basketball ambassador for the city through a 20-year NBA career and now with a pro-am that brings in NBA players every summer. “They need to be able to dream and know that it’s real.”

The NBA is making its latest brief return to the Emerald City. The Los Angeles Clippers will play the Portland Trail Blazers there on Monday night, the first time two NBA teams will meet in Seattle since 2018, when the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings played a preseason game. That was the last sporting event inside KeyArena before it was gutted and rebuilt into the gleaming Climate Pledge Arena.

There was a warm-up act of sorts Friday when the Clippers played Israeli team Maccabi Ra’anana in an exhibition, one where the most of the Clippers’ big names – Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, John Wall and Reggie Jackson – weren’t participating.

A sell-out crowd turned out for that Warriors-Kings game four years ago, the first one in Seattle since the beloved SuperSonics left for Oklahoma City in 2008 after 41 years in the Pacific Northwest. Another big crowd is expected Monday.

“The Sonics haven’t been a team since I’ve been in the NBA. So just to go play in Seattle is cool,” Blazers star Damian Lillard said. “We played in Vancouver a few years back. I think like two or three years ago, we had a preseason game at the (Memorial) Coliseum. So every time we get to do something like that, I always enjoy it because I wondered what was it like when it was a real thing, when the games were played in these different arenas. So I am excited to play in Seattle.”

Someday, possibly soon, the expectations are that Seattle will reclaim its place as an NBA town.

“It’s always been a great city to me,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said Friday. “It’s unfortunate that they lost their team and the team went to OKC. This city definitely deserves a team.”

Speculation is nonstop about when the NBA will choose to expand. Thanks to the resolution of its arena situation, Seattle seems likely to be at the forefront of those expansion talks, with Las Vegas likely right behind it.

But NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has been noncommittal about a possible expansion timeline, and it seems likely those talks won’t pick up steam until the league deals with the new collective bargaining agreement and television deals that are on the horizon.

The community’s commitment has never been in question. The appetite of Seattle fans hasn’t waned in the years since the Sonics left and as the region became a hotbed for NBA talent, whether it was Crawford continuing to carry the banner for the city, to Zach LaVine of Renton, Washington, to this year’s No. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero, another Seattle native.

As if any reinforcement was needed, the summer provided a perfect example as fans camped overnight outside Crawford’s summer league venue for the chance to get inside and watch LeBron James make his first basketball visit to the city in more than a decade.

“Anyone that knows Seattle knows what a great basketball city we are,” Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell said this summer when the preseason game was announced.

The idea for having the Blazers and Clippers meet in Seattle was the result of a brainstorm between Lue and Blazers coach Chauncey Billups. The two close friends wanted their teams to meet in the preseason and Lue noted the owners for both teams are Seattle based: Steve Ballmer of the Clippers and Jody Allen for the Blazers.

“I haven’t been back since I played there in 2008, I think it was. So just to be able to go back there and you know, Mr. Ballmer and kind of see his offices and how he lives, and (Chauncey) to get a chance to see his owner, and then to be with my best friend, I thought it would be a great common ground,” Lue said.