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Stephen Curry’s effect on Warriors even more apparent since injury

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) β€” Stephen Curry pumped his fists and flexed his biceps. He dangled that signature mouthpiece from his teeth in sheer delight.

Oh, and he knocked down some of those familiar way-back 3-pointers, too.

Yes, Golden State’s sharp-shooting star is feeling it again, and he’s proud to be, in his words, “that presence that kind of gets us going.”

In a 32-point, nine-assist performance against Denver on Monday, Curry wound up 9 for 17 overall while making 5 of 10 3-pointers. But he’s a menace for opposing defenses even without his best shot.

Curry’s mere existence on the court makes every Warrior better. Teammate Draymond Green shot 42.1 percent from the field while Curry missed 11 games with a sprained right ankle. In the five games since Curry’s return, Green has hit 55.6 percent. Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala have also shot better since Curry came back.

“That’s why he’s a two-time MVP in this league, that’s why we have two championships,” Green said. “He’s become the superstar that he has even on a night where it wasn’t quite his night, he filled the stat sheet up like that and impacted the game. Even if he didn’t have 32 points and nine assists, what he brings to our offense and all the attention that he draws that gets me open shots … he creates a lot of mismatches on the floor for the defense.”

The reigning Western Conference player of the week, Curry has scored 29 or more points in seven straight games. He’s gone over 30 points in six of those seven games and 12 times overall this season.

He’s been practically unstoppable since returning from injury, averaging 35.2 points over that span as well as 5.6 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 1.4 steals in 32.4 minutes. Curry also has four or more 3-pointers in seven straight games.

The Warriors have needed his steady hand with playmaking sidekick and Finals MVP Kevin Durant sitting out the past three games with a strained right calf. Durant is expected back for Wednesday’s home game against the Clippers.

Curry also had six turnovers Monday night, so coach Steve Kerr hardly considered it one of his star’s best games.

That’s fine with Curry.

“Every game’s not going to be pretty. I love being held to that high standard. That’s what kind of keeps me motivated,” he said. “When you can look at that line and find things that I can do better, which nobody needs to tell me that I already know.”

The good news is Curry’s footwork hasn’t been hampered by the ankle injury. It’s something David West and Green respect in particular, even if it’s not the showiest talent for the shoot-from-anywhere point guard.

“I think people get caught up in the flashy stuff, but his footwork is incredible,” West said. “I think that’s the one thing that kind of gets lost in it. If you’re a basketball person you understand that footwork is sort of the foundation. I don’t think we’ve seen the type of footwork he has. He gets his feet set on every single shot, he’s never out of range.”

Curry works hard on that footwork in the offseason. It’s what allows him to have such a quick release, even if he’s catching the ball on the move or with his body facing half-court.

“If you’ve got slow feet or shaky balance, it throws your rhythm off and your consistency,” he said. “I wouldn’t say I have like wide-receiver feet, where they’ve got the quick jabs and they can change direction up like that. I just feel like I’m always in balance, and that’s what helps me get my shot off quick and stay in a solid rhythm through my shot and be able to handle the ball and try to be creative.”

Curry will try to dazzle again Wednesday night for the Warriors, who look to extend their winning streak to six games.

“He’s fast with the ball but he’s not the fastest guy in the world. He’s pretty strong but he’s not the strongest guy in the world, but his footwork is so good that for what speed he may not have, it makes him way faster because of how good his footwork is,” Green said. “He’s probably faster than someone that may be faster than him because he kind of dances. He should go on Dancing with the Stars.”

Curry chuckled about that idea. Alas, he loves his day job, and his first choice for a second career would be as part owner for his hometown Carolina Panthers.

“I will not take Draymond’s advice and go on Dancing with the Stars,” he said. “I’ll just keep shooting jump shots.”

 

Lakers headed to second straight Summer League title game

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LAS VEGAS (AP) β€” Josh Hart scored 37 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to a 112-109 double-overtime victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday in the semifinals of the NBA Summer League.

Los Angeles advanced to the championship game for a second straight year after winning the 2017 title behind game MVP Kyle Kuzma and league MVP Lonzo Ball.

The Lakers will play Portland, which knocked off Memphis in the other semi-final.

Xavier Rathan-Mayes made the play of the game when he snatched a loose ball and fed Jeff Ayres with a pretty touch pass under the basket with 45 seconds left in the second overtime. Rathan-Mayes followed Ayres’ lay-in with a slashing lay-up to put the Lakers up 110-106 with 22 seconds left.

Cleveland’s Billy Preston missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Svi Mykhailiuk scored 31 points for the Lakers (6-0), while Ayres added 20.

Collin Sexton led the Cavaliers with 27 points, while Jamel Artis and John Holland each scored 17.

Trailing 105-102 in the first overtime after Sexton made a short jumper, Rathan-Mayes buried a 3-pointer to tie the score. Hart made it 106-105 by hitting the second of two free throws with 5.7 seconds remaining. Sexton did the same at the other end, splitting two free throws and tying it at 106 with 3.3 seconds left.

The Cavaliers (5-2) erased an early 11-point deficit and tied the score at 95, when Vladimir Brodziansky buried a 3-pointer with 2:00 left in regulation.

After Mykhailiuk made one of two free throws to give the Lakers a 96-95 lead with a little more than a minute left, Hart grabbed a defensive rebound and at the other end dished to Mykhailiuk, who hit a running jumper just above the free throw line to push the lead to 98-95.

But Sexton answered with a 3-pointer to tie the score with 26 seconds left. Hart missed a 3-pointer with 3.0 seconds left, and Sexton missed one from long range at the buzzer.

The Lakers went on an 18-2 run to take a 28-17 lead led by Mykhailiuk, who was 4-for-4 from long-range in the first quarter. Los Angeles shot 50 percent (9 of 18) in the opening period and was 5 for 9 (55 percent) from beyond the 3-point line.

Hart took over in the second quarter, scoring 10 of his 14 first-half points to help the Lakers take a 50-47 lead at halftime.

USA Basketball to host World Cup qualifier vs. Uruguay on Sept. 14 in Las Vegas

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (AP) β€” USA Basketball’s quest to qualify for next year’s FIBA World Cup will resume Sept. 14 in Las Vegas, where the Americans will face Uruguay.

That will be the first U.S. game in the second qualifying round for next year’s world championships in China.

Like the first round, the U.S. will continue being coached by Jeff Van Gundy and will have a roster made up primarily of G League players. The Americans went 5-1 in the first round.

The U.S. and Uruguay are among 12 teams from the Americas zone vying for seven World Cup spots. The others are Argentina, Panama, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, Chile, Canada, the Dominican Republic and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The United States is a heavy favorite to qualify, then will send NBA players to China for the World Championships (there is a workout for some of those players coming up in Las Vegas in a week).

Second-round qualifying ends in late February. The World Cup begins in August 2019.

Mavericks sign second-round pick Jalen Brunson to first-rounder style contract

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Dallas is excited about the potential of Jalen Brunson.

The point guard who led Villanova to a national championship last April fell to the 33rd pick in the draft last June, high in the second round, and Dallas traded up a spot to get him from Atlanta. The Mavericks were ecstatic, and to the surprise of nobody they have reached terms on a contract with him.

What is a bit of a surprise is the Mavericks gave him a first-rounder style contract β€” four years with some guaranteed money for the first three of them β€” reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

At Summer League in Las Vegas Brunson showed the qualities that Dallas liked in him β€” he’s a high IQ player with polish, and he’s a pass-first floor general β€” but his weaknesses were also exposed. He has to shoot better (23 percent in Summer League) and his defense needs to improve.

Both of those can happen, Summer League is more of a chance for teams to benchmark players than make decisions about them. Brunson reportedly has a great work ethic, he can figure the NBA game out.

Dallas is betting that he will.

Kemba Walker: “As far as seeing me in New York, I doubt it”

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Kemba Walker is an All-Star level point guard who is heading into a contract season β€” he is a free agent in 2019. Walker is also a New York native, born in the Bronx he attended Rice High School in Harlem.

Combine all that with the fact both the Knicks and Nets will have enough cap space for a max (or more than one max) contract next summer, and you’ve got yourself a rumor.

One Walker shot down talking to Michael Scotto of The Athletic.

β€œAs far as seeing me in New York, I doubt it,” Walker replied. β€œI’m a Hornet, and I’m planning on being a Hornet for a long time, so, yeah, I’m not sure about that (New York).”

Walker has said many times he wants to stay in Charlotte (providing they pay the market rate and are trying to compete).

That said, this is the NBA, so never say never.

A lot of NBA teams have been poised, waiting to see if new Hornets’ GM Mitch Kupchak β€” with the approval of Michael Jordan β€” decided to go full rebuild and trade Walker this summer. He has not, talking only about keeping this squad together. The Hornets are a solid team with Walker and Nicolas Batum leading the way, one that could make the playoffs in the East if things break right for new coach James Borrego. However, they will not be anywhere near contenders and if things don’t fall their way they may well miss the playoffs next season. Again. The Hornets also are not a bad team, meaning they are not going to get a high pick (without some lottery luck). They are stuck in the NBA’s middle ground, a place most GMs want to avoid.

Trading Walker could jump-start the rebuild in Charlotte, but the Hornets don’t seem to be going that direction. Yet. This summer they signed Tony Parker, Malik Monk looked good in Summer League, and they got Dwight Howard out of the locker room. They say they are a team poised to make a playoff push.

If that push falls apart early in Charlotte, watch and see if their plans change. And what that could mean for Walker. And the Knicks.

However, as of now, Walker wants to remain a Hornet, and they want to keep him. Which crowds New York out of the picture.