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Former ABA players see similarities in today’s pro game

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Basketball Hall of Famers George Gervin and George McGinnis see a lot of their old league in today’s NBA.

Their former teammates notice it, too.

Five decades ago, they were the guys running the floor, embracing the 3-pointers and welcoming underclassmen. They understood the entertainment value of high-scoring games, dunk contests and halftime shows. They valued rivalries, camaraderie and the sense everyone in the sport was working toward a single goal.

Today the business model first adopted by the American Basketball Association has largely become the standard operating procedure for the world’s biggest basketball league.

“When the merger happened, we knew the NBA was going to have a strong foundation,” Gervin said Saturday in Indianapolis. “People talk about how Magic (Johnson) and (Larry) Bird saved the NBA. I think it’s ludicrous because we gave the NBA an infusion of excitement that made the league fun again.”

Just about any player in town for the league’s 50-year reunion knows the truth.

Aside from the league’s trademark red, white and blue basketball that served as a center piece for the dinner, just about everything else the league innovated with has eventually made its way to its rival league.

Some of it was borne out of necessity.

Most ABA teams lacked the size or the star power of the more established NBA, so they relied on tempo, showmanship and pizazz to attract fans. Gervin earned the nickname “Iceman” in San Antonio. Julius Erving became better known as “Dr. J.”

Playoff series got nicknames, too, and there were times the backstories seemed as every bit as wild as the social culture of the 1960s and 1970s.

“The league had to have an identity,” Gervin said. “You call it wild. I call it fun.”

The biggest secret was that amid all the fanfare, there was some darn good basketball being played.

Numerous former ABA stars including Erving, Rick Barry, Moses Malone have been inducted into the Hall of Fame. So has Spencer Haywood, one of the sport’s most important pioneers.

Haywood became the first underclassmen to declare he was leaving school after his sophomore season at the University of Detroit and was shunned by the NBA, prompting a Supreme Court case Haywood would eventually win in 1971.

The NBA still balked.

“It set the tone for a lot of things that are happening today,” said McGinnis, another underclassman who joined the ABA’s Pacers after turning pro. “Roger Brown and Connie Hawkins weren’t allowed to play in their prime in the NBA because they got blackballed by the NBA. And Roger didn’t get to play at all because he was 28 or 29 when he came to the Pacers. But it was those type of guys who laid the foundation for guys like myself and those who are entering the league today.”

Haywood was back in Indy, too, enjoying he stories and seeing old friends.

He also was here for a purpose. While the Dropping Dimes Foundation, which put on the reunion, is trying to help provide health care for former ABA players, Haywood has taken it a step further.

As the new chairman of the board for the NBA’s Retired Players Association, he is putting on a full-court press to advocate bringing players from the now defunct league into the NBARPA’s health insurance policy. The league’s current players contribute more than $16 million to the fund.

“We have about 100 or 150 players who don’t have much, so my mission now is to get all of the ABA players covered with health insurance,” he said. “And I know they (the current) players will take care of it.”

But this night was a celebration.

With highlight reels playing over and over, many old players donning their shiny championship rings and the Pacers bringing out one of their three championship trophies, the talk inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse was more about satisfaction that the league had accomplished something many doubted it could.

“You look at everything, you look at the halftime events, that’s all from us,” Haywood said. “The 3-point contents, the dunk contests that was all us. It’s all ABA, baby.”

Blazers win 2018 NBA Las Vegas Summer League Championship vs. Lakers

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The Portland Trail Blazers are your 2018 NBA Las Vegas Summer League Champions. I want Multnomah County just to drink that in for a minute.

Tuesday night’s Final was not a close one, with the Trail Blazers in control of the game for most of the time. Portland jumped out to an early 31-19 lead, and were led by KJ McDaniels, who eventually took home the championship game’s MVP honors.

On the other side of the floor, it was Summer League MVP Josh Hart who had been ejected in the fourth quarter. Portland’s largest lead was 24 points, and it was surely a frustrating night for the young Lakers Squad.

Via Twitter:

McDaniels led the way for Portland, finishing with 17 points, seven rebounds, and one assist on 57 percent shooting from the field. The Blazers had six players in double figures, and helped shut down LA from 3-point range, forcing them to shoot just 3-of-21 from deep.

Hart scored 12 points for the Lakers, and Los Angeles had just three players in double figures. As a team, LA shot 39 percent from the field during the 18-point loss.

This Summer League playoff win doesn’t quite make up for the 2000 Western Conference Finals between these two rivals, But Blazers fans have to be happy that their team at least got a sniff of a deep playoff run.

No doubt they will be partying on SE Division tonight.

Lakers’ Josh Hart get ejected during Summer League Final (VIDEO)

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Josh Hart was the Las Vegas Summer League MVP for the Los Angeles Lakers. He scored a whopping 37 points during Monday night’s 2OT win against the Cleveland Cavaliers, but apparently it was just too much of him to finish Tuesday’s Final against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Hart didn’t agree with an official’s decision — presumably on a no-call — late in the fourth quarter, and he had some choice words for the referee as the floor changed possession. The Lakers guard already had one technical foul from earlier in the game, so his second earned him an ejection. It was his second of Summer League.

That’s not necessarily a good look for Hart, although it’s not as though Summer League has a real impact on a player’s career in the long run.

Should Hart have been upset that he did not get a foul? Probably not, seeing as how he led with his elbow. No doubt Lakers brass will be more concerned by the fact that he was ejected from not one but two Summer League games during his MVP run.

Hart will have to get his emotions under control as we head into the regular season for Los Angeles.

The Trail Blazers beat the Lakers in the Final, 91-73, with KJ McDaniels taking home the championship game MVP honors.

Watch Collin Sexton try to intimidate Josh Hart with this weird sumo flex (VIDEO)

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Collin Sexton is presumably the future of the Cleveland Cavaliers after LeBron James decided to decamp his home state for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Along with Kevin Love, Sexton will be a player to watch over the coming season as the Cavaliers try to remain relevant in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, Sexton has already drawn some attention in Las Vegas Summer League for his performance, and not just as a point guard.

It appears that Sexton is a student of the theatrical arts as well.

Via Twitter:

It’s not really clear whether Sexton was able to intimidate Hart with his strange sumo flex. Although Hart didn’t score on that possession, he did score 37 points in a 2OT game which LA won. Hart was also named the Las Vegas Summer League MVP.

We will see whether Sexton decides to deploy this defensive strategy over the course of the regular season. I personally hope he does it every possession.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr receives contract extension

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr has received a contract extension following the franchise’s repeat championship and third title in four years during his tenure.

Kerr and general manager Bob Myers, who are close friends and colleagues, said when the season ended that something would get done quickly once they began formal discussions. Kerr had one year remaining on his original $25 million, five-year contract. Details of the extension were not announced Tuesday.

“We’re excited to have Steve under contract and poised to lead our team for the next several years,” Myers said in a statement released by the team. “Under his guidance, we’ve been fortunate enough to win three NBA titles in four years and his ability to thrive in all facets of his job is certainly a primary reason for our success. He’s a terrific coach, but more importantly an incredible human being.”

The 52-year-old Kerr has said he hopes to coach at least another decade and perhaps 15 years. His Warriors swept LeBron James and Cleveland in the fourth straight NBA Finals matchups between the rivals.

Kerr stayed healthy and on the bench while continuing to deal with symptoms such as headaches and dizzy spells stemming from a pair of back surgeries following the 2015 title.

The Warriors marked themselves as a dynasty with their latest crown. They joined Bill Russell’s Boston Celtics, the Chicago Bulls led by Michael Jordan and the Lakers’ trio of title runs fueled by George Mikan in the 1950s, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the `80s, and Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant nearly 20 years ago as the only franchises in NBA history to capture three championships in four years.

Golden State captured the franchise’s first title in 40 years during 2014-15, with Kerr as a rookie head coach. Now, the Warriors are gearing up for one more season in Oracle Arena before opening their state-of-the-art Chase Center in San Francisco’s Mission Bay neighborhood in August 2019.

James offered a shoutout to Kerr during the finals.

“I could sit here and say today – `Listen, Golden State is a great team …’ – I didn’t even mention their head coach,” James said. “Their head coach is the one who kind of puts it all together, makes it all flow. To be able to put egos and the right position and spot on the floor where everybody feels good about the outcome and things of that nature – when it comes to team sports, that’s something that you would hope that you could be a part of.”

Kerr owns a 265-63 record (.808), guiding the Warriors to a record 73-win season in 2015-16 before a runner-up finish to the Cavaliers. His Warriors then went a record 16-1 during the 2017 postseason on the way to another title.

He was tested more as a coach this season, aside from his 43-game absence to begin the 2015-16 season when then-top assistant and current Lakers coach Luke Walton led the Warriors to a record 24-0 start and 39-4 mark before Kerr’s return to the bench.

Late in the regular season this year, Golden State lost seven of 10 during one noteworthy funk for a team that when healthy starts four All-Stars and can score in flurries with a pass-happy offense that racks up assists.

For weeks ahead of the 2018 playoffs, the Warriors hardly looked like that super team that dominated through the previous postseason. They lost their final regular-season game at Utah by 40 points.

Yet Kerr and his players insisted all along they would find another level when there was something bigger to play for.

Kerr was forced to use a mindboggling 27 different starting lineups to get through the regular season and wind up a No. 2 seed behind Houston, with the Western Conference finals marking the first time the Warriors had to open a series on the road since 2014.

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