Warriors’ shooters handle their off-nights in different ways

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — When Stephen Curry‘s shot needs a little something, he dives into “The Menu.” Warriors teammate Klay Thompson might put up a few extra shots after an off night. If Kevin Durant is trying to rediscover his rhythm, he does some studying that usually means watching his made shots.

Golden State boasts some of the world’s best shooters and each has his own way of bouncing back from a poor performance.

For Curry, there is no actual list or book for “The Menu.” The two-time MVP and his right-hand shooting man, Bruce Fraser, keep all the details in their heads for what the record-breaking 3-point sharpshooter could use work on any given day. It comes in especially handy when the shots aren’t falling, though he certainly found his touch fast in returning from nearly six weeks on the sidelines with a knee injury to score 28 points Tuesday night against New Orleans.

Maybe Curry needs more catch and shoots. Or off-the-dribble work. Sometimes, it’s ballhandling into his shot. Perhaps a look at balance, rhythm and core, or just focusing on spot shooting from various places.

“We collaborate. It’s like going to dinner with your wife, maybe. Maybe some people’s wives tell them what they want,” said Fraser, a Warriors player development coach. “Different restaurant, different menu. We have a lot of things to pull from and it’s usually based one day, need. What does Steph need that day? … The Menu has all sorts of creative pieces in it that get the workout you want. Sometimes we’ll piece things together and go a la carte, sometimes we’ll make it a simple meal. I’m kind of having fun with it.”

On the opposite end of the defending champions’ practice floor, Thompson’s shooting plan might be nearly as precise as he works back from a bad night – he went 4 for 20 and 2 of 11 on 3s Tuesday. Thompson will usually put up a few extra shots after a poor performance. Depending largely on how he feels physically, he might take as few as 50 shots, or well more than 200.

Either way, it typically doesn’t take Thompson long to feel right again.

The belief Thompson has in his shooting ability is unwavering and he ignores any critics when it comes to his shot, considering they aren’t “in the gym with me shooting every day.”

“I will never doubt myself when it comes to shooting. I put too much effort into it,” he said, adding, “I know what it takes.”

In a Game 4 loss to San Antonio in the Warriors’ first-round series, Thompson finished 4 for 16 and scored 12 points. He was 42 of 71 – 59.2 percent – over the other four games against the Spurs.

“They make up for the bad shooting nights on the days before the bad shooting nights. They can’t get out of it by going into the gym and just shooting,” said Chris Webber, a TNT analyst who played 15 NBA seasons. “They’re great shooters and all the thousands of shots they’ve been taking since college is what makes them bounce back.”

Webber believes coach Steve Kerr’s offensive system allows players to keep shooting and break out of ruts.

“Knowing where you’re going to get your shots, how you’re going to get your shots, and you have the freedom,” Webber said, “but it’s all because of how hard and how many shots they take and put in the work when no one’s looking.”

After that Game 4 against the Spurs, Thompson took a heavy shooting day.

“Probably a couple hundred, nothing serious,” he said matter-of-factly.

Kerr, a talented 3-point shooter in his own right, considers the psychological component to the process as well.

“Sometimes the best thing to do if you have a bad game is to not shoot,” he said. “And you have to feel that, and as a player once you’ve been in the league a few years you get it. You start to understand, `OK, maybe I feel a little tired so I’m going to go walk Rocco (Thompson’s bulldog) today instead down at the park and enjoy some sunshine. Or go play golf or something. Or there’s a mechanical flaw and it’s almost like a golfer, you go to the range and you go, `I’ve got to find it.’

“But as a player you figure it out and the more years you’ve played in the league the easier it is to tell what the right approach is.”

After an off-night, Durant mentally goes back through each possession and studies his shots – “mainly my makes.”

Curry constantly changes his workload and regimen. Durant notes, “it takes a lot to shoot a basketball … there’s a lot you’ve got to think about in a couple of seconds.”

After most practices starting during last year’s title run, Curry and Durant engage in good-natured shooting contests from all over the court . They regularly take 10 shots from different spots, keeping track of who hits more. They’re usually very close.

“It’s a feel thing. You monitor your fatigue level because during the season, 82 games, there’s gaps in the schedule where you can go a little harder,” Curry said. “Back-to-backs obviously you can’t. Me and Q come up with, we call it `The Menu.’ I walk over, open up the fake menu, read down the list and see what type of workout we need. He usually tries to come up with on a scale from 1 to 10 like a 2, a 4, a 6, 8-type of workout. We go that way. There’s never really a set kind of regiment to it.

“I have certain drills I like and I know help me in certain different facets of the game. But beyond that it’s kind of unpredictable and I like it because you don’t really know what to expect on every single day.”

It comes down to a specific routine, and each shooter has his own.

For Curry, he is usually 99 percent in charge and Fraser said he offers about 1 percent input.

“There’s reason to it all,” Fraser said. “It depends on how he’s missing, if he’s missing. And Steph doesn’t miss too much. It’s not just based on, `Oh, you’re missing.’ Are you missing because you’re off balance? Are you missing because you’re not getting your body into it? Why are you missing? … They’re all human so they’re going to miss.”

Then, it’s back to “The Menu.”

 

James Harden returns to 76ers Monday night, is on minutes restriction

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The 76ers were able to keep their heads above water. For 14 games, James Harden was out with a right foot tendon sprain — both Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey missed games in that stretch as well (Maxey remains out) — and Philadelphia went 8-6 with a +2.9 net rating and the best defense in the NBA over that stretch.

Monday night in Houston, Harden returns.

This wasn’t a surprise, nor is the fact Doc Rivers confirmed Harden will be on a minutes restriction at first.

Harden averaged 22 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds a game before his injury, and while his 3-point shooting percentage was down (33.3%) he was still efficient and finding his footing as more of a facilitator than scorer.

The 76ers are 12-11 on the season and sit in a three-way tie for fifth in the East (with the Pacers and Raptors). If Harden can spark the Philadephia offense there is plenty of time for them to climb into the top four, host a first-round playoff game and position themselves for a deep playoff run. But it starts with getting their starting guards healthy again.

Harden is ready to take that on.

Trae Young frustrated ‘private conversations get out to the public’ about missed game

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Rumors and chatter of tension in Atlanta — about how Trae Young was adapting to playing with Dejonte Murray, and his pushback on coach Nate McMillan and his efforts to get the ball moving more — have been all over the league since the start of the season. Over the weekend, a little of that leaked out, with reports Young chose not to come to the arena Friday after McMillan gave him a choice of participating in shootaround or missing the game.

Young addressed the report and seemed more concerned that it got out than the report’s content.

“I mean, it was just a situation. I mean, we’re all grown men here and there’s sometimes we don’t always agree. And it’s unfortunate that private situations and private conversations get out to the public, but I guess that’s the world we live in now. Yeah, I’m just gonna just focus on basketball and focus on helping my team win. And that’s what I got to be focusing on…

“Like I said, it’s a private matter, again, made public, which is unfortunate. And if it was to stay private, it probably wouldn’t have been as big of a deal. But like I said, it’s unfortunate in my job, and my goal is to win championships. And that’s what I focus on.”

Young went through shootaround  Monday and is set to play against the Thunder.

Murray has been professional throughout this situation, saying he didn’t see anything at the shootaround Friday and backing Young and McMillan when asked.

Bringing in Murray was supposed to take some pressure off Young and spread the wealth more on offense, ideally allowing Young to be more efficient. Instead, Young’s usage rate is nearly identical to last season, he is shooting just 30.3% from 3 and his true shooting percentage has fallen below league average. The Hawks as a team make the fewest passes per game of any team in the league (stat via NBA.com). The Hawks’ offense is still a lot of Young, but it’s not as efficient as it has been in years past.

Atlanta is still 13-10 on the season, has a top-10 defense and sits fourth in the East — they are not struggling. But neither have they made the leap to become a team that could threaten Boston or Milwaukee atop the conference, and that’s what the Hawks expected.

There could be personnel moves coming in Atlanta — John Collins is available via trade, again — but if the Hawks can’t smooth out their internal, existing concerns (and get Collins and DeAndre Hunter healthy) other roster moves will be just cosmetic.

Nike, Kyrie Irving part ways, making him a sneaker free agent

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Here’s the positive spin for Kyrie Irving: He will have the chance to remake his situation into something he’s more comfortable with during 2023. As a player, he will be an unrestricted free agent and can choose where he wants to play in coming seasons (how many teams are interested and for how many years will be interesting to see).

Irving also is a sneaker free agent — Nike has cut ties with him, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Irving is happy with this.

The separation is not a surprise. Nike suspended its relationship with Irving after he Tweeted out support for an antisemitic film, did not apologize (at first), and was suspended by the Nets. Here was the company’s statement at that time:

“At Nike, we believe there is no place for hate speech and we condemn any form of antisemitism. To that end, we’ve made the decision to suspend our relationship with Kyrie Irving effective immediately and will no longer launch the Kyrie 8. We are deeply saddened and disappointed by the situation and its impact on everyone.”

Nike founder Phil Knight said it was likely the end of the company’s relationship with Irving.

That’s not a small thing by Nike, Irving has had a signature shoe line since 2014 and is reported to have a deal with Nike worth more than $10 million a season because his shoes are popular. However, his contract with the shoe giant was set to end in October 2023, and there had been reports Nike did not plan to extend that deal before this current controversy started.

Nike is already looking in a new direction, at Ja Morant.

Irving now has the chance to choose his new direction.

 

Cavaliers’ Dean Wade to miss 3-4 weeks due to shoulder injury

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In Cleveland’s search for a fifth starter to play the three next to Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen, Dean Wade might be the best of the group. Not that the numbers are great for him or anyone (Cedi Osman is the best statistically) but the eye test makes one think Wade could be the answer.

We’ll have to wait a while to find out as Wade will be out 3-4 weeks with an AC joint sprain in his left shoulder, the Cavaliers announced. Friday night against the Magic he suffered an aggravation to a previous injury.

Wade has been a quality floor-spacer for the Cavaliers this season, shooting 41.1% from three, and is averaging 6.4 points and 4.1 rebounds a game, playing a little more than 24 minutes a night.

When he returns, hopefully coach J.B. Bickerstaff will give him a little more run with the rest of the Cavaliers core (when they are healthy).