Stan Van Gundy: J.J. Redick as competitive as Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan and J.J. Redick
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Did Michael Jordan have a gambling problem?

“I have a competition problem,” Jordan said.

Really, people confronted with Jordan had the competition problem. He unleashed hell on opponents and teammates. Jordan’s competitiveness was a defining feature.

“The Last Dance” documentary on ESPN chronicled an example. SuperSonics coach George Karl didn’t say hello to Jordan when they ate at the same restaurant during the 1996 NBA Finals. Jordan used the snub as fuel and led the Bulls over Seattle.

Stan Van Gundy, who coached Udonis Haslem with the Heat and J.J. Redick with the Magic, resents the focus on Jordan stories like that.

Van Gundy on “The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz” on ESPNews, as produced by Mike Ryan:

He was a great competitor. But I’m telling you, Udonis Haslem is as good a competitor as I’ve ever seen. The difference between Udonis Haslem and Michael Jordan is not their competitiveness. The difference is their talent.

J.J. Redick is as good a competitor, I would say, as Michael Jordan. The difference is in their talent.

But I guess talent – ability to play the game – is not an interesting enough story. So, all of a sudden, Michael won, not because he was great, but because he used all these things to fuel his performance and because he was a better competitor than all these people. I’m just not buying any of that.

Jordan was incredibly talented, though so are other players. Jordan was incredibly competitive, though so are other players (like Haslem and Redick).

Jordan was the greatest player of all time because he was both.

It can be easy to get consumed with intangibles and lose track of talent. But these slights – real or imaginedwere important to Jordan. He used them as motivation to maximize his talent. These traits worked in tandem. Jordan would not have been as good without this approach.

I get why a coach like Van Gundy would focus on talent. I get why a director would focus on narrative.

But the real story includes both.

Watch Dinwiddie get ejected for elbow to Poole’s face; Mavs still win behind Doncic 41 points

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Dallas has gotten in trouble this season because of a lack of secondary shot creation behind Luka Doncic, so when Spencer Dinwiddie got ejected for an elbow to the face of Golden State’s Jordan Poole, it seemed like the Mavericks might be in danger of falling to the Warriors.

Doncic had other plans — and a 41-point triple-double.

The ejection happened early in the fourth quarter, when Dinwiddie drove the lane on Poole and, bringing the ball up, elbowed Poole in the face.

That was reviewed by the referees who ruled it a Flagrant 2. The league has cracked down on blows to the face and head — intentional or not — the past couple of seasons.

Dinwiddie being out just meant more Luka — and that was bad news for the Warriors.

Despite Doncic and his triple-double, the Warriors had a couple of chances in the final seconds. First, Stephen Curry got called for a travel.

The Warriors argued that call but got nowhere with the referees. But they got one more chance on a Klay Thompson 3 to tie, but it was just not their night.

The Mavericks got the 116-113 win. Tim Hardaway Jr. pitched in 25 points, including five 3-pointers for Dallas. Curry led the Warriors with 32.

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns out 4-6 weeks with calf strain

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
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It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.

The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
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Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
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With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.