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LeBron James, James Harden unanimous All-NBA first-team selections

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Joel Embiid was the biggest loser in All-NBA voting.

The big winners?

Here are the All-NBA teams (first-team votes, second-team votes, third-team votes, total voting points):

First team

G: James Harden, Houston (100-0-0-500)

G: Damian Lillard, Portland (71-24-5-432)

F: LeBron James, Cleveland (100-0-0-500)

F: Kevin Durant, Golden State (63-37-0-426)

C: Anthony Davis, New Orleans (96-4-0-492)

Second team

G: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City (24-63-13-322)

G: DeMar DeRozan, Toronto (2-39-38-165)

F: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee (28-71-1-354)

F: LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio (2-68-22-236)

C: Joel Embiid, Philadelphia (11-78-5-294)

Third team

G: Stephen Curry, Golden State (2-39-37-164)

G: Victor Oladipo, Indiana (0-24-33-105)

F: Jimmy Butler, Minnesota (1-8-52-81)

F: Paul George, Oklahoma City (0-4-42-54)

C: Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota (0-18-45-99)

Other players receiving votes with point totals: Chris Paul (Houston), 54; Rudy Gobert (Utah), 51; Kyrie Irving (Boston), 42; Ben Simmons (Philadelphia), 36; Al Horford (Boston), 32; Nikola Jokic (Denver), 28; Andre Drummond (Detroit), 7; Clint Capela (Houston), 6; Draymond Green (Golden State), 6; Kyle Lowry (Toronto), 3; Steven Adams (Oklahoma City), 2; Donovan Mitchell (Utah), 2; Klay Thompson (Golden State), 2; Trevor Ariza (Houston), 1; DeMarcus Cousins (New Orleans), 1; Dwight Howard (Charlotte), 1; Kevin Love (Cleveland), 1; Kristaps Porzingis (New York), 1

My takeaways:

  • Most underrated by this voting: Chris Paul
  • Most overrated by this voting: DeMar DeRozan
  • Anthony Davis clinches he’ll be eligible for a designated-veteran-player extension in the 2019 offseason, but only from the Pelicans. Will that keep him in New Orleans?
  • Who the heck voted for Trevor Ariza? That had to be a submission error, right?
  • Here were my picks.

Houston’s Clint Capela develops into pivotal player for Rockets

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HOUSTON (AP) — Houston’s Clint Capela certainly isn’t a household name, and doesn’t get nearly the attention other centers like Ruby Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns receive.

But after he outshined those stars the first two rounds of the playoffs, the league is taking notice that Capela is one of the pivotal pieces to Houston’s success as the team prepares for its showdown with Golden State in the Western Conference finals starting Monday.

“What he does is as good or better than anybody in the league without a doubt,” coach Mike D’Antoni said.

Capela leads the NBA this postseason in blocks (2.8 a game) and offensive rebounds (4.1 per contest). He’s fourth with 12.2 rebounds a game overall and his 14.4 point average in the playoffs ranks third on the Rockets behind James Harden and Chris Paul. This came after a regular season where the fourth-year player posted career highs in virtually every statistical category. He averaged 13.9 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in helping the Rockets to 65 wins and their first No. 1 seed in franchise history.

“What he does has been unbelievable,” D’Antoni said. “And he’ll be overlooked. They’ll say he’s a role player and it’s not true.”

The Rockets insist that their high-powered, three-point centered offense wouldn’t work the way it does without the 6-foot-10 Capela. His work as the finisher in Houston’s pick and roll has proven valuable in the playoffs so far. His prowess in that area was on full display in Houston’s Game 5 win that eliminated the Timberwolves in the first round. He shot 12 of 14 and finished with a game-high 26 points to help Houston to the 122-104 victory.

Harden has often said this season that Capela is the player that makes everything else work for the Rockets, and said Friday that he’s undoubtedly developed into one of the league’s best centers.

“For sure,” Harden said. “He’s done it for the last few years and he’s definitely showing it now in the postseason. You’ve got guys that just are comfortable with being in the NBA and you’ve got guys that actually want to have a legacy and Clint’s one of those guys.”

To that end Capela is constantly trying to learn and add new wrinkles to his game. He was always picking the brain of eight-time All-Star Dwight Howard when he backed him up in his first two NBA seasons and he’s developed a close relationship with former Rockets star and Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon. Capela can often be seen working with and talking to Olajuwon at practice and Capela said Olajuwon has been impressed with the 23-year-old’s progress.

“He just said I was great and playing with confidence and energy and to keep it up,” Capela said.

While the Capela sees Olajuwon as one of his top mentors, he also appreciates a particular skill of another former Rocket. There are times after Capela blocks a shot that he wags one of his long fingers in the air as Dikembe Mutombo often did during his more than decade-long career in the NBA.

“Just having fun and also sending a message that it’s still my paint,” Capela said with a laugh.

Capela has had at least one block in each of Houston’s playoff games this season and tied a career-best with six in Game 4 against the Jazz. Most impressive about that performance is that five of those blocks came in the last three minutes to help Houston secure the road victory.

He said that shot-blocking barrage was the product of his getting upset after receiving a rare technical earlier in the fourth quarter when he got tangled up with Donovan Mitchell and the two did a little jawing at each other.

“Whenever I got a little into it with this guy from the other team, it fired me up a little bit and I just decided that they wouldn’t score anymore, not in my paint,” he said. “So this is what happened.”

Capela is happy with his improvement this season, but far from satisfied with his play. He knows he’ll have to keep getting better if the Rockets hope to reach the NBA finals.

“I’m just trying to be more consistent every game,” he said. “I think during the playoffs I’ve gotten better with my intensity and by doing that I thought that our team got better too.”

 

It’s official: Charlotte hires James Borrego as new head coach

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This was reported as all but done a couple of days ago, now it is official.

James Borrego is the new head coach of the Charlotte Hornets. A deal was reached and the team made the announcement Thursday afternoon.

“I’m very excited to serve as the head coach of the Charlotte Hornets,” Borrego said in a statement. “I want to thank Michael Jordan, Mitch Kupchak and Buzz Peterson for this opportunity. I’m confident in the coaching foundation I’ve had the opportunity to develop during my time in San Antonio, Orlando and New Orleans, and I cannot wait to get to work in Charlotte.”

“We are thrilled to have James join our franchise,” Hornets GM Kupchak said in his statement. “He brings a wealth of experience and a strong track record of player development from his time as a coach in San Antonio, New Orleans and Orlando. He has been a part of teams that have ascended to the highest levels of success in our league and understands what it takes to win in the NBA. James is considered one of the NBA’s most well-regarded assistant coaches and it’s great to have him as part of our team. I look forward to working with him in the years to come.”

Borrego comes out of the Spurs coaching tree. He started with that organization as a video coordinator and worked is way up to being an assistant coach under Gregg Popovich. He left with Monty Williams to be an assistant coach in New Orleans, from there went to Orlando under Jacques Vaughn — where Borrego was an interim head coach for 30 games after Vaughn was fired. After that, he came back to the Spurs and has been an assistant there for three years.

He comes to a Hornets team on the cusp of changes, it’s just unclear what direction Kupchak will take the team. With massive contracts on the books for Nicolas Batum and Dwight Howard, plus paying eight figures to Marvin Williams and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the Hornets are capped out and are pushing the luxury tax. They can keep the roster together mostly, add a lottery pick, and make a push for the playoffs, or it could be time to start the rebuilding — which begins with trading Kemba Walker.

Borrego and Kupchak clearly talked about this before this hiring was made — Borrego knows what he’s getting into. While he picks a staff and sets up his infrastructure, the future direction of the Hornets will become clear.

 

Dwight Howard says Russell Westbrook “should just facilitate, get everybody involved”

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NBA centers — especially old-school ones such as Dwight Howard — are reliant upon guards to get them the ball. Howard can get deep position and a good seal on his man in the post, but if the point guard decides to take a step-back three all that work has gone for nothing.

So it shouldn’t come as a shock that Howard thinks Russell Westbrook should move the ball around more.

Howard was on  ESPN’s “Get Up,”  this morning and the conversation turned to the Thunder, which is when Howard talked about the need for Westbrook the facilitator (transcription by The Score).

“I would say Russ because Russ has the ball more times in his hands,” Howard said. “And I watched Carmelo and Paul George at times, and they were just standing there, watching. Late in the games, I think the ball should have been more in Carmelo’s hands because he’s more of a closer. Paul George, he’s that guy that’s going to get you the 20-30 points between the first and the third quarter.

“Russ, he should just facilitate, get everybody involved early in the game, and just let those guys play. At this point in his career, he’s done everything as far as the individual. He has all the accolades. But now, it should just be about making everyone around him better.”

Three things. First, Howard calling out Westbrook just feels wrong. Even when his point is valid. We’re talking about Dwight Howard preaching what it takes for team success. Let that sink in.

Second, getting the ball in Carmelo Anthony‘s hands more is not a good idea. There was a time that he was one of the game’s best clutch scorers, a guy you wanted with the ball late, but those days have faded. And that’s not even getting into his defense.

Third, what Howard is saying here echoes what a lot of other scouts and executives say about Westbrook — is domination of the ball tends to make the team as a whole stagnant. Certainly, Westbrook gets his assists (he hunts them at points), but he doesn’t get them in a team offensive system of ball movement, the way you see in Golden State or Boston or a number of other teams. That makes OKC a little easier to defend.

I’m sure Paul George has thoughts on all this, and come July 1 we will see what he’s thinking.

Report: Hornets hiring Spurs assistant James Borrego as head coach

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The Hornets narrowed their coaching search to Spurs assistant James Borrego and Celtics assistant Jay Larranaga.

Apparently, Charlotte chose Borrego.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Borrego has worked under Gregg Popovich with the Spurs the last three years, still a strong implicit endorsement for any coaching candidate. In 2015, Borrego served as the Magic’s interim coach. He didn’t exactly impress in the most visible role of his career, but taking over a losing team mid-season is no easy task.

He’ll get a fresh start in Charlotte – though not an easy situation.

The Hornets aren’t good enough to warrant clear playoff status, but they’re also too capped out to simply upgrade the roster or rebuild. They might just be stuck.

It’s now on Borrego to help get them out of this purgatory.

If Charlotte is trying to win now, Kemba Walker is a nice start. The rest of the veteran roster – Dwight Howard, Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams – is good enough to win moderately with the right breaks.

If the Hornets are rebuilding, that’d likely begin with the return in a Walker trade. They also have their own lottery pick this year, Malik Monk and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

It’s just unclear which direction new general manager Mitch Kupchak will take the team. But we now know he’ll do it with Borrego coaching.