Why This Could Be the Best Golden State Warriors Team Ever

The NBA has never seen the Golden State Warriors quite like this.

Under first-year coach Steve Kerr, the Dubs have stormed out to their strongest start in franchise history (10-2). And there are reasons to believe this group can maintain this level of standard-setting play over the course of this 82-game marathon.

It starts with balance. The Warriors have it between their dominant defense and explosive offense, between their stellar starting five and fully loaded second team. Both top-heavy and deep, they have one-punch-knockout power and the endurance to survive a 12-round war.

That combination isn’t one known by this generation of Golden State faithful. The Warriors have occasionally fielded an exciting team, but typically that sizzle has come without any real substance behind it.

So much as they can this early in the season, they have hinted at having both flair and function this time around. They are unrecognizable in a good way.

The Warriors have been plenty of different things during their 69-year history, but greatness has rarely been a part of their identity. That could all change this season, in what could be their finest year of existence.

 

Golden Roster

If the season ended today, the Warriors could make a killing on the year-end award circuit.

Stephen Curry has performed at an MVP level. The 26-year-old holds top-10 rankings in points (22.6, seventh), assists (7.8, tied for fifth), steals (2.2, tied for third) and player-efficiency rating (25.2, fifth). His 5.5 rebounds per game are tied for the fourth-most among point guards.

“We thought we knew how good Stephen Curry could be,” wrote Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes. “It turns out we had no idea.”

Curry has even started defending at an impressive level. Opposing point guards are managing a slightly above-average 16.7 PER against him, per 82games.com, a number that is better than it sounds considering the Warriors are no longer hiding him from tough assignments.

About the only thing Curry hasn’t done yet is shoot at an elite level. While his 47.2 field-goal percentage outpaces his career 46.7 percent mark, his 38.9 three-point percentage has dipped lower than it’s ever been. Given that he converted 44.0 percent of his triples over the past five seasons, it’s safe to assume his current rate has significant upward mobility.

And Curry is far from being this team’s only award candidate.

Center Andrew Bogut has forced his way into the Defensive Player of the Year race.

The Warriors lead the league with a 94.4 defensive rating. That number drops to just 90.4 during Bogut‘s minutes and jumps to 98.9 when the seven-footer sits.

Bogut ranks eighth in blocked shots (1.8) and 15th in rebounds (9.2). If those stats don’t immediately jump off the page, they might do exactly that when one realizes he is logging only 25.3 minutes a night. Under a per-36-minute lens, Bogut has averaged 13.0 boards, 2.5 blocks and 1.1 steals.

He has also held opponents to 41.4 percent shooting at the rim, per NBA.com’s player tracking data. That’s a better mark than the ones yielded by fellow interior presences Tim Duncan (42.3), Marc Gasol (47.6) and Defensive Player of the Year front-runner Anthony Davis (51.6).

“Since Bogut has been with the Warriors, he’s been irreplaceable as the team’s defensive anchor,” wrote Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Four different Warriors could make compelling cases for Most Improved Player honors: Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes and Marreese Speights.

The first three have helped give Golden State a wrecking ball of a starting lineup. With Thompson, Green, Curry, Bogut and Barnes on the floor, the Warriors have outscored their opponents by an astounding 28.6 points per 100 possessions.

Speights, on the other hand, has been a stabilizing presence on a second unit still integrating several moving parts. The Warriors have desperately needed someone to consistently produce off the pine, and Speights has embraced that challenge.

“He’s my new favorite player, Mo Speights,” Kerr said, per Bay Area News Group’s Diamond Leung. “He’s amazing. He just keeps producing every time we throw him out there.”

Speights looks substantially better than he did last season. Ditto for Thompson, Green and Barnes.

The Warriors could also find multiple candidates for the Sixth Man of the Year award.

Assuming David Lee embraces a reserve role once he puts his hamstring problem behind him, the Warriors could pull two former All-Stars off the bench: Lee and Andre Iguodala. It could be a bumpy transition for both—Iguodala has started showing signs of life after a really rough beginning—but they could have as much talent as any second-team tandem in the league.

The Warriors players may wind up with their fingerprints all over these individual honors. And they can thank Kerr, a surefire Coach of the Year candidate, and his heavyweight assistant staff for that.

 

Solving the Puzzle

Talent is a necessary ingredient of any championship recipe. It takes a superstar to contend for a title, and typically a couple of them to actually raise a banner.

So, the Warriors wouldn’t find themselves in this position had the front office failed to assemble such a skilled set of players. But they also wouldn’t be on pace to have their best campaign in franchise history without Kerr and Co. putting all of the pieces in the right places.

Bogut has benefited as much as anyone from Kerr’s arrival.

The big man was a critical component of former coach Mark Jackson’s plan, but Bogut‘s impact was restricted to the defensive end of the floor.

Kerr ripped that restriction off quickly, and Bogut has been freed to tap into his deep bag of offensive tricks. On a per-36-minute basis, he is scoring (11.4), shooting (8.9 field-goal attempts) and assisting (3.9) more than he has at any point since joining the Warriors in March of 2012.

“They’re running me in the high post a lot more and utilizing my passing and it’s been great so far,” Bogut told Melbourne radio station SEN, per The Age‘s Ronny Lerner. “Steve Kerr’s turned around my career and getting me back involved offensively, too, helps.”

Similar success stories can be found up and down this roster. It is the overall effect of using a stronger commitment to ball movement in order to take advantage of the many offensive weapons on this team.

Under Kerr, the Warriors are averaging 316.9 passes per game, which is 11th-most in the NBA. Their 60.6 points created by assist per game are the highest in the league.

Last season, Golden State finished dead-last with only 245.8 passes a night. The Warriors turned those passes into 54.9 points off assists, which tied for eighth-most.

There are fewer isolation looks, fewer opportunities for the ball to stick. This offense is poetry in motion when everything is clicking.

“There are moments when the Warriors’ offense looks like it was shot with the time-lapse video feature on the new iPhone,” wrote ESPN.com’s J.A. Adande. “Nothing lasts long, especially not individual possession of the ball.”

Kerr and his staff, headlined by offensive genius Alvin Gentry and defensive guru Ron Adams, have shown an understanding of how to put these players in position for success.

Curry, as he should, still has a fluorescent green light. The same goes for Thompson, who was combined with his brother in splash to attempt 14.4 threes a night and convert 5.9 of them.

But the Warriors have helped expand Thompson’s offensive impact. He’s still seeking out shots from distance, but he has traded his mid-range looks for attacks of the basket. Exactly 30 percent of his attempts have come within 10 feet of the goal, up from 22.3 percent last season.

Those aggressive drives have also netted him a personal-best 5.5 free throws a night. His previous high was 2.3. Considering he’s a career 83.4 percent shooter at the line, those are essentially free points—and momentum boosts.

“Getting to the line is huge because it gets you in a rhythm, you see the ball go in,” Thompson said, per Tim Bontemps of the New York Post, ”and it’s something I really haven’t been doing the last three years.”

Aggressiveness has had its perks beyond the charity stripe for Thompson, too.

Kerr has allowed Green to take on a bigger role, and the versatile forward has responded with a career-high 14.9 assist percentage. Barnes, now back with the starters, has played off others to take better advantage of his slashing and spot-up shooting skills. Over 70 percent of his two-point baskets have come off assists, up from 49.3 last season. As a result, he’s posting career marks across the board as a shooter.

Iguodala has spent more time on the ball now that he’s the focal point of the reserve unit. Both he and newcomer Shaun Livingston have also had the opportunity to create shots for Curry and Thompson in staggered starter-reserve lineups that Kerr utilizes far more than his predecessor.

Speights looks like a completely different player under Kerr. Leandro Barbosa has his highest field-goal percentage since 2008-09. Everybody on the team is running, as evidenced by Golden State’s league-high 101.56 possessions per 48 minutes.

This team feels as if it’s starting to realize its full potential. It seems like it’s destined to become the best Warriors squad the basketball world has ever seen.

 

Setting the Bar and Exceeding It

Judging by their recent history—three playoff trips in the last 20 years—it may seem as if being the best Warriors team of all-time really isn’t much to brag about.

But if you dig back further into the history books, the Dubs have fielded some dominant teams.

They have three championships in their past: 1947 (BAA), 1956 and 1975. They have won 50-plus games on five different occasions, twice reaching the 55-win mark (1976 and 1992). Their 1975-76 group, led by Hall of Famers Rick Barry and Jamaal Wilkes, had the league’s most efficient defense and second-most efficient offense, according to Basketball-Reference.com.

Chris Mullin, Mitch Richmond and Tim Hardaway powered the Warriors to 44 highly entertaining wins in 1990-91. Mullin and Hardaway helped them to 55 victories the following two seasons. But both seasons produced a whopping one playoff series win. That was one more than they managed with Mullin, Chris Webber and Latrell Sprewell in 1993-94.

There have been some good Warriors teams and a handful of great ones. But this has a legitimate chance to top them all.

The Warriors are currently reeling off victories at an 83.3 percent clip. For context, that would equate to a 68-win season. The franchise record for wins is 59.

It’s tempting to assume the Warriors will slow down at some point, but that’s far from being a guarantee.

They have played a tough schedule out of the gate. One of their two losses came on the second night of a road back-to-back series (against a good Phoenix Suns team), and the other came against the defending-champion San Antonio Spurs.

The Warriors could get better from here.

Remember, Lee has only played seven minutes on the season. His rebounding and low-post scoring would both provide boosts to this team no matter how he’s used. Iguodala should become more comfortable in his reserve role as the season progresses. Livingston and Barbosa are still getting used to their new surroundings. And Festus Ezeli has plenty of rust to shake off after missing the entire 2013-14 campaign.

If this team stays healthy, it has a real chance of setting the franchise record for wins. But its real measure of success won’t come until the second season.

If they want to be the best Warriors team ever, they need to send another banner up into the rafters. And they know it.

“You’re proud of it, but that’s about as far as it goes,” Curry said of the team’s strong start, per Leung. “You’ve got to capitalize on this start and be ready every single game until that last game in June hopefully.”

It’s been a long time since the Warriors could vocalize championship goals and not be laughed out of the gym. But this group has the chance to be better than every one that came before it.

 

Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com.

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Kobe Bryant’s Worst Shooting Night Ever Brings Lakers’ Woes to New Lows

Earlier this week, the iconic Kobe Bryant surpassed John Havlicek to become the NBA‘s all-time leader in missed field-goal attempts.

Friday night, he tightened his hold on that record in a big way.

The Los Angeles Lakers lost to the reigning champion San Antonio Spurs by a final score of 93-80, suggesting that defense may not be the only reason head coach Byron Scott’s club has gotten off to a disappointing 1-8 start. When this team needed Bryant to carry it like he has so many times before, he instead turned in the worst shooting performance of his career.

The 36-year-old shooting guard made just 1-of-14 shots, a 7.1 percent mark that trumps a 1998 1-of-10 outing as his most futile from the field. Technically, Bryant has made no shots on a handful of occasions, but never after attempting at least 10 shots.

Bryant didn’t make his first field-goal attempt until early in the fourth period, missing his first 10 tries while trying to impact the game in other ways—like tallying six assists and two blocks. He finished the game with just nine points (seven of which came from the free-throw line) and four turnovers.

Though the defense from Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard was a reason for his struggles, Bryant’s health might have been the biggest contributing factor.  

“He wasn’t feeling too well,” Scott told reporters after the game. “Nothing physically as far as a knee or Achilles, but he’s not feeling well.” 

Bryant himself cited illness as well.

“I don’t feel too good, but I’m used to playing through that,” he told reporters after the game. “It’s just tough, man. Tonight was one of those nights that make me really remember the challenge of being 36 [years old] and being 19 years in, and the body just won’t respond. You’re sick, and you used to be able to fight through those things. It just helps me remember exactly what I’m facing.”

It’s also possible there’s something wrong with his left knee. Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding noted that Bryant was wearing a sleeve over said knee for the second time this season (after having previously worn it during Wednesday’s 10-for-28 performance against the New Orleans Pelicans).

Bryant seemed to suggest he was in pretty good shape, though.

“I feel great, but tonight was one of those nights where it just caught up (with me),” he added. “I’ve got to try now and look at how to adjust to a recovery program and try to answer the challenge when I face a night like this in the future.”

Whatever the cause(s), Bryant’s ineffectiveness couldn’t have come at a worse time for a team that’s struggled to turn things around under Scott’s watch. While Friday marked his fifth consecutive outing with a sub-.400 shooting percentage, Kobe has been the one constant for Los Angeles to this point.

He’s scored at a high volume and kept the Lakers above average in offensive efficiency with 104.6 points per 100 possessions entering Friday, according to Hollinger Stats. So far, the Lakers’ principal problem has been a league-worst defense that has allowed opponents to make nearly 50 percent of their field-goal attempts.

That wasn’t the story against San Antonio.

Los Angeles’ 80 points qualified as its lowest output of the young season, a reminder that Bryant needs some help on both ends of the floor. Carlos Boozer led all scorers with 19 points, and Jeremy Lin added 15. But no one has emerged as a consistent second or third option who could ease some of the pressure on Bryant.

Nick Young’s return from injury will give the Lakers offense some new life, but not enough to make a difference. Kobe needs a supporting cast with winning pedigree and shared chemistry—the kind of stability Tim Duncan has had all these years.

“I’m extremely jealous of that,” Bryant told reporters after LA’s 109-102 loss to the Pelicans. “I don’t know if I can express to you how jealous I am of the fact that Tim, Tony [Parker]Manu [Ginobili] and Pop [Spurs coach Gregg Popovich] have all been together for all those years.

“Like, I can’t even…I can’t express to you how jealous I am of that. Not all this up-and-down stuff.”

Up-and-down stuff that’s definitely been trending downward of late.

For his part, Bryant has remained hopeful and defiant. He’s even looking to get in the way of Duncan’s shot at a sixth title.

“I want a crack at [Duncan],” Bryant added. “I want to get another crack before it’s all said and done. I would love to play the Spurs in the playoffs one more time, you know what I mean? As a competitor, you want to have the most [titles], but at the same time, it’s well-deserved.”

Somehow, titles are still on Bryant’s mind. His team looks lottery-bound for a second straight season, but you wouldn’t know it from listening to the five-time champion.

After Scott said this week that he has “no doubt” the Lakers will win a championship under his coaching staff, Bryant told ESPN.com’s Baxter Holmes that he agreed.

“Faith,” he said. “The Lakers’ track record. This organization is really good about turning around, period. We don’t have many dry years.”

Early indications, however, are that they’re having one right now.

If Bryant has any hope of changing that, he’ll have to find a better rhythm. Though he’s racking up plenty of points, he’s using an awful lot of shots to get there. He’s yet to make more than 44 percent of his shots in any of his first nine games. He’s made at least 40 percent of his attempts in just three games.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by a little rust, particularly on a night when Bryant was under the weather.

But there’s still a bigger question about whether he can carry this team in spite of its significant defensive liabilities and limited personnel. It’s a job that seems too big even when Bryant is at his best.

And outright impossible when he’s at his worst.

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Kobe Bryant’s Worst Game Ever Brings Lakers’ Woes to New Lows

Earlier this week, the iconic Kobe Bryant surpassed John Havlicek to become the NBA‘s all-time leader in missed field-goal attempts.

Friday night, he tightened his hold on that record in a big way.

The Los Angeles Lakers lost to the reigning champion San Antonio Spurs by a final score of 93-80, suggesting that defense may not be the only reason head coach Byron Scott’s club has gotten off to a disappointing 1-8 start. When this team needed Bryant to carry it like he has so many times before, he instead turned in the worst shooting performance of his career.

The 36-year-old shooting guard made just 1-of-14 shots, a 7.1 percent mark that trumps a 1998 1-of-10 outing as his most futile from the field. Technically, Bryant has made no shots on a handful of occasions, but never after attempting at least 10 shots.

Bryant didn’t make his first field-goal attempt until early in the fourth period, missing his first 10 tries while trying to impact the game in other ways—like tallying six assists and two blocks. He finished the game with just nine points (seven of which came from the free-throw line) and four turnovers.

Though the defense from Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard was a reason for his struggles, Bryant’s health might have been the biggest contributing factor.  

“He wasn’t feeling too well,” Scott told reporters after the game. “Nothing physically as far as a knee or Achilles, but he’s not feeling well.” 

Bryant himself cited illness as well.

“I don’t feel too good, but I’m used to playing through that,” he told reporters after the game. “It’s just tough, man. Tonight was one of those nights that make me really remember the challenge of being 36 [years old] and being 19 years in, and the body just won’t respond. You’re sick, and you used to be able to fight through those things. It just helps me remember exactly what I’m facing.”

It’s also possible there’s something wrong with his left knee. Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding noted that Bryant was wearing a sleeve over said knee for the second time this season (after having previously worn it during Wednesday’s 10-for-28 performance against the New Orleans Pelicans).

Bryant seemed to suggest he was in pretty good shape, though.

“I feel great, but tonight was one of those nights where it just caught up (with me),” he added. “I’ve got to try now and look at how to adjust to a recovery program and try to answer the challenge when I face a night like this in the future.”

Whatever the cause(s), Bryant’s ineffectiveness couldn’t have come at a worse time for a team that’s struggled to turn things around under Scott’s watch. While Friday marked his fifth consecutive outing with a sub-.400 shooting percentage, Kobe has been the one constant for Los Angeles to this point.

He’s scored at a high volume and kept the Lakers above average in offensive efficiency with 104.6 points per 100 possessions entering Friday, according to Hollinger Stats. So far, the Lakers’ principal problem has been a league-worst defense that has allowed opponents to make nearly 50 percent of their field-goal attempts.

That wasn’t the story against San Antonio.

Los Angeles’ 80 points qualified as its lowest output of the young season, a reminder that Bryant needs some help on both ends of the floor. Carlos Boozer led all scorers with 19 points, and Jeremy Lin added 15. But no one has emerged as a consistent second or third option who could ease some of the pressure on Bryant.

Nick Young’s return from injury will give the Lakers offense some new life, but not enough to make a difference. Kobe needs a supporting cast with winning pedigree and shared chemistry—the kind of stability Tim Duncan has had all these years.

“I’m extremely jealous of that,” Bryant told reporters after LA’s 109-102 loss to the Pelicans. “I don’t know if I can express to you how jealous I am of the fact that Tim, Tony [Parker]Manu [Ginobili] and Pop [Spurs coach Gregg Popovich] have all been together for all those years.

“Like, I can’t even…I can’t express to you how jealous I am of that. Not all this up-and-down stuff.”

Up-and-down stuff that’s definitely been trending downward of late.

For his part, Bryant has remained hopeful and defiant. He’s even looking to get in the way of Duncan’s shot at a sixth title.

“I want a crack at [Duncan],” Bryant added. “I want to get another crack before it’s all said and done. I would love to play the Spurs in the playoffs one more time, you know what I mean? As a competitor, you want to have the most [titles], but at the same time, it’s well-deserved.”

Somehow, titles are still on Bryant’s mind. His team looks lottery-bound for a second straight season, but you wouldn’t know it from listening to the five-time champion.

After Scott said this week that he has “no doubt” the Lakers will win a championship under his coaching staff, Bryant told ESPN.com’s Baxter Holmes that he agreed.

“Faith,” he said. “The Lakers’ track record. This organization is really good about turning around, period. We don’t have many dry years.”

Early indications, however, are that they’re having one right now.

If Bryant has any hope of changing that, he’ll have to find a better rhythm. Though he’s racking up plenty of points, he’s using an awful lot of shots to get there. He’s yet to make more than 44 percent of his shots in any of his first nine games. He’s made at least 40 percent of his attempts in just three games.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by a little rust, particularly on a night when Bryant was under the weather.

But there’s still a bigger question about whether he can carry this team in spite of its significant defensive liabilities and limited personnel. It’s a job that seems too big even when Bryant is at his best.

And outright impossible when he’s at his worst.

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Mavs get their biggest win ever, 123-70 over 76ers (Yahoo Sports)

DALLAS, TX - NOVEMBER 13: Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks posts up against the Philadelphia 76ers on November 13, 2014 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images)

DALLAS (AP) — The Dallas Mavericks had no need for another big comeback when playing the NBA’s only winless team.


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Mavs demolish 76ers for their biggest win ever

Dallas led 38-10 after one on the way to a 123-70 drubbing of winless Philadelphia.

      
 

 

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Dirk Nowitzki’s Unique Path to Stardom Unlike Something the NBA Has Ever Seen

Dirk Nowitzki tallied 23 points in the Dallas Mavericks‘ 106-98 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday, and he earned a couple of distinctions in the process.

With 8:56 remaining in the contest, the 36-year-old nailed a jumper and became the league’s ninth all-time leading scorer, passing Hakeem Olajuwon’s 26,946 points. In turn, the German superstar also became the most prolific international scorer in NBA history.

“Dirk has earned everything he’s gotten, and every step up the ladder he takes is a reflection of his effort and his focus,” Mavs owner Mark Cuban told reporters before Tuesday night’s contest. “To be the greatest international scorer ever is an amazing accomplishment. We’re glad to have him here.”

Nowitzki could pass two others on the all-time scoring list before long. Elvin Hayes is currently eighth with 27,313 points, and Moses Malone is seventh with 27,409.

Much like Olajuwon, Nowitzki has scored many of his points with an array of dizzying moves on the block. But the comparison isn’t a perfect one.

“I think you need a little athleticism for that move [Olajuwon's famed 'Dream Shake'],” Nowitzki told reporters after the game, via Mavs Insider Earl K. Sneed. “…I came up with my own dream shake, I guess. The white version.”

Numbers aside, the former Houston Rockets great was inimitable to be sure.

“…To pass The Dream is unbelievable,” Nowitzki added. “He was unguardable on the block. His footwork, his skill level, his hands, his touch was second to none. So, I’m pretty proud.”

For his career, the 17-year veteran has earned 12 All-Star appearances and averaged 22.5 points per contest. His credentials as one of the game’s great power forwards put him in rare company, particularly when accounting for his ability to stretch the floor and rack up buckets in a variety of ways.

It’s been a long road, and it’s been anything but a traditional one.

After the Mavericks selected him with the ninth overall pick in 1998, Nowitzki only averaged 8.2 points per contest as a rookie. Though he’d break out with 17.5 points per game during his sophomore campaign, it wasn’t initially clear that Nowitzki would become a legitimate superstar.

“I remember everybody crushing on him and killing on him as being another [Big White Stiff],” owner Mark Cuban recently said, reports Dwain Price of Fort Worth Star-Telegram. ”Everybody was like, ‘Who is this guy and will he ever make it?’

“It took a little bit, but he worked hard and he got there.”

Mavericks center Tyson Chandler offers a similar narrative.

“Everything Dirk accomplishes he deserves,” he said, per Price. “He’s been putting in a lot of work into this league. He’s one of the all-time greats and one of the all-time great professionals with the type of work and commitment that he’s had throughout his entire career.

“It’s really amazing, especially the way he started his career. The league had some doubts about whether or not he could play in this game, but he never stopped believing, and the organization never stopped believing.”

That early faith paid off in a big way.

By his third season, Nowitzki was averaging 21.8 points and 9.2 rebounds in 38.1 minutes per game. Starting with that season, the Mavericks played the playoffs without fail until 2013. Dirk remained at the center of those efforts even as his supporting cast evolved through a number of iterations.

He’s 1-1 in his two Finals appearances against the Miami Heat in 2006 and 2011, making him that rare scoring extraordinaire who also knows how to lead a winner. Nowitzki averaged 26 points per contest during the latter series and earned Finals MVP honors for his efforts.

While Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett seem to have defined this generation’s 4 spot, no one has played it quite like Nowitzki.

He’s made 38.3 percent of his career three-point attempts, and he’s just as deadly from any mid-range spot on the floor. Capable of facing up or scoring with his back to the basket, guarding Nowitzki has become among the league’s virtually impossible tasks.

And he’s not finished just yet.

Eight games into the 2014-15 season, he’s again averaging over 20 points per contest and showing few signs of slowing down. The Mavericks re-signed him to a discounted deal this summer, agreeing to pay him a reported $25 million over the next three years.

It may be the last NBA contract Nowitzki signs, but he’s taking his side of the bargain no less seriously than he did when coming up the ranks.

Indeed, he’s still trying to get better.

“I want to expand a little bit on the block,” Nowitzki said, per Sneed, when training camp opened in October. “There might be some situations where I have to shoot it, but I don’t want to rely on the fadeaway all the time.

“Sometimes you have to go middle and make a strong move there or get fouled or swing a little hook, I think. You know, I’ve just got to mix it up a little more than just a right-shoulder fadeaway all the time.”

Spoken like a man who’s serious about winning another title while he still can.

However long that may be.

Everyone better enjoy Dirk Nowitzki while he’s playing,” Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle told reporters, via Sneed, after Tuesday night’s game. “‘Cause there’s not going to be another one like him ever.”

Certainly none that trace his route to the top.

“Passing the Big O and knowing that only nine guys ever in this league scored more than me, that’s crazy to think,” Nowitzki said, reports Price, this week. “From where I came from—a little dump in Wurzburg, Germany—it’s been an amazing ride.

“So you know, hopefully I can have a couple more good years, and we’ll see where I end up.”

Nowitzki will end up a little higher on that all-time scoring list. And he’ll end up in the Hall of Fame sometime after that. 

He might even end up with another championship along the way.

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Kobe Bryant Says Anthony Davis Could Be One of Greatest Power Forwards Ever

Tim Duncan. Karl Malone. Charles Barkley. Dirk Nowitzki. Anthony Davis? 

According to Kobe Bryant, the 21-year-old phenom is on track to be grouped among that esteemed group of power forwards when his career comes to a close. 

Following the Los Angeles Lakers’ 107-102 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, Bryant heaped some serious praise on Davis, according to the Orange County Register‘s Bill Oram

At the rate Davis has progressed on both ends of the floor, it’s hard to disagree with Bryant’s take.

After joining Shaquille O’Neal as the second player in league history to average at least 20 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks at age 20 or younger, according to Basketball-Reference.com, Davis is playing his way into the MVP conversation behind averages of 24.8 points, 13.0 rebounds, 4.2 blocks, 2.5 steals and 2.2 assists while shooting 51.8 percent from the field. 

And even if the New Orleans Pelicans aren’t able to qualify for the postseason in a crowded Western Conference, Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes believes Davis should garner MVP consideration if he continues to post unprecedented statistical figures: 

He’s already doing more for his team than anyone else is for theirs. He’s doing more than anyone, period.

All the buzz Davis is getting now will fade if the Pelicans gradually slip from the playoff picture, and that’s not fair. AD has done all he can to put himself in the MVP conversation this season. He belongs there—now, and as long as he continues to blow us away with stats and highlights.

Owner of the league’s highest player efficiency rating (35.79), according to ESPN.com, Davis continues to redefine on-court brilliance by expanding one of the Association’s most unique skill sets on a game-to-game basis. 

Bryant will get a firsthand look at Davis’ evolving greatness when the Lakers travel to Smoothie King Center for a showdown with the Pelicans at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday night. 

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Clippers Catch Lakers In Huddle, Embarrass Them With Easiest Dunk Ever (Video)

Things just keep going from bad to worse for the Los Angeles Lakers these days.
The team has likely already lost Steve Nash and Julius Randle for the season due to injuries and have started 0-3 for the second time in three years.
To top it all off, they were embarrassed on a play that exemplified a lack of focus and showed that the team with the second-most championships in NBA history could be in for a long season.
In Friday night’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers, Kobe Bryant and three other Lakers were huddling near the free-throw line during an inbounds play for the Clippers. The discussion went a little too long and the Lakers never broke the huddle as the Clippers inbounded the ball to Blake Griffin who essentially walked in for an easy dunk.

Kobe rarely ever looks like a fool on a play, but the Clippers sure made him look like one.Filed under: Andre Khatchaturian, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, NBA, Top Stories

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Returned Derrick Rose Is Both at Peace and More Driven Than Ever

CHICAGO — Meet the new Derrick Rose. He’s the same as the old Rose, but he’s different in a few telling ways.

The Chicago Bulls point guard projected a calm excitement at a charity event days before the NBA season’s start, speaking as confidently as he did when he became the youngest MVP in league history back in 2011. But he also sported some new, key features to his outlook. Through two seasons of injuries, Rose has spent more time off the court than on it, and he has adopted a more complex and peaceful worldview as a result.

And although our sample size is small—Rose returned to action with Team USA just three months ago—his new attitude has shown on the court, too. Known previously as a ceaseless speed demon, embracing contact as he plunged into the lane like his team’s only jackknife, Rose is now a shrewder player.

“My IQ of the game has changed,” he told me after taking questions from students who were the beneficiaries of his recent $1 million donation to a Chicago after-school program. “I’m switching gears, playing with more paces instead of just one. I can make the game easy. I’m being patient.”

This was in line with what he preached to the students in the Adidas store of the Water Tower Place shopping mall on Michigan Avenue. Rose urged them to always follow through with their inclinations and seek new knowledge. He even cited a recent reading of Malcolm Gladwell as a hint of the rewards of a tireless, exploratory work ethic.

“I did some research and saw that it takes 10,000 hours to master any craft,” he said. “That’s 10 years. You have to dedicate your whole life to something if you love it.”

We don’t have the math on Rose’s time in the gym at our disposal, but he seems to have surpassed that decade of concentrated time as a player.

In his regular-season debut against the New York Knicks, Rose rarely pressed the action, instead utilizing his quickness in brief bursts that found him alone for easy, mid-range bunny shots. Rose has always worked harder than the opposition, but in 2014, he’s also working smarter, seeing the game more like an easy chess match than a test of how far he can push his body.

A certain cocoon-like quality to Rose’s lifestyle has always enabled this sort of improvement. Growing up in Englewood—one of the deadliest of Chicago’s South Side neighborhoods—Rose says he survived by insulating himself with close, trustworthy friends, many of whom now work with him.

He developed a tunnel vision for his familial circle and basketball love early on. Rose became so focused on his game as a teenager that he didn’t even watch his hometown team.

“I never went to a Bulls game. I didn’t watch the Bulls in high school, I just worked out with that guy right behind you all day,” Rose said, referring to Andre Hamlin, a former coach of his at Simeon Career Academy who now works as his security chief.

Hamlin was one of many on hand trying to wrangle the younger, ebullient Rose, Derrick’s son P.J.—whose name is short for Pooh Jr., a reference to the star’s nickname growing up. The two-year-old made the most of the store’s large, open space, giggling as he feverishly threw a basketball around to everyone in attendance.

The impact of fatherhood is another key tenet of the reimagined Rose. He said being a dad motivates his performance further. “Having my son, just knowing how he’s going to grow up, it’s different. He needs something that’s going to push him. It’s all going to make him want to push himself to the next level.”

It’s also not hard to see how the toddler’s happiness changes Rose. At one point of the event, the child’s laughter and movement in the store reached such heights that Rose stopped mid-monologue just to marvel at it. “P.J.,” he said with a bemused chuckle.

Things look fun again for Rose, who has admitted to feeling little else but stress and expectations when he tried to return from injury a year ago, only to go down again during the season’s 10th game.

“I think that was just a dark side for me, a dark period of time,” Rose told The Washington Post’s Michael Lee at Team USA camp in Las Vegas this summer. “I felt like it was damn near like a job instead of just going out there and having fun. I wasn’t smiling, I wasn’t enjoying the game. I was trying not to mess up.”

Today, the point guard can’t wait to get on the floor. He loves what “feels like a new team” and thinks they can win it all.

“This is the most professional team I’ve played on. It’s no disrespect to older teammates. I’ve been on professional teams before. But on this team, from rookie all the way to veteran, everybody’s focused. You can’t do anything but respect it. We have a really good, deep team. If I was the owner of the team, I’d be very happy. We’re a contender,” he said with a proud lilt.

The Eastern Conference won’t be the one-team party it’s been in recent years—a glut of mediocrity with LeBron James standing tall above the pack. Behind a rejuvenated Rose, the Bulls are a real equal to James’ Cleveland Cavaliers and easily the biggest threat to ending LeBron’s four consecutive NBA Finals appearances.

With the teeth of coach Tom Thibodeau’s renowned defense and new scoring weapons like Pau Gasol, Aaron Brooks, Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott, this looks to be the best professional team Rose has played on.

And as much as he tries to undersell his eagerness to thwart the King, it shows. When asked about whether there’s extra emphasis on his team’s Halloween showdown with Cleveland, Rose laughed again. “C’mon man,” he said.

 

All quotes acquired firsthand unless noted otherwise.

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LeBron James Says Return to Cavs Is One of the Biggest Sporting Events Ever

While LeBron James‘ return to Cleveland Thursday night is a pretty big deal in the NBA world, it’s probably not as significant as James thinks it is. 

While speaking with reporters Thursday morning, James stated that he believes tonight’s game is at the top of the list when it comes to sporting events. Of all time.

One thing’s for sure, people in Cleveland are definitely excited for LeBron’s return:

[YouTube]

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