Which NBA star is having the best first month?

NBA reporters Sam Amick and Jeff Zillgitt discuss who’s off to the best start

      
 

 

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WATCH: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of NBA’s first month

We’re nearly one month into the NBA season, and teams not named the Oklahoma City Thunder are beginning to settle into their place in the league’s pecking order. Let’s get to some of the highlights and lowlights of the past week. [Photo via USA Today]
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Stock Watch for College Basketball Stars After First Few Games of 2014-15

It’s still early in the 2014-15 college basketball season, so it’s unreasonable to expect everyone to have the kinks worked out. Still, change is the only constant in collegiate sports, from changing rosters to changing roles, and some of the game’s stars appear to be handling what’s new better than others.

The following 10 players carried some burden of expectation into the new season, and for every one whose play is trending upward, there’s another who’s showing signs of struggle.

Which players are we bullish on at this preliminary stage, and which ones face a bear market?

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LeBron: Teaching Cavs bigger challenge than winning first ring

The Cleveland Cavaliers are still struggling to find consistency, which is something most of us expected in the early part of the regular season. The Heat struggled when LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade in Miami, so why should this be any different? According to LeBron, the work he has to do with…Read More

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LeBron James: Teaching young Cavs more difficult than winning first title

The Cleveland Cavaliers obviously have struggled a bit attempting to gain their footing as the team navigates its way through the early part of the season. At 5-5, the growing pains are evident, nor should they have been unexpected. As the team figures out how to play with one another, LeBron James has taken to…Read More
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‘Team’ comes first this college hoops season

Unlike last season, this is setting up to be the year of the team.

      
 

 

View full post on USATODAY – NCAA Top Stories

Duke’s Stud Freshmen Ace First Test vs. Michigan State at 2014 Champions Classic

INDIANAPOLIS—More than 60 NBA scouts and executives flocked to Bankers Life Arena on Tuesday to get their first in-person look at Duke’s Jahlil Okafor, the projected No. 1 pick in next summer’s NBA draft.

By the time the Blue Devils’ 81-71 victory over Michigan State was complete, they were buzzing about Okafor’s teammates, too.

Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones introduced themselves to the college basketball world by combining for 49 points and eight assists against the 19th-ranked Spartans.

The performance would’ve been impressive for any trio—but for a group of freshmen, it was virtually unheard of.

“You get more confidence through experience,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “The harder the experience you’re successful in, the more confidence you get. Today we should come away feeling pretty good about ourselves.”

Indeed, Duke opened the season with walkover victories over Presbyterian and Fairfield. But neither game prepared the Blue Devils’ newcomers for the stage they found themselves on Tuesday.

Not that it mattered.

Okafor, Jones and Winslow carried themselves like seasoned veterans. As a result, Duke operated with a chemistry and cohesion that is rarely seen by any team in November, much less a squad with so many new faces.

“From the moment we got to campus, everyone has been so inviting and welcoming,” Winslow said. “The older guys view us as teammates, as brothers. They don’t see us as freshmen.”

The youngsters certainly don’t look the part.

Okafor’s 17 points came on eight-of-10 shooting. His size, strength and footwork made him virtually unstoppable in the paint.

“I want to be the most dominant player I can be,” Okafor said.

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo spent four years recruiting Okafor and has an appreciation for his talents and the mind set with which he plays.

“You’ve got to love a guy that wants to be what he is,” Izzo said. “He’s a center that wants to be a center. Most centers now used to want to be power forwards. Now they want to be two-guards. He is what he is.”

So impressive is Okafor that folks on Twitter are coming up with slogans for NBA teams who may consider “tanking” the 2014-15 season to enhance their chances of obtaining the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.

“I don’t have a favorite,” Okafor chuckled. “They’re all pretty funny.”

Krzyzewski said Okafor could end up surpassing Elton Brand and Carlos Boozer as the best true post player to ever play at Duke. Still, for the time being, he’s trying to temper the excitement surrounding his prized freshman.

“He’s not iconic yet,” Krzyzewski said. “You have to win to be iconic. But he’s real good and he’s a great kid, and these guys feed him. Part of him being a good player is his teammates’ ability to get him the ball and get him shots.”

Jones (four assists) was one of the players who did that on Tuesday, especially during a first half in which he went scoreless. And when the Blue Devils needed him to put points on the board, Jones responded by scoring 17 points after intermission, including four in a sequence in which he was fouled while making a three-pointer.

“I was on the bench when it happened,” Okafor said, “but it gave me chills.”

Okafor played USA Basketball with Jones, and the two were recruited together as a package deal. Also completing that squad was Winslow, a 6’6”, 225-pound small forward whose ability to score is his most attractive trait.

Even as an 18-year-old, Winslow’s bulk and strength make him difficult to stop when he’s powering toward the rim.

Winslow said the Blue Devils don’t have a true “go-to guy” for points. They have four.

“That’s a coach’s decision,” he said. “We just try to find a mismatch on the floor and try to exploit it. We’re confident in whoever takes the shot. We’ve got a lot of unselfish guys on this team.”

Perhaps no Duke player is as unselfish as the Blue Devils’ lone senior, Quinn Cook. Last year’s starting point guard, Cook could’ve easily pouted when Jones arrived to take his position. Instead, he has served as a mentor to the freshman and is now playing the best basketball of his career as Duke’s starting two-guard.

Cook posted game-highs in points (19) and assists (six) on Tuesday. His leadership has been vital thus far and will continue to be moving forward.

“All of the credit goes to Quinn,” Okafor said. “We’re like his little brothers. There hasn’t been any cold-shouldering. People were saying Quinn might be a little put off when Tyus got here, but it’s been just the opposite. He couldn’t have have been more welcoming to all of us.”

Impressive as Duke was against Michigan State, Krzyzewski knows the Blue Devils aren’t even close to where they hope to be a month or two from now. Defense and rebounding are the obvious problem areas. The Spartans shot 50 percent Tuesday and outworked Duke on the boards 35-25.

Still, to be playing this well this early is pleasing to the Hall of Fame coach, who is thankful he has three of the nation’s most talented freshmen.

“It was a big statement for us to come out and play the way we did,” Okafor said. “And the most exciting thing is that we’re only going to get better.”

 

Jason King covers college sports for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JasonKingBR.

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NCAA’s First Four returning to Dayton through 2018 (Yahoo Sports)

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — The NCAA has announced it is keeping the men’s basketball First Four at the University of Dayton through 2018.

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Cavs make first 11 3-pointers, beat Hawks 127-94 (Yahoo Sports)

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 15: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers shoots over Al Horford #15 of the Atlanta Hawks during the second half at Quicken Loans Arena on November 15, 2014 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Cavaliers defeated the Hawks 127-94. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

CLEVELAND (AP) — A night after Cleveland needed a big comeback, LeBron James wanted a fast start.


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WATCH: Gary Harris’ mom misses son’s first NBA dunk

Denver Nuggets guard Gary Harris saw his first action of the season in Friday night’s blowout win over Indiana and scored 13 points, highlighted by a monster one-handed slam dunk in the fourth quarter. Harris’ mom, WNBA great Joy Holmes-Harris, was in the crowd. What did she have to say about it? Well, she was stunned…because she missed Gary’s dunk.Fortunately for Joy, her son’s dunk makes for a fantastic highlight so she should be able to find it everywhere today, including our GIF that lets you can watch Gary slam it home over and over again:Video via NBA.
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