Kobe: ‘I would go 0-30 before I would go 0-9′ from the floor

The Kobe documentary is shaping up to be must-see TV, especially if we are going to get more quotes like this. Gotham Chopra, the director of “Kobe Bryant’s Muse”, an upcoming documentary on Bryant, told a story about being with Kobe and watching the Nets and the Heat play. Recounts Chopra, “Deron Williams went like 0-9. I was like, ‘Can you believe Deron Williams went 0-9?’ Kobe was like, ‘I would go 0-30 before I would go 0-9. 0-9 means you beat yourself, you psyched yourself out of the game, because Deron Williams can get more shots in the game. The only reason is because you’ve just now lost confidence in yourself.’” Did you expect Kobe to say anything differently? Even if you disagree with the point, you can understand the thinking.  Kobe has always been a going doing swinging type of player (except when he gets pissed and stops shooting to prove a point in playoff games).  Even if he goes 0-30, he thinks shot 31 going to be nothing be net. Off topic, remember when there was a debat

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Predicting the Biggest Changes We’ll See from the Warriors Next Season

The Golden State Warriors entered the offseason looking to make a big splash, and while they didn’t necessarily make the biggest one, they made enough waves to stay in contention in the brutal Western Conference.

Change is on the horizon, however, and as the last two seasons have proved, changes are necessary. Fans will no longer be content with 50-win seasons and merely making the playoffs after such a long stretch of drudgery.

A new bar has been set, and it will be up to new head coach Steve Kerr to help them get there.

The Warriors have championship aspirations, and with the roster currently assembled, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they achieve their ultimate goal.

A new approach must be taken, though—an approach that goes away from much of what has gotten them to where they currently are. Stars like Andre Iguodala must be allowed the freedom to live up to their names. The ball must flow freely, even if it means taking the ball out of Stephen Curry’s hands every once in a while.

Most importantly, however, they must get the most out of the entire offense, spreading the playing time among the role players and granting the starters the rest they so desperately need during the games.

These were not points of concern under the tutelage of Mark Jackson and, not surprisingly, the Warriors faltered down the stretch. Under Kerr, the full potential will be unleashed.

 

Andre Iguodala will play a bigger role in the offense

Iguodala was one of the most polarizing players in the league last season, as his peripheral numbers didn’t set the world on fire. In fact, at 9.3 points per game, 4.2 assists and 4.7 rebounds, you would have to go back to his rookie year to find a season so statistically weak.

Despite all that, what became clear as the season progressed was that regardless of whether or not Iguodala was filling up the box score, the Warriors were better with him on the court. In fact, he made them 6.63 points better, according to ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus stat. Only LeBron James and Chris Paul added more value to their teams.

What, then, can we expect from Iguodala going into next season? Well, if Kerr is to be believed, even more.

Kerr realizes what he has in Iguodala, and it is so much more than just the spot-up shooter he became under Mark Jackson. Iguodala is a devastating player moving without the ball, and he has the ability to finish at the rim in traffic. He has always been an excellent cutter and with the exceptional passing in the starting lineup, he will be found.

A player as talented as Iguodala cannot be wasted like he was last season. Getting the most out of your players is a key component to coaching, and this is an area where Kerr will shine.

 

Move away from isolation

Ask most random fans on the street about the elite offenses in the NBA, and the Warriors probably pop up more often than not. For so long they were all offense and no defense. Last year, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

The Warriors were a defensive juggernaut, ranking in the top 10 in numerous stats including field goal percentage, points and rebounding. The offense, on the other hand, just barely squeezed into the top 10. For a team boasting the likes of Curry, Klay Thompson and David Lee, that is inexcusable.

The Warriors were one of the most isolation-reliant teams in the league last season, running it over 10 percent of the time, and the results were not pretty. They shot just 38 percent from the field.

Jackson far too often fell in love with exploiting mismatches at the expense of ball movement. For a lineup filled with elite passers like Iguodala, Curry and Lee, it was the most counterproductive offense the Warriors could run.

Fear not, however, Warriors fans, because it appears that Kerr will be taking the opposite approach. In his introductory press conference, Kerr told reporters that ball movement would be at a premium in his offense, via Bruce Jenkins of SF Gate:

I think the team can get better offensively. There’s a lot of skill out there, with (Andrew) Bogut and Lee being such excellent passers. I think you’ll see a lot of ball movement, with the bigs being utilized as passers from the elbows and the block. We’ll have some elements of the triangle offense, but we’re not going to look like the Chicago Bulls of the 1990s. In today’s NBA, you have to run, play fast, score early. The rules dictate that. I want to encourage even more running than the Warriors did last year. But I want to have it flow into an offense that utilizes our skill level and take some of the pressure off Curry.

With Kerr at the helm, a free-flowing offense will be the result. Look for the Warriors to regain their offensive aura.

 

Fewer minutes for the starters

We all love to see the stars on the court as often as possible, but in order to see them perform at their highest levels, they need an appropriate amount of rest during games. Far too often the Warriors lost games in the fourth quarter because of sloppy play and turnovers.

While it’s easy to blame the players for this, execution gets harder and harder when exhaustion sets in.

That’s on the coach.

Mark Jackson did a lot of good things for the team, but where he failed miserably was with his substitutions. He did not fully understand how to mix his lineups and as a result, the offense stalled when the bench came in. The starters would be rushed back in without the proper amount of rest.

That’s going to change this year.

The additions of Shaun Livingston and Brandon Rush shored up the biggest hole on the roster last season: guard depth. Along with Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli, the Warriors now boast one of the deepest benches in the league. Kerr will utilize that bench and ensure that his stars have fresh legs when it matters most.  

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Bucks acquire Jared Dudley from Clippers (Yahoo Sports)

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Small forward Jared Dudley is going to the Milwaukee Bucks.

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Call from LeBron helped influence Love’s decision

When James agreed to come back to Cleveland, he called Love trying to bring him aboard

      
 

 

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Michigan Basketball: Biggest Takeaways from Wolverines’ Preseason Trip to Italy

The Michigan basketball program recently used a nine-day getaway in Italy to build team chemistry and work on some new things, and the results were, suffice to say, encouraging. Michigan finished with a 4-0 record while averaging 101 points per game and shooting 55.4 percent from the field against a collection Italian all-star clubs.

For a team that lost five major players in Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary (albeit lost early in the 2013-14 season), Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford, Michigan needs some time to come together and gel, as it is introducing six true freshmen and one redshirt freshman.

So the trip to Italy was just what the doctor ordered for head coach John Beilein and company, as it got the team to iron out some concerns and issues before the games count for real in November. It was not only a good trip to bond over, but Beilein got a head start in regard to what lineups he may implement in the winter.

Here, then, are the biggest takeaways from the Wolverines’ trip to Italy.

All stats courtesy of MGoBlue.com.

 

Caris LeVert appears to be fine after foot surgery

After averaging 14.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 3.0 steals on the trip, it’s safe to say LeVert is over his foot injury

As the de facto leader of the team, it was nice to see LeVert play at a high level and give Wolverines fans assurance that he’ll be fine heading into the 2014-15 season. It was also nice to see LeVert expand his game; he rebounded and passed the ball well, playing a well-rounded game in Italy.

Michigan should be in good hands with LeVert being the alpha dog of the group this year, and the ankle injury must now be considered a thing of the past.

 

Zak Irvin appears ready to break out

After some concerns that Irvin would only be a shooter in Michigan’s offense, he erased some doubt that he is not a complete player by having a fantastic Italian excursion. No MVP was given out for trip, but if there was one, he would have received it.

Irvin averaged 20.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game on the trip while shooting a blistering 68.8 percent from the floor. Don’t worry, Irvin can still shoot from deep, as he shot 66.7 from long range (nailing 12 of his 18 three-pointers). Talk about efficiency!

It seems Irvin took to task the object of making himself a complete player and gave us a glimpse of how special he can be in his sophomore year.

 

Ricky Doyle could be the rebounder Michigan needs

If there is one thing the Wolverines need, it is a rebounder. With McGary, Morgan and Horford departing, Michigan needs a couple of its big men to step up, and Ricky Doyle definitively answered the bell in Italy.

In four games, Doyle averaged a very respectable eight rebounds a game. Not only that, but Doyle also chipped in 11.8 points per game on the trip.

Granted, the competition in Italy is not what he will face in the Big Ten, but Doyle gave Michigan fans hope that the team will have some good depth down low.

 

Mark Donnal appears ready to contribute

Doyle wasn’t the only big man to impress during the Italy trip, as redshirt freshman Mark Donnal also showed his worth.

In the four games, Donnal averaged 10.2 points and 6.5 rebounds while shooting a sizzling 69.5 percent from the field. Donnal showed he can play a nice role in Michigan’s offense, and he, along with Doyle, can perhaps get the job done down low.

While there may be some bumps along the way, Donnal looks like he’s ready to step into the starting lineup and be a factor.

 

Great to see Austin Hatch playing

While not expected to be much of a contributor this year, that is not the story here when it comes to Austin Hatch.

For a guy who has lost his mother, father, stepmother and two siblings in two separate plane crashes and was in a medically induced coma as a result of one of them, Hatch is the perfect picture of courage and perseverance. For him to come back from not only the grief that has stricken him, but the life-threatening injuries as well, is nothing short of miraculous and inspiring.

Good stories go beyond the bounds of basketball, and this story demonstrates how we should all appreciate how precious life is.

Follow me on Twitter @Stacdemon

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What to Expect from Every Miami Heat Player in 2014-15

Although the Miami Heat lost four-time MVP LeBron James to the Cleveland Cavaliers this summer, the 2014-15 Heat are poised to remain one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference.

Miami brought back franchise cornerstones such as Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, while also signing nine newcomers this offseason, such as Luol Deng.

But when evaluating how skilled this roster is, it’s important to look at every part of it—from Wade, Bosh and Deng to rookies Shabazz Napier and James Ennisso we’re going to do just that. 

We’ll be taking a look at and making statistical predictions for every player in our projected 15-man final roster

Begin Slideshow

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What the Los Angeles Clippers Need from Chris Paul Next Season

Arguably the top point guard in the entire league, Chris Paul has helped transform the Los Angeles Clippers into one of the league’s elite teams. While Paul has been nothing short of awesome, Doc Rivers needs a more unique version of the elite point guard. Especially if the Clippers are to reach the franchise’s first conference finals.

Make no mistake, Paul’s talents are a major reason for the Clippers’ turnaround over the past three seasons. However, the postseason results have been disappointing. Paul needs to refine his game and adjust his tendency to dominate the ball.

Last season Doc Rivers proved to Paul that increasing the tempo and limiting his control over the ball improved the team. Mainly, because Blake Griffin was ready to help Paul carry the load offensively.

Paul’s talents are remarkable, but even the most talented players need help getting to the top. The fire that burns within Paul’s competitive soul help make him a fearless leader, but talent, chemistry and a little bit of luck are what win titles. The talent is now available but one last thing is missing; a change in philosophy.

 

Paul’s Past

Despite Paul’s immense talents he has never led his team past the second round of the playoffs. Widely regarded as one of the 10 best players in the league for years, his playoff results are underwhelming. Some of that blame can be placed on his supporting cast, but the common denominator is Paul.

According to basketball-reference.com, Paul’s playoff averages of 20.6 points, 9.7 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 2.4 steals are extraordinary. Unfortunately, the underlying theme behind those statistics revolve around his penchant for dominating the ball.

Again, his ball dominance ties in with his lack of a superior supporting cast. The main problem has always been the lack of another high-usage scorer.

The chart above tells all. David West was Paul’s highest usage sidekick until arriving in Los Angeles. West has never been mistaken for someone that can create his own shot, let alone set up his teammates for baskets.

Those not listed include 46 games of Marcus Thornton, Jarrett Jack, Jannero Pargo, Peja Stojakovic again. The picture is pretty clear, Paul needed help.

Even after joining the Clippers in 2011, not much changed. Paul finally had someone who could create offense and score 20 points per game, but needed to be fed the ball in certain areas on the floor to score. That mean a ball dominant Paul had to take control of the offense, especially in the playoffs.

Much like with the New Orleans Hornets, defenses were able to key on Paul, taking away his passing lanes and forcing the 6’0” point guard to win games nearly single-handedly. Yet again, Paul has been unable to advance out of the second round. For all of Paul’s talents, it would be nearly impossible for him to win multiple playoff series each season on his own.

 

A New Paul

The arrival of Doc Rivers provided instantaneous legitimacy for the franchise. Rivers is passionate, sensible and brutally honest. Chris Paul found this out immediately, according to Yahoo Sports’ Marc J. Spears.

As professional athletes, you always want someone to push you and motivate you, Paul said. The first meeting I had with Doc, he pretty much told me I wasn’t anything. He told me I hadn’t done anything in this league, and he was right. You don’t always want somebody that’s going to tell you what you want to hear.

Reflecting on this quote brings clarification to the entire 2013-14 Clippers season. Rivers needed to breakdown the undesirable habits and attitudes of the players on his new roster. He needed to mold their talents into a new system that took pressure off Paul, gave Blake Griffin more offensive responsibility, kept the floor spread and featured DeAndre Jordan as the defensive anchor.

Paul seemed hesitant early, as Rivers preached tempo, speed and sharing the ball. It was not until Paul missed a month of action with a separated shoulder, that he fully appreciated what Rivers was preaching. Largely, because he was able to see the offense excel without him.

According to NBA.com, from January 4 until Paul’s return on February 9, the Clippers were second in the league in scoring and had a plus-8.1 scoring differential. Rivers’ system was dynamic and lethal, because the team was playing fast and spreading the floor around Griffin.

Every game Paul missed, the league’s best point guard had a front-row seat to Rivers’ explosive offense despite his presence on the floor. The more the team pushed tempo and shared the ball, the more difficult the offense was to defend.

Paul now completely understood his role in the offense and the transition upon his return was seamless, mentioned ESPN’s J.A. Adande.

He still has the ball in his hand a lot, Rivers said. We want him to have the ball; he’s the best player in the league with it. But we also feel like it’s harder to guard him when he gives it up and comes back, and then they can’t load up.

So how do the Clippers improve upon last season? It starts with Paul. The lessons he learned during his first season with Rivers are vital to the success the team seeks this season.

Griffin has proven that he can carry the load along with Paul. No longer will there be a need for Paul to create every shot after pounding the ball into the floor for 15 seconds, waiting for someone to come free for an assist.

The offense can flow through Griffin, forcing the defense to shift to Paul coming of rubs and screens. Griffin’s much-improved jumper now gives Paul one of the best pick-and-roll/pop partners in the league.

Most important of all, Paul has a leader on the sidelines. Someone to hold everyone else accountable so he can focus on playing basketball. Someone for the team’s heart and soul to believe in. A man that Paul respects.

Finally, Paul needs to do a little less, so everyone else can do a bit more. A more balanced offense and a commitment to defense will be the key to this season. His old tendencies are sure to re-emerge, but it is time for Paul to trust the others around him and stick to Rivers’ system.

The talent and structure Paul needs is now firmly in place. He just needs to take advantage of it.

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What’s Keeping Title from Los Angeles Clippers’ Grasp?

New Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer has always been the ambitious type, and his foray into professional basketball promises to be no different.

According to the Los Angeles TimesEverett Cook, he was recently asked by a long-time ticket holder how the next 26 seasons would differ from the last 26.

I’ll boldly say that the Clippers will win many, many, many, many more Larrys in the next 26 than in the last 26!” Ballmer replied, referencing the Larry O’Brien Trophy awarded to NBA champions.

After describing his $2 billion purchase to reporters as, “an L.A. beachfront price,” it reasons that the former Microsoft CEO is expecting big things. And with two All-Stars and a title-winning head coach leading the way, the optimism is well-founded.

If anything, it’s a bit surprising these Clippers haven’t done even better since point guard Chris Paul and power forward Blake Griffin joined forces.

Since Paul joined the team for the 2011-12 campaign, Los Angeles has twice advanced to the conference semifinals—losing to the San Antonio Spurs in 2012 and to the Oklahoma City Thunder last season. In 2013, the Memphis Grizzlies ousted the Clippers in a six-game opening-round series.

After having gone five seasons without a playoff appearance, the CP3 era has been a relative success.

The question is whether it’s underachieved.

This is a club that has a way of eliciting optimism.

On the brink of last season’s playoffs, Sheridan Hoops’ Chris Sheridan wrote, “The Clippers have their weak points, but their offense can be spectacular. If it holds, the Clippers should start dusting off a shelf for their 2014 NBA championship trophy.”

Instead, the franchise battled the Donald Sterling sideshow, even as it somehow managed to survive a seven-game, first-round marathon against the Golden State Warriors

The Thunder that followed were a battle-tested operation with two All-Stars of their own. While the Clippers were a deeper team in theory, Griffin and Paul were no match for their star counterparts.

After a season in which he finished third in MVP voting, Griffin was solid against OKC—averaging 23.8 points and even exploding for 34 points in a Game 3 loss. But the man who finished first in that MVP voting was transcendent, averaging 33.2 points and 9.5 rebounds against the Clippers.

A similar story unfolded at point guard.

Paul’s 22.5 points and 11.8 assists per game in the series were impressive. But the longer, hyper-athletic Westbrook responded with 27.8 points and 8.8 assists of his own. The matchup arguably resulted in a draw, but it was a draw the Clippers could ill-afford.

They needed someone to outplay his OKC rival, to control the game on both ends of the floor. 

That didn’t happen.

This is a solid roster, but it doesn’t have the defensive pedigree to outlast especially potent opposition. 

As CBSSports.com’s Matt Moore wrote of last season’s rotation, “They had a bevy of wing shooters but few who can create or defend, and they were perilously short on frontcourt defense.”

Absent an arsenal of two-way role players, Los Angeles needs virtually flawless performances from its big names—which increasingly includes center DeAndre Jordan, who averaged just 6.7 points in those conference semifinals.

One historically bothersome factor has been health—not catastrophically damning injuries, but the kind of nagging wear and tear that have limited Paul and Griffin. Griffin battled a debilitating ankle injury in 2013 and a knee injury the year before that. Paul dealt with a groin strain in 2012 and hamstring issues last season.

Though it’s difficult to find a direct culprit for that kind of misfortune, it wouldn’t be surprising for Rivers to watch minutes a bit more closely this season.

Even with the capable likes of Darren Collison around to spell Paul last season, the 29-year-old still played 35 minutes per game—up from the 33.4 minutes he averaged in 2012-13. For his part, Griffin played 35.8 minutes per contest a season ago, well above the 32.5 minutes he averaged the season before that.

The reigning champion Spurs remained fresh in 2014 on account of a radically egalitarian distribution of minutes. No one on San Antonio’s roster played 30 or more minutes per game. Point guard Tony Parker led the way averaging just 29.4 minutes.

On paper, the Clippers have enough depth to approach that kind of equilibrium—especially with the acquisition of big man Spencer Hawes bolstering Rivers’ interior rotation.

Beyond the management of playing time, the other consideration for Griffin is his playing style. Exploding to the basket with gravity-defying liftoff makes for brilliant highlights, but it also increases the risk that the 25-year-old will land awkwardly or otherwise succumb to injury-inducing collision. 

A still-developing mid-range game could afford Griffin the luxury of adopting slightly more conservative tactics.

There’s no science to categorically avoiding injury, but the Clippers need every advantage they can get.

This is a team that needs its superstars at full strength at season’s end. It also needs to find its rhythm at the right time. The margin for error in a top-heavy Western Conference is slim.

It probably doesn’t seem fair for Griffin and Paul to shoulder all the responsibility, not when pivotal contributors like Jamal Crawford and J.J. Redick were equally responsible for last season’s shortcomings. 

But there’s nothing fair about the demands of a championship season. The Clippers were built to rely on two larger-than-life superstars, and Ballmer‘s high hopes ultimately rest with them. 

They’ll have to stay healthy, and at times they’ll have to outplay MVPs.

Those “Larrys” won’t settle for anything less.

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Kyrie Irving on his first three years in Cleveland: ‘I didn’t really have help from anybody’

The Cavaliers guard spoke about the changes in leadership and his own role.

      
 

 

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Cavaliers acquire Kevin Love from Timberwolves

The Cleveland Cavaliers have officially acquired forward Kevin Love in a three-team trade that sends guard Andrew Wiggins and forward Anthony Bennett to Minnesota and a protected 2015 first round pick (via Miami) to Philadelphia. As part of the three-team trade, Minnesota will also acquire forward Thaddeus Young from the 76ers, while Philadelphia receives forward Luc Mbah a Moute and guard Alexey Shved from the Timberwolves. OFFICIAL: #Cavs acquire Kevin Love – [MORE]: http://t.co/u7NgYmsnyr RT to show the love & welcome @kevinlove to #CLE! pic.twitter.com/piQMHnPqP0 — Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) August 23, 2014 “Kevin joining the Cavaliers represents a very special and unique opportunity for our team. At only 25, Kevin has already firmly established himself as one the NBA’s elite players and his talent, versatility and fit are major parts of our team’s vision for success,” said 

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