Up-close look at Spurs’ huge rings

They are large and very sparkly.

      
 

 

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Victor Oladipo’s Injury Puts Huge Pressure on Rookie Elfrid Payton

If the Orlando Magic had any intention of easing 20-year-old rookie Elfrid Payton into the action, that blueprint has been scrapped.

Orlando doesn’t have the depth needed to keep him on a short leash. Not with promising sophomore Victor Oladipo expected to miss a month of the season with a facial fracture, as league sources told Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski.

The Magic will need everything the unproven Payton has to offer. They really have no other alternative.

After waiving Peyton Siva over the weekend, Orlando has only two true point guards on the roster: Payton and 33-year-old veteran Luke Ridnour.

Oladipo is naturally a 2-guard, but he split his rookie campaign between both backcourt positions. Even if Payton’s arrival would have cut into Oladipo‘s time at the point, Orlando still figured to lean on the latter’s playmaking ability (4.1 assists per game in 2013-14).

For now, that’s obviously no longer an option.

And the jury is still out on how big a role Ridnour can play. He is a proven commodity in the sense this will be his 12th season in the NBA, but having a track record isn’t the same as having a strong track record.

His player efficiency rating has checked in below the league-average mark of 15.0 during eight of his 11 years in the league, including each of the past three.

With Magic general manager Rob Hennigan having already stressed the importance of seeing “growth and progress” in the third year of the franchise’s post-Dwight Howard rebuild, per Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel, Orlando needs Payton to sprint out of the gate.

Fortunately, fast learning has been a theme of the young floor general’s life story, as Magic.com’s John Denton explained:

Payton started kindergarten when he was 4 years old, graduated high school at 16 and couldn’t even vote in elections until his sophomore year of college. By age 11 and 12, he was already playing in pick-up basketball games at the park against 18-year-olds who all wanted him on their team because of his advanced passing and ball-handling skills.

In fact, one of the first times that Payton ever squared off against players his own age was in the FIBA Under-19 Championships in Prague.

Payton’s ability to scale steep learning curves with relative ease can be partially attributed to his impressive physical tools. He measured in at the draft combine a shade below 6’4″, per DraftExpress, and opened plenty of eyes with a 6’8″ wingspan and 35.5″ max vertical.

With his length and athleticism, he should be a pesky defender from the start.

He showcased that talent during his three seasons spent at Louisiana-Lafayette, where he compiled career averages of 6.4 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 0.7 blocks per 40 minutes, per Sports-Reference.com. Last season, his efforts at that end netted him the Lefty Driesell National Defensive Player of the Year award.

Bleacher Report’s Adam Fromal gushed about Payton’s defensive potential in a mid-June scouting report:

Not only does he remain intense when settling down into his stance, but he flashes tremendous instincts, allowing him to poke away the ball when it’s being handled without much care and to jump into passing lanes without a moment of hesitation.

But perhaps most importantly, Payton has quick feet on defense. He moves laterally with ease and shows an uncanny knack for working around screens without getting caught up in the pick. Given the pick-and-roll-heavy nature of NBA offenses, that’ll work in his advantage and ease his transition to the sport’s highest level.

During Payton’s eight-game test run in the preseason, he averaged 1.3 steals and 3.1 boards in 27 minutes per game. He also flashed a knack for staying in the moment, showing the improvisational skills needed to survive on this fast-paced stage.

Of course, simply surviving at this level is no longer enough. With Oladipo‘s creativity stripped from this offense, Orlando needs Payton to dominate as if he was still calling the Sun Belt Conference his basketball home.

As with any rookie, that’s likely to be a season-long challenge for Payton. His game simply isn’t as polished as those belonging to most of the players he’ll be squaring off with on a nightly basis.

His road ahead figures to be littered with peaks and valleys. That inconsistency surfaced during the exhibition season, when he tossed out an impressive 5.5 assists per game but also coughed up 3.8 turnovers.

In this business, those numbers are called “growing pains,” a vague term meant to encapsulate the difficulty of learning—and hopefully mastering—such a highly skilled craft on the job.

The good news is that Payton has the personality needed to make it through this roller coaster without ever feeling overwhelmed.

He has poise, he’s gritty and he’s not going to get shaken,” Magic shooting guard Ben Gordon said, per Denton. “I think he’s one of those guys who just sort of loses himself in the game. He’s a really tough competitor.”

While that might sound like lofty praise, it might actually be underselling his competitive drive.

“If you score on him, you’ll see he’s going to come back at you,” said his father, Elfrid Sr., a member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, per Robbins. “He’s not going to be satisfied with you scoring on him.”

With all due respect to Elfrid Jr.’s defensive tenacity, he’s going to get scored on.

The Magic surrendered 104.8 points per 100 possessions last season, finishing tied for 17th in defensive efficiency. With Oladipo on the shelf, even that number could prove hard to maintain.

However, Orlando’s biggest concern with regard to Payton doesn’t come from that end of the floor. The Magic must find out how he can live up to his father’s words, how he hits back after weathering a blow from his opponent.

His success in that endeavor may hinge on his ability to improve a jump shot that may ultimately identify his impact at this level.

As Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman explained, Payton’s shot is worlds removed from where it needs to be:

With Payton, we’re not just talking about inconsistent shooting—his jumper barely works. According to DraftExpress‘ Schmitz, this past season, he hit just 4 of 22 (18 percent) catch-and-shoot jumpers, 15 of 55 (27 percent) jumpers off the dribble and 17 of 66 attempts total inside the arc.

Outside the arc, he made just 14 of 54 threes (25.9 percent) after 16-of-50 (32 percent) shooting as a sophomore and 0-of-8 shooting as a freshman.

No doubt aware of those numbers, Payton has been hesitant to even try to add that to his repertoire, as Basketball Insiders’ Nate Duncan observed:

The point guard position is such a difficult spot to hold without a consistent shot. A very small group of floor generals have gotten by without one—Rajon Rondo (career 25.2 three-point percentage), Andre Miller (21.7), Ramon Sessions (31.1), Ricky Rubio (32.3)—but the Magic can’t bank on Payton being an exception to the rule.

Orlando shot just 35.3 percent from deep as a team last season, which was tied for the 19th-best conversion rate. The offseason arrivals of Channing Frye (career 38.5 three-point percentage), Evan Fournier (38.1) and Gordon (40.2) should help improve that number, but floor spacing may still come at a premium.

If defenses pack the paint against the Magic, Payton will have less room to attack and smaller passing windows to spot. He has to give defenders a reason to pick him up farther from the basket, or he risks plaguing his own production.

Ideally, this season would have been both a lesson for why he needs a steady stroke and the time it takes to find one. But an ideal year wouldn’t have included the loss of Oladipo, leaving Payton with more work to do and less time in which to do it.

Given the raw state of fellow rookie Aaron Gordon’s skills and the uncomfortably large gap between this entire roster’s ceiling and basement, Payton was always going to have a heavy hand in Orlando’s 2014-15 performance.

But with Oladipo out of the equation for the foreseeable future, Payton’s hand might now be the heaviest.

 

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

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Klay Thompson Looks Primed for Huge Season with 35-Point Outburst

Klay Thompson wants a max contract, and judging by his preseason form, he’s going to get it. 

The Golden State Warriors guard lit up the Denver Nuggets for 35 points as the Dubs won their preseason finale, 119-112. But it wasn’t just how many points he scored; it was about how he scored them. 

Shooting only 4-of-12 from beyond the arc, Thompson continued to attack the basket, showing a different part of his game. 

If he can keep this up in the regular season, the Golden State Warriors should happily open their checkbook. 

[NBA]

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Thunder ‘Don’t Know How to Take Nights Off’, Are a Lock for a Huge 60-Win Season

The Oklahoma City Thunder will look to take the next step behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook as the duo looks to capture their first NBA title. Can the Thunder finally climb the mountain this year?

Carson Cunningham of KOCO5 joins Stephen Nelson to play a game of over/under on OKC in the video above.

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Jazz’s Gordon Hayward Throws Down Huge Dunk in Preseason Game vs. Trail Blazers

There are a handful of NBA players you expect to throw down huge slam dunks during a game.

Utah Jazz wing Gordon Hayward is not one of them.

During Thursday night’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers, Hayward threw down this exciting dunk after driving to the rim, finishing with authority.

[Gfycat]

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Huge TV deal gives players, owners more to fight over

The NBA’s labor deal can be terminated in 2017. Expect both sides to want even more.

      
 

 

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Contract Year NBA Players Poised to Have Huge Seasons in 2014-15

Before the 2014-15 NBA season tips off, a number of questions are waiting to be answered. 

Chief among them: Which impending free agents are most likely to post the numbers necessary to garner substantial monetary commitments next summer? 

From the max contracts LaMarcus Aldridge and Rajon Rondo will be seeking to pay increases for the likes of DeAndre Jordan and Greg Monroe, the regular season is going to set the stage for another dramatic summer of player movement. 

As a result, we’ve decided to examine the players whose bank accounts stand to benefit from superlative performances in the year ahead. 

Begin Slideshow

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Proposed design for Warriors arena looks like huge toilet

While it’s not fair to “dump” on initial renderings of a massive architectural undertaking, an image released of the proposed design of the Golden State Warriors’ new arena leads to one comparison regarding its appearance. It looks like a giant toilet. A nice, top-of-the-line American Standard toilet, sure, but a toilet nonetheless. In a presentation […] The post Proposed design of Golden St. Warriors arena makes it look like a huge toilet (pic) appeared first on Sportress of Blogitude.

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McRoberts’ Big Opportunity a Huge Deal for Heat

Josh McRoberts has never seen a stage this large, lights this bright and expectations this enormous throughout his six-year career. As a true journeyman in the NBA, McRoberts has never been on a team that has held him to championship expectations and standards. Despite a career statistical year last season with the Charlotte Bobcats (will be Hornets next season), McRoberts enters a situation that could make his career larger than he’s ever imagined. Starting at power forward for the four-time defending Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat this upcoming season, McRoberts has the chance to elevate his game and stature to heights that neither the basketball world or the man himself would’ve expected.
Besides, McRoberts has never been on a title contender throughout his career and has been past the first round just once (2011-12 Los Angeles Lakers in 66-game lockout season). This Heat team is poised to break through the hype of the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers, the lofty champ…

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Report: Kevin Durant reaches huge deal to stay with Nike

Darren Rovell and ESPN.com is reporting that Nike believes they will be able to keep Kevin Durant in tow after Nike has countered Under Armour’s offer. Looks like they will keep Kevin Durant. Story coming from @ESPNSteinLine and I. — darren rovell (@darrenrovell) August 31, 2014 According to the report, Nike officials told Durant and his team at Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports that it would do what was needed to come close to the $325 million offered by Under Armour. While the exact Nike offer for Durant isn’t known, sources told ESPN that Durant should make more — in base and royalties — than the Thunder will pay him over the next two seasons ($41.2 million). That’s why fans in Oklahoma City were nervous about a possible move to Under Armour, which could have steered him more to returning to his local roots to play for the Washington Wizards when he becomes a free agent after the 2015-16 season. Analyst Omar Saad, senior managing director of ISI’s luxury, apparel and footwear team, who …

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