Cavs’ Kevin Love set to play against Hawks (Yahoo Sports)

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 15: Kevin Love #0 of the Cleveland Cavaliers shoots the ball against the Charlotte Hornets during the game on December 15, 2014 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

CLEVELAND (AP) — Cavaliers forward Kevin Love, who missed the team’s morning shootaround with flu-like symptoms, will play against Atlanta.


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Kevin Durant on notion no one wants to play with Kobe Bryant: ‘That’s (expletive)’

As the 2014-15 NBA season was just getting underway in October, a story written by Henry Abbott for ESPN The Magazine made the startling assertion that according to his anonymous sources inside the league, most players would prefer to not have Kobe Bryant as a teammate and that he ultimately is responsible for the downfall…Read More
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Durant on Kobe: ‘I’d want to play with a guy like that’

Durant says that Bryant demands a lot from players and makes them better

      
 

 

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Cavaliers Injury Update: Waiters will play Monday

The Cleveland Cavaliers head into Monday’s game against the Charlotte Hornets coming off a 119-114 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday. The loss dropped the Cavaliers to 13-9 on the season, second in the Central Division. The Cavaliers, who were without Dion Waiters, were lead by LeBron James, who scored 41 points. Waiters is expected to be back in action against the Hornets.Erik Drost via Wikimedia CommonsBob Finnan, who covers the Cavaliers for The News-Herald, tweeted the following update on Waiters.Injury report for #Cavs for Charlotte game: Dion Waiters is fine and will play, Matthew Dellavedova is questionable, and Mike Miller is out.— Bob Finnan (@BobCavsinsider) December 14, 2014 Rotoworld.com added that Waiters participated in the entire practice today and will be ready to come off the bench on Monday. With Mike Miller out and Matthew Dellavedova questionable, Waiters could see significant time on the court. Waiters, in his third NBA season out of Syracuse, is averaging 9.4 points in

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WATCH: Mavs play keep-away with Marreese Speights’ shoe

The Golden State Warriors are currently blowing the doors off the Dallas Mavericks in a rare Saturday NBA matinee. Thus, we’ll focus on this humorous little incident involving Marreese Speights, Marreese Speights’ shoe, Steph Curry and Tyson Chandler. First, Speights loses his shoe. Then, his own teammate (Curry) tosses it to the sideline so as
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Kansas Basketball: Jayhawks Need a Go-to Scorer to Step Up Before Big 12 Play

The University of Kansas Jayhawks keep finding a way to pull out victories in close games against high-quality opponents. 

However, the luck of the Jayhawks is bound to run out sometime soon if they don’t identify a go-to scorer before Big 12 play begins January 7 at Baylor. 

In the closing stages of the 63-60 win over a talented No. 13 Utah squad, Kansas had to rely on six clutch free throws and two solid defensive possessions to leave the Sprint Center with its eighth victory of the season. 

The good news for the Jayhawks is they have no problem sinking foul shots, which is keeping them afloat at the moment. Brannen Greene is automatic from the charity stripe, and the team, as a whole, went 21-of-23 from the line against Utah. 

That is the one attribute about this particular Kansas team that remains consistent. But it is the other inconsistent qualities of the Jayhawks that will eventually do them in. 

As the player with the most experience on the roster, Perry Ellis is expected to step up in key situations. But the junior forward scored a single basket in the final 10 minutes of Saturday’s victory. 

In the close win over Georgetown Wednesday, Ellis was also nowhere to be found in the scoring department during the final 10 minutes, as he made one field goal and two free throws. 

Ellis is a reliable player on the defensive end of the court, but he has to be willing to step up and sink baskets during crucial stretches of key games. 

In the tremendous second half against Florida, Wayne Selden Jr. was the star with 21 points in front of the home crowd at Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks also saw freshman Cliff Alexander show up in major fashion with a commanding double-double against a weakened Florida frontcourt. 

In the two games following the massive come-from-behind win at home, Selden and Alexander have combined to score just 23 points. The regression in scoring typifies the season Kansas is having so far. Once the Jayhawks take one step forward, they end up taking two steps back. 

The young age of the team can be blamed partly for those struggles. But when you have an experienced player like Ellis on the floor, you would expect him to inspire the young guys with a few clutch performances. 

Right now, the Jayhawks do not have any standout individuals on the roster. They are winning games as a team, but that will only get them so far against the likes of Texas and Iowa State in conference play. 

With four nonconference games left against Lafayette, Temple, Kent State and UNLV, someone has to put the team on their back and prove to Bill Self he can trust someone in the final five minutes of a close game. 

We saw some signs of life from Kelly Oubre Jr. in the first half against Utah, but he ended with nine points in just 17 minutes. Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk also has the potential to develop into the go-to guy, but he only received 10 minutes of playing time after a cold spell over the last few games. 

All of the statistics suggest everyone on the Kansas roster from Ellis and Jamari Traylor in the frontcourt to the shooters in the backcourt are having trouble with consistency this season. 

The same stats also lead us to believe Self has little faith in keeping his players on the court for long spells. When Self finally gave Traylor an expanded role against Utah, he rewarded his coach with 13 points in 26 minutes. 

The junior forward also helped clog the paint on defense during most of the game, which is likely to lead to more minutes over the next few games. 

Instead of displaying a short leash with his players, Self should let his guys work out the growing pains on the court. Maybe what Self needs is someone like Traylor to prove success can be had without working under the short leash. 

The best thing for the younger players like Oubre, Alexander and Mykhailiuk to do to fix their inconsistent numbers is to play more. Sitting on the bench will not help the progression of these players one bit. 

By failing to give his freshmen a consistent amount of minutes, Self is hurting himself and the team. A consistent clutch performer doesn’t just pop up out of the blue in one game. 

For now, Self will have to rely on the team’s consistent approach at the line and some periods of solid defense. 

If the Jayhawks are going to continue their streak of consecutive Big 12 regular-season titles, one of the young stars must accept the role of finisher. 

Who that player is remains to be seen. And based off what we have seen so far, the absent go-to scorer may not show up for quite some time. 

 

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

All stats obtained from ESPN.com.

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Watch: Bulls score in bizarre play

How was this even possible?

      
 

 

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UNC Basketball: Ways Tar Heels Must Improve Before Conference Play

Not everything can be measured in wins and losses. Just because a team wins a ballgame doesn’t mean it did everything correctly, and vice versa.

With the North Carolina Tar Heels sitting at 6-2 and having already defeated two ranked foes, it would seem that things are going swimmingly. However, that is not completely true. There are many things the Tar Heels must work to improve before conference play begins next month.

The most pressing matter facing this team is its three-point shooting.

For two years now, this issue has been beaten into the ground. With Marcus Paige’s slow shooting start to the season, the problem is even more dire. Right now, lefty-turned-righty Nate Britt is the team’s top distance shooter at 6-of-17 from beyond the arc.

It’s comforting that six made threes is already twice as many as he connected on all of last season, but Britt being the top percentage shooter is reason to fret.

This was never going to be a roster full of bombers. That’s not its skill set. Nevertheless, opponents are already crowding the paint against Carolina because there is little reason to stay honest on the outside. The poor three-point shooting has thus trickled down and made open two-point jump shots harder to come by.

UNC is shooting 44.9 percent from the floor, 117th in the country, and it’s no accident.

The main reason North Carolina has stayed afloat has been rebounding on the offensive glass. Second-chance points have made up the difference, but that board domination has not translated to the other end of the court.

While UNC has grabbed a whopping 135 offensive rebounds this year, eighth best in the nation, it has allowed opponents to grab 128 of their own, one of the worst figures in all of college basketball at 343rd in the country.

The reasons why this is happening aren’t immediately clear.

If it’s simply effort, that is good news but alarming all the same. Effort is easily fixable but should not be a concern of a Roy Williams-coached club.

If the rebounding is caused by poor technique, that is more difficult to correct, especially since the coaching staff hasn’t been able to change things thus far.

With the Kentucky Wildcats next on the agenda, this is the worst time to be struggling with cleaning up the defensive glass. UK is perhaps the only team in the country that matches UNC in both its struggles to shoot from the outside as well as its dominance on the offensive boards.

The other possibility is that these players are being used incorrectly. Roy Williams has always liked to have his teams run up and down the court, generating more possessions than the average team.

This style of play makes a team susceptible to giving up easy baskets off its own mistakes. It’s also fair to say that being encouraged to get out and run off any opponent shot makes defending the glass a bit harder than it should be.

Looking back at UNC from the past few seasons, this last point may have the most validity.

That same style of play could be a leading cause of current foul trouble and turnover abundance as well as lead to more issues down the road simply because this roster isn’t one fit to run. With dominant big men down low, heavy forward rotations and little guard depth, the 2014-15 Tar Heels may be the most ill-fitting collection of talent for this system that Williams has ever had.

The coach has no reason to completely alter what has made him a Hall of Famer, but it may be time to slow things down a bit and see how the team fares.

There is certainly the size and length here to play great defense all around if everyone isn’t so concerned with scoring in seven seconds or less on the opposite end.

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Syracuse Basketball: Ways Orange Must Improve Before Conference Play

The Syracuse basketball team is off to an uncharacteristic start this season. The Orange (5-3) have lost back-to-back games and have several tough games remaining before ACC play begins. Included in the nonconference schedule is a trip to Villanova, which is currently ranked seventh in both polls.

Based on the way Syracuse has played lately, games that could once have been considered gimmes are no longer easy wins. If the Orange want to be competitive in conference play this year, they have to make the most of the remaining nonconference contests.

Let’s have a look at a few areas the Orange must focus on ahead of the start of ACC play.

 

3-Point Shooting

Anyone who has been watching Syracuse play this year knows three-point shooting has been a problem for Syracuse. Considering Trevor Cooney was the only returning three-point threat, it was expected the Orange would struggle a bit from deep.

But no one expected the Orange to be this bad. Of 351 teams, Syracuse (shooting 21.1 percent from three this year) ranks 350th in the nation. Yes, only one team (fellow ACC member Florida State) has been worse than the Orange from the land of plenty early on this season.

How can the Orange improve their terrible early shooting? One way is just to keep shooting. It seems highly unlikely a team will shoot 20 percent from deep for an entire season. Eventually, some shots have to start falling.

But other than that, the Orange could tweak the way they look for their shots from deep. We’ve mentioned in the past how the Orange could borrow from the Golden State Warriors playbook and use the “elevator doors” play.

If Rakeem Christmas and Chris McCullough are the screeners, they can help Cooney get a good look at the top of the key. And if multiple defenders close out on Cooney, he could look for either Christmas or McCullough rolling toward the rim. 

In addition, the Orange could alter their spacing on the floor. When either Christmas or McCullough posts up, generally Cooney is on the opposite side of the floor. This allows opponents to more easily double-team because they don’t have to worry about the inside player kicking it out to a shooter.

If Cooney is on the same side of the floor as the post player, however, teams will be less willing to double the post in fear of leaving Cooney open. And having Cooney closer to the post player with the ball makes it easier to pass out of the post, because the inside player doesn’t have to pass as far across the floor.

If the Orange use some different plays and floor spacing, it can help create more open shots. And if they use their spacing to discourage double-teams, it will make things easier inside, which is where they’ve had the most success this season.

Speaking of which…

 

Offensive Philosophy

We know the Orange have struggled to shoot so far this season. When they have had success on offense, it has come inside with Christmas and McCullough. The two Orange big men are the team’s top two scorers, with Christmas averaging 16.9 points per game and McCullough scoring 14.4 per. 

You would think that since the Orange have two talented post players, they would run their offense through them, right? So far, that hasn’t really been the case.

According to Hoop-Math, Syracuse shoots 67.2 percent on shots at the rim. Considering McCullough and Christmas are the leading scorers, that makes sense. However, only 38.3 percent of Syracuse’s shots come at the rim.

Until the shooting issues are figured out, the Orange should run their offense through the post as often as they can. It is difficult sometimes, because opponents can freely double-team since there isn’t much of a shooting threat.

But if Cooney is on the same side of the floor as we discussed earlier, that could change things.

In addition, Kaleb Joseph is still finding his way as a college point guard. He’s had trouble getting the Orange into their offense at times, and sometimes he can’t get the ball in the post when he needs to. That has, in part, led to his turning the ball over 3.3 times per game.

Orange fans were spoiled by Tyler Ennis’ steady play last year, but Joseph is more of what a normal freshman point guard looks like. As he continues to gain experience, he should find it easier to execute the offense.

In the meantime, Michael Gbinije can be used at point guard if Joseph struggles. That was the case in the most recent game against St. John’s, in which Gbinije played 37 minutes and Joseph only 19.

Gbinije provides more experience, and if he plays small forward on defense and point guard on offense, it can create some matchup problems for the opponent.

As is normally the case, Syracuse’s defense can keep it in just about any game. It has been the offense that has held the Orange back so far this season.

Once ACC play gets going, the defenses and opposing players will get better. If the Orange can work on improving their offense, they will be able to compete in the gauntlet that is the ACC.

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Harden will play vs. Warriors, Howard still out

Howard is hoping to be back in the Rockets’ lineup Saturday

      
 

 

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