Tag: nba

The Best Moments from NBA All-Star Weekend 2020

From Kobe tributes to Dunk Contest controversy and an All-Star Game for the ages, this was one weekend basketball fans will never forget.

Image via Getty/Stacy Revere

Kobe Bryant committed his life to being the best—the best on the basketball court, the best in business and entertainment, and the best father. Simply… the best.

It was fitting, then, that as today’s best NBA players gathered in Chicago for the 2020 All-Star Weekend, the festivities were saturated with moving tributes to the great 2-guard, and that this All-Star Weekend was perhaps the best we’ve ever had.

Kobe redefined hard work. There will only ever be one Mamba. And his one-of-a-kind impact was omnipresent in Chicago this past weekend.

Prior to the All-Star Game, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced that the game’s MVP award had been renamed for Kobe. In Sunday night’s showdown between the All-Star teams helmed by this year’s two top vote-getters, Team Giannis wore Kobe’s No. 24 while Team LeBron sported No. 2 in honor of Kobe’s daughter, Gianna Bryant. The structure of the game was even altered, with Bryant’s signature 24 playing a key role in the scoring system.  

To kick off Sunday’s game, hometown favorite Jennifer Hudson offered a rousing tribute to the Mamba and Kawhi Leonard dedicated his All-Star Game MVP to the former Lower Merion guard. Kobe was the focus during Friday’s entertaining activities and Saturday’s exhilarating slate. He was the center of everything.

Plenty happened off-court at All-Star Weekend, too. At the Metro All-Access Purple Couch event on Saturday, Khris Middleton, Tyler Herro, and Jason Terry dished on the behind-the-scenes realities of NBA life and shared insights on their experiences in the league. READ MORE IN DEPTH COVERAGE

Why This Won’t Be the Warriors’ Last Dance

What are the odds the Warriors are back in the NBA Finals next season?

Pretty damn high, if you ask me, since there’s no reason to believe the smartest, savviest franchise in the NBA won’t make the right moves this off-season to keep the good times rolling.

Before the 2019 NBA Finals kick off in Toronto Thursday night, one of the most popular narratives surrounding the Warriors will be whether we’re witnessing the end of their dynasty. And it’s legit, of course, since we all know the Warriors could experience a seismic shift in fortunes when two of their top four players become unrestricted free agents.

But as long as the Warriors retain the services of their homegrown sharp-shooting star and No. 1 priority Klay Thompson—and there have been zero reports or indications that Thompson and the Warriors won’t come to a lengthy and lucrative agreement—what makes you think Golden State still won’t be one of the best teams in the Western Conference next season? Even if they lose the game’s best player in Kevin Durant. Because keeping the core of Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and Thompson intact, while allocating dollars to beef up the supporting cast, easily makes Golden State NBA Finals material, if not the favorites to win it all again. Yeah, the Warriors are undoubtedly better with Durant than not. Anyone making that argument is a clown. The Warriors would be fools not to try to retain him for another year or two. But with Thompson back, they’ll be just fine without KD—who reportedly has his sights set on other squads—and we’re not coming to a knee-jerk conclusion after watching the Warriors dispatch the Rockets and Blazers while Durant was sidelined with his calf strain. Real talk, Durant has always been a luxury item for Golden State. They know it. Basketball fans know it. So spreading the money that could go to Durant and instead dispersing it to a dynamic veteran or two while upgrading a bench that isn’t what it used to be is certainly the fiscally responsible thing to do. It also might be savvier than blindly re-signing KD. With at least two all-time greats ripping nets from long distance in Klay and Steph, and a motivated Green looking to cash in big time as an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2020, tell me how Golden State isn’t still going to be a beast. We didn’t even mention the widely respected front office, support staff, and coach that set the Warriors apart from everyone else. Culturally speaking, they are unlike any franchise in the NBA right now. Everyone wants to play for them. Maybe they can even entice DeMarcus Cousins to comeback on another team-friendly contract, since Cousins raved to us about how “first class” the Warriors are. The Warriors loved how he fit into the locker room, and we didn’t really get a great taste of the Boogie experiment as he worked his way back from the Achilles injury midway through the regular season and then went down with a quad injury in the first round of the playoffs. I’d easily contend that the hypothetical version of the 2019-20 Warriors outlined above would be just as formidable as any squad in the league and certainly in the Western Conference—unless maybe, just maybe, KD formed a new super squad with the Clippers. Of course, that’s a big if, and accurately predicting what Durant is going to do is an exercise in futility. Durant could end up in Los Angeles, he could end up in New York, or he could even return to Golden State, since the Warriors have actually planned for years to be able to fit him into their budget—even with Thompson’s significant raise on the immediate horizon. The opening of their new arena in San Francisco is projected to bring in tons of extra cash. They should be able to cover just about any cost they deem reasonable. READ MORE: https://www.complex.com/sports/2019/05/why-this-wont-be-the-warriors-last-dance

Playoff Mode? LeBron James and the Lakers Are Failing to Activate A move West came with dire warnings, but the reality is setting in that a James-led team might miss the playoffs.

LeBron James can’t say that he wasn’t warned.

Lots of us were crowing in the summer, and pretty loudly so, about what would greet the unquestioned Lord of the Eastern Conference if he dared to defect.

Sign with the Los Angeles Lakers if you wish, for the sunnier Hollywood life and all the perks, but brace yourself for the most trying regular season of your career if you decide to go West.

That was the gist of the scouting report — which in retrospect could not have been much more prescient.

On cue: The most daunting and, yes, disappointing season of James’s career is right here, right now, for the biggest name in basketball.

And it appears he will soon have to stomach that it’s going on his ledger in the most permanent ink that he was unable to bring a halt to the longest postseason drought in Lakers history — barring an unforeseen resurrection from a fractured group that sits four and a half games out of a Western Conference playoff berth with 19 games to go.

No matter how much culpability you wish to assign James for what is poised to go down as the Lakers’ franchise-record sixth successive trip to the draft lottery, he’s going to have to own this as much as the front-office tandem of Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka as well as the under-fire coach Luke Walton.

The LeBron Way, for years and years, has worked something like this: He inevitably gets most of the credit when his team flourishes; his teammates absorb the bulk of the blame when things unravel. But this is different. This would be the jarring sight of James, fresh off his eighth consecutive finals appearance, actually missing out on the N.B.A. postseason for the first time since his second professional season in 2004-5, when he was just 20.

Even though he can rightly point to his recent groin strain as the biggest standings-altering disruption these Lakers have endured, James surely understands that his maiden campaign in Los Angeles is bound to be recorded in many precincts as a failure to make the playoffs that belongs to him. The Lakers are 4-7 since James returned from the groin injury that sidelined him longer (17 consecutive games) than any previous injury in his 16-year career. They have followed up an unsightly road loss to Atlanta in their final game before the All-Star break with harder-to-rationalize road losses to New Orleans, Memphis and Phoenix since the break.

After Saturday night’s humiliation against a 13-51 Suns team, which dropped the Lakers to 30-33, James’s gang only sports a 1.3-percent chance of reaching the postseason, according to Basketball-Reference.com.

They also have the league’s eighth-toughest remaining schedule, according to Tankathon.com.

We’ll never know if the Lakers, who had risen to a heady fourth in the West at 20-14 when James sustained the groin injury in a Christmas Day rout of Golden State, could have kept building upon that promising start with a healthy LeBron. But we most certainly do know that James’s mere return to the lineup, at 34, wasn’t enough to rescue a roster that has been assailed since conception for its lack of perimeter shooting and its defensive deficiencies. Nor has he been able to galvanize a locker room that was deeply destabilized by the Lakers’ trade pursuit of the New Orleans superstar Anthony Davis, which became all-consuming in late January, and has never recovered.

It obviously doesn’t help that James, after missing two key free throws in the final minute Saturday, is also converting a substandard 66.9 percent of his attempts from the line to give his critics more handy folder.

Leaving his home-state Cleveland Cavaliers for the Lakers last July without the accompaniment of a second superstar meant that James, in a far deeper conference, would have little margin for error just to reach the playoffs. When you combine James’s injury absence with the continuing post-Davis malaise and the team’s declining ball movement since Lonzo Ball (ankle) was sidelined six weeks ago, it adds up rather quickly to a margin that is long gone.

The calls for Walton’s dismissal, as they were in January, remain nonsensical. A coaching change now, much like New Orleans’s decision to fire General Manager Dell Demps shortly after the trade deadline, would have no discernible effect on the Lakers’ short-term prospects beyond providing their frustrated fans with a “See? We did something” sacrifice.

The prevailing assumption in league coaching circles remains that Walton will almost certainly be dismissed after the season, followed by the Lakers resuming their trade quest for Davis. But denying Walton an opportunity to at finish out a season wrought with drama and distraction since James’s first dribble in purple and gold would be cruel and needless.

Changes are coming, though. It’s an open secret that a big off-season reset looms in Lakerland. James always knew that his new club would not be in the title mix until his second campaign as a Laker, but his patience predictably faded quickly — one more reason desperation has become so palpable around this team.

Many of us know-it-alls in the news media indeed wrote in our preseason forecasts that the playoffs were no certainty for these Lakers, as constructed, but very few of us were actually willing to outright predict that they would miss out. Reason being: It’s not very smart to bet against LeBron Raymone James.

Yet we’ve suddenly reached that unprecedented juncture where it would be wholly irresponsible to advise you that James can extricate himself from this jam just because he’s LeBron. Whether it’s the lingering effects from his groin injury, or his own unmistakably waning spirit in the face of increasingly bleak odds, James has been lacking the zip you associate with his well-chronicled playoff mode — which he assured us on Feb. 21 had been “activated” earlier than usual.

I briefly stood beside James on the floor in Charlotte, N.C., before the All-Star Game tipped off and bought into the idea a surge was coming when he insisted he was eager to embrace “the challenge” of hauling the Lakers out of their hole.

“And I’m getting healthy, too,” James said that night.

A mere two weeks later, it’s already time to start imagining the N.B.A.’s first spring without King James after watching him for eight straight Junes — and wondering how on Earth he’s going to cope with not being a part of it.

The scripted chaos of Stephen Curry

curry

Like a seasoned yogi realizing he can deepen his stretch, there is a zen-like quality to Stephen Curry’s exacting hunt for the perfect shot.

On Sunday against the Nets, he continued his streak of making at least five threes in the first seven games of the season, breaking the record George McLoud set in 1995. Curry is on pace to shatter the single-season record in three-pointers made, which he set at 402 in 2015-2016, which shattered his own the previous record of 286 in 2014-15, which shattered his own previous record of 272 in 2012-13.

In the offseason, he told the Wall Street Journal, “I might be delusional, but I feel like I can get better at putting the ball in the basket.” His personal trainer, Brandon Payne, added that “he’s not even close” to his peak. Together, to hear it from Pablo Torre on ESPN’s High Noon, Curry and Payne devised a drill in which Curry had to hit 20 sets of shots, differing in spot and style, from the perimeter, and swish six of 10 free throws. It was called “Perfection.”

Up against the Warriors’ decadence, tried-and-true theories about the professional athlete’s insatiable drive fall away. It’s hard not to wonder why they’re not satisfied when they’re already deemed unbeatable. What an extravagance. And what do they have left to improve?

But the difficulty of Curry’s shots aren’t mere theatre. If he wants to actually shoot the ball, defenses are going to force the world’s best decoy to chase perfection and master chaos.

Consider: Opponents would rather allow Kevin Durant to play one-on-one against mismatches and let Jordan Bell throw down alley-oops than allow Curry to shoot threes. Hell, they’d rather let him get lay ups: the Warriors often free Curry up by running him off screens as he cuts to the rim, usually as a fake-out before he sprints to the corner pocket. Against the Jazz on Oct. 19, Curry was aggressively chased off the three-point line by Dante Exum and hounded on pick and rolls by Ricky Rubio and Rudy Gobert, whose 7’9 wingspan gave Curry pause. They tugged at his jersey and laid him out with hard screens. Royce O’Neale even gave him a nosebleed. Curry didn’t hit a three until more than halfway through the second quarter, on a uniquely unguardable play illustrated by NBA analyst Jared Dubin.

Curry tried to push the game to devolve into chaos, his high-risk way of forcing the issue: boxing out for offensive rebounds, throwing dangerous outlets, whipping rainbow passes across the floor. But the Jazz’s length, athleticism, and discipline tipped the scales in their balance, up until Jonas Jerebko’s game-winning putback for the Warriors.

As though he took note, Curry had, to put it lightly, more success against the Wizards on Oct. 24, scoring 51 points and drilling 11 threes. The Wizards tried to switch and trap Curry mercilessly, forcing the ball out of his hands. The only problem: he got rid of it by flinging it into the basket.

READ MORE: https://www.sbnation.com/2018/10/31/18047242/stephen-curry-highlights-golden-state-warriors-mvp

Best 50 Plays of the 2018 NBA Regular Season

Getting ready for the 2018-2019 Season the hardwood is about to squeak again, enjoy some highlights from last season.
Enjoy the best 50 plays from the 2018 NBA regular season, featuring LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden, and more! Subscribe to the NBA: http://bit.ly/2rCglzY For news, stories, highlights and more, go to our official website at http://www.nba.com Get NBA LEAGUE PASS: http://www.nba.com/leaguepass

N.B.A. Power Brokers Gather, With No Men Allowed

LAS VEGAS — As the sun set on another day at the N.B.A. Summer League this month, a group of 60-odd power brokers gathered at an upscale restaurant on the Las Vegas Strip. They were among the league’s elite: executives who help engineer blockbuster trades, salary-cap gurus who devise contracts and scouts who identify prospects.

They sipped wine, nibbled hors d’oeuvres and made conversation; perhaps an unremarkable scene except for one thing: They were all women.

nba women

“This is the first time, to our knowledge, that this has ever happened,” said Liliahn Majeed, the N.B.A.’s vice president for diversity and inclusion.

Long known for its progressive approach toward social issues, the N.B.A. has emerged as an industry leader among men’s professional sports leagues when it comes to hiring and promoting women. Richard Lapchick, the director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, recently released a study that found that the N.B.A. had the highest percentage of women working at the league office and with individual teams, outpacing the N.F.L. and Major League Baseball. Women hold 31.6 percent of team management positions in the N.B.A., according to the study.

SOURCE: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/24/sports/nba-women-hiring