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Tag: Western Conference (page 1 of 2)

Ward-Henninger (Western Conference Preview): OKC Has “Operation Shutdown Potential”

Russell Westbrook will be looking to follow up on his MVP season alongside the Thunder’s two high-profile offseason acquisitions, but guest Colin Ward-Henninger foresees chemistry challenges ahead (Keith Allison/Flickr).

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Colin Ward-Henninger of CBSSports.com helps preview the talent-loaded Western Conference after an action-packed offseason replete with key player movement.

8:54-9:52: “Paul George actually had a higher usage rate and more touches than Melo last year, and we all know what Russ [Westbrook] does on the court. And he had a hard enough time playing with Durant, and then when Durant left, we saw the madness that happened last year with just the NBA record usage rate of like 40 percent or something like that, which is insane, and it’s hard to just turn that off. I think it’s going to take a while…I think it’s going to be very difficult. I think that Paul George is going to have the hardest time adjusting, because I think he’s going to be the one who’s expected to take fewer shots. Melo, we hope at this stage in his career understands that he’s not the No. 1 guy or even the No. 2 guy in this case, but you never know. And these are two guys that can opt out of their contracts, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. So if they get 20 games into the season and they don’t like playing with Russ, there’s some Operation Shutdown potential there.” Continue reading

Jim Park: If Warriors Fall Short, Disappointment Would Be the “Understatement of the Century”

Jim Park most looks forward to Stephen Curry proving he can perform at his best on the grandest stage of all (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).

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In advance of the NBA Finals, Aaron catches up with former Sheridan Hoops writer Jim Park about the Golden State Warriors’ dominance, Steve Kerr’s health-related absence and what, if anything, can slow down these rolling Warriors.

A season after winning an NBA-record 73 games and falling one win shy of their second straight championship, the Golden State Warriors are back to the Finals with a vengeance. There, they’ll be meeting a familiar foe in the form of the Cleveland Cavaliers, setting the stage for the third consecutive NBA Finals matchup between the teams. Storylines abound, including Kevin Durant’s long-awaited rematch with LeBron James on the biggest stage imaginable, but these teams’ recent dominance makes it all even more intriguing. Carrying over from the regular season, the Dubs have won 27 of their last 28 games, including a perfect 12 for 12 this postseason. For their part, the Cavaliers are enjoying a league-best 120.7 Offensive Rating these playoffs and, of course, have only been defeated once, a three-point loss to the Celtics in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals. Each team’s 2017 playoff Net Rating tops +16 points per 100 possessions.

Golden excerpts can be found below:

Jim Park 3:55-4:03: “Curry really found himself [basketball-wise] while KD was gone, and he really hasn’t looked back even when KD did come back.”

12:20-13:04: “They don’t let teams come back. It’s set up in such a way where other teams have trouble coming back, because, to start the fourth quarter, they have Curry sitting and they’ll have KD starting the game in the fourth quarter, and usually he’s eating. The second-unit guys can’t stop KD, let alone first guys usually, so that’s a tall order for most teams to try to overcome, especially when they’re down. So you really have to play perfectly and try to get out ahead of the Warriors in order to have any kind of chance. Because if you get down, forget it. No chance.” Continue reading

Andrew Lynch: Suns’ “Season Has Been a Complete Lost Cause”

The best season of Eric Bledsoe’s career was cut short due to lingering issues with his left knee (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).

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Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight and Tyson Chandler have already been shut down for the remainder of the Phoenix Suns’ season, but Fox Sports Senior NBA Writer Andrew Lynch isn’t convinced full-on tanking is in the team’s best interest. Andrew’s appearance comes fresh off 20-year-old Devin Booker’s history-making 70-point output in a loss to the Celtics Friday night. He contextualizes Booker’s rare night and breaks down many other integral Suns issues, such as Eric Bledsoe’s projected NBA future, the disappointing Alex Len, rookie Marquese Chriss’ potential and Phoenix’s approach to this June’s draft.

2:31-2:57: “In this season, Suns fans needed something like that, I think. And it’s just perfectly fitting – I tweeted this last night – that it came in a loss. All of my favorite Suns memories are in losses. I know people want to maybe belittle the achievement a little because he was taking so many shots, because they were fouling, because they were calling timeouts…70 points is 70 points in an NBA game. Period.”

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Darius Soriano: “Onus Is on Lakers’ Player Development Folks” to Maximize Potential

Darius Soriano has high hopes for Lakers rookie Brandon Ingram (pictured), who figures to see his role increase as Luke Walton focuses on his team’s young core (Zach Frailey/Flickr).

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The Los Angeles Lakers have a new president of basketball operations and general manager, as first-year head coach Luke Walton leads a youthful squad headlined by lottery picks from the past three drafts, Brandon Ingram, D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle. At this critical juncture for the team, Forum Blue & Gold Editor-in-Chief Darius Soriano stops by to break down the biggest storylines for LA’s present and future.

2:44-3:43: Sadly, the biggest Lakers-related news this season happened off the court with last week’s management shakeup:

“The writing was sort of on the wall once Magic [Johnson] was hired as an adviser to Jeanie Buss…The timing of it, though, was awkward and just the way it was handled, I thought, was rough for everyone involved…I’m sort of intrigued by the [Rob] Pelinka aspect, and I think the Magic Johnson thing – I don’t want to say ‘cautiously optimistic.’ I’m more along the lines of ‘I’m just sort of hanging back and waiting to see how things go.’ Magic’s very well respected in the business world, and obviously he was an amazing player. We’ll see how all of that translates that to a final decision-maker on the basketball side [for the Lakers].”

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Jeff Garcia: Kawhi Leonard “Lurking in the Shadows” of MVP Race

Jeff, a longtime Spurs reporter, discusses Gregg Popovich’s dominant, yet under-appreciated, squad in this exhilarating episode.

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Amid all the talk of a potential third straight Cavaliers-Warriors Finals matchup and a statistically historic MVP race between Russell Westbrook and James Harden, the San Antonio Spurs have quietly continued their dominance, on pace for 64 wins in the first season of the post-Tim Duncan era. Jeff Garcia, lead Spurs writer for News 4 San Antonio and Fox 29 San Antonio, as well as the host of the Locked on Spurs podcast, joins us to explain why the Spurs, as always, are perfectly content to stay below the national radar until the playoffs, and how their quiet, humble star, Kawhi Leonard, embodies that mentality. He also takes us through how, in recent years, the team has been able to transition seamlessly from a slow, grinding offense to the faster-paced, efficient one we’re seeing now. Among additional fascinating topics, Jeff tackles impressive backup point guard Patrick Mills’ impending unrestricted free agency. Particularly, will the Spurs pay to keep Mills in town and/or make him the starter over Tony Parker? Read more for our favorite excerpts from Jeff:

3:31-4:35Despite their recent success, the Spurs are perennially ignored by the national media. Jeff explains why and if it matters:

“They just get the job done, and that can get boring at times. It’s like they say: ‘death, taxes, and Spurs’…They’re sitting at 32-9. They are a defensive animal. They’re an offensive animal. But yet, overlooked…Does it really matter? Because as long as this team is jiving at the right point [and] is heading into the postseason on the right foot, has a good rhythm, they’re going to get their national media attention, and hopefully that’s going to come late June when they’re hoisting up another trophy.”

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All That Amar: Utah Jazz “Think They Definitely Need to Win Now”

Rudy Gobert has silenced the critics who called his offense an afterthought by leading the league in field-goal percentage and averaging nearly 20 points over his last three games (@rudygobert27/Instagram).

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All That Amar, Managing Editor of SB Nation’s SLC Dunk, stops by to discuss the Utah Jazz, whom he declares are finally in win-now mode. The young Jazz haven’t won a playoff game since 2010 and have finished with between 38 and 43 wins three of the past four seasons, but things appear to be changing for the better. Amar explains how the coach, general manager and players have all come together to generate a much-improved product on the court. Here are some of the highlights of our discussion:

4:18-5:07: Our guest explains how added depth has allowed the Utah Jazz to weather an early storm of injuries: “The main reason is that they’ve had a few seasons with injury before, so they kind of figured out that they need to prepare for that. And what Dennis Lindsey, the GM of the Jazz, did was he went out and… they wanted to get depth, and I think that they accomplished that this season… adding George Hill, Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw. These guys, they haven’t been healthy for every game of the season, but they have made sure that when Utah is missing 1.5 starters per game, about three rotation guys every single game… they still have enough guys to stay in the game. If this was last year’s roster, the record would probably be maybe eight wins instead of 15.”

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Morgan Ragan: Defenders’ Best Strategy Against Cousins? “Get in His Head”

Guest Morgan Ragan does not envision DeMarcus Cousins’ current role as being conducive to future Kings success.

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With a new defensive-minded head coach, the Sacramento Kings are hoping to halt their 10-year playoff drought, but they continue to struggle, especially on the defensive end. However, our guest, Morgan Ragan, host of The Deuce and Mo Podcast, Kings digital contributor and local Sacramento reporter, explains why coach Dave Joerger should be afforded job security unlike many of his Kings predecessors. Other topics covered in the episode include how to guard DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay’s future in Sacramento, the front office’s perpetual draft blunders and what the team needs from the point guard position. Enjoy some selected excerpts from the interview below:

6:55 – 7:23: Ragan starts by asserting that the Kings’ center is better suited for a situation in which he’s no longer the franchise cornerstone: “He gets away with a lot of stuff…because he’s DeMarcus Cousins. He’s the best player on the team. He’s the one producing the most points, the most rebounds. So if he wasn’t that guy and didn’t have that power, he would be even better somewhere else.”

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Mason Ginsberg: Pelicans “Really Need That Secondary High-Usage Player” Alongside Anthony Davis

Anthony Davis is off to a great start this season, but can the Pelicans' supporting cast help him translate that into wins? (Keith Allison/Flickr)

Anthony Davis is off to a great start this season, but can the Pelicans’ supporting cast help him translate that into wins (Keith Allison/Creative Commons)?

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As expected, three games into the 2016-17 season, Anthony Davis is putting up monster averages of 37.7 points, 12.3 rebounds, 3.0 blocks and 2.7 steals per game, including an almost unfathomable performance in the season opener where he racked up 50 points, 17 rebounds, five assists, four blocks and five steals against the Denver Nuggets. Unfortunately, for all his effort, the Pelicans still have no wins to show for it. Mason Ginsberg of ESPN Truehoop’s Bourbon Street Shots details what the Pelicans need to do over the course of this season to turn that around. Additionally, he expounds on the disappointment of last year’s injury-filled season, the many roster moves made in the offseason and need for a sense of urgency around the team.

5:12-5:26 On how Quincy Pondexter’s injury last year affected the team and his uncertain timetable to return this season:

“Quincy [Pondexter] was their only plus defender who could really stretch the floor and [needed to be] defended from the 3-point line and missing him was just huge. Again, it’d be really helpful to get him back, but no real certainty on when that’s going to happen.”

10:13-11:05 On Anthony Davis’ still developing game and the myriad of injuries he has suffered over his career:

“He’s only 23 years old still. He’s developing into more of a stronger figure. That’s going to help him play more minutes at the 5, which he vocally did not want to do at the start of his career… I think now he’s realizing that’s where the NBA game is going; he’s been playing more and more 5 every year. I’m optimistic about AD from an injury perspective. There’s been nothing that really sticks out as a major red flag… All things considered, I’d rather have him have a bunch of random injuries than keep injuring the same thing over and over again”

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Andy Liu: Warriors Should “Put Draymond Green at Center, Speed Everything Up” vs. Thunder

Andy Liu advocates for more use of the small ball that got the Warriors this far to begin with (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).

Andy Liu advocates for more use of the small ball that got the Warriors this far to begin with (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).

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The mighty, 73-win, defending champion Golden State Warriors squandered a 13-point halftime lead, as the Oklahoma City Thunder stole Game 1 at Oracle Arena Monday night. While Golden State of Mind‘s Andy Liu admits the Thunder are playing their strongest basketball at the most ideal time, he believes the Warriors and Stephen Curry will have enough to get through to the Finals. He does, however, express concern over the MVP’s health, Golden State’s shot selection and which coach is currently doing the better job. Entertaining, informative segments have been transcribed below:

1:46-3:22: “They (the Warriors) should probably panic – like a controlled panic obviously. We don’t want (head coach) Steve Kerr to suddenly start making wholesale schematic changes. It’s not like they lost by 30… If Steph was 100 percent healthy, I think that he would’ve bailed them out last night, which would’ve been fine, but moving forward I don’t think he’s gonna get to 100 percent for the rest of the playoffs. So it’s a matter of ‘Can he play at 80, 85 percent and still carry this offense when it counts throughout the rest of the series?’”

4:30-4:49: “It’s just a matter of ‘How are they going to do it (start strong) again in Game 2, and then when OKC comes back and hits them, are they gonna lose composure again?’ You would believe that a championship team like this wouldn’t lose composure like that again, but, hey, OKC’s already done this to the Spurs three straight games; that was super-impressive.” Continue reading

Larsen: For Jazz Future, “So Much Depends on How Good Exum Is”

Derrick Favors is one of the young core players for the Utah Jazz who they hope to lead them to continued improvements in the future. (sixersphotos/flickr)

Derrick Favors is one of the young core players whom the Jazz hope to lead them to continued improvements in the future. (sixersphotos/flickr)

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The Utah Jazz are in the midst of a tight race at the bottom of the Western Conference playoff picture as the regular season comes to a close. Andy Larsen, a beat reporter for KSL.com and managing editor of Salt City Hoops on ESPN’s TrueHoop Network, joins us to explain why making the playoffs this season is especially important for this young, up-and-coming Jazz team. He delves deeper into whether Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors still have room to grow, how sophomore Rodney Hood has exploded onto the scene and the next steps for the Jazz in trying to become a championship contender. Finally, he discusses Jerry Sloan’s legacy in Utah and how one of the all-time great coaches in NBA history might still be underrated. Excerpts below:

2:11-3:10 on the value of making the playoffs for these Jazz:

“Obviously you hope that playoff experience gives them some idea of how much room there is to still to go… you kind of show the young players how much work there is left to still be a championship-caliber team. I think that’s valuable even if you do get swept or lose in five games… I think it’s helpful for free agents to see that they are a playoff team on the rise and can be part of something good… Then you look at Gordon Hayward, who can opt out of his contract next summer. I think you have to start to put together a case of why he should stay on the Utah Jazz, and that starts with multiple playoff appearances.”

4:12-4:52 on the Jazz’s potential first-round matchup against the Golden State Warriors:“

You look at [the two close losses to the Warriors during the regular season in Utah] and really both games they were one shot away. I think what’s really interesting is they didn’t need a bad shooting game from the Warriors in order to get it… They (the Warriors) actually shot 35, 40 percent from 3 in both of those games. It’s just the Jazz were able to lock down the inside shots and play some good switching defense on the outside, and that kind of frustrated the Warriors… I think that would give you hope for maybe being able to steal one at home and maybe play the Warriors better than the other teams at the bottom of the Western Conference would.”

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