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Pacers-Hawks Preview (The Associated Press)
(Fri, 31 Oct 2014 20:48:42 PDT)
The Atlanta Hawks couldn't wait to get back to basketball after two executives garnered headlines for the wrong reasons during the offseason - but they started off on the wrong foot on the road. They'll look to win their home opener for the eighth time in nine years Saturday night against the Indiana Pacers in a playoff rematch. The Hawks opened with a 109-102 loss Wednesday at Toronto but are hoping for a fresh beginning at home after a controversial offseason. A new court, scoreboard and uniforms were among the changes made to try to distance the franchise from racially offensive comments from co-owner Bruce Levenson and general manager Danny Ferry.

Kenneth Faried, Josh Smith fire shots at each other about firing too many shots (Ball Don't Lie)
(Fri, 31 Oct 2014 07:07:03 PDT)
If you had Josh Smith and Kenneth Faried in your "Who will be the first big beef of 2014-15?" pool, it's time to collect your money, but you probably didn't. Two likable NBA characters, if for entirely different reasons, the Detroit Pistons and Denver Nuggets forwards traded barbs through the media. Asked in a video for the team website about the keys to Denver's 89-79 victory against Detroit on opening night, Faried explained, "Josh Smith. We let him keep shooting, and he ended up with 25, but he still kept shooting. He shot them out of the game." Shots fired, quite literally. Since his days on the Atlanta Hawks, Smith has been criticized for firing too many jumpers (he shot 31.7 percent outside 10 feet last season), especially when he's so adept at scoring around the basket (66.8 percent in the restricted area). Neither Faried nor his coach made any secret of their defensive game plan. As Nuggets coach Brian Shaw told reporters before Wednesday's game in Denver, "They have a stretch four in Josh Smith who has shot a lot of threes but doesn't shoot a high percentage." [ Yahoo Sports Fantasy Basketball: Sign up and join a league today! ] According to stats.nba.com's fancy new  shot logs and shots dashboard , 11 of Smith's 14 shots outside 10 feet came with double digits left on the shot clock, and nine of those were of the "open" (closest defender 4-6 feet away) or "wide open" (beyond 6 feet) variety. As Pistons blog  Detroit Bad Boys points out , Kyle Singler and Brandon Jennings blasted the team's ball movement after Smith finished 9-of-22. Faried and Shaw simply stated irrefutable facts, but it's hard to blame Smith for taking offense at the rather public way the Nuggets went about explaining their strategy. As a result, Smith fired a variety of shots back in the Detroit News prior to Thursday's 97-91 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves — a game in which he finished 5-of-16 from the floor and missed six of his eight attempts outside 10 feet. "I don't respond to nobody with dreadlocks who plays basketball," Smith said, referring to Faried's hairdo. "He's a clown, quote me on that." "He fears me," Smith said. "He's scared of me, so, of course, he'll talk about me in the paper. He won't do it to me in my face. If you have to hide behind a microphone or smartphone, so be it. I don't mind." "It's a lot of social media. I'm an older guy, I'm not on social media, Twitter, Instagram. It's a lot of media thugs and Instagram gangstas, I would classify him in one of those categories." It's always an enjoyable when athletes declare, "I don't respond to nobody," and then proceed to respond in great detail for an entire interview. It's also pretty wild that Smith, 28, declares himself "older," drops a "smartphone" and an "Instagram gangstas," and believes that a player whose nickname is "Manimal" for obvious reasons is frightened by him. Julia Child couldn't whip up a better recipe for NBA beef. The two teams meet again in Detroit on Feb. 6, and Smith now has it circled, per the Detroit News. "He knows it's coming, he knows, next time we play," Smith said. "In order to make those comments like that, you gotta be able to back it up and we'll see next time." "I'll have some words while I'm busting his (behind). I back it up when I talk. It's gonna be a pretty good matchup." For the recod, Faried collected 22 points (8-12 FG) and 17 boards in 28 minutes in their first meeting. - - - - - - - Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don't Lie and Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach

DeRozan scores 15 points, Raptors heat Hawks (The Associated Press)
(Wed, 29 Oct 2014 21:02:41 PDT)
DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry both struggled with their shooting, but it didn't matter. Toronto's two top stars found other ways to contribute, and the rest of the roster added plenty of punch in the Raptors' season-opening victory. DeRozan had 15 points and set career-highs with 11 rebounds and six steals, Lowry added 11 points and 10 assists, and the Raptors opened their defense of the Atlantic Division title with a 109-102 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night. Amir Johnson had 16 points and 10 rebounds, Jonas Valanciunas scored 17 points, and Terrence Ross had 13 for the Raptors, who were an NBA-best 7-1 in the preseason.

Former NBA player suffers racial abuse in Australia
(Tue, 28 Oct 2014 23:22:53 PDT)
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Former NBA player Josh Childress of the United States has shut down his Twitter account after being subject to racial abuse for flooring an opponent during a local league match in Australia. The 31-year-old Childress, who plays for Sydney Kings in Australia's National Basketball League, was suspended for one game for unduly rough play after rushing at and striking Perth Wildcats forward Jesse Wagstaff with his forearm in an ugly incident during a game on Saturday. ...

Basketball-Former NBA player suffers racial abuse in Australia
(Tue, 28 Oct 2014 23:17:59 PDT)
Former NBA player Josh Childress of the United States has shut down his Twitter account after being subject to racial abuse for flooring an opponent during a local league match in Australia. The 31-year-old Childress, who plays for Sydney Kings in Australia's National Basketball League, was suspended for one game for unduly rough play after rushing at and striking Perth Wildcats forward Jesse Wagstaff with his forearm in an ugly incident during a game on Saturday.

Hawks-Raptors Preview (The Associated Press)
(Tue, 28 Oct 2014 12:36:44 PDT)
The most successful team in Toronto Raptors history returns largely intact, but that didn't stop coach Dwane Casey from preaching improvement throughout the preseason. We'll find out who we are the next couple weeks." Toronto begins its season Wednesday night against the visiting Atlanta Hawks after winning a franchise-record 48 games and its first Atlantic Division title in seven years. The starting lineup of DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, Terrance Ross, Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas missed a combined 13 games last season and developed plenty of chemistry, and role players like Tyler Hansbrough and Landry Fields also return. Lowry had his last-second shot blocked as Toronto fell in Game 7 to Brooklyn in the first round of the playoffs last season.

Warriors co-owner regrets writing 'hoodish' (The Associated Press)
(Tue, 28 Oct 2014 12:10:53 PDT)
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Golden State Warriors co-owner Peter Guber wrote to team employees to say that he regrets if anybody was offended by his unintentional use of ''hoodish'' in an email.

NBA dance teams are still paid ridiculously low amounts for their work, which makes no sense (Ball Don't Lie)
(Tue, 28 Oct 2014 11:58:14 PDT)
Most readers of this column will pull out their tiny violin after skimming through this. They’ll probably head down to the comment section to creep up on some poorly-spelled screed about a cheerleaders’ worth, and ironically they’ll be the sort of person who pays unending attention to the cheerleaders during an NBA game. Doesn’t matter, we’re following through on this. NBA cheerleaders – or, more accurately, NBA dance teams – are not integral to a live NBA showcase. Then again, neither are the boosters who fire T-shirts into the crowd, neither are the Jock Jam songs that blare from the sound system when the home team goes on a 12-2 run, neither is the Jumbotron that just replayed that last and-one, and neither are most concession stands. You don’t really need that $12 microbrew to watch this game, do you? Dance teams are around, though, a mainstay and a massively respected one. These women aren’t out pushing pom-poms around. They’re working endlessly to script tight and expertly choreographed dance routines bent to fit in during timeouts and breaks in play along the sideline. They have to develop these routines during winter months while wearing next to nothing in giant arenas during afternoon hours when 20,000-strong aren’t in attendance. They have to smile and represent the team during myriad franchise functions, hear catcalls all evening while at work, and put up with unending harassment from team followers who treat them as objects. They’re also basically working as interns. NBA dancers are paid, but not nearly to the extent that you would expect, or hope for. Kevin Dugan of the New York Post reminded us of much on Tuesday : Cheerleaders — or dancers as they are called — for the Knicks and for the Brooklyn Nets will pull in $200 or less a game and receive no health insurance coverage from their teams, The Post has learned. “There is no way to live off that money,” Cherielee Passalaqua, a former New Jersey Nets hype team member who now cheers for the NBA, told The Post. The meager earnings come to about $25 to $28.50 an hour. Here’s where the tiny violins come out. America has a ridiculous wage system that encourages employers to limit workers to low hourly rates that can’t come close to helping bread-winners support a family or even a solitary existence while working at a fast food chain for the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Those fast food chains make far, far more than even the most profitable basketball teams (like, say, “the New York Knicks”), so the typical hamburger outlet employee doesn’t really want to hear about a dance team member getting to work in front of adoring thousands for four times as much per hour as they’d make in the back of a kitchen tearing open a bag of frozen onion rings. This is an NBA website, though, so we’re not going to dive too deeply into wage imbalance. And just because other professions have it wrong, this doesn’t make these NBA practices right. These women are working for NBA teams that are absolutely printing money right now. NBA teams are clearing an ungodly amount of money these days, so much that franchise valuations sourced to the most respected of financial publications are still treated as pessimistic at best, while even the most mediocre of franchises (hello, Atlanta Hawks) playing in front of the most apathetic of fan bases (hello, Atlanta Hawks) could be sold this year for a price approaching $1 billion. Again, dance troupes aren’t technically needed , but neither is the ridiculous per diem NBA teams give their millionaire players in cash each day on the road to go grab some Alfredo-based nonsense at the Cheesecake Factory. A per diem – and again, these are for millionaires – that is usually more than half of what big market team dance members make per game. Earlier this year, Deadspin detailed the ridiculous give and take that NFL cheerleaders have to work through in order to put “2009-2011; Baltimore Ravens Dance Sqaud” on their resume. NBA teams aren’t as well-heeled as NFL franchises, but things aren’t far off, and the idea that these women are working for so little should be infuriating to even the NBA fan (like this guy) that doesn’t give a rat’s tail if there isn’t anything on the sideline beyond a stack of towels and a giant tub of Gatorade. Dancers staying in that sort of shape? That costs money. Showing up to that sort of gig, with that sort of expected hairstyle? As someone with a wife who owns a hair salon, let me tell you, that costs money. The makeup? The tan, in January? The practice hours? The transportation, in the heart of the city? The lost hours for team events and practices that you lose at your day job? This stuff costs money. Dancers can augment their income in selected team-sponsored events, but that’s hardly much to directly deposit home about. Mock these women and this profession all you want – but these dancers are basically working for stipend money for NBA franchises that are valued for hundreds of millions of dollars. Many, many hundreds of millions of dollars. Wage disparity between working women and working men is a major issue in North America, and the plight of the NBA dance team member would seem to rank far down the list in the massive queue full of things we need to take care. It’s still something that needs to be changed, though, and we’d love to hear from any former dancer who once had it to the figurative “here” with how much she had to work, prepare for, and deal with in comparison to what she was actually compensated. - - - - - - - Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KDonhoops

BDL's 2014-15 NBA Season Previews: All 30 team previews, collected in one spot (Ball Don't Lie)
(Tue, 28 Oct 2014 08:42:41 PDT)
It's been 136 days since the San Antonio Spurs put the finishing touches on their five-game demolition of the Miami Heat to win the 2013-14 NBA championship. Since then, we've seen a new decision that knocked over the dominoes that shifted the balance of power in the Eastern Conference, a foot fracture that could tilt the brutal West, a long overdue change in L.A., and more movement — of players, coaches, front-office staffers and everything else — than you can shake a stick at ... except in San Antonio, of course, where the Spurs brought back their entire O'Brien-winning roster in pursuit of the repeat title that's thus far eluded them. [ Yahoo Sports Fantasy Basketball: Sign up and join a league today! ] It's been a long summer and early fall, and our seemingly interminable wait is now over. The 2014-15 NBA season tips off tonight, with looming monster /2014 FIBA World Cup star Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans hosting the Orlando Magic, the Spurs (and their fans ) getting their rings before taking on the retooled Dallas Mavericks, and Dwight Howard leading the Houston Rockets back to Hollywood to square off with the once-again-healthy Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. It ought to be a pretty fun night. We've spent the last month preparing for tonight, putting together in-depth looks at all 30 NBA teams — how we left them last season, what they did on their summer vacations, their big moves, big questions and all the storylines and subplots to keep an eye on this coming season. They're all collected here, in case you missed any, would like to take another look, or just want to study up before the opening buzzer. You can also find our predictions for the season ahead — our picks for the 2014-15 champion, who'll win each major individual award and more — right here . The links below point to each team's season preview, along with predicted records and playoff seeding.* Dig in, enjoy, and feel free to tell us where you think we've gone wrong — today, tomorrow, all season long and always — on Twitter , Facebook and Tumblr . * NOTE: A few of the Western Conference records listed below differ from those that appear in the team-by-team previews, many of which were published before Kevin Durant suffered the Jones fracture that will keep him out for the first six or so weeks of the season. That, as you might expect, led us to juggle a few things. Now, let's get to it: EASTERN CONFERENCE Atlantic Division 1. Toronto Raptors — 50-32 2. Brooklyn Nets — 38-44 3. New York Knicks — 37-45 4. Boston Celtics — 28-54 5. Philadelphia 76ers — 15-67 Central Division 1. Cleveland Cavaliers — 60-22 2. Chicago Bulls — 57-25 3. Detroit Pistons — 32-50 4. Indiana Pacers — 28-54 5. Milwaukee Bucks — 20-62 Southeast Division 1. Washington Wizards — 48-34 2. Charlotte Hornets — 46-36 3. Miami Heat — 43-39 4. Atlanta Hawks — 41-41 5. Orlando Magic — 25-57 Which would mean, playoffs-wise ... 1. Cleveland 2. Chicago 3. Toronto 4. Washington 5. Charlotte 6. Miami 7. Atlanta 8. Brooklyn WESTERN CONFERENCE Northwest Division 1.** Oklahoma City Thunder — 55-27 2.** Portland Trail Blazers — 55-27 4. Denver Nuggets — 36-46 4. Utah Jazz — 24-58 5. Minnesota Timberwolves — 20-62 Pacific Division 1. Los Angeles Clippers — 59-23 2. Golden State Warriors — 58-24 3. Phoenix Suns — 47-35 4. Sacramento Kings — 35-47 5. Los Angeles Lakers — 27-55 Southwest Division 1. San Antonio Spurs — 57-25 2.** Dallas Mavericks — 50-32 3.** Houston Rockets — 50-32 4. Memphis Grizzlies — 45-37 5. New Orleans Pelicans — 44-38 Which would mean, playoffs-wise ... 1. L.A. Clippers 2. Golden State 3. San Antonio 4. Oklahoma City/Portland** 5. Portland/Oklahoma City** 6. Dallas/Houston** 7. Houston/Dallas** 8. Phoenix ** depending on tiebreakers More NBA coverage:

Warriors co-owner uses 'hoodish' in email to team employees, says he meant 'Yiddish' (Yahoo Sports)
(Mon, 27 Oct 2014 23:38:59 PDT)
Golden State Warriors co-owner Peter Guber says he mistyped when sending the email.

Spurs seek NBA title repeat while LeBron revives Cavaliers
(Mon, 27 Oct 2014 22:50:51 PDT)
As the San Antonio Spurs face the possible end of an era, they attempt to repeat as NBA champions after a turbulent off-season topped by LeBron James returning to Cleveland. Racism issues forced two team ownership changes, injuries hit stars Kevin Durant and Paul George and the league signed a nine-year television deal worth $24 billion that begins in 2016 in the four months since the Spurs won their fifth crown by beating Miami in the NBA Finals. For all the Spurs have done over the past 16 seasons under coach Gregg Popovich, defending a crown has not been achieved, San Antonio's championships coming in 1999, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014.

Blaylock headed to prison over fatal crash - report
(Mon, 27 Oct 2014 15:56:52 PDT)
Former NBA All-Star Daron "Mookie" Blaylock was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Monday for killing a woman in a road accident in suburban Atlanta in 2013, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The 47-year-old -- who was found guilty of vehicular homicide and other charges -- could serve as few as three years in a plea deal finalized on the day jury selection was to have begun for his trial. Monica Murphy, a mother of five, was killed in the head-on crash on May 31, 2013, in which Blaylock was also critically injured. Police said the crash occurred when Blaylock's Cadillac Escalade crossed over the center median and struck an oncoming van.

Ex-NBA star Blaylock sentenced in fatal Ga. crash (The Associated Press)
(Mon, 27 Oct 2014 14:50:45 PDT)
Former NBA All-Star Daron ''Mookie'' Blaylock was ordered to spend three years of a 15-year sentence behind bars after he pleaded guilty in a car crash that killed a woman in Georgia. His attorney, Amanda Palmer, tells the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Blaylock agreed Monday to a plea deal on a vehicular homicide charge. Forty-three-year-old Monica Murphy died in the May 2013 head-on crash. Blaylock's attorneys have said a medical condition caused the ex-player to black out on the road and no alcohol was found in his system.

Former NBA star Mookie Blaylock gets seven years for vehicular homicide
(Mon, 27 Oct 2014 13:09:41 PDT)
By David Beasley ATLANTA (Reuters) - Former National Basketball Association star Mookie Blaylock was sentenced on Monday to seven years in a Georgia prison followed by eight years of probation for killing a woman in a head-on traffic crash last year, court records show. Blaylock, known for his defensive prowess during a 13-year NBA career that ended in 2002, knew he should not have been driving due to a seizure disorder when his SUV crossed the center line and collided with a minivan outside Atlanta in May 2013, authorities have said. ...

DeRozan scores 15, Raptors beat Knicks 83-80 (The Associated Press)
(Fri, 24 Oct 2014 21:34:48 PDT)
The preseason is over for the Toronto Raptors, and they finished it in style. DeMar DeRozan scored 15 points, Jonas Valanciunas added 13, and Toronto beat the New York Knicks 83-80 on Friday night at the Bell Centre in the final preseason game for both teams. ''The intensity was up,'' said Lou Williams, who had 12 points for Toronto, including a crucial, go-ahead jump shot in the game's final minute. We really felt like this was a tune-up game going into Wednesday against Atlanta.'' The Raptors open the regular season Wednesday night against the Hawks at Air Canada Centre, where Toronto will play nine of its first 12 games.

BDL's 2014-15 NBA Season Previews: Sacramento Kings (Ball Don't Lie)
(Fri, 24 Oct 2014 13:30:00 PDT)


Brief profiles of Eastern Conference teams
(Fri, 24 Oct 2014 13:22:00 PDT)
(Reuters) - Following are brief profiles of the 15 teams in the National Basketball Association's Eastern Conference ahead of the 2014-15 season. ATLANTIC DIVISION BOSTON CELTICS Founded: 1946 NBA titles: 17 (2008, 1986, 1984, 1981, 1976, 1974, 1969, 1968, 1966, 1965, 1964, 1963, 1962, 1961, 1960, 1959, 1957) Head coach: Brad Stevens 2013-14 record: 25-57 (Proud Celtics finish 12th in conference after a run of six seasons in playoffs) Sorry Celtics fans, no playoff for Boston -- again. That's hard to accept for a franchise with 17 titles, but the talent is not there. ...

LeBron's Cavs help bring focus back to the hardwood
(Fri, 24 Oct 2014 13:17:28 PDT)
By Frank Pingue (Reuters) - After a tumultuous offseason that forced the National Basketball Association to confront the delicate issue of race, the league will usher in a new season starting next week that could prove to be one of the best in years. The defining story of the offseason could have been LeBron James's return to his home state's Cleveland Cavaliers, where the game's most popular player hopes to ease the pain from his defection in 2010, but instead racism dominated headlines. ...

Western Conference, defending champs tough as ever (The Associated Press)
(Fri, 24 Oct 2014 12:08:52 PDT)
Calling it the Wild West just doesn't do it justice anymore.

Cavs, Bulls the expected frontrunners in East (The Associated Press)
(Fri, 24 Oct 2014 10:34:06 PDT)
LeBron James is again surrounded by an All-Star caliber guard, a big man who can score and 3-point sharpshooters.

BDL's 2014-15 NBA Season Previews: Phoenix Suns (Ball Don't Lie)
(Fri, 24 Oct 2014 09:50:00 PDT)
The Arizona desert turned up a UFO crash in 1953, purple alien eggs just last year and Lord knows what else in the 60 years between. It’s only natural the Phoenix Suns add another wrinkle to their own weird science experiment, turning a two-headed snake into a three-headed monster in the backcourt. In a strange summer, general manager Ryan McDonough agreed to  a four-year, $27 million contract with Sacramento Kings dynamo Isaiah Thomas on the day the NBA’s moratorium lifted, seemingly signaling the end of fellow restricted free agent point guard Eric Bledsoe’s fun in the Arizona sun. But the NBA Executive of the Year runner-up doubled down, inking Mini LeBron to a five-year, $70 million deal some two months later. With All-NBA Third Team selection Goran Dragic also in the Phoenix mix, McDonough effectively created the league’s most dangerous polycephalous point guard. So, the Suns will roll the dice with a troika of All-Star-caliber guards, identified flying object Gerald Green and a mysterious frontcourt in an attempt to recreate last year’s bizarre 48-34 record, which tied the 2007-08 Golden State Warriors for the best season by a team that didn't make the playoffs since the NBA switched to the 16-team playoff format in 1984. Under NBA Coach of the Year runner-up (noticing a trend here) Jeff Hornacek, Phoenix played at a top-10 pace in his first season at the helm, and the Suns will run again, even faster if possible. Only, they’ll have to do so without Channing Frye, whose floor-stretching capacity from the power forward position translated into 8.3 additional points per 100 possessions in his 28.2 minutes a night on the floor, according to Basketball-Reference.com . Out of the Frye pan and into the fire will be Markieff Morris, whose own breakout 2013-14 season (2,153 minutes, 13.8 points, six rebounds and 1.8 assists per game, 56.4 True Shooting percentage, 18.4 Player Efficiency Rating) earned him a four-year, $52 million deal to split unevenly with his twin brother, Marcus Morris. Sharpshooting veteran free agent forward Anthony Tolliver (41.3 percent on a career-high 247 3-point tries for Charlotte last year) and young center projects Miles Plumlee and Alex Len round out a bigs mess. Add a pair of potential mid-first-round steals in T.J. Warren and Tyler Ennis, another Dragic named Zoran and a post- “super extreme” DUI suspension P.J. Tucker, and it should be another supernatural season for the 2013-14 League Pass legends. Last year taught us this much about the Suns: They are here. 2013-14 season in 140 characters or less: What the Ish is this? The weirdest collection of awesome under the Suns. Did the summer help at all? The Suns let their most productive big walk , spent the money Frye got in Orlando on a third point guard , handed one contract to a pair of twins , signed their best player’s brother and drafted one half of Bojan and Bogdan Bogdanovic — all as their starting small forward spent a no expenses paid three-day vacation in county jail . So … just your typical NBA offseason? Seriously, that’s freaky, even by their standards. Go-to offseason acquisition: Had Thomas not stood just 69 inches tall, he would have commanded far more than $27 million over four years in free agency. After all, the Sactown sparkplug was one of six players to average 20 points and six assists while posting a PER above 20 this past season. The others: LeBron James, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Russell Westbrook. Those dudes aren’t so bad. Thomas comes with another caveat, though, since Sacramento’s fast-paced offense and non-existent defense over the past decade has produced plenty of padded stats that haven’t translated elsewhere. In the past 10 years, Marcus Thornton, Tyreke Evans, Kevin Martin, Ron Artest, Mike Bibby and Peja Stojakovic combined for one 20-point-per-game season upon leaving the Kings. At the very least, Thomas allows Hornacek to keep some combo of Bledsoe, Dragic and Thomas on the floor for the majority of the game, strumming that double-necked point-guard guitar all night long. The fact that Thomas’ per-minute averages have remained steady as both a starter and reserve in his three-year career is an encouraging sign that the Suns will be able to keep making the same sweet music they did last season. Glaring weakness: The Suns don’t quite have a black hole in the middle, but it’s an awful dark mass in the space-time continuum. Plumlee and Len are expected to receive the bulk of those minutes, and that duo (mostly Plumlee, due to the multiple injuries that scuttled Len's rookie season) anchored the NBA’s fourth-worst efficiency differential at the position last season, according to HoopsStats.com (minus-3.8). Plumlee’s minutes plunged throughout 2013-14 as Hornacek got more comfortable playing Markieff Morris and the since-departed Frye in smaller, more offensively potent lineups. As a result, though, Phoenix allowed 42.2 points in the paint per game , also the league’s fourth-worst group. Not even highly regarded defensive assistant coach Mike Longabardi could help the Suns rise above the middle of the pack in points allowed per possession. Plumlee is still their best bet to clog the middle on defense, even if he does the same on offense. Contributor with something to prove: Following his client’s second knee surgery in three years, Bledsoe's agent spent the offseason demanding a max contract for a player who has started all of 78 NBA games. McDonough, who reportedly offered four years and $48 million, entered a summer-long staring contest with Rich Paul, and the two sides met closer to Bledsoe's demands. To say the 24-year-old has something to prove is an understatement. For chunks of last season, Bledsoe replicated what so many projected for Chris Paul's former backup. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound brick of muscle averaged 17.7 points (57.8 TS%), 5.5 assists and 4.7 rebounds while generally tormenting opposing backcourts alongside Dragic in 43 games. That's encouraging for a fourth-year point guard on his rookie contract; now it's expected from an eight-figure-salaried franchise player. Potential breakout stud: Double ankle surgeries stunted Year 1 of The Alex Len Project, presenting a built-in excuse for the No. 5 overall pick’s PER (7.3), true shooting percentage (46.9) and statistical averages over 42 games (two points, 2.4 rebounds and 0.4 blocks in 8.6 minutes per game). Now, double finger fractures — on the same right pinkie, mind you — offer another easy excuse for the 7-foot-1 Ukrainian to start slow out of the gate. Yet Len made huge strides from his freshman to sophomore seasons at Maryland, and the 21-year-old has the potential to take a similar step forward after one year under Hornacek and Longabardi. He added the customary 15 pounds of muscle, and then collected six points, six boards and a pair of blocks before breaking his finger 25 minutes into Summer League. The re-broken finger is a setback for a player in desperate need of preseason practice, but he’ll still start the regular season healthy, and the minutes will be there for him to demonstrate his improvement, especially if he develops a mid-range jumper. Best-case scenario: It won’t be easy for Dragic to repeat his breakout All-NBA season, Green to shoot 3’s at a 40 percent clip again and Tolliver to replace Frye’s 2,312 minutes, but some combo of Bledsoe’s health, the addition of Thomas and the improvements of the Morris twins, Plumlee and/or Len should help the Suns recreate the magic that made them the NBA darlings of 2013-14. Even then, they’ll still be navigating a crowded Western Conference playoff picture that may also include Anthony Davis’ New Orleans Pelicans — all for the right to face the Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers or San Antonio Spurs in the first round. Them’s the breaks for a franchise on the rise. If everything falls apart: Even if the science experiment takes a turn for the worse and the Suns just miss the postseason for a second straight year, McDonough will still have a pair of lottery picks at his disposal. Phoenix still owns a top-five protected pick from the Steve Nash trade, so barring a bit of Los Angeles Lakers luck, the worst-case scenario — a couple of mid-round picks — isn’t the worst consolation prize. Unless, of course, the team’s talented young core undergoes an abduction of sorts. Stranger things have happened in the Arizona desert. The Suns are on standing on the edge of an event horizon. Strap in for another weird, wild ride. Kelly Dwyer’s Best Guess at a Record: Phoenix will finish 47-35, eighth in the Western Conference. Read all of Ball Don't Lie's 2014-15 NBA Season Previews: EASTERN CONFERENCE Atlanta Hawks • Boston Celtics • Brooklyn Nets • Charlotte Hornets • Chicago Bulls • Cleveland Cavaliers • Detroit Pistons • Indiana Pacers • Miami Heat • Milwaukee Bucks • New York Knicks • Orlando Magic • Philadelphia 76ers • Toronto Raptors • Washington Wizards WESTERN CONFERENCE Dallas Mavericks • Denver Nuggets • Golden State Warriors • Houston Rockets • Los Angeles Clippers • Los Angeles Lakers • Memphis Grizzlies • Minnesota Timberwolves • New Orleans Pelicans • Oklahoma City Thunder • Phoenix Suns • Portland Trail Blazers • Sacramento Kings • San Antonio Spurs • Utah Jazz - - - - - - - Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don't Lie and Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach

New-era Los Angeles Clippers seek next playoff step
(Thu, 23 Oct 2014 19:10:38 PDT)
Expectations are high for the new-era Los Angeles Clippers, freed from the shadow that former owner Donald Sterling's racist remarks cast over last season's NBA playoff run. With Sterling expelled from the league and the NBA pressing him to sell, former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer swept to the rescue with a breathtaking $2 billion purchase of the club. Blake Griffin, the Clippers' exhilarating power forward, described Sterling -- whose rambling attempts at defending his actions featured large as the story unfolded -- as a "weird uncle" while Ballmer is "like a cool dad who gives you candy." Sterling might not be expected to get far with his remaining anti-trust lawsuit against the league, but in the wake of the scandal a whiff of racism has already affected another team, with Atlanta Hawks co-owner Bruce Levenson moving to sell his controlling interest in the team after racially charged remarks he made in an e-mail two years ago came to light.

BDL's 2014-15 NBA Season Previews: Los Angeles Lakers (Ball Don't Lie)
(Thu, 23 Oct 2014 12:10:00 PDT)


Eric Bledsoe's crossover makes Clippers' Jared Cunningham jog off the court, toward the stands (Video) (Ball Don't Lie)
(Thu, 23 Oct 2014 07:36:38 PDT)
While the Phoenix Suns and Eric Bledsoe found themselves embroiled in a negotiating standoff this summer, the offseason drama had more to do with the vagaries of restricted free agency than any lack of interest on Phoenix's part in keeping the 24-year-old guard in Arizona. As their eventual five-year, $70 million offer made clear, the Suns have an awful lot of respect for the damage that the Kentucky product can do with his explosive athleticism ... and now, so does Jared Cunningham. [ Yahoo Sports Fantasy Basketball: Sign up and join a league today! ] Cunningham, 23, was drafted in the first round of the 2012 draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers and promptly shipped to the Dallas Mavericks in a five-player deal . The 6-foot-4 guard has had cups of coffee with the Mavs, Atlanta Hawks and Sacramento Kings, but has spent the bulk of the last two seasons in the D-League, and caught on with the Clips for training cap looking to grab a roster spot in L.A. or, failing that, other teams' attention and consideration for gigs down the line. Well, Jared, you've got our attention now: That comes to us from the third quarter of the Suns' Wednesday matchup with the Clippers, and it is pretty remarkable. Crossovers happen all the time; dudes get dropped to the floor a bunch of times every season in the NBA. They don't, however, tend to just jog off the court. Maybe they should — it'd undoubtedly be funnier if they did — but they don't. (Still: You've got to hit that jumper, Eric!) Our man @cjzero took the opportunity to commemorate the occasion by cueing up some Sarah McLachlan: Cunningham's plight caught the eye of Chicago Bulls power forward Taj Gibson, who could only shake his head and sympathize: Points guards got it rough http://t.co/Z9lf7goVyN — Taj Gibson (@TajGibson22) October 23, 2014 That they do, Taj ... including, it must be said, Bledsoe, who got crossed up and shaken by Chris Paul during the second quarter of Wednesday's preseason contest: Bledsoe showed out in the Suns' second-to-last preseason tune-up, turning in a team-high 27 points on 6-for-12 shooting with two assists and two steals in 34 minutes on the second night of a back-to-back. But his former teammate and "big brother" had the last laugh, pouring in 34 points (12 for 18 from the floor, 6 for 6 from the foul line) to go with nine assists, five rebounds and four steals in 37 minutes as the Clippers held on for a 108-105 win that new Clippers owner Steve Ballmer sure seemed to appreciate: I know, man. I'm pretty excited about basketball, too. Vine via Cork Gaines . Hat-tip to SB Nation's Seth Rosenthal . More NBA coverage: - - - - - - - Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YourManDevine Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL , "Like" BDL on Facebook and follow BDL's Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more.

Teague helps Hawks beat Spurs 117-107 (The Associated Press)
(Wed, 22 Oct 2014 20:12:22 PDT)
Jeff Teague scored 21 points and the Atlanta Hawks closed their preseason schedule with a resounding 117-107 victory over the defending champion San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night. Mike Scott added 19 points while Kyle Korver had 18 for Atlanta (4-3), which shot 52 percent from the field. Tony Parker had 17 points and seven assists, Cory Joseph added 14 points and Boris Diaw had 12 points for San Antonio (2-4).

NBA owners fail to pass lottery reform (The Associated Press)
(Wed, 22 Oct 2014 13:58:17 PDT)
One of the biggest issues on the agenda when the NBA's owners arrived in New York for the board of governors meetings was thwarting the tanking strategy employed most brazenly by the Philadelphia 76ers. ''I think, in essence, the owners were concerned about unintended consequences,'' NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said.

BDL's 2014-15 NBA Season Previews: Los Angeles Clippers (Ball Don't Lie)
(Wed, 22 Oct 2014 12:25:46 PDT)
So, now it’s on the players. Currently, Clipper fans don’t have to hate themselves, as they probably did at times, for paying to see a team owned by Donald Sterling. NBA fans, as we often did, don’t have to hate ourselves anymore while enjoying those late night, must-watch Clipper broadcasts on League Pass. The players don’t have to cringe anymore when Sterling goes meandering around the locker room. Doc Rivers won’t have to question his own ethics anymore. It’s over. (Shelly Sterling needs to go, to be sure, but it’s over.) What we have left, finally, is ball. Ball run by the league’s best point guard, one of its best coaches, and one of the NBA’s best players. Plays run by a supporting cast that is to be envied. Work run in the toughest conference in NBA history, one the Los Angeles Clippers have as good a chance as any at getting out of this spring, possibly representing the Western Conference in the 2015 NBA Finals. Such an idea was an uneasy prospect for the NBA and its fans for decades, because even though presenting a Conference championship trophy is a relatively new phenomenon, it would still include one Donald T. Sterling at the other end of the handoff. At the next stage, the thought of Sterling at center court, accepting a Lawrence O’Brien trophy alongside Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Doc Rivers was even more nauseating, but this is what the NBA (and the media that covered it, myself included) allowed. Somehow, Sterling was removed from the league and from the Clippers’ media guide with relative alacrity, a credit to both the league’s new commissioner, and common sense. New owner Steve Ballmer works with an open checkbook, and while that won’t do much for the 15 on the roster (Sterling actually did compete and pay fair salaries over the last decade or so), it will do wonders for the coaches, employees, scouts, and various other personnel that had to fight for every penny. Fears will be lifted, and the team will be better prepared. Which means, again, that this will be on the players. Contributors like J.J. Redick and Matt Barnes can’t help that they were injured last year, and Rivers couldn’t help his team’s failure to fill that final rotation spot last season, but excuses have to be out the window. Chris Paul’s game figures to age well, but he turns 30 in May. Redick, Jamal Crawford, and Barnes are even older. DeAndre Jordan is in a contract year in anticipation of a summer that will feature scads of teams with maximum cap space. Blake Griffin is very, very good. It has to happen now. The Clippers worked their way into the league’s best offense last season even with again types like Hedo Turkoglu, Antawn Jamison, Stephen Jackson, Sasha Vujacic, and Danny Granger taking up space on the wing. The defense surprisingly held nearly as steady despite the coaching upgrade and influence of Doc Rivers, and Jordan will once again have to turn in a mindful campaign on that end. Griffin needs to continue to surprise offensively, thinking on the fly and not relying on pet moves, and for the second straight season Chris Paul will have to deign to give up the damn ball. Not every score has to come off of one of his assists, or one of his gorgeous floaters or mid-range shots. The trick is that we’re dealing with the Western conference. The Clippers could roar to the top seed, and it wouldn’t (and certainly shouldn’t) be termed an upset if the squad was upended by any number of Western opponents in the second or even first round. The conference is that good, and the quality of play is that high. The only disappointment in last year’s second round ouster at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder was in how the Clippers looked – clearly, they were ready for the season, and the Sterling saga, to end. It understandably drained them. That was also a second round matchup against a higher seed working with the league’s MVP on its side. Such is life in this conference. A conference that the Clippers could make their own, in 2014-15.

National Basketball Association roundup
(Tue, 21 Oct 2014 16:49:43 PDT)
(The Sports Xchange) - Kevin Durant says he will not rush back from surgery to repair a fracture in his right foot. Durant could miss two months with the Oklahoma City Thunder, projecting his return close to Christmas from what the reigning MVP said is his first real injury. - - Veteran guard John Lucas III signed a one-year deal with the Washington Wizards. Lucas, undrafted in 2005 from Oklahoma State, spent his first six seasons with Houston, Chicago, Toronto and Utah. Lucas, 31, went to training camp with the Boston Celtics. ...

BDL's 2014-15 NBA Season Previews: Golden State Warriors (Ball Don't Lie)
(Tue, 21 Oct 2014 11:05:00 PDT)
The Golden State Warriors cannot be criticized for lacking ambition. Mark Jackson led the franchise to the playoffs in two consecutive seasons (out of his three total), a feat that made him their most successful head coach since the first Don Nelson era. His reward was a speedy dismissal. For whatever tensions existed between Jackson and his bosses — and there were many , to the point where a disaster may have loomed — it is fairly apparent that the people in charge of the Warriors expect to challenge for titles, not to lose out on homecourt advantage in the first round and take one playoff series every couple years. Owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber want one of the league's preeminent franchises. The question isn't only if they have the roster to get them there, but whether they have hired the right man for the job. Former Phoenix Suns general manager, TNT commentator, and golfing buddy Steve Kerr has no coaching experience of any kind, just like Jackson when he was hired in 2011. Yet there's no guarantee that the Warriors will get lucky twice, even if Kerr has a sterling reputation and has said all the right things so far. The Warriors have taken a gamble, again, and Kerr may not connect with his players as well as Jackson did in his three seasons with the club. [ Yahoo Sports Fantasy Basketball: Sign up and join a league today! ] However, Kerr and his staff (which includes Alvin Gentry, his coach in Phoenix) can improve the team in other ways. It will take some work to match last season's third-ranked defense (by points allowed per possession), but there is a clear opportunity to best a No. 12 offense that belied Golden State's reputation as an especially potent group. While Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson strengthened their status as the best outside-shooting duo in the NBA, the offense as a whole often became stagnant and went away from its strengths, especially when eschewing the pick-and-roll. With versatile players like Andre Iguodala, David Lee, Draymond Green, and Andrew Bogut in the lineup, there's no glaring reason why Golden State can't become a better offensive team. Failure to do so would be the clearest sign that Kerr did not have a particularly impressive first season in Oakland. Then again, it's not entirely clear how Kerr and the franchise will define success. Is it enough for him to set the team on a course toward achieving the results that Jackson didn't, or will he need to exceed them now? It's not necessarily prudent to set such rigid standards before the team even plays a regular-season game. Nevertheless, controversial coaching changes require fairly exacting analysis. The outcome of such gambles reflect upon the franchise well beyond win-loss record. 2013-14 season in 140 characters or less: A coach pit himself and his team against the world, winning a few battles and losing the war. Did the summer help at all? The answer to this question depends largely on your belief in Kerr and his abilities relative to those of Jackson. As previously noted, those opinions will vary and can't be discussed with any certainty for at least a few months. If we stick to the roster, then the Warriors should be a little better. For one thing, they lost only Jermaine O'Neal, a quality reserve big man who missed several months and may be of limited use at 36 years old. They added Shaun Livingston as a much-needed backup point guard who can defend bigger guards when teamed with Curry; Brandon Rush, who performed well with Golden State as a reserve wing in 2011-12; and Leandro Barbosa, unlikely to match his years in Phoenix but still a speedy guard with explosive tendencies. Plus, reserve center Festus Ezeli returns after missing all of last season with a knee injury. Go-to offseason acquisition: Livingston is still iffy for opening night , but when he's in the lineup he will give the Warriors options that they lacked last season. Though not the world's most adept floor leader, Livingston can contribute in many areas (8.3 points, 3.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.2 steals in 26 minutes per game for the Brooklyn Nets in 2013-14) while freeing up other members of the team to excel. The Warriors lacked playmakers other than Curry and Iguodala, and they figure to be heavily dependent on those two for the same qualities this year. But Livingston provides some cover for a team that can use the help.

Hawks waive Eddie, Pittman, trim roster to 15 (The Associated Press)
(Tue, 21 Oct 2014 10:49:17 PDT)
ATLANTA (AP) -- The Atlanta Hawks have trimmed their roster to 15 players by waiving forward Jarell Eddie and center Dexter Pittman.

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