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Harden helps Rockets beat Spurs 96-87 in preseason (The Associated Press)
(Fri, 24 Oct 2014 20:41:44 PDT)
The Houston Rockets finished off the preseason with a solid defensive effort against the San Antonio Spurs. James Harden scored 25 points, and Houston used a big run before halftime to beat San Antonio 96-87 on Friday night. The Rockets held the Spurs to 41 percent shooting. They also forced 16 San Antonio turnovers, 13 in the first half.

National Basketball Association roundup
(Fri, 24 Oct 2014 17:24:33 PDT)
(The Sports Xchange) - The Philadelphia 76ers obtained guard Marquis Teague and a 2019 second-round draft pick in a trade with the Brooklyn Nets on Friday for guard Casper Ware. Reports indicated that the Nets were likely to waive Ware, who played in nine games for the 76ers last season and averaged 5.3 points and 1.1 assists. The 21-year-old Teague had 10 points, four assists and six turnovers in Brooklyn's final preseason game on Wednesday night in Boston. - - - Orlando Magic guard Victor Oladipo is out indefinitely after suffering a facial fracture in practice Thursday. ...

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

Brief profiles of Western Conference teams
(Fri, 24 Oct 2014 13:22:59 PDT)
(Reuters) - Following are brief profiles of the 15 teams in the National Basketball Association's Western Conference ahead of the2014-15 season. NORTHWEST DIVISION DENVER NUGGETS Founded: 1967 NBA titles: None Head coach: Brian Shaw 2013-14 record: 36-46 (Finished fourth in division, did not make playoffs) After missing the playoffs last season for the first time since 2003, the Nuggets are hoping to take a step forward with second-year coach Brian Shaw and some key acquisitions. ...

Five storylines to watch for this NBA season
(Fri, 24 Oct 2014 13:19:23 PDT)
(Reuters) - Five storylines to follow during the 2014-15 National Basketball Association season: I'M COMING HOME: All seems in harmony again in the basketball universe as LeBron James returns home to gritty Cleveland and the Cavaliers after a four-year run with the Miami Heat that included two NBA crowns. Public enemy No. 1 in Cleveland after going on national TV in 2010 to say he was "taking my talents to South Beach," James received a hero's homecoming when he re-signed with the Cavs, ready to deliver the NBA title he failed to do during his first stint with the team. ...

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.

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

Championship window might be closing for Thunder (The Associated Press)
(Thu, 23 Oct 2014 16:16:47 PDT)
The future looks bright for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka - who have played together for the past five years - certainly have the talent to make a jump.

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

LeBron-less Heat could still be a playoff factor in Eastern Conference (NBC on Yahoo Sports)
(Thu, 23 Oct 2014 07:36:33 PDT)
Jenna Corrado is joined by ProBasketballTalk's Kurt Helin to discuss which teams he sees taking a step back in the rankings from last season. Topping his list are the Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers and Houston Rockets.

Rockets' late free throw downs Magic 90-89 (The Associated Press)
(Wed, 22 Oct 2014 18:38:39 PDT)
Jeff Adrien hit a free throw with 35 seconds to play as Houston rallied to beat Orlando 90-89 on Wednesday night. Troy Daniels and Isaiah Canaan led the Rockets with 14 points each. Houston (5-2) trailed by 13 entering the fourth quarter and didn't get its first lead of the second half until just over two minutes left in the game. The Magic (3-3) tied it at 89 with less than a minute to play, but Adrien made a free throw to put Houston up by a point.

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.

Daryl Morey thinks the James Harden defensive failure videos are 'completely unfair' (Ball Don't Lie)
(Tue, 21 Oct 2014 20:39:15 PDT)
If you have read anything about Houston Rockets All-Star guard James Harden in the last six months, then you have probably watched or at least seen a link to this 11-minute video of his worst defensive failures: The lowlight mix has become as much a part of Harden's reputation as his elite scoring, casting him as a lackadaisical defender whose regular lapses could be holding back the Rockets from championship contention. Some videos become viral and seize the sport's attention for a few days or weeks, but this one has become shorthand for the "Weaknesses" section of a Harden scouting report. The Rockets are understandably not especially happy with the ongoing popularity of the Harden defense video and other related clips . So much, in fact, that general manager Daryl Morey thinks continued focus on these videos is ridiculous. From Sam Amick for USA Today : "For whatever reason, it has taken on a life of its own," Morey says about the criticism about Harden's defense. "You've got people doing a 10-minute YouTube clip that everyone references, and I just ask anyone, 'Take your worst 10 minutes from your job the last year and just take those worst 10 minutes and put them in a YouTube clip.' I'm guessing it wouldn't come out very well for anybody. That, to me, was completely unfair. That bothered me in a big way. Without context, you can grab 10 minutes of anyone and make them look like (expletive). I think reality TV proves that." [...] "He knows that without him and Dwight putting focus on that end, it's not going to work," Morey says. "My sense is that he obviously understands that. When he's locked in, he's good." [...] "We put just such incredible pressure on him on offense — as much as any team in the league," Morey says. "We rely on him and Dwight. But James is No.1 on who we lean on offensively, and that gets really, really hard, especially in a playoff series. So that's a little unfair." Morey makes a decent point, because Harden's worst defense obviously isn't representative of his performance at that end of the floor. His 2013-14 DRtg of 107 (an estimate of points allowed per 100 possessions) and Defensive Win Shares mark of 2.7 are not especially fantastic though also not so bad as to single out Harden for special criticism. He's not a good defender and his deficiencies become more glaring on a good team like the Rockets, but the guy could use a break. On the other hand, Morey's plea for understanding misses a few salient points. While it's true that these videos only show Harden's worst moments, it seems pretty clear that Harden's worst moments are in fact especially terrible in a way that those of other superstars aren't. If other All-NBA First Team players suffered such terrible defensive errors then they would probably also get their own similar 11-minute #EpicFail megamixes. But they don't, because Harden happens to screw up in his own special way. Perhaps it's not fair to let those extreme screwups speak for Harden's total defensive performance. By that rationale, though, it's also not sensible to collect his best baskets of the season because his average possession doesn't end in a highlight-reel dunk or game-winning shot. Harden grabs attention for his defense because it's really, really awful at its worst. Sports fans have been drawn to extremes for years. If Harden doesn't want to be the focus of these videos in the future, then he should focus on raising his defensive floor, not just becoming better on average. Video compilations have rarely intended to summarize with complete accuracy. - - - - - - - Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at efreeman_ysports@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @FreemanEric

Wade leads late charge, Miami tops Houston 90-85 (The Associated Press)
(Tue, 21 Oct 2014 20:22:10 PDT)
MIAMI (AP) -- Erik Spoelstra wanted to get Miami's starters some extra in-game conditioning.

Grandmother issues adorable 1-on-1 challenge to Dwyane Wade on 90th birthday (Video) (Ball Don't Lie)
(Tue, 21 Oct 2014 18:22:53 PDT)
It's no big secret that Miami Heat icon Dwyane Wade is aging and no longer has the overwhelming athleticism that helped him build a Hall of Fame career. Wade can still be effective, but we know from the 2013-14 season that he is not on the same level as the NBA's top superstars. He needs a new standard for competition. Heat fans will hope that Wade's latest challenger has not set his new level. Nelly, a big Heat fan, just turned 90 years old. To celebrate, she decided to challenge her favorite player to a game of one-on-one with this video (via Triangle Offense ): Well that's just adorable, especially when Nelly says "Wow!" after making a basket on a six-foot rim, which is still pretty darn impressive for a 90-year-old. Wade heard Nelly loud and clear, so he invited her to the Heat's shootaround ahead of Tuesday night's exhibition against the Houston Rockets. He posted about the meeting on Instagram: The caption of Wade's photo: Today after [shootaround] I had the chance to meet this lovely lady. You never know the impact you have on people and meeting her made me realize yet again that my life is bigger than basketball. She presented a challenge to play me one on one for her 90th bday. Thanks to her family, the Miami Heat and TeamWade for making this wish come true. #biggerpurpose #hertearsalmostmademetear #happybday Both appear to have had a great time, and Wade's caption indicates that Nelly had an emotional effect on him, as well. On the other hand, there's no indication that Wade and Nelly actually played that game of one-on-one. Where's your sense of honor, Dwyane? The woman wanted a competition, not mere pleasantries! - - - - - - - Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at efreeman_ysports@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @FreemanEric

Houston Rockets motivated by early playoff exit (The Associated Press)
(Tue, 21 Oct 2014 14:02:09 PDT)
HOUSTON (AP) -- The shot still stings more than five months later.

'Best backcourt' in NBA? Wizards have to prove it (The Associated Press)
(Tue, 21 Oct 2014 11:30:24 PDT)
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Bradley Beal caused a bit of a stir on Washington Wizards media day when he proclaimed: ''I think we're definitely the best backcourt in the league.''

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.

BDL's 2014-15 NBA Season Previews: Utah Jazz (Ball Don't Lie)
(Mon, 20 Oct 2014 09:15:00 PDT)

Rockets beat Warriors 90-83 in exhibition game (The Associated Press)
(Mon, 20 Oct 2014 06:39:49 PDT)
HIDALGO, Texas (AP) -- The Houston Rockets welcomed back two stars who had been dealing with injuries most of this preseason. The Golden State Warriors rested their two stars.

Hinrich scores 26 points, Bulls beat Hornets (The Associated Press)
(Sun, 19 Oct 2014 21:05:01 PDT)
CHICAGO (AP) -- The Chicago Bulls' closer is almost back at full speed.

BDL's 2014-15 NBA Season Previews: Portland Trail Blazers (Ball Don't Lie)
(Fri, 17 Oct 2014 09:20:00 PDT)
Last season went about as well as the Portland Trail Blazers organization and fans could have hoped. The team immediately outperformed preseason expectations with a 17-3 (and then 31-9) start to put itself in excellent position to grab a postseason berth. A rough March kept them from nabbing homecourt advantage in the first round, but a thrilling six-game victory over the Houston Rockets — capped by Damian Lillard's series-ending buzzer-beater — ensured that the Blazers could look at 2013-14 as a massive success. Over the course of a few months, a team thought to be in rebuilding mode became able to entertain challenging for a conference title. [ Yahoo Sports Fantasy Basketball: Sign up and join a league today! ] This is absolutely a good position for the franchise, but it also presents new challenges as head coach Terry Stotts and his players attempt to build on the gains of last season. The Blazers added several players who should improve a previously thin bench, but they remain heavily dependent on their starting five. Plenty of teams find themselves in the same situation, but few contenders take it to the same extreme as the Blazers. They will go as far as Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Robin Lopez take them. Those players are very good, to be fair. Lillard is coming into his own as a star, Matthews is one of the best two-way shooting guards in the league, Batum is effectively the same thing as a small forward, Aldridge was the best player on either team in the Rockets series, and Lopez defends well enough to allow his frontcourt mate to focus on his scoring. In fact, they were one of the best five-man lineups in the league (especially when adjusted for total minutes played). Even if the Blazers are especially dependent on this group, they at least know where to turn when needed. Stotts doesn't have to think especially hard in crunch time. It remains to be seen if that reliance on a handful of players gets Portland in trouble due to injury or any other prolonged absence. Though I'm sure they'll take their chances after finding such fine form a year ago. 2013-14 season in 140 characters or less: Ahead of schedule, then a reality check, then ahead of schedule again. Did the summer help at all? Yes, because the Blazers added several veterans who should bring some stability to what was one of the league's worst benches. Steve Blake should serve as a capable backup for Lillard and even team with him in some cases, while center Chris Kaman can provide an offensive threat that Lopez mostly lacks. Portland could have used a pick in June's draft to add some wild cards into the mix, but the summer could lead to gains for shooting guard Will Barton (one of the team's few bright spots in the Spurs series) and C.J. McCollum, whose rookie season was derailed by injury. Go-to offseason acquisition: Kaman did not prove to be an especially good replacement for Dwight Howard with the Los Angeles Lakers last season, playing in just 39 games with an average of just 18.9 minutes per contest. He was quite effective when he did play, though averaging 10.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. Those are numbers that the Blazers would welcome, particularly given their reliance on Aldridge for post scoring. If Kaman can stay healthy — a tall order, given that he hasn't played 70 games since 2009-10 — he could reshape Portland's scoring options. Glaring weakness: If for some reason you just jumped to this section, here's some news for you — Portland had a really bad bench in 2013-14. It should be a little better this season due to the additions of Blake and Kaman and the presumed improvement of Barton and others, but the Blazers are at considerable risk of an injury to one of their starters turning the season into a trying one.

BDL's 2014-15 NBA Season Previews: Oklahoma City Thunder (Ball Don't Lie)
(Thu, 16 Oct 2014 12:15:00 PDT)
I hope you appreciated Kevin Durant's brilliance last season, because we're going to get about 25 percent less of it this year, and that leaves the Oklahoma City Thunder with a lot of questions. When the Most Valuable Player will return from his right foot fracture remains unclear. He underwent surgery Thursday to repair the "Jones fracture" — a break in the fifth metatarsal, which runs from the pinkie toe toward the heel — and will be re-evaluated in six weeks. While there's no guarantee that surgery will prevent recurrences of problems with the foot in the future, the surgery will reportedly improve his outlook moving forward ... after, of course, six to eight weeks of recuperation. [ Yahoo Sports Fantasy Basketball: Sign up and join a league today! ] Either way, for about 20 games, the Thunder must replace Durant's league-leading scoring and his playmaking. And his long-armed, quick-footed defensive presence. And the openings he creates for teammates when terrified defenses tilt toward him. Spoiler alert: They won't. Oklahoma City will be worse than we expected, and the difference is enough to decrease its odds of winning a championship . In a conference thick with contenders, a couple of extra Ls can mean dropping a couple of spots in the standings; running the Western gauntlet without home-court advantage seems unlikely, even with a recovered Durant. But while Durant's injury depresses, his absence intrigues. What will a team so reliant on his brilliance rely on now? “One of the ways to improve your team and make up for loss offensively is to play even better defensively and reduce the net rating between the offense and the defense,” Thunder general manager Sam Presti told reporters, according to Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman . “[...] in Kevin’s absence, continuing to build a defensive identity is going to be really important in making sure that we are as balanced as ever offensively.” But doubling down on defense evokes visions of opponents ignoring Kendrick Perkins, gladly leaving Perry Jones III and Andre Roberson alone, and putting everything they have between Russell Westbrook and the rim. Scott Brooks needs new answers; he must get creative, drawing inspiration from the reality that, for now, his team will only go as far as his chaos-agent point guard takes it. What will that look like? Will Brooks give the Thunder's intriguing but incomplete youth the opportunity to hold down the fort? Or will he hunker down while the storm passes and just hope the roof doesn't collapse? Whichever approach Oklahoma City takes, can it avoid falling so far off the West's pace that even Durant's return can't keep its championship hopes from being dashed once again? 2013-14 season in 140 characters or less: Russ gone . Russ back ! Gone . Back ! KD's now terrifying , even if he doesn't want to be. MVP season; even better speech . Injuries , again, suck . Did the summer help at all? It definitely helped those eager to discuss Durant  leaving Oklahoma City in free agency in 2016. Not sure it helped the Thunder on the court, though. OKC lost three rotation members — longtime starter Thabo Sefolosha, who joined the Atlanta Hawks; Derek Fisher, who became the head coach of the New York Knicks; and Caron Butler, a February  addition who  signed with the Detroit Pistons. Then again, considering Sefolosha was nearly unplayable in the playoffs, and that Fisher and Butler were arguably worse — Oklahoma City played 7.2 points per 100 possessions better with Fisher off the floor, and 6.5 points-per-100 without Butler, according to NBA.com — that could be addition by subtraction ... if the guys filling those minutes have improved.

BDL's 2014-15 NBA Season Previews: Minnesota Timberwolves (Ball Don't Lie)
(Wed, 15 Oct 2014 16:16:56 PDT)
Questions are rightfully being reviewed as to how, exactly, we should expect this team to handle its young superstars. Knockout, ready-to-contribute lottery performers are often given the run of the box-score minutes because their talents, and eventually their numbers, dictate as much. These players are also almost always 19 or 20 years old, working on a terrible squad with little help, and forced into big responsibilities right away. We’re not saying that humping in the high 30s minutes-wise is the reason Derrick Rose suffered two freak knee injuries or that Kevin Durant is on the pine with a scary stress fracture, but it’s worth wondering about. We doubt very much that Minnesota Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders cares about this as he enters his second stint running the team from the sidelines. He came to Minnesota to attempt to push a young team over the top over two years ago, just as he attempted to do in Washington a few years before, dealing and signing win-now talent in the hopes of keeping Kevin Love. The moves failed and Love forced a trade out of Minnesota, though, and the team was sent the last two No. 1 NBA draft picks in Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett as collateral. Rookie Zach LaVine is around, as is raw but promising (the former more than the latter, sadly) Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad. The Timberwolves haven’t made the playoffs since their championship hopes fell due to injury in the spring of 2004, and this is the second time in recent memory that they had to unload a superstar – possibly too late in both instances. Both turnabouts were also hamstrung by the work of David Kahn in between the deals for Kevins Garnett and Love, as he turned the cap space and presence of Al Jefferson (taken from the KG deal) and frittered them away, while infuriating Love with his insulting contract offer to the stud, plus the terrible draft picks and deals, as the losses piled up. Kahn has been gone for two years now, but we’ve little idea as to whether or not Saunders and ostensible general manager Milt Newton will be a massive improvement. They lucked out in acquiring Wiggins and Bennett for Love, but only because a previously terrible Cavaliers organization lucked into drafting them – and that team may have blown the Bennett selection. After a coaching search that seemed dubious from the start, Saunders hired himself to run the team from the bench , a choice that was followed by a collective groan from NBA followers used to this sort of move failing badly. Beyond the clash of coaching/front office interests is the worry that Saunders’ offense is a bit outmoded in the paint/free throws/3-pointers-era of efficient NBA ball. The man likes his 19-footers, and he doesn’t exactly have the personnel to shoot them. This roster is a bit of a mess, but if Saunders and Newton are adept at dealing, this can be cleared up. The final four years and nearly $48 million left on Nikola Pekovic’s contract may not look as bad next summer, even if his defense puts a team in peril. Each of the team’s cornerstones are on (albeit large, for the former Cavs) rookie contracts, and even an eight-figure yearly deal potentially tossed Ricky Rubio’s way in the next two weeks doesn’t sound all that bad once you figure in projected future bumps to the salary cap. Holdovers signed by a giddy Saunders two years ago will complicate the cap picture next summer, though. Back to Wiggins. He’s raw, but he’ll get his reps. He’ll get his chance to shine, and he’ll get his chance to go 1-for-11 and worry all of us. With a hopefully happy Rubio running the show, the Timberwolves will be perfect League Pass fodder for all of us hoop nerds. They’ll also have the worst record in their conference.

Davis powers Pelicans to 117-98 win over Rockets (The Associated Press)
(Tue, 14 Oct 2014 21:04:19 PDT)
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Anthony Davis had 26 points, eight rebounds and four blocked shots as the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Houston Rockets 117-98 on Tuesday night.

BDL's 2014-15 NBA Season Previews: Denver Nuggets (Ball Don't Lie)
(Tue, 14 Oct 2014 11:10:00 PDT)
Last season was always going to be a transitional one for the Denver Nuggets, but its eventual form was something more like a delay. First-year head coach Brian Shaw was brought in to improve the Nuggets' defense and make the already excellent offense more formidable in the halfcourt. He never really got a chance to do any of those things to their full capabilities, though, because so many key players missed time — Ty Lawson (62 games played), Wilson Chandler (62), JaVale McGee (five), and Danilo Gallinari (a big fat zero, although that was mostly planned) missed enough time to make the Nuggets' 36-46 record somewhat understandable. With all players back and ready to contribute, it's not nuts to imagine the Nuggets doing enough to earn a respectable playoff seed in 2014-15. [ Yahoo Sports Fantasy Basketball: Sign up and join a league today! ] However, claiming that the Nuggets were simply felled by bad fortune obscures some real issues for the club, many of which relate to Shaw. While well-regarded assistants often succeed immediately, it's not especially clear that he's the guy to usher the Nuggets into a fresh era. For one thing, Denver didn't actually play at a substantially slower pace under Shaw (third-fastest in the NBA) than in George Karl's last season (send) — actually their games featured about three possessions more on average. Nevertheless, the team's rankings fell considerably, from fifth in points per possession to 16th and 11th in points allowed per possession to 21st. The losses of the aforementioned injured players and 2013 free agent Andre Iguodala explain many of those dips, but it's difficult to explain them away via growing pains when the team's approach didn't really change all that much. It's possible that the Nuggets just weren't very good. Their ability to get better will depend on a few factors. Lawson, the unquestioned engine of the offense, must stay healthy. Gallinari must return from his ACL tear relatively intact and able to play 30-plus minutes regularly. McGee must move on from "possible future All-Star" to "good player." Shaw must figure out a way to organize the defense in a functional way. Players must step up. Etc. If it's not clear, there are a lot of issues yet to be determined. This team could be really good or really bad. Its place on that spectrum could decide Shaw's future and determine if the Nuggets will prepare for another transitional period before the current one even gets started. 2013-14 season in 140 characters or less: A bunch of guys got injured and very little was solved. Did the summer help at all? Yes, if only because Gallinari and McGee are ready to start the season. Otherwise, the return of one-time Nugget Arron Afflalo at shooting guard should be a big help, because they lacked a capable scorer and defender at shooting guard following the loss of Iguodala. It's unlikely that Afflalo will match the 18.2 points per game he put up on a limited Orlando Magic team last year, but he has proven that he can carry responsibility. Elsewhere, 16th overall pick Jusuf Nurkic could contribute as a defensive and rebounding presence inside, but at 20 years old, it's likely he needs some seasoning and adjustment to the American game before he can be a big factor. Go-to offseason acquisition: Afflalo earned a reasonable amount of All-Star consideration last season, but it's a fair bet that won't happen again this February. Nevertheless, he will be very important to the Nuggets as a scorer and especially defender. This team really missed Iguodala's defensive versatility and ability, to the point where a poor man's version of the same would be a meaningful upgrade. Afflalo can be that at the very least. His improvement as a scorer is not to be discounted on a team that has thrived with a balanced attack. Glaring weakness: Health, in 2013-14, but with a little bit more luck this year, it won't be such a big deal. Instead, it seems fair to wonder if the Nuggets lack the defensive talent necessary to succeed at a level that justifies the expectations both put on and created by Shaw. Lawson is quick but only 5-foot-11, Afflalo may not be as good as his reputation at this point (he also blocked a mere three shots in 2013-14 , which suggests diminished athleticism), McGee is coming off a lost season and needs to prove a lot to win the faith of the staff, and no other players on the roster seem to stand out as potential lockdown guys. Shaw may yet prove to be a master tactician, but as of right now we don't know if he can do it.

Jones leads Rockets to 95-92 win over Suns (The Associated Press)
(Mon, 13 Oct 2014 19:47:30 PDT)
HOUSTON (AP) -- Terrence Jones scored 18 points and Isaiah Canaan put Houston ahead for good with a three-point play with 29 seconds left as the Rockets defeated the Phoenix Suns 95-92 on Monday night.

BDL's 2014-15 NBA Season Previews: San Antonio Spurs (Ball Don't Lie)
(Mon, 13 Oct 2014 09:00:00 PDT)

Nets edge Kings 97-95 in China (The Associated Press)
(Sun, 12 Oct 2014 08:02:32 PDT)
SHANGHAI (AP) -- Mirza Teletovic sank a 3-pointer with less than a minute remaining to lift the Brooklyn Nets to a 97-95 preseason win over the Sacramento Kings on Sunday in the first of two NBA exhibition games to be played in China this year.

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