Lou Williams went from flirting with the Western Conference cellar to a contender this week, and he couldn’t be happier.
The sweet-shooting guard was sent to Houston from the Lakers before Thursday’s trade deadline, and he enjoyed a fine debut scoring 27 points off the bench in a 129-99 win against the new-look Pelicans.
Williams praised his new teammates for allowing him to find a comfortable rhythm in the offense.
“It’s easy to play with these guys,” Williams said, via the Houston Chronicle. “It’s a very open style. Everybody eats. Everybody’s happy. It fits my style.”
James Harden had been criticized for his willingness to shoot, while sometimes seemingly forgetting he had other guys on his team. But this season’s move to point guard has seen the former shooting guard re-invent his career.
If Williams continues to find open looks, he could form a dynamic backcourt duo with Harden, one of the front-runners for league MVP.
Under D’Antoni, Harden has gone from averaging 7.5 assists per game to 11.2 assists per game. That’s a 49.3 percent increase over his previous career-high. Assuming D’Antoni could do the same for Wall, he’d go from averaging 10.7 assists per game to 15.9 assists per game.
That number is obviously insane. John Stockton holds the NBA record for the most assists per game in the regular season with 14.5. He then averaged 14.2 assists per game in the following season and 13.7 the season after that. Furthermore, the only other players in NBA history who have averaged at least 13.0 assists per game in a season are Magic Johnson, Kevin Porter and Isiah Thomas. And here we are talking about Wall blowing all of them out of the water by averaging 15.9 assists per game.
Whew. What a couple of years for the Mets. Just when the boys from Flushing look like they’re ready to challenge the Yankees for the crown of New York, injuries overcome the team. The Mets don’t have the best farm system in baseball, so trading deGrom for a hefty stack of prospects will help them regroup, and relatively quickly, if — and here’s a big if — Sandy Alderson knows how to sell.
Limited Mens Bill Russell Jersey Much has been made about Samardzija’s excellent peripherals (FIP, WHIP, K/9 and K/BB), but the fact is his ERA stood at 4.86 after he allowed seven runs in six innings to the Padres on July 16. The main reason? He has allowed 20 home runs in 19 starts. Houston, with its hitter-friendly home park, should be cautious about giving up long-term assets for a 32-year-old homer-prone starter who has three years and $54 million remaining on his contract after this season.
Calais Campbell Game Jersey If trades were done based on who you know, then Sonny Gray would already be a member of the Crew. Milwaukee pitching coach Derek Johnson coached Gray at Vanderbilt, and Brewers catcher Stephen Vogt was Gray’s batterymate in Oakland before the A’s waived Vogt in June. Alas, it’s more about who you’re willing to offer, and the still-rebuilding Brewers should be loath to weaken their farm system (think players like Lewis Brinson, Brett Phillips and Luis Ortiz) even for Gray, who can’t become a free agent until after the 2019 season. Acquiring the older J.A. Happ would make more sense. The Blue Jays won’t need nearly as much for Happ, who is 34 and signed only through 2018.
Mens Brayden Schenn Jersey So many dominos could fall from one brief-but-stunning report this week. Sam Darnold — yes, that Sam Darnold — might not leave school next spring and enter the 2018 draft.
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The Jets would never admit it, nor would any other franchise. But a big domino just fell over in East Rutherford. And yes, that’s Cleveland where that other loud sound came from. They’re not the only ones, but they’re the largest.
On one of the last slow weeks remaining in another abbreviated NFL offseason, the Darnold report disrupted plans, speculations, plots and scripts for the upcoming year. A lot of what has been said and done in the league was based on the presumption that next year’s quarterback class is going to be top-notch. And the cream of next year’s quarterback crop was supposed to be one Sam Darnold, redshirt sophomore, Southern California.
Why he’s here: Long a respected person in the sport, Lovullo was considered an excellent hire by the Diamondbacks and he’s done nothing to change that perception. This is a franchise that had struggled through a couple of frustrating seasons (hopes of contending, but ending up with losing records), but Arizona has been outstanding this season under Lovullo’s watch. Maybe the same thing would have happened if Chip Hale was around for his third season, but who knows? What we do know is the Diamondbacks under Lovullo have been great, and in a hard-to-figure category like Midseason Manager of the Year, that’s enough.
Aaron Judge left jaws dropped Monday while capturing the Home Run Derby crown in Miami.
The Yankees rookie, who leads MLB with 30 home runs this season, looked like he might have a short Derby experience when Marlins first baseman Justin Bour jacked 22 home runs against Judge in the first round.
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The Patriots quarterback posed with the Stanley Cup in a photo tweeted Friday, and touched it with his bare hands, sending some Penguins fans 鈥?and presumably Steelers fans 鈥?into a frenzy. Some Pittsburgh fans think the Patriots quarterback has now tainted the Penguins’ most recent Stanley Cup title.
Danielle Hunter Womens Jersey Brady led New England to a win over the Steelers in last season’s AFC championship game. It was the third time since Brady became the Patriots starting quarterback in 2001 his team beat the Steelers in the AFC title game.
The Bruins did win the Stanley Cup in 2011, so maybe Brady missed his opportunity with the Cup then. Brady has won five Super Bowls, so he’s hoisted the Lombardi Trophy plenty of times. But one just does not simply touch Lord Stanley’s Cup without earning the right.
Back when Millsap was drafted, he was known essentially as a heavy-footed, elite-rebounding, back-to-the-basket big who couldn’t score outside of seven feet. Now, he’s capable at all three levels, a great playmaker for others and one of the best defensive players in the NBA due to the versatile number of options he can guard. He’s one of six players to average 18 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and make at least one 3-pointer per game last season. The others are James Harden, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, LeBron James and DeMarcus Cousins.
Al Horford couldn’t believe his luck. With 7:56 to play in the fourth quarter and the Celtics holding to a four-point lead in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference opening round, Horford was trying to keep up with Bulls center Robin Lopez out near halfcourt as Jimmy Butler attempted to inbound the ball. Butler made the pass to Lopez just as Lopez turned to cut inside, and the ball bounced innocently past the winking Celtics leprechaun logo.
Horford thought, “Don’t screw this up.”
He collected the ball just beyond the 3-point line, took one dribble and swept in for a dunk ahead of Butler’s pursuit. The locals erupted and momentum, which had been trickling toward Boston, rapidly swung the Celtics’ way. Horford’s dunk was part of a six-minute, 20-4 run that transformed a one-point deficit into a 15-point lead, which the Celtics were able to carry to a 108-97 win and a 3-2 series advantage Wednesday night.
The Cavs prioritized health over seed, choosing to sit their stars for key games in the final week of the regular season. They will see a Pacers team coming off a five-game winning streak to end the year. Something to note: LeBron James has made the NBA Finals all five times he has been a two seed.
Toronto locked up the No. 3 seed in the East early, so DeMar DeRozan and Serge Ibaka didn’t play Wednesday night. Milwaukee wanted to have its squad at full strength as well, so coach Jason Kidd sat Giannis Antetokounmpo, Matthew Dellavedova and Tony Snell in a loss to the Celtics.
Much like the teams above, Washington and Atlanta were already comfortable in their spots before Wednesday, so the Wizards benched John Wall and Markieff Morris while the Hawks sat Dwight Howard, Dennis Schroder and Tim Hardaway Jr.
Mike D’Antoni has taken the NBA by storm this season with his high-paced offensive system in Houston. James Harden has shined, and turned into a strong MVP candidate, and the Rockets are in the second round of the playoffs after finishing third in the Western Conference.
But several years before his success in Houston, D’Antoni was the coach of the Knicks where the team struggled to win games. There was a fun period with Linsanity where point guard Jeremy Lin was putting up absurd numbers every night, but it didn’t translate to wins.
Knicks president Phil Jackson has been in the news a lot lately for making controversial comments regarding Carmelo Anthony’s status with the team.
While Jackson said Anthony is better off somewhere else, he does not believe Porzingis is ready to step up as the team’s leader.
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No, I don’t think so. He’s 21 years old. That’s a big load for anybody to take on, Jackson said, via the New York Daily News. But he’s shown that he’s competitive. He’s shown that he’s competitive, he’s shown that he’s got a sense of desire to win, etcetera. So we’re really pleased with how he’s developed. I think he had some concern this year about physical. Not being able to stand up to all the games physically, Achilles tendon, back, etc.
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The 7-3 Porzingis averaged 4.8 3-point attempts per game this season, which was significantly more than his rookie season. Jackson would like to see him play in the post more often.
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Could Jimmy Butler be LeBron James 2.0?
I have an enormous amount of trust and confidence after being with Russell this season for 82 games and seeing the ways he’s closed out games and different things that he’s done, Donovan said. I trust him when he’s got the ball in terms of making decisions. Sometimes, when the ball goes in the basket, people have a tendency to say, ‘Wow! This was just an unbelievable performance!’ And ‘Is he the best closer in the game?’ And then when they don’t go in, it’s gonna be, ‘Did he take too many shots?’ I think there’s always a balance there.
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Are there some shots and better ball movement we could have? Absolutely. Are there some shots that he took and plays that he made that I wouldn’t take back? Absolutely. I think you’re always looking to find that balance where we can collectively function as well as he can.
When the Thunder try to defend their home court Friday night against the Rockets, expect Westbrook to do what he did in Game 2, which is what he’s been doing all year long.
Barkley finished his thoughts on Westbrook and when he was done, the hosts saw an opportunity to get Chuck going. They asked him about players resting, which became an issue when the Warriors and Cavs benched players late in the season, and he had some thoughts.
[The top 10-15 players] played double-digit years in the NBA and they played in those crappy Converse shoes, they flew commercial or rode the bus or train and all of a sudden now, you got all of these idiots who use analytics and say, 鈥榞uys need rest.’ It makes me sick to my stomach. It’s not proven anywhere these guys need rest.
That said, some of the few remaining are absolutely fascinating and could have a massive effect on the long-term future of a few franchises. Now is a good time to take a look back at the obligations that will affect teams.
Darron Lee Kids Jersey Let’s go with 0.90 for this one. That’s because both of these teams are very good spot-up shooting teams, and that’s not surprising considering that this series features four of the most efficient spot-up shooters in the league: Curry (1.33 points per possession) and Durant (1.26) for the Warriors, as well as Kawhi Leonard (1.24) and Gasol (1.27) for the Spurs. In the playoffs, Draymond Green has scored 8.0 points per game on spot-up shots, most in the league, and the Spurs’ Danny Green has been fourth with 5.1 points.
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Of course, the Celtics could not buy a 3-pointer in that game, and finished 7 for 33. Throughout the playoffs, their ability to convert those perimeter jumpers has defined their success, and they were over 40 percent in their series against the Wizards. That came despite the perimeter inconsistency of guard Isaiah Thomas, whose scoring came mostly from forays to the basket. Thomas has had some struggles lately in the playoffs, too, seeing his production dip after his stunning 53-point performance in Game 2 of the conference semis.
The Cavaliers arrive in the conference finals eager to defend their conference title and get back to their presumed matchup against the Warriors. They, like Golden State, have gone 8-0 in the first round of the playoffs, and they’ll have 10 days off between their last game against Toronto and the opening of the conference finals. Rust was a problem for the Warriors against the Spurs on Sunday, but the Cavs just have too much talent not to be able to withstand an early Boston lead.
The Panthers couldn’t just rely on Newton working it out on his own as a seventh-year player. They needed ways to facilitate his skill set, quickly and safely. They were smart to focus on the edges of their offense.
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Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess were a combined major disappointment last season despite looking the part with their big frames and catch radii. Benjamin was well behind ageless tight end Greg Olsen in receiving production, and Funchess was a shaky fourth option. Ted Ginn and Corey Brown, the speedy deep threats from Ohio State, are gone.
Limited Mens Terry Bradshaw Jersey The right side, Newton’s non-Blind Side, is a concern with post-concussion Michael Oher’s NFL future still in question. Rookie second-round pick Taylor Moton will get a chance to battle for that starting spot, but it’s more likely the Panthers ease him in as a backup swing tackle/guard. Daryl Williams is in position to be the shaky stopgap until Moton is up to speed. Andrew Norwell returns as the stud at left guard, while Trai Turner will be happy to stay at right guard and not be forced outside.
The Brewers held a 50/50 charity raffle during Monday’s 8-1 win over the visiting Orioles at Miller Park.
The raffle had a celebrity winner.
The big rumor over the long July 4 weekend was a sexy one: The Chicago Cubs are interested in Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander (and catcher Alex Avila).
Welcome back, Freddie Freeman. When Freeman fractured his wrist in mid-May, he was hitting an insane .341/.461/.748, and combined with his monster second half of 2016, he had established himself as perhaps the best hitter in the game. He returned to the Atlanta Braves’ lineup after just two rehab games and, sure enough, singled to center in his first at-bat. But the big news was he returned as a third baseman. He handled a routine grounder on his first chance:
Kato Kaelin, who is best-known as a witness during O.J. Simpson’s 1995 murder trial, attended the game with two family members and a friend and won the drawing.
The 6-10 Imhoff starred at the University of California under legendary coach Pete Newell. The Bears won the national championship in 1959, and Imhoff would go on to win a gold medal as a member of the 1960 U.S. Olympic team in Rome. That team, featuring future NBA stars such as Jerry West and Oscar Robertson, was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
After being selected third overall by the Knicks in the 1960 NBA Draft, Imhoff went on to a 12-year career in the league, playing with the Pistons, Lakers, 76ers, Cincinnati Royals (now the Sacramento Kings) and the Trail Blazers. Nicknamed “The Ax” for his physical play, Imhoff made the 1967 All-Star game while with the Lakers. For his career, Imhoff averaged 7.2 points and 7.6 rebounds per game.
He was a radio analyst during the Blazers’ 1977 NBA Finals victory, the only championship in franchise history.