LeBron James seeks fifth MVP award; James Harden, Anthony Davis eye first


In the Rookie of the Year group, Simmons and Mitchell both shined on the court this season. Simmons, who missed his first season in the NBA with a foot injury, had 12 triple-doubles this season and ranked fourth in assists per game (8.2). He helped lead Philadelphia to 52 regular-season wins, the third-best record in the Eastern Conference.

Mitchell averaged 20.5 points and helped Utah win a surprising 48 regular-season replica jerseys wholesale

Tatum is the only rookie whose team is still alive in the postseason. However, his playoff stats aren’t a factor for the award.

Among coaches, Casey helped build a strong bench unit in Toronto and changed the club’s offensive approach en route to an Eastern Conference-leading 59 wins. He was fired after James and the Cavaliers swept the Raptors in the second round of the playoffs. Stevens navigated injuries to several key Celtics, including Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, who was lost for the season on opening night due to a leg injury. Snyder helped the upstart Jazz finish fifth in the Western Conference after a subpar start. Houston’s Mike D’Antoni won the award last season.215

Gobert’s DPOY candidacy comes despite his missing significant time due to a left knee injury. He averaged 10.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game and was the linchpin to Utah’s stifling defense when healthy. He will have competition from Philadelphia’s Embiid (11.0 rebounds, 1.8 blocks) and New Orleans’ Davis (11.1 rebounds, 2.6 blocks). Golden State’s Draymond Green won the award last season.

Oladipo’s bid for most improved player follows a fantastic season with the Pacers. Oklahoma City dealt him to Indiana as part of the Paul George trade, and Oladipo thrived in the new environment, averaging 23.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists for a surprising Indiana team. He improved his scoring by seven points per game. Capela also presented a strong case after averaging 13.9 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game for Houston and its much-improved defense. Dinwiddie averaged career highs of 12.6 points and 6.6 assists for Brooklyn. Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo won the award last season.

In the sixth man award vote, Williams is considered a favorite among the group after posting 22.6 points and 5.3 assists per game for the Clippers. Gordon, who won the award last season, averaged 18 points per game in the regular season. Toronto’s VanVleet was integral to the Raptors’ success, averaging 8.6 points and 2.3 rebounds off the bench.

Gordon is looking to join Williams in being a repeat winner. If Gordon were to win, he would be the first back-to-back winner of the award since Detlef Schrempf, who won in the 1990-91 and 1991-92 seasons for the nfl jerseys from china nike

Other season-ending awards given out on June 25 will include executive of the year, sportsmanship award, lifetime achievement award, teammate of the year and a community service award.

Pelton mail: Is Brad Stevens more valuable than a superstar?


With Stevens leading a Boston Celtics team playing without All-Stars Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving to a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals, his value has become a popular source of debate. FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver put the bar very high indeed, finding nearly 50/50 results on a poll asking respondents to choose between Stevens and MVP contender Giannis Antetokounmpo after the first round of the playoffs.

As Ben Falk laid out in a subscription piece on Cleaning the Glass last week, even determining the general value of coaching remains difficult, let alone assessing individual coaches. Yet, as Kevin O’Connor pointed out on The Ringer,cheap nike nfl jerseys from china¬† there are compelling arguments for the value of a great coach like Stevens: Not only would a team get him (presuming extensions) for longer than any individual player, rewarding him with a high salary doesn’t affect the team’s salary cap, as is the case with a star player.

If we imagine the NBA decided to put all its players and coaches in a draft, and let the 30 teams pick among them, I think Stevens would probably go in the top 30 or 40 — that is, late in the first round or maybe early in the second. That would put him in the same range as current or future All-Star players.

At the same time, I’m chastened by Stan Van Gundy’s departure from the Detroit Pistons last week. If not ever regarded quite as highly as Stevens, Van Gundy was once one of the league’s most celebrated coaches. Remember, Van Gundy was perhaps the Golden State Warriors’ top target to replace Mark Jackson — a job that eventually went to Steve Kerr — before getting the opportunity to run basketball operations in Detroit.210

The evidence is pretty clear that basically no coaching candidates are good enough to offer a dual role as head coach and front-office executive in order to land them. Something similar is true of Tom Thibodeau with the Minnesota Timberwolves. While it’s less clear whether Thibodeau’s coaching is being undermined by his front-office role, two seasons into his Minnesota tenure, Thibodeau has yet to produce the same defensive results he saw with the Chicago Bulls.

Remember, not that long ago it was Thibodeau’s example we were using to discuss the upper bounds of value of coaches (and by we, I mean me). That’s a pretty good sign that coaches’ skills aren’t as consistent or transferable as those of star players.

While I think Stevens is more likely to fall in the Gregg Popovich category of creating lasting value by changing with the style of play, odds are he won’t look quite as valuable down the road as he does now. Rarely are coaches as good, or as bad, as they seem in the replica jerseys cheap

“I know you often cite that the reason a team lost is not due to how the winning team played, but how poorly the losing team shot when compared to their shot quality as measured by Second Spectrum’s measures. However, is there a team in the NBA where their opponents consistently underperform their expected effective field-goal percentage based on shot quality? If there is, would this be indicative of good defenses being able mentally and physically wear down their opponents to the point where even open shots don’t end up going in?”

Hawks hire 76ers assistant Lloyd Pierce as head coach


The Atlanta Hawks agreed to hire Philadelphia 76ers assistant Lloyd Pierce as their new head coach Friday, saying in a news release that it was “critically important to find a dynamic teacher who could connect with and develop our young core while instilling the culture and high standards we feel are necessary in a successful program.”

Pierce’s deal is for three years with a team option for a fourth, sources nfl nike jerseys from china

“Lloyd Pierce checks every box, and we couldn’t be more excited to have him leading the Atlanta Hawks into the future,” Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk said in the statement.

Pierce met with Hawks officials for a third time earlier in the day after emerging as the primary focus of the franchise’s head-coaching search, league sources said. Pierce traveled to Atlanta and met with team officials, including Schlenk, on Friday at the team’s facility.

“This is a day I’ve been working towards for a long time, and it’s an honor to be the head coach of the Atlanta Hawks,” Pierce said. “I have great respect for Travis and strong belief in his plan to bring a championship to the city of Atlanta. After spending time with ownership, it’s clear they have a deep investment in and commitment to making this a model organization. This opportunity is a perfect fit for me, and I’m eager to get started.”152

Pierce first met with Schlenk a week ago, and he met with Atlanta majority owner Tony Ressler earlier this week.

Atlanta parted ways with coach Mike Budenholzer on April 25.

As Atlanta moves into a complete rebuild, Pierce’s experience with Philadelphia’s process and strong background in player development made an impression on Schlenk and ownership. Atlanta has four picks in the top 33 of the NBA draft.

Pierce has been an assistant for 11 years with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors, Memphis Grizzlies and Philadelphia 76ers.

He spent four years as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Santa Clara, nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap before joining the NBA. He played with Hall of Fame point guard Steve Nash at Santa Clara.

Harden, Curry, KD and everything that will decide the West


The Rockets have been preparing for this all season — longer, even — and here is what they face: a Warriors team that is 24-3 in the playoffs since signing Kevin Durant. Houston has to beat them four times in seven games. Golden State with Durant has lost three times in six playoff series. Last season’s Cavaliers might have been one of the greatest single-season teams ever, and certainly were one of the greatest offensive teams ever. They got one game.customized nfl jerseys cheap

But these Rockets were built over the summer, and then tweaked midseason, specifically for this series. They are 50-5 when all three of James Harden, Clint Capela and Chris Paul play. By any measure, they represent the most profound challenge the Warriors have faced in the Durant-Stephen Curry era.

They can match any style: fast, slow, big, small. Hell, they might be able to dictate the style of this series. Some will cast this as a battle for the soul of basketball: isolation showboats and the math geniuses behind them against the protectors of the beautiful game. There is a kernel of truth there. The reality is Golden State has the tools to win both sorts of games. Durant has inoculated them from any stylistic limitations. They have seen every switching scheme in existence, and know how to break them with smart cuts and passes.

Let’s dig into some of the major questions and X-factors:151

? Houston can surround Harden with four good defenders, and Golden State usually offers one safe-ish place to hide him. The matchups will be fun, even if they switch in a blur on every possession.

We don’t even know yet who the Warriors will start: the Death Lineup, with Draymond Green at center, or a more traditional lineup probably featuring Kevon Looney in place of Andre Iguodala. If Golden State starts small, Houston can stash Harden on Iguodala, slot Capela onto Green, Paul onto Curry, Trevor Ariza on Klay Thompson, and the immovable PJ Tucker onto Durant. Against bigger lineups, Houston could match up across positions — with Harden on Thompson (gulp) — or slide Harden onto Green, or even Looney.

I would bet (reluctantly) on the Warriors starting Game 1 with Looney. He defended Anthony Davis well, and it just seems like the Steve Kerr move: start with someone who can body up Capela, and keep one ace in the hole. Golden State is also thin on wings — cheap nfl nike jerseys from china centers compose almost half of the roster for some reason — and starting all the best ones deprives the bench of some pop. Smart staggering can mitigate that, but the Warriors are also concerned about overtaxing Iguodala.

? Whether Golden State’s centers serve any purpose in this series will be one of its pivot points. Only JaVale McGee — and basketball gods help any coach who counts on McGee in this round, against this opponent — can do the Rudy Gobert/Pau Gasol “stand near the rim and raise your arms” thing and bother Harden. None of them can reliably switch onto Paul or Harden. Looney will pull it off one of every three or four times, but he’s walking a tightrope. Kerr might try Jordan Bell at some point for added speed.

Rockets lead by as many as 19 in Game 4 win at Utah


Everyone knows about the Houston Rockets’ commitment to math: prioritizing layups, free throws and 3-pointers over any other shot, specifically those in the midrange. And after Game 3 against the Utah Jazz on Friday, James Harden and Chris Paul sat by each other and were asked about the fact the Rockets uncharacteristically took 28 from midrange.

“Probably about 20 of them were from me,” Paul nike nfl jerseys from china

All season, Paul has been self-aware and often self-deprecating about one of the strengths of his game not exactly fitting with his new team’s core philosophy.

Harden interjected: “As you should,” clearly not joking at all. He had a point to make. “That’s a layup for him.”

And in Game 4, as the Jazz have progressively tried to scout and eliminate Houston’s drive-and-kick actions, with the Rockets shooting it poorly (10-of-38 from 3, 26.3 percent), it was Paul’s midrange proficiency that paid off. With 27 points on 12-of-23 shooting in Houston’s 100-87 Game 4 win to take a 3-1 series lead, Paul hit the Jazz with inefficient dagger after inefficient dagger. Analytics be damned; sometimes you have to let a master of the midrange work his craft.94

“Every rule has an exception,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said on Friday. “When you’re that good at something, even the number guys are like, ‘Yeah, that works’ because the numbers are right. If you’re just normal, that wouldn’t work. That’s one of the reasons I’m sure the organization got Chris — for a lot of different reasons, but that’s definitely a bonus.”

There were a lot of questions in the preseason about how Paul would fit next to Harden, whether two players so ball-dominant could coexist. D’Antoni solved much of that by cleverly splitting their playing time with staggered rotations, but their success together, particularly in Game 4, came because they’re just, like, really stinking good.

“Chris is shooting those shots like layups,” Harden said after Game 4, reiterating his point. “So he’s gonna do it, he’s gonna shoot ’em 20, 40 times, as many as he has to. He was extremely aggressive tonight, which we need from him.”nfl cheap nike jerseys

D’Antoni said before the game he never really doubted Paul and Harden could work together, noting his belief stemmed from the fact that it was the two of them who decided to play together. The decision was made by them to make it work, and it came before they even played a game together. And with the way Harden talked after Game 3, it was as if he was making sure Paul understood what the Rockets still need from him. Offense can be difficult to execute in the slog of a playoff series; sometimes what you need is just someone who can get a bucket.

Dante Exum’s injury horrors continue


Dante Exum’s horror NBA injury run has continued with the Utah Jazz’s Australian guard limping off the court with a left hamstring injury.

Exum was dribbling around Houston Rockets’ All-Star James Harden when he suffered the injury, left the court, came back on, attempted a three-pointer that missed and then headed in pain to the Utah locker jerseys nfl cheap

The Jazz went on to lose the game 100-87, with the Rockets taking a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven NBA Western Conference semi-final series.

Jazz medical staff described Exum’s injury as “left hamstring soreness”.93

Exum has been plagued by injuries since the Jazz drafted him with their fifth pick in 2014, including undergoing shoulder surgery in October and sitting out four months.

In 2015 he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee playing for the Australian national team.

It is a tough blow as Exum has had a strong series against Houston and had nine points on Sunday before the third-quarter injury.

He also becomes a restricted free agent after the season and was hoping to secure a new big contract.

The Jazz are already without their starting point guard Ricky Rubio, who is out with a hamstring injury.

“It was disappointing Dante had to go out,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder nike nfl jerseys from china

“I thought he really gave us a lift.”

Cavs sticking with Kevin Love as starting center, Tristan Thompson as reserve


The Cleveland Cavaliers, at least for the time being, will stick with Kevin Love as their starting center despite the All-Star’s individual struggles at the position this postseason, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said Wednesday.

“Whatever is good for the team is what we’re going to do,” Lue said. “I think it spreads the floor out for us. nfl jersey wholesale [Jonas] Valanciunas is going to go to help and try to block shots. Kevin is going to have open shots all night, so, whatever is best for the team is what we’re going to do.”

Love had a rough go of it in Cleveland’s 113-112 overtime victory in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Tuesday against the Toronto Raptors, starting just 1-for-8 from the field before settling in to finish with seven points on 3-for-13 shooting (1-for-4 from 3) and 13 rebounds.56

Valanciunas, at 7 feet tall and 265 pounds, dwarfs Love’s listed 6-foot-10, 251-pound frame, and it showed on the court early in Game 1. Valanciunas began the game 6-for-12 from the field through the first three quarters as the Raptors controlled the flow through him.

Lue brought in Tristan Thompson to play center alongside Love late, shifting Love back to his natural 4 spot, and Valanciunas slowed down significantly, shooting 1-for-7 in the fourth quarter and overtime combined (and 1-for-6 with Thompson guarding him in that stretch, according to data compiled by ESPN Stats & Information).

Love was asked after the game if he was more comfortable playing power forward.

“It’s been my whole career I’ve played at the 4,” he answered. “I would say absolutely. Ty sees something different, and I think offensively, once I get myself going, we could use that to our advantage. As of right now, I need to find some easy buckets. They were right there tonight, I just couldn’t put them down.”

Love, who hurt his left thumb in the Cavs’ playoff opener against the Indiana Pacers, nfl jerseys cheap authentic is averaging just 10.9 points on 31.9 percent shooting overall (38.5 percent from 3) in eight games in the postseason thus far.

Donovan Mitchell slams door on Rockets comeback in Game 2 win


Isolated at the top of the key, Donovan Mitchell settled into a defensive squat with the expected MVP lining him up with crossovers and between-the-legs moves. James Harden rocked back-and-forth, his beard bobbing up and down, and sensing Mitchell leaning ever so slightly, he started a hard drive left, and Mitchell reached. Maybe it was self-preservation so as not to get roasted, but it smelled of a rookie rookie-ing — losing discipline in only the briefest of moments — and it cost him his fourth foul with 6:40 to go.

The Rockets inbounded the ball from the sideline and went right back to Harden, who forced another switch on Mitchell. The rookie squatted into his stance, holding his arms almost comically to his sides, shuffling against the grain as Harden tried to drive authentic jerseys cheap Mitchell cut off the move, and Harden backed out and Mitchell closed the gap. Shot clock violation.

On the Jazz’s next trip, Mitchell — struggling through an ugly shooting night — missed a floater in the paint, but with a second jump as if a hidden trampoline existed somewhere under the floor, he exploded back at the rim and crammed home a vicious tip dunk. After a Harden runner cut Utah’s lead back to four, Mitchell came right back, gliding into the paint after a high screen, and calmly hit Joe Ingles right in his pocket for a wide-open corner 3 to put the Jazz up seven.55

It was a sequence of consequence, and another to highlight Mitchell’s outrageous poise and ability. The tip dunk was the highlight of the game, and even had a great quote to go with it (“I just happened to be up there,” Mitchell said, “so I figured why come down with it?”), but the entire series of plays showcased what makes Mitchell so special. He didn’t play all that well, at least in the traditional box score sense — 17 points on 6-of-21 shooting — but he made plays, and taking over the primary playmaking role again, he dished out a career-high 11 assists to even the Western Conference semifinal series at 1 with a 116-108 win on Wednesday night.

There’s a toughness to the Jazz, both physically and mentally. The tried to irritate Harden, with Harden even getting a little irritated postgame about a question about being irritated (“I look like that all the time,” he said. “I think it’s the beard.”) They took some hard fouls, pressured the ball and dug in. On a tie-up with known bulldog PJ Tucker, Mitchell wrestled for the ball an awkward amount of time, not backing down a bit as the two grappled for it. Finally the ball spun out for a jump ball as the teams came together and the refs separated everyone. Tucker clapped and barked; Mitchell stood his ground. It was emblematic of the Jazz’s approach, and specifically, Mitchell’s. The fearlessness is real, and impressive.

Maybe it’s not coincidence that Mitchell turned in a rugged performance after watching Kobe Bryant’s “Detail” breakdown of him — twice. He has gotten raves from everyone around the league for his beyond-his-years play and composure, nfl jersey wholesale but the competitive spirit and will to perform in big spots is a talent he’s only starting to scratch the surface on.

C’s coach Brad Stevens: ‘Game 7 in TD Garden is what you play for’


Boston Celtics big man Al Horford has been on both benches at TD Garden for a deciding Game 7 during his 10-year NBA career.wholesale nfl jerseys As the Celtics brace for a win-or-go-home showdown with the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night, Horford knows as well as anyone the value of home-court advantage.

A stagnant Celtics offense sputtered Thursday night in Boston’s first chance to close out its Eastern Conference first-round series against the Bucks. But as the series shifts back to Boston, Celtics players believe they have an advantage playing on their home turf.

“TD Garden is going to be great. As a basketball player or fan, one of the places you want to enjoy and be, it’s TD Garden for a Game 7,” said Horford, whose first postseason trip, with the Atlanta Hawks, ended with a Game 7 loss to Boston’s most recent Big Three during the team’s 2008 title run.8

Added Horford: “I’ve been on both sides. It’s tough about [Thursday’s loss], but I’m definitely looking forward to Saturday.”

Celtics players lamented their offensive inconsistency during Thursday’s 97-86 loss at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks turned bad Boston offense into easy transition baskets while building a double-digit first-half lead, then fended of some second-half surges.

Now the Celtics need a win Saturday to extend their season.

“The result is our guys get to experience a Game 7, which, again, official nfl jerseys cheap we didn’t want,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “Game 7 in TD Garden is what you play for. It should be what you’re excited most about. What you worked for all summer, what you worked for all year. It’s a blast.”

The Bucks expect a frenzied atmosphere in Boston.

“It’s going to be crazy. It’s do or die at this point,” Bucks forward Khris Middleton said. “The crowd in Boston is rowdy, just like they are here. It’s going to be a great game. There are no secrets between teams. It comes down to who has more will.”

Why Draymond Green lobbied for JaVale McGee to start for Warriors


The Warriors were heading into the All-Star break appearing lifeless and unmotivated.authentic nfl jerseys They had dropped four of their past eight contests. It was during this time that Steve Kerr said the team was “mentally fried” and suggested his players were already eyeing their midseason vacation destinations.

But when Golden State returned to the Bay Area after the break, Kerr had a surprise waiting for them in an attempt to create a spark.

“I don’t know what happened,” McGee told ESPN. “He came back after All-Star [break] and I was starting.”7

It turned out individuals were working behind the scenes and advocating for the 7-footer to either start or receive consistent minutes in the rotation. Green and assistant coach Jarron Collins, who is assigned to McGee during solo portions of practice, were among those vouching for the backup center’s talents to be unleashed.

“That doesn’t mean Draymond and JC have been banging down my door saying we’ve got to start him. That never happened,” Kerr explained to ESPN. “JC works with him every day, so all of our individual coaches tend to advocate for their guys. So, let’s get that straight.”

Zaza Pachulia, the starting center for much of the season, is a solid low-post defender who sets amazing screens, but he lacks athleticism and struggles finishing around the basket. McGee, while turnover-prone, provides aerial assaults on both ends of the floor and brings a style of play that energizes the team.

Up until the All-Star break, McGee’s numbers and opportunities had dwindled drastically in Year 2 with the Warriors. In his first season, he was a regular rotation player and accumulated only five DNPs. This season, McGee had been mostly out of the rotation and gathered 16 DNPs.wholesale nfl jerseys¬† He didn’t know why that was the case and admitted he struggled with it.

“Yeah, I get frustrated,” McGee said. “But I try not to let those frustrations get out into the media or get out onto the court in my play. I try to keep the same energy that I have. I try to bring positivity to the team.”