Monday, May 30, 2011

Shabazz Muhammad continues to protect his turf




Shabazz Muhammad continues to protect his turf

Posted by Jeff Borzello
Posted on: May 26, 2011 11:43 am
Edited on: May 26, 2011 11:58 am

Rankings of the top prospects in the country have different impacts on different players. Some don’t pay attention to them; some live and die by their ranking. Others are cognizant of where they stand and know opponents are gunning for them.

Shabazz Muhammad, one of the top three players in the class of 2012, is in the latter group.

“I think everyone thinks they’re the number one player, but I don’t worry about that,” Muhammad said in a phone interview. “But it affects the way I play, big-time. Having a target on my back, it’s a great opportunity for me.”

The 6-foot-5 swingman from Bishop Gorman (Nev.) has been ranked near the top of his class since he was a freshman in high school. Every game, camp or tournament, Muhammad has had to stand his ground to retain his stature.

Unlike many players who drop in the rankings as their high school careers progress, Muhammad is still in the mix for the top spot.

“That’s the first thing that comes to mind,” he said. “I’m the best player on the court and I have to prove it.”

Muhammad is a lefty scoring machine, using his strength to simply overpower most of his opponents when driving to the rim. He is an excellent finisher in the paint and is deadly in the mid-range. Once he improves his outside shooting, Muhammad could be unstoppable on the wing.

At the high school level, Muhammad can get away with playing inside the arc, but he knows he has to improve his guard skill set at the next level.

“Schools are recruiting me as a shooting guard,” he said. “So I’m working on handling the ball. Schools like Kentucky, Duke, Arizona, they have their shooting guards handle the ball a lot. And the most important thing is my perimeter shooting. The athleticism is already there.”

Muhammad has offers from dozens of schools, but he has trimmed some of the fat and is focusing on seven schools: Kentucky, Duke, UCLA, UNLV, Arizona, Kansas and Texas.

While he says he has no favorites, he did go through each school to discuss what he liked about each one.

Many people think UCLA is the frontrunner for Muhammad, but he denied it.

“It was a great experience,” he said about UCLA. “I’ve been to California and I love the weather. Coach [Ben] Howland is a great guy; I talked to him for a couple of hours. I got to see how it is to be a Bruin.”

Not surprisingly, Kentucky is also on Muhammad’s list. He said it’s different than the other schools on his list because of the location.

“I can be very focused there, since it’s not a city,” Muhammad said. “It’s a good place for a person who is serious about basketball. There are no distractions.”

UNLV is the closest school to Muhammad’s Las Vegas home and high school, and is therefore still in the mix. Proximity could play a factor.

“It’s a local school, and they have really good match-ups every year,” he said. “It’s only 10 minutes away.”

Early in May, Muhammad and his Dream Vision AAU team took a trip to the Jayhawk Invitational in Kansas. While there, he got a chance to check out the Kansas campus.

“Coach [Bill] Self is a nice guy,” Muhammad said. “I took a visit up there a couple weeks ago.”

What impressed Muhammad the most about Duke was head coach Mike Krzyzewski, but it wasn’t his charm or recruiting pitch that opened Muhammad’s eyes.

“Coach K, I talked to him a lot,” he said. “He’s very intellectual, he know what he’s doing. The guy is just smart. It’s a great place to be at.”

The most recent trip Muhammad took was to Arizona, ironically taking place the day after head coach Sean Miller spurned Maryland to stay in Tucson.

“I’ve been talking to them a lot,” Muhammad said. “They have a great coach and a great team. And their system is running, getting up and down.”

He plans on taking a trip to Texas sometime in June; at that point, Muhammad will have taken unofficial visits to all seven schools.

Still, no particular school is standing out.

“Everyone I named is coming at me the hardest,” Muhammad said. “They’re all great [coaches]. I can’t really compare one, two, three.”

Nearly every school on his list is a perennial Final Four contender, making Muhammad’s decision even harder. The main factor in his decision will be program success, both past and future.

“The school’s tradition,” Muhammad said. “I’m looking for the school that has the best opportunity for me to win a national championship.”

Despite going on plenty of unofficial visits and knowing exactly what he is looking for in a school, he has no plans to make a decision anytime soon.

Muhammad doesn’t want to rush into anything.

“I’m taking the process slowly. I probably will take all five of my visits,” he said. “I want to make sure I make the right choice.”

Tyler Honeycutt Answering Critics




Tyler Honeycutt Answering Critics

By: Stephen Litel
Last Updated: 5/25/11 6:56 AM ET

Tyler Honeycutt knows there are initial thoughts about both he and his game. In these last few weeks before the NBA draft, he is doing everything he can to show the NBA world the misconceptions are not reality.

"Just me being lazy, not a hard worker," Honeycutt told HOOPSWORLD. "I've heard a lot of that, which I completely disagree on, so you know I'm trying to work hard and do everything to the max effort."

One of the other criticisms of Honeycutt's game is there are times when it seems as if he is coasting on the court. Instead of succumbing to the criticism, Honeycutt verbalizes why he believes some may have that view, but he also believes it is for the right reasons.

"Sometimes it might be me trying to conserve energy playing the most minutes," said Honeycutt. "I know Coach needs me out there on the floor, so I'm trying to make sure I play as many minutes as I can for him."

A benefit for Honeycutt is having someone he is very familiar with along for the ride. That person, of course is his college backcourt mate Malcolm Lee, which gives Honeycutt a familiarity on the court, allowing him to relax and show what he is able to do with a basketball in his hands. Lee's presence is felt even when he is unable to be on the court with Honeycutt.

"It's very high," said Honeycutt, referring to Lee's NBA potential. "He wasn't able to showcase his talents, but given where we're at right now, he will be. I was watching him a little bit before I got out there and he did a good job."

The only way Honeycutt can prove any doubters wrong is to focus his weaknesses. Show the NBA personnel that you're making a conscious decision to expand on your game and they will be impressed.

"Just staying low, offense and defense," said Honeycutt, referring to his current focus. "Dribbling the ball, staying low on defense, closing out strong and not getting beat off the dribble."

Of course, the delicate balance is working on supposed flaws in your game at the same time as showing off what your greatest strengths are on the court. For Honeycutt, those strengths are evident.

"Just show the athleticism and I've been working this whole time on my shot and getting it down pat," said Honeycutt. "I've got a lot of confidence in it. I'm just trying to show how athletic I am. A lot of people weren't able to see that at UCLA."

His athleticism and versatility may be what makes him stand apart from many of the other shooting guards working towards draft day. Versatility is a very important area the NBA is looking for and Honeycutt is well aware of that fact.

"I was working out with the threes today, so I feel like I can play both," said Honeycutt.

Make no mistake though, Honeycutt has a preference for the position he would like to play a majority of his time in the NBA.

"Probably the two," said Honeycutt.

With his athleticism, his choice for the style of team he would hope to join is obvious, but proving more doubters wrong, Honeycutt is also humble.

"I'd rather prefer an up-tempo game, show my athleticism, but really anywhere," said Honeycutt.

During this most important time in his life, Honeycutt cannot help but think of those who got him to this point. It's been a long road to draft day and there are only weeks left before his NBA dream becomes a reality.

Can Malcolm Lee Keep Up UCLA Pro Success?

hoopsworld/you tube



Can Malcolm Lee Keep Up UCLA Pro Success?

By: Lang Greene
Last Updated: 5/26/11 7:02 AM ET

The UCLA men's basketball program has been producing top tier guard talent to the NBA over the past few years and the 2011 draft field features another former Bruin whose stock has been rapidly rising as the league gets set to welcome the next wave of rookies into the fold.

Recent UCLA standouts excelling in the NBA at guard include All-Star Russell Westbrook, Darren Collison, Arron Afflalo and Jrue Holiday. The NBA's leading rebounder in 2011, Minnesota power forward Kevin Love, is also on the school's prominent pro alumni list.

Malcolm Lee, a 6'5 point guard, hopes to continue the notable NBA success enjoyed by those players, especially the guards. If confidence was the sole determiner of success at the pro level, Lee's name would fit right in with the aforementioned group.

Lee doesn't shy away from comparisons to Westbrook, Collison and Holiday. In fact he embraces them and is anxious to prove his name belongs in the same sentence.

"I'm kind of actually similar," Lee told HOOPSWORLD on where his game fits compared to recent UCLA pro guards. "I feel like I have a lot of explosiveness like Russell Westbrook and also the defensive side like Jrue Holiday. I kind of see myself similar as them. I really can't see the difference."

After a little more thought, Lee admitted to having one advantage over guard trio.

"I'm taller than them and I got a little more length," Lee added.

Lee will indeed have big shoes to follow once he starts his journey in the league.

Westbrook was named to the All-NBA second this season at point guard beating out New Orleans' Chris Paul who was a league MVP candidate in his own right.

Collison and Holiday both served as the starting point guards for teams who reached the NBA playoffs this season – Indiana and Philadelphia respectively.

Afflalo was one of the league's most dangerous threats from three-point range and also a key contributor for the Denver Nuggets who also made a postseason trip in 2011.

Lee's physical size for a point guard continues to make him an intriguing prospect as the draft approaches. His performance in pre-draft functions has routinely impressed scouts and his name is shooting up draft boards.

The latest HOOPSWORLD mock draft has Lee positioned at No. 17, but as Steve Kyler pointed out recently the former UCLA standout may have more team workout requests than can fit into his schedule over the next 28 days.

The No. 17 slot would make Lee the fourth point guard off the board behind Duke's Kyrie Irving, UCONN's Kemba Walker, Kentucky's Brandon Knight, and BYU's Jimmy Fredette.

However, Lee believes he has a few items working in his favor over his peer group.

"I feel my height [is an advantage]," Lee confidently told HOOPSWORLD. "I feel like I have good size over them, because I average about two inches over all the point guards (in the draft). So I feel like my height, my explosiveness and also my defensive side [separates]."

Coming from a system at UCLA which emphasizes defensive accountability heavily, Lee also understands that there are lingering questions on whether he can be effective scoring the rock at the next level.

While he averaged double-digits in scoring during his last two collegiate seasons (12.1 and 13.1), he also finished his career as a sub 30 percent shooter from three-point range.

View Lang Greene Archive But Lee ultimately believes his offensive potential is just scratching the surface and he's ready to show and prove.

"A lot of people don't know there are a lot of things I can do on offense," Lee commented. "I can also hold my own on offensive end."

Whether Lee's offensive talent will translate to the pro game remains to be seen, however it's important to note that his revamped shooting stroke displayed during pre-draft activities have left scouts impressed.

Another area which may separate Lee from his peers is the motivation to maximize the opportunity presented in the here and now.

When asked who the strongest influence on the player he's become, Lee provided a different answer than most.

"My sister because she was a role model growing up," Lee said. "I kind of followed in her shoes. She played basketball as well but her career was ended short with two ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tears so she really couldn't go on and play after that. So I play for her because she was cut due to injuries."

Witnessing the devastation of a career-ending injury firsthand has put Lee on a mission of hard work and a mindset of never taking the game of basketball for granted.

"Basically it just shows the ideal that you can't take nothing for granted because anything can be taken away from you," Lee told HOOPSWORLD. "I kind of go by that day-by day so I'm real appreciative of what I have."

For now, Lee is focused on workouts and further improving his rapidly increasing draft stock which may see him slip into the late lottery.

But wherever he ultimately ends up being selected it will undoubtedly be a dream come true and a reward for all of the hard work.

"It's just a dream coming into reality," Lee explained to HOOPSWORLD. "I've pretty much been dreaming of this ever since I was little, ever since we first started playing on five foot rims and stuff like that. You kind of dream about being in the NBA but now it's coming into reality."

Lee finished the answer taking it all in.

"Everything is coming into play, like wow, this is the combine and the draft is in a month. It's just a lot of mixed feelings for these next couple weeks."

Sunday, May 29, 2011 Norman Powell - UCLA Recruit

Thanks to Kaz for sharing on Bruin Zone.

Norman Powell - UCLA Recruit

Lincoln High School Basketball Videos

Lincoln High of San Diego Star sits down with Loghan Call to talk of future, past and family.

Image for MaxPreps Video.

They found something finer than North Carolina

Thanks to KernBruin for the heads up and to Kaz for the link on Bruin Zone.

They found something finer than North Carolina

David and Travis Wear and Larry Drew II left the Tar Heels to come home to play basketball for UCLA. There were several factors for their decisions to transfer.

By Ben Bolch
The Los Angeles Times
6:00 PM PDT, May 28, 2011

Larry Drew II thought he had found basketball heaven. So did David and Travis Wear.

It is a place where nearly 22,000 fans show up for Midnight Madness. Names of visiting recruits are chanted as if they are rock stars, and it's hard not to be wowed by the names on the jerseys hanging from the rafters: Jordan … Worthy …

"You kind of get caught up with the whole tradition that is Carolina," Drew said.

For the three Southern California natives, nothing could be finer than to play for North Carolina — except leaving to come home to play for UCLA.

The Wear twins, who played at Santa Ana Mater Dei High, left Chapel Hill last spring after only one season. Drew, who starred at Woodland Hills Taft, left in February after 21/2 years, though the point guard often contemplated leaving before that.

All three said playing time wasn't the primary issue. There were several factors, including fickle fans, a breakdown in communication with the coaching staff and a failure of the Carolina experience to meet expectations.

Drew's emotionally charged departure came after he lost his spot in the starting lineup to freshman Kendall Marshall. But there was much more to his unhappiness.

"I was there for 21/2 years and I didn't play my whole freshman year, so it's not if I'm playing or not playing," Drew said. "It was just a buildup of things since I first got there."

The Wears didn't wait nearly as long to make a change. Their freshman season came on the heels of Carolina's 2009 national title, and after losing five of their top seven players from that team the Tar Heels went 5-11 in the Atlantic Coast Conference and were relegated to the National Invitation Tournament.

"The energy just wasn't there as in the years prior, it seemed like," said Travis Wear, a 6-foot-10 forward who averaged 3.5 points in 10.1 minutes a game. "It just wasn't that fun of a year."

The Wears also endured what David described as the "shock" of a different culture in Chapel Hill, and they missed being around family and friends who had supported them since childhood. They couldn't always count on encouragement from Tar Heels fans, especially when the team struggled.

"When you're winning, everything's good. When you're losing, it's opposite," Drew said. "Going to a school like that, I was aware of the potential for how things could be. I wasn't aware to the extent."

Drew alluded to the way he was used during a birthday rap he performed in March at the Conga Room in Los Angeles, saying, "They tried to tell me just to play my role, but who's really trying to stick to a script full of typos?"

More recently, Drew explained that he had written the rap "to vent," and didn't intend it as a parting shot at the Tar Heels. "I didn't mean it as a diss or anything like that," Drew said. "It was just something I had to get off my chest."

North Carolina Coach Roy Williams said he tried to shield Drew from criticism he faced during his sophomore season, when the team's fortunes plummeted.

"I explained to everyone he wasn't throwing the ball to Tyler Hansbrough, Danny Green and Wayne Ellington," Williams said, referring to the stars from the national championship team.

Drew's troubles transcended the fans. Larry Drew Sr., the Atlanta Hawks coach, said his son contemplated leaving after a freshman year in which he barely played. As a sophomore, playing alongside the Wear twins, Drew started 36 of 37 games and averaged six assists, tied for second in the ACC.

But Drew never felt completely comfortable, his father said. And the family became upset about the way the change in the starting lineup was handled.

"Nothing was said to Larry, nothing was said to me," Drew Sr. said. "That was a little hard to swallow."

Williams disputed Drew's claim, saying he talked about the lineup change "openly in front of the team before it happened. It was not a surprise to Larry. In fact, the day before the [next] game I talked about making three changes in the starting lineup."

Another former Carolina player said communication issues between Drew and Williams were a running theme.

"Coach Williams wanted to put a lot of trust in Larry because he has a special relationship with all his point guards, but they bumped heads at times," said Deon Thompson, a former Torrance High star who was a teammate of Drew's for two seasons with the Tar Heels. "He was just a laid-back kid, so it was hard for Coach Williams to light that fire in him at times."

What surprised Williams most wasn't that Drew left, but the timing of the decision —in the middle of a season and after a 32-point victory over Boston College in which Drew had nine assists and only one turnover.

Drew Sr., who informed Williams of his son's decision in a telephone call, described the situation as "not salvageable."

Drew said he had no reservations about the timing of his exit. "I feel like if I have other options, I should be able to explore them," he said. "By transferring, if I feel like if there's something out there better for me that I could pursue, I'm going to do it."

The exodus of the Wear twins and Drew in a 10-month span was disappointing for Williams, who said he had only three players transfer and another leave by mutual agreement in his first 20 years as a college coach.

One of the transfers was Alex Stepheson, a former North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake standout who left North Carolina for USC in 2008 so that he could be closer to his ailing father.

Not every Southern California native who becomes a Tar Heel decides to leave. Thompson, a three-year starter who played in two Final Fours and set an NCAA record by playing in 152 games, said he relished wearing Carolina blue.

"Chapel Hill is always going to be a special place to me," said Thompson, who recently completed his first season with Ikaros Esperos of the Greek A-1 League.

Drew and the Wear twins will soon wear a different shade of blue. The Wears will be sophomores and eligible to play for UCLA next season. Drew will utilize his final year of eligibility in 2012-13 after sitting out a year.

"I'm just glad they decided this was going to be a better fit for them than being that far away," Bruins Coach Ben Howland said.

He's not the only one.

"Every day I wake up, I'm just really thankful to be here. It's a second chance, so to speak," Drew said. "I'm home on top of that. I have everybody I've ever known, basically, out here.

"I don't think you appreciate what you have until it's gone, what we had here in L.A. Now we're back and we're going to try to make the most of it."

Super-sized Bruins

Strength and size of Bruins’ frontcourt give coach Ben Howland many choices for next season

The Daily Bruin
Published May 27, 2011, 2:02 am in Men's Basketball Sports

It’s a Wednesday morning in late May, but don’t tell the UCLA basketball team that.

The Bruins are going full speed during the last week of their offseason workouts. As they prepare for next season’s schedule, the competition among them is ramping up.

With Joshua Smith, Anthony Stover, Travis and David Wear, Reeves Nelson, and Brendan Lane, coach Ben Howland might have too many options in the frontcourt.

He doesn’t seem worried.

Junior forward Reeves Nelson (6-8, 235)

Junior forward Brendan Lane (6-9, 223)

“We’ll end up playing with Dave Wear at the three (small forward) some,” Howland said. “And then you look at the other bigs that you’re playing with, and Brendan gives us some depth at the big position. We’re really deep up front.”

Howland will have to depart from his team over the summer. He’s not allowed to contact them until school is back in session, an NCAA rule that he’s made clear he’s not too fond of.

When you consider that the Bruins are also changing their offensive philosophy, Howland has only a limited amount of time. That prized depth at the four and five positions allows him to do something new with his offense.

“With the post presence that we have, we’re going to be able to run motion,” said Howland, who is about to enter his ninth season at the helm of UCLA’s program. “We’re going to run set plays, but we’re going to run more motion than we ever have since I’ve been here.”

A lot of screening and two-man work is getting done down low as the NCAA also mandates that only four players can work out at the same time. As such, Howland and his assistants hold four 30-minute practice sessions to facilitate the entire 12-man roster.

A glance at assistant coach Scott Garson’s pile of tools might suggest he’s getting ready to take to Spaulding Field and hit with the football team. He wields a blocking pad in one arm to keep his big men out of the paint and a padded broomstick in the other that he uses as a makeshift shot blocker.

Brothers Wear (Travis wears 43 [6-10, 220], David wears 34 [6-10, 225]).

Of particular note, the morning session consists only of the rising redshirt sophomore twins, Travis and David Wear. The natives of Huntington Beach and graduates of Mater Dei High School haven’t seen NCAA game action in more than a year after transferring from North Carolina and being forced to sit out last season per NCAA rules.

The pair averaged about 10 minutes per game during their freshman season as Tar Heels and didn’t contribute much in the scoring column, both of them averaging fewer than five points per game. Tar Heel fans would hardly recognize them now.

“I trimmed my body down,” Travis Wear said of his hiatus from the game. “I got a lot more lean and a lot more cut. I’ve been doing a lot of lifting, and I think I’m a lot more athletic. I think I’ve improved a lot since my freshman season.”

The twins go one-on-one at times, two-on-broom dummy at others, working on their post footwork as well as their outside shooting, something David Wear thinks can help next year’s team.

“What helps with me and my brother and Reeves is that we all can step out and shoot, so we’re all going to be able to play on the court at the same time,” he said.

Howland, for one, is excited to see them finally able to compete.

“The Wears have been terrific in terms of how they eat, how they take care of themselves, how they lift,” he said. “They’re doing yoga three days a week. Their commitment is really impressive. That’s what it takes to be great.”

Super soph center Joshua Smith (6-10, 305)

The session adds centers in rising sophomore Joshua Smith and rising redshirt sophomore Anthony Stover to the mix. Smith was key to UCLA’s run to the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season and is showcasing that familiar dexterity with the ball through a number of challenging drills.

But his endurance is another issue. Conditioning and foul trouble were two of Smith’s limiting factors as a freshman, and Howland hasn’t seen much progress there.

“It needs to get better,” Howland said of Smith’s conditioning. “He knows that, and we all talk about that. He’s put on some weight since the season ended. That’s Josh’s whole hurdle. When Josh Smith gets his body fat to 12 percent or 13 percent, he’ll be the best big guy in the country. But when he does that is everything for him and for our team.”

Soph center Anthony Stover (6-10, 235)

With an overabundance of size and a question mark at the two-guard spot, a lot of questions remain as to who will play where.

Howland looks on, sipping on a water bottle as his last group of players finishes a workout.

“Bottom line is, right now, we’ve got 12 guys on scholarship and one of them is a redshirt, so we’re 11 guys deep and strong as we go into the season,” he said with a smile.

No new assistant yet

Howland has yet to hire a third assistant coach to fill the void left by Scott Duncan, who departed to Wyoming last month.

He said he expects to reach a decision sometime in the first two weeks of June.

“I’ve been in no hurry to do that,” Howland said. “We’ve just been focusing on what we’re doing here. I’ve got one or two more interviews to complete, and then we’ll make the decision.”


Travis and David Wear ready to contribute

The Daily Bruin
Published May 18, 2011 in Sports: Bruin Sights
Updated: May 20, 2011, 12:39 AM

It’s been more than a year since UCLA forwards Travis and David Wear have played in an NCAA game.

The rising redshirt sophomore twins have been going at their teammates and each other in practice over the course of that year after transferring from North Carolina at the conclusion of their freshman season. Now, they have just one offseason left before they take the floor for the Bruins in the fall.

“I trimmed my body down. I got a lot more lean and a lot more cut,” Travis said. “I’ve been doing a lot of lifting and yoga, and I think I’m a lot more athletic.”

The Daily Bruin got a chance to see the pair compete at a team workout Wednesday morning in a number of drills that included a look at their outside shooting game.

“I think we both shoot the ball equally well,” Travis said. “He might shoot it more often because he’s playing the three more but I would say that both of our jump shots are equal and both of our inside games are equal.”

For those having trouble distinguishing between the twins, David is in a white top and makes the first jumper in the video. Travis is wearing a grey top and makes the second fallaway jumper.

DailyBruinSports on You Tube for the vid

NBA West final recap: Game 5 - Mavs says "goodnight, now" to the Thunder with a 100-96 going away present

Thanks to bballfansite on You Tube

Mavs top Thunder 100-96 to book trip to NBA finals

Posted May 26 2011 4:04AM

DALLAS (AP) Dirk Nowitzki wrapped his hands around the silver ball trophy that goes to the Western Conference champions and smiled. After five years, he and the Dallas Mavericks are kings of their conference again, earning another trip to the NBA finals.
Yet Nowitzki didn't flash the wide, toothy grin of someone relieved to have accomplished his goal. Because, he hasn't.

Unless the Mavs win the next round, too, and become NBA champions for the first time, their whole glorious postseason - and that silver trophy - won't mean as much. It's a lament heard by many superstars, but Nowitzki's indifference amid much of the frenzied celebration around him showed just how serious he is about it.

"I was already thinking about the finals," he said. "This is nice for a day, but we set our goals in October to win it all. We haven't done it yet."

Dallas capped its climb back to the NBA finals with a 100-96 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night that ended the Western finals in five games.

The young, up-and-coming Thunder made things tough on the older, now-or-possibly-never Mavericks as they had throughout the series. And, as he has throughout the postseason, Nowitzki made the plays that mattered most. His latest highlights: swishing a 3-pointer with 1:14 left that put Dallas ahead and making a pair of free throws with 13.3 seconds left to seal it.

"It feels good to finally go back," Nowitzki said. "This time, hopefully we can finish the job."

The Mavs' only other trip to the finals was in 2006. They were up 2-0, with a big, late lead in Game 3, but wound up losing to the Miami Heat in six games. They'd won only a single playoff series since until a tremendous run this postseason - going 12-3, with wins in 10 of the last 11 games, including a sweep of the two-time reigning champion Lakers.

This Dallas team filled with veterans all seeking their first rings has been playing with what coach Rick Carlisle calls "a laser-like focus." It showed when they clawed back from a 15-point deficit with 5:06 left in Game 4, and again in this game, when the Mavs were down by six with 4:37 left.

They outscored the Thunder 14-4 the rest of the way, with many of their most-accomplished players making the key plays: Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion and Jason Terry.

"It goes to our veteran leadership, our experience, us being in every possible situation we could possibly be in," said Terry, who along with Nowitzki are the only holdovers from the '06 team. "We know what we're going through offensively and defensively. We know we have to get stops and we're able to do that. When you have that belief and that trust in what you're doing it's just a confidence and more times than not you're going to be successful."

Nowitzki scored 26 points, nine in the fourth quarter. For the series, he averaged 32.2 points, 11.8 in the fourth quarters.

Marion scored 15 of his 26 points in the fourth. His steal, dunk and free throw right after Nowitzki's go-ahead 3 went a long way toward pulling this one out. It meant a lot to him because unlike Nowitzki, Kidd and Terry, he's never been to the finals.
"Lots of guys never go, so I'm going to make the best of it," Marion said. "We knew what we were capable of from the start of the season. This is a realization of that."
When the Mavs last made the finals, they advanced with a win in Phoenix. This time, they got to share the moment with their fans. Franchise founder Don Carter was right in the middle of it all, trading his signature white cowboy hat - the one that used to be featured in the team's logo - for a black baseball cap that read "The Finals 2011" with a Mavs logo and the championship trophy.

"All I can tell everybody is, we ain't done yet," team owner Mark Cuban said during the on-court trophy presentation ceremony.

Funny thing is, Dallas could face Miami again. Fans seem to hope so, chanting "Beat the Heat!" so loudly after Cuban spoke that they drowned out Carlisle's on-court interview.

LeBron James and Miami lead the Chicago Bulls 3-1 in the Eastern Conference finals. If the Heat win Thursday night, the finals will begin Tuesday in Miami. If the Bulls win Thursday night, the finals will begin next Thursday in the East winner's city.
The Mavericks' big edge this series was experience, and it showed in the final two games. Age never slowed them, in part because their legs were refreshed by eight days off before the opener. Winning this game is huge because it earns them at least six days off before the finals.

"Any time you can get rest this time of year is a bonus," said Kidd, who at 38 could become the oldest point guard to ever win a title - by several years. "For us to close it out here is huge."

Oklahoma City led for most of this game, even staying ahead during a stretch of 11 straight missed shots. But the Thunder were just too young and too inexperienced to understand how to close out a game.

When Dallas started to surge at the start and middle of the fourth quarter, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook came up with some answers. Yet when the pressure really ratcheted up, and 21,092 fans were at their loudest, the veteran Mavericks made all the right moves.

"It's tough now," Durant said. "But we can learn from it. The only way to get better is to keep pushing."

Westbrook scored 31 points, and Durant and James Harden each scored 23. The Thunder bowed out with only their second three-game losing streak of the season.

"I just think we played hard and just couldn't come up with the win," Durant said.
Considering its youth and the experience gained in this series, Oklahoma City can expect to close in on many more titles. That was little consolation Wednesday night.
"You can't skip (developmental) steps," coach Scott Brooks said. "We all have to get better, including myself."

Notes: Nowitzki made 59 of 61 free throws this series, an amazing 96.7 percent. For the postseason, he is 130 of 140, or 92.9 percent. ... Carlisle won a championship as a backup on the Celtics, but this is his first trip to the finals as a coach. ... Dallas is 7-1 at home this postseason. ... The Mavs, Spurs and Lakers have combined to win the last 13 West titles. ... Dallas-area sports fans are getting spoiled. The World Series was here in October/November, the Super Bowl in February and now the NBA finals are coming in June.

Thunder-Mavs notebook

By Dave Ivey, for
Posted Thursday May 26, 2011 12:57AM

THE FACTS: With another fourth-quarter rally and another clutch bucket from Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas finished off Oklahoma City in five games to reach the NBA Finals for the first time since 2006 and just the second time in club history. Nowitzki and Shawn Marion each scored 26 points in the Mavericks' 100-96 win Wednesday, overcoming a 31-point night by Russell Westbrook and erasing a seven-point Thunder lead with less than six minutes to play.

The Mavericks, who made up a 15-point deficit in the last five minutes and won Game 4 in overtime Monday in Oklahoma City, finished Game 5 with a 17-6 run. Nowitzki put Dallas ahead for good with a second-chance 3-pointer from the top of the key with 1:14 remaining. Marion followed with a three-point play on a fastbreak dunk to close the deal and set up a Finals clash with Miami or Chicago.

QUOTABLE: "Down the stretch, we like to say that we're the best team in basketball because we know what we want to do offensively, we know where the ball is going, and defensively we know we can get stops."
-- Mavericks sixth man Jason Terry.

THE STAT: After committing only six turnovers through the first three quarters, Oklahoma City turned the ball over seven times in the pivotal final period. Dallas turned those miscues into 11 points.

THE STAT II: Nowitzki was a perfect 9-for-9 in Game 5 and 59-for-61 from the free-throw line in this series (96.7 percent).

TURNING POINT: The critical 3-pointer by Nowitzki came just seconds after he had missed a triple from almost the same spot. Tyson Chandler battled Westbrook for the rebound and the ball rolled out to Terry. He flipped it to Marion, who passed to Nowitzki for the shot that gave Dallas a 95-94 lead and ultimately, the Western Conference title.

QUOTABLE II: "It's exciting, but my sense is we're grounded. We'll enjoy this moment for a day, watch the game tomorrow night and see where things are. We have a lot of work left to do."
-- Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle, who improved to 10-3 all time in closeout games (4-0 with Dallas).

QUOTABLE III: "Next year when they're 23, they're still going to be young. We're not going to use it as an excuse. We all signed up to play this game and you have to take pride in what you do because it's not a hobby. It's our life. This is what we do. This is what we believe in."
-- Thunder head coach Scott Brooks.

HOT: Jason Kidd only scored two points, but finished with 10 assists, just one turnover and seven rebounds. ... Nick Collison had a double-double (12 points, 12 rebounds) off the bench for Oklahoma City. He grabbed six offensive rebounds and blocked two shots. ... Nowitzki averaged 32.2 points and shot 55.7 percent from the field in the five-game series. ... NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant tallied 23 points in Game 5 and averaged 28.0 points against the Mavericks.

NOT: The Mavericks' starting backcourt never found the range, with DeShawn Stevenson going 0-for-7 and Kidd just 1-for-7. ... Westbrook needed 28 shots (11-for-28) to score his 31 points. Thunder starters Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha combined for two points.

NOTABLE: Dallas will face either Miami or Chicago from the Eastern Conference, with the Heat holding a 3-1 lead in that series. The Mavericks swept Miami in the regular season, winning 106-95 at home on Nov. 27 and 98-96 on the road on Dec. 20. They were swept by the Bulls, losing 88-83 at home on Nov. 19 and 82-77 in Chicago on Jan. 20. ... Dallas is 10-1 in its last 11 playoff games and 7-1 at home this postseason. ... Nowitzki and Terry are the only Mavericks remaining from the team that lost to the Heat in the 2006 Finals.


NBA West final recap: Game 4 - Mavs over Thunder again, this time in OT 112-105 in OKC no less

Thanks to BestNBATV on You Tube

Mavs come from 15 down, stun Thunder 112-105 in OT
Posted May 24 2011 11:36AM

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) A decade's worth of playoff experience has taught Dirk Nowitzki plenty about hardship. Jason Kidd knows it well, too.

Now, it's starting to look as if the tide has turned for the Dallas Mavericks.
Nowitzki scored 40 points, Kidd hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 40 seconds left in overtime and the Mavericks rallied from a 15-point deficit in the final 5 minutes of regulation to stun the Oklahoma City Thunder 112-105 on Monday night and take a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference finals.

"It's just a bunch of veterans with a lot of unique stories. A lot of guys have been through a lot in this league and have been around forever," Nowitzki said. "A bunch of guys have been to the finals. ... Ultimately, we have one goal and we came together and fought through some stuff."

Already with an improbable sweep over the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers under their belts, the Mavericks came back from a 99-84 deficit with 5 minutes left in regulation to move within one win of the NBA finals.

They handed the Thunder their first consecutive losses of the postseason and first back-to-back home losses in six months to earn a chance to clinch the series on their home court in Game 5 Wednesday night in Dallas.

"We worked really hard these two games to win, and none of that guarantees anything for Game 5. We know that," said coach Rick Carlisle.

The Mavs have won at least 50 games in 11 straight seasons with no titles and only one trip to the NBA finals to show for it.

"All of us involved with this team have been through a lot of these wars," Carlisle added. "We understand our position that we're in. We respect it. We're very humble about it. We've got to get ourselves revved up and ready for Wednesday, because that's an opportunity."

Dallas didn't lead until Nowitzki hit two free throws 16 seconds into overtime, and the Mavericks never let the Thunder - who were one win shy of tying an NBA record with eight OT wins in the regular season - go ahead after that.

Kevin Durant, the league's scoring champion the past two seasons, missed a 3-point attempt on Oklahoma City's opening possession of overtime, then didn't get another shot until he missed from long range off the front of the rim in the final 10 seconds with the Thunder down by five.

Durant finished with 29 points and 15 rebounds, and Serge Ibaka had 18 points and 10 boards for Oklahoma City. Russell Westbrook added 19 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.

Only two teams in NBA history have come back from 3-1 deficits without the benefit of home-court advantage in Game 7 - Houston in the 1995 West semifinals and Boston in the 1968 East finals.

"There's no doubt it was a tough loss," Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. "If this loss did not hurt, there's no such thing as a loss that can hurt you."

Durant said all the Thunder can do now is try to be positive.

"It's not over yet," he said. "We know we have a game on Wednesday. We've won in there before, so we've got to try to do it again."

Durant had nine of the Thunder's 26 turnovers, including the one that led to the big shot by Kidd. Kidd stripped him as he went up for a shot with just over a minute left in overtime, then took a pass from Nowitzki, pump-faked to get Westbrook in the air and stepped up to drill a 3-pointer that put Dallas up 108-105 with 40.3 seconds left.
Jason Terry hit two free throws for the last of his 20 points, and Kidd added two more to provide the final margin.

Kidd - who went to the NBA finals twice with New Jersey but is still seeking his first ring at age 38 - scored 17 points to go with seven assists, five rebounds and four steals.

"Everybody asks questions about the age and all that other stuff," Carlisle said, "but the thing I'd say to anybody is, `Never underestimate greatness."'

The Mavericks also know better than to underestimate any opponent in any circumstances.
"I think they're going to come back in Game 5 and going to throw everything at us. Obviously they're desperate now," said Nowitzki, who still laments how Dallas won twice to start the 2006 finals then lost four in a row to Miami.

"But they showed they can win on our home court - they stole Game 2 there - so you know they are still confident. We've got to take it. Nothing is going to be given to you in this league, especially not in the playoffs."

The Thunder learned that the hard way.

Durant acted as though he was slapping on a pro wrestling championship belt after his 3-pointer finished Oklahoma City's second 7-0 run of the fourth quarter to make it 99-84 with 5:06 remaining. He hadn't won anything yet, though.

James Harden fouled out 32 seconds later, robbing the Thunder of their third-best offensive player. Westbrook had the only basket for the team's All-Star tandem over the final 10 minutes while Nowitzki took charge.

"It was almost over," Nowitzki said. "If we mess up one more time or give up one more offensive rebound, that would have been the game. So we couldn't afford any mistakes down the stretch and ... we were almost perfect."

The big German scored 12 points during the Mavs' 17-2 run and got fouled by Nick Collison before hitting both free throws to tie it at 101 with 6.4 seconds left.
Shawn Marion blocked Durant's 3-point attempt at least 30 feet from the basket with 2 seconds left, and the Mavs couldn't convert a chance at the win when Kidd's inbound lob with 0.7 seconds to go hit the rim.

Oklahoma City came roaring out of the gates after trailing by as many as 17 points in the first quarter of Game 3. The Thunder hit their first nine shots and took an 18-8 lead after Durant caught a deflected inbound pass and zoomed in for a right-handed jam.
They never quite could shake Dallas, though. The Mavericks were still within five at halftime and trailed 79-77 in the final minute of the third quarter.

"It goes without saying that it was a tough loss to accept," Brooks said, "but it is a loss and we have to learn from it."

Notes: Mavs C Tyson Chandler was called for a technical foul in the third quarter. The NBA rescinded Chandler's first two technicals in this series, so his postseason count is currently at four - three shy of what's needed for a one-game suspension. Westbrook has five. ... Dallas was the only visiting team to win twice in the regular season at the Oklahoma City Arena, where the Thunder were 30-11. The Mavs are 4-0 in the building in the regular season and playoffs. ... Brooks, facing repeated questions about his starting lineup, says he's sticking with it. "We're a young team," he said, "and if you give a young team instability, you're going to get very inconsistent results."

Mavericks-Thunder notebook

By Randy Renner, for
Posted Tuesday May 24, 2011 1:36AM

THE FACTS: The Dallas Mavericks used an amazing performance by Dirk Nowitzki coming down the stretch to rally from 15 points down to force overtime and beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 112-105 in a thrilling Western Conference finals Game 4. The Mavs now take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series, which shifts to Dallas for Wednesday night's game. Oklahoma City managed to score only six points in the last five minutes of regulation and the overtime period. Nowitzki looked like a circus act or a member of the Harlem Globetrotters during a 17-2 Mavs run to tie the game and send it into overtime. Nowitzki hit a jumper off of one leg falling backwards and another while he was falling down. He scored 12 points during the spurt to tie the game and finished with 40. Jason Terry added 20 for Dallas and Jason Kidd dropped in 17.

Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 29 points and 15 rebounds, but he also turned the ball over nine times. The Thunder had 25 turnovers for the game. That offset what was a dominating night on the boards for OKC. The Thunder out-rebounded Dallas 55-33 and 20-5 on the offensive glass. Russell Westbrook had 19 points, eight assists and eight rebounds. Serge Ibaka had his best game of the series with 18 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks.

QUOTABLE: "It was all about getting stops at the end. This team has been a resourceful group and extremely opportunistic. The way they hung in there was fantastic."
-- Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle

THE STAT: In the last five minutes of regulation Oklahoma City was just 1-for-9 from the field and 0-for-2 at the free throw line. The Thunder also turned it over twice. The Mavs meanwhile were 4-for-5 and 6-for-8 at the line.

QUOTABLE II: "This is a tough loss to accept but we have to learn from it. Our guys played hard but we struggled down the stretch. Now we have to focus on one game. It's a tough loss for the players, the coaches, the organization and the fans. We have to execute better. The turnovers really bothered us, just way too many."
--Thunder head coach Scott Brooks

TURNING POINT: The Thunder seemed to have the game all but put on ice leading by 15 points (99-84) with less than five minutes to play. But Thunder shooting guard James Harden fouled out and OKC could manage only two points the rest of regulation. The Mavs, meanwhile, put up 17 to tie the game in the last seconds.

QUOTABLE III: "We worked really hard to get these two wins here. Now we've gotta get rested up and ready for Wednesday. Our building needs to be really loud. It's got to be like it was here. These fans are beyond belief here."

HOT: In the first five minutes of the game, Durant was 5-for-5 for 10 points. ... After scoring just 12 points in the entire first quarter of Game 3, OKC had 26 points in the first nine minutes of Game 4 on 13-for-18 shooting (72.2 percent). ... By halftime Oklahoma City had cooled off a little but was still shooting 58.3 percent. ... Durant was 6-for-8, Ibaka was 4-for-6 and Nick Collison was 3-for4...The Mavs were above 50% too, 17-for-31 (54.8). ... Nowitzki had 22 points on 6-for-7 shooting and 9-for-9 on free throws. ... Kidd was 3-for-3. ... Nowitzki finished 12-for-20 for 40 points. ... Collison was 5-for-7 and Thabo Sefolosha ended with 12 points on 6-for-10 shooting.

NOT: In the first quarter, the Terry was 0-for-3. ... After scoring 18 points in Game 3, Shawn Marion had just seven points on 1-for-5 shooting. ... DeShawn Stevenson had just 3 points on 1-for-5.

INSIDE THE ARENA: Thunder fans were once again decked out in blue. 18,203 blue tee-shirts were distributed to the crowd before the game. NBA "Superfan" James Goldstein was back in OKC Arena. Goldstein hasn't missed a Thunder home playoff game.

GOOD MOVE: Coming out of a Dallas timeout, OKC's Westbrook jumps the inbounds pass, steals it and races away down court for an uncontested slam.

GOOD MOVE TOO: Moments later Thunder guard Sefolosha bats a Dallas inbounds pass up and into the hands of Thunder forward Durant. Durant cuts between two Mavs defenders gets to the rim and slams it home.

GOOD MOVE III: In the third quarter, Nowitzki took a pass at the free throw line, dribbled and drove on Thunder forward Serge Ibaka. With Ibaka almost attached to his hip, Dirk drove to the basket and scored.

NOTABLE: The Mavs have now won nine of their last 10 playoff games. Oklahoma City loses back-to-back home games for the first time all season.

UP NEXT: Game 5 of the Western Conference finals is set for Wednesday night in Dallas. Tip-off will be at 9 p.m. ET from American Airlines Center, and you can see the action on ESPN.

NBA West final recap: Game 3 - Mavs over Thunder 93-87

from bballfansite on You Tube

Mavericks avoid collapse, beat Thunder 93-87

Posted May 22 2011 2:06AM

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Even when he is off his game, Dirk Nowitzki can still get the job done as the Dallas Mavericks' closer.

Nowitzki shrugged off a rough start and made a few key jumpers in the fourth quarter, helping the Mavericks hold off the Oklahoma City Thunder for a 93-87 victory Saturday night and a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference finals.

The big German had missed 10 of his first 14 shots, but Dallas kept going to him with the Thunder trying to become the second team to rally from a 23-point deficit to beat the Mavericks in these playoffs.

"He's our guy. In the fourth quarters, he's going to touch the ball as frequently as we can get it to him," coach Rick Carlisle said. "If he misses a few shots, he's not going to get deterred, he's not going to get discouraged. He's got the kind of will, he's going to keep going at it."

The Mavericks didn't care that Nowitzki couldn't seem to make a shot most of the game. They still gave him the ball on 10 of 11 possessions at one point, and he scored three times - enough to keep Oklahoma City at bay.

Nowitzki finished with 18 points on 7 for 21 shooting.

"We didn't really have a lot going in the second half offensively, so I've got to keep attacking for this team like I have for the last 13 years," Nowitzki said. "This team needs me to score and to keep being aggressive."

NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant also struggled from the field, hitting just 7 of 22 shots to finish with 24 points and 12 rebounds. Russell Westbrook responded to a fourth-quarter benching with 30 points, helping the Thunder make it interesting in the final minutes.

Dallas had already blown a 23-point lead in the final 13 minutes in the first round at Portland, and led by 22 with 17 minutes to go this time.

Westbrook and Daequan Cook each missed 3-pointers that could've gotten the Thunder within three, and Westbrook then lost the ball out of bounds before Jason Terry's jumper stretched the advantage to 86-78 with 1:42 remaining.

Nowitzki added a jumper from the left elbow to put the lead back at eight after Durant hit two free throws, and Dallas held on from there.

"We fought through a lot in the second half there, we stuck together and we grinded it out," Nowitzki said.

Shawn Marion also scored 18, and Kidd and Terry each chipped in 13. Tyson Chandler had 15 rebounds, including six on the offensive end.

The Mavericks, who tied with Miami for the league's best road record during the regular season, won for the fourth straight time outside Dallas in these playoffs and reclaimed home-court advantage just two nights after letting it get away in Game 2.

"In a game like this in someone else's arena, coming off a loss, you have to come out with anger and an intensity," Terry said. "We did that."

The Thunder leaned on their bench again in the fourth quarter, but this time Westbrook was on the court instead of the bench like he was in Game 2. Reserves Nick Collison, James Harden and Cook joined the All-Star tandem of Durant and Westbrook on the floor, but the bench didn't come up nearly as big in this one - scoring just 16 points after besting the Dallas reserves 50-29 in Game 2.

The Thunder missed their first 16 3-pointers - including all eight by Durant - before Westbrook made one in the final minute to get Oklahoma City within 88-83. Dallas made five of its six free throws to close it out, and Terry swiped the ball with 10 seconds left and ran out the clock on the win.

Oklahoma City fell behind by as many as 23 after a dreadful start, and it didn't get much better for a while. The Thunder had made only 10 of their 41 shots when Dallas bumped its lead back up to 58-36 by scoring the first six points after halftime.

"Frustrating," said Durant, his head in his hand. "It's tough to start a game, not make shots and you give teams easy baskets. That's like a backbreaker."

Harden - the bench star with 23 points in Game 2 - started a rally by driving for a layup and then taking an elbow from Chandler to draw a technical foul. That started a burst of eight straight points to get the Thunder within 65-52, the closest they'd been since the end of the first quarter.

Westbrook continued the comeback in the fourth by exploiting a matchup against J.J. Barea to get to the rim and the foul line repeatedly. He had the first eight points in a 10-2 run for Oklahoma City, with Harden's two free throws getting the deficit down to 80-74 with 5:36 to play.

The rally fizzled after that, though.

Westbrook also picked up his fifth technical foul of the postseason for shoving Nowitzki in the back after a third-quarter whistle. He and Chandler are each two shy of earning a one-game suspension.

The Thunder missed 15 of their first 19 shots and committed eight turnovers while Dallas rushed out to a commanding 35-12 lead, finishing the impressive start by scoring the first eight points of the second quarter.

Oklahoma City had its worst first quarter of the season and couldn't get much of anything going through the first 14 minutes, scoring two of its four baskets on tipped-in misses and losing Westbrook briefly after he picked up two fouls in the opening 9 minutes.

"There's no question they started the game really hitting us and knocking us out of our offense," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said "And we missed a lot of 3s. Those 3s weren't all contested."

NOTES: Brooks said before the game that Harden has played well enough to earn consideration on whether he should start ahead of Thabo Sefolosha - but not until after the playoffs. "There probably will be some long and hard thoughts about him being a starter. He definitely has that ability," Brooks said. "This year, no." ... Dallas coach Rick Carlisle on what he thought about Durant's highlight-worthy monster dunk in Game 2: "I thought it was unfortunate." ... Hanson sang the national anthem. ... Oklahoma City hasn't lost consecutive games this postseason, but is just 1-6 after its last seven wins.

Mavericks-Thunder notebook

By Randy Renner, for
Posted Sunday May 22, 2011 12:50AM

THE FACTS: The Dallas Mavericks jumped out to a 35-12 lead early in the second quarter then held on for dear life as the Oklahoma City Thunder cut that 23-point margin down to just four late in the game. Earlier in the playoffs the Mavs blew a 23-point lead at Portland and went on to lose the game but they held on in OKC to take Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals 93-87. Neither Thunder All-Star Kevin Durant (24 points on 7-for-22 shooting) nor Mavericks All-Star Dirk Nowitzki (18 points on 7-for-21) had particularly good nights.

The Thunder were 0-for-16 on 3-pointers, a playoff record for futility, before Russell Westbrook dropped one in from beyond the arc in the last minute. Oklahoma City outscored Dallas 51-41 in the second half but it wasn't enough. Nowitzki and Shawn Marion led the Mavs with 18 points. Jason Kidd and Jason Terry added 13. Center Tyson Chandler came up big with 15 rebounds, six on the offensive end. Westbrook led the Thunder with 30 points and Durant added 24 and pulled down 12 rebounds but no one else in a home uniform scored in double figures.

QUOTABLE: "We were much better defensively tonight and we had to be. The first two games we were horrible. Now the challenge is to sustain it."
-- Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle.

QUOTABLE II: "They did a great job from the start with their defensive pressure, they took us out of our sets and got us playing on our heels. They were very physical, pushed us off our spots. But our guys fought back to make a game of it."
-- Thunder head coach Scott Brooks.

THE STAT: Over the last two games Durant is 0-for-13 on 3-pointers.

QUOTABLE III: "It's not like me to miss 13 threes in a row. I practice them every day. I got some wide open looks they just didn't fall."
-- Durant.

TURNING POINT: It's hard to say the turning point wasn't the big start the Mavs got but after a 23-point advantage had evaporated down to just six with 3:20 left in the game Oklahoma City missed three consecutive 3-point attempts one each by Westbrook, James Harden and Daequan Cook and turned the ball over during the next two minutes. The Thunder cut the lead to four but could not get any closer.

QUOTABLE IV: "Russell's three might have been an opportunity for him to attack, his attack game was really working so he maybe should have done that instead, but the other threes were wide open. When you shoot 1-for-17 on 3-pointers it's not good."
-- Brooks.

HOT: In the first nine minutes of the game Dallas was 9-for-17 (52.9 percent) including 3-for-4 (75 percent) on 3-pointers and had scored 21 the first half the Mavs were 21-for-40 (52.5 percent)...Marion had 12 points in the first 24 minutes on 6-for-8 shooting...The Dallas bench was a combined 7-for-18 (38.9 percent) for 20 points...Also in the first half the Thunder were hot at the line going 16-for-17 (94.1 percent)...Through three quarters Marion had scored 16 points on 8-for-11 shooting...OKC ended the game shooting 32-for-36 (88.9 percent) from the free throw line...

NOT: Oklahoma City got off to a terrible shooting start in the first nine minutes of the game they were just 2-for-12 (16.7 percent) and had scored only eight points...OKC finished the quarter with just 12 points, their worst first quarter of the season. The Thunder were just 4-for-17 (23.5 percent) and 0-for-5 on 3-pointers...At halftime OKC had just 36 points (a season low) on 10-for-34 shooting (29.4 percent)...Durant had 10 points on 2-for-10 shooting, including 0-for-4 on 3-pointers...Harden was 0-for-5...The Thunder bench was a combined 2-for-8 (25 percent) for five points...In the third quarter Dallas was just 6-for-21 (28.6 percent) but Oklahoma City wasn't much better, 7-for-21, (33.3 percent)...Through three quarters Durant had 15 points on just 4-for-18 (0-for-8 on 3-pointers)...Nowitzki had just eight points on 3-for-12...The Thunder hit their last 3-point attempt after missing their first 16 (5.9 percent).

INSIDE THE ARENA: A strong demand for tickets as some fans paid as much as $2,500 per seat. It was another "blue-out" as more than 18,000 blue tee-shirts were distributed to fans along with white rally towels. The pop group Hanson sang the National Anthem. The brothers are from Tulsa. NBA "Superfan" James Goldstein sat courtside along with PGA Tour star Scott Verplank. Verplank lives in the OKC suburb of Edmond.

GOOD MOVE: Mavs guard J.J. Barea driving into the lane passes underhand to center Brendan Haywood for a slam in the second quarter.

GOOD MOVE TOO: Dallas point guard Jason Kidd with a nice move coming off a pick and roll early in the third quarter gets into the lane for a wide open floater that goes in giving the Mavs a 20-point lead.

GOOD MOVE III: Mavs guard DeShawn Stevenson standing out near the three point line comes running in to grab an offensive rebound in the third quarter. He gets the ball out to Kidd who flips it back to Stevenson who has drifted back out beyond the arc and nails the three ball.

NOTABLE: Dallas has now won four straight road playoff games.

UP NEXT: Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals between the Mavericks and Thunder is set for Monday at 9 p.m. ET inside Oklahoma City Arena. The game can be seen on ESPN.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Double Pump May Tournament recap

Thanks to Kaz for posting this on Bruin Zone

Double Pump May Tournament recap
By Joel Francisco
ESPN Recruiting
Originally Published: May 16, 2011

CARSON, Calif. -- Due to a suffocating defense and the sharp shooting of junior Jacob Hazzard (Los Angeles, Calif./Loyola), California Supreme was dominant throughout the Double Pump May Tournament. California Supreme claimed the U-17 Double Pump championship over a feisty Organized Chaos squad, 75-65.

Standout players

Christian Wood is a sinewy wing-type who is a cross between Austin Daye and Tracy McGrady. Photo Courtesy Joel Francisco

Christian Wood (Palmdale, Calif./William J. 'Pete' Knight)
2013, PF, 6-foot-8, 180 pounds
College: Undecided

Wood had an outstanding weekend and projects as one of the elite prospects in his class. He has an effortless 3-point shot and his release is smooth. His hands are outstanding and showed he's a deceptive leaper around the cup with a number of impressive tip-jams. He needs to add to his offensive arsenal and become much more aggressive (defense and rebounding) at both ends, but the upside and talent are evident. It's early, but USC leads -- although he would like to visit Syracuse, Kentucky, Texas and Washington.

Grant Verhoeven (Visalia, Calif./Central Valley Christian)
2012, PF, 6-8, 215 pounds
College: Undecided
Verhoeven battles at both ends with a never-ending motor. His strong frame, good feet and bounce are evident as he had a plethora of put-backs and blocked shots throughout the weekend. He is terrific in transition and can get to the rim with ease due to his effort and savvy. His post skills and foot work need polishing, but with his overall approach to the game, it's no surprise that Stanford and Cal-Berkeley are battling for his services, among others.

Matt Shrigley (Encinitas, Calif./La Costa Canyon)
2012, SG, 6-5, 185 pounds
College: Undecided

Shrigley played with purpose and toughness and it was especially exemplified in the way he attacked off the dribble. His shooting touch is quite good out to the stripe, but this weekend he didn't settle and he finished in traffic with more consistency. His frame needs more strength, but he is deceptively bouncy as he had a couple of dunks that were highly impressive in traffic. For his game to go to another level, he needs to continue to improve his triple-threat game and get steadier with the ball, while being pressured. Shrigley's top four are Boston College, Colorado, San Diego State and Oregon.

Isaac Hamilton (Los Angeles, Calif./Crenshaw) 2013, SG, 6-4, 170 pounds
College: Undecided

Hamilton impacts the game in multiple ways and his skill set was firing on all cylinders against Cal Supreme. His jump shot is streaky and he needs to get stronger, but his approach to the game and savvy are impressive. He can be a very tough matchup when his shot is falling and his passing is high-level. Whether it's slashing to the rim, hitting a 3 or dropping off a nifty pass, his overall game has a lot of potential.

Surprise players

Chance Murray (Los Angeles, Calif./Price)
2013, PG/SG, 6-3, 180 pounds
College: Undecided

Murray is becoming one of the bigger enigmas out west. He has all the tools to be a high-major prospect who can swing between both guard positions, however, his effort level fluctuates and he doesn't impact the game as much as he should, considering the skill and physical gifts he possesses. He has a smooth shot out to the stripe and he can finish with either hand, while getting to the basket. On the other hand, he has gotten thicker and has lost some quickness and he may be more of a 2 than a 1 when it's all said and done. Nevertheless, his competitive nature at both ends needs an overhaul if he wants to reach his potential.

Jacob Hazzard (Los Angeles, Calif./Loyola)
2012, PG/SG, 5-11, 150 pounds
College: Undecided

Hazzard, who is the grandson of former UCLA standout Walt Hazzard, has improved his stock immensely over the past couple of weeks. He is the owner of one of the quickest jump shots around and is especially effective off the catch. He has ideal speed and quickness, but he is more of a scorer than facilitator at this stage. At his size it would be beneficial for him to learn the nuances of being a point guard, but he is definitely one of the better shooters out west.

Keywhon Powns (Los Angeles, Calif./Westchester)
2012, SG, 6-2, 180 pounds
College: Undecided

Powns has definitely improved since the regular season. He is more of a scorer at this stage, but he can also play the point at times, if needed. He is a physical specimen who has the potential to be a defensive stopper. Due to his strength and high-level athleticism he has the ability to affect the game in many ways. He is explosive in transition and his jump shot has improved considerably. He is definitely one of the better prospects if he continues to hone his skills (shooting) and feel (decision making and passing) for the game.

Maleke Haynes (Woodland Hills, Calif./El Camino Real)
2014, PG, 5-9, 150 pounds
College: Undecided

Haynes is one of the more promising young point guards out west. His brother (Calvin Haynes) just finished his career at Oregon State, and Maleke sure looks the part of a future Division I point guard. He has a great burst in transition and he advances the ball well to open teammates instead of over handling it. He can get in the seams of the defense to deliver an assist (great vision) or score. However, he needs to learn how to come to a jump stop more often when the lane closes and changing speeds will make him more difficult to guard.


Ikenna Iroegbu, one of the top sophomore point guard prospects out west, will be transferring to Oak Hill Academy next season. He visited the school three weeks ago the 6-foot-1 Iroegbu has all the physical intangibles and savvy. He just needs some polishing and experience.

One of the more promising prospects on Team Jennings Red, sophomore Anthony Swan (Sherman Oaks, Calif./Notre Dame), is transferring to Virginia Episcopal School next season and is planning on reclassifying to the Class of 2014. His frame is outstanding and he has a smooth touch from the stripe, however, he needs to play much harder and tougher at both ends to reach his potential.

Skylar Spencer (Los Angeles, Calif./Price), a 6-8 junior, played well and with purpose this weekend. His offensive game is still raw, but he is one of the elite shot blockers and rebounders in the class.

Alex Fertig (Fresno, Calif./Buchanan), a 6-3 shooting guard, teamed up with Verhoeven to form a formidable 1-2 punch in leading their team to the championship. Fertig had his 3-point stroke flowing and his savvy and fundamentals are terrific.

Victor Robbins, a 6-6 junior out of Compton, Calif., has all the physical tools as well as a smooth stroke to be quite good at the next level. However, far too often he gets careless with his decision making and ball handling -- eventually leading to costly turnovers. If he tightens up his handle and learns to play with more urgency, the upside is there.

Steven Jones (Woodland Hills, Calif./Taft), a 5-11 junior, is an intriguing point guard prospect. He has a chiseled physique and a tremendous burst. His decision making is getting better, but his jump shot needs to get much more fluid for the next level.

One of the better looking sleepers in California is 6-2 junior William Stallworth (Tulare, Calif./Tulare Union). He has a rangy frame, can shoot it from deep, and is quite explosive as well. However, he needs to slow down, get stronger with his left hand, and get on balance (jump stop would be a start) because he can be turnover prone.

Joel Francisco is a recruiting coordinator for ESPN Recruiting.

Luc on All you need to know to stop Durant, Dirk, Bron, Westbrook, Dwyane and Rose

Thanks to bruinjake for posting on Bruin Zone

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute's scouting report

By Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
May, 17, 2011 10:36AM ET

6-8 Bucks forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is seen as one of the NBA's best defenders. Virtually every night of the Bucks' season, Mbah a Moute was asked to defend the opposing team's star, whether that was a lightning-fast point guard or a seven-footer with unlimited range. He has been watching the playoffs, and offers this report on stopping the conference finals' biggest stars:

When you go in against a scorer, you have to know they’re going to get points. But what you have to try to do is making them have a tough night, make them get uncomfortable so they don’t get in a rhythm. When I go into a game, I’m trying to take them out of that comfort zone. I don’t want them to ever feel like they can take over the game at any point.

Every player is different. What might bother a guy like LeBron might not bother Derrick Rose or Kevin Durant. It depends on the player and the situation they’re in.

Here are a few tricks to handling each of them:

Russell Westbrook

OK, so Russell is D'ing up Luc on this one...

Strengths: Speed, athleticism

Preferred move: Drive to the basket.

Best defense: Prevent penetration. Turn him into a jump shooter. Use length.

I’ve known Russell for a long time, starting in college at UCLA. His improvement has been one of the quickest of anyone around the league.

After practices in college, Russell and I went one-on-one pretty much every day. It was me, Russell and Darren Collison. That helped me because I had to guard smaller guys so I got quicker at everything I did. Even then he showed a lot of signs of what he’s doing now with his explosiveness and his athleticism to the basket.

Russell can drive as well as anyone in the league. He gets to the basket strong and is able to finish with contact. He has also developed his mid-range jumper and has a good pull-up game. So you have to make him take shots and try to contest them.

That’s where I use my length. I’ll play off him and I don’t let him get to the basket. If you let him get to the basket, he can really do damage. If you make sure he’s out on the perimeter taking contested jump shots, you can deal with the results.

Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant calls Mbah a Moute one of the best in the business. Photo: Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images

Strengths: Size, makes shots from anywhere on the floor.

Preferred moves: Mid-range jump shots, off-balance floaters

Best defense: Deny the ball. Keep him out of his spots. Play physical. Get in his face. Force him into the post.

You have to be very physical with Kevin. You saw a little bit with the Memphis guys, Shane Battier and Tony Allen. Whenever they tried to deny him the ball and get physical with him, it kind of took him out of the game. When you take him out of the game it usually leads to them forcing shots and trying to force feed him. When they do that, it’s a pretty good advantage for your team.

But Kevin is dangerous everywhere on the floor. The weakness of his game is that he doesn’t post up. He has a really nice jump shot and he can get to the basket. But the main thing is to have him try to take contested jump shots and be physical with him.

He wants to get to certain spots on the floor. But if you body him up, you can wear him down. At the end of the game, it shows, because he’s a guy that’s going to live by the jump shot. As a jump shooter when you really don’t feel your body and you’ve been beaten up all game, you don’t make as many jump shots.

LeBron James

Strengths: Athleticism, power, versatility, handle

Preferred moves: Dribble-drive, dribble and shoot.

Best defense: Crowd him. Face guard. Don’t allow him space to dribble. Force decisions.

A common misconception about LeBron is that he’s so physical, he must be a drive-first player. Guys tend to play off of him. Players want to avoid contact and not get in a physical battle with him.

But I think being physical is the best way to defend him. When you give LeBron space and let him play around with the ball, he’s such a good ball-handler that it gives him more options. Space also allows him to get a head of steam on his drive.

So what I try to do is play physical, get in his face, don’t let him mess around the ball. LeBron is a lot like a point guard playing around with the ball and making decisions. If you get into his face, you make him do what you want instead of having him play you. A lot of guys still back off him a little bit because they don’t want to get in that physical battle. That’s a mistake. The best way to play him is to crowd him, get in his face, make sure he doesn’t get to the basket and contest his jump shots.

You can force him to go to his left hand so he takes a jump shot instead of going right and getting all the way to the basket. You can make him pass the ball or use a screen and have help there for you. The key is to take him out of that dribbling rhythm and give him less time to figure out your defense.

Dwyane Wade

Keys: Quickness, penetration

Preferred moves: Drive to the basket

Best defense: Contest. Deny his spots. Take away the drive. Mix and match looks.

Dwyane's ability to drive is incredible. He can get wherever he wants to go on the court. That’s what makes him special.

I try to make him take contested jump shots, because when he drives, he’s tough to guard. If he can get to the basket, it’s at least a foul on you or he’s going to get an explosive dunk, sometimes both.

What you want to do is give him a little space sometimes, but a lot of what I do with Wade is mix and match. If you play tight on him, he’ll figure it out so now you have to switch up and play off him a little bit. I try to give him a few different looks so he won’t ever get comfortable with the way I’m guarding him.

When you go into it, you have to have a game plan, but at some point in the game you have to change it up just to mess around with him. He’s a great player and he’s going to adapt.

Dirk Nowitzki

Keys: Length, size, touch, stopping ability, confidence

Preferred move: Post-up fade-away jumper

Best defense: Play physical. Force the drive. Contest jump shots. Don’t let him get comfortable.

The toughest thing about Dirk is that he’s a seven-footer who can shoot. You rarely see that. Kevin Durant has it to some degree, but Dirk also has that post-up game and that fade-away that always seems to go in. So if you’re 6-8, or even 6-10, that’s a matchup problem.

But Dirk is a shooter, that’s what he does. That’s his game. So when you have a guy who shoots, you can contest his shots, you can body him up and you can take him out of his shots making it tough for him to get in a rhythm. I try to be physical with him at all times because most of these guys you come to find out that they don’t like contact. So you get in his face and if he can’t get his shot off the way he wants to, he’s going to be uncomfortable.

You want a player like Dirk to drive all night. You want to give him the drive and make sure the help comes or try to take a charge. Sometimes when he drives, he’s going to stop on a dime and pull up for a jump shot. But if he’s also making some contested shots, which he usually does, you live with that.

He made a buzzer-beater on me where I knew he was going to drive, spin and shoot the ball. You can see in the replay, I’m right there, I’m looking for the spin. But when he spun, he still got me. I was so mad, but he’s a seven-footer, so I tried to contest the ball.

I just remember watching the ball saying, “Please don’t go in!” and next thing you know it goes and I was so mad at myself. But when I went back and looked at it again, I couldn’t have played that play better. I played him for the spin, he did it, I was right there to contest and he just made it. You can’t get discouraged by a play like that as a defender. You just have to go back and do it again.

But if he’s making open shots or he’s on the block and you don’t body him up, he’s feeling like everything is coming easy and it’s going to be a tough night.

Derrick Rose

Keys: Body control, ability to finish, explosiveness, athleticism

Preferred moves: Driving layup, pump fake, reverse at the Rim

Best defense: Use length. Avoid the drive at all costs. Contest the jumper.

No one in the league has the ability to finish like Derrick Rose. His body control is amazing. I’ve never seen anything like that. He can be driving right, stop on a dime, jump, avoid the charge and finish on the other side of the rim in rhythm. There’s definitely no other player his size with that type of body control. He’s also gotten so much better with his jump shot that now he’s complicated to guard.

Before you could just make him shoot, but nowadays you have to respect his jump shot because he will pull up and shoot a 3 right in your face.

The thing that bothers him most is length. In Game 1, Miami did a good job of pulling LeBron onto him. If he gets a shot off, it’s going to be tough for him to see over the all that length to score a basket. If you can contest his jump shot with a guy who is 6-7 or better, it gets tough for him to get his shot off.

Letting him go to the basket is a mistake. He’s going to score no matter who is on him. But if you make him take a jump shot, over a bigger player, you have a higher chance of him missing those shots.

Me personally, I’ll play off of Rose because I know I’m long enough to contest his jump shot so I’ll give him a lot of space. He’s so quick that you can’t be tight on him, he’s going to get past you. You have to give him space and make sure you contest his jump shot. What makes him such a problem is that most of the guys that defend him aren’t big enough to contest. He can see over them and he has a better chance of making that shot.

I take a lot of pride in my defense. There’s no feeling like it when you can shut down a premier player on defense. You can score a lot of points, and that’s always great, but for me there’s no other feeling like making one of those guys frustrated because they can’t get into what they want to do. If they can’t score the points they usually score and they really look like they don’t know what’s going on, it’s a great feeling -- especially if you get the win.

But at the same time, those guys are the best players in the world. They’re going to make shots. As long as they’re not getting anything easy, then I’m comfortable with that because then at the end of the game, they’re going to wear down. I want them to be worn down when it comes to crunch time and we’re fighting for the last couple of possessions.

Follow Luc Richard Mbah a Moute at his website, on Twitter at @mbahamoute, and on Facebook.

Compton’s In The House - Arron Afflalo made it from a gritty part of L.A. to the NBA.

Thanks to TitanFan08 for posting on Bruin Zone

Feb 10 2011 highlights from Stylish80 on You Tube
Mr. Unstoppable, Arron busts up the Mavs. Give that man the damn ball!

Compton’s In The House
Arron Afflalo made it from a gritty part of L.A. to the NBA.

by Adam Figman | @afigman

SLAM: Tell us about your hometown.

Arron Afflalo: I lived in a few different parts of Compton, CA. That’s kind of when I began playing basketball, just growing up, playing in different leagues in the Compton area and the Carson area.

SLAM: Does repping the city mean something special to you?

AA: Yeah, it does. It means something because kids from Compton usually don’t get a great opportunity to succeed in life, because they are born into situations where it’s tough to come up. Most of the kids don’t have the proper guidance and support to even be successful, if they want to. But I was blessed to have my mom and dad around and just have good people around me. I had a great high school coach, had a great AAU basketball coach and I was just blessed from that standpoint, so that they could help me execute [my goals].

SLAM: Coming from a tough area, did you ever doubt yourself?

AA: Not really. I never really thought about the NBA until I got to college, but I always had a natural feeling that basketball was for me because I just felt I was a smart kid with skills, and I felt I had an advantage over kids. Even at a young age—even at 8 years old—I felt I was above average, or better than most kids my age. I would always play against kids two or three years older than me, which helped me a little bit when I started playing against kids that were my age.

SLAM: Are there any notable spots in the area where you grew up spending a lot of time?

AA: There was a park called Campanella Park where in seventh, eighth grade, I used to go there and just shoot on the court by myself all the time. I had a basketball court in my backyard, but it had dirt and it was on a hill, so it was kind of difficult to shoot and play back there [laughs]. And I had dogs that wouldn’t let me play a lot, so I used to go to the park and shoot.

SLAM: You were recruited by UCLA coach Ben Howland to play for the Bruins.

AA: Yeah. When I really started to become heavily recruited after my junior year, I was on pace to become a McDonald’s All-American and stuff like that, so I had a lot of schools that were really interested in me. Obviously my home school is UCLA, and I had heard a lot of good things about Coach Howland from a coaching standpoint, and that was part of it. But what better situation and opportunity than the resources and tradition at UCLA—who was down [as a basketball program] at the time—right there in my backyard?

SLAM: So the fact that you were familiar with the area played a big role in your decision?

AA: Most definitely. I just felt that as I did start to think about the NBA, [as I was] going into school, that for one, UCLA had a lot of tradition and obviously I could be seen as a basketball player there. For me, I wasn’t all about trying to pick the perfect spot for me to be seen. I felt that if you were that good, they would find you. And what better place to deal with relationships and connections than right here at home, at UCLA, and still have that opportunity for myself.

SLAM: Do you get to give back charity-wise at all?

AA: Yeah, I do different things. I don’t have my own personal charity set up, but outside of personal appearances that our team [sets up], I’ve been back to Compton a few times for food drives and to speak to kids, just to do what I can.

SLAM: Growing up, if you could watch one guy play, who would it have been?

AA: I used to watch Byron Scott play—he was my favorite player. I liked his athleticism and his jumpshot. As a little kid, I just remember watching him shoot. It was funny, I had no clue what an elite basketball player was when I was 4 or 5 years old, and I had a video about the Lakers’ back-to-back championship seasons in the late-’80s. My mom bought that video and I would watch it every day. For some reason, I just took a liking to Byron Scott.

9 Responses to “Compton’s In The House”

Ben Osborne Posted: May.16 at 2:51 pm
Great stuff all around.

spit hot fiyah Posted: May.16 at 3:04 pm
that’s crazy, i think i used to rock those shoes in pic 5

Monstarzz Posted: May.16 at 3:17 pm
Pics are the definition of Dope.

michelle roberts Posted: May.16 at 10:14 pm
You were so handsome and you still are. I love your pictures of you and your family ,your mother did good when she made you .I see you have been playing basketball since you were little. you schooling them boys then and you are still doing your thing now .I am happy to see you in your picture Arron from lady J peace out.

Jono Posted: May.17 at 10:40 am
The classiest player from our Denver Nuggets. Keep it up Aaron!!!

Run"N'Gun219 Posted: May.17 at 4:55 pm
if he comes back to the nuggets this year he has wii at least have 6 new tatoo’s.

Ryan Posted: May.17 at 10:54 pm
I so wish that the Pistons had never traded him I’d swap him for Ben Gordon in a minute.

Flipper Posted: May.18 at 11:50 am
Class kid all the way. The recruit that changed the tide for UCLA/Howland, catapulting them to the 3 FF’s. Here’s to a longer NBA career, but for sure will be a success in life after hoops. Way to represent AA…

Clipperfan Posted: May.19 at 1:52 am
One of the greats….too bad they won’t hang his jersey.