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Charles Barkley’s latest take on Heat? ‘They need to start over’

Charles Barkley’s latest take on Heat? ‘They need to start over’

09/12/2022, USA, Basketball, NBA (Basketball), Article # 30969255

In what seems like almost an annual call from the entertaining TNT analyst and former NBA All-Star, Charles Barkley again is calling for a breakup of the Miami Heat.

Critical of the Heat for years, even during the team’s Big Three era with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, Barkley offered his latest criticism in the wake of the Heat’s Tuesday night blowout home loss to the struggling Detroit Pistons, a loss that dropped the Heat to 11-14 going into Thursday night’s game against the visiting Los Angeles Clippers.

“It might be time to break the team up and start over,” Barkley said during Inside the NBA. “They got some contracts that’s like . . . they’re no good.

“So, they need to start over. That’s my personal opinion.”

The Heat already are operating with an eye toward the future, with much of the approach this season centered around 25-year-old center Bam Adebayo and 22-year-old Tyler Herro.

But the Heat also have been hampered by a position hard against the luxury tax, a position that includes salaries this season of $28.3 million for point guard Kyle Lowry and $16.9 million for forward Duncan Robinson. The Heat also are limited in tradable assets, still owning a first-round pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“It’s like, ‘Hey, trade some of these guys to contenders or teams that [can] get us some young guys and start over,’ " Barkley said.

Of course, it is not beyond Barkley to lob such shots toward struggling teams.

During an appearance this week on Chicago’s WMVP-AM 1000, Barkley had similar views on the Chicago Bulls.

“It’s time to break up the Bulls,” he said. “Blow it up. It’s time. You’ve got some good players, you’re not good enough. It’s time to start the rebuild.

“Come on, man, you’re not close. The Celtics and the Bucks are on a whole other level than [the rest of] the Eastern Conference.”

As for his job requirement on set of reviewing the video of Heat-Pistons on Tuesday night, Barkley implored his broadcast partners to skip the highlights and “wait for it to come out on DVD.”

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https://www.denverpost.com/2022/12/08/charles-barkleys-latest-take-on-heat-they-need-to-start-over/
Hornets coach Steve Clifford says Kevin Durant reminds him of Laker great Kobe Bryant

Hornets coach Steve Clifford says Kevin Durant reminds him of Laker great Kobe Bryant

09/12/2022, USA, Basketball, NBA (Basketball), Article # 30969256

Before he took the Charlotte Hornets head coaching job this summer, Steve Clifford spent a season as a player development consultant for the Nets. That gave him an up-close and personal look at Kevin Durant, who Clifford said reminds him of one of the best to ever do it.

”He’s a lot like Kobe [Bryant] to me,” Clifford said ahead of tip-off against the Nets on Wednesday. “Their makeup is different in many ways, but on the court they’re very similar in terms of the way they work, and they’re both students of the game. When I think of Kobe, I think of passion, when I think of Kevin, I think of passion. So two elite players who care deeply about the results more than they do like individual numbers.”

Durant is one of a number of NBA superstars, including his star teammate Kyrie Irving, who held a strong relationship with the late, great Bryant, the Lakers legend and five-time NBA champion who passed away tragically in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, 2020.

The Nets star was appreciative of Clifford’s compliment.

“I mean, it’s hard to fill them shoes and to be a Kobe Bryant,” Durant said. “But Kobe is somebody who’s been around and I still study to this day, and basically I just tried to copy everything he does. Same with Michael Jordan. Those two guys just set the tone for everything you want to be as a basketball player, so I simply try to copy them as much as I can.

“And I guess that showed to Cliff. I enjoyed being around him a lot. We talked a lot about the game of basketball, so I’m sure he could hear that, hear it in my voice how much I just enjoy that dialogue about the game. So that’s pretty cool to hear, man. I love Cliff.”

What did Durant learn most from his time around Kobe?

“Really just don’t be a crybaby,” he said. “I was at that age at 23 where I felt like the world revolved around me, and he was — I know we’ve talked a lot about Kobe — but he was real humble with how he approached the game, how he approached his teammates, just life in general. So I just learned from watching his movements. He didn’t say much but he was an example just by how he moved and I try to emulate, like I said: Him and Mike are two dudes I emulate on and off the court what they do, and it only made me better.”

Irving, Bryant’s closest mentee, said most of the greats share something in common with the Lakers legend.

“I think if you look at people that want greatness — they will sacrifice their time with their families, their friends, to do everything possible in order to give everything they have to what they love, to do to their craft — they have similarities,” Irving said. “I don’t think it’s just Kobe and KD. I just think when you see greatness and you wonder how people continue to do it year after year, you have to look at the hours that are put in, the way that they prepare, and how serious they take what they do. And they’re very competitive, Kobe and KD. Obviously, with Kobe transitioning in the last few years, he would definitely be giving us some gems to continue on.

“And you can tell that [Durant] got a lot of advice from him and watched him a lot. So you could definitely see the similarities. And they’re both great, and they’re willing to do anything. They’re willing to do what it takes to win ballgames, and that’s what you want on your team every single night. You can depend on something like that.”

Clifford said being around Durant reinforced the idea in him that the best players want to be coached.

“As much as players are different now than before, being around a guy like Kevin Durant for the year just reinforced in me that the best players do want to be coached, and the best players do work hard everyday, and the best players do care about the team,” he said. “Kevin was a breath of fresh air. He may be the best player in the world and nobody works harder. Nobody cares more about his teammates.

“I think he’s a throwback,” Clifford continued on an alternate broadcast. “He has an incredible passion for the game. He works hard everyday. He cares deeply about the team and how the team plays. One of the best — I feel blessed over the years the experiences I’ve had with certain players, but even as a consultant, being [in Brooklyn] not all the time, but getting a chance to watch him work and get to know him is something that I’ll cherish forever.”

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https://www.denverpost.com/2022/12/08/hornets-coach-steve-clifford-says-kevin-durant-reminds-him-of-laker-great-kobe-bryant/
6 takeaways from the Chicago Bulls’ 115-111 win over the Washington Wizards, including a powerful

The Chicago Bulls snapped a three-game losing streak Wednesday with a 115-111 win over the Washington Wizards.

The win improved the Bulls record to 10-14 as they maintain their position at 12th overall in the Eastern Conference.

Here are six takeaways from the win.

1. The Bulls’ Big Three delivered down the stretch with a trio of 25-point performances.

The Bulls have been missing complete games between their three veteran starters — Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vučević. But the trio fully delivered against the Wizards, stepping up to take over the fourth quarter and close out the win.

LaVine finished with 25 points and five assists, DeRozan tallied a team-high 27 points with four assists, and Vučević added 25 points and 11 rebounds. Most importantly, the trio showed their ability to command the final minutes of a game.

Only one other player — Derrick Jones Jr. — scored in the fourth quarter for the Bulls, and only the trio scored in the final 7:50 of game time. LaVine and DeRozan combined for 28 of the Bulls’ fourth-quarter points while Vucevic added five points.

“Our teammates trust in us, giving us the confidence they’re going to follow us,” DeRozan said. “We’ve got to take on that challenge every single night. It starts with us setting the tone and we tried to come out tonight and get into a groove.”

2. After a poor season of 3-point shooting, the Bulls made their mark from behind the arc.

The Bulls aren’t a 3-point shooting team and they’ve spent most of this season being thoroughly outscored from behind the arc. But their ability to keep pace with the Wizards from long-range allowed the Bulls to make up for other mistakes down the stretch.

Neither team shot well from behind the arc in the first half — the Wizards finished the period 2-for-15 from 3-point range while the Bulls went 4-for-12. But for the Bulls, managing to outshoot any opponent from behind the arc is a rare win.

That advantage became critical in the fourth quarter, when LaVine and Vucevic combined for four consecutive 3-pointers in the span of two minutes to clinch the Bulls lead. The Bulls narrowly outscored the Wizards 30-27 from behind the arc, shooting 43.5%.

3. Bulls improved their clutch game record with a fourth-quarter comeback.

Clinching close games has been a frustrating weak spot for the Bulls, but Wednesday’s win improved the team to 3-8 in clutch situations on the season. The Bulls came back from a two-point deficit in the fourth quarter to pull ahead by as many as six points in the final five minutes.

As the Bulls continue to progress through the season, they’ll need to be able to pull out tight games like this one. The Bulls have yet to enjoy many comfortable wins this season, and that pattern is likely to continue until they’re able to address key issues like their lack of 3-point shooting.

4. The Bulls again allowed too many points off turnovers.

Despite the positive score line, the Bulls continued a worrisome trend from their loss in Sacramento in Wednesday’s win — giving up too many points through unforced errors.

The Bulls coughed up the ball nine times in the second quarter alone, finishing the game with 19 turnovers. After taking a lead out of the first quarter, a sloppy second quarter vacated any advantage the Bulls held leading into the second half.

The Wizards scored 28 points — nearly a quarter of their total offense — off turnovers. The Bulls were partially redeemed by equally sloppy play by the Wizards, which resulted in 18 turnovers. But the Bulls didn’t capitalize nearly as efficiently on those opportunities, scoring only 15 points off turnovers.

5. While the Big Three thrived, Patrick Williams showcased improvement in a brief return to his starting role.

Patrick Williams took advantage of returning to the starting lineup after Javonte Green was held out due to a right knee injury. While Donovan made it clear before the game that Green will start lineup when he’s healthy,; Williams continued to make his case with Wednesday’s performance.

Williams scored 11 points on 5-for-8 shooting and grabbed three rebounds in the win. Although he continues to fade in second halves, this isn’t necessarily a problem for the Bulls, who often rely on their Big Three to power through late. Even if he remains in the secondary group, Williams’ growth is a key for the team this season.

6. The Bulls snapped a three-game losing streak in a much-needed win.

The Bulls needed this win.

Before this game, they logged three straight losses on the road and went 3-8 in their last 11-game stretch. Despite logging big wins over teams like the Boston Celtics and the Milwaukee Bucks, the team’s inconsistent nature had begun to feed into frustrations throughout the roster.

Falling into a four-game losing rut could have sunk the Bulls into dangerous territory. Now, the team can reset to look ahead to a very winnable December featuring mostly sub-500 opponents.

Despite producing a losing record, the margin is still fairly thin in the East. The Bulls currently sit 2.5 games back from the top third of the conference, making their situation less dire than it felt at the end of the West Coast road trip.

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https://www.denverpost.com/2022/12/08/6-takeaways-from-the-chicago-bulls-115-111-win-over-the-washington-wizards-including-a-powerful-finish-from-the-teams-big-three/
Tyler Herro finds himself multitasking as Heat attempt to work out of early-season hole

Tyler Herro finds himself multitasking as Heat attempt to work out of early-season hole

09/12/2022, USA, Basketball, NBA (Basketball), Article # 30969155

As a full-time starter for the first time in his four-year career, this was supposed to be the season Tyler Herro found his place in the Miami Heat lineup.

Instead, Herro has found himself multitasking to arguably a greater degree than any other stage of his NBA tenure.

Need offense? There were 34 points in Tuesday night’s loss to the Detroit Pistons.

Need assists? There were 10 apiece in consecutive games a week ago against the Washington Wizards and Atlanta Hawks.

Need rebounds? The No. 13 pick in the 2019 NBA draft stepped up with 13 Monday night against the Memphis Grizzlies.

“Just making adjustments to who’s on the floor,” Herro said, with the Heat turning their attention to Thursday night’s visit by the Los Angeles Clippers.

When Jimmy Butler was sidelined, it was about adding scoring and playmaking.

When the Heat power rotation was decimated, there was the need for rebounding.

And, all the while, during this season with the Heat rarely whole, it has meant Herro working against the type of defensive attention afforded to leading men.

“The complexity to this is what is required for that particular game?” coach Erik Spoelstra said of Herro stepping up to the variety of challenges. “And then, as the game moves along, what adjustments do you have to make?”

Now, Spoelstra said, Herro is reading and reacting.

“You can’t just go into games predetermined,” Spoelstra said. “But the respect factor is there. One way or another, they’re trying to scheme against Tyler, through their trapping, switching or bringing a third defender.

“And it’s up to him to understand the responsibility of making the best play for us, based on whatever the coverage is.”

All, Spoelstra said, while maintaining the aggressive bent that led to last season’s NBA Sixth Man of the Year award.

“He has to be assertive,” Spoelstra said. “He has to be who he is. And certainly the playmaking piece is adding a great dimension to our games.”

The versatility has been appreciated by teammates, particularly when Jimmy Butler returned for last week’s overtime road victory over the Boston Celtics following a seven-game absence.

“Obviously Jimmy being back, he’s going to create a lot of offense,” Herro said of Butler’s return from an extended absence with knee pain, before stepping back for a game off. “But he told me before the [Boston] game, just keep playing how I’ve been playing, and he said, ‘I’ll fit in,’ and he did.”

For Herro, it remains a work in progress, having missed extended time last month with a sprained left ankle.

“I missed eight games; it’s going to take time,” he said of working back to his peak self. “I can score with the best of ‘em. But I’m not focused on my scoring or my stats on offense. I want to win and that’s what we want to do here.

“So we have a lot of work to do and we’re going to continue to stick at it and we’re not running from anybody.”

Herro also has become even more of a defensive focus.

“At one point,” he said of Tuesday’s loss to the Pistons, “I think one possession they ran two guys at me over halfcourt. So it’s just different adjustments. Like I said, every game is different.”

All the while, remaining upbeat, even amid team adversity.

“I think our spirits have been high,” he said. “We’re not worried about proving anyone right or wrong. This is about us, our group. Just got to continue to get better.

“We’re not really worried about how we started, who’s hurt and who’s not. We’re starting to get everyone healthy now, get everyone back in the lineup, and just continue to worry about ourselves and get better.”

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https://www.denverpost.com/2022/12/08/tyler-herro-finds-himself-multitasking-as-heat-attempt-to-work-out-of-early-season-hole/
Brittney Griner freed from Russian penal colony in high-level prisoner swap

Brittney Griner freed from Russian penal colony in high-level prisoner swap

09/12/2022, USA, Basketball, NBA (Basketball), Article # 30969143

Russia freed the WNBA star in a dramatic high-level prisoner exchange, with the U.S. releasing notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.



https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2022-12-08/brittney-griner-freed-russian-prisoner-swap-viktor-bout
Tom Zirpoli: Give me a good college basketball game any day | COMMENTARY

Tom Zirpoli: Give me a good college basketball game any day | COMMENTARY

08/12/2022, USA, Basketball, NBA (Basketball), Article # 30969081

I think I’m done with professional sports, especially men’s teams, anyway. That includes the Ravens, who I used to follow, but rarely watch anymore. In fact, the antics of many players and coaches across professional sports, on and off the field, have turned me off.

Give me a good college basketball game instead, any day. I completed my graduate work at the University of Virginia and I love following Virginia basketball. Men’s and woment’s college basketball are exciting to watch. Players play their hearts out, not for money, and still believe in doing what is best for the team. With professionals, at least for many of them, it seems to be all about their own needs and not about what the team needs.

Team loyalty seems to be dead in professional sports. Teams are partly responsible for this, I believe, by treating players as if they were trading cards instead of people. But in the last several years, listening to professional basketball players, for example, stating which teams they will and will not play for, or which players they will or will not play with, is pretty extraordinary given what they are paid.

While Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is currently getting criticized for an inappropriate tweet — which he deleted, he said, only because his girlfriend suggested he should — I lost respect for him when he refused to get a COVID-19 vaccination during the pandemic. Jackson put himself — a valuable asset to his team — and everyoneassociated with the team, at risk. And he passed up an opportunity to set an example for the larger community.

Jackson contracted COVID twice and had to abandon his team during his illness. After the second case, he responded to a question about finally getting vaccinated with, “I feel it’s a personal decision.” In fact, his “personal decision” negatively affected his teammates, coaches and staff. But Jackson made it all about himself.

I’m tired of players like quarterback Tom Brady acting like immature high school players. After an amazing career as likely the best quarterback in NFL history, Brady retired last year so he could spend more time with his family. That lasted two months. Apparently, he wasn’t too keen on spending time with his wife and three children. Mind you, he already played in the NFL for 22 years.

Anyone suggesting his wife was not being fair to him should consider that she carried their family, including a child from his previous marriage, for more than 13 years of marriage while he played — on and off the field — with his football friends.

Not many of these guys are considered appropriate role models for our children anymore. That is probably a good thing, considering their off-field antics. And that goes for the coaches and team owners, too. Just look at all the controversy around Daniel Snyder, who owns the Washington Commanders, or Jerry Jones, who owns the Dallas Cowboys. I do give Ravens owner Stephen Bisciotti credit for having, from what I hear from people I know who work there, a positive culture and work environment within the Raven’s organization. That makes sense given Bisciotti’s career in human resources.

According to public affairs firm Public Opinion Strategies, in the 1970s, 75% of Americans said “Yes” that athletes were good role models and just 19% disagreed. By 1982, just 42% of Americans said “Yes” and 48% said “No.” By 2013, according to a Rasmussen poll, just 15% of American adults viewed professional athletes as good role models and 61% disagreed with that statement. I have not found more recent data on this question, but you can see the trend.

Even retired, respected basketball players seem to be done with some of the current players and their drama. After Brooklyn Nets basketball star Kyrie Irving promoted an anti-Semitic film on Twitter, announcer and former basketball star Shaquille O’Neal stated to his co-announcer, Charles Barkley, another former basketball star, “It hurts me when we have to sit up here and talk about stuff that divides the game. Now, we [have to] answer for what this idiot has done.”

This is not the first time Irving has made ignorant and hurtful statements. He also refused to get vaccinated and, thus, could not play on his team’s home court in New York City where COVID vaccinations were required. I guess getting paid $400,000 per game, Irving’s salary, wan’t enough incentive for him to do what was best for his team.

The college basketball season is well underway and the season has already proved to be more exciting than any professional game. I am enjoying the young college players perform before they become corrupted by fame and the big bucks of professional sports.

Tom Zirpoli is the Laurence J. Adams Distinguished Chair in Special Education Emeritus at McDaniel College. He writes from Westminster. His column appears Wednesdays. Email him at tzirpoli@mcdaniel.edu.

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https://www.denverpost.com/2022/12/08/tom-zirpoli-give-me-a-good-college-basketball-game-any-day-commentary/
Steve Clifford: Kevin Durant reminds me of Kobe

Steve Clifford: Kevin Durant reminds me of Kobe

08/12/2022, USA, Basketball, NBA (Basketball), Article # 30968755

Before he took the Charlotte Hornets head coaching job this summer, Steve Clifford spent a season as a player development consultant for the Nets. That gave him an up-close and personal look at Kevin Durant, who Clifford said reminds him of one of the best to ever do it.

”He’s a lot like Kobe [Bryant] to me,” Clifford said ahead of tip-off against the Nets on Wednesday. “Their makeup is different in many ways, but on the court they’re very similar in terms of the way they work, and they’re both students of the game. When I think of Kobe, I think of passion, when I think of Kevin, I think of passion. So two elite players who care deeply about the results more than they do like individual numbers.”

Durant is one of a number of NBA superstars, including his star teammate Kyrie Irving, who held a strong relationship with the late, great Bryant, the Lakers legend and five-time NBA champion who passed away tragically in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, 2020.

The Nets star was appreciative of Clifford’s compliment.

“I mean, it’s hard to fill them shoes and to be a Kobe Bryant,” Durant said. “But Kobe is somebody who’s been around and I still study to this day, and basically I just tried to copy everything he does. Same with Michael Jordan. Those two guys just set the tone for everything you want to be as a basketball player, so I simply try to copy them as much as I can.

“And I guess that showed to Cliff. I enjoyed being around him a lot. We talked a lot about the game of basketball, so I’m sure he could hear that, hear it in my voice how much I just enjoy that dialogue about the game. So that’s pretty cool to hear, man. I love Cliff.”

What did Durant learn most from his time around Kobe?

“Really just don’t be a crybaby,” he said. “I was at that age at 23 where I felt like the world revolved around me, and he was — I know we’ve talked a lot about Kobe — but he was real humble with how he approached the game, how he approached his teammates, just life in general. So I just learned from watching his movements. He didn’t say much but he was an example just by how he moved and I try to emulate, like I said: Him and Mike are two dudes I emulate on and off the court what they do, and it only made me better.”

Irving, Bryant’s closest mentee, said most of the greats share something in common with the Lakers legend.

“I think if you look at people that want greatness — they will sacrifice their time with their families, their friends, to do everything possible in order to give everything they have to what they love, to do to their craft — they have similarities,” Irving said. “I don’t think it’s just Kobe and KD. I just think when you see greatness and you wonder how people continue to do it year after year, you have to look at the hours that are put in, the way that they prepare, and how serious they take what they do. And they’re very competitive, Kobe and KD. Obviously, with Kobe transitioning in the last few years, he would definitely be giving us some gems to continue on.

“And you can tell that [Durant] got a lot of advice from him and watched him a lot. So you could definitely see the similarities. And they’re both great, and they’re willing to do anything. They’re willing to do what it takes to win ballgames, and that’s what you want on your team every single night. You can depend on something like that.”

Clifford said being around Durant reinforced the idea in him that the best players want to be coached.

“As much as players are different now than before, being around a guy like Kevin Durant for the year just reinforced in me that the best players do want to be coached, and the best players do work hard everyday, and the best players do care about the team,” he said. “Kevin was a breath of fresh air. He may be the best player in the world and nobody works harder. Nobody cares more about his teammates.

“I think he’s a throwback,” Clifford continued on an alternate broadcast. “He has an incredible passion for the game. He works hard everyday. He cares deeply about the team and how the team plays. One of the best — I feel blessed over the years the experiences I’ve had with certain players, but even as a consultant, being [in Brooklyn] not all the time, but getting a chance to watch him work and get to know him is something that I’ll cherish forever.”

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https://www.denverpost.com/2022/12/07/steve-clifford-kevin-durant-reminds-me-of-kobe/
Nets blow 23-point lead, hold on to beat Hornets without Ball, Hayward

Nets blow 23-point lead, hold on to beat Hornets without Ball, Hayward

08/12/2022, USA, Basketball, NBA (Basketball), Article # 30968756

The real way to save Kevin Durant’s legs for the end of the season is to end his night early against lesser opponents.

As evidenced by the Nets’ meltdown in their 122-116 win over the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday, that’s much easier said than done.

The Nets were on pace to give Durant a half-day. They led by 23 in the second quarter, largely due to Seth Curry’s hot shooting against his hometown team and Kyrie Irving’s aggressive scoring against Terry Rozier, his understudy on the Boston Celtics who now plays a key role in Charlotte.

The Nets blew the Hornets out of the water in the first half. The game was supposed to be over.

And then they took their foot off the gas. They left Durant on the bench far too long, then lost those minutes while he watched from the sidelines. This is the other side of the Durant workload conundrum: Yes he leads the NBA in minutes; yes, he’s 34 years old in his 15th NBA season; yes, he’s four seasons removed from a devastating ruptured Achilles; and yes, the Nets want to make sure he’s healthy and fresh for the playoffs.

But when he doesn’t play, the Nets struggle.

The Hornets turned Brooklyn’s 23-point lead into a one-point game until Durant checked back in midway through the fourth quarter.

“Overall, it was one of those games where we jumped out to a lead,” head coach Jacque Vaughn said after the game. “They’re a NBA team and a well-coached team that would continue to fight back and we relaxed a little bit and kind of paid for it. Good thing we have some pretty good players to execute at the end of the game, which we did for the most part. I love that piece of it. But we just got to comfortable and started to let them get where they want to, to the rim and to the paint, too many times.”

After scoring 20 through the first three periods, Durant scored nine more down the stretch to secure the victory, giving the Nets its eighth win in their last 11 games.

For the first half of the night, the game plan worked. The Nets went deep into their rotation — and they took care of business against a non-playoff opponent.

Until they took their foot off the gas.

“I mean, they’re pros. Like, I know we got high expectations for us, especially when we’re up, but they’ve got guys that put numbers up on the board in the NBA before on that team, so we’ve got to respect them for that as well,” said Durant. “I know we should have kept the lead, but you’ve still got to respect them as NBA players. But I like our intensity. I like how we came out on the offensive side of the ball and moved the ball pretty much controlled the whole game.”

While the Hornets were without franchise cornerstone LaMelo Ball (ankle) and oft-injured star Gordon Hayward (shoulder), the Nets are coming up on a fully healthy 10-man rotation. Ben Simmons (calf strain) and Yuta Watanabe (hamstring strain) are the only key rotation players who missed Wednesday’s game.

Early on, it was too much for the Hornets to handle. Even without Simmons and Watanabe, the Nets flexed the depth they hope can carry them — both in games Durant sits out and minutes he watches from the bench.

Durant did his damage early. On one possession, he crossed over Charlotte’s Kelly Oubre Jr. and drove to the the rim with his right hand before finishing with an emphatic two-handed stuff.

And on other possessions, he did nothing at all. His teammates picked up where he left off.

Three Nets scored 20 or more, with Curry coming off the bench to hang 20 points on his hometown team. Irving scored a game-high 33 points. Even though all five Hornets’ starters scored in double figures, Charlotte got close to nothing from its bench. Curry outscored the Hornets’ reserves on his own.

Not to mention the atrocious Hornets’ defense let Nets’ players walk to the rim uncontested regularly.

The Nets, though, need to find ways to play first half basketball in the second half. It’s the difference between Durant playing his average of 37 minutes a game and playing 25.

Those minutes will add up at the end of the season. When the playoffs come around, he’ll be on the court a minimum of 40 minutes a night.

“Sizable lead, we took our foot off the gas pedal, but you’ve gotta give them credit,” Irving said. “They definitely came out, hit us in the mouth in the second half. They were playing with a lot of confidence. And for us, it wasn’t so much just about the Charlotte Hornets. It’s about us establishing our defensive principles and again, we had a chance to do that tonight and we gave up the lead. On nights like this, you feel great winning, but how we won, we definitely want to improve on that.”

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https://www.denverpost.com/2022/12/07/nets-blow-23-point-lead-hold-on-to-beat-hornets-without-ball-hayward/
Nets blow 23-point lead, hold on to beat Hornets without Ball, Hayward

Nets blow 23-point lead, hold on to beat Hornets without Ball, Hayward

08/12/2022, USA, Basketball, NBA (Basketball), Article # 30968678

The real way to save Kevin Durant’s legs for the end of the season is to end his night early against lesser opponents.

As evidenced by the Nets’ meltdown in their 122-116 win over the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday, that’s much easier said than done.

The Nets were on pace to give Durant a half-day. They led by 23 in the second quarter, largely due to Seth Curry’s hot shooting against his hometown team and Kyrie Irving’s aggressive scoring against Terry Rozier, his understudy on the Boston Celtics who now plays a key role in Charlotte.

The Nets blew the Hornets out of the water in the first half. The game was supposed to be over.

And then they took their foot off the gas. They left Durant on the bench far too long, then lost those minutes while he watched from the sidelines. This is the other side of the Durant workload conundrum: Yes he leads the NBA in minutes; yes, he’s 34 years old in his 15th NBA season; yes, he’s four seasons removed from a devastating ruptured Achilles; and yes, the Nets want to make sure he’s healthy and fresh for the playoffs.

But when he doesn’t play, the Nets struggle.

The Hornets turned Brooklyn’s 23-point lead into a one-point game until Durant checked back in midway through the fourth quarter. After scoring 20 through the first three periods, he scored nine more down the stretch to secure the victory, giving the Nets their eighth win in their last 11 games.

For the first half of the night, the game plan worked. The Nets went deep into their rotation — and they took care of business against a non-playoff opponent.

Until they took their foot off the gas.

While the Hornets were without franchise cornerstone LaMelo Ball (ankle) and oft-injured star Gordon Hayward (shoulder), the Nets are coming up on a fully healthy 10-man rotation. Ben Simmons (calf strain) and Yuta Watanabe (hamstring strain) are the only key rotation players who missed Wednesday’s game.

Early on, it was too much for the Hornets to handle. Even without Simmons and Watanabe, the Nets flexed the depth they hope can carry them — both in games Durant sits out and minutes he watches from the bench.

Durant did his damage early. On one possession, he crossed over Charlotte’s Kelly Oubre Jr. and drove to the the rim with his right hand before finishing with an emphatic two-handed stuff.

And on other possessions, he did nothing at all. His teammates picked up where he left off.

Three Nets scored 20 or more, with Curry coming off the bench to hang 20 points on his hometown team. Irving scored a game-high 33 points. Even though all five Hornets’ starters scored in double figures, Charlotte got close to nothing from its bench. Curry outscored the Hornets’ reserves on his own.

Not to mention the atrocious Hornets’ defense let Nets’ players walk to the rim uncontested regularly.

The Nets, though, need to find ways to play first half basketball in the second half. It’s the difference between Durant playing his average of 37 minutes a game and playing 25.

Those minutes will add up at the end of the season. When the playoffs come around, he’ll be on the court a minimum of 40 minutes a night.

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https://www.denverpost.com/2022/12/07/nets-blow-23-point-lead-hold-on-to-beat-hornets-without-ball-hayward/
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