Archive for April 18th, 2014

In the last two decades, all but three titles have been claimed by teams that had at least the fourth-best overall record in the league. So maybe the two-time defending champion Miami Heat have some reason to worry: They were No. 5 this season.

“For the most part,” Atlanta’s Kyle Korver said Friday, “the best team wins.”

The Hawks, therefore, have no chance. Not with the worst record (38-44) among the playoff qualifiers. Not in this league, which tends to weed out the sort of surprises you see in the one-and-done NCAA tournament — where a No. 7 seed (Connecticut) beats a No. 8 seed (Kentucky) for the championship. Or in the NFL, where a team getting hot at the right time can spring a major surprise on the right day.

Then NBA is best-of-seven through four grueling rounds; but, then again, so is the NHL, which also requires 16 playoff wins to take the championship. Baseball, for that matter, has the same format for its league championship series and World Series. Why, then, do those leagues produce far more surprise champions than the NBA?

– Associated Press

Here’s the New York Post reporting on the Brooklyn Nets, who begin their first-round NBA playoff series against the Toronto Raptors tomorrow:

Nets guard Shaun Livingston tries to heal up for playoffs

As the Nets rotated players in and out of the lineup over the final five games of the season in order to be rested and healthy for the playoffs, only one player sat out all five games.

That player was Shaun Livingston, who sprained his right big toe on a dunk attempt in the Nets’ win over the Heat on April 8 in Miami and needed the week off to be back in the starting lineup for Saturday’s matinee Game 1 against the Raptors.

“I definitely needed the time,” Livingston said after Friday’s practice. “But circumstances, I think I would have been able to play through it. I would have just pushed through it.

“I feel better. I got a chance to get on the court for the first time [Thursday], so I feel better. I’m shaking off the rust, trying to get my wind back. There’s going to be a lot of adrenaline … [so I’ll] just try to stay composed and stay in the moment.”

George Kaiser joins Thunder ownership group

Tulsa businessman George B. Kaiser has been approved by the NBA Board of Governors as a new partner in The Professional Basketball Club, LLC, which owns the Oklahoma City Thunder. Thunder Chairman and CEO Clayton I. Bennett made the announcement today. Kaiser is purchasing the ownership interest of Tom L. Ward.

“We are honored to welcome George Kaiser as a member of the ownership group of the Oklahoma City Thunder,” Bennett said. “George is a well-respected and important Oklahoma business leader, as well as one of the state and nation’s top philanthropists. His commitment to successful business and community leadership is in true alignment with that of the Thunder.

“I also appreciate the commitment and leadership provided by Tom Ward as a member of our ownership group from the beginning,” Bennett added.

“I am pleased to join the Thunder ownership group,” Kaiser said. “I appreciate what Tom, Clay and the other owners have done to make Oklahoma City a big-league city and look forward to joining the continuing effort to gain positive recognition for our state.”

“I am very pleased to have been a part of the group that brought the Thunder to Oklahoma City, ” Ward said. “The team has generated tremendous excitement in our city and state. This transaction allows me to have greater focus on the things that I know and care about the most, which include launching new Oklahoma-based energy companies and supporting charitable organizations that demonstrate compassion to those in need.”

Kaiser is president, CEO and primary owner of GBK Corporation, parent of Kaiser-Francis Oil Company, which he has managed for 40 years. He is chairman of the board and majority shareholder of BOK Financial Corporation and a major shareholder in several energy, oil and gas, mining and technology companies.

Kaiser has been engaged in numerous civic activities, including working with others to establish both the Tulsa Community Foundation and Tulsa Educare. He founded the George Kaiser Family Foundation, dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty through investments in early childhood education, community health, social services and civic enhancements.

In addition, through a transaction approved by the NBA Board of Governors on Friday, Clayton I. Bennett, Chairman and CEO of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Chairman of Dorchester Capital; Aubrey K. McClendon, Chairman and CEO of American Energy Partners; William M. Cameron, Chairman and CEO of American Fidelity Assurance Company; and Jay Scaramucci, President of Balon Corporation, have each purchased ownership interests from G. Jeffrey Records, Jr., CEO of MidFirst Bank. Records remains a significant owner of the team and MidFirst remains a major sponsor.

The ownership interests of Everett R. Dobson, Managing Partner of Dobson Partnerships; and Robert E. Howard II, Chairman of Howard Investments, did not change.

Here’s the Minneapolis Star Tribune reporting on flashy Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio:

Rubio’s representatives and Flip Saunders, the Wolves president of basketball operations, can begin July 1 discussions on a contract extension of the rookie deal he signed in May 2011.

The two sides have until the end of October to reach an agreement, otherwise Rubio will play next season under his current contract and become a restricted free agent in July 2015. That’s the same time teammate Kevin Love will opt out of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent.

Expect Rubio’s side to push for a contract closer to a maximum salary than the four-year, $44 million extension Golden State’s Stephen Curry received, which the Wolves just might view as beyond their limits.

“No, it’s something I’m not worried about,” Rubio said Wednesday. “It’s something my agent is going to talk with Flip. It’s something I don’t have to be worried. I just worry about playing. I just want to have it being on a team that’s winning and I think this team is growing up and we can do it and I want to play in a playoff, you know?”

Here’s the Denver Post reporting on Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari:

Danilo Gallinari should be ready for Nuggets training camp

Indications are that Gallinari will be ready for training camp. He sat out this season after needing a second ACL surgery in January. But he’s running now. And jumping. And dunking.

“It felt great just to grab that rim,” Gallinari said, smiling.

He’s not doing anything too crazy, but he’s ahead of schedule and said he will be ready when October arrives.

“It’s going very good,” he said. “The guys are trying to keep me calm, because I feel like I can do a lot of stuff. They are holding me back. Finally, I feel like I did the right thing with the right surgery.”

Gallinari was the Nuggets’ second-leading scorer in the 2012-13 season and one of their best 3-point shooters. They could have used him this season.

Quick intro to the 2014 NBA playoffs

Here’s the Philadelphia Daily News with some words on the 2014 NBA playoffs, which begin tomorrow:

This year’s playoffs is a mix between the usual contenders and a few surprises. The Eastern Conference is significantly weaker than the Western Conference, as has been the case all season.

For example, the Washington Wizards, who are the No. 5 seed in the East, won 10 fewer games than the Portland Trail Blazers, the No. 5 seed in the West. The Atlanta Hawks, who snuck in as the eighth seed, are six games below .500.

The Heat and Pacers are the class of the East, and seem to be on a collision course in the conference finals. Any one of the top four seeds in the West thinks it realistically has a shot at getting to the Finals. The combination of the two scenarios will make for an exciting 2 months of basketball.

And now, read this still-growing NBA playoff preview.

Basketball blog