Warriors

Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, and Rick Welts enter Basketball Hall of Fame

Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, and Rick Welts enter Basketball Hall of Fame

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Lefty Driesell had the crowd laughing. Dino Radja fought back tears. Blue Devils and Tar Heels brought their rivalry to the Basketball Hall of Fame, and Ray Allen made a peace offering to his spurned Celtics teammates.

And they did it with an assist from three of the greatest point guards in NBA history.

The Springfield shrine inducted its 13-member Class of 2018 on Friday night, recognizing the players, coaches and contributors who broke records and barriers in equal measure.

Rick Welts, the NBA’s first openly gay executive, went in along with Charlie Scott, the first African-American to receive an athletic scholarship at North Carolina. Ora Mae Washington was honored for a pre-World War II career in which she won 11 consecutive Women’s Colored Basketball Championships. Tina Thompson was the first-ever draft pick in the WNBA.

Also inducted were New York Liberty coach Katie Smith, the leading scorer in women’s professional basketball history; longtime NBA executive Rod Thorn; and Grant Hill, the first Duke player in the Hall.

“It’s a real honor to go in with all of you guys,” said Steve Nash, who was inducted along with fellow point guards Jason Kidd and Maurice Cheeks.

“I was never even supposed to be here,” said Nash, who was born in South Africa and grew up in Canada and went on to win back-to-back NBA MVP awards. “Play the long game. You don’t have to be the chosen one. If you’re patient, the plateaus will become springboards.”

Allen gave a shoutout to Celtics teammates Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, calling the 2008 NBA championship teammates “future Hall of Famers”; both posted congratulatory messages on social media, a thaw in the relationships that have been icy since he left Boston for Miami to chase another title in 2012.

But Allen spent most of his speech describing a life “repeating those boring old habits” that made him the most prolific 3-point shooter in league history.

“What’s so incredible about it is that I loved it,” he said. “I wouldn’t have rather been anywhere else in the world.”

Kidd trudged up the steps into Springfield’s Symphony Hall carrying a baby stroller. Nash carried his son in his arm. Dikembe Mutombo stopped to take a selfie with Julius Erving and Kyrie Irving. Mark Cuban and Dirk Nowitzki made their way up the red carpet. Larry Bird was a late arrival.

Wayne Gretzky showed up in the video introducing Nash, crediting him with spreading the love of basketball across the hockey-loving country.

“From Vancouver to Newfoundland,” the hockey Hall of Famer said, “he gave them the opening and belief that they could play in the NBA.”

Welts was a pioneer of a different sort.

The Golden State Warriors President and COO, who started in the NBA as a Seattle SuperSonics ballboy, read a letter that he wrote to his 10-year-old self, telling the boy he will have his dream job by 24. But risking it to come out as gay in 2011 “will be the most important thing you ever do.”

Radja, a champion in three different European leagues and two-time Olympic silver medalist, said he cried for 10 days when he learned he would be inducted in the Hall and choked up as he began his speech.

“Playing basketball was easier,” he said.

Cheeks also struggled to hold back tears, at one point breaking down until his presenter, Dr. J., stepped forward to console him.

“Charles (Barkley) told me not to cry, but I’m about to talk about my mother right here,” Cheeks said, calling her “My very first coach, Mama Cheeks.”

Driesell’s meandering speech was such a crowd-pleaser that every time he stopped to ask if his time was up, the crowd shouted back: “No!”

Scott followed Driesell and Hill and said if the Duke guys were going to go over their time limit, the Carolina guy can, too.

“Duke and a short speech is an oxymoron,” said Scott, who broke the color barrier in Chapel Hill and brought the Tar Heels to back-to-back Final Fours before winning the 1976 NBA title in Boston. “I am very proud to be standing here as a black man that took a patch that wasn’t easy, but was the right path to take.”

Thorn played eight years in the league, coached in both the NBA and the ABA and has been in basketball for half a century. But he knows it was the selection of Michael Jordan when Thorn was the Chicago Bulls general manager in 1984 that cemented his place in basketball lore.

“Thank you, Michael, for your friendship,” Thorn said. “I know I wouldn’t have a Wikipedia page without you.”

Watch Rajon Rondo punch Chris Paul in Lakers-Rockets NBA brawl

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AP

Watch Rajon Rondo punch Chris Paul in Lakers-Rockets NBA brawl

Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul are two of the NBA's prickliest point guards, and the pair got into it Saturday night at Staples Center. 

In LeBron James' first regular-season game in Los Angeles as a Laker, Brandon Ingram shoved James Harden after the reigning MVP argued a foul call. Rondo and Paul started to argue, and Rondo punched his counterpart after the Rockets point guard put his hands in Rondo's face. 

What initially set Paul off? The point guard told ESPN that Rondo spit in his face, per ESPN's Rachel Nichols, while Houston head coach Mike D'Antoni said "some spit was thrown."

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the NBA wasn't buying it.

No matter the cause, and despite the fact that Rondo's biggest games in the building came as a member of the Boston Celtics, the 32-year-old won over his new crowd on his Lakers home debut. 

If you had said, a decade ago, that Staples Center would have earnestly chanted Rajon Rondo's name, I would have laughed you and your time machine out of the room.  Welcome to 2018, I guess.

It's safe to say the league didn't enjoy the display nearly as much as the crowd in Los Angeles. The NBA could hand down discipline very soon, according to Wojnarowski.

To add insult to potential supplemental discipline for Rondo, Paul got the last laugh. His Rockets won the game 124-115. 

Two positives, two negatives from Warriors' last-second win over Jazz

Two positives, two negatives from Warriors' last-second win over Jazz

DENVER -- Trailing for 22 minutes from late in the second quarter until midway through the fourth, the Warriors recovered by tightening their defense and turning to Stephen Curry’s offense.

So much for all those 3-pointers swished by the Utah Jazz, forcing the Warriors to play catch-up. The evening turned from thrill to torture for the Jazz and their fans, with the Warriors yanking out a 124-123 win at Vivint Smart Home Arena.

It was an odd recipe, but it produced the desired results. Here are two positives and two negatives culled from the game:

POSITIVES

Jonas Jerebko’s introduction

After finishing 29th in 3-point makes by bench players in 2016-17, the Warriors added deep gunners Nick Young and Omri Casspi -- and dropped to 30th. They averaged 2.1 triples per game two years ago, and 2.0 last season.

Still hoping to alleviate that problem, the Warriors in July signed Jonas Jerebko, a stretch-4. After missing his only 3-point attempt in the opener, he came in to make his first two on Friday, single-handedly tying the team’s recent average per game.

Jerebko will be celebrated for his tip-in that provided the margin of victory, but the most encouraging sight tor the Warriors was those 3-point shots snapping the nets.

“He played well right from the beginning,” coach Steve Kerr said. “He hit a couple 3s early and he was scrapping. The matchup was good for him. That’s how it’s going to be for Jonas. He’s going to really shine in some games, and he may not even play in others, depending on matchups. But he was fantastic.”

Klay Thompson’s defense

Klay Thompson’s primary defensive assignment was Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, whose scoring and leadership built a strong case for Rookie of the Year last season. It’s a tough assignment in that Mitchell plays both guard positions and can score at all three levels.

Mitchell was 7 of 23 (including 4 of 12 from beyond the arc). He scored 19 points, the second-highest total on the team, but he missed 16 shots. Moreover, he was 3 of 15 in the second half -- including an 0-for-7 fourth quarter.

When the Jazz needed Mitchell the most, he was under a blanket.

Thompson was all over him, using length -- at 6-foot-7, he’s four inches taller than Mitchell -- but also splendidly cutting off angles and forcing Mitchell to fire contested shots. He made the confident second-year star uncomfortable all night but miserable down the stretch.

NEGATIVES

Klay Thompson’s offense

Thompson’s defense was as remarkable as his offense was mediocre. He scored 12 points on 4-of-9 shooting and missed his only two attempts from beyond the arc -- which is his signature.

He settled for midrange shots because Utah was allowing them, and also because he was having more success. It was the smart play, given his struggles from deep.

Thompson also seemed to waver with his aggression. He took only nine shots -- zero in 10 fourth-quarter minutes. He practically disappeared. And when he emerged, trying to snap out of his funk, he forced a couple shots and a couple more passes, resulting in two second-half turnovers.

After 16-of-29 3-point shooting in four preseason games, Thompson is 1-of-10 in the first two games that matter. He’ll get better, but for now his defense is vastly superior to his offense.

Trouble with arithmetic

Because they have great long-distance shooters in Curry and Thompson, the Warriors are said to have started the 3-point revolution. Well, the rest of the league is catching up -- and, in many ways, has passed the fathers of this offensive shift.

The Warriors fired a total of 19 3-pointers on Friday. The Jazz made 19, on 46 attempts. This came after the Warriors were 7-of-26 in the opener, while Oklahoma City was 10-of-37.

One of the foundations of Kerr’s offense is the 3-point shot. He encourages anyone with a decent look and ability to make the shot to take it. He cites the math: Three is more than two. He also concedes the Warriors will never follow Houston’s blueprint under head coach Mike D’Antoni, who wants the Rockets to shoot 50 triples per game.

Opponents are scheming to take those shots away, but the Warriors usually counter that with screens and constant motion. They’re just not as committed to the 3-point shot as others are. They’ll try to overcome it with better accuracy. They barely got away with it on Friday.