TIME Basketball

Warriors? Cavs? Spurs Again? No Clear NBA Finals Favorite

Miami Heat v Cleveland Cavaliers
Jason Miller—Getty Images LeBron James celebrates with Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers after scoring during the first half against the Miami Heat at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland on April 2, 2015

"I got no idea who's going to win the championship. This is the most convoluted I've ever seen the NBA as far as, I've got no idea," Hall of Famer Charles Barkley said

Sweet-shooting Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors have the best record, an unmatched home-court advantage, and the understanding that means nothing now.

“We had a great home record and did some historic things, but that doesn’t get you any extra points in the playoffs,” Curry said.

The Warriors (67-15) were the NBA’s best this season. LeBron James has been on top before, though never in Cleveland. And don’t forget the Spurs, even though you have to look far down the West standings to find them.

When the NBA postseason opens this weekend, there will be plenty of championship contenders but perhaps no clear favorite.

“I got no idea who’s going to win the championship. This is the most convoluted I’ve ever seen the NBA as far as, I’ve got no idea,” Hall of Famer and TNT analyst Charles Barkley said.

With James gone from Miami, so are the days of penciling in one half of the NBA Finals matchup. The Heat reached the last four finals, winning two of them, before James returned to Cleveland last July.

The Cavaliers don’t even have the best record in the Eastern Conference, finishing in second place behind Atlanta. But they have rolled through the second half of the season so easily that it’s hard not to consider this No. 2 as the one.

“We have an opportunity to do something special and that kicks off this weekend,” James said.

The Cavaliers start Sunday against Boston, a familiar foe for James and the one that ended his last postseason in a Cavaliers uniform.

The playoffs begin Saturday with four games: Washington visits Toronto in the opener before the Warriors, 39-2 at home during the regular season, host Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans. After that come two short trips: Milwaukee travels to Chicago and Dallas heads to Houston.

On Sunday, Atlanta hosts Brooklyn, Portland visits Memphis, and the Los Angeles Clippers welcome San Antonio for the opener of what appears to be the marquee first-round series.

The Spurs’ beautiful basketball overwhelmed James and the Heat in last year’s finals and carried them to 21 wins in their final 25 games this season — and couldn’t put a dent in their deficit in the West standings. They ended up with the No. 6 seed after losing in New Orleans on the final night of the regular season, with a 55-27 record that was a game worse than the Clippers, who surged to a 56-26 finish with seven straight victories.

“We’d love to have been in the 2 or 3 seeds — whatever it may be — and started at home,” the Spurs’ Tim Duncan said. “But we have been on just about every route possible throughout the years. This will be another journey, and hopefully it will be a fun one.”

That’s what the Warriors want. And with an MVP favorite in Curry, another All-Star in the backcourt in Klay Thompson and a deep bench, they have everything needed to make it happen.

“It’s time to go and we are ready,” Curry said.

Some other things to watch in the playoffs:

ROSE’S RETURN: Derrick Rose’s injury problems began in the opener of the 2012 postseason when he tore his ACL. He returned from his latest surgery to help the Bulls finish with four straight victories to earn the No. 3 seed in the East.

HOW HEALTHY?: The winner of the Trail Blazers-Grizzlies series would be in line to meet the Warriors, and either would be a threat if healthy. But Marc Gasol, Mike Conley and Tony Allen of Memphis limped to the finish, Arron Afflalo joined Wesley Matthews on the sideline in Portland, and it’s hard to tell which team is in good enough shape to survive this series.

TEXAS TWO-STEP: The reward for James Harden and the Rockets after earning the No. 2 seed? A matchup against a Dallas team that won 50 games. The Rockets outscored the Mavericks just 402-398 in their four meetings, and Dallas had double-digit leads in three of them.

KIDD’S KIDS: Jason Kidd won a first-round series as a No. 6 seed last year in Brooklyn. He’s back in that spot after his first season coaching in Milwaukee with a young team that will try to overcome its playoff inexperience.

WHO WINS?: James is trying to finally win one in Cleveland. The Spurs are trying to finally win back to back. And the Warriors and Hawks were better than both teams over the course of the season, so even the experts are having a hard time with that question. “This year, I’ve got to be honest with you,” Barkley said, “there’s probably seven teams that could actually win the championship and I’d be like, ‘I’m not surprised they won it.'”

TIME Basketball

NBA Will Begin Testing Players for HGH Next Season

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver during a press conference in New York City on April 13, 2015.
Alex Goodlett—Getty Images NBA Commissioner Adam Silver during a press conference in New York City on April 13, 2015.

Three violations will result in banishment from the league

The NBA will begin testing players for human growth hormone, the league announced Thursday.

Testing will begin next season and players will be subject to three random, unannounced tests each year, in addition to “reasonable cause testing,” the NBA said. Two of the three tests will be administered during the season and one will be done in the offseason.

Players will be suspended 20 games for their first positive test and 45 games for a second failed test. A third violation results in banishment from the league.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in an interview with GQ in November that instituting HGH testing was a priority.

Testing for HGH was introduced by the NFL in 2014 and by MLB in 2013. The World Anti-Doping Agency, which handles Olympic testing, first began testing for HGH at the 2006 Torino Games.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told USA Today in 2013 that the NBA should consider allowing HGH use as a means to help players more quickly recover from injuries.

This article originally appeared on SI.com.


So Stephen Curry Just Made 77 Three-Pointers in a Row During Practice

Heat vs. Warriors
El Nuevo Herald—MCT/Getty Images Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry shoots over Miami Heat guard Mario Chalmers during the first quarter at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014.

Nothing but net. Again and again. And you can say "again" 75 more times

It’s no secret that Stephen Curry is one of the most devastatingly accurate and effective shooters in the NBA, but the Golden State Warriors superstar showed what goes into his seemingly effortless long-range jumper during a Tuesday practice session.

A video on ESPN shows the end of a sequence where the MVP front-runner hit 77 consecutive shots from beyond the arc.

You read that right — 77 shots in a row. Note his cry of anguish when he finally misses.

He also made 94 out of the 100 total shots he took. Because he’s Stephen Curry.


TIME Basketball

The NBA Is Going to Cuba for a Basketball Clinic

The trip is being organized as part of the Basketball Without Borders program

The NBA is taking a team to the Cuban capital, Havana, for a four-day basketball clinic, the New York Times reports.

Under the auspices of the Basketball Without Borders program, the NBA will coordinate with the International Basketball Federation to bring Spanish-speaking players to meet their Cuban counterparts. Among those in attendance will be former point guard Steve Nash, ex-center Dikembe Mutombo and retired WNBA All-Star Ticha Penicheiro, along with NBA executives.

The news comes in the wake of the recent thawing of U.S.-Cuba relations.

“We’ve seen the bridges that basketball can build between cultures,” NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum told the Times.

Two Cuban-born players have competed briefly in the NBA: Lazaro Borrell (with Seattle from 1999 to 2000) and Andres Guibert (Minnesota, 1993 to 1995). The sport itself has been played in Cuba for decades, with the women’s team particularly successful, coming first in the 2013 Americas competition.

The clinic will run from April 23 to 26.



TIME Basketball

Watch J.R. Smith Make an Insane Half-Court Shot to Beat the Halftime Buzzer

And that wasn't even his team's craziest shot of the night

The Cleveland Cavaliers dominated from beyond the arc against the Chicago Bulls on Sunday night, making 16 3-pointers in a 99-94 home victory.

Half of those threes came from guard J.R. Smith, including an amazing shot from way, way out — 40 feet or just inside the Bulls’ half, to be exact — just as the halftime buzzer went off.

A flailing Smith collapsed into one of the courtside seats right after the shot went in, and then got up and took a bow (who wouldn’t?).

That wasn’t even the furthest three-point buzzer-beater of the game, oddly enough, as Smith’s teammate Kyrie Irving sank one from 52 feet to beat the shot clock in the third quarter.

As Irving and LeBron James’ shrugs indicate, it was just one of those games.


NBA Star Steve Nash Announces His Retirement

Steve Nash
Lisa Blumenfeld—Getty Images Steve Nash of the Los Angeles Lakers drives the ball upcourt during a game against the Utah Jazz at Staples Center on Feb. 11, 2014 in Los Angeles.

He averaged 14.3 points, 8.5 assists and 3.0 rebounds per game

Los Angeles Lakers guard Steve Nash announced his retirement from the NBA on Saturday after 18 seasons.

The 41-year-old hinted at retirement earlier this month when he told TSN Radio 1040 in Vancouver, “the NBA game is just a touch too far for me.”

• ​Remembering Michael Jordan’s first comeback 20 years ago

In October, it was announced that Nash would miss the entire 2014-15 season due to recurring nerve damage in his back.

The two-time MVP last appeared in 15 games for the Los Angeles Lakers in 2013-14 and previously said he expected this season to be his last.

Nash wrote a post about his retirement for The Player’s Tribune.


Nash appeared in 1,217 games for the Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks and Lakers. He averaged 14.3 points, 8.5 assists and 3.0 rebounds per game and holds a 49% career field goal percentage and a 42.8% three-point percentage.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME Basketball

Michael Jordan’s Basketball Shoes from 1984 Are to Be Auctioned

Chicago Bulls' Michael Jordan (23), right, prepares to go up with the ball as Los Angeles Lakers guard Michael Cooper (21), looks on during first half NBA action at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif., Dec. 2, 1984
Reed Saxon—AP Chicago Bulls' Michael Jordan (23), right, prepares to go up with the ball as Los Angeles Lakers guard Michael Cooper (21), looks on during first half NBA action at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif., Dec. 2, 1984

The shoes have been in a closet for 30 years

The earliest known game-worn Michael Jordan basketball shoes will be auctioned online by SCP Auctions, with bidding from April 8 through to Apr. 25, according to ESPN.

The Nikes have reportedly been in the shoe closet of former Los Angeles Lakers ball-boy Khalid Ali for the last 30 years.

“I didn’t really talk about them much. People who met me after my teenage years don’t even know I have them,” he said.

The shoes, according to SCP Auctions vice president Dan Imler could fetch more than $50,000. They came from a game played in Los Angeles on Dec. 2, 1984. The Bulls won 113-112 and Jordan scored 20 points.

Another pair of shoes that Jordan wore during the 1984-1985 season went for $31,070 in 2013.

TIME Basketball

NBA Suspends James Harden for Kicking LeBron James in the Groin

LeBron's teammate called it "an intentional kick to a troublesome area"

The NBA announced Monday that Houston Rockets guard James Harden will be suspended for one game without pay for kicking Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James in the groin during Sunday’s game.

During the third quarter, Harden fell to the ground during a tussle for the ball and appears to have lifted his foot to give James a little kick below the belt. James was incensed and had a few words for Harden during the altercation.

After the game, Harden said the kick was unintentional and he didn’t think he would be suspended.

Naturally, James’ teammates had a different reaction

The suspension comes at an unfortunate time for Houston as they must travel to face the Atlanta Hawks, the league’s leader in wins, on Tuesday.

James Harden is in the middle of an outstanding season; he leads the league in scoring and is a front runner for the Most Valuable Player award. LeBron James is probably professional basketball’s most recognizable star and is widely considered to be the best player in the world.


NBA Star Garnett to Give Away 1,000 Tickets

NBA: Washington Wizards at Minnesota Timberwolves
Jesse Johnson—USA Today Sports Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Garnett (21) pounds his chest before a game against the Washington Wizards at Target Center on feb. 25, 2015.

"Enjoy the game on me"

Minnesota forward Kevin Garnett has purchased 1,000 tickets to an upcoming Timberwolves game to give away to the team’s fans as a gesture of appreciation, the team announced Sunday.

Beginning at 9 a.m. central time Monday, fans can sign up to claim tickets for that evening’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers at a dedicated website. The first 500 fans to register will receive a pair of tickets.

Kevin Garnett: The Kid who changed the game (and the Timberwolves)

The 19-year NBA veteran played in Minnesota for 12 seasons before being traded to Boston prior to the 2007-08 season.

After spending a season and a half with the Brooklyn Nets, the 38 year old was traded back to his original team on Feb. 19 for Thaddeus Young.

“The response and support I’ve received from Wolves fans since my return to Minnesota has been nothing short of amazing. It’s been unbelievable,” Garnett said in a statement.

“As a gesture of thanks, I would like to treat some fans to Monday night’s game against the Clippers. Love you all, and thanks for the love. Enjoy the game on me.”

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME Basketball

Bulls’ Derrick Rose to Undergo Right-Knee Surgery for Torn Meniscus

Cleveland Cavaliers v Chicago Bulls
Jeff Haynes—NBAE/Getty Images Derrick Rose shoots a free throw against the Cleveland Cavaliers during the game at the United Center in Chicago on Feb. 12, 2015

The Bulls announced Tuesday that Derrick Rose will undergo surgery to address a medial meniscus tear in his right knee, marking the third time he’s undergone knee surgery since May 2012.

Rose reported feeling pain in his right knee, which led to an exam and an MRI, which confirmed the tear. A surgery date and a recovery timeline have not yet been set.

The 2011 MVP previously underwent ACL surgery in his left knee in May 2012 and a medial meniscus repair in his right knee in Nov. 2013. The first surgery sidelined Rose for the rest of the 2012 playoffs and the entire 2012-13 season. The second surgery sidelined Rose for the final five months of the 2013-14 season and the entire 2014 playoffs.

After returning to the court with USA Basketball last summer, Rose had played in 46 games this season, averaging 18.4 points, 5 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game.

Coach Tom Thibodeau will be forced to turn to backup point guards Aaron Brooks and Kirk Hinrich in Rose’s absence.

Rose, 26, is under contract through the 2016-17 season, earning $18.8 million this season and $20.1 million next season.

Chicago sits at the top of the Central Division standings with a 36-21 record, holding a one-game lead over Cleveland (35-22).

This article originally appeared on SI.com

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