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Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Basketball

Damian Lillard shares how foul calls make James Harden so tough to guard

Damian Lillard

James Harden is already a lethal scorer, but what makes him exceptionally difficult to guard is his ability to draw foul calls. This is nothing new, but Damian Lillard shared exactly what it’s like trying to defend against the two-time scoring champ and 2017-2018 NBA MVP.

Lillard’s Portland Trail Blazers lost to the Houston Rockets 132-108 on Monday night. Harden went 11/19 for 36 points and was 9/10 on free throws. Here’s what Lillard said of defending Harden:

He’s right. When Harden is kicking his legs or putting his arms out and getting foul calls, there isn’t much you can do. And when it’s already a great player doing that, your chances of defending him well are even smaller.

This sort of playing style is a major topic of contention among NBA fans. It has led some frustrated fans to dislike the All-Star, and one announcer even described it as “cheating.” And for NBA players, you can tell just how frustration it can be to try defending Harden.

David Fizdale has head-scratching reason for sitting RJ Barrett on final play

David Fizdale

The New York Knicks lost a nail-biter to the Charlotte Hornets this weekend, and coach David Fizdale once again came under fire for a tactical decision.

On the final possession of a one-point game, Fizdale chose to sit star rookie RJ Barrett and insert sharpshooter Wayne Ellington, who had not played for the entire game. The Knicks wound up letting Julius Randle take a long contested fadeaway, which he missed.

On Monday, Fizdale gave a strange reason to reporters for why he sat Barrett.

“[Ellington was in] just as a distraction, to try to open up floor for Julius to have a driving lane,” he said, per Marc Berman of the New York Post. “Trust me, more nights than not RJ Barrett will be in the game at crunch time.”

It does seem rather strange to sit one of your best offensive players in a one-point situation for the purposes of trying to better distract an opponent. It is especially so considering that Barrett had already scored 22 points in the game and is arguably a better, more efficient driver than Randle.

Granted, Fizdale definitely seems to be on the hot seat right now, and he is not doing much to help his cause with baffling decisions like this.

Danny Green got randomly drug tested day after huge putback dunk

Danny Green

Danny Green threw down a massive dunk on Sunday that few people thought he had in his bag, and apparently the league office was equally surprised.

The Los Angeles Lakers guard got up for a huge putback slam during the team’s win over the Atlanta Hawks, sending the home crowd into a frenzy.

On Monday, an amused Green tweeted that he was drug tested by the NBA.

For Green, who takes the majority of his shots from behind the three-point line, the dunk was his first of the year and just the 48th of his 11-season career (per Basketball Reference).

Interestingly enough, one of Green’s fellow Laker guards knows all about catching supposedly random drug tests under suspect circumstances as well.

Chris Haynes reportedly nearing deal to become TNT sideline reporter

Chris Haynes has become one of the most respected NBA reporters in the media in recent years, and he is reportedly nearing a deal to begin a new venture.

Haynes is closing in on an agreement with TNT to become the network’s sideline reporter for its Tuesday Night NBA schedule, Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports reports. The broadcasts will begin in January, and TNT is revamping its on-air talent lineup. The broadcast featured all former NBA players last year with Grant Hill, Derek Fisher, Kevin McHale, and Richard Hamilton, but Haynes is expected to join a team that features Bleacher Report’s Adam Lefkoe as studio host and Dwyane Wade, Shaquille O’Neal and Candace parker as studio analysts.

Haynes has become Yahoo’s top NBA reporter since Adrian Wojnarowski moved on to ESPN and Shams Charania took a position with The Athletic. McCarthy notes that Yahoo has agreed to let Haynes take the TNT job. He also currently has a deal in place with FOX, where he frequently appears on programs like “Speak for Yourself” and “The Doug Gottlieb Show.”

Because of his quality sources and strong relationships with players, Haynes has become a major player on the reporting scene. He was one of the few reporters who did not appear to be duped by false information during the Kawhi Leonard saga last summer. He should be a great addition to TNT.

Michael Jordan’s $5 signed check from 1984 billiards bet being sold at auction

Michael Jordan

It is no secret that Michael Jordan loves to gamble, and a former University of North Carolina student who won a seemingly insignificant bet against the Hall of Famer more than 30 years ago has managed to turn the minuscule earnings into a massive investment.

A check that was signed by Jordan back in 1984 — when he was still playing at UNC — is currently on the auction block at Goldin Auctions. TMZ shared the background story of the $5 check, and it’s pretty awesome. On Feb. 27, 1984, Jordan won a string of games playing pool against a fellow student in the basement of the Granville Towers on UNC’s campus. A friend of the guy Jordan was playing against thought MJ was hustling his buddy, so he stepped in and beat Jordan a few games in a row. Jordan supposedly became irritated when he was only up $5 and decided to cash out, at which point the gentleman who owed the $5 came up with a clever idea.

The guy knew Jordan was likely going to be an NBA superstar, so he asked if he could write him a check for $5 instead of paying cash. Jordan agreed. When MJ later signed the check and cashed it, the original was returned to the person who wrote it. He held onto it for all these years. Goldin says Jordan’s signature has been authenticated, and you can see a photo of the check here.

Obviously, that story is tame compared to some of the legendary MJ gambling tales we have heard, but you have to give the “loser” credit for thinking to pay Jordan with a check. That was some unbelievable forward thinking.

Frank Vogel got chills over Kobe Bryant reception at Lakers game

Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant will always be one of the most beloved players in Los Angeles Lakers franchise history, and Frank Vogel got a first-hand look at that on Sunday night. The coach said he was moved by the experience.

Bryant sat courtside for the Lakers’ 122-101 win over the Atlanta Hawks, and you can probably guess what type of reception he got when he was shown on the Staples Center video board.

That’s the reaction you would expect for a five-time NBA champion, two-time NBA Finals MVP and 18-time All-Star. Vogel was asked about it after the game, and he said it gave him chills.

Several Lakers players were seen going up to Bryant during the game to exchange pleasantries with him, including LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Davis told reporters that Kobe sitting there can’t help but make him wonder if he will be able to accomplish the same thing with the Lakers that Bryant did.

Winning five titles is a long shot for anyone, but the Lakers are off to an 11-2 start and look like they could be the best team in the Western Conference. In fact, they have looked so impressive that Kobe recently said they would make his decision about whether or not to come out of retirement an easy one.

If LeBron and Davis can bring LA another title, they’ll be getting the same reception as Kobe when they return to the Staples Center after their playing careers end.

Warriors reportedly starting Draymond Green at point guard

Draymond Green

The Golden State Warriors are struggling and decimated by injuries, so they’re trying something different Sunday night.

According to Anthony Slater of The Athletic, the Warriors will start Draymond Green at the point guard position against the New Orleans Pelicans as part of a bigger lineup.

Positionless basketball is increasingly prevalent these days, so Green will probably wind up playing different roles. If the implication is that he will wind up being the team’s primary ballhandler, it’s an interesting wrinkle for a team desperately trying to find something that works. Stephen Curry and D’Angelo Russell, who would typically handle such duties, are both injured for at least a few weeks, at least in Russell’s case.

Green insists he has more room to grow as an NBA player. Becoming a competent lead ballhandler would certainly prove him right.