SH Blog: LeBron James working on sky hook, Stan Van Gundy rips ESPN

How good can LeBron James become now that all the pressure in the world is off his back to win his first championship? How much better does he want to be? Can he really improve much more than what he has already shown in the first nine seasons of his illustrious career? Well, he is apparently working to master the sky hook shot made famous by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to add to his post game, which indicates that his game could continue to evolve in a very scary way. Bad news for the rest of the league, indeed.

See the latest status of James, the extent of Dwight Howard’s back injury from last season, why Stan Van Gundy is upset with ESPN and more from Thursday:

  • LeBron James said the Heat could be scary good, but it may be him who could become scary good this season, according to Alex Kennedy of Hoopsworld: “Several weeks ago, LeBron James was asked to assess the new-look Miami Heat. The NBA’s reigning Most Valuable Player said that this year’s team has the potential to be “scary” good, even better than the group that won the championship last season. The 27-year-old may be right about Miami. After all, the Big Three – James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh – now have plenty of experience playing alongside each other and an improved supporting cast with the offseason additions of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis. However, James may be the one who’s about to make the jump from very good to scary good. Entering his tenth season in the NBA, the superstar seems poised for a career-year. James has been the most dominant player in the league for several seasons, wreaking havoc on a nightly basis and dominating on both ends of the court. Last year, Wade handed over the reins to James and let him emerge as the alpha male in Miami. This season, we may witness James take his game to a new and unprecedented level.”
  • The Knicks are still without a number of key players, according to Marc Berman of New York Post: “Woodson’s top three choices are hurt — Iman Shumpert, who will return earliest in December; Ronnie Brewer, who had knee surgery last month and isn’t due to practice for a week; and free-agent signee James White, who has impressed in training camp until going down this week with a hamstring strain. White won’t make the trip. Nor will the rehabbing Marcus Camby (strained calf) and out-of-shape Rasheed Wallace, who has not been deemed in good-enough condition to scrimmage, making his chances of making the squad hardly guaranteed.”
  • Carmelo Anthony is an Orioles fan and has mixed feelings about the New York Yankees, from Berman: “Say it ain’t so, Carmelo. Yes, Carmelo Anthony, who moved from Brooklyn to Baltimore when he was 8, admitted he is a diehard Orioles fan. He even showed his oriole-bird tattoo on his forearm to prove it. The Yankees and Orioles are embroiled in a battle in the ALDS and Anthony prefers to keep his Oriole fandom on the down low. But when asked by The Post, he wasn’t going to fib.Yes, I’ve been an Orioles fan since I was 8 years old,’’ Anthony said. “I’ve never been a Yankee fan. I support some guys on the team. I have mixed feelings now. Here in New York, you got to support the Yankees.’’
Kobe on Jodie Meeks competing for time in camp: "That's not fair. Jodie has to guard me every day in practice so he ain't looking too good."
Arash Markazi
More Kobe on Meeks: "I've been murdering that dude. I've been kicking his a--. I've been torching that MFer."
Arash Markazi
  • Speaking of Bryant, he sat out the preseason game against the Blazers to rest his shoulder, from Ben Bolch of Los Angeles Times: “The Lakers’ Not Quite Big Four Tour made its latest stop Wednesday, with another superstar joining Dwight Howardin pricey street clothes on the bench. Kobe Bryant sat out a 93-75 exhibition loss to the Portland Trail Blazers at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, one day after he strained his right shoulder while dunking onAntawn Jamison in practice. Bryant said he was already feeling better before the game, adding that he would be back for the Lakers’ next preseason game against Utah on Saturday at Staples Center.”
  • Dwight Howard revealed the extent of his back injury from last season, from Mike Bresnahan of Los Angeles Times: “Dwight Howard’s back was hurting last season. Badly. Then something else happened: He couldn’t feel his left leg. “What a lot of people don’t know is when I hurt my back, it affected my nerves to the point where my whole left leg just went dead basically,” the Lakers center said Thursday. “I couldn’t do a calf raise.” After undergoing surgery in April for a herniated disk, Howard said it took about two months before he could lift his calf off the ground. He was told he would recover fully in about five months but received solid feedback in August. “When I went to see the doctor right before I was traded, he said, ‘Most guys don’t recover as fast as you did, especially when it affects your nerve down your leg,’ ” Howard said. “It usually takes a year for your leg to regain strength.”
  • Howard did not take any offense to anything Bryant had to say about his personality, from Ramona Shelburne of ESPN Los Angeles: “”Dwight, to be a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, you’ve got to have a little of that dog in you,” Bryant said on Tuesday. “It’s just a matter of him digging deep and just pulling it out. But it’s already there. It’s just a matter of him having it become habit.” But in yet another sign that Howard and Bryant are off to a pretty decent start in this budding relationship that pretty much has to work for the Los Angeles Lakers to make good on their potential, Howard seems as if he took Bryant’s comments pretty well. “I heard about what he said,” Howard said. “People might take that the wrong way. He’s not saying be a jerk or an a-hole to people, he’s basically saying, ‘On the court. He loves the way I play, but I can be more of one of those people.’ “
  • Dwyane Wade returned to play a game in China against the Clippers for the first time since undergoing knee surgery, from Ira Winderman of Sun Sentinel: “Wade shot 2 of 9 from the field, with five points in 23 minutes. Most of Wade’s best work came on defense, closing with four steals and two blocked shots. Coach Erik Spoelstra said he was pleased with Wade’s first steps back. “That was about where we wanted him, 20 minutes,” Spoelstra said in a postgame media session in Beijing. “We didn’t need to push it any further. He’s been progressing each week, adding to his workload. “I was encouraged by him getting that many minutes tonight. Obviously, the rhythm will come. He hasn’t played a lot of basketball since the end of last season. And he’s really been only going at this for about 10 days.” Spoelstra, though, was particularly pleased by one aspect. “Defensively he was very active, playing with a lot of energy, a lot of effort,” he said. “He was able to get a lot of tipped balls, a few steals, but extremely active. I think we can build on this.”
  • Stan Van Gundy will not work for ESPN, so he decided to rip them apart for not being straight forward, from Jason McIntyre of Bigleadsports: “No one at ESPN will tell us what happened. Certainly the NBA office isn’t going to tell us what happened. One of the quotes from ESPN in there – we had discussions, but couldn’t agree on a role … as is usual, that’s a bunch of BS from ESPN. We actually did agree on a role, but then they came back and pulled that. That’s when we knew something was up. Nobody is going to give a straight answer because … that’s just the way a lot of people operate … nobody there has the guts to say anything, so that’s what you deal with. What I find fascinating … you have to give David Stern and the NBA a lot of credit … ESPN pays the league, and then the league tells them what to do. It’s more ESPN’s problem. You gotta have no balls whatsoever to pay someone hundreds of millions of dollars and let them run your business.”

  • James, by the way, is looking to add Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s signature move to his post game, from Michael Wallace of ESPN: “A year ago, LeBron James adopted elements of Hakeem Olajuwon’s Dream Shake. This time around, the Miami Heat star forward is implementing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s patented skyhook. And no one in the gym is more ecstatic to see James continue to add to his low-post scoring arsenal than longtime Heat assistant coach and Hall of Famer Bob McAdoo, who knows a thing or 20 about finding different ways to score around the basket. Especially old-school ways. So when a sweat-soaked James spent nearly 30 minutes alone after a recent practice working on his sweeping hook shot, on some levels it was déjà vu for McAdoo. “I’ll be down here even more this year,” James shouted through near exhaustion as he wrapped up the extended workout. “Might as well keep getting more comfortable.” James vows to add the traditional hook shot to his game, and he could test it out when the Heat play a pair of exhibition games this week in China against the Los Angeles Clippers.”
  • Ty Lawson and George Karl are thinking big despite being on a small market team, from Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post: “On a mission from the basketball gods, the Nuggets are bent on busting the myth that the NBA title can only be won in a big city of bright lights and single-name stars. “When was the last time New York won a championship?” said Denver point guard Ty Lawson, barely able to conceal a smirk.The answer: 1973. That’s 14 years before Lawson entered the world. Heck, 1973 was so long ago, it’s even older than La La Vasquez. The conventional wisdom predicting an NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers is so prevalent, it’s a minor upset that promotional spots for the inevitable showdown between LeBron James and Dwight Howard haven’t already begun appearing on ESPN. The Nuggets aren’t buying the hype. “If I really didn’t think we could win a championship before the season began, I don’t know why we’d be here, working hard to get better,” Lawson insisted… Yes, the Lakers and Celtics hoard championship banners. But San Antonio and Detroit, never regarded as the stuff of superstar dreams, have won four of the past 10 NBA titles. Being in a flyover state need not condemn a franchise to watching the party with a nose pressed against the window. “We have an organization that has a nucleus we think is going to challenge the top echelon of teams,” Karl said.”
  • Brandon Roy played in his first NBA game since the 2011 playoffs and did pretty well, from Jerry Zgoda of Star Tribune: “Wednesday’s stage was obviously less dramatic but nonetheless significant to Roy, who has prepared for his comeback on degenerative knees with a summer’s worth of work and eight days of practice with his teammates. “Another bridge to cross,” he said of his return to competitive play against a Pacers team that played without starters Danny Granger, David West and George Hill. The Wolves played on without injured point guards Luke Ridnour, Ricky Rubio and Malcolm Lee themselves, so Roy started in the backcourt alongside J.J. Barea and delivered a 13-point, four-rebound, one-assist, one-steal, one-turnover evening in which he sought to get his step back. Roy was slow to find it Wednesday night, then discovered something of his former All-Star self just after halftime by scoring eight third-quarter points, including his team’s first six coming out of intermission. In all, he played nearly 24 minutes — exactly half the game coach Rick Adelman predicted his starters might play — while sitting out the entire fourth quarter.”
  • Linsanity 2.0 will happen in Houston

    Jeremy Lin wasn’t happy with his preseason game performance against Russell Westbrook, from Jonathan Feigen of Houston Chronicles: “The Rockets had no complaints. They did enough things well to believe progress had been made. The starters played well. Rookie forward Terrence Jones backed up his strong camp with an even stronger first game. They even held on in the final minutes to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder — with three starters sitting out but their stars, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, typically sensational — to open the preseason with a 107-105 win. Jeremy Lin, however, expects more. He said before the game there would be nights like this, “when I play elite point guards and I don’t do that well and they do great.” But Rockets coach Kevin McHale said that it was not that bad at all. Westbrook looked pretty much the way he did in Game 4 of the NBA Finals against the Heat as the Thunder welcomed Lin back to the court in his first game action since March by going at Lin with their Ferrari of a point guard. “I don’t think I made plays,” Lin said. “I definitely didn’t stop Westbrook defensively. And offensively, I think a little too passive. I’m not sure. I just really wasn’t myself. I’m going to try to be more aggressive, make more plays for myself and for others and just do a better job than that.”

  • J.R. Smith is not too happy about coming off the bench again, from Alan Hahn of MSG: “He sees Smith as more valuable off the bench, where his offense and versatility benefits the rotation. Even with the other shooting guards on the team, Ronnie Brewer and Iman Shumpert, still out with injuries. Smith was asked if this was a disappointing result. “Disappointment is an understatement,” he said after Wednesday’s practice. “My whole process of getting better this summer and everything I’ve gone through was to be in that starting role.” Smith did say he would accept whatever role Woodson gave him, so this shouldn’t be a source of friction. Smith actually handled this with maturity. “It’s great to be able to put all that work in and understand what I can do without starting,” Smith said. “I think that it makes our bench even stronger.” When asked about going for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award, which would look good on his resume going into free agency, Smith shook his head. “I don’t care about the Sixth Man race,” he said. “I haven’t been in the [final running for the award] in the last six years. That’s not even a thought process of mine, my process is winning.”
  • Although Doc Rivers says no decision has been made, he may be leaning towards starting rookie Jared Sullinger, from Gary Washburn of Boston Globe: “I’m going to try (Sullinger) a couple of games, and then I’ll throw Brandon in and then I’ll put Darko (Milicic) in a couple of times,” Rivers said following the team’s workout Wednesday. “You can read into it whatever you want. But there’s been no decision made on anything.” Rivers again reiterated that Sullinger has caught the organization by surprise with his maturity and ability to learn the offense. Sullinger dropped in the draft because of rumors about potential back surgery because he has not had any issues during camp. “He doesn’t think like a rookie, he thinks like a veteran,” Rivers said. “He plays a great pace. He’s one of our best rebounders. He can pass the ball and so he does a lot of things that helps our team. And so we want to keep those guys around.”
  • Will Andrew Bogut play in the season-opener for the Warriors? Uncertainty looms, from Matt Steinmetz of CSN Bay Area: “Bogut is still targeting that game to return, but it seems apparent there is a real possibility his Warriors’ debut could come later than that. “After the trade, obviously you want to be out there,” Bogut said earlier this week. “That’s the dangerous thing about these injuries. I can’t let what other people are thinking and wanting affect the injury. I need to come back 100 percent. I want to be out there. I’ve thought of many scenarios, and I want to be 100 percent ready for that first game. “But if we get to a point where it’s still 95 percent,  I’ll play in the second game. But I definitely want to be back out there. But at the same time I want to be very smart with it. I don’t want to come back for the first game and then in late November have a setback. I want to come back and be back. I don’t want to have to miss games or practices.”
  • Is DeMarcus Cousins the next Kevin Love? Apparently he wants to extend his range to the three-point line, from Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: “Cousins made one of his three three-point attempts in the Kings’ 102-96 preseason win over the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night at Power Balance Pavilion. While many were curious as to how Tyreke Evans would look shooting from beyond the arc, most weren’t expecting Cousins also firing from there. “Coach wants me to shoot the three ball, so I’m still trying to find my spots and where to do it,” Cousins said of Keith Smart. “That’s what this time is for, trying to find it.” Cousins isn’t looking to become a three-point specialist. He said when his trainer, Keith Williams, encouraged him to work on the three-point shot in years past, he resisted the idea. In his first two seasons Cousins has taken 32 three-point attempts, making five. “I’m still not even comfortable being out there, but coach wants me to do it, so I’m going to try to get it down,” Cousins said. Smart laughed when asked if he wanted to see Cousins shooting three-pointers. “I didn’t want to see it, but he was going to shoot it anyways,” Smart said. “You don’t find too many guys who love to rebound but can also shoot from distance. He’s a unique guy.” Smart said he told Cousins if he wanted to shoot from long distance he needed to work on those shots.”

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