Around The World: March 18, 2014

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Trail Blazers: Running The Break

“Absolutely. The Blazers are always better when Nicolas Batum is playing well and being aggressive. They need that from him when the team is at full health, and they need it even more when the anchor of their offense is sidelined. It’s hard to ask Batum to do more, but if he can find a way to be even more of a facilitator while LA recovers, it might take some of the offensive burden off Damian. Currently, Dame is responsible for initiating the offense and doing most of the scoring. Having Nic bring the ball up the court and work as a high post distributor frees Lillard up to do some scoring off the ball. ”

Trail Blazers: Trail Blazers Vs. Bucks Preview

“The Bucks lost their fourth in a row Sunday, 101-92 at home to Charlotte. Brandon Knight had 21 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, but the Bobcats shot 57.4 percent, second highest for a Milwaukee opponent this season.”

Trail Blazers: On The Clock With Wesley Matthews

“I think it's an important stat only if that's the only way you can play defense. If you can't defend without stealing the ball, then it's not very good. We would like to get more steals, but at the same time, we're more in the business of forcing tough shots and defensive rebounding the ball, making them take the shots that we want them to take and not putting ourselves out of position trying to get steals. A couple years ago the Packers were No. 1 in the NFL in takeaways but their defense was terrible. So if you're not taking the ball away, they're scoring. I'm not a Packer fan. Make sure you add that I'm not a Packer fan.”

Oregon Live: Trail Blazers Welcome Milwaukee Bucks, Riding A 4-Game Losing Streak To Portland: About The Opponent

“A bright spot in an otherwise forgettable season for the Bucks has been rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo, the 15th pick in the 2013 NBA draft affectionately known as the Greek Freak. Antetokounmpo (pronounced YAHN-iss ah-deh-toh-KOON-boh), a 6-10 small forward (he's already grown an inch since draft day) from Greece, has reached phenom status thanks to his incredible versatility, length (7-3 wingspan), athleticism and raw potential.”

Rip City Project: Opponent Appreciation: Giannis Antetokounmpo

“Beyond that, he’s an incredibly charismatic young man. He doesn’t care that he plays in Milwaukee, he just cares that he plays. He has the support of his family, and he supports them. Antetokounmpo once sent all the money he had back to Greece and then began running from his home to the Bradley center for a game because he had no money left for cab fare. Some fans pulled over when they recognized him, and he didn’t hesitate to climb into the backseat of their Honda Fit for a ride. How cool is that?’’

Rip City Project: Guess Who's Back

“Still, just being around the team has its benefits. Crabbe will continue to learn by watching, albeit more slowly than doing. He is also available to practice with the Trail Blazers, which cannot be ignored as constructive. The slow start to Crabbe’s NBA career will eventually pick up steam, but there will be no snowballing until he’s given the proper push. All we can do is wait and recognize that his time has not yet come.”

Ball Don't Lie: Michael Jordan Thinks Phil Jackson Can Be A Success In New York

“It is worth wondering if Jackson will be able to weave the same sort of magic that sometimes had his Bulls and Lakers teams on the same page in the New York front office. For one, those Chicago and Los Angeles teams weren’t always as harmonious as Wikipedia pages would have you believe – from superstar to middling starter to role player, many of Jackson’s players complained about playing time, shot selection, and his decision-making as coach. Even in the championship years, there was tumult.’’

Ball Don't Lie: Sixers GM Sam Hinkie Drove Evan Turner To The Airport After His Trade To The Pacers

"Jokes aside, Turner's comments speak to why Hinkie's hands-off style sometimes make more sense for an executive, particularly one who plans on overhauling the roster. Although Turner may have bristled at his non-relationship with Hinkie early in the season, it proved useful at the time of the trade. Hinkie could give Turner a ride to the airport as a business associate doing a now-former colleague a favor -- there was little emotion in play. Given the demands of professional basketball and the regular transactions within, that approach seems all the more practical than that of Thorn under the same circumstances. On the other hand, Hinkie's manner might turn players off once the team has a core in place. As ever, different scenarios demand different approaches and organizational philosophies."

CNNSI: Clippers Pinning Titles Hopes On Evolving Blake Griffin

“On Monday, one night after Griffin celebrated his 25th birthday, he had his 27th straight game of 20 points or more. The surge dates to mid-January, when Paul was rehabbing his separated shoulder, and Griffin appeared emboldened by the floor general's absence. Savoring his newfound freedom, Griffin became the Clippers' primary playmaker, even pushing the ball down the court, then posting up and finally unleashing the mid-range jumper that used to be his bugaboo. He scored 43 against Miami, 36 against Denver, 36 against Toronto. Then Paul returned, but Griffin's confidence remained, and he hung another 36 on Portland and 35 on San Antonio.”

ESPN Blake Griffin: Two-Man MVP Race

"No, I think the MVP race is a two-man race," Griffin said. "The stretch of games that we've played and we've been successful has been a huge team effort. Jamal Crawford was playing out of his mind before he got hurt and guys have stepped up and really done their part. With our team I don't think it's one guy that's making us go."

ESPN: Don't Sleep On East Darkhorses

“I get it: How can a No. 3 seed qualify as a dark horse? But even with the East's third-best record (38-27), the Raptors have been flying a bit under the radar. When sizing up the biggest threats in the East to take down the Heat or Pacers, history is on the side of the Chicago Bulls and Brooklyn Nets. We have seen Joakim Noah, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Tom Thibodeau make title runs. These Raptors, though, have never been down this road before, so our brains don't have anything from which to draw.”

Grantland: Wheel Of Misfortune

“That distinction gets blurry, and it has never mattered as much to me as it has to some analysts. Coaches might not employ dumb strategies to lose games, but they absolutely “rest” key players down the stretch to decrease their chances of winning games. That’s a top-down edict, and lots of teams have been constructed top-down with the clear goal of losing. The Sixers are only the most recent example, though they are an especially egregious one. They didn’t just trade Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes for second-round picks, or to avoid losing Turner without compensation1 to free agency; they traded those players to maximize their odds at getting the no. 1 pick in this draft. It doesn’t really matter that Hollis Thompson and Brandon Davies are trying as hard as they can. The Sixers are trying to lose. They’re not the first team to do so; they’re just doing it really well.”

CBS: In A Tough Season, Brian Shaw Has Kept Nuggets 'On The Rope'

“So when I showed up a few days later for what would turn out to be disappointing losses to the Kings and Blazers, I expected to find Shaw gear down a bit. Instead, Shaw lit up his guys again pregame and then again postgame. You can say what you want about Brian Shaw; the guy's not backing down from anyone and is going to be honest and fair with his criticism. He tempered his criticism of Faried with praise earlier in the season, but when he lit into his team this time, there were no specific players called out. It was on the team. ”

SLAM: Post-Up: Houston Blasts Off

"Even with Dwight Howard missing his first game of the season, Houston still cruised to a 38-point victory. That was not a typo. Houston shot 58.2 percent rom from the field and 52 percent from downtown. Terrence Jones had a game-high 30 points, while adding 4 blocks, and looked very comfortable dribbling to the rack out of the high post. Omer Asik stepped in and posted a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds and 1 big block on a Jeremy Evans dunk attempt in place of Howard. Houston’s ball movement was impeccable, with the Rockets often having all five players touch the ball in the half-court before scoring. Kevin McHale’s club finished with 31 assists on the night"

SLAM: Beal's Street

“Today, it may sound outlandish to say out loud, but consider: The position is thinner than ever, and Beal plays it like a prototypical 2. As greats like Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade and Manu Ginobili begin to fade to black, Beal will assume a spot among the top options at shooting guard, challenging contemporaries like James Harden, and maybe DeMar DeRozan, Klay Thompson or Victor Oladipo. He has plenty to work on, sure, but he already has a silky J, can finish at the rim and, in his second NBA campaign, has shown a killer instinct that’s propelled a once-laughable Wizards team to new heights. At just 20 years old, he’s also four years younger than Harden and DeRozan, three younger than Thompson and one year younger than Oladipo. Marinate on that for a minute.”