Russell Westbrook is a stat stuffing machine

March, 26, 2017
Mar 26
1:40
PM ET
By ESPN.com
ESPN.com

videoTom Haberstroh goes inside the numbers to reveal how Russell Westbrook's season triple double may come without even having to play the fourth quarter.

Tom Haberstroh, Kevin Pelton, BIG Wos, Zach Harper and Kaileigh Brandt answer listener questions from Twitter.

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Ethan Strauss, Zach Harper and Tim Bontemps debate Russell Westbrook as MVP, an update on the Warriors and Kevin Durant, plus some Jazz and Cavs talk.

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Tom Haberstroh, Tim MacMahon, Michael Wright and Calvin Watkins debate Harden vs. Kawhi, playoff hopes and airport food. With ombudsman Ethan Strauss and Andrew Han.

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Inside the 'Tinderization' of today's NBA

March, 23, 2017
Mar 23
4:56
PM ET
Haberstroh By Tom Haberstroh
ESPN.com
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video

THE GATEKEEPER OF America's most popular nightclub is a 33-year-old man known to NBA players simply as "Purple." And tonight he's busy. A former high school dropout who rose to become the go-to guy for nightlife in Miami, on this night Purple gets a text, makes some arrangements, and now he's meeting his "friends" through a secret side door of the famous LIV nightclub, the portal to an underground network beneath the famed Fontainebleau hotel in Miami Beach.

"Ever seen the movie 'Goodfellas,' when he takes his girl underground?" Purple asks. "They love the whole walking underground thing."

Purple's friend is an NBA star, and that star emerges from the shadowy labyrinth to a packed, 18,000-square-foot nightclub and a dance floor full of beautiful people. Confetti falls from the ceiling. Air horns blare. The industry's top DJ shouts on the mic announcing the player's presence while he and his friends are ushered by security to the club's top table. Bottles of Hennessy cognac, Don Julio 1942 tequila and Armand de Brignac champagne, a bottle famously known as the Ace of Spades, all appear. (After winning the 2011 title, Dirk Nowitzki was photographed drinking from a 6-liter bottle of Ace of Spades, which Mark Cuban purchased for a cool $90,000.)

"Whenever they come to Miami," Purple says, "they already know who to hit up."

Stars posing with Purple on his Instagram feed include everyone from LeBron James to Scottie Pippen; Gucci Mane to Justin Bieber; Johnny Manziel to Odell Beckham Jr.; Khloe Kardashian to Jeremy Piven. For the price of a five-figure sum, Purple customizes the finest detail to a player's liking, everything from the type of drinks to the type of music -- even the type of women. It is, as Purple calls it, "the VIP treatment."

Welcome to the world of top-shelf partying, where the NBA player can come to revel in his hard-earned fame and fortune. It's everything you think of when you imagine the star-athlete lifestyle. And the only thing that's surprising about it? It's happening, these days, far less than you think.

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Tom Haberstroh, Amin Elhassan, Kevin Pelton, BIG Wos and Zach Harper on rest, Ibaka-Lopez, LaVar Ball vs. LeBron James, recovery, NBA partying, Vince Carter and exercise.

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The NBA's secret addiction

March, 22, 2017
Mar 22
8:34
AM ET
Holmes By Baxter Holmes
ESPN.com
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Dwight Eschliman for ESPN

THE LEGEND HAS been passed down by NBA generations, chronicled like a Homeric odyssey. The tale they tell is of Kevin Garnett and the 2007-08 Celtics, and the seminal moment of a revolution. Bryan Doo, Celtics strength and conditioning coach, recalls it as if it were yesterday, how before a game in December of that season, an unnamed Celtic -- his identity lost to history, like the other horsemen on Paul Revere's midnight ride -- complained to Doo of incipient hunger pangs.

"Man, I could go for a PB&J," the player said.

And then Garnett, in an act with historical reverberations, uttered the now-fabled words: "Yeah, let's get on that."

Garnett had not, to that point, made the PB&J a part of his pregame routine. But on that night in Boston, as Doo recalls, Garnett partook, then played ... and played well. Afterward, from his perch as the Celtics' fiery leader, Garnett issued the following commandment: "We're going to need PB&J in here every game now."

And so a sandwich revolution was born.

At the time, Doo notes, the Celtics not only didn't provide lavish pregame spreads, they didn't offer much food at all. But he soon found himself slapping together 20 PB&J's about three hours before every tip-off, the finished products placed in bags and labeled with Sharpie in a secret code: "S" for strawberry, "G" for grape, "C" for crunchy. Of vital import: Garnett was an "S" man, and woe unto he who did not deliver him two S's before every game. "If Kevin didn't get his routine down, he'd be pissed," Doo says. "Even if he didn't eat them, he needed them to be there."

From Doo's perspective, PB&J's were a far better option than players seeking out, say, greasy junk food from arena concessions. "It was a win-win for everybody," he says. But as the Garnett-Paul Pierce-Ray Allen Celtics steamrolled to a 66-win season and an NBA title, the secret to their success, so cleverly disguised between two pieces of white bread, was eventually leaked. "Boston was doing it at a mass-produced level earlier on than I noticed other people doing it, for sure," says Tim DiFrancesco, the Lakers' strength and conditioning coach since 2011. "They were really on the forefront of this revolution." In time, as visiting teams swung through Boston, opposing players caught wind that a new day had dawned. DiFrancesco recalls hearing from his troops during a visit: "Wait a minute, there's PB&J's in the Celtics' locker room? Can we get some?" Doo's colleagues around the league were less effusive. "B-Doo, I can't believe you did this for the guys," one told him. "Now you got me making them."

There was no putting the jelly back in the jar. Over the course of the following seasons, as that Celtics championship run ran its course, the pieces of that team would be spread far and wide: Pierce and Garnett migrating the PB&J down I-95 to Brooklyn; Glen "Big Baby" Davis converting the Orlando Magic; Tony Allen spreading the bug to Memphis; coach Doc Rivers bringing the virus across the country to infect the Clippers.

And nothing would ever be the same.

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Shot blocking 101 and the art of the contest

March, 22, 2017
Mar 22
8:20
AM ET
Thorpe By David Thorpe
ESPN.com
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videoIn this excerpt from "Basketball is Jazz," David Thorpe outlines the strategy to productive shot blocking, when to simply contest a shot and understanding the difference between the two.


The single smartest nugget of basketball knowledge I ever heard was from Hubie Brown, who taught that screens are set for one reason -- to make defenders think. It’s pure genius. I could spend an hour discussing its merits. It challenged me to come up with something that perhaps could be that simple yet that insightful. I’m not saying this is as good as what he said -- only that’s it the cleanest and best advice I can offer on any one subject.

Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports


When it comes to blocking shots, I have a simple rule; block the shot of the player that does not see you, settle for a good contest on a shot where the player knows where you are.

If players just abided by this strategy, they’d foul a lot less and offenses would score far less often. Even NBA players struggle to make shots against a good contest. In high school and below, I’d bet most any player would make less than half of any contested shots he takes in a season. Many would struggle to make 30 percent of them.

There are too many crafty offensive players now who know how to get defenders to jump, and that helps them draw a foul, beat the jumping defender to the rim, or both. Our simple call is to “wall up and tall up.” Build a wall side to side, then tall up with outstretched arms once the shot is about to be taken.

That does not mean you can’t block the shot of the person you are guarding, or the driver who you are helping onto who sees you coming. Just don’t make it a goal. Be happy with the competitive contest. If they shoot the ball into your outstretched hand, great. The key is not jumping. And getting that hand or hands as high as possible against a regular shot.

TrueHoop Pod: The great DNP-Rest debate continued

March, 22, 2017
Mar 22
7:32
AM ET
By ESPN.com
ESPN.com

Brian Windhorst, Tom Haberstroh, Tim MacMahon and Tim Bontemps on the debate that's sweeping across the NBA... resting players, specifically during national TV games.

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Pablo Torre, BIG Wos, Tom Haberstroh and Baxter Holmes on the NBA's secret addiction, peanut butter and jelly and also the effects of alcohol in today's game.

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Amn Elhassan, BIG Wos, Mariano Bivins, Curtis Harris on LaVar Ball, the Warriors, Durant and OKC, Shaq's flat Earth comment, and later Black Tray on Drake's 'More Life'

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TrueHoop Pod: The Friday Mailbag - Art and opportunity

March, 18, 2017
Mar 18
8:09
AM ET
By ESPN.com
ESPN.com

Kevin Pelton, BIG Wos, Kaileigh Brandt, Justin Verrier, Zach Harper, Cian Fahey and briefly Tom Haberstroh answer listener questions via Twitter.

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The making of Rudy Gobert

March, 17, 2017
Mar 17
8:33
AM ET
MacMahon By Tim MacMahon
ESPN.com
Archive

video

SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert crouches in a defensive stance just inside the 3-point line, far from his preferred territory. There are less than three minutes left in a game the Jazz lead 78-73. He's guarding DeMarcus Cousins, the high-scoring center whose highlight-producing skill set factored into Gobert missing his first All-Star invitation.

It feels like everyone in Vivint Smart Home Arena knows Cousins will attack Gobert. Down five, Cousins' Pelicans need a bucket, and Cousins is among the league's best bucket-getters. Cousins makes his move: a dribble to his left, bringing him to the top of the key, then a nimble crossover followed by devastating power move, dropping his shoulder into his 7-foot-1 defender. Gobert mirrors Cousins' early maneuvers, moving laterally, extending some of the NBA's longest arms straight up and then -- surprise! -- turbo backpedals as Cousins charges forward, expecting contact. Cousins stumbles, flinging up a wild shot that fails to draw iron.

Cousins sits on the floor, scowling at the referee as Gobert grabs the rebound and shovels the ball to teammate Gordon Hayward. Gobert then sprints the floor, seamlessly flowing into a high pick-and-roll with his All-Star teammate. The Jazz get a clean look at a 3, which misses, but Gobert dives down the middle of the lane, slices under All-Star game MVP Anthony Davis and uses his full length to tip in the missed 3.

Gobert ends up with 15 points, 16 rebounds, two blocks and the win.

Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey believes a big man like Gobert, if he is committed to dominating with simplicity, can anchor a contender. And that's the plan he laid out to Gobert and his agent. "We hope," Lindsey says, "that he's the Utah Jazz version of Bill Russell."

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Inside the numbers on LeBron's crazy workload

March, 17, 2017
Mar 17
8:26
AM ET
Haberstroh By Tom Haberstroh
ESPN.com
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video

When it comes to the value of rest, the NBA has had an awakening. Coaches are using DNP-Rest (did not play, resting) at a record pace in 2016-17, nearly twice as often as in 2015-16. The outlier? LeBron James, who in his 14th season ranks among NBA leaders in minutes per game. If he were to suddenly retire -- that's when he told reporters he'd finally slow down -- he'd already have logged more career minutes than Michael Jordan or Bill Russell. Here's a look at how James refuses to slow down, for better or worse.


A RELUCTANT CHANGE

One area in which James lags behind the league? Resting. In his first 12 seasons, he took only nine total DNP-Rests -- all in April, near season's end. Last season he took a game off in December, then four more after that. This season? He's already taken four. It's an evolution, but not at the NBA's record pace.

*Season shortened by lockout **Projected

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Ramona Shelburne, Rachel Nichols, Michelle Beadle and Cassidy Hubbarth on the Spurs-Warriors dud and resting players, MVPs, Fifty Shades of Grey, Game of Thrones and more.

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