Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Dante Exum thrives as 2014 NBA draft's mystery man


NEW YORK — Dante Exum knows no one knows much about him.
In fact, the Australian recited the two most common requests he's gotten over the past few months from strangers, NBA personnel and reporters alike: Could he describe his game, and could he also compare it to that of a current NBA player?
Welcome to life as the 2014 NBA draft's mystery man.
"It's funny," Exum said Wednesday. "I didn't understand it at first. It's good to be known, but it's good to be a mystery."

A convergence of factors — many unexpectedly fortuitous — have combined to create this aura surrounding a relatively unknown player. And now, many are expecting Exum to be a top-five pick in Thursday's draft.
He said Wednesday he's only worked out for three teams — the Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers and Orlando Magic, holding the second, third and fourth picks — but his agent also has been in contact with the Cleveland Cavaliers, who hold the draft's top pick. It's almost mind-boggling for an international player not yet 19 years old, someone off most everyone's radars not even 14 months ago.
To understand Exum's dramatic rise and subsequent hype, begin with two basketball events.
In April 2013, the then-17-year-old Exum put on a show at the Nike Hoop Summit in Portland, Ore., scoring 16 points and stealing some of the spotlight from the big-name players also participating in one particular game — which also featured likely top-10 picks Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle.
"(But) not a lot of people were paying attention because it looked like he was going to college," ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla said earlier this week.

Jazz match Hornets' offer, bring back Gordon Hayward

The Utah Jazz weren't willing to let Gordon Hayward get away.
Nine months after failing to get an extension done with their young guard, the Jazz matched the Charlotte Hornets' four-year, $63 million offer to their restricted free agent and will now bring him back to their rebuilding team. And while it had seemed as if the 24-year-old Hayward may have been ready for a change of scenery, his agent, Mark Bartelstein, said that – while he was flattered and impressed with the Hornets' group – he's more than happy to return to Utah on this deal.
"Charlotte put a great presentation in front of (Hayward), as far as (owner) Michael Jordan and (general manager) Rich Cho and (coach) Steve Clifford; I mean they really just made a terrific impression," Bartelstein told NBASPORT UPDATES. "And you know, it's great to know the Jazz think so highly of Gordon that they want to match it. So I think it's a win-win, you know? Charlotte made an incredible impression on him, and that's why he signed with them, and it's always great to know that your team values you that they would match an offer like that.
"(Hayward is) very thankful to Charlotte, and appreciate and that won't be forgotten. For the Jazz, I think they made a strong statement about how they feel about Gordon and now he'll come and play his heart out for them as he always has."
Hayward averaged 16.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game last season, but the Jazz went just 25-57. Yahoo Sports first reported that the Jazz decided to match Charlotte's offer to Hayward.

Dante Exum and all, Jazz trying not to project too far

LAS VEGAS — Utah Jazz rookie guard Dante Exum turned 19 Sunday. Big man Derrick Favors celebrated his 23rd birthday Tuesday.
Point guard Trey Burke and rookie forward Rodney Hood are 21; big men Enes Kanter and Rudy Gobert are 22; and guard Alec Burks turns 23 next Sunday.
Swingman Gordon Hayward, who signed a four-year, $63 million deal this month, is 24. Get him in line for an AARP card.
With all that promise on the Jazz roster, it's easy to fast forward two years and project how good they could become. But general manager Dennis Lindsey knows that's impossible.
"I've said this before: We really don't want to skip steps with any of this," Lindsey said.

Cavaliers coach David Blatt can't believe his good fortune

LAS VEGAS – Two months ago, David Blatt was on top of the world when led undermanned Maccabi Tel Aviv to stunning upsets over CSKA Moscow and Real Madrid for the Euroleague championship.
Three weeks ago, he was on top of the world when the Cleveland Cavaliers hired him as head coach, making him the first European-based person to get a head coaching job in the NBA.
CONTRACT: Why LeBron signed two-year deal with Cavaliers
HOMECOMING: LeBron to Cleveland is bigger than basketball
Three days ago, he was on top of the world when NBA superstar LeBron James announced he would return to Cleveland to play for the Cavaliers.
"I've been parachuting from mountain top to mountain top in the last two months," Blatt told USA TODAY Sports.
So, who is David Blatt, the man who is going to coach LeBron James?
Blatt, who was born in 1959 in Framingham, Mass., is regarded as one the best basketball minds in the world. His journey from Framingham to Cleveland is remarkable and compelling.
He played at Princeton for legendary coach Pete Carril and embarked on a professional basketball career in Israel and then began his coaching career in Israel in 1993. He remained in Europe to coach in Israel, Russia, Italy, Turkey and Greece until the Cavs hired him.
"The Cavaliers are getting a guy who is one of the most creative coaching minds in the world," ESPN analyst and international basketball expert Fran Fraschilla said. "Most of the things that made him incredibly successful in Europe will translate to the NBA.His styles of play have varied based on the type of talent he has had."
It was that basketball mind that got the Cavaliers' attention. That is what they were looking for to lead a team desperately trying to become competitive again.
"More than anything else, the thing that spoke to us about David is his mind for the game," Cavaliers general manager David Griffin said. "He's unique. People said the hire's outside of the box. Dave is an innovator and he's somebody who's not afraid to try new things and he's somebody who has such a thorough understanding of the game from Xs and Os standpoint and human element, it was a perfect blend for us."
As a teenager, Blatt was an athlete but also participated in the choir and student government in high school. At Princeton, he studied English literature.
"I didn't grow up in a nuclear family but I was always surrounded by really good people who influenced me and then I met and became attached to different situations from different facets of life," Blatt said. "I did a lot of different things and was always finding myself in different environments and it's something I came to be comfortable with and that I liked."

Power ranking the top 5 players in the World Cup

The World Cup has been absolutely thrilling so far, and there have been tons of brilliant performances. Here are my power rankings for top 5 players in the tournament so far.

5. Guillermo Ochoa

AFP Photo

A year ago the Mexican national team was in absolute shambles. They were going through new coaches seemingly every week, and they barely qualified for the World Cup, needing the United States to help them out by beating Panama to get them a play-in game with New Zealand to qualify for Brazil. But now that they’re here…
Mexico has been a revelation, and their best player has been goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa. Ochoa grabbed headlines when he stonewalled an explosive Brazilian team, making several point blank saves to deny Neymar and the rest of Brazil. Ochoa is out of a contract soon — a lot of teams will be offering him big bucks to come join them.

4. James Rodriguez


James Rodriguez flew a bit under the radar heading in to this tournament. All anyone could talk about in regards to Colombia was the absence of star Radamel Falcao and how much the team would miss him.
Forget that. Colombia has been arguably the most exciting team so far this tournament, led by the playmaking brilliance of Rodriguez. He plays his club football for AS Monaco in France, so it’s rare to catch him on TV in the States. (I’d only see YouTube clips of him before this World Cup.) It’s time to get to know him. He’s been colombia best player, and easily one of the five best players so far this World Cup, logging 3 goals and 2 assists in the first three games.
Oh yeah, he’s also 22 years old.

3. Neymar


All the pressure was on Neymar heading into this World Cup. The star player on Brazil’s most promising team in years, Neymar had to deal with the weight of an excited host nation demanding a deep run.
So far, he’s been totally brilliant, scoring 4 goals  and carrying a sometimes shaky Brazil team to the top spot in Group A. Plus that hair. Oh, the hair.


2. Arjen Robben


Arjen Robben has one move. He starts out on the right, and then he cuts inside to the left. Anyone who’s ever watched Robben knows that it is his move. Every player on the field knows that it is Robben’s move. When you watch him, you scream out at the TV, “HE’S GOING TO CUT INSIDE TO HIS LEFT.”
You know he’s going to do it, the defender knows he’s going to do it, and everyone in the stadium knows he’s going to do it.
And then he does it. No one knows how. But he does it. He’s got three goals and an assist for a Dutch team that looks primed for a deep run. Fear the inside cut. It’s coming.

1. Lionel Messi



Argentina has never *really* warmed up to Lionel Messi. He left at a young age for Spain because his club team in Argentina wouldn’t help him with medical issues and the Spanish club would. He under-performed at last World Cup. Argentina has always been a Maradona nation — think of Maradona as Michael Jordan, and Messi as LeBron James, and you might get an idea what his relationship is like with his country.
Argentina needs to get over themselves. Messi has lived up to any and all hype this World Cup, scoring 4 goals in the group stage, including a stoppage time laser that catapulted them to a 1-0 victory over Iran. He’s scored big goals when he’s needed to, and the best player in the world looks to be at the top of his game.

Honorable Mentions:

Robin Van Persie, Gervinho, Karim Benzema, Enner Valencia

Dwyane Wade will stay with the Miami Heat

Free-agent guard Dwyane Wade will return to the Miami Heat, a person familiar with the deal told NBA SPORT UPDATES Sports on Tuesday.
The person requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly after the deal became official.

On Tuesday, Wade posted a photo of himself in a Heat warmup suit during the national anthem and wrote "Home is where the heart is. My Home, My City, My House. .. #HeatLifer."
There wasn't much doubt Wade would return even though his friend LeBron James decided to leave Miami for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

No guarantee Donald Sterling will be out by NBA season

LAS VEGAS -- NBA Commissioner Adam Silver continued to express confidence that the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers would eventually go through, but admitted that it might not be by the start of next season.
Silver, speaking after the league's latest Board of Governor's meetings at the Wynn hotel, said the extensive legalities in the Donald Sterling saga could delay the transfer of ownership to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer that was agreed upon on May 30 for a league record $2 billion.
The hearing to determine whether Donald's estranged wife, Shelly, was within her right to sell the team is currently on hold, with proceedings scheduled to continue on Monday and closing arguments set for July 28.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

NBA free agency notebook: Who got better, and who didn’t?

( Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports)Opening up the remaining doors from the NBA’s Let’s Make A Deal weekend:
– Just in case this green-green-grass-of-home thing doesn’t work out, LeBron James can opt out of his Cleveland contract same time next year, and it’s a 2-year deal regardless. The stated reason for his temporary commitment, which will not quite take him to the end of the Obama administration, is that James can then sign a bigger deal with his beloved Cavaliers when the NBA’s TV contracts get renegotiated. No reason to disbelieve the man. But the last two times James was on the market, he changed markets.
– Provided it signs Dwyane Wade, Miami won’t fall off the map. The Heat kept Chris Bosh and signed Luol Deng, who is useful on many fronts. Deng might not be a King, but he did go to Duke.
– Paul Pierce left the Nets after one year and signed with the Wizards, where he can at least tell, if not show, his teammates where a championship lies. After all, if there’s one town that could use some Truth, it’s Washington, D.C.
– Optimists in Lakerland were originally figuring they would welcome James to Staples Center to join Kobe Bryant in a great renewal. These are the same people who think the Lakers will eventually wind up with Kevin Love and Kevin Durant somehow, with Mike Krzyzewski coaching and Magic Johnson as principal owner. Instead the Lakers became the receptacle for Jeremy Lin so that Houston could chase its dreams. Then they lost Pau Gasol, one of Bryant’s best friends. Their money isn’t any good these days and neither, apparently, is their pedigree.
– The Bulls were already the most likeable team in the NBA because of their commando work ethic and their refusal to acknowledge excuses. They just became more likeable with Gasol. Can you recall a better big-man passing combo than Gasol and Joakim Noah, especially since Gasol has always been at home in the low post?
– The Spurs did nothing and appear to have gained on everybody.
– And with all the talk of legends bringing it all back home, will the Wizards be tampering If they gently start reminding Durant where his district is?

Pistons land D.J. Augustin and Caron Butler

The Detroit Pistons continued their run of low-key free agent acquisitions late Sunday night, when they reached agreements with point guard D.J. Augustin and small forward Caron Butler, according to two people with knowledge of the situation.
Augustin will be on the books for two years at $6 million; Butler will make $4.5 million next season with a team option for a second season.

Augustin, 26, is coming off a resurgent season with the Bulls. He excelled off the bench in scoring 14.9 points per game and shot 41.1% from the three-point line.
The six-year NBA veteran started off shaky, being cut loose by the Toronto Raptors early on but caught on with the Bulls and now joins a Pistons backcourt crowded in point guard experience.
He is an 88% free throw shooter.
Butler, 34, is a 12-year veteran and has seen better days since he was a 20-point per game scorer for the Wizards. But he will be expected to provide locker room leadership.
The Pistons are Butler's eighth team and fifth since 2010-11. He is a 43.5% shooter lifetime, with a points-per-game average just over 15 for his career.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Team USA announces training camp roster

With the FIBA World Cup in Spain six weeks away, Team USA announced its training camp roster on Monday.
There is a gold standard again for the group that's headed by national team managing director Jerry Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski, who led Team USA to gold medals in the 2008 Olympics, 2010 FIBA World Cup and the 2012 Olympics as well. This list of 19 will meet in Las Vegas for training camp from July 28 to August 1, then be whittled down to 12 for the final roster that will head to Spain. If Team USA wins gold at the World Cup, they'll receive an automatic qualification to the 2016 Olympics and won't have to take part in the 2015 World Cup.
Team USA is somewhat light at the point guard spot, in large part because Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook decided not to play for precautionary health reasons and Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul is not taking part. Both players are expected to be in the mix for 2016, and other players – such as the Washington Wizards' John Wall, as has been reported – could still be added.
Still, the reappearance of the Chicago Bulls' Derrick Rose will be a major point of attraction. The former MVP has played in just 49 games in the past two seasons because of devastating ACL and meniscus injuries, but appears on track to use the World Cup as the site of his highly-anticipated return. Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant became accustomed to playing without Westbrook for much of the 2013-14 season, and he'll look to lead this group again after setting a Team USA record for total points scored (153) in the 2012 Olympics.
What's more, Kevin Love finally has clarity on which team he'll be playing for in the future – at least in international play. The Minnesota Timberwolves forward is widely expected to be traded, but he'll focus on the national team challenge in these late summer months while the nonstop chatter surrounding his NBA fate surely continues. There are two new additions to this group: small forward Chandler Parsons, who is now a member of the Dallas Mavericks; and Toronto shooting guard DeMar DeRozan.
There are a number of other stars listed in the 28-man group announced in January who are not taking part, from the Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James (whose international career is likely over) to the Houston Rockets' Dwight Howard to the Portland Trailblazers' LaMarcus Aldridge and the San Antonio Spurs' Kawhi Leonard. That doesn't preclude them from being on the 2016 Olympic team, however, and Leonard specifically is known to still be in that mix.
"This group possesses outstanding individual talents, while also boasting of excellent versatility and varying amounts of USA Basketball experience," said Colangelo, who has seen USA National teams compile a 62-1 record since taking charge of the USA Basketball Men's National Team program in 2005. "I am also pleased about the addition of DeMar DeRozan and Chandler Parsons to the USA National Team and to the 2014 training camp. Both played well in last summer's USA Basketball National Team mini-camp and went on to record outstanding NBA seasons.
"The Las Vegas training camp will be the start of our preparations for the World Cup, so this is a critical time for putting in place the foundation required for this USA Basketball team to be successful like its recent predecessors. This USA team will have a special opportunity to become the first USA team to repeat as world champions."

Point guards: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors; Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers; Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers; Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls.
Shooting guards: James Harden, Houston Rockets; DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors; Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards; Kyle Korver, Atlanta Hawks; Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors.
Small forwards: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder; Paul George, Indiana Pacers; Gordon Hayward, Utah Jazz; Chandler Parsons, Dallas Mavericks.
Power forwards: Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans; Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets; Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers; Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves.
Centers: DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings; Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons; Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans.

Chandler Parsons signs with Dallas Mavericks

The Rockets' decision was somewhat surprising, as they agreed to terms with free agent small forward Trevor Ariza Saturday and were believed to have plans of playing him with Parsons. Ariza was slated to spend most of his time at the small forward spot, with Parsons often playing the "stretch four" position in which the power forward plays on the perimeter and stretches the defense with his deft shooting. Instead, Ariza will be the Rockets' small forward and it appears third-year player Terrence Jones will be the power forward.
In another unforeseen development, Ariza is now expected to come to the Rockets by way of a sign-and-trade with the Washington Wizards that also involves the New Orleans Pelicans. The Rockets will get Ariza on his four-year, $32 million deal, while the Pelicans get center Omer Asik, forward Omri Casspi and cash from Houston and the Wizards get an $8.5 million trade exception and the nonguaranteed deal of Melvin Ely. The Asik deal had been previously agreed upon between Houston and New Orleans, and the Rockets will also receive a future first-round pick from the Pelicans.
The Rockets' summer has certainly not gone as they'd hoped, as they fell short in the pursuits of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh while agreeing to trade point guard Jeremy Lin and center Omer Asik in deals intended to create salary cap space for one of those players.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

LeBron's first public remarks since his big announcement

RIO DE JANEIRO — LeBron James is done making choices.
In his first appearance since announcing he was returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers, James said it's a toss-up between who's better, Lionel Messi or Neymar. He can't say who's going to win the World Cup final between Germany and Argentina, either.
"I think Germany has the better overall team. Argentina has one of the best players in the world, if not the best, with Messi," James said Saturday night during an appearance at Nike's "Casa Phenomenal." "That's why they play the game. We'll see what happens tomorrow.
"Hopefully it's a great one," he added.

Carmelo Anthony to stay with Knicks on 5-year contract

The 'Melo Mania is over.
Carmelo Anthony will stay with the New York Knicks.
The free agent small forward who was considering the Knicks, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks decided Saturday to sign a five-year contract with the Knicks, a person with knowledge of the situation told NBA Sports. After 11 NBA seasons, with seven All-Star appearances, 10 playoff appearances, one scoring title and zero championships, Anthony will continue his title pursuit alongside first-year Knicks President Phil Jackson.
The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the contract has not been made official.

Dan Gilbert tells how he and LeBron James mended fences

You shouldn't be known for the worst thing you ever did. As Dan Gilbert flew in a private plane to meet LeBron James last Sunday, he made notes about things to say, things he had been thinking about for four years, since the night James announced on national TV he was leaving Gilbert's Cleveland Cavaliers and taking "my talents to South Beach" and the Miami Heat.
Gilbert had watched this in Sun Valley, Idaho, then dashed to a computer and "in about 45 minutes" banged out an angry letter meant to reassure the fans. In it, he mocked the "King" and his nicknames, referred to his leaving as a "cowardly betrayal" and promised Cleveland would win a championship before James did.

LeBron James only takes 2-year contract with Cavaliers

LeBron James is regarded as the best player in the world and was the No. 1 free agent this summer. Now, he is looking out for No. 1.
James plans to sign a two-year, $42.2 million contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers, a person familiar with details of the deal told USA TODAY Sports. That will allow the NBA's biggest star to take advantage of the league's upcoming TV deal, which is expected to increase the value of max contracts.
The person also said this is strictly a business decision. James still is intent on finishing his career with the Cavaliers, as he said in his Sports Illustrated essay about the decision. The person requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the deal.

Rich Paul of Klutch Sports is James' agent, and Mark Termini leads contract negotiations for the Klutch.
James could have taken a four-year contract worth more than $88 million from the Cavs. But he now will be able to negotiate a better contract in two years and also has the choice to opt out after one season to renegotiate next summer. Player options only can come before the final season of a contract, another reason for the two-year deal.
The TV component is important and valuable. The NBA and players share basketball-related income (BRI) at a near 50-50 split, and TV revenue is included in BRI. The higher the BRI, the more money for players.

Chandler Parsons signs with Dallas Mavericks

The Dallas Mavericks finally landed Chandler Parsons on Sunday, when the Houston Rockets made the decision not to match his three-year, $46 million offer sheet.
A person with knowledge of the decision confirmed it to USA TODAY Sports, but spoke on the condition of anonymity because it had not yet been announced.

The Rockets' decision was somewhat surprising, as they agreed to terms with free agent small forward Trevor Ariza Saturday and were believed to have plans of playing him with Parsons. Ariza was slated to spend most of his time at the small forward spot, with Parsons often playing the "stretch four" position in which the power forward plays on the perimeter and stretches the defense with his deft shooting. Instead, Ariza will be the Rockets' power forward and it appears third-year forward Terrence Jones will be the power forward.
In another unforeseen development, Ariza is now expected to come to the Rockets by way of a sign-and-trade with the Washington Wizards on his four-year, $32 million deal. Houston will give Washington an $8.5 million trade exception in the deal.
The Rockets' summer has certainly not gone as they'd hoped, as they fell short in the pursuits of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh while agreeing to trade point guard Jeremy Lin and center Omer Asik in deals intended to create salary cap space for one of those players.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Pat Riley will keep Heat just fine without LeBron James

Miami Heat President Pat Riley didn't want to resort to Plan B.
But for a guy who just lost LeBron James to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Plan B doesn't look as disastrous later in the day Friday as it did hours earlier. Riley more than salvaged a tough, disappointing day for the Heat franchise, which won two championship while appearing in four consecutive NBA Finals with James.
He re-signed forward Chris Bosh to a five-year, $118 million deal closed in on re-signing Dwyane Wade and turned his focus on to free agent forward Luol Deng.

"While I am disappointed by LeBron's decision to leave Miami, no one can fault another person for wanting to return home," Riley said in a team release. "The last four years have been an incredible run for South Florida, Heat fans, our organization and for all of the players who were a part of it. LeBron is a fantastic leader, athlete, teammate and person, and we are all sorry to see him go.
"Over the last 19 years, since (Heat owner) Micky (Arison) and I teamed together, The Miami Heat has always been a championship organization. We've won multiple championships and competed for many others. Micky, (coach) Erik (Spoelstra) and I remain committed to doing whatever it takes to win and compete for championships for many years to come. We've proven that we can do it and we'll do it again."

Friday, 11 July 2014

Fans, police are gathering outside of LeBron's house in Ohio

AP Photo/Akron Beacon Journal, Karen SchielyThough LeBron James is in Las Vegas at his skills academy, Cavaliers fans have started gathering outside his house to wait for his announcement about whether he’ll be returning home or elsewhere next season.AP Photo/Akron Beacon Journal, Karen SchielyAP Photo/Akron Beacon Journal, Karen SchielyAP Photo/Akron Beacon Journal, Karen Schiely

Wizards' Marcin Gortat has no idea what happened to the pig on his Instagram

Marcin Gortat posted an Instagram photo with a pig on a leash going into a shopping center in Poland earlier this summer. It seemed like a totally Gortat-thing like to do: He’s hilarious, pro athletes have stranger pets and it was completely believable for those who are familiar with the Wizards player.
But in what we find to be a rather disappointing admission, he told Chad Dukes on Washington radio station 106.7 The Fan that the pig was not his.
And he doesn’t even know what happened to it.
Ok, first of all it wasn’t my pig, it was just picked for the picture,” Gortat said. “It’s kind of unbelievable, because we found the pig in a shopping center. Some people brought a pig to the shopping center. There was some kind of a charity event, raising money for animals, and they brought a pig.
“I couldn’t believe I’m actually looking at a pig. And my friend had to really pinch me and say listen, this is really a pig. So that’s why we decided to take a picture for Instagram. We thought we’re gonna make some noise, and actually, yeah, we really made it.”
Dukes asked: Does he still have the pig?
“No. I don’t know what happened with the pig. I hope she’s still alive. We just took a picture. It was a really strong pig. I had to donate $30 and grabbed the leash with the pig and it was funny because the pig was really pulling me. The trainer that was standing with the pig told me give her a little treat, I was like ‘no no I’ll leave the treats for you, you can do the feeding stuff.’”
Gortat then admitted he doesn’t even know the pig’s name.
The reason this is the most disappointing is that Gortat even said in the Instagram caption that it was his pig. Or implied it at least.
“Right here chilling with my puppy in shoping center in poland!” he wrote.
Next thing we’ll learn he never really drove an army truck.

Shelly Sterling: Donald booted from Barbara Walters show

LOS ANGELES -- The Sterling vs. Sterling probate drama will take a hiatus for a while after Shelly Sterling testified Thursday that Barbara Walters canceled an interview with Donald Sterling because of his erratic behavior at a hotel and that NBA commissioner Adam Silver might have cut a deal to reduce penalties if the disgraced Donald had agreed to sell the Los Angeles Clippers.
The trial, which could clear the way for Shelly, Donald's wife of 58 years, to complete a sale of the Clippers to billionaire former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, won't resume until July 21 because of attorney and judge scheduling issues. Judge Michael Levanas set closing arguments for July 28, and it is unknown how long Levanas will take to make a ruling.
The $2 billion sales agreement between Shelly and Ballmer has a Tuesday deadline, but also a provision to extend it to Aug. 15.
"I think the judge is doing everything he can to make sure we are going to get a decision before the Aug. 15 extension date," said Adam Streisand, Ballmer's lawyer. "I'm confident we're going to get this team sold within that time frame. I'm very excited about how it's going."
Shelly, called "a pig" by Donald at the end of Wednesday's testimony, showed up Thursday in good spirits, escorted by a bailiff. She joked with a couple of reporters outside the courtroom about not being allowed to answer any questions in the hallway.

Bulls still in Carmelo Anthony race with Knicks, Lakers

The 'Melo Mania isn't over just yet. And while the incumbent New York Knicks are considered the likely landing spot for free agent small forward Carmelo Anthony, they may have some reason to be concerned.
A person with knowledge of Anthony's situation confirmed reports that he still is considering the Chicago Bulls, though it's unclear where the Bulls, New York Knicks or Los Angeles Lakers are in the lead in these one-man sweepstakes. The Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets are considered out of the running, though Anthony is not known to have given any formal indication of that. The person spoke to NBASPORTUPDATES on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of the situation.

Report: Tucker, Suns agree to three-year deal

PHOENIX (AP) -- The Phoenix Suns have reached an agreement with forward P.J. Tucker on a three-year contract worth $16.5 million with the third year only partially guaranteed.
A person with knowledge of the situation confirmed the contract details on Thursday, requesting anonymity because the deal had not been officially announced.
Tucker was the top defender and acknowledged leader in the Suns' surprising turnaround last season. He was a restricted free agent and several teams had shown an interest in him.
Tucker's agreement was first reported by azcentral sports, which includes the Arizona Republic.
The person also confirmed that restricted free agent Isaiah Thomas visited the Suns on Thursday with more meetings set for Friday.
The Suns envision Thomas as a third point guard behind the double-point guard starting duo of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe.
Adding Thomas would create a crowd at point guard. The Suns also have Ish Smith, second-year pro Archie Goodwin and first-round draft pick Tyler Ennis at the position.
Thomas averaged 20.3 points and 6.3 assists last season with the Sacramento Kings, who are not expected to match any significant offer sheet he signs.
Phoenix, with a load of cap space and a talented young roster, made a long-shot run at LeBron James before turning its attention elsewhere.
The person emphasized that the talks with Thomas are unrelated to Bledsoe's situation.
Bledsoe is a restricted free agent but general manager Ryan McDonough has said the Suns would match any offer sheet he signs. The Suns are attempting to reach an agreement with Bledsoe before he inks any offer. Bledsoe's agent, Rich Paul, also represents James, and could be occupied by those negotiations.
Tucker was the heart of the energized Suns team that went 48-34 and just missed the playoffs in the tough Western Conference. Tucker, who played at Texas and helped recruit Kevin Durant to the Longhorns, was with Toronto as a rookie in 2006-07, then played in Israel, Ukraine, Greece, Italy and Germany before coming to the Suns in 2012.
The 6-foot-5 small forward started all but one game, averaging a career-high 9.4 points per game. He shot 39 percent from 3-point range, almost always from the corner.
Earlier, Phoenix lost forward Channing Frye, who agreed to a contract with the Orlando Magic.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

New coach, new level for Bulls' McDermott

As the son of a basketball coach, Doug McDermott has been around the game his entire life.
When his father, Greg, coached at Iowa State, he regularly attended practice. And while Doug, who attended Ames High School at the time, would have loved to play for the Cyclones, he didn’t get a lot of attention from Division I schools.
“I was kind of a late bloomer,” admits Doug. “I wasn’t getting recruited a lot.”
So the younger McDermott committed to attend the University of Northern Iowa. But when Greg left the Big 12 for Omaha, Nebraska, things changed.
“When he got the job at Creighton, I was fortunate enough to join him,” said Doug. “We had a great four years. I got a lot better under him and his staff.”
The entire McDermott family—parents Greg and Theresa, along with Doug’s siblings, Sydney and Nick—was on hand at the Berto Center Monday as the Bulls introduced their 2014 draft picks.
As he did on draft night, General Manager Gar Forman stated that the Bulls had targeted McDermott, someone who the team had been watching closely since his freshman year at Creighton. Chicago traded up to acquire him, sending the 16th and 19th picks and a 2015 second round pick to Denver for his rights and forward Anthony Randolph.
Forman sees McDermott as a great fit, bringing an uncanny ability to shoot the ball along with a versatile game, the ability to play inside or out, and a high basketball IQ.
For McDermott, it’s a level that few could have seen him reaching as recently as a few years ago.
“He developed quickly but Doug has put the time in,” said Greg. “It’s a unique story because he was a sixth man on his high school team as a junior. Six years later, he’s a lottery pick and that doesn’t happen very often.”
Doug credits high school teammate Harrison Barnes—then regarded as one of the country’s top prep player and now with the Golden State Warriors—for pushing him in all those competitive practices. It was Barnes’ work ethic that rubbed off on McDermott and ultimately made him a better player.
Still, though, the NBA was not something Doug or Greg thought possible—until after his freshman year of college.
That’s when Doug was one of 12 players selected to represent USA Basketball at the U19 FIBA World Championships in Riga, Latvia. A good showing there—Doug averaged 11.3 points and 6.1 rebounds—fueled his confidence. He also put on an additional 15-20 pounds of muscle which allowed him to finish through contact as well as extend his shooting range.
As a sophomore, Doug saw a significant increase in his production across the board. The NBA began to take notice. By the time he closed out his college career, the accolades and accomplishments had piled up: National Player of the Year. First Team-All American. Fifth in NCAA history with 3,150 career points, having passed the likes of Larry Bird and Oscar Robertson.
And through it all, there was Greg, Doug’s father and coach, who stayed on him to be his best, though it wasn’t always easy or enjoyable for either of them.
“There were definitely some tough days in practice,” said Doug. “Since I was his kid, he had to be a lot harder on me to set an example for the team. At first, that was hard to get used to. But by the time I was a senior, I really got used to it.”
The elder McDermott agreed: “It was a challenge at first. For 18 years, my voice was his father’s voice and overnight it became his coach’s voice.”
As both Greg and Doug looked back on the adjustment period and surely recalled some of the highest highs and lowest lows in their minds, both agree that it was an extremely rewarding experience at the end of the day.
Now, as McDermott joins the Bulls, it’s no longer Greg who will be working with him in practice or drawing up plays in the huddle. Still…
“He’ll always be my coach and my biggest critic,” said Doug with a smile. “I’ll have to deal with that the rest of my career. But it is what it is and we’ve had a lot of fun together. I’m excited to play for a new coach.”
That being said, Doug doesn’t expect playing for Chicago’s Tom Thibodeau to be any easier.
“It could be harder. I’ve heard some things from my dad that maybe Thibs won’t say to me,” laughed McDermott before turning serious. “I’ve got some pretty high expectations. I’m going in with an open mind. I know it’s going to be hard and I think it’s going to start today actually. I’m planning on getting a workout in this afternoon so we’ll see.”
As Greg watched his son enter the NBA world on Monday, the coach in him couldn’t help but envision Doug on the floor with the likes of Derrick Rose.
“Doug didn’t get many open shots in college,” stated Greg. “He had to work for everything he got and a lot of his three-point shots he had to catch and they’d be gone because he didn’t have much space. Derrick’s ability to create things off the dribble for himself and his teammates is going to allow Doug to get some open shots. And when he gets open shots, more than not he’s going to knock them down.”
“It’s pretty crazy,” said Doug. “I’m just excited to meet him right now. I’ll be like a little kid meeting him. I couldn’t ask for a better point guard. He draws so much attention and is so explosive. I feel like I can really play off a guy like that.

LeBron will face more heat if he spurns Cleveland again

The wound was real.
Not only the one inflicted by LeBron James on Cleveland Cavaliers fans when he skipped town in the summer of 2010 but also the gash on the head of the fan who never saw the second half of the prodigal son's return.
An ugly incident unfolded in the stands of the Quicken Loans Arena on Dec. 2, 2010, a surreal and surly night. While the middle-aged man was carried out through the back tunnels of the building, James and his new Miami Heat teammates applied a beating of a different kind.

Reports: Hayward agrees to max offer sheet from Hornets

Gordon Hayward
The free-agent spending spree reached a new level of intrigue when the Hornets and Gordon Hayward agreed on a four-year contract worth a reported $63 million, a maximum deal that will severely test the long-standing Jazz promise to match any Hayward offer sheet.

A player option for the fourth year of the deal and a 15 percent trade kicker are expected to be included in the offer sheet, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Both would be considered incentives to dissuade the Jazz from matching the sheet, but Utah officials have remained adamant they will match any sheet for Hayward – including a max offer.
Agent Mark Bartelstein aggressively courted the market for an offer sheet for Hayward, discussing deals with several teams – including Cleveland, Phoenix and Boston – but ultimately reached the deal with Charlotte on Tuesday. There was doubt within the league whether Bartelstein could secure a max offer for Hayward, but he found a willing suitor with the Hornets.

Charlotte is negotiating with free agent Marvin Williams to replace Josh McRoberts at power forward, but those talks could be on hold while Utah is working to match the offer sheet.
Hayward, 24, will sign the offer sheet when the free-agent moratorium is lifted on Thursday, and league rules will give Utah three days to make a decision on matching the deal.
Several other teams had called Utah to inquire about the possibility of sign-and-trade deals if they signed Hayward to an offer sheet, but Charlotte never did, sources tell Yahoo Sports. The Hornets are short of the kind of young frontline talent that would appeal to teams in such a deal.
The Hornets had made it an offseason priority to add scoring and especially on the wing, a primary reason they looked hard at two of the best shooters in the draft, Doug McDermott and Nik Stauskas, with the ninth pick in the draft before unexpectedly finding power forward Noah Vonleh still on the board. So the appeal of  the 24-year-old Hayward and his 16.2 points a game last season is obvious, even with the concern that his field-goal percentage has declined each of the last four seasons.
The 6-foot-8 Hayward is also a good passer from the front court and would address Charlotte’s hope of getting bigger.
The offer sheet can be signed as soon as the league-wide moratorium ends on Thursday. The Jazz would then have three days to decide whether to match it.
Based on past indications regarding Hayward, keeping him as part of the Jazz’s young core moving forward together would essentially be an automatic for Utah. The actual details when the contract came, though, could give the small-market front office pause. That’s especially true when considering the average of $15.75 million a season for a player with declining accuracy along with, according to Yahoo!, a trade kicker and an option for Hayward on the final season.
A year after Al Jefferson got three years and $40.5 million from Charlotte to leave the Utah front line as an unrestricted free agent — although the Jazz didn’t have nearly the long-term plan with Jefferson as they now do with Hayward — and decades after player Michael Jordan won back-to-back championships at Utah’s expense, owner Michael Jordan has come hard at the Jazz again.

Popovich doesn’t see end of Spurs’ road

Remember during the playoffs when Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said that on the day Tim Duncan finally walks out the door on his NBA career, he’ll be 10 minutes behind him?
Maybe it’s time for us to start envisioning the 38-year-old Big Fundamental rolling on past 40. Or 42. Or…
That’s because Popovich seems to be making no plans to leave soon, agreeing to a multiyear extension to continue as head coach of the team he’s led to 967 wins and five NBA championships since taking over on the bench 18 games into the 1996-97 season.
With all the uncertainty and turmoil that has kept the waters churning through the free agency period this summer, the Spurs have simply kept rowing their boat straight ahead.
Where’s LeBron James going? Who knows? What’s Carmelo Anthony thinking? What does it matter?
In San Antonio, there are ties — and professional goals — that bind.
The confetti was practically still falling from the rafters of the AT&T Center when Duncan announced that he was picking up the option on his contract and returning for 2014-15. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are also under contract through the end of next season. The Spurs wasted no time in signing free agents Patty Mills and Boris Diaw to new deals. Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard is eligible for an extension, but nobody at all is worried that it won’t get done.
Popovich has often joked that his wagon is hitched tightly to Duncan’s. But during The Finals, Pop said that he wanted to continue and didn’t see any reason to stop.
One reason Popovich would stop, maybe, is his age — 65. But he’s often said that once you’ve had a couple of bottles of wine and taken a few weeks off, there’s nothing else to do except plan for the next training camp and the next season.
The other reason, of course, is that things won’t be quite so easy once Duncan really does hang it up.
But there is also that part of Popovich that will enjoy the challenge. Following right behind Duncan would be too easy.
Seeing the franchise make the transition into the next era behind Leonard and whatever new faces come in will be too much for a career teacher to resist.
The Spurs way is not cutting corners, not skipping steps. There will come a time when Popovich walks out the door, but not until he knows the organization he helped mold into a model franchise knows where it’s going.

Olynyk, Moser Lead C's to Win over Heat

ORLANDO – The Boston Celtics came up clutch on Saturday to open up their summer league schedule with an 85-77 victory over the Miami Heat. Boston finished the contest on an 18-10 run following a 67-67 tie with 5:46 remaining.
Mike Moser, a 6-foot-8 forward out of Oregon, was the key cog in Boston’s strong finish. He nailed a 3-pointer to break the 67-67 tie and scored eight of the team’s final 18 points.
Moser, however, didn’t give the C’s the win by himself. Kelly Olynyk and Marcus Smart each contributed four points during the game-winning run, while Phil Pressey scored two. The Celtics shot 5-of-10 from the field and 6-of-6 from the free-throw line to close the game.
Neither team could separate itself from the other prior to Boston’s fourth-quarter run. The game featured 22 lead changes and 12 ties, and the final margin of eight points stood as the largest of the morning.
The close game got off to an interesting start. Colton Iverson, who started at center for the Celtics, flew out to the left wing and picked off a pass on the perimeter. The 7-footer promptly took the ball the length of the court and threw down a fast break dunk to open up the contest’s scoring.
Iverson’s frontcourt partner, Kelly Olynyk, stood out for the remainder of the quarter. He scored six points in the period and also grabbed three rebounds. Dairis Bertans also scored six points for the C’s during the period, but Miami shot 50 percent from the field to take a 21-20 lead into the second.
Boston caught its groove midway through the next period when it strung together a 6-0 run to take the largest lead of the morning to that point, at 31-25. Moser opened the spurt with two free throws, Phil Pressey added a driving layup and Chris Johnson tacked on two more points from the charity stripe.
Miami didn’t allow that 6-0 run to take the wind out of its sails. The Heat responded with a 7-0 run of their own, all from the free-throw line, to jump back on top 32-31. The visitors closed out the quarter on a 13-4 run to take a 38-35 lead into the locker room.
The Celtics’ starting backcourt of Pressey and Smart helped the team retake the lead shortly into the third quarter. Smart nailed two free throws, his first points of the game, to open up Boston’s second-half scoring. Pressey then made a running layup and Smart tacked on two more free throws to put Boston on top 41-40. The Celtics maintained a small lead for the majority of the third period and led 58-54 after three quarters.
Miami went on a 10-0 run early in the fourth quarter to take a 64-60 lead but Boston’s defense locked down from that point on. The C’s defense forced the Heat into seven turnovers and 5-of-12 shooting over the final eight minutes of the game.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the court, Moser, Olynyk, Smart and Pressey powered the Celtics to the win with their scoring. Olynyk finished the contest with a game-high 20 points to go along with a team-high eight rebounds. Moser wasn’t far behind in the scoring column with his 17 points off of the bench.
Boston will look to improve to 2-0 when it next plays at 3 p.m. on Tuesday against the Indiana Pacers. The Celtics will practice on Sunday during one of their two scheduled off days in Orlando.

Great Success! Olynyk, Smart Excel in Celts Win

ORLANDO – Celtics fans must be smiling after watching Saturday’s 85-77 win over the Heat, which featured impressive performances from Boston’s top pick in each of the past two Drafts.
The Celtics traded up to the 13th pick a year ago on Draft night in order to select Kelly Olynyk. This year, they selected Marcus Smart with the sixth overall selection. The two are viewed as key pieces to Boston’s future, and they showed why on Saturday.
Olynyk is primed to dominate Orlando’s summer league for the second consecutive year. Last July, he put up averages of 18.0 points per game and 7.8 rebounds per game and was selected to the All-Summer League First Team. He continued that trend on Saturday.
Miami had no answers for the 7-footer as he racked up numbers in nearly every major statistical category. Olynyk scored a game-high 20 points, led the Celtics in rebounds with eight and also contributed four steals.
It was clear to anyone who was watching this performance that Olynyk is a cut above nearly all of the other summer league players. He’s a legit NBA player, and he looked the part during this game.
As Celtics summer league head coach Jay Larranaga said, “Kelly did a lot of the same things we’ve seen him do during the season in the NBA.” In saying that, Larranaga was alluding to Olynyk’s shooting touch, basketball IQ and unselfishness.
Those three characteristics were on full display on Saturday. Olynyk scored efficiently from all over the court while making eight of his 17 shot attempts. In the process, he played with ease, comfort and pace.
Many would wonder why an NBA Rising Star who dominated this league a year ago would come back for another round. To Olynyk, it wasn’t even a question. This is a win-win situation for him.
“You need experience to get better,” he said after Saturday’s win. “That’s why veterans are so good in this league, because they’ve been through it so many times.”
Come next Friday, Olynyk will have already been through two summer leagues and one full NBA season. He’s getting as much experience as possible early on in his career and is hoping that will springboard him toward great sophomore season.
Smart, meanwhile, has barely dipped his toes in the NBA waters. He’s only nine days removed from being drafted and Saturday marked his first game as a pro.
That of experience, however, didn’t prevent Smart from making a major impact on Saturday’s game. He was an absolute menace on defense and contributed across the board to a higher degree than Olynyk.
The greatest contribution Smart made was at the defensive end of the court. Miami’s players couldn’t handle his pressure, which led to an impressive five steals. Olynyk said that Smart wreaked “havoc” on defense, a trait the guard claims has been instilled in his DNA over time.
“I was born and raised playing defense,” said Smart. “Every team I played with was a defensive-minded team first before offense, so it was always defense.”
It was mostly defense for Smart on Saturday, but he did more than harass Miami’s players at that end of the court. He also chipped in 10 points, grabbed five boards, dished out three assists and blocked a shot, all while committing just one turnover.
Smart struggled from the field, particularly in the first half, but he didn’t let that affect the rest of his game. He continued to compete at a high level and used the free-throw line to open up his offense in the second half.
He scored Boston’s first points of the second-half with two free throws at the 9:24 mark. Those points doubled as Smart’s first of the morning, and he dropped in two more freebies at the 7:36 mark. From that point on, he had it going on offense.
“It’s a mental thing,” Smart said. “You see a couple of shots going in from the free-throw line and you start to feel it, and then you start to make shots from the field.”
Smart finished the game having attempted a team-high eight free throws, six of which fell through the basket. He also canned a pair of smooth pull-up jumpers during the second half. Smart may not have led the game in scoring, but who cares? He made a major impact on nearly every level and was a game-changer on defense.
After all, he doesn’t need to drop 20 a game this week. Olynyk seems to have that job all taken care of.
We’re only one game into the week, but from all accounts, this was a wildly successful opener. Boston’s lottery pick from 2013 looked miles ahead of everyone else on the court, and its lottery pick from this year looked like a defensive wizard who can impact every facet of the game.
Oh, and don’t forget, the Celtics beat the Heat.
How could you not be smiling after all of that?

C's Hold on for Win After Third-Quarter Run

ORLANDO – The Boston Celtics returned to the court Wednesday night and took down the Detroit Pistons by a score of 92-90. The win pushes Boston’s record to 2-1 on the week.
The C’s took control of the game with a strong finish to the third quarter. Following a 54-54 tie, they outscored the Pistons 20-7 to close the period and they took an 80-68 lead into the final frame.
Balanced scoring was the name of the game as Boston opened up its largest lead of the game. Seven C’s scored during the third-quarter spurt, led by six points from Mike Moser. Marcus Smart also contributed five points during the run.
“I try to tell guys, ‘If we win, we all look good,’” Phil Pressey said after the win. “And when you’re winning, guys are making passes and playing the game the right way. The game honors playing the right way, and we did that today.”
While Boston enjoyed a terrific team performance, a damper was thrown on the contest in the midst of the team’s third-quarter run. Dairis Bertans, who has played well for the Celtics this week, was fouled hard on a fast break with 2:24 remaining in the third. He collided face-first with the basket stanchion, resulting in what seemed in real time to be extreme whiplash.
Bertans was down on the court for several minutes as Boston’s medical team tended to him. He was eventually taken off the court in a stretcher and brought to Florida Hospital, where he is currently being examined.
“Really scary,” said Celtics summer league head coach Jay Larranaga. “He’s such a nice kid. It wouldn’t matter who the player was, you care about them, but you just hope for the best for him.”
Celtics assistant general manager Mike Zarren told reporters after the game that Bertans has undergone a precautionary CT scan that came back negative. Zarren said that Bertans has feeling in all of his extremities and is expected to fully recover from the collision.
Bertans’ fall was certainly the most frightening moment of the game, but Detroit threw another scare into Boston during the final two minutes of the contest. Following a 10-point Celtics lead with 1:58 remaining, the Pistons scored 11 of the game’s next 14 points make it a 91-89 game with 5.2 seconds left.
Larranaga opted to call a timeout at that time and advance the ball into the frontcourt after Kentaveous Caldwell-Pope nailed a 3 for Detroit. Larranaga drew up a play that got the ball into Phil Pressey’s hands, and he was fouled with 3.5 seconds left on the clock. Pressey went to the line and made one of his two attempts to put the Celtics on top by three.
Detroit then called a timeout of its own to advance the ball to the frontcourt. Its ensuing play was not very successful, as Boston fouled center Tim Olbrecht and sent him to the line. Olbrecht made the first attempt but missed the second, which led to a wild final two seconds.
Smart hauled in the rebound off the missed free throw in the left corner of the court, seemingly giving him the opportunity to run out the clock and win the game. However, as Smart was pressured, a referee blew the whistle and said that he stepped out of bounds.
That call gave Detroit an opportunity to tie or win the game with 0.4 seconds remaining. Caldwell-Pope got a look at a 3-pointer from the left wing but his shot missed off the glass, leaving Boston with a slim two-point victory.
The Celtics finished with six players in double-figures. Kelly Olynyk led the way with 16 points, while Smart and Pressey contributed 14 apiece. Olynyk also grabbed nine boards, and Smart pitched in five rebounds, six assists and two steals.
Boston will be back in action at 5 p.m. on Thursday when it takes on the league’s host team, the Orlando Magic. A lopsided win could put the Celtics in position to compete on Friday for the league’s championship.

Celtics' Unselfish Play Spurs Team, Individual Success

ORLANDO - The Summer Celtics are trying to do their best San Antonio Spurs impression in Orlando. Team basketball is the name of their game.
Boston improved to 2-1 on the week by downing the Pistons 92-90 Wednesday night. Though the victory came down to the final seconds, the C's walked away pleased with their ball movement and unselfishness.
"I try to tell guys, ‘If we win, we all look good, and when you’re winning, guys are making passes and playing the game the right way,” said Phil Pressey. “The game honors playing the right way, and we did that today."
Wednesday's win featured 16 Celtics assists, up from an average of 13.8 over their first two games. Kelly Olynyk believes that those 16 assists undersell how well he and his teammates shared the ball.
"A lot of our buckets were because we were moving the ball,” said Kelly Olynyk, who led the Celtics with 16 points and nine rebounds. “Phil was coming off the ball screen and getting right to the cup, which isn’t an assist, but it’s because guys were moving the ball and playing together. We’re sucking the defenses out and it’s really an assist in basketball terms."
Playing in this manner – the ‘right way,’ according to Pressey – isn’t easy, particularly in Orlando. Players in this league oftentimes think about themselves and how they can secure a contract with an NBA team by putting up points. The Celtics haven’t shown a drip of such selfishness this week. They’re buying into Boston’s team-oriented system.
“It goes back to what we talked about from the beginning of Coach (Brad) Stevens’ culture,” Celtics summer league head coach Jay Larranaga said after the win. “He’s an unselfish person. He’s very giving to his players, to his assistants, to the community. So we’ve tried to instill that in all the players and we also, I think, recruited players who have that naturally in them.”
Even Boston’s star players are playing unselfish basketball. No one, from Kelly Olynyk to Pressey to Marcus Smart to Chris Johnson, has been in shoot-first, ask-questions-later mode. These guys are playing together and it’s paying off in the win column.
When a team plays well together, positive numbers tend to pile up. That’s exactly what happened for the C’s on Wednesday.
The Celtics scored 92 points during a 40-minute basketball game. They had six players score in double-figures, with Olynyk (16 points), Pressey and Smart (14 points apiece) leading the way. Onlookers were particularly impressed with Boston’s starting backcourt of Pressey and Smart.
Pressey had a fantastic shooting night, making six of his 10 attempts from the field. He made everything from running floaters to driving layups to 3-pointers. Larranaga lauded Pressey for putting in a “tremendous amount of work on a daily basis.” That work is clearly paying off.
The same can be said for his rookie backcourt partner, Smart. Smart has looked better and better in each game and seems to be taking well to the NBA’s style of play. Not only did he score 14 points on Wednesday, but he also contributed five rebounds, a game-high six assists and two steals. He continues to improve on a daily basis, and people are taking notice.
“He’s come a long way,” said Olynyk. “I didn’t see his line tonight, but from what I thought, he played great tonight. This is by far his best game.
“He’s learning how to play with these guys who are bigger, stronger, quicker athletes… He’s going to make leaps and bounds here every week and you’re going to see it.”
What Olynyk failed to mention is that Smart, like the rest of his teammates, is also learning how to play Celtics basketball. This style of play is marked by unselfishness and strives for team-oriented goals. As cliché as it sounds, Stevens wants the players in this program to play for the name on the front of the jersey, not the name on the back.
Boston’s youngsters are adhering well to that mantra and that’s why they’re beginning to look like the summer league’s version of the Spurs. Two victories that were highlighted by impressive individual performances are under their belt. With that in mind, it should be a safe bet to expect more of the same on Thursday and Friday.
As Larranaga put it, “I think when you have some success with it, that breeds doing it more and more.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

LeBron James undecided after Pat Riley, Heat meeting

LeBron James' highly anticipated meeting with the Miami Heat in Las Vegas ended Wednesday afternoon, but his uncertain future remains.
According to a person with knowledge of his situation, James has not made up his mind about whether he will re-sign with the Heat or head elsewhere. He is expected to meet with his family to discuss his future, though there is no announcement expected on Wednesday night.
James and agent Rich Paul won't meet with any other teams before making his decision. The person spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of the talks.
BRENNAN: LeBron, go home
CARMELO: Also undecided
The Cleveland Cavaliers are considered the most dangerous threat to the Heat's hope of bringing James back. The meeting, which lasted more than an hour, included James, Paul, Heat President Pat Riley and Heat assistant general manager Andy Elisburg.
The Cavaliers' three-team trade that was agreed upon Wednesday gives them the necessary salary cap space to sign James, but two people with knowledge of the situation said they were attempting to add yet another enticement to his recruitment by trading for Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love.
Yet because the Timberwolves are known to be insisting that No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Wiggins would be part of any such scenario, a deal — at least in the two-team form — appears unlikely. A person with knowledge of Wiggins' situation said that his representatives were told Wednesday that he would not be traded. The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of trade talks.
The Cavaliers could always reverse that stance, of course, and the fact that, as of Wednesday afternoon, Wiggins had yet to sign his rookie contract with Cleveland leaves open the possibility that he could be dealt. Once Wiggins signs, the Cavaliers would be unable to trade him for 30 days. Yet should James commit to sign with the Cavaliers, Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert and general manager Dave Griffin would surely have to re-assess the notion of losing Wiggins to get Love.

Where will LeBron James go? Any guess is only a guess

A company that transports luxury, exotic and vintage vehicles showed up at LeBron James' Florida home and maybe, possibly loaded a couple of James' cars on to a truck.
The Internet, specifically Twitter, went wild searching for meaning.
It must surely mean James is leaving the Miami Heat. Why else would he transport cars? Of course, there could be a logical answer. Perhaps James annually loads his cars and delivers them to his Akron home, where he spends time in the offseason. He needs a car while there, right?
Even after James met with Heat President Pat Riley on Wednesday, there still is no answer. We've reached that point in a high-profile NBA free agency summer where tea leaves and decoder rings are the best ways to find answers.

And the NBA loves every minute. Three weeks after the Finals and two weeks after the draft, the NBA remains in headlines. It's great theater.
Former NBA commissioner David Stern often professed his love for the "unscripted drama" the league produces. How much of free agency is scripted or unscripted is not known, but the drama sure is compelling.
The Magic 8-ball when asked if James is headed back to the Cleveland Cavaliers replied, "Signs point to yes."
Asked again, the Magic 8-ball said, "My sources say no."
When any little thing seems to mean something, everything probably means nothing. While the NBA world is waiting to hear from James, any bit of information leads to speculation.
Where will James end up? Back with the Heat ... or back with Cavaliers.

Report: Riley, LeBron meeting ends in Vegas

The Miami Heat president met with the four-time NBA MVP on Wednesday afternoon in Las Vegas, two people familiar with the situation told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because neither side publicly disclosed details of the meeting. James, his agent Rich Paul, Riley and Heat executive Andy Elisburg were at the meeting, said one of the people.
James has not made a decision and will not make any announcements before Thursday, a person said, adding, ''He wants to meet with his family.''
As he weighs his options, James will not meet with any other teams, the person added.
So now, Miami waits. So does Cleveland. So, too, does just about the entire NBA - because once James picks the Heat or the Cavaliers, the teams believed to be serious suitors for his services, the domino effect of other free agent moves will surely follow.
The meeting in Las Vegas lasted for more than an hour and took place more than two weeks after James opted out of his contract and elected to become a free agent, and the day before free agents may begin signing contracts.
James spent part of his day before the meeting at his annual skills academy with some of the nation's top high school and college players, interacting and observing workouts. That was part of the reason why Riley had to fly across the country to make the meeting happen, with hopes that he would return to Miami from the gambling haven with a huge win - keeping James in Heat colors for at least another season.
Several teams have met with Paul during the free-agent process, but it appears James has only one decision to make: Cleveland or Miami, the same choice he pondered four years ago when he decided play with the Heat. With James, the Heat won four Eastern Conference titles and two NBA championships.
The Cavaliers didn't sit idle waiting for James and Riley to meet.
Cleveland created salary-cap space earlier Wednesday with a three-team trade with the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets, ensuring they have enough to offer the James a maximum contract.
But James had said he would meet with Riley and the Heat before making his decision.
The meeting came nearly three weeks after Riley addressed reporters following Miami's loss to San Antonio in the NBA Finals, when he insisted that the Heat needed to make some adjustments to get better - but didn't need a massive rebuilding job to stay at a championship level.
''You've got to stay together if you've got the guts, and you don't find the first door and run out of it if you have an opportunity,'' Riley said on June 19. ''This is four years now into this era, this team, four finals. It's only been done three other times before. And two championships. From day one to the end, it was like a Broadway show. Sort of ran out of steam, and we need to retool. We don't need to rebuild, we need to retool, and that's what we're going to do.''
If James leaves, it'll be more than a retooling project that awaits Miami.
Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh - the other members of Miami's ''Big 3'' of the past four seasons - are also free agents, and neither has given any hint as to what they will do, though it's still expected Wade will not leave the Heat. Miami has just two players under contract for next season, one of those on a partially guaranteed deal. The Heat have also reached agreements with forwards Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger, as well as the draft rights to guard Shabazz Napier, but there's still plenty of jobs to be filled.
And the Heat have mostly been in a holding pattern while waiting for James to make his next decision.

Less heralded prospects shine at Orlando Summer League

nerlens noel

A quick change-of-direction for the Ladder: Only the 10 teams participating in Orlando Summer League have played, so only players on those teams will be ranked this time, before a return to judging the entire league as the Las Vegas portion of Summer League begins Friday.
Nerlens Noel and Mitch McGary are the obvious winners so far -- they simply got on the court. Noel made his first appearance after missing all of what should have been his rookie season with the 76ers because of a knee injury and McGary returned after being sidelined at Michigan since early-December because of back problems. Both players logged solid minutes in encouraging moments for Philadelphia and Oklahoma City and both played well in stretches.
Beyond that, the Grizzlies had reason to feel good, Heat executives were able to enjoy late returns on the 2013 draft (while killing time with absolutely nothing else going on around them), and several relative unknowns pushed for recognition.
1. NERLENS NOEL, 76ers
It's not just that he played 26, 24 and 25 minutes while sitting out another game on the second day of a back-to-back. The projected defensive presence at power forward, and maybe some center, had three blocks in two of the outings, one good game on the boards and one poor, and made shots from the field and the line. Philly has to be very pleased with the progress report.
2. JARNELL STOKES, Grizzlies
Twelve rebounds in 29 minutes in the second game, 12 rebounds in 25 minutes in the third -- that's the kind of physical presence that will mean minutes for Stokes in the big-man rotation as a rookie in Memphis. His work on the offensive boards could become especially valuable. Stokes will also make nice passes from the post.
The No. 50 pick in 2013 made a strong statement for not only joining Miami after spending last season in Australia and Puerto Rico, but for pushing into the rotation. The extent of his role will obviously depend on (cough, cough) what other small forwards are on the roster. But Ennis earned positive reviews by shooting with range and rebounding.
4. JORDAN ADAMS, Grizzlies
Adams made just 35.5 percent of his attempts his first three outings, but scored 22 and 20 in two of them and showed an assertiveness that will help in the transition from No. 22 pick to potential immediate contributor on the Memphis perimeter. He had good shooting numbers last season at UCLA, so opening 11-for-31 seemed more typical rookie transition than reason for concern.
5. K.J. McDANIELS, 76ers
This was the McDaniels teams expected at the draft, able to put up numbers in several categories and defend multiple positions without being spectacular. He's a very good value with the chance to go from the second round to a long career. The shooting range he's displayed is definitely a bonus. The experience of three seasons at Clemson and in the ACC shows.
elfrid payton
Elfrid Payton out of Lousiana-Lafeyette experienced a shaky start at Summer League.
The No. 10 pick recovered from a very bad first game to re-establish why Orlando has anointed him as the point guard of the future. Even an underwhelming third game statistically -- six points, three assists, three turnovers -- included the ability to get where he wanted on the floor and make good plays.
Though yet to put up big numbers, Jefferson has easily been one of the most consistent players in Orlando and has expanded his offensive impact to reach 14 points Wednesday against the 76ers. His shooting in four games: three-for-three, three-for-four, two-for-four, five-for-seven. His rebounds: nine, five, five, eight. Nice opening statement for the 60th pick.
Going undrafted out of St. Joseph's, as expected, obviously did not deter him. If anything, it motivated the athletic forward. Roberts has had at least six rebounds in three of the four games, despite playing more than 20 minutes just once, and has had stretches of being especially effective on the offensive boards. Teams were aware of him before, but now he is really on the radar.
9. MITCH McGARY, Thunder
The recovery from a serious back injury included playing 22 and 31 minutes with the Thunder being sure not to give him too much work too soon. McGary showed why he was selected in the first round during the second game with 18 points and 13 rebounds, numbers that don't actually matter except to show he was quickly in a good flow after a long layoff.
The undrafted Iowa product has stayed near the forefront of the best players in Orlando without having a big game. His impact has been in consistently finding ways to contribute. When Marble didn't shoot well Wednesday against the Rockets, he made up for it with seven rebounds in 19 minutes. He had six boards in 20 minutes in two other games, plus an outing of 13 points and three steals in 17 minutes.

Blogtable: Summer, when gabbing is easy

> It’s been a confusing, chatter-filled start to the NBA summer. What’s the dumbest, most forehead-slapping headline or storyline that you’ve seen?
Steve Aschburner, Geez, so many from which to choose —  Jodie Meeks‘ contract, Carmelo Anthony supposedly leaving New York and $30 million or more on the table, Klay Thompson suddenly being regarded as a combo Jerry West/Dwyane Wade in trade value. But I’m going with the hand-wringing in Chicago over Derrick Rose’s alleged “unwillingness” to recruit free agents. That sort of thing, in the best of places, probably ranks 8th or 18th or maybe 28th in what sways a player to choose a new team/market. All Rose should be doing is what he did – allow the targeted player, like Carmelo Anthony, to watch a workout so he can gauge Rose’s health and comeback potential. Beyond that, it’s sheer high-school silliness.
Fran Blinebury, I was very tempted to say “all of the above” since the entire free agency period is mostly rumor, innuendo and flat-out lying posing as pseudo-journalism.  But if I must choose, well, Jodie Meeks at more than $6 million per is a head-slapper.
Jeff Caplan, Orlando agreeing to pay Ben Gordon $9.5 million over two years. That slightly edges Portland agreeing to pay Chris Kaman nearly $10 million over two years.
Scott Howard-Cooper, You’re asking me to pick one grain of sand on the beach. We know, for example, that the Heatles are definitely splintering, unless that they’re not and are simply giving Pat Riley time to make moves before closing their own deals. And Kobe, Carmelo and Kevin Love definitely magically appeared at the same pickup game at UCLA, except that they didn’t. The silly season in full effect. If there an option to expand beyond free agency and make it the entire offseason for dumbest, most forehead-slapping storyline, it’s an easy call: Jason Kidd.
Gordon Hayward (Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE)
Gordon Hayward (Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE)
Sekou Smith, How about the latest one, “Hayward get max offer sheet from Hornets.” In a summer when financial haircuts are being discussed for All-Stars — superstars in some cases — a guy who has never sniffed the All-Star team gets a $60 million offer from an Eastern Conference playoff team. Hayward is worth whatever someone is going to pay him, so I’m not mad at him. But, as I said on Twitter last week (when Hayward was supposedly on tap for a max offer from the Cavaliers that never happened), something is awry in this system when Lance Stephenson (as flawed or deficient as he might be in some areas) sees this headline about Hayward and is supposed to be cool with an offer $16 million lighter in total. Even if Utah matches, as they have said all along that they will, this is still one of the gems of “Crazy Season!”
Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog: Well to be fair, it was probably a headline that I wrote that was dumb. But as far as a wild storyline, the thought that signing Danny Granger and Josh McRoberts will put Miami over the top is pretty out there. I mean, the Pacers basically let Granger walk, and Basketball Jesus a.k.a. McBob is a nice player but … putting Miami over the top? That’s a head-slapper. The Spurs beat Miami up and down and left and right in the Finals. It’s going to take more than just one or two additions to make the Heat a Finals winner. Then again, getting LeBron to re-up would be a pretty good start.
Marc-Oliver Robbers, NBA Deutschland: The most confusing thing for me is that everyone is waiting for everyone. Melo is waiting for Bosh’s decision, Bosh and Wade are waiting for LeBron’s decision. LeBron is waiting what the Heat will do, but the Heat have to wait, what their Big 3 will do to know how much cap space they will have. Then the second row with Deng, Parsons and Ariza are waiting what Melo, Bosh,Wade and LeBron will do. And all teams with cap space are waiting for the decisions of the superstars to remain flexible. So everybody is waiting and the worst is, we have to wait, too. LeBron, get the ball rolling!
Davide Chinellato, NBA Italia: I’ll go with Jeremy Lin being upset because Houston used his uni to court Melo. Free agency is like love and war: all’s fair. It has been done before (Rockets GM Daryl Morey remembered they used Patrick Beverley‘s #12 last year to recruit Dwight Howard) and you shouldn’t be upset when your team is trying to get  one of the best players in the game, especially if you are in the trade rumors mill.
Karan Madhok, NBA India: After LeBron’s “Decision” in 2010, nothing in the NBA off-eason really surprises me anymore, and I truly leave all options open to possibility. That said, there were a couple of stories that made me shake my head with mild disbelief. One was The Pick-Up Game that Never Happened rumours of Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, and even Kevin Love playing ball at UCLA, as reported by some sources, as a hopeful indication of what the Lakers roster could look like next season. The second was the Recruitment Pitch that Wasn’t Made, a saga of Derrick Rose – did he or didn’t he try and recruit Carmelo Anthony to Chicago.

Wolves sign first-round pick LaVine

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The Minnesota Timberwolves have signed first-round draft pick Zach LaVine.
The Timberwolves announced the signing on Tuesday on the second day of a camp to prepare LaVine and others for the team's summer league competition in Las Vegas. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
LaVine was the 13th overall pick out of UCLA last month. He averaged 9.5 points and 2.5 rebounds as a freshman last season. But the Timberwolves believe LaVine's versatility and athleticism will eventually make him an impact player in the NBA.
Team president and coach Flip Saunders called LaVine "exceptional" after the team's first workout on Monday and says he has no doubt the 19-year-old can play both guard positions.

Top picks adjusting differently at Summer League

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- Marcus Smart didn't expect his transition to the next level to happen overnight.
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So after a second straight bumpy offensive outing for the Celtics' rookie point guard at the Orlando Pro Summer League on Monday, the No. 6 overall pick in last month's draft is trying not to stress.
Smart started strong, before cooling to a 3-for-15, 11-point performance in the Celtics' 96-77 loss to Indiana on Monday. The effort came just two days after an equally disappointing 2-for-8, 10-point effort in his rookie debut on Saturday.
"Shots didn't go down, that's just all it is," said Smart, who also had four assists and two turnovers. "We're not really worried about that. We've got a lot of talented players on the offensive end and defensive end. Shots are going to fall. Some nights shots aren't going to fall, and tonight was one of those nights."
There was also an incident in the second half Monday when Smart and Indiana's Dee Bost were told by a referee to stop some brief verbal back-and-forth.
No fouls were called, but Smart said the incident was a reminder that players may try to test him mentally this year following his suspension last season at Oklahoma State for shoving a fan.
"As a player, definitely that's going to stick with me for a long time, the rest of my life," Smart said. "Wherever I go, whoever I play, that's what they're going to know me as. But that was just an incident that happened, that's not who I really am.
"Of course they're going to try me. I expect that. I'm a good player and I expect people to try to get me out of the game so it can help them. It's a great tactic, but like I said, that doesn't really faze me."
As far how Smart's game is evolving on the floor right now, Celtics summer league coach Jay Larranaga said he hopes there is frustration from all the players after Monday's poor outing.
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Asked if he thinks Smart might be trying a little harder right now coming from Oklahoma State where he had to carry the offense at times, Larranaga said it's part of the adjustment process for any player.
"Very few players can do that at this level," he said. "I think everybody has to learn that at some point."
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On the other end of the spectrum, both of the Orlando Magic's lottery pickups had solid second games.
Forward Aaron Gordon, selected No. 4, rebounded from an uneven debut to finish with nine points on 4-for-7 shooting with seven rebounds in Orlando's 87-69 win over Houston.
"The jitters weren't really there," Gordon said. "I guess at the beginning of the game, before the game starts, the jitters are there a little bit. But once the game starts, it's just playing basketball. I'm having fun out there. Now I'm just adjusting and trying to make the right reads."
Also, Elfrid Payton, taken at No. 10, followed up his jittery first game Saturday with 12 points on Monday, connecting on all five of his field-goal attempts. He also added nine assists and eight points.