NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Olympics run lifting Bogut’s spirits after rough summer — A hyperextended knee kep Andrew Bogut from being anything more than a spectator for the Golden State Warriors in Games 6 and 7 of The Finals, both of which they lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers to in turn lose the series. Then came the offseason for Bogut, who was dealt to the Dallas Mavericks as the Warriors cleared salary cap room to sign former MVP Kevin Durant from the rival Oklahoma City Thunder. Things were looking pretty down for Bogut until he got word he could play in the Olympics, writes Michael Lee of The Vertical:
That nasty collision with J.R. Smith in Game 5 of the NBA Finals set off a unsettling chain of events that put Andrew Bogut on crutches, made him a helpless bystander as LeBron James dunked the greatest season in NBA history into the trash, and sent him packing for his third professional home as a casualty in Kevin Durant’s free-agent decision. Each situation was crushing in itself. Combined, they nearly sent Bogut into a funk this offseason.
“The first couple of weeks, it was rough waters,” Bogut said. “I didn’t think I was going to make it.”
But what kept the 31-year-old Bogut from sulking through his summer were the only encouraging words he heard throughout that whirlwind month: six weeks. Bogut was given that as the earliest estimated timetable for his possible return from bone bruises and a hyperextended knee – which meant that Bogut could be ready just in time for the Rio Olympics if he dedicated himself to an intense rehabilitation program. Far-fetched as it seemed, the chance to represent Australia for possibly one last time in the Olympics was enough incentive, enough of a needed distraction to avoid dwelling on his sorrows.
“Mentally and physically, it was good to have another goal straight away,” Bogut said. “It was a freak play, like most of my injuries. It was frustrating, the way the whole thing played out. It wasn’t great. But it happened. The reason why we’re professional athletes and there’s all these big contracts is because we have to deal with that, we have to suck it up and move on. Move on to the next thing, and that’s the Olympics.”
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has been one of the more vocal detractors of NBA players participating in international competitions but didn’t want to block the pursuit of his latest acquisition. And Bogut waited until last Friday – the day before Australia’s opening win against France – to declare himself fit to compete in these.
“If it wasn’t right, I’d put my hand up and I’m on a flight back home. It was good enough to play,” Bogut said, adding that Cuban “has been great. We have a great relationship via email and via text. The whole thing was, if you feel like you’re 100 percent, and you feel like your knee is a go, we’re going to support you. I couldn’t ask for a better organization to give me that confidence.”
Bogut will have a reunion with two former Warriors teammates (Draymond Green and Klay Thompson), a former Warrior turned current Mavericks teammate (Harrison Barnes) and the man who created the entire awkward situation (Durant) on Wednesday when Australia takes on the United States in an intriguing matchup of undefeated teams in the preliminary round.
“It’ll be all right,” Bogut said. “I’m in Texas, so I’m pretty pumped about it. Harrison is still my teammate, so we’re good. Those guys are guys I’ll always remember and have friendships with. You win a championship with a group of guys, it doesn’t happen very often, and you all remember that.”
After missing the London Olympics with an ankle injury, Bogut endured back spasms during the 2015 regional Olympic qualifier with the understanding that he might never get another chance to compete on the most recognized international stage. Australia has never medaled in the Olympics and has a decent chance after already recording wins against France and Serbia.
“He’s playing great. It’s good to see him out there healthy because he had a tough injury in the Finals. We definitely missed him,” Thompson said. “I knew this was potentially his last Olympics and I knew he didn’t want to miss it for anything and he was going to do everything he could to get back. You don’t want to be sitting at home, sulking on what could’ve been. We all wanted, obviously, to get that second ring, but it didn’t turn out that way.”
A medal won’t erase the disappointment of being absent when an NBA-record 73 wins wound up only being good enough to secure finishing as a championship runner-up. But just being at these games, being back on the floor, has already ensured that his summer wouldn’t be wasted with regret. “I didn’t want it taken away that easily,” Bogut said.
No. 2: Miller, Bird debate their 3-point shooting prowess — As a legendary player for the Boston Celtics, Hall of Famer Larry Bird made 649 3-pointers in his career and won three 3-Point Contests. As a legendary player for the Indiana Pacers, Hall of Famer Reggie Miller made 2,560 3-pointers (second all-time) yet never won a 3-Point Contest. So which player is the better 3-point shooter? Miller, who hosted “The Dan Patrick Show” on Tuesday, posed that question to Bird himself and got Bird’s thoughts on several other topics, too:
Throughout the three-hour show, Miller and the Danettes (Patrick’s show staff) discussed amongst themselves and asked the guests who’d win a 3-point contest at 27 years old: Miller or Bird?
Miller, perhaps shockingly, took Bird.
“He makes some unbelievable shots and 3s against us,” Miller said. “Obviously, I was a young lad when they beat us in five games in the 1991 playoffs, but I’ve seen him make some unbelievable shots. You talk about confidence and cocky like Lilly King, the mold was done by Larry Legend.”
How about Bird’s 1992 Dream Team teammate, Hall of Famer John Stockton? Stockton also chose Bird, telling a story about how before a game, Bird walked over to the bench and told the Jazz, “I think I’m going to score 43.” And Stockton says Bird did just that.
Patrick was a guest on the show, and took Bird.
And what does Bird think?
“Here’s how I’ll put it, Reggie,” Bird started. “If you were my teammate in the pros, I would win, hands down. If I have the opportunity to coach you, I’d say you win.”
But really, the majority of the three hours was guests telling awesome NBA stories from the ’90s. And they delivered.
Miller didn’t ask his final guest, Patrick Ewing, who would win in the shootout, but who was the better trash-talker between Bird and Michael Jordan in the 1992 Olympics.
“I’m gonna name them 1-2,” Ewing said. “They’re right up there, equal. The difference was, by then, Larry’s back was messed up and he wasn’t able to perform the way he normally does, but he still had the mouth. There was no shutting him up. That’s the reason why we got so close. He used to talk so much to me I could do nothing but join him.”
Speaking of trash talk, Bird confirmed that before the 3-point contest at the 1988 All-Star Game, he did indeed say to his competitors, “Who’s playing for second?,” which Miller got a kick out of.
“When I walked in there … (I said) who’s coming in second because I’m going to win this,” Bird said. “It was silence. I think they were a little nervous. I was struggling in that final round. When you’re shooting, you don’t know what the score is.”
Miller and Bird talked about his infamous shove on Jordan before hitting the game-winning basket in Game 4 of the 1998 Eastern Conference finals. Miller goes insane after the shot, waving his arms around like a lunatic, while Bird stood there motionless when it went down. Bird explains:
“There’s so much going on at that time,” Bird said. “I didn’t know if the whistle blew or not. I looked up and there were .4 (of a second left). You know it’s going to Michael and he’s going to get a clean look. He banked it in and it came out. Pump-faked, one dribble and he still got the shot off in time. Really, it took three seconds to get the shot off but they knew they were going to get an opportunity. It should’ve been .2 and it should’ve been over.”
Added Miller before Bird came on: “I’m going to say this one time: Stop flopping, Michael. Closing moments of a game, as we saw in this year’s playoffs, officials swallow their whistles. They’re not going to call anything.”
Bird on the infamous ‘secret scrimmage’ between the 1992 Dream Team and the college kids, one that the Dream Team lost. It was supposedly “one of the greatest games that no one has ever seen, and that was one of the worst practices I’ve ever seen in my life. All anybody was doing was talking. Other than that, we had a good time.”
Bird was very specific in how prolific he wants the Pacers offense to be this year: 105 or 106 points per game. “We’re basically trying to score more points off the defensive end by getting steals. We expect to defend well but we want to get out and open it up a little bit and shoot more 3s. I know Nate (McMillan)’s got a game plan. Nate’s coached over 900 games and Nate’s got a style. I think he’s going to do an excellent job.”
Who had more diverse shots between Bird and Jordan?
“Jordan,” Miller said. “They were great post-up players but Michael could get his shot anywhere, anytime over anyone.”
In a perhaps more controversial question, the Danettes asked Miller who ‘played/looked whiter,’ Bird or Stockton? Miller said Stockton.
“Legend has the game of a brother,” Miller said. “Stockton didn’t have a game of a brother. He was textbook, he was good. Larry could go to the hood and he wouldn’t be the last one picked, he’d be first or second. Stockton … didn’t put any fear into you. Larry played the part, a long 6-9. When he’s walking onto the court he’s going to get picked because of his height.”
No. 3: Jackson says Rondo, Butler want him on Bulls — Journeyman Stephen Jackson hasn’t played in the NBA since a 5-minute stint against the San Antonio Spurs on Jan. 4, 2014 as a reserve on the L.A. Clippers. Jackson has kept himself busy since then, appearing on ESPN’s “The Jump” as a regular guest while staying in shape for perhaps one last NBA call. In an interview with HoopsHype.com’s Raul Barrigon, Jackson says he’s getting interest from the Chicago Bulls and their guard combo of Rajon Rondo and Jimmy Butler:
Last year you announced your retirement and you were having success as an NBA analyst. So why do you want to play again?
Stephen Jackson: I’ve been blessed to be healthy, I’ve been blessed to have a 14-year career and never have [serious] injuries, no surgeries. So at the end of the day, God is still telling me I still have basketball left. I definitely enjoy doing the ESPN stuff, but I have two more years of basketball and I love the game. Obviously I’m not chasing the ring because I already have a championship so I just want to get back and take advantage of the game I have left. I know I have two good years left.
How has the process been?
SJ: The process has been really easy for me because I really never worked out this hard. I gave myself seven months to work out, to make sure I wouldn’t have any setbacks, to make sure that I wouldn’t have any injuries. My body feels great. As I started working out, I realized that I still have basketball left and why not go back to the NBA where I belong. I wasn’t going overseas, I wasn’t doing nothing that I felt was a setback. Then people started seeing me working out, and teams started calling me. I never really stopped playing, I just stopped playing in the NBA.
I read you told Jimmy Butler that if any team signs Ray Allen before you they’re losing their mind…
SJ: Well, actually not a lot of people know that Jimmy has been calling me. We’ve been talking for like three months now. Even [Rajon] Rondo has been calling me, they really want me on the Bulls team. I’ve been talking to a lot of guys, because guys know what I bring. There’s not many guys like me. There’s probably one or two guys in the NBA like me that can play both ways and don’t mind really shutting the guy down. I’m a winner, I’ve been in the playoffs many years. Guys know I’m a great teammate, Tim Duncan called me the ultimate teammate. I know how to play good for the guy next to me. I’m getting calls and I will be ready and that’s the biggest part.
Have you spoken to someone from the Warriors organization about your comeback?
SJ: Well, I spoke to Steve Kerr, who is a great friend of mine. We won a championship together in 2003 and he’s seen videos of me working out, he’s seen videos of me playing. He knows how I approach the game, that I play with great passion. So he knows I can still play. I haven’t agreed to do anything with Golden State. My thing is that I’m not really trying out for anybody. I know how to play the game, I know what I bring. I’m just waiting for the right situation where somebody knows that I’ve played for a long time, that I am a champion. I want to compete, I want to have fun with the game. I want to play against the best team, that has always been my attitude.
You’ve said you would be a perfect fit with the Knicks. Why?
SJ: The Knicks are a great team too. Anytime you can play with a great player like Carmelo Anthony and a young, up-and-coming star like Kristaps Porzingis… Also they have Joakim Noah. They are going in the right direction. I want to be part of a team that wants to win. Guys that are trusting each other, guys that don’t mind playing hard. There’s a lot of guys in the NBA right now that are making money but they really don’t care if they win or lose as long as they are getting the paycheck and I’ve never been like that. That’s the sad part of the NBA right now, that there are some players that are making a lot of money but they don’t really care about winning games and bringing the championship or a winning season to the organization, and that’s what the fans are complaining about. And that’s why a lot of fans want me back in the game. Because they know I appreciate the game, I’m not just there to get a paycheck.
Do you have a deadline set on the calendar for making a decision about your future?
SJ: I know that I have to make a decision by mid-September. Now it’s August, coaches and GMs are getting back from vacation. So right now, me I’m just doing what I’ve been doing. I’m playing in a great League, the AEBL here in Atlanta, getting in great shape.
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Sam Perkins says in 1984, U.S. men’s national team coach Bobby Knight made a young Michael Jordan cry … If Ray Allen is serious about a comeback and wants to return to Boston, he may have some apologizing to do to the Celtics’ front office … Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum won’t be paying for teammate dinners just yet … Mike Bibby Jr. has reportedly committed to play for South Florida …