Morning shootaround — Aug. 21

Melo’s long journey | Meet salary cap guru | The Coach K Effect | Embiid’s progress | Whiteside’s new expectations
No. 1: Carmelo values gold above all — He’s gone from the bronze bust of the 2004 Olympics in Athens to the doorstep of a third straight gold medal in Rio and Carmelo Anthony told Michael Lee of The Vertical that he wouldn’t trade his experience growing into a leader of Team USA for anything:

“I wouldn’t trade, hopefully my three gold medals, in for nothing,” Anthony told The Vertical. “I hope I’m never put in that position. That’s a tough position. But I always say, ‘Winning is winning is winning.’ No matter what level you win on. Hopefully, I do get an NBA ring, but that’s two things. … I wouldn’t try to compare or force myself to make that comparison.”

Anthony has come to rely on his summers with USA Basketball to provide some balance for his complex career and stumbles in his personal life. When he started recruiting talent to fill out the country’s pool for international competitions, USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo told Anthony he would overlook any past mistakes and give him a clean slate. Anthony raised his hand as one of the first to commit to what would require him to sacrifice three consecutive summers. They have proven to be beneficial: He made his first All-Star team the season after participating in the 2006 world championships. He led Denver to the conference finals the season following the 2008 Olympics. And he led the Knicks to their first division title the season following the 2012 Olympics.

“We ask the guys for a commitment and selfless service,” Coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “But Carmelo is a perfect example of commitment for the Olympics. That’s his entire playing career and to devote that amount of time is remarkable really, and it’s not been done. He’s been such a good guy to coach.”


No. 2: Coon has become salary cap king — From ordinary fans to numbers geeks to the highest levels of the front offices of 30 NBA teams, when somebody has a question about the complex NBA salary cap, the man they turn to for answers is Larry Coon. Dan Woike of the Orange County Register caught up with the Yoda of the salary cap for a look at what makes him tick:

A middle-aged man who’s more likely to buy a pocket protector than come off a screen-and-roll and throw a pocket pass, one who says he has no desire to even pick up a basketball, has become one of the most knowledgeable people in the NBA.
His hair has grayed, his shoulders tend to slouch, and this day in Vegas, he looks like any one of the thousand convention-goers in town, corporate polo and khakis included.

If Coon looks more the part of office-dweller than NBA revolutionary, there’s a reason for it.

He spends his days in the information technology offices at UC Irvine, managing major projects and evangelizing business analytics.

But over the course of more than 15 years, he’s used his nights to become an indispensable part of the NBA fabric, operating the go-to reference used by teams, players, agents and reporters.

When it comes to understanding the rules that get your favorite players to and from your favorite teams, Coon is the person people turn to.
“You think you know something? You really want to know it?” Coon says. “Explain it to others.”

Coon starts to recount his journey, always staying on script, trying not to deviate from the linear order of events. He knows how he wants to explain things.

It’s his area of expertise.

His “CBA FAQ” has become a staple in web browsers around the league, breaking down the 154,274-word collective bargaining agreement – approximately the same length as “The Grapes of Wrath” – that lays out the financial rules for the NBA into more palatable terms.


No. 3: Kobe: Krzyzewski brought pride back to Team USA — There have been many great performances by many of the greatest stars in the game that have produced two straight Olympic gold medals and have them standing on cusp of a third. But according to none other than Kobe Bryant, it is Coach Mike Krzyzewski who put the pride back in USA Basketball and got the ball rolling. Marc Stein of caught up with the Black Mamba:

“Coach K brought the pride of being an American back to the team,” Bryant told me.
“He brought in army vets and generals to speak with us and share their stories. He helped us see that we, as athletes, are an inspiration to the men and women that protect the freedoms we enjoy. That is the biggest impact.

“The gold medal now meant so much more. When we won [in Beijing], I envisioned our troops abroad celebrating. I did it for them. That’s the perspective Coach K brought. He made it not about us but about the U.S.”


No. 4: Brown says Embiid will play this season — After two years of injuries and setbacks and surgeries, everyone in Philadelphia has been cautiously optimistic about the progress of Joel Embiid. But coach Brett Brown told Zach Lowe on The Lowe Post podcast that the Philly big man is on track to finally make his NBA debut in the 2016-17 season:

While they didn’t talk about the 76ers all that much (Brown was on The Lowe Post not that long ago), Lowe did sneak in one Sixers question at the end: how is Joel Embiid progressing?

“I just left my third consecutive day working out with Joel 45 minutes ago,” Brown told Lowe. “Physically, mentally, recent medical scans, everything is pointing in the right direction. We’re just very excited.”

Lowe then specifically asked whether he was on track to play in the preseason. “Yes he is,” Brown said without hesitation.

The Sixers will begin preseason play October 4th, when they take on the Boston Celtics at the Mullins Center.

“There’s a real feel good mentality right now in our city. I think everybody’s starting to get excited,” Brown continued. “Obviously, this is just one more phase, one more wave on how we build our program. But we have such fantastic young, talented pieces to try to put that puzzle together. Everybody’s excited here in Philadelphia.”


No. 5: Spoelstra wants more from Whiteside — Now that he’s got a new long-term, big money contract and a place as a key player in Miami, coach Erik Spoelstra wants center Hassan Whiteside to take on more minutes and more responsibility for the Heat. The ace veteran Ira Winderman of the SunSentinel got the word from Spoelstra:

In the latest of his videos posted on the team’s website, Spoelstra spoke of the need to maximize the possibilities of his shot-blocking center, including additional post-up responsibilities and great accountability away from the rim.
“He will be working on all of it,” Spoelstra said. “Low-post scoring, that’s the number-one thing he wants to work on, and I’m all for it. He will also work on his skill level at the top of the floor, handling the ball, getting us into second situations as a playmaker, rebounding off the glass.”

That playmaking element has been an issue during Whiteside’s two seasons with the Heat, with just six assists in 2014-15, before an upgrade to 29 over his 73 regular-season appearances this past season.

Another facet of the expectation of increased accountability stressed by Spoelstra is being there as often as possible, as Whiteside begins his new four-year contract, one exceeded in its $22 million starting point this coming season only by the free-agent deals signed this offseason by LeBron James ($30 million), Kevin Durant ($26.5 million), Mike Conley ($26.5 million), Al Horford ($26.5 million), DeMar DeRozan ($26.5 million), Dirk Nowitzki ($25 million), Dwight Howard ($23.2 million) and Dwyane Wade ($23.2 million).

“Just continue the overall development with his body, working on his conditioning, getting stronger while maintaining his weight and flexibility,” Spoelstra said. “And he will have to be able to absorb more minutes, more responsibility, more games, which is a different level of training in the weight room.”

The relationship between Spoelstra and Whiteside had appeared fractured at times during Whiteside’s ascent from D-League longshot to a salary second on the Heat payroll only to Chris Bosh. Spoelstra played Whiteside off the bench, behind since-departed veteran Amar’e Stoudemire, over most of the second half of this past regular season.

“I’m not going to stand in his way and put a ceiling on where he can go and who he can become as a basketball player,” Spoelstra said in the team-produced video. “I want him to embrace all the challenges. And I want him to be one of the best players in this league. He has that type of potential.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Coach K gives high marks to Rio de Janeiro … The Thunder sign Semaj Christon … J.J. Hickson signs to play in China … John Wall is making progress in his rehab.

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