NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Trip to Hall of Fame resonates with Paul – LA Clippers point guard Chris Paul was honored by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this summer with the Mannie Jackson Human Spirit Award for his work with his organization, the Chris Paul Foundation. Initially, Paul was hesitant to come out to Springfield, Mass., for the event, but since then has drastically changed his tone about both the Hall itself and has a newfound respect for his the game at large. Jackie MacMullan of ESPN.com has more:
Chris Paul admits it — he viewed his trip to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame last week as a bit of a nuisance.
It wasn’t the first time the Hall had reached out, but it was the first time the nine-time All-Star finally acquiesced.
“They ask,” Paul conceded to ESPN.com, “but you think, ‘I’m busy’ or ‘Oh no, it’s too far,’ or ‘I have too much other stuff going on.”’
During his tour of the birthplace of basketball, Paul was moved by the stories of African-American pioneers who were banned from hotels and restrooms that welcomed their white teammates. He delighted in locating the plaque of Clarence “Big House” Gaines, the legendary African-American college coach at Winston-Salem State, just miles from where Paul grew up.
It prompted a reflective Paul to deliver one of the most memorable and impassioned speeches from an elite player who wasn’t actually being inducted.
“Today was my first day having the opportunity to come here, and it was kind of touching,” Paul told the audience upon accepting his award. “If not for this game, I am not here. If not for this game, my family is not in the situation we are in. And so I’m grateful for this game and what it has done for me and my family …”
With his voice breaking, and tears welling, Paul pressed on.
“It really hit me today being here around all the history that we take so much for granted,” he said. “And I know I do [that] a lot of times.”
Before long, as Paul shared the story of how he pressured his parents to buy him a pair of Allen Iverson‘s signature shoes, he had Iverson — a 2016 Hall of Fame inductee — weeping, too.
“To be here on his special day … man, this game has taken me places I never imagined,” Paul said. “Guys, you gotta come see this, because it’s bigger than any of us.”
“I haven’t never been here before, and as I walked in I actually felt bad about it,” Paul said. “It hit home today, in a big way, what this game has done for me, and the people I love. You walk in and you see all the history and you realize, ‘I need to support this.’
“I’m one of those people who, my wheels get turning. You want other people to see this. You think, ‘Maybe it would be better if this was in New York or L.A.,’ but that doesn’t make sense. The game was invented here. There is where it has to stay.”
Paul, who is also president of the players’ union, said he plans to go back to his NBA brethren and encourage them to see for themselves how the pioneers of the game paved the way — and to spur them to give back.
“Every experience is different for every person, but this place? It got me,” Paul said. “I can’t wait to bring my son.”
No. 2: Report: Smith to skip Cavs’ mini-camp — About a month or so ago, word got out that LeBron James was hosting a Cleveland Cavaliers mini-camp in California to help the team gear up for its championship defense. The roster from last season is more or less the same save for a few departures, the most notable being Matthew Dellavedova to the Milwaukee Bucks. Swingman J.R. Smith remains on the free-agent market and at an impasse with Cavs management over his next deal and, as such, will miss the mini-camp, writes Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com:
Shooting guard J.R. Smith will not attend the Cleveland Cavaliers’ minicamp this week in California as he and the team remain at an impasse in contract talks, sources told ESPN.com.
Cavs players and coaches are gathering for workouts for several days this week in Santa Barbara ahead of the start of training camp next week. The session is meant to create camaraderie ahead of the season. Last year, the team gathered in Miami for a camp that helped launch their eventual championship season.
Smith’s agent, Rich Paul, and the Cavs have been in a standoff since July, when Smith opted out of his contract. No recent progress has been made in the talks, sources said. Smith, who played a significant role at both ends of the court, is seeking a multiyear deal.
Smith is focused on returning to the Cavs — and the team wants him back — but Smith likely won’t hesitate to miss part of training camp to see if his leverage changes. Other teams currently have cap space, and events in the preseason can change the situation. Last season, the Cavs were at an impasse with Paul and free agent Tristan Thompson that saw Thompson miss all of the preseason before coming to terms.
The Cavs have had free agents miss the entire preseason in contract stalemates three times since 2007 –Thompson, Anderson Varejao and Sasha Pavlovic — while Dan Gilbert has owned the team.
One of the reasons Smith’s talks have failed to find common ground is the wide variety of contracts shooting guards signed during the offseason. Comparable shooting guards include Kent Bazemore (four years, $70 million), Eric Gordon(four years, $53 million) Jamal Crawford (three years, $42 million), Courtney Lee (four years, $48 million) and Joe Johnson (two years, $22 million).
No. 3: Report: Meeks on track to return in November — The Orlando Magic were decidedly in the middle of the pack in 3-point shooting last season, finishing 15th (35.0 percent) and were in the bottom half in 3-point attempts per game (22nd, 22.2 per game). The team tried to remedy that issue by trading for Detroit Pistons sharpshooter Jodie Meeks, a career 37.3 percent 3-point shooter, in the offseason. Meeks suffered a foot fracture early last season and ended up playing in just three games total, but says he’s on the mend and the team expects him back in November. Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel has more:
The Orlando Magic’s Jodie Meeks appears to be progressing in his recovery from a mid-July surgery to stabilize the fifth metatarsal in his right foot.
Meeks probably will be available to play at some point in November, a team official told the Orlando Sentinel. Meeks’ exact return date will depend on how well he continues to progress.
Meeks will not be able to participate fully when training camp starts on Sept. 27, the team official said.
Meeks fractured his right foot’s fifth metatarsal during the Detroit Pistons’ second regular-season game last season. By the time he recovered, he had fallen out of Detroit’s playing rotation, but he appeared in Detroit’s regular-season finale and in one playoff game.
The Magic acquired Meeks in a trade in late June. Orlando sent one of its two second-round picks in 2019 to the Pistons.
Meeks passed a physical after the trade. A few days later, he told reporters he was completely healed from the foot fracture.
He apparently encountered a setback shortly after that, necessitating his surgery on July 19.
Other Magic players, past and present, have made full recoveries from fifth metatarsal fractures, including Gordon and Glen Davis.
No. 4: Stevens thinks veterans will challenge Brown — In the 2016 NBA.com Rookie Survey, Boston Celtics forward Jaylen Brown is viewed by his peers as the most athletic player in the class, a contender for Kia Rookie of the Year and a potential Draft-night steal. All that said, Brown will get his first taste of NBA life in less than a week when the Celtics open camp and he is competing for minutes, a role and more. In an interview on Bill Simmons‘ podcast on The Ringer, Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he expects Boston’s veteran players to push Brown to succeed:
Most top lottery picks join bad teams, but the Celtics were able to select Brown after a 48-win season. Instead of being handed minutes on a shabby roster, the No. 3 overall pick will need to earn them against a load of proven players. That could pose some issues — Brown won’t receive as much on-court experience as he would with, say, the Sacramento Kings — but Stevens also thinks the talent level will push Brown.
“I think Jaylen’s in a good situation to learn and grow because he’s coming into a team that has some perimeter players who are very established that will make him very uncomfortable in practice every single day,” Stevens said during a recent appearance on The Ringer’s NBA podcast with Bill Simmons. “And they’ll do it on both ends of the floor. For him to have to be matched up against Jae (Crowder) or Avery (Bradley), or if we play him at the 4 some against a Jae (Crowder) or a Jonas (Jerebko), whatever the case may be, those are hard matchups. And that should a great — that should be the best part of the learning curve for Jaylen.”
Stevens said he is “looking forward to coaching” Brown, a 6-foot-7 wing with enough size, strength and athleticism to one day defend at least two or three positions. It’s not clear exactly how much of an impact the rookie will make right away, but that didn’t stop Simmons from dreaming about the defensive potential of a lineup with Brown, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, Jae Crowder and Al Horford.
“I think that you could throw a couple of other names in there too and still really be able to move around, fly around the court, full rotate and/or switch,” Stevens said, indirectly referring to other players on the roster like Jerebko and Amir Johnson who can slide their feet to stick with smaller guys. “You’ve got some defensive versatility and flexibility there. Now, I’ve been in a situation before where we’re coming off a very good year defensively statistically, like our team is (as a top-five defense last season). And you can take it one of two ways: you can take the approach that we’ve arrived, and not commit to the details, and just think it’s going to happen. Or you can become even better in those little things, realize that if this group becomes great in details it’s got a chance to be a very good defense because of the way we impact the ball. Then we could be good. But it could go either way. So the best answer I can give you right now is time will tell, but I am excited to try those things. And as we get ready for training camp those are things (lineup ideas) that are all over my board.”
As he often does, Stevens touted the importance of defensive versatility, calling guys who can guard several positions “invaluable.” Brown could emerge as that type of defender one day, but the coaches wants to remember their youngest player remains a teenager.
“Another thing is we have to constantly remind ourselves as a staff that he’s 19, he’s one year removed from one year of college,” Stevens said. “And I think that he’s got a high upside and we’re looking forward to working with him, but I think we also understand he’s got a large learning curve.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Los Angeles Lakers rookie forward Brandon Ingram has been getting defensive pointers from Golden State Warriors standout Andre Iguodala … A LeBron James rookie card is expected to fetch more than $200,000 at auction … Veteran center Joel Anthony is expected to soon ink a training camp deal with the San Antonio Spurs … Former Spurs fan favorite Matt Bonner says he plans to ‘fight’ to play one more year in the NBA … How will the Utah Jazz sort out their deep rotation on the wing? … Atlanta Hawks rookie DeAndre Bembry is ready for the transition to the pros … Kick back, relax and enjoy the greatest dunks in Denver Nuggets history … Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez played a round of Phone Booth on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” last night …