Carmelo Anthony leads meeting on police, community tensions

LOS ANGELES — Continuing to encourage dialogue as an important early step to easing tensions between police and the African-American community in many cities, Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony used Team USA’s day off to help assemble an estimated 2o0 people, from teenagers to adults, citizens to senior law-enforcement officers, for two hours of discussions at a Boys & Girls Club.

“We had a bunch of youth, had a bunch of police officers, had a bunch of community leaders of all race ethnicities, athletes,” Anthony said. “It was an open forum, open dialogue, an honest conversation. We came together as a group first, as one big group. We discussed some things and then we broke down into eight small groups and each group had athletes, officers, community leaders. What we did was, we just talked about the issues that’s going on out there today and we talked about solutions.

“Now, there’s a lot of solutions that was going on out there today, but we know that nothing’s going to happen overnight. But what we wanted to do was create something that we can start right now and continue on when we leave here today. There were some very, very powerful messages that was being talked about, not just us as athletes but the youth. The youth really, really spoke out today about how they feel about their community, how they feel about police officers, how they feel about relationships and how we can mend these relationships.”

Anthony admitted he does not have an answer on how to move forward from conversation to implementing change — “If  had the solution this would be corrected already,” he said — but was confident meetings like Monday can make a difference. Indeed, others in attendance said the chance to interact in more of a social setting, as opposed to the potential of a confrontational situation on the streets, helps.

So does Anthony and another attendee, Tamika Catchings of the WNBA’s Indiana Fever and the women’s Olympic team, lending their name in hopes of resolving the situation, said William Scott, a deputy chief with the Los Angeles Police Department.

“I think it makes a tremendous difference,” Scott said after the gathering. “The platform that these athletes have is worldwide and this issue is an issue that needs attention. We need to have some dialogue and we need to have some solutions to push this forward, so it makes a tremendous difference. It brings not only attention to the issue but it actually, I think, multiplies the facilitation of that dialogue. A lot of these young folks would not have been in this room talking with police had it not been for what these athletes are doing. That’s a tremendous, tremendous benefit to this issue and to us in the city.”

Team USA, which defeated China on Sunday in Staples Center, departed for San Francisco later Monday afternoon in preparation for a second meeting with China on Tuesday night at Oracle Arena in Oakland.

 

Report: Cavaliers’ Lue agrees to contract extension

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Tyronn Lue is still basking in the glow of his first title as coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers. He’ll do it with a sense of long-term security now, having agreed to terms on a reported five-year, $35 million contract extension, as first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of  The Vertical.

After taking over for David Blatt 41 games into the season, Lue worked on the same contract he had before assuming the role as head coach. He guided the Cavaliers through the Eastern Conference playoffs and from a 3-1 deficit against the Golden State Warriors in The Finals to end a 52-year title drought for fans in Cleveland.

The Cavaliers have had a relatively quiet summer since their raucous championship parade. But a contract agreement with Lue and the (official) re-signing of LeBron James (who has already made it known that he’s not going anywhere) were two outstanding matters that had to be addressed.

Jordan gives $2M in hopes of improving police, black relations

Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest player in NBA history and currently the owner of the Charlotte Hornets, is putting his money where others’ mouths are. After staying out of any political fray for most of his active playing career and taking a low-profile role in supporting candidates and causes since, the legendary Chicago Bulls’ shooting guard stepped directly into the middle of current unrest between law enforcement and many in the black community.

Jordan announced via The Undefeated.com, a subsidiary site of ESPN.com, that he felt compelled to step up publicly and support from both sides the efforts toward better relations and understanding. He’s doing that in the form of $1 million donations. Here is Jordan’s statement in full:

“As a proud American, a father who lost his own dad in a senseless act of violence, and a black man, I have been deeply troubled by the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement and angered by the cowardly and hateful targeting and killing of police officers. I grieve with the families who have lost loved ones, as I know their pain all too well.

“I was raised by parents who taught me to love and respect people regardless of their race or background, so I am saddened and frustrated by the divisive rhetoric and racial tensions that seem to be getting worse as of late. I know this country is better than that, and I can no longer stay silent. We need to find solutions that ensure people of color receive fair and equal treatment AND that police officers – who put their lives on the line every day to protect us all – are respected and supported

“Over the past three decades I have seen up close the dedication of the law enforcement officers who protect me and my family. I have the greatest respect for their sacrifice and service. I also recognize that for many people of color their experiences with law enforcement have been different than mine. I have decided to speak out in the hope that we can come together as Americans, and through peaceful dialogue and education, achieve constructive change.

“To support that effort, I am making contributions of $1 million each to two organizations, the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s newly established Institute for Community-Police Relations and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The Institute for Community-Police Relations’ policy and oversight work is focused on building trust and promoting best practices in community policing. My donation to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the nation’s oldest civil rights law organization, will support its ongoing work in support of reforms that will build trust and respect between communities and law enforcement. Although I know these contributions alone are not enough to solve the problem, I hope the resources will help both organizations make a positive difference.

“We are privileged to live in the world’s greatest country – a country that has provided my family and me the greatest of opportunities. The problems we face didn’t happen overnight and they won’t be solved tomorrow, but if we all work together, we can foster greater understanding, positive change and create a more peaceful world for ourselves, our children, our families and our communities.”

Morning shootaround — July 24


NEWS OF THE MORNING
The loss lingers | Mr. Burke goes to Washington | Boston cool on Okafor

No. 1: The one loss turned Team USA golden — It has been almost an entire decade since Team USA lost in international play. That came at the World Championships in Japan back in 2006 when the U.S. were whipped in the semifinals by Greece. It was the start of the collaboration between new director Jerry Colangelo and head coach Mike Krzyzewski and the loss not only stung, but provided the necessary impetus that has put Team USA back on top of the basketball world, says Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com:

“The shock and disappointment was real. We didn’t know what to expect in terms of playing the next game,” Colangelo said. “As we look back now, it was very important. We haven’t looked back since.”

During that summer 10 years ago, Krzyzewski was guilty of hubris and it carried over to his team. In his first year on the job he’d promised to pay respect to the international game and the non-NBA players who’d given the Americans six losses combined in the 2002 World Championships and the 2004 Olympics.

Yet he quickly declared that he’d never play zone defense despite having zone master Jim Boeheim on his coaching staff. Then during the tournament he sometimes was so unfamiliar with the opponents that he referred to them by jersey number instead of name.

“The stuff we had done up to that point, we realized we didn’t know what we were doing yet and what we were supposed to do,” Krzyzewski said. “It was a continuation of so-called failure. It wasn’t just the game, it was a ‘oh here we go again.’ I don’t think anyone was afraid of what people were going to say, it was what we felt. No one could say anything to make us feel worse.”

Krzyzewski started LeBron James at point guard in that bronze medal game, his first move in which he realized he needed to give James more responsibility going forward.

He worked together with Dwyane Wade, who had one of the best games of his international career that night.

Krzyzewski then went through with numerous other changes, including installing a zone defense for use in the FIBA Americas tournament in 2007 and upgrading the scouting to make sure the team was always more prepared for the opposition.

“Out of adversity comes opportunity,” Colangelo said. “It was a wake-up call, even though it was just at the beginning of our journey, that no matter how much talent you have on any given night, you don’t get much more of a learning experience than that.”

***

No. 2: Burke needed a change — He was a national college player of the year when the Jazz made Trey Burke their first round draft pick in 2013. But after three seasons of sliding steadily down the depth chart, the former University of Michigan guard says it was time for a change and he’s looking forward to a fresh start next season with the Wizards. Lev Facher of the Detroit Free Press has the details:

“It was definitely time for a reset,” Burke said. “A lot of the things that happened, I didn’t understand. Just to have an opportunity again, being able to play with an All-Star-caliber point guard in John Wall, I look at it as an opportunity to go deep in the playoffs and win games.”

Burke’s first three years in the NBA essentially marked the first success-free stretch of his career. In two years at Michigan, he propelled the team to two straight NCAA Tournament appearances and a run to the national championship game his sophomore year.

Utah, by comparison, didn’t have a winning season in Burke’s three years there. By the end of his first NBA run, Burke had fallen off the bottom of Utah’s rotation, playing in just two of the team’s final 14 games in 2015-16.

“My entire career, I’ve always won,” Burke said. “To be in Utah, it was up and down. We had some success there, but just to be on another team that has the opportunity to make the playoffs again feels great.”

***

No. 3: Celtics won’t overspend for Okafor — If the 76ers are going to break their logjam of big men by trading Jahlil Okafor, it’s looking less and less like it will be with a trade to Boston. Or at least not at this time. That’s the dish from Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Word out of Boston is that the Celtics will not give up much for the 6-foot-11, 257-pounder.

They have concerns about his playing in the city after being involved in two street fights there in the early hours of Thanksgiving morning. Nor do they like the fact that the center saw a gun pointed at his head in Old City and that he was stopped for going 108 mph over the Ben Franklin Bridge.

The Celtics have a practice of minimizing the risk when acquiring guys who have had what they view as a character flaw.

Former St. Joseph’s standout Delonte West is a prime example. A source said that general manager Danny Ainge loved West. However, Ainge only gave him a minimum deal even though talent-wise West was deserving of mid-level exception money.

And he’s just one example.

So the Celtics probably won’t offer anyone or anything the Sixers would perceive as equal value for Okafor. At least they won’t at this time.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Gerald Green returns to Boston and Celtics also re-sign Tyler Zeller … Chris “Birdman” Andersen signs with Cavaliers … David Stockton signs three-year deal to play in Croatia … If you still need a Kevin Durant Thunder jersey, there’s a sporting goods store in OKC selling them for 48 cents … Steph Curry was trying to make sweet music with his golf swing while playing with Justin Timberlake

Morning shootaround — July 23

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Team USA rolls in opener | Paul George shines in long-awaited return for USA | Harden looks forward to fresh start | Ingram’s tough road to the NBA

No. 1: Team USA rolls in opener — They might have had just four days of practice together, but Team USA came out in their exhibition opener and looked nothing like a team that needed more time to bond. Behind prime time performances from Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins and Paul George, Team USA coasted to a 111-74 win over Argentina. And as Steve Aschburner writes, it was a dominant performance from start to finish…

By halftime, the USA led 56-33, thanks largely to a 35-15 rebounding edge that produced second chances and defensive pressure that stymied Argentina’s attack. Led by Carmelo Anthony‘s three steals and Cousin’s two in the first 20 minutes, the NBA stars shook loose 14 turnovers and turned them into 25 points. All those offensive rebounds — they grabbed 19 of their missed shots to Argentina’s 14 defensive boards in the half — showed up in a 19-2 advantage in second-chance points.

George, playing for USA Basketball for the first time since fracturing his right leg in an August 2014 intrasquad scrimmage, shot 6-for-9 with a pair of 3-pointers. Cousins had nine points and 10 rebounds in the half, while DeAndre Jordan maintained USA’s inside advantage with six points and four boards.

Andres Nocioni scored eight points in the first half, and Manu Ginobili had six. Argentina was better from distance — 6-for-14 on 3-pointers vs. 4-for-12 on 2-point field goals — thanks to cleaner looks. In the paint, USA dominated in the half 34-6.

Taking better care of the ball in the third quarter — just two turnovers — Argentina stayed even with the Americans at 80-56. They got 22 shots, compared to 26 in the first half, and only allowed USA one offensive board.

The Americans got their swagger back in the fourth, though, outscoring Argentina 24-8 through the first six minutes of the quarter.

The game was the first of five that Team USA will play over the next 11 days before heading to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the 2016 Summer Olympics. The Americans will play the Chinese national team twice — Sunday in Los Angeles and Tuesday in Oakland — before traveling to Chicago and Houston for games against Venezuela and Nigeria, respectively.

***

No. 2: Paul George shines in long-awaited return for USA — It was two years ago in Las Vegas during an exhibition that Paul George suffered a gruesome broken leg that changed the course of his career. Now back and healthy, George came off the bench to score 18 points last night for Team USA, and as Yahoo’s Michael Lee writes, George showed everyone that he’s all the way back …

George is back in the Team USA fold, ready to complete what he started before his career was interrupted by what he now calls a “bump in the road.” The venue for George’s long-delayed international debut changed to the brand-new T-Mobile Arena, but he admitted playing an organized game in Las Vegas again was “eerie.” Any uneasiness quickly subsided shortly after Krzyzewski brought him off the bench in the first period. After scoring 18 effortless points in an emphatic 111-74 demolition of Argentina, George was quick to state that the injury that rocked USA Basketball was “behind me.”

All week, George’s Olympic teammates avoided discussing with him a setback that he has little interest in reliving but remains a defining moment in his career that he has been unable to escape – especially since his will to overcome that incident continues to define his character. Krzyzewski said after Friday’s game that George is playing “the best basketball in his life.”

Determined to not only come back, but to continue his steady improvement after missing nearly an entire season, George made his return since breaking his right leg the best of his career. He led the Indiana Pacers back into the postseason, came one point short of Wilt Chamberlain’s All-Star Game scoring record with 41 points and earned third-team All-NBA and second-team All-Defensive honors.

Colangelo said the incentivized gesture USA Basketball extended in the aftermath of George’s injury was the “right thing to do,” but George also rewarded that blind faith, making easy the decision to add him to the 12-man roster.

“I’m here for a reason,” George told The Vertical. “I’m not just a guy that Coach K brought along.”

***

No. 3: Harden looks forward to fresh start — It was a season of discontent for James Harden and the Houston Rockets, who went through a coaching change and then made a quick postseason exit. But with new coach Mike D’Antoni on the sideline this season and several new free agents signed up, Rockets’ star Harden tells Lang Whitaker that he’s excited for the new opportunity…

Q: How do you feel you fit into Mike D’Antoni’s system, and how do you feel his system benefits you?

HARDEN: You know what? The day he got hired, we watched film. We’ve communicated several times a week. You know, it’s going to work. I’m really excited about it because he’s prepared. He’s prepared, he’s given me knowledge, he’s given me things where I can fit into his offense and what he’s trying to do. And not only myself but the entire team — I asked him questions about how Patrick Beverley fits and the new guys that we got fit. So it’s exciting. And [we added Jeff] Bzdelik, who was the head defensive coach for Memphis. You know, everybody talks about, ‘The Rockets aren’t a good defensive team.’ Well, we got one of the best defensive coaches in the league now. So it’s all about preparation. In this league it’s all about preparation, putting guys in positions where they’re successful, and good things happen.

Q: Do you feel like you get a bad rap for your defense?

HARDEN: Yeah, yeah. But everybody makes mistakes. I can look up the same amount of plays for myself as the other top guys in the league. So I don’t really worry, I don’t focus on it. And now with the more talent that’s going to release some offensive pressure off me, I’m going to be able to go out there and play both ends of the floor at a high level. It’s really difficult to go out there, play all 82 games, lead the league in minutes and have to do everything offensively. I mean, no one else had that weight on their shoulders in the league. So like I said, it doesn’t really bother me. I focus on what I gotta do and I just go out there and do it.

***

No. 4: Ingram’s tough road to the NBA — The Lakers used the second overall pick in this summer’s draft on Brandon Ingram, a lanky forward out of Duke who showed everyone in his one year of college that he is an elite scorer. But making it to the NBA wasn’t an easy path for Ingram, and as Chris Mannix writes for Yahoo, Ingram getting to the NBA was a family affair

As he got older, his basketball obsession grew. He played after school. When he got home, he challenged Bo to one-on-one on the battered hoop in the backyard. “I was a senior in high school before I beat him,” Ingram said. When it got dark, his father, Donald, who managed the local rec center, opened up the gym. “It was an all-access pass,” Ingram laughed.

The work paid off. Ingram won a state championship his first year at Kinston. He went on to win three more. A stringy, 6-foot-2 guard as a freshman grew, by his own estimation, two inches every year to finish high school as a slender 6-8 forward. Spins, fadeaways, step-backs — Ingram had it all. He averaged 24 points and 10 rebounds as a senior. Legend had it that in four years, Ingram never missed a free throw. So? “Most definitely, that’s true,” Ingram said.

Last month, the Lakers tabbed Ingram with the second overall pick in the draft. Overnight, Ingram, 18, became the face of one of the NBA’s most storied franchises. It’s not the type of position he has always been comfortable in. For years, Ingram was shy about playing in front of crowds. It wasn’t until eighth grade, when he joined Jerry Stackhouse’s AAU team, that he took to it. He was a star in high school but needed Mike Krzyzewski to tell him at the 2015 McDonald’s All-American Game that he had pro potential. He could score on anyone but wasn’t always assertive in high school and was briefly benched for listless play at Duke.

The Lakers hope he grows into the role. They see Ingram as a multi-position player. At 6-9, 190-pounds, Ingram will need to bulk up. He was eating six meals a day, some 5,000 calories, Ingram said, before the draft and he hopes to be 210 pounds next season. But the talent is undeniable.

Durant sees it. For months, scouts have compared Ingram to Durant. And Durant understands why. “He reminds me of myself, but he’s a little farther along than I was at that stage,” Durant told reporters at Team USA practice in Las Vegas on Wednesday. For Ingram, there is no higher compliment. He grew up wearing Durant’s sneakers. His walls were covered with Durant posters. He mimicked many of Durant’s moves. He worshipped him when he was at Texas, cheered him in Seattle, followed his career closely in Oklahoma City. The Lakers hope they found the next Durant; Ingram knows it will be a while before he gets there.

“It’s a very special comparison,” Ingram said. “But, of course, I know I’m not him. I know I’m not him yet, but I have the potential to make my own brand. Of course, you grow up with him as an idol, and in a few months he’s going to become my rival. It’s going to be a dream come true. I think just watching him for so long and having the ability to actually learn and play against him is just going to be a special motivation for me as a competitor and someone who really looked up to him.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks have agreed to an extension that will keep Dirk under contract until he’s 40 years old … The Pelicans have signed free agent forward Terrence JonesDraymond Green reached a plea deal with prosecutors in Michigan … Luis Scola isn’t thrilled with the real estate prices in Brooklyn …

Marc Gasol to miss Rio Olympics

Two-time silver medalist Spain will be missing one of its key cogs for the Rio Olympics with the official announcement that Grizzlies center Marc Gasol has been scratched from the lineup while he continues to rehab his foot, according to The Associated Press:

MADRID — The Spanish basketball federation says center Marc Gasol will miss the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro after failing to recover from a broken foot in time, according to the Associated Press.

The federation said “Marc Gasol hasn’t passed the necessary medical tests” and will miss the Games.

Gasol has not played since he broke his right foot in February while playing for the Memphis Grizzlies.

Spain won silver medals in men’s basketball at the past two Olympics, losing the finals to the United States.

The 2016 basketball event starts in less than three weeks.

Will a touch of Linsanity return to NY?

It seems such a long time ago, as if it occurred in a different era to a different player.

There were those six magical weeks of 2012 when Jeremy Lin and the basketball world was swept up in Linsanity.

The phenomenon virtually owned New York with Lin’s sudden star turn when thrust into the lineup by then-Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni. He almost swallowed the NBA with nightly heroics and highlights that rolled around the globe like a driving, jump-shooting tsunami.

Since then, Lin has played in three other cities — Houston, L.A. and Charlotte — before opting to return as a free agent to New York, though across town with the Nets. But while Linsanity has evolved, it still lurks just beneath the surface for the 27-year-old U.S.-born point guard with the Taiwanese roots, according to Liz Robbins of the New York Times:

“When it first started, I’m not going to lie, it was cool, and then it became a burden,” he said at the Nets’ practice facility in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. “I didn’t really know what I had gotten myself into. One, two, three, four years later, every year I embrace it more. Every year I’m more appreciative, every year I love it more.”

He is 27 now, and it is no longer enough to be just a leader for the Nets on the court. “Chinese people, Asian-Americans, Asians, they always have a special place in my heart,” he said. “Coming back here, I want to be able to try to inspire the next generation, reach out in the community.”

A Harvard graduate and a son of Taiwanese immigrants, Mr. Lin became an empowering figure not only for Asians, but also for underdogs, long-suffering Knicks fans and New Yorkers mired in the doldrums in February 2012. The team’s leader, Carmelo Anthony, was injured when Mr. Lin was igniting a turnaround.

Enter Mr. Lin, a journeyman who had been cut by two teams. Linsanity, in all its glorious euphoria, erupted.

And then, several weeks later, Mr. Lin’s run was over, cut short by a season-ending knee injury, combined with the resignation of his coach, Mike D’Antoni. After the season, the Knicks allowed Mr. Lin to depart to the Houston Rockets via free agency.

“As soon as he took off that New York uniform, that magic was gone,” said Andrew Kuo, 38, a New York-born artist and ardent Lin fan.

The Lin-related artifacts of that time, like the sandwiches once named for him, grew stale. The puns faded from the lexicon.

“The Lin memes are done, it’s O.K., it’s extinct now,” Mr. Kuo said.

There is, however, the matter of that “Linsanity No. 17” tattoo on his left forearm. Mr. Kuo laughed and said that it might have been dumb. “But it’s nice to look down and remember it all,” he added.

Mr. Lin recalled how he wished he had stopped to enjoy that heady time more while it was swirling around him. As for Linsanity, he may have won the trademark, but he has mixed feelings about it; he does not intend to revive it.

“Not in a way that I’m offended, but it kind of dehumanizes me to refer to me as a phenomenon,” he said. “I’m going to be here, keep playing my game, and whatever you guys want to call it, it’s up to you guys.”

Blogtable: Biggest team turnaround with new coach?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Thoughts on away-from-play rules changesBiggest turnaround with new coach?Incoming rookie destined for NBA stardom?


> Which team is poised to have the most dramatic jump in winning percentage next season: Tom Thibodeau’s Timberwolves, Scott Brooks’ Wizards, Luke Walton’s Lakers, Dave Joerger’s Kings, Nate McMillan’s Pacers, David Fizdale’s Grizzlies, Jeff Hornacek’s Knicks, Mike D’Antoni’s Rockets, Frank Vogel’s Magic or Kenny Atkinson’s Nets?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Thibodeau’s Timberwolves will improve the most. No one coaches harder in the 82-game regular season, and Minnesota’s three youngest core players — Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine — would naturally take a step or two in their development under almost any coach. Combine that, along with a pretty easy act to top (29 victories in 2015-16) and I’m expected an improvement of 10-15 games.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comThe 17-win Lakers have the most room to work with, but the Lakers are also the farthest away. Frank Vogel’s solid defensive base will make the Magic jump if they can sort out the sudden glut of big men. But I’m making it a two-team race for biggest improvement. The Grizzlies and David Fizzle with a healthy Marc Gasol should go from 42 back to their customary 50-plus level. But I’ll give the nod to Minnesota. All that young talent combined with Thibs’ defensive chops will have the Wolves howling with a possible leap from from 29 to 40+ wins.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comLuke Walton’s Lakers, but in large part because they have the most realistic room to grow. It’s not hard to see L.A. adding 10 wins based on the energy of the coaching change, the experience D’Angelo Russell and (basically) Julius Randle didn’t have last season, the arrival of Luol Deng as a veteran presence and the addition of Brandon Ingram in the Draft. Ten wins is close to a 60-percent jump. A lot of the other options you mention will improve — Minnesota, New York, Orlando — but the Magic, for example, aren’t going to be 60-percent better in the standings. They will have more wins than the Lakers, just not a bigger increase.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: I’ll say the Lakers only because they were mostly dreadful and won just 17 games. Only one way to go, and if they win 30, which is somewhat realistic, that almost a 50-percent jump. Can’t see anyone else in this group pulling that off (where are the Sixers?) But again, it’s a backhanded compliment to the Lakers, who if nothing else should be exciting to watch even in defeat.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: The Wolves are going to the playoffs next season. Tom Thibodeau will have them improve at least 10 spots in defensive efficiency, where they ranked 27th last season. The development of their young players — along with, hopefully, Zach LaVine playing a lot more shooting guard than point guard — should have them improved offensively as well. Karl-Anthony Towns is the league’s next star and should do well with his first summer of work after finding out what the league is all about. He could make a huge leap.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: As entertaining as I believe the Minnesota Timberwolves could be under Tom Thibodeau, I’m going to have to go with Luke Walton’s Lakers. They’ve got as much ground to gain (in percentages and raw numbers) as any team in the league, given their dreadful performance last season and the fresh new look they’ll have under Walton. David Fizdale’s Grizzlies, however, will go into the season as my potential surprise team in the Western Conference (provided they have a healthy roster to work with), where things could shift dramatically with all of the changes that have occurred in free agency.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comThe Timberwolves may reach the playoffs next season because of Thibodeau, who will hasten their development defensively and turn their athleticism into a force. D’Antoni has a history of elevating the value of his players and the Rockets appear to be in the mood to rally around him after embarrassing themselves last year.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogI don’t know if there is a “most dramatic” winner out there. Scanning past those names, I don’t see any one team that immediately jumps out at me and looks like sudden a title contender. If I had to pick one, I’d pick a team in the East, where improvement may be easier to come by, and say either the Knicks (if they are healthy, which is a gigantic if) or maybe Frank Vogel’s Magic show in Orlando.

Blogtable: Incoming rookie that’s destined for NBA stardom?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Thoughts on away-from-play rules changesBiggest turnaround with new coach?Incoming rookie destined for NBA stardom?


> Based on the very small sample size that we call Summer League, which incoming rookie is a can’t-miss, bonafide NBA star in the next 2-3 years?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comIt’s hard not to see stardom for Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons, based on his play in Las Vegas as well as the greater likelihood for a guy picked No. 1 overall. But I’ll include Boston’s Jaylen Brown because, hey, I saw Brown actually get a “star” whistle from one of the referees late in a summer game. Down the stretch against Milwaukee, I think it was, some very questionable contact was adjudicated in his favor. Brown’s floor game was impressive, his above-the-rim game packed some intimidation. He averaged 22 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 3.6 steals in his final three appearances.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comThere’s no reason to doubt No. 1 pick Ben Simmons. He has the talent, the flair and seems to want to embrace the challenge of resurrecting the once-proud Sixers franchise.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: There isn’t one. Obviously a lot depends on the definition of “star,” but Ben Simmons has the best chance. He is not a can’t-miss star until he gets a jumper, though, and teams are forced to play him for something other than drive and pass. Simmons has a chance to be special in time, especially when (if) the 76ers give him some scorers to pass to.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comThe answer is “none” in terms of being a star (my definition of “star” is stingier than most) in such a short amount of time. I will give the edge to Ben Simmons, who’s able to impact games without scoring many points. He has such a special skill-set, which won’t be fully realized until he gets better teammates to pass to in Philly. Oh, and a special shout-out to Tyler Ulis. It’s astonishing to me why some NBA general managers drafted Eurostash in the first round over this kid. He can play. Forget the size. And he’s gonna make those GMs look foolish.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Based on the extremely small sample size, I’m buying Kris Dunn stock. He’s got the edge to his game that I think translates and he’s going to be in an incubator in Minnesota with several other youngsters who are already locked in and headed for big things during the same time span. That entire young cast — led by Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and one of my personal faves Zach LaVine — should give Timberwolves fans plenty of hope for the immediate future now that the Thibodeau program is in place.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comBased on the accelerated development of Kawhi Leonard, Dejounte Murray looks like the next young star for the Spurs. Though he was the No. 29 pick, Murray has the length, athleticism and instincts for scoring and playmaking that can enable him to take over for Tony Parker — so long as he embraces the program.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogWell, Ben Simmons was the best rookie in Summer League and one of the best players overall, so I’d say you have to consider him the leader. There were other rookies who I thought were impressive, such as Brandon Ingram, and I also really like Jamal Murray‘s game. But those guys probably need some time to develop. Simmons can play right now against anyone you put him out there against. And the Sixers are going to be pretty great to watch because of it.

Blogtable: Thoughts on the NBA’s away-from-play rules changes

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Thoughts on away-from-play rules changesBiggest turnaround with new coach?Incoming rookie destined for NBA stardom?


> Last week the NBA announced some rules changes for away-from-the-play fouls. Do you think these changes went too far, didn’t go far enough, or were just right?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comDid not go far enough. This was clearly a compromise, trying to satisfy the players-need-to-make-their-free-throws purists as well as the this-is-unwatchable critics of “Hack-a-…” tactics. It will cut down on the number of incidents but it won’t eliminate it. I’m not a big fan of different rules for different parts of the game. So I’m hoping what we get in the final two minute of each period now, we’ll soon get for all 48 minutes.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comI’m fine with it as long as guys like Isaiah Thomas, Chris Paul, Ty Lawson, Darren Collison, D.J. Augustin, Aaron Brooks and J.J. Barea get to use a step-stool because the basket is too high. And now that I think about it, Dwight Howard should also be permitted to shoot at a basket that is twice as large in diameter all throughout the game because, in addition to his horrible free throw shooting, he also can’t make any kind of shot more than 2 feet from the basket. To paraphrase a famous cartoon character: “Let’s make the NBA dumb again.”

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comJust right. The rule change they got especially right was the automatic for jumping on a player’s back. That’s very reasonable. But altering the away-from-the-play fouls to the final two minutes of every quarter, as opposed to just the fourth period, is a good step. Adopting the D-League rule of every minute of every quarter would have been an option, but also an extreme move. I still say there is no need for that dramatic of a move to address three or four players. Let’s start with this and re-assess.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Just about right. I cringe at the idea of making rule changes just because a small sampling of players can’t perform one of the more fundamental facets of the game. And so the league essentially made a compromise of sorts. It’s going to be good enough for some people, and not enough for Jeff Van Gundy.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comNot far enough. An intentional foul is an intentional foul, no matter when it occurs in the period. And on other levels of basketball, it’s penalized with free throws and possession. Away from the play intentional fouls, as well as intentional fouls meant to stop a fast break, should be penalized as such. And with the latter, we can get rid of the time-wasting and confusing clear path rule.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: The rules changes feel as close to just right and reasonable as we’re going to get for fundamental flaws that plague a select few players in the league. I never like to see a league legislating for the few at the expense of the masses, but I agree that something had to be done. With all of the time players spend in the gym in the offseason, I just wish certain guys would fine-tune their free throw shooting mechanics so no one would have to tweak or change the rules.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comI disagree with the fundamental point of view. This little issue is not about whether players can or cannot make free throws. As I see it, these are fouls against the spirit of the game. If you wish to commit a foul cynically, away from the play, then you are committing a foul against the game. Your cynicism should not be rewarded. These fouls are not committed in the spirit of basketball. And so when a coach acts cynically, he should be punished: The other team should retain control of the ball after one or two free throws.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogWell, I was firmly in the camp of not wanting anything to be done, because I felt like changing the rules was in some way rewarding/protecting the small minority who can’t make free throws. So considering the size of the change that was announced, maybe it’s just right? Although part of me suspects if teams really want to Hack-A-Whomever, they’ll figure out a way to do it. I am particularly interested to see how Mike Budenholzer adjusts to it, since last season he used it several times against teams like Detroit to grab a lead, and now he’ll have Dwight Howard on his own team.