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Posts Tagged ‘Blake Griffin’

Hang Time Road Trip II: Going back to Cali!


By Sekou Smith

OAKLAND — On the road again.

Part II.

The Remix.

California Dreaming.

We considered them all as theme’s for this season’s Hang Time Road Trip, the follow-up to last season’s raucous 3,600-mile trek that took us from Cleveland and through fellow Central Division hot spots in Chicago and Indianapolis and on to Philadelphia, New York and, eventually, Chapel Hill, N.C.

We’re taking a different route this time around. We won’t cover nearly as many miles but we’re going back to California, where we spent tons of quality time during the playoffs and, ultimately, The Finals. It is the state some would say is the epicenter of the NBA universe as we kick off the 2015-16 season.

The champs reside here, after all. Eyes around the league will be on KIA MVP Stephen Curry and his Splash Bros. partner, Klay Thompson, and the rest of the Golden State Warriors as they target on a repeat performance from last season, when they ended a 40-year title drought for the franchise.

Our eight-day sojourn kicks off in Warriors territory, where Luke Walton is filling in for Steve Kerr as interim coach as Kerr continues his indefinite leave of absence while recovering from summer back surgery. Before we finish we’ll have chewed up plenty of highway between the Bay Area and Los Angeles, where we’ll get up close and personal with the Lakers and Clippers.


VIDEO: Pacers boss Larry Bird visited on the Hang Time Road Trip bus last year

Kobe Bryant‘s back from injury and for what, as of this moment, is his final season under contract with the only franchise he’s known in his future Hall of Fame career. We’ll find out what he has left in his tank and if his latest supporting cast is up to the task of sending him out the right way, if this is indeed his final campaign in purple and gold. Are youngsters D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle, as well as veterans Roy Hibbert and Metta World Peace, capable of holding up their part of the deal?

And no one has had a more eventful offseason than Doc Rivers and his crew (no emoji’s from us, fellas), who figure to be one the biggest threats to the Warriors’ parade plans this season. Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and their free-agent contingent did everything they could to make sure DeAndre Jordan didn’t go anywhere, not with reinforcements in the form of Paul Pierce, Josh Smith and Lance Stephenson ready to help with the heavy lifting this season.

You know there will be plenty of craziness along the road — it’s what we do on the Hang Time Podcast — but as always our mission remains hoops. And where better to get things started than the Great State of California, where the storylines are aplenty.


Keep up with us around the clock on Twitter or Instagram or Facebook (using the hashtag #NBAHangTime):

Check the Hang Time Blog for our daily (video) podcast recapping our adventures and also Lang’s All Ball Blog for our daily updates.

VIDEO: Knicks boss Phil Jackson visits during the inaugural Hang Time Road Trip

Morning shootaround — Oct. 11

VIDEO: Recap the preseason games from Saturday night


Hornets’ Lin plays, and plays it safe, in China | Metta World Peace: ‘It’s a baby’s game’ | Wizards’ Humphries stretching his game | Jordan touts NBA, Nike brand on trip

No. 1: Hornets’ Lin plays, and plays it safe, in China — Here, Jeremy Lin is a little more famous than other NBA players of his caliber, owing to his ethnic background (Chinese) and memories of his “Linsanity” splash onto the league’s scene with New York in February 2012. There – that is to say, in China, where Lin is visiting with his Charlotte Hornets team – he’s some combination of Michael Jordan, Elvis and Beatlemania. His popularity since he picked up that country’s basketball baton from Yao Ming is tremendous – but also something to respect and handle properly, as the Charlotte Observer’s Rick Bonnell wrote from the Hornets’ stop in Shenzhen:

China has been very good to Charlotte Hornets guard Jeremy Lin.

He has millions of followers on Weibo, the Chinese parallel of Twitter. He makes millions off endorsement deals for cars, sports apparel and sports drinks. He draws massive crowds on the mainland for every promotional appearance or basketball camp.

And then there’s the other side of being so famous in a country with more than 300 million basketball fans.

“It can be scary, too,” Lin said in a lengthy interview with the Observer. “When people somehow know what room I’m in, what floor I’m on. Fans aren’t supposed to get up that elevator, but somehow they do. And then they’re waiting for me and all I can say is, ‘You know you are not supposed to be up here?’

“If I am in China I always have a personal body guard, and if I’m making an appearance I’ll always have a team of security. The body guard is legit; he’s always there to stay by my door to hear every knock. Then I can be comfortable and feel safe.”

Lin is an Asian-American who played college basketball at Harvard. His parents immigrated to the United States from Taiwan and his grandparents were born and raise on mainland China.


No. 2: Metta World Peace: ‘It’s a baby’s game’ — Besides going global, the NBA allegedly is going soft. At least, that’s the opinion of Metta World Peace, who cites what he considers to be diminishing toughness in play and players compared to what greeted him as a rookie in 1999. Of course, World Peace was named Ron Artest back then, a reminder that lots of things have changed since then. His analysis came after the Lakers’ practice Saturday – he’s attempting a comeback at age 36, with a contract that isn’t guaranteed – and was reported by the Los Angeles Times, among others:

“I remember I came into the NBA in 1999, the game was a little bit more rough. The game now is more for kids. It’s not really a man’s game anymore,” World Peace said. “The parents are really protective of their children. They cry to their AAU coaches. They cry to the refs, ‘That’s a foul. That’s a foul.’

“Sometimes I wish those parents would just stay home, don’t come to the game, and now translated, these same AAU kids whose parents came to the game, ‘That’s a foul.’ These kids are in the NBA. So now we have a problem. You’ve got a bunch of babies professionally around the world.”

World Peace wasn’t quite done.

“It’s no longer a man’s game,” he said. “It’s a baby’s game. There’s softies everywhere. Everybody’s soft. Nobody’s hard no more. So, you just deal with it, you adjust and that’s it.”

On a nonguaranteed $1.5-million minimum contract, World Peace is hoping to make the Lakers’ 15-man roster for opening night. The team currently has 19 players almost midway through the preseason.
In his debut, World Peace gave the team’s second unit a boost against Utah, leaping over courtside seats while chasing down a loose ball last Tuesday. The Lakers would ultimately lose in overtime.

“I forgot that I was on a nonguaranteed contract when I dived,” World Peace said. “My brother reminded me, ‘What are you doing? You’re on a nonguaranteed contract. You’re going to kill yourself.’

“I was like ‘Oh wow, that’s right,’ but that’s the only way I know how to play, so I don’t care about a nonguaranteed contract. I just want to play hard.”


No. 3: Wizards’ Humphries stretching his game — So often, it’s NBA fans taking shots at and otherwise heckling journeyman forward Kris Humphries over his don’t-blink marriage into the schlock-famous Kardashian family (his marriage to Kim had a shelf life of 72 days, from vows uttered to divorce papers filed). This time, Humphries is the one taking shots – specifically, 3-point shots, a new challenge for him driven by the Washington Wizards’ recent embrace of small ball and the league’s trend of deep-threat big men. With Humphries doing work from the arc early in the Wizards’ preseason schedule, Ben Standig of wrote about this old dog’s new trick:

“This is a different game for me,” Humphries stated this week.

The obvious difference involves the 3-point shot, a non-factor in his game truly until this past offseason. Playing a traditional power forward role, Humphries attempted only 26 shots from beyond the arc for his career. That included seven last season. He missed them all. The last make came during his 2004-05 rookie season.

Through two preseason games, Humphries leads the Wizards with 10 attempts. Yes, change is coming.

“That’s what they want to do here. You kind of have to adapt to help your team,” Humphries said following Tuesday’s preseason opener. “I just wish I would have started shooting 3’s earlier. This is really like the first summer where I was like I’m going to work on my 3-point shooting. Before you might shoot a few corner 3’s or something in a workout. This year I was like, I’m going to work on it.”

Yet the actual deep shot isn’t the only distinction in the 6-foot-9 forward’s game this season. Anybody playing the 4-spot for Washington this season won’t simply be camped out in the lane for offensive rebounds or interior passes. The spread-the-floor philosophy deployed during last season’s playoff run is the primary staple now.

“It’s different, especially for me,” Humphries said. “I haven’t really played on the wing, like at the 3-point line to where I’m going to try to get an offensive rebound and then running back and then running again. It’s adding that extra [23 feet 9 inches] of running in there. It doesn’t seem like a lot but it catches up to you. It’ early on. I’ve just got a little extra shooting and conditioning — I’ve got to be in better shape if I’m going to play this way.”

Humphries went 2 of 4 on 3’s in Tuesday’s blowout win over the Philadelphia 76ers, but struggled in Friday’s loss to the New York Knicks, missing five of six attempts.


No. 4: Jordan touts NBA, Nike brand on tripMichael Jordan, as the Hornets’ principal owner, a Nike icon and the NBA’s most recognizable ambassador, was in China with his team. Not known for his interview availability these days, His Airness did sit for a chat pegged to this trip, with the story carried in the Shanghai Daily. The Web site’s translation to English was a little spotty but it did capture some insights into Jordan:

Jordan visited China only once in 2004, which caused a national craze. “Ah, 11 years ago,” Jordan, talking about the visit in 2004, said what impressed him most was the Chinese fans. “You know the fans, the way they were passionate about game of basketball. Obviously they remember me playing, I enjoyed spending the time there,” Jordan recalled, “it gives me an opportunity after 11 years going back. It’s kind of reconnecting with the fans based over there. Jordan Brand fans, Michael Jordan fans, so I’m looking forward to it.”

As for Hornets’ prospects for the new season, Jordan showed his sober optimism. “They should be okay. We changed a lot of personnel. Everybody is excited I’m very excited but I don’t want to get overexcited.”

Jordan made specific mention of Jeremy Lin, who joined in the Hornets from the LA Lakers this summer. Jordan saw it a successful deal, “We just got Jeremy Lin, who I think is going to be our biggest acquisition. His penetration, his shooting capability, his point guard savvy, he can really pass the basketball, his energy about the game of basketball something,” Jordan said.

Jordan’s success derives from his desire to excel and unparalleled confidence, which, as he said, was an inborn instinct accompanying his growth.

“No point did I doubt my skills. As a basketball player, there are things I feel like I had to improve on, but in terms of confidence about me playing the basketball I never doubt that at all,” Jordan told Xinhua, even if when he entered NBA as a rookie in 1984, “Rookie? I always felt like I could play, I just need to learn, I considered myself the lowest on the totem pole but I know I have to work my way up, but I didn’t lack confidence at all. I lacked the experience.”

Jordan said that it was the game of basketball that gave him a chance to do a lot of different things and meet a lot of different people, affecting and inspiring them. “The game allowed me to touch a lot of people I probably would never be able to touch if I don’t play the game of basketball.”

Jordan said he hoped people looked at him from a lot of different aspects. “When you see Michael Jordan you are going to see him in the sense that he is very versatile. He adapted, he looked at challenges, he looked at things can make himself better and he worked hard at it. So I would like people when they look at Michael Jordan is an all-around, good person, good competitor, good businessman, good basketball player, all the above.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Chris Paul and Blake Griffin were planning to put their proximity to Michael Jordan to good use on the Clippers’ and the Hornets’ China trip. … Paul’s broken left index finger, which kept him out of Sunday’s game in Shenzhen, reportedly won’t sideline the Clippers point guard for long or pose much of a problem. … LeBron James might own motorcycles but that doesn’t necessarily mean he rides motorcycles. Ditto for that motorcycle helmet and wearing it or not. … Kevin Love participated in his first full 5-on-5 practice with the Cavaliers since undergoing shoulder surgery during the playoffs. … The Hornets’ Steve Clifford is trying to stay flexible and be creative in moving lineup pieces around to pick up injured wing Michael Kidd-Gilchrist‘s slack. … Derrick Williams‘ contract might wind up getting blamed by New York Knicks fans for hurting the team’s chances of landing Kevin Durant in free agency next summer. But for now, the underachieving former No. 2 pick in the draft has shown signs of “getting it” and might actually help this season. … Washington anticipates bumps along Otto Porter‘s learning curve as he tries to fill Trevor Ariza‘s and Paul Pierce’s veteran shoes. … Relieved that his New York criminal trial is over, a vindicated Thabo Sefolosha scrambles to catch up with Atlanta Hawks teammates. He might play Wednesday. …

Morning Shootaround — Sept. 19

VIDEO: Recapping the 2015 FIBA EuroBasket semifinals


Lithuania punches ticket | Catching up with Blake | Scott talks state of Lakers

No. 1: Lithuania punches ticket As we move closer to the start of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, the field that will compete for the men’s basketball gold medal is beginning to take shape. After Spain qualified by beating France earlier in the week, at EuroBasket yesterday, Lithuania earned a trip to Brazil by beating a strong Serbia team. As our own John Schuhmann writes, sometimes in international basketball there’s a thin line between dominance and heartbreak …

Lithuania is heading to the Olympics after holding on for a 67-64 victory over the team that had won its first seven games by an average of 15.1 points. It wasn’t a pretty game (the teams combined to shoot 8-for-42 from 3-point range), but appropriately, it went down to the wire.

Lithuania beat up Serbia inside early and built a double-digit lead in the second quarter. Serbia climbed to within one at the half, but scored just nine points in the third quarter and trailed by nine early in the fourth.

Serbia came back again, but fell victim to two tough plays late. With 3:36 left, Stefan Markovic saved the ball under the Lithuania basket … right to Mindaugas Kuzminskas, who put Lithuania up four. Two possessions later, Bogdan Bogdanovic was called for a foul on what looked like a clean block, and Jonas Maciulis put Lithuania up six at the free throw line.

Milos Teodosic put Serbia within one with a ridiculous three with 14 seconds left, but Bogdanovic was bumped and stumbled as he tried to tie the game on a frantic drive after Lithuania missed one of two at the line.

The Raptors’ Jonas Valanciunas led Lithuania with 15 points (on just six shots) in less than 27 minutes. Teodosic had 16 for Serbia, but didn’t get enough help from Bogdanovic or the Wolves’ Nemanja Bjelica.

Lithuania punched its ticket to Rio and to Sunday’s gold medal game against Spain. Serbia will play France for bronze on Sunday and will have another chance at the Olympics in one of the qualifying tournaments next July.


No. 2: Catching up with Blake Between ownership and coaching changes, the last few years for the Los Angeles Clippers have been filled with noise. And perhaps lost in the shuffle in some ways has been the development of Blake Griffin, who has met the high expectations that accompanied being a No. 1 overall draft pick, and made himself into the franchise cornerstone people projected him becoming. Alex Kennedy from Basketball Insiders caught up with Blake to talk everything from his work ethic to the Clippers’ offseason to his myriad off-court pursuits…

Basketball Insiders: You’ve added different things to your game each summer. Where are you working out this offseason and what aspects of your game are you working on?

Blake Griffin: “I did a lot of my offseason stuff here in L.A. I like to get out of the training facility and I work out with my trainer, doing strength and conditioning stuff in El Segundo in his gym. I’ll use just random gyms, like I use this high school gym down in Manhattan Beach sometimes. Then, I kind of bounced around a bit. I did some workouts in New York because I had to be there for a little bit so I worked out there. As far as what we worked on, a lot of face up, off the post, off the elbow, a lot of short roll stuff, getting into the lane, floaters – just because we get so much of that with our spacing of the court and how many pick and rolls we run with CP. [I worked on] a lot of stuff actually off the dribble too, just like one dribble pull-ups and things like that. A lot of post-ups too. This summer, I really did a whole lot and kind of mixed it up. Like last summer, I did so much shooting – a lot of catch and shooting, a lot of pick and pop – and I still did that this summer a lot, but I just tried to kind of focus on literally everything this summer.”

Basketball Insiders: As you mentioned, you spent a lot of time in the gym working on your jump shot last year and it translated to success during the season. Now, after another offseason of work, where is your confidence level with your jump shot?

Blake Griffin: “Every summer and every year, it really gets better and better. I feel a lot more confident going into this season, definitely more so than last season. Each year and each offseason, I try to kind of reflect on the last season and see what I did – what I maybe did too much of, what I didn’t do enough of – and I think last year sometimes I settled [for jump shots] a bit too much. This year, I’m really trying to perfect that balance of pick and pops versus putting it on the floor and making plays, so that’s kind of why I focused on everything this summer. Just being able to use the spacing of our floor, having J.J. [Redick] out there spacing the floor and the same thing with CP when he gets doubled team, [I] just really wanted to being able to have an array of shots and not just focus on pick and pops and catch and shoots.”

Basketball Insiders: I don’t think people realize how hard you work. I’ve known Jamal Crawford for years and he always raves about your work ethic, saying you’re always the first guy in the gym. Can you walk me through one of your typical summer workouts, just so people can get a glimpse of what you do?

Blake Griffin: “A typical day, when I’m really into the full swing of things in the offseason, starts early in the morning because I don’t really sleep in. I wake up around 6:45 a.m. and I’m starting by 7:30 a.m. or sometimes 8:00 a.m. Every now and then, I do kind of a crazy week where I start my workouts at 6 a.m. just to kind of mix it up and make me concentrate a little bit more, taking me out of my comfort zone a little bit. I do that for a week once a month. But once I start with my trainer, we do a lot of corrective stuff early like balance, all of my stuff for my back and any type of little problems I have, we just work on correcting those things. Then, we move on to weights and then for conditioning we do like basically a heart rate training program. It’s kind of a more efficient way of training and doing cardio. We mix it up though. I did a lot of pool stuff this summer, a lot of swimming this summer, which I love. I did a lot of that two summers ago, so I got back into the pool a lot, did a lot of swimming, I’ll do some sand workouts and just kind of mix up the cardio just so I’m not constantly just doing the same thing – running on the treadmill or on the court. After weights, we do that, then I go straight into basketball and we’ll do ball-handling and then we do a lot post-up moves like hooks and things like that and then kind of work our way out. So that’s probably another hour and a half. I try not to be on the court for a ton of time. For me, it’s more about me doing everything [in] game speed and [taking] game shots rather than just catching and shooting and going through the motions. That’s about an hour and half and then a lot of times I mix in yoga. And this summer I really focused a lot on my body, just unloading just as much as I loaded. I’ll do a lot of yoga, do a lot of deep tissue stuff, a lot of stretching and things like that. I thought last summer I worked really hard, but I also didn’t do as good as job of taking care of my body from a deep tissue and stretching standpoint so I made that more of an emphasis this year. It’s a long time working, like five or six hours a day, but I see the difference now in the way my body feels. Going into training camp, I probably haven’t felt better so I’m excited about the work we put in this summer.”

Basketball Insiders: You guys were very active this summer, adding players like Paul Pierce, Lance Stephenson, Josh Smith and others. What are your overall thoughts on the offseason additions?

Blake Griffin: “I’m very excited, man. Obviously with the whole DJ (DeAndre Jordan) thing – that was a priority bringing him back and everybody kind of knows about that – that kind of almost overshadowed all the other things we did. Adding Josh Smith to our bench is huge, adding Lance Stephenson, adding Paul Pierce with all of his his experience, I thought we did a really good job this summer of just putting a plan together of guys that we wanted and positions that we wanted and then going out and actually getting it done. I feel really good about our bench, but obviously, like every team, we have to put it together. But I’m excited, especially since the past of couple weeks we’ve started having more guys in [L.A.] and our team is starting to take a little shape just through our workouts and playing pick-up. I think this could be a special season for us.”


No. 1: Scott talks state of the Lakers The Los Angeles Lakers are entering what appears to be Kobe Bryant‘s final season, and aren’t expected to contend for a title anytime soon. But do they feel they’re on the right path to once again becoming one of the NBA’s dominant franchises? Bill Oram from the Orange County Register sat down with Lakers coach Byron Scott for a long Q&A that hits on many topics, from their offseason to Kobe’s future…

Q. You guys missed on some pretty high-profile guys in free agency. After everything settled, how do you feel about roster construction and where you guys are going into October?

A. I don’t look at the summer as a big disappointment, to be honest with you. We missed on a guy we were after, obviously, in LaMarcus (Aldridge, who signed with the Spurs). But to get Roy (Hibbert) and to get Lou Williams and to get Brandon Bass, I think (General Manager) Mitch (Kupchak) did a hell of a job of recovering and making it a summer that you kind of looked back and said, ‘Man, that’s a pretty good recovery.’ I’m happy with the roster we have. We’ve got competition it seems like at every position, which I think is going to be fun to watch in training camp. We’re still very, very young, with the exception, obviously, of (37-year-old) Kobe (Bryant), so I’m excited about that.

Q. When you talk about trying to establish a defensive identity, last year 29th in defense. Do you feel like the moves that were made are moving you closer to that, and getting a team that is in your mold?

A. I think so, I think obviously it starts with Big Roy, Jordan (Clarkson) being a year older, understanding our philosophy on what we need to do on the defensive end, Julius not playing at all last year but understanding what we want to do. So, yeah, I think it is starting to be molded in that direction of being a much better defensive team. We still have a long way to go. We have a lot to work on. And I think we’re probably ahead of schedule right now. These guys have been coming in every day, working out for the past six-to-eight weeks. So that’s something I’m very encouraged about. But from the defensive standpoint everybody that is here, they know how I am about that. They know how important that is to me and to us as a team for us to have any type of success.

Q. How big of a difference does having a defensive-minded center in the middle make?

A. I think first of all it’s a mentality. And I think Roy has shown that from Day One. When he’s out here, the No. 1 thing is he’s a great communicator, which is something we didn’t have on the back end of our defense last year. Our No.2, he has a reputation for protecting the rim, so he knows that’s his bread and butter. And No. 3, the one thing I saw so far with him is that guys are going in for layups the first day he was like, ‘No easy layups.’ And that’s something we didn’t do a good job of last year, is protecting the rim or giving up easy layups. So I think he’s bringing that mentality to our young guys and to the rest of the team and I think hat’s going to be huge for us.

Q. What decisions are you facing with Kobe?

A. I think the biggest decision is playing time, trying to make that as limited as possible and also back-to-back games. That’s something we have to talk about. Other than that, there really is no other decision to make. He wants to play, and he wants to go out the way he wants to go out — if this is indeed his final year. He and I have talked a number of times on the phone, we’ve talked about playing time, we’ve talked about back-to-back, we’re going to probably sit down as we get closer to training camp or as we get in training camp and even talk more about it. Because the one thing I want, if this is his last year, I want him to go out standing. I don’t want him to go out hurt. I want to make sure I do everything in my power to make sure we stick to the game plan, as far as his minutes and as far as back-to-back games.

Q. What do you mean by as “limited as possible?”

A. I didn’t mean play as limited as possible. Obviously we want to keep him as efficient as possible, but I know he knows his body better than anybody. When we start talking about those minutes, I want to listen to him more than anything. I’m not going to go by what I think he can play like I did last year, I want to really go by what he thinks he can play. Then I want to make sure we stick to that.

Q. To what extent do you regret the way that decision was made last year? There was a lot made about you playing him more minutes than he thought he should play. Is that a burden for you? Do you feel some guilt?

A. I felt bad about it. I don’t know if I would say guilty. I know Kobe’s a competitor and he’s going to play as many minutes as you want him to play. I’m also a competitor, so I want to win and I know having him on the court gives me the best opportunity to win. But I also know that I’ve got to think about him more than anything. And I thought there were points in time last year where I thought he could play a certain amount of minutes. He told me Day One the minutes that he thought he could play in and like I told him at the end of the day, ‘You were absolutely right and I was wrong.’ I won’t make that mistake again.

Q. How do you avoid making that mistake again when it’s December and you guys are on a bad run and Kobe’s playing well and he seems to be OK? You don’t do it?

A. I don’t do it. Stick to my guns. This is what we talked about, this is what we felt would be the best way to use you and to make you the most efficient that you could be, I’m going to stick to it. Win or lose, I’m going to stick to it.


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Warriors consultant Jerry West says as far as he’s concerned, talent trumps numbers … Former Pistons great Bill Laimbeer was named WNBA Coach of the Year for a second time … Former Cleveland Cavaliers great Zydrunas Ilgauskas found a new part-time gig: high school assistant coach …The Knicks are hoping Sasha Vujacic can help teach the triangleHarrison Barnes reportedly has a new agent

Morning shootaround — Sept. 13



Bryant ready to go ‘full bore’ | Love pencils return for mid-October | Seventies’ Celtics squeezed in acclaim | Tellem tells ’em in Detroit

No. 1: Bryant ready to go ‘full bore’ — While the Lakers still sort out whether they’re ready for World Peace (as in Metta, their former sturdy forward) at training camp, they fully expect to have back a player not known for his peace-making domestically or abroad: Kobe Bryant. The ultra-competitive Bryant – according to general manager Mitch Kupchak, in comments to USA Today – will be ready to go when camp opens in two weeks, with the L.A. team’s brass expecting to monitor how hard Bryant pushes himself or anyone else. Here’s an excerpt from the piece:

With so many young players on the Lakers roster who mean so much to their uncertain future, a veteran like World Peace could help in ways beyond the box score. A healthy-again Kobe Bryant will certainly lead the charge, as the future Hall of Famer is about to embark on his 20th – and likely last – season with the Lakers.
But as Kupchak noted, Bryant isn’t among the 10-plus players who have been working out this week at the team’s facility. After Bryant played a combined 41 games the past two seasons because of injuries – his last being the torn right rotator cuff that required surgery in January – the Lakers plan to bring him along slowly when the team holds training camp in Honolulu next month.

“My understanding is that he’ll be ready for camp,” said Kupchak, whose team has exhibition games scheduled at the University of Hawaii against the Utah Jazz on Oct. 4 and Oct. 6. “Knowing Kobe, he will try to participate in every practice in camp. But myself and (head coach) Byron (Scott) are going to have something to say about that. So I’m sure there will be a practice or two or three where we won’t let him practice, but I do expect him to be full bore at camp.”

As for World Peace, Kupchak talked about that potential comeback elsewhere in the story:

The 35-year-old World Peace last played in the NBA two seasons ago, when he logged 29 games for his hometown New York Knicks before playing in China and Italy thereafter. World Peace, who was a key part of the Lakers’ title team in 2010 and played four seasons for the Lakers in all, has been working out at the Lakers’ practice facility during the offseason and capturing Kupchak’s attention in the process.

“I love the guy,” Kupchak said. “I really do. Last year, he was in Europe, he was in China. (Then) he coached his daughter’s middle school or high school team to a championship. He was here to work out when he got back from Europe playing, and then he’d come in through the summer. He’s been coming in on a regular basis. I do know that he wants to play, and that’s where we are.

“We’ve got a couple more weeks (until training camp). Our roster’s not complete. And we’ll just take it from there. Nothing’s imminent in terms of a signing anytime soon, but it’s hard not to watch a guy when he’s in your gym every day going up and down the court, working with young guys, playing hard.”


No. 2: Love pencils return for mid-October — It wasn’t accompanied by any doom-and-gloom duh-Duh-DUH! sound clip and was, in fact, offered up rather matter-of-factly. But Cleveland forward Kevin Love did say he might be anywhere from four to six months away from returning to court action for the Cavaliers in his rehab from left shoulder surgery. That’s the definition of “month, month and a half,” which is the time frame Love offered up during his Friday night appearance on NBC’s Late Night With Seth Meyers show. While others can debate whether this is a big deal, a small deal or no deal at all – as fellow Cavs big man Tristan Thompson still seeks his payday or his plan for 2015-16 – here is the pertinent quote from’s transcription of Love’s guest spot:

“I feel great. I actually spent three weeks in Park City, Utah at the Olympic training facility there, rehabbed my shoulder, got in great shape. I’m probably a month, month and a half away from returning. I don’t want to set an immediate timeline, but I feel really good.”


No. 3: Seventies’ Celtics squeezed in acclaim — With Jo Jo White finally entering the Naismith Hall of Fame Friday, with Tom Heinsohn getting enshrined again (as a coach this time, having already made it as a player) and with Dave Cowens and John Havlicek as their boosters and advocates, the Boston Celtics’ NBA championships of 1974 and 1976 got more than a little attention over the weekend. Some would say it’s overdue, relative to how the Bill Russell, Larry Bird and Big Three title teams are remembered both locally and nationally. That’s the angle Gary Washburn took in his Boston Globe piece, examining how a team possibly could be underrated when it boasted three Hall of Fame players while being coached by a fourth – and managed by a fifth, Red Auerbach:

The Celtics won two titles in three years in the mid-’70s, in the midst of Boston busing desegregation and another failed World Series attempt by the Red Sox.

For some reason, those Celtics title teams don’t receive the attention of their ’60s predecessors or ’80s successors, perhaps because they consisted of a trio of stars surrounded by a changing set of role players. Perhaps because the ’70s Celtics did not dominate as did the teams of the ’60s.

Perhaps immediate success following Bird’s arrival damaged the impact of the Celtics’ title teams of the 1970s.

“The thing that bothers me the most when they forget about those teams, it’s not bragging or anything. They start rating teams, they don’t tip their hat toward us,” Cowens said. “Knowing what we did, any of Bird’s teams, any of the Laker teams, any of the Bulls, if they had play against us [they would have a tough time], because we didn’t have too many chinks in the armor, we weren’t big but we knew how to move people around, we were a pretty smart team. When you only lose 14 games one year [in 1972-73], that was pretty good. I thought we showed the world we were a pretty good team.”

While Havlicek humbly discusses his personal accomplishments, which include being the franchise’s all-time scoring leader without the luxury of a 3-point shot, Cowens stands behind him for support, just like the old days.

“They just don’t talk about Havlicek enough,” Cowens said. “I’m going to tell you, I never played with a guy that was that thorough and that accomplished, that tough-minded. Just look at some of his numbers, it’s amazing.

“They go from Russell and right away go to Bird, they don’t even look at that guy as much as they should. He was the ultimate team guy.”


No. 4: Tellem tells ’em in Detroit — Talking up both civic and basketball impact, Arn Tellem, the Detroit Pistons’ new vice chairman, arrived in town and met with some media. The Detroit Free Press caught up with the former NBA super agent-turned-team executive as he preached both significant Pistons improvement and fan patience:

“I’m coming here to make a difference,” Tellem said of his move from Los Angeles, where he was a star with Wasserman Media Group, a sporting and entertainment marketing outfit. “If it was just limited to basketball, it would not be enough of a motivation to come and do it, but to have an involvement from an ownership level in basketball and the business and the community and see where we can make a difference and contribute to what’s going on here in Detroit and Michigan” is what convinced him.

Tellem, whose hiring by [owner Tom] Gores was announced in June, will be living in a condominium in Birmingham. He expects to acquire an ownership stake in the Pistons later this year, now that Gores has consolidated ownership of the team by recently acquiring his Platinum Equity Group’s 49% share.

“That was part of the plan when I came in,” Tellem said. “My hope is now that by the end of the year, we’re going to hopefully have a piece of the action. Tom’s desire is to have this team long-term for him and his family and to really accomplish a lot here — not only winning basketball games, but to make a difference in the community here.”
Tellem repeated earlier assertions by both him and Gores that the Pistons are committed to the Palace as their home; there’s no plan to join the Red Wings in the arena now being built by the Ilitch family for the hockey team in Midtown.

But that said, Tellem acknowledged that he’s here to explore a wide range of projects and partnerships that could include the Pistons playing some basketball games in Detroit, television contracts and sponsorships, and philanthropic activities in the community.

The Pistons have donated money in recent years to the so-called grand bargain that protected city-owned artworks and eased pension cuts as part of Detroit’s bankruptcy exit, and also helped the city buy public safety vehicles. Along with other one-off projects in the future, Tellem said “we’d like to come up with a couple of signature initiatives in the community that would be led by the Pistons.” He’ll be meeting with government, business and community leaders in the region, starting next month to “get input from the community to guide us” on what to do.

While the Pistons have not made it to the NBA playoffs since 2009, Tellem said ticket sales and sponsorships have been ticking upward the past few years.

“I think we’re going to take a big step up this year and we’re going to improve,” he said, but cautioned that a championship team the caliber of the old Bad Boys may take awhile.

“The NBA, among U.S. pro sports leagues, is the most difficult to suddenly rebuild with free agents and re-do a team,” he said, citing recent struggles of fabled big-market franchises as the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers.

In basketball, he said, “free agency is very limited and most players stay with their team,” due to the way the NBA salary cap works.


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Chicago’s Pau Gasol likes what he’s heard from new Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg about a higher-octane offense and put some in his own game, hitting six of his seven 3-pointers en route to 30 points against Poland. … Washington’s Bradley Beal might not have a contract extension done before this season, but that’s not a hand-wringer for Wizards fans. … Of the current NBA players whose fathers competed in the league, which ones’ pops had the most game? … Sixers coach Brett Brown talks Jahlil Okafor and Dario Saric. … One clueless security guard in the offseason isn’t really a problem, but it did make for another amusing Jeremy Lin anecdote. … We’ve suggested this before here at and now’s Kevin Pelton is on board too: Former NBA center Jack Sikma maybe oughta be among the game’s luminaries honored in Springfield, Mass. …

Blogtable: Can any team challenge the USA in Rio in 2016?

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: Remembering “Chocolate Thunder | Can anyone beat USA in 2016? |
Name your all-time, All Soviet Union/Russia NBA team


VIDEO: USA Basketball Showcase

>Qualifying for the Rio Summer Olympics continues this month with FIBA Americas and EuroBasket. Is there anybody out there who can truly challenge the USA in 2016?”

Steve Aschburner, “Truly” challenge, as in stand toe-to-toe and slug it out with Team USA? No, I don’t think so. But as a squad capable of pulling off an upset, I wouldn’t want to sleep on Canada. The group of north-of-the-border NBA players is young – Andrew Wiggins, Tristan Thompson, Anthony Bennett, Cory Joseph, Andrew Nicholson – so 2020 might be a year in which Canada makes real Olympic noise, but even one year out is going to make a difference for a tight and budding squad.

Fran Blinebury,  With a full complement of elite players the United States is easily the class of the field. But a key to the success that Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski have brought back to the USA Basketball is having respect for the field. You wouldn’t want to sleep on a Spanish team with Pau and Marc Gasol and Rudy Fernandez or France with Tony Parker, Boris Diaw, Nicolas Batum and Rudy Gobert.

Scott Howard-Cooper,  Sure the U.S. can be challenged. The Olympics become a single-elimination tournament at some point, so anything is possible. And the rosters that have been together for years and play team ball are still dangerous. Spain is at the top of that list, while also noting that I like France’s possibilities as well. But it’s still Team USA’s gold to lose. The favorites before will be the favorites again.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comThe short answer is no. Under Jerry Colangelo and Coach K, the USA has shaped up and restored order in the basketball world. That said, in the future I’d keep a watch out on Canada and Australia.The Canadians under Steve Nash and with Andrew Wiggins and Co. are building something special. And Down Under, gaining steam is a growing generation of teens who are the children of American professional players.

John Schuhmann, In no particular order, the next three best teams are France, Serbia and Spain. The U.S. has a huge advantage in regard to talent and depth, and they put Serbia away early in the gold medal game of last year’s World Cup. But both France and Spain – with more size, experience and athleticism – are better equipped to knock them off should they cross paths. The U.S. will be the heavy favorite in Rio next year, but a gold medal is never a given when it’s a single-elimination format with 40-minute games.

Sekou Smith,  With all due respect to the competition, they all know they are going to Rio to fight for second place. That’s not American arrogance on display, it’s just reality. Even if there is a team capable of challenging the U.S. for a quarter or two, the group Jerry Colangelo and Coach K have assembled (whatever the 12-man roster) should prove too strong and too deep for Spain, France, Canada or any other crew eager to play hero. A true challenger is not on the radar right now and perhaps not anytime soon, provided the USA Basketball machine remains dialed in and well stocked.

Ian Thomsen, The old contenders – Spain, France and Argentina – could still be hanging on, but the team to watch (pending its qualification for Rio) is going to be Canada. By 2020 the Canadians will be the main challengers to the US – and they may emerge as early as next summer.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog: At the risk of sounding overconfident, when Team USA is at their full-strength, I don’t think anyone can challenge them. A lineup of Steph Curry, James Harden, LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Kevin Durant would be dynamic and destructive, and that doesn’t even factor in a bench (Westbrook! CP3! Blake!) that could provide Coach K all sorts of mix and match options. Oh, and sure, Kobe we could use you, too. I assume the USA will meet stiff opposition along the way, perhaps from teams such as France or Spain or a younger team like Canada. But if Team USA is playing at their full potential, I think it will be a dream in Rio.

Morning shootaround — Aug. 21


Griffin backs a 66-game season | Horford says he’s ‘very happy’ with Hawks | Next challenge for Valanciunas

No. 1: Griffin says 66 games is ideal NBA season length — The 2011-12 NBA season was a 66-game slate that some considered the perfect amount of games for the regular season. Since that lockout-shortened season, the NBA has resumed its regular, 82-game schedule and shows no signs of changing that anytime soon.’s Ken Berger recently caught up with several of the NBA’s stars and, in a Q&A session, asked them what the ideal length of a season would be. Los Angeles Clippers star Blake Griffin was the lone player who voiced support for a shorter season:

If money were no object, what would the ideal length of the NBA regular season be?

Griffin: Sixty-six, spread over the same amount of time [as the current 82-game season]. Fatigue and injuries, and better product. If you have less games, less back-to-backs, the product’s better. The fans will appreciate it more. You see those college guys playing so hard, but they play 36 games in the same amount of time we play 82 almost. I just think it would be a better product.

John Wall: I just enjoy playing. I enjoy loving the game, so it doesn’t matter to me. I think [82 games] is cool … if you get more breaks. They did a great job of giving us more time at the All-Star break, giving us a couple of more days.

Draymond Green: I don’t know if you can necessarily say there’s a better way because it’s never been done. Within the course of the 82, some people catch their stride, as you saw the season before last year. The Spurs caught their stride in like the last 35-40 games. If you’re not playing 82, do they catch their stride? Are they world champions? Who knows? So it’s kind of hard to judge. I think it’s a slippery slope when you get to assessing that because, yeah, what was the lockout year, 66? So you saw that, but you also saw three games in three days, which you can’t judge off that, either. And then there’s going to be an unhappy party, because the owners aren’t going to make as much money, which means the players won’t make as much money. So I think it’s a slippery slope. At the end of the day, our league has done great. Is that something to really tinker with? Probably not. Is there really a reason to? Yeah, guys get tired. But are you going to get tired if there’s 65 games? Probably so. I just think that’s a tough subject.

Chris Paul: Money is an object, though. When we were kids playing AAU, we’d play five games in a day and wouldn’t think twice about it. I don’t know what the right number is. We’ve been playing 82 for a while though, huh? As far as I can remember. That’d be tough [to change].

Kenneth Faried: I think 82 is the proper length. We’ve been playing this game for so long and it’s been 82. [Michael] Jordan played 82. They played more preseason games, so they cut the preseason games and training camp down, which is good for us. But at the same time, these guys before us were playing 20-plus years and they were playing 82 and still being All-Stars and still having big names — Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley and those guys. So guys who’ve done it before us, they’ve already paved the way, so we just have to follow in their footsteps as much as we can.


No. 2: Horford says he’s ‘very happy’ with Hawks — If you thought this summer’s free agency period was full of news, wait until next summer. Several big names will be hitting the market, Atlanta Hawks All-Star big man Al Horford among that group. In a chat with’s Jeremy Woo, Horford reflected on Atlanta’s successful 2014-15 campaign, its offseason moves and his own future with the team going forward: Looking back, how would you describe last season?

Horford: It was a great season for our team. I felt like everything started to come together as far as coach’s system. I feel like we really all were able to sink in and play the way he wanted us to play. And it showed—[it was] the first time we made it to the Eastern Conference finals in Hawks history. Now, we’re looking to build on that and try to be the best team we can. Have you had the chance to go back and watch any of the Cleveland series? [The Hawks were swept in four games.]

Horford: Honestly, no. They obviously dominated us, they were the better team. I don’t need to see that, I know what we need to do, I know we have a lot of work ahead of us. Our whole team. So this is the time to do it. Individually, I’m working on my game and trying to get better for the upcoming season. How big was it for the Hawks to be able to keep Paul Millsap?

Horford: It was very important. I think that was the priority for us, to make sure we brought Paul back. Being able to add Tiago Splitter and Tim Hardaway, really was big. Unfortunately, we lost DeMarre [Carroll, who signed long-term with Toronto]—he’s such a great player, but it was the type of thing he couldn’t turn down, and it’s what’s best for him and his family. What will it take for the team to sustain that success?

Horford: Being healthy, that’s the number one thing for our team. For the most part, we were healthy as a team last season. Two is to be able to keep playing the way we play, being a good defensive team, sharing the ball on offense. We had a lot of success doing those two things, and even though they’re simple, that’s what carried us. Considering the new additions to the team, what are some of the things you look for as far as fitting in?

Horford: I think for them, it’s just being able to get comfortable with the system. We’re just looking for them to impact the game and impact winning, and when you have a guy like Tiago Splitter, an experienced big man, I feel like he’ll be able to help us right away. Tim [Hardaway] I feel like has a lot of potential, and I’m very excited to see him playing in the system. I feel like he’ll be able to help us a lot. Lastly, I know you’ve said you’re waiting after the season to figure out your contract situation. What led you to that decision? [Horford will be a free agent in 2016.]

Horford: For me, I’m very happy in Atlanta. It’s one of those things where I don’t want any contract talks to be a distraction for my team and me. I feel like my focus this year is for us to build and be better. Since we can’t do anything right now, we’ll wait until the season’s over and then we can start talking about all that.



No. 3: Valanciunas gets his deal … now he needs to play some ‘D’ — Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas is one of the more promising young big men in the NBA. In his three seasons in the league, Valanciunas has grown steadily as an offensive threat and rebounder, but his defense and rim-protection are lagging behind in development. The Raptors gave Valanciunas a $64-million contract extension yesterday, providing the big man with a secure future in Toronto. As Doug Smith of the Toronto Star reports, though, Valanciunas’ value relative to the deal will show up in how he defends going forward:

Whether or not the new contract extension signed by Raptors centre Jonas Valanciunas makes good economic sense is secondary to one fact not in dispute.

There is vast room for the 23-year-old to improve as a player, and whether he makes $16 million as season or $16 a season won’t matter a lick if his development stalls.

Everyone connected with the Raptors knows it, and it was the underlying theme to the day when the Lithuanian big man inked a four-year, $64-million contract extension with the only NBA team he’s known.

“It depends on me,” he said during a hastily called news conference at the Air Canada Centre on Thursday afternoon.

“I have to get better defensively.”

If he can — and there’s no physical reason he shouldn’t be able to — it will make things vastly better for the Raptors and coach Dwane Casey, who barely used Valanciunas in the fourth quarter of any game last season because of perceived shortcomings.

“Everyone in the whole world knew we fell on defence, and how can we get it back to where we were and hopefully better is by maybe doing something different,” general manager Masai Ujiri said.

“That’s coaching, and it’s left to coach Casey and we’re confident he’s put together the right people and he’s identified some of the issues.”

The deal is another step in an expensive summer of moves for Ujiri. Coming off the four-games-and-out playoff elimination at the hands of the Washington Wizards he’s added DeMarre Carroll (four years, $60 million), Cory Joseph (four years, $30 million), Bismack Biyombo (two years, $6 million) and Luis Scola (one year, $3 million) while saying goodbye to Amir Johnson, Lou Williams and Greivis Vasquez.

The general manager has a window until Oct. 31 to think about a contract extension for Terrence Ross, and has at least thought about the possibility.

“We’ll keep monitoring and see how things get done, if anything happens,” Ujiri said. “We’ve had a little bit of discussion.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge has reportedly changed agents … Golden State Warriors rookie forward Kevon Looney (hip surgery) will be out 4-6 months … Former All-Star forward Carlos Boozer could be playing in China next season … Good Q&A with Chicago Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic …  The 2004 Detroit Pistons will be a part of NBA2K16’s classic teams this year

Morning shootaround — Aug. 15

VIDEO: LeBron helping out kids in Akron


LeBron supports 4 years in college | Mixed messages from Team USA | Bad form in Rivers’ self-challenge | Kobe schools D’Angelo (smiley face)

No. 1: LeBron supports 4 years in college — OK, our headline is a little bit of a tease. The idea that LeBron James, arguably the greatest preps-to-pros NBA player ever, might be advocating for young prospects to attain their college degrees could make for an interesting sports story. In this case, though, it makes for a fascinating story, period, because James’ focus is not on future NBA performers – it’s on regular kids from his hometown of Akron, Ohio, who otherwise not attend college at all. We’ll assume he’s getting a volume discount and not paying retail, per this piece on

The NBA star has partnered with the University of Akron to provide a guaranteed four-year scholarship to the school for students in James’ I Promise program who qualify.

The scholarship will cover tuition and the university’s general service fee — currently $9,500 per year.

According to the Akron Beacon Journal, as many as 2,300 children could potentially benefit from the scholarships.

It’s the latest example of James, who often refers to himself “as just a kid from Akron,” giving back to a community that helped raise him.

“It’s the reason I do what I do,” said James, who announced the program Thursday while hosting an event for students at Cedar Point Amusement Park. “These students have big dreams, and I’m happy to do everything I can to help them get there. They’re going to have to earn it, but I’m excited to see what these kids can accomplish knowing that college is in their futures.”

The university and the LeBron James Family Foundation are still finalizing the criteria for the scholarships. The students will have to graduate from high school within Akron’s public school system, achieve standard testing requirements, and fulfill a community service obligation.

James has had a long-standing relationship with the university. As his celebrity soared in high school, James played many game on the school’s campus, and the four-time MVP deepened his connection with Akron soon after he turned professional.

“It means so much because, as a kid growing up in the inner city and a lot of African-American kids, you don’t really think past high school,” said James, who bypassed college to jump to the NBA. “You don’t really know your future. You hear high school all the time, and you graduate high school, and then you never think past that because either it’s not possible or your family’s not financially stable to even be able to support a kid going to college.”


No. 2: Mixed messages from Team USA — There’s no denying that USA Basketball has come up with a formula for success, built by managing director Jerry Colangelo and men’s coach Mike Krzyzewski and driven by the commitments it requires from the NBA’s best players. But there were several mixed messages put out by the time this week’s mini-camp and intrasquad scrimmage in Las Vegas were completed. “Everyone hoping to compete in the 2016 Rio Olympics had to attend” … except maybe not Kobe Bryant or Derrick Rose. “Some players will be permitted not to play in the scrimmage Thursday” … except then participation was made voluntary and so many guys opted out – 20 of the 34 on this week’s roster – that organizers had to truck in four more NBA players just to flesh out the Blue and White squads to nine men each. There seems to be some slippage going on in what words like “mandatory” and “commitment” mean, as kicked around in this report, and it opens the door for other players to test the program’s vaunted culture in the future:

Earlier this week, USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said that because Derrick Rose chose not to attend minicamp this week in Las Vegas, the Bulls star would not be considered for Team USA’s Olympics squad for Rio 2016. In the same interview session where he revealed that he’s interested in Kobe Bryant returning for a final run with the team (despite Bryant also missing the minicamp), all of a sudden, Colangelo says he’s open to it.

“I always said you never shut the door entirely on anyone. I mean, why? To prove what? Was I disappointed Derrick [Rose] wasn’t here? Sure. Because, we want the best for him. We want the best for him. We want him to get back to the level that he once was. So let’s just see how things go in the future.”

OK, this doesn’t seem cool. Colangelo made a big deal to everyone saying how in order to be considered for Rio in 2016 you have to attend this minicamp. It was mandatory. So a bunch of players dropped what they were doing and shuffled out to Las Vegas in the middle of their offseason to run some drills and have some meetings. Most were happy to do it, and that’s a testament to the culture that Colangelo has helped build.

At the same time, many did so because Colangelo made it clear that attendance was mandatory. Now, on top of him saying that he’s not going to hold minicamp next year and that instead the team will simply be chosen, all 12 spots, it turns out that the players didn’t actually need to attend anyway. Rose didn’t attend, and he can get in if he stays healthy this year. Bryant didn’t attend, same deal.


No. 3: Bad form in Rivers’ self-challenge — We’ve all come to understand the role that confidence and even ego play in how far a person can take some natural ability and hard-earned prowess. The days of athletes – or artists or innovators or anyone else, frankly – having to hew the “Aw, shucks” line of false modesty are long over. We get it when someone says he or she aspires to be the “GOAT” (greatest of all time), that’s it a highly effective method of motivating oneself. But what even the most brash among us need to remember is that it remains bad form to call out or put down others while issuing such self-challenges. That’s a line L.A. Clippers guard Austin Rivers crossed on Twitter the other night. Fueled apparently by seeing the “extras” who were summoned to help out at the Team USA “Showcase” scrimmage — Arron Afflalo, Terrance Jones, Amir Johnson and Elfrid Payton, with C.J. Watson listed initially but scratched — Rivers’ comment as framed by veered into arrogance:

It’s quite possible that Rivers’ eyes lit up when he saw C.J. Watson on the roster. Kidding aside, it’s tough to see where Rivers is coming from as far as saying he’s better than many on the roster, given that he hasn’t shown a whole lot during his first three years in the league (bare in mind, he’s not comparing himself to superstars like Stephen Curry and James Harden, who weren’t a part of the showcase).

To be fair, he was never quite enabled by Monty Williams – the only coach he has ever played for before being traded to the Clippers last year by his father Doc Rivers. Under his father, Rivers shot a career-high 42.7 percent from the field and had some shockingly good performances in the playoffs that actually made you wonder if you’ve had it all wrong about the guy.

Objectively, Rivers probably isn’t better than most on the roster from Thursday as of right now. Still, if that’s what he wants to believe, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, particularly if it drives him to want to become better (that clearly is the case if he wants to become MIP).


No. 4: Kobe schools D’Angelo (smiley face) — This one is pretty self-explanatory, a moment or two between new teammates Kobe Bryant and No. 2 draft pick D’Angelo Russell played out in social media. Apparently inspired after watching some of former NBA All-Star and scoring champ Tracy McGrady‘s exploits, Russell lavished some Twitter praise on the former Orlando and Houston star. Bryant then reined in Russell’s enthusiasm a bit:


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Michael Jordan’s name and image are worth millions, and yet a bootleg grocery ad didn’t sell much meat with it. … Minnesota’s Andrew Wiggins probably has been working out harder than you. … If you’re still digesting the massive NBA schedule served up all at once Wednesday, here’s a primer on the best of the best that might help. … Clippers forward Blake Griffin, not bad as a power forward and a commercial pitch man, talks about yet another role: Web site story editor. … Griffin, in case you missed it, also had some of the most interesting thoughts among the Team USA players who talked about the relative appeal of Olympic gold medals vs. NBA championship rings. …

No injuries, light ‘Showcase’ and updated cutdown info for Team USA

VIDEO: White tops Blue in dunk-filled USAB Showcase

LAS VEGAS — No one got injured in USA Basketball’s “Showcase” scrimmage Friday, not even the basketball scribe who narrowly avoided getting beaned by a TV monitor knocked off the table behind him in the tiered media section. (I did feel the breeze and flinch when it crashed, though).

A year ago, Indiana’s Paul George suffered a gruesome leg fracture that cut the Team USA scrimmage short and raised questions about players’ willingness to assume such risk – or their NBA teams’ cooperation with the process – for relatively little reward (exhibition rather than competition).

So, when a representative sampling of the USA roster took part Friday at the Thomas & Mack Center on the UNLV campus and none of them limped off afterward, the event felt like a success. The White squad beat the Blue, 134-128, in a game that seemed time-shifted from an NBA All-Star Weekend, with a whole lot of alley-oops and dunks, barely a whiff of defense and no apparent physical trauma.

“You wanted to come out here and put on a show for people,” said Golden State forward Harrison Barnes, who had 21 points and 10 rebounds for the Blue. “But at the same time, if a guys on a fast break, let him go. You didn’t want to give any hard fouls.”

Head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who merely observed while assistants Tom Thibodeau (White) and Monty Williams (Blue) worked the sidelines, joked that neither the offense nor the defense on display Friday was what Team USA intends to take to Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Olympics.

That will get installed and honed next summer when the final 12-man squad shows up in mid-July for training camp.

To that end, Jerry Colangelo, USA Basketball managing director, made news in this realm when he said during the ESPN2 telecast that the final roster will be announced in late June after the NBA Finals and Draft. That means no cutdowns from 18 or 22, no mini-camp for final auditions.

“Rather than … ask six to 10 players to go home – that just didn’t sit well with us – we’re going with the game plan from [2008 in announcing the official 12 at the start],” Colangelo said.

VIDEO: Jerry Colangelo explains how the 2016 Team USA roster will be chosen

The pool of Team USA talent will still be about 28 players strong, with that group identified in the coming months. By late June, though, impediments that might prevent a player from heading to Rio – injuries, contract complications or personal situations – would be known to him and the selectors. A number of Select Team players will be invited to Las Vegas as in the past to provide competition during the training camp.

The “Showcase” game did stray from some of the one-for-all, all-for-one culture so important to Team USA in the players who participated: Only 14 of the 34 who took part in meetings or light workouts this week played. When Colangelo and Krzyzewski deemed the scrimmage “voluntary,” some of the program’s biggest names – LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony and a dozen others – opted out.

In fact, four NBA players were trucked in as late additions to flesh out the Blue and White rosters to nine men each. So Arron Afflalo, Amir Johnson, Terrance Jones and Elfrid Payton played in jerseys that didn’t sport their names on the back.

The fans at the Thomas & Mack were grateful for the big names who did play, including Clippers forward Blake Griffin, Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay, San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard, Golden State’s Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Barnes and Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan. Cousins had 24 points and 11 rebounds for the winning White squad, while Andre Drummond led the Blue with 27 and 16.

“For me, I came all the way from Florida, so I was playing,” Gay said.

Krzyzewski and Colangelo, while noting George’s “horrific” injury last year, said that Team USA players trust them as far as safety issues or the workload demands. Because of how George got hurt – jamming his foot against one of the basketball stanchions – many folks in the gym noticed the stanchions farther back from the baseline, with fewer cameras and photographers close to the court and ample “exit lanes” for players venturing into that area.

Josh Smith sets the record straight

VIDEO: The Starters evaluate Josh Smith’s addition to the Clippers

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Josh Smith doesn’t do Twitter, Instagram or emojis, which makes him a bit of an odd fit with the social media savvy Los Angeles Clippers.

With Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, Paul Pierce and others around to show him the ropes, Smith might very well learn his way around the social media universe. In the meantime, he’ll stick to the “old-fashioned” method of just making clear what he meant via the written word. And that’s exactly what he did today, finally setting the record straight on comments he made after his introductory news conference last week in Los Angeles.

He was roundly criticized for comments attributed to him that suggested he and his family would have to struggle on the nearly $7 millions he’ll earn next season in salary, both the veteran’s minimum of $1.5 million the Clippers will pay him and the money he’s owed (an additional $5.4 million) from the Detroit Pistons after they waived him last season.

Smith insists his words were taken out of context that day, and he set the record straight to The Players’ Tribune:


Apparently the headline was: Josh Smith went to the Clippers press conference and said he didn’t make enough money? Even the idea of it is kind of ridiculous. Anyone who knows me, or knows how one-year contracts work in the NBA, understood what I was saying. This is my third team in less than a year. I was talking about how moving affects my family. But the headline about greed was the one everyone ran with.

Let’s just look at what I actually said so we don’t get it twisted. This is the quote people shared:

“It wasn’t about the money because of the Detroit situation, but at the end of the day, I do have a family, so it is going to be a little harder on me this year. But I’m going to push through it and try to do something long-term after this year.”

The whole thing about it being “harder on me” comes down to family. It seems obvious to me, but maybe I could have said it more clearly. If you know the NBA, you know that moving to a new team is a decision that affects an athlete’s whole family. That’s even more true when you’re signing a one-year deal. With a one-year deal, there’s less stability because you know you might be moving again in a year.

So I’m out there power-walking with the fam. My first response was, OK, who cares how a few people interpreted it? I know everyone on the Internet likes to be judgmental at one point or another. I try not to be too sensitive to any one thing. But it’s funny, because if you look at my whole statement, no one present at the press conference had any issue with it. Everyone seemed to know what I meant. It wasn’t until later that it took on a life of its own.

Smith, never one to share much about his personal life, didn’t hold back:

When I was waived from Detroit this year, it meant I had to move to Houston in the middle of the year. Like any parent, you think about how your work affects your kids. You want consistency for your kids — consistent teachers, consistent friends, a consistent home. You want some normalcy for them. I wanted to go to the Clippers (that’s a business decision), but I also wanted to be sensitive to how it affected my kids (that’s a personal one). I can tell you that the conversations this offseason between me and my wife were more about where they’d go to school than about finances.

Every athlete has had articles about them that aren’t 100 percent true. Most of the time, it’s not anyone’s fault — it’s just the reality. Earlier this year, everyone was making a big deal about how Detroit went on a winning streak right after I was waived. People had fun with that story. I get it. But to be honest, I wasn’t even mad. Detroit wasn’t the right fit for me at that time. I knew it, they knew it. So they waived me. I never said much in public because I was thinking, Just give me some time to prove myself. A couple months later, at playoff time, look at the damage Houston did. In the league, you just have to be patient.

I came to the Clippers to be part of an exciting team that I know I can play well for. I came to compete for a championship this year. I’m the first person to tell you how grateful I know I am. I’m grateful to have played in this league for going on 12 years — I’ll always have love for the Hawks, where I started — and to have earned a good living. I didn’t grow up wealthy, so I know how much it means to have security.

Now, I’m moving on to basketball, but thanks for reading. I don’t speak up that often, but I felt I needed to clear the air. I wish someone had just asked me for clarification before everyone immediately jumped to negative assumptions. A couple people sometimes ruin it for everyone else. I’ve got no hard feelings, but I do see why some guys are more skeptical about opening up when this type of thing happens.

Smith even joked about joining Twitter. But knowing him the way we do here at HT, that just doesn’t seem like a realistic possibility … unless his new Clippers teammates can convince him otherwise!


Morning Shootaround — July 29

VIDEO: Grizzlies ‘ecstatic’ to have Barnes in Memphis


New Bucks arena bill passes in Wisconsin | Grizzlies feel Barnes is perfect fit | Orlando’s Gordon working on game

No. 1: New Bucks arena bill passes in Wisconsin New ownership took over the Milwaukee Bucks in 2014, and they began making over the franchise, changing personnel, uniforms, and beginning a campaign to get some public funding for a new arena. After a few months of public posturing and conversation with local and state lawmakers, the state assembly passed a bill yesterday that seems to guarantee the Bucks future in Milwaukee

Almost seven months after Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker proposed public money for the new Milwaukee Bucks arena, the Assembly Tuesday returned a $250 million bill to him, completing the last of the legislative challenges the presidential candidate laid out this year.

The Assembly approved the bill on a bipartisan vote of 52-34, leaving a healthy margin to spare because of absent lawmakers. The measure passed the Senate 21-10 on a bipartisan vote on July 15 and so it now goes to Walker.

While campaigning at two South Philadelphia cheesesteak joints, the governor said he would sign the much-revised measure, calling it a good deal for Wisconsin.

“It’s critical not only for those who love sports, but the main reason I got into it was because it protected state revenues,” Walker said, citing the income taxes Wisconsin would lose if the team leaves the state. “That just creates a big hole for everything else. … This was really about protecting the taxpayers of the state.”

Next up for the team is working out a land sale with Milwaukee County and getting approval for the arena from the Milwaukee Common Council. Speaking at the Capitol after the Assembly vote, Bucks head coach Jason Kidd and team president Peter Feigin praised the deal and said the remaining pieces could be assembled in time for construction to start in the fall.

“I’m not overly confident, but I’m confident,” Feigin said of reaching the land deal and getting city approval.

After months in which the measure struggled to gain support, the Assembly debate was anticlimactic, lasting about an hour and including not even a single floor speech by an opponent. In the end, 35 Republicans and 17 Democrats voted for the measure.

Two lawmakers from the greater Milwaukee area, Democrat Daniel Riemer of Milwaukee and Republican Adam Neylon of Pewaukee, missed the vote Tuesday while they were in Turkey as part of a cultural exchange for legislators but said they would have both voted against it. Regardless of party, most lawmakers from in and around the city voted for the proposal, except Democrats David Bowen and Jonathan Brostoff of Milwaukee and Republicans Chris Kapenga of Delafield and David Craig of Big Bend.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) kicked off the final debate by thanking both Democratic and Republican lawmakers and stressing that he believed that state taxpayers would get a good return on their share of the total subsidy package. Doing nothing would leave the city and state with a “black eye” and the loss of a promising team, he said.

“It is cheaper for us to pass this bill than defeat it and let the team leave,” Vos said.


No. 2: Grizzlies feel Barnes is perfect fit After a few years of playoff runs but not being able to get past the Conference finals, the Memphis Grizzlies have made moves to strengthen their bench this season. And perhaps the most important addition to the Grizzlies may be forward Matt Barnes, who the Grizz feel is a perfect match for their grit and grind mentality…

“This is a whole – not just team but city – with my ideal, a grind mentality,” Barnes said Tuesday. “I’ve been on teams that run-and-gun and dunk and shoot a lot of 3’s, but I’ve never been on a team that everyone has the same mindset I do. That’s very exciting from a player’s standpoint.”

The Grizzlies acquired Barnes, 35, from the Charlotte Hornets last month in exchange for guard Luke Ridnour.

Charlotte had picked up Barnes along with center Spencer Hawes less than two weeks earlier in a trade that sent guard Lance Stephenson to the Los Angeles Clippers. Barnes averaged 10.1 points, 4 rebounds and 1.5 assists while playing a career-high 29.9 minutes per game with the Clippers last season.

Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace said the 35-year-old Barnes “wears his heart on his sleeve,” an approach that could make the 6-foot-7 forward an ideal fit for a franchise that relies on hustle and defense.

“If there’s any player that was destined to be a Grizzly, it’s Matt Barnes,” Wallace said. “He’s a guy that we had our dustups with when he was on the other side of the fence – particularly the Clippers – but now he’s one of us and we’re ecstatic to have him.”

The Grizzlies actually drafted Barnes in the second round in 2002, but they immediately traded him to Cleveland in a draft-night deal. Barnes has been moving around ever since. He’s played for both Los Angeles franchises as well as Sacramento, New York, Philadelphia, Golden State, Phoenix and Orlando.

This latest move has his twin sons somewhat confused.

“They’re just like, ‘Daddy, so do you not like DeAndre (Jordan), Chris (Paul) and Blake (Griffin) anymore?’ ” Barnes said. “I’m like, ‘No, they’re still my friends. They’re the enemy when the ball goes up.’ I’m a competitor. I have friends on the other team obviously, but for 48 minutes my only friends are my teammates.”

Barnes irritates opponents with his tenacious defense and fiery personality. The Grizzlies already have one of the league’s top defenders in guard Tony Allen. Having both could make the Grizzlies even peskier.

“The best compliment you can give somebody is that you just don’t like playing against him,” Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger said. “Matt’s a guy we just did not like playing against. … We want those kinds of guys on our team.”


No. 3: Orlando’s Gordon working on game The Orlando Magic entered a rebuilding campaign a few years ago and have amassed quite a collection of young talent, from Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo to Nikola Vucevic and Tobias Harris. Another player showing promise is Aaron Gordon, who followed his rookie season with a big Summer League performance, and is still looking to improve, writes’s Fran Blinebury

His rookie season became a virtual washout almost from the moment last November when Gordon fractured a bone in his left foot and missed two months. Despite the first double-double of his career in April, there was plenty of work to be done.

But it was a different, a more comfortable, a more confident Gordon who took the floor for the Magic at the Orlando Summer League and began to show why he was the No. 4 overall pick in the 2014 draft.

Gordon beat defenders off the dribble and finished with power dunks. He pulled up off the dribble and stroked jumpers like they were his calling card. He even nailed 3-pointers.

Put all those newfound skills together with the 6-foot-9, 230-pound body, explosive leaping ability and assorted athletic moves and Gordon is a candidate to make big strides next season.

“Last year there was a lot of being uncomfortable,” Gordon said. “This year I’m a lot more comfortable. So it’s easy for me.”

The transformation was only “easy” because Gordon has logged countless hours of hard work inside the Magic practice gym at Amway Center and on the West Coast near his home in San Jose, Calif.

“A lot of people don’t see the work that Aaron puts in,” said Mario Elie, one of the new members of Scott Skiles‘ Orlando coaching staff. “When I first came here in June, he’s in the gym working on his shot. I’m in the office all day. He’ll go home and come back to work on his game again and I’m not surprised he was one of the top scorers in the Summer League.

“He’s a young player who wants to be great. He has the right frame of mind, the right attitude,” Elie said. “He’s like a sponge. You tell him to do something, he goes out and does it. He can be a great leader for this young ball club. At 19 years old? This guy It’s fantastic to see.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: LeBron James answered questions from fans on Twitter … Festus Ezeli moved from Africa to California to become a doctor. Instead he became an NBA champCraig Hodges has been let go as coach of the Knicks’ D-League team … Damien Wilkins is hoping to build off of his experience with the Pan-Am team …