Posts Tagged ‘D-League’

Morning shootaround — Feb. 14


VIDEO: Top 10 Plays from All-Star Saturday Night

NEWS OF THE MORNING

LaVine, Gordon wow in Dunk Contest | Hack-A-Gone? | Splash Brother vs. Splash Brother | Horford embraces uncertain future

No. 1:  LaVine, Gordon wow in Dunk Contest For years, the Verizon Slam Dunk was All-Star Weekend’s marquee event. The electricity surrounding the event may have waned in recent years. But last season, Timberwolves rookie Zach LaVine gave it a jolt of excitement, notching his first win. And Saturday night in Toronto, a couple of 20 year olds, LaVine and Magic forward Aaron Gordon, took turns making jaws drop, posting alternating perfect scores in the contest’s final round until LaVine was ultimately able to grab the win in arguably the greatest dunk contest in All-Star Weekend history. And as Lang Whitaker writes, with the contest on the line, LaVine went to the free-throw line

High expectations? No problem.

After bringing the Dunk Contest back to prominence one year ago with a series of electrifying dunks, Minnesota’s Zach LaVine picked up where he left off, with help from Orlando’s Aaron Gordon.

And with the Verizon Slam Dunk on the line, Zach LaVine went to the free throw line. Well, almost.

With a through-the-legs dunk from just inside the charity stripes, Zach LaVine earned his fifth score of 50 on the night, making him the 2016 NBA dunk champ. The 20-year-old LaVine became the first back-to-back winner since Nate Robinson in 2009 and 2010.

Going against Magic forward Aaron Gordon in the contest finals, LaVine and Gordon got locked into a heavyweight bout where they traded incredible body blows. After the contest, LaVine said, “We should share the trophy, because [Gordon] did some stuff I’ve never seen before.”

To begin the final round, Gordon completed a dunk with an unbelievable degree of difficulty, snatching the ball from Orlando Magic mascot Stuff — who was spinning on a hoverboard — and throwing down a twisting dunk. This earned a 50. LaVine countered by throwing himself an alley-oop and floating through the air for a one-handed finish, earning another 50.

Gordon then again used Stuff, this time clearing the mascot with his rear end while passing the ball below for a lefty finish. That earned another 50, putting the pressure on LaVine.

LaVine responded coolly, with a windmill from just inside the free throw line, for another 50. This marked the first time in Dunk Contest history the final round saw four scores of 50.

They didn’t stop. In the first dunk-off, Gordon enlisted teammate Elfrid Payton to throw an alley-oop off the side of the backboard. Gordon caught the ball and completed a reverse dunk while flying through the air. 50. LaVine responded by throwing an alley-oop to himself from the baseline, catching the ball and passing it through his legs for a reverse dunk. This earned another 50.

On the second dunk-off, Gordon ran along the baseline and did a two-handed double-pump reverse reminiscent of Dominique Wilkins. Gordon scored a 47. To win it, LaVine went back to the free throw line.

***

No. 2: Hack-A-Gone? A Q&A with the Commissioner of the NBA has become a staple of All-Star Saturday Night, and last night Adam Silver faced the assembled media to address several topics. As Steve Aschburner writes, among the many topics addressed, one change Silver is clearly looking to implement is an end to the Hack-A- intentional fouling that has become en vogue around the NBA lately …

If the Hack-A-Whomever strategy currently raising such a ruckus in some NBA precincts is actually something you like, take solace: It’s going to be with us, extending the real time of games, disrupting any sense of flow and showcasing a whole lot of bricked free throws, at least through the end of the 2016 playoffs.

If, though, you believe in the tactic as a coach’s best friend — something to encourage bad foul shooters to improve, lest they look silly and cost their teams victories — those guys had better get in the gym soon and practice their form, release and follow-through fast.

Change almost certainly is coming, based on NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s comments Saturday in the annual state-of-the-league All-Star news conference.

Silver, addressing and fielding questions from reporters before the skills, slam dunk and 3-point shooting contests at Air Canada Centre, reiterated what he has said on several recent occasion. “I’m beginning to feel that a change needs to be made,” Silver said, citing conversations he has had with broadcast partners, sentiment expressed in fan data and feedback from players, GMs and owners.

As for coaches, Silver said “Clearly our coaches who are smart and using very complex analytics believe it is benefiting them.”

But changing the rules wouldn’t be pursued to make life tougher on the league’s coaches, any more than it would be done to let the most frequent targets of the tactic — notoriously poor free-throw shooters such as DeAndre Jordan (.423 free-throw percentage), Andre Drummond (.351), Dwight Howard (.532) and a handful of others — off the hook. It would be a decision driven more by the NBA product as entertainment, not merely athletic competition.

Silver did share that, when the league’s competition committee discussed the strategy last summer, it sought data from an additional season before making a recommendation. That data so far? “We’re seeing the Hack-a-Shaq strategy used at roughly a five-and-a-half-times greater rate than it was used last season,” the commissioner reported.

That’s a lot of standing around, stoppages in play and, for folks viewing from the stands or on TV at home, a procession of finely tuned, multi-millionaire athletes failing at one of basketball’s fundamental skills. That’s not a good look for anyone involved.

Interestingly, Silver said that there is no consensus among the practice’s critics what remedy should be pursued. Treat the entire game like the final two minutes, when fouls away from the play equal one free throw and retained possession? Come up with something more stringent to snuff even the temptation to hack a targeted player intentionally?

Silver said he would want to have a specific alternative to propose. And even then, that sort of change would need the approval of two-thirds of the league’s members (20 of the 30 teams).

“So we’re nowhere near that point where we’re even starting to count heads,” Silver said. This summer would be the soonest, he indicated.

***

No. 3: Splash Brother vs. Splash Brother It was no big surprise last season in Brooklyn when Stephen Curry managed to win the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest; after all, he was midway through an MVP season and establishing himself as one of the greatest shooters in NBA history. Last night in Toronto, when it came time for Curry to defend his title, he posted a fine performance, making the final round, until his Splash Brother and Warriors backcourt ‘mate Klay Thompson was able to get hot and edge Curry. As Sekou Smith writes, if there was any questions left about the league’s best-shooting backcourt, those doubts were officially laid to rest night

For the second straight year, one of the Golden State Warriors’ Splash Brothers walked off the All-Star Saturday night stage as the champion of the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest.

But it wasn’t defending champion and NBA three-point king Stephen Curry. This time it was teammate Klay Thompson taking home top honors in a competition that, by the final round, looked like something the Warriors might do at the end of every practice.

It marks the first time in Three-Point Contest history that different players from the same team have won it in consecutive seasons.

“Back-to-back years for Splash Brothers, it’s pretty cool,” Thompson said.

Thompson saved his best for last, finishing with 27 points in the final round to conquer one of the deepest fields in the history of the competition, a group that includes some of the best long-range shooters in the game today and perhaps ever.

“He definitely shot well tonight,” Curry said. “I still think I can hold my own in the competition, but the way that he finished off that second round was amazing. So trust me, the pressure of knowing what number he had to hit and making five out of five was fun to watch.”

Curry collected 23 points in his final round, but was on his feet cheering with the rest of the contestants as Thompson drained shot after shot on his final rack. Phoenix Suns rookie Devin Booker, the youngest player in the league, finished third after netting 16 points in the final round.

***

No. 4: Horford embraces uncertain future All-Star Weekend is traditionally something of a swap shop for trade rumors, and with his contract expiring this summer, All-Star Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford hasn’t been immune from hearing his name. But considering the trade rumors and that he was swimming in the Caribbean when he got the last-minute call to get to Toronto, stat, as Sam Amick writes, Horford says he’s thrilled to be in Toronto and taking everything day by day

It’s no secret that the Hawks have been exploring trade options that include Horford, but that doesn’t mean the four-time All-Star’s days in Atlanta are necessarily done. The relationship between the player and the team that drafted him third overall in 2007 remains strong, with nine seasons of history between them and a dynamic between Horford and president of basketball operations/coach Mike Budenholzer that could still lead to him re-signing this summer. And yes, it should be noted, the Hawks are well aware that retaining a talent like Horford in today’s NBA will come with an enormous price tag not only because of his talents but because the league’s salary cap is about to spike from $70 million to $89 million next season (and $108 million in 2017-18). He would earn approximately $25 in his first season.

But the 31-24 Hawks, like any team that isn’t playing to its anticipated level, must consider all options this time of year. They are also known to be engaging in trade discussions relating to point guard Jeff Teague, who is less of a flight risk than Horford because he has one year left on his contract ($8 million). The New York Knicks and Utah Jazz, to name a few, could be serious suitors for Teague in the coming days.

The Boston Celtics are widely believed to be a potential fit as a Horford trade partner, but the real level of interest from general manager Danny Ainge remains to be seen in the coming days. And while Horford continues to speak positively about the city and his situation, there’s an inherent uncertainty to this process that always acts as the driving force.

“I’m very happy in Atlanta,” Horford said when asked if the Hawks had reason to be concerned that he might leave. “I’ve said it repeatedly. I love the city. My family, we all live in Atlanta, we stay there in the offseason, so my focus is just to keep playing and taking it day by day and, right now, it’s to enjoy this weekend. … Just taking it day by day. That’s the only thing I can do. We really can’t worry about three or four months from now.”

Especially when a welcome All-Star berth comes your way.

While Horford wasn’t selected to the team initially, he was given the nod on Friday when Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh unexpectedly pulled out because of a calf strain. Horford was vacationing with his family near Cancun, Mexico, when he got the call.

“I had my phone off (and) I was in the water,” said Horford, who is averaging 15.3 points and 6.9 rebounds this season. “I was doing my morning swim out there, and I got the call (around 9:30 am).

“I’m so excited to be here, man. Words don’t describe it. Being here in this city, in Toronto. I remember last year looking at it, and I was like, ‘It’s going to be in Toronto, I would love to be a part of that,’ because, you know, the fans here are so lively and just being around these guys and it happens to be Kobe’s last All-Star. It’s kind of a big deal, and for me to be a part of this I’m very grateful.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Carmelo Anthony says he’s not getting tradedKarl-Anthony Towns struck a blow for bigs in the Skills Challenge … If you haven’t heard, it’s really, really cold in Toronto this weekend … The Indiana Pacers are eyeing a future All-Star Weekend bidJimmer Fredette was named MVP of the D-League All-Star GameKevin Hart tied Draymond Green in their own three-point shootout.

D-League planning Showcase changes

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — The D-League will likely have a new home for the Showcase next season after two years in a row on the California coast, possibly in a venue that would accommodate two games at a time and maybe in a city without a team, president Malcolm Turner said in the latest sign of expansion for the NBA’s minor league.

While the process is in the early stages and a decision is many months away, growing from 19 to 22 teams in 2016-17 with the addition of new direct affiliates for the Hornets, Bulls and Nets makes it inevitable the D-League will need a location with two courts rather than extend the event that already lasts five days with games that run from morning until night. The feeling within the league is that if the change is going to happen, it might as well happen next season if officials can reach agreement on a site.

That leaves out Santa Cruz despite receiving high marks as a host, although a new venue would probably happen anyway after 2015 and ’16 at the home of the Warriors affiliate immediately after two years in Reno, Nev. League officials would like to take the event that combines the best in-season scouting opportunity for NBA teams — the one-stop shopping of every team in one building brings dozens of top executives and scouts — with an important marketing opportunity for their own operation to a different part of the country.

That, in turn, decreases chances the Showcase will be in Las Vegas next year, something that had been considered for 2016 and facility wise would be a natural fit with the two arenas at UNLV that are used for NBA Summer League. Las Vegas remains an option moving forward, but is not a match for the D-League’s geographic preferences.

One neutral site remains a possibility, and maybe even a strong possibility: the Disney complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., the former home of the NBA pre-draft camp that now takes place in Chicago. The drawback would be losing the potential marketing push of the Showcase in the city of one of its teams, although the Magic have indicated they would like to operate a team close to home, possibly in that immediate Orlando area or possibly in another part of the state, rather than sending players to Erie, Pa.

“I think we’d like to (go to a venue with two courts), only because we know it’s coming,” Turner said. “It’s not a matter of if. It’s when. If we can start to grow into that model and if we identify a solution that allows us to do so sooner, we’ll take a look at that. Is it an absolute requirement or mandate? No, I don’t think so. We’re right there at that line. We’re starting to think about it as this platform approaches in our business, we need to think a little bit differently and little bit bigger.”

The D-League will be tracking the progress of construction in some cities amid the possibility one of the locations with a team will have a facility large enough a year from now. That includes the potential of being in the same general area as the team, as in the case of potential venues in the Dallas suburbs other than Frisco, the home base for the Texas Legends. Or, the Showcase could be held in 2017 similar to the current format, with one court and more days (not the preferred outcome) or the same five days while starting earlier or going later than now, and then shifting to two courts in 2018.

The D-League may also begin announcing sites multiple years in advance, similar to the NBA with All-Star weekend, rather than months ahead of time. That could be with disclosing the same venue two years in a row or two different locations.

“I would say by summer we’d like to have a decision,” Turner said. “I think what we’d really like to do is get a lot more ahead of it in terms of our planning process going forward. The way this property is growing and evolving, it’s not out of the question that, just as you would with an All-Star in terms of really projecting well out in advance your markets and your venues, we have to adapt similarly as we continue to grow. Not only in terms of the number of teams, but in terms of capacity and some of the pure logistics we just talked about. I would say summer we’d like to have a really good handle on what we’re doing for next year and not just for next year.”

Morning shootaround — July 18


VIDEO: Sophomores delivering at Summer League

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Giannis sees Bucks as (more) family | Project Durant on track in Washington | Knicks, if not Jackson, kept ‘Melo in loop | Smart to miss Africa game

No. 1: Giannis sees Bucks as (more) family — It’s too bad, when Milwaukee forward Giannis Antetokounmpo writes about himself on his official blog, that he doesn’t lapse into third-person references to himself. If he did, he’d face the same challenge – spelling and typing that last name repeatedly – other scribes face. Nonetheless, the Bucks’ rising star posted Friday about the bond he feels with his team and how his sense of family extends these days to his workplace:

The Bucks and John Hammond chose me in the draft, got me in the NBA, kept me in the team with a role from my very first season and they are my basketball family. Not only that, but already at this young age, they have enough faith in me as a leader and they are doing everything in order to develop all of my potential. From my side, I feel that I want to be playing in the Bucks. I’m not talking about my next contract. The way I feel now, I want to keep playing for the Milwaukee Bucks for the next 20 years!

You never know how life turns out. Three years ago I was thinking that I might be playing for Filathlitikos forever! All of a sudden, the draft emerged, the NBA, the Bucks and everything that followed. I don’t know how I’ll be feeling and thinking in 2, 3 or more years. Right now I feel like I want to play for the Milwaukee Bucks forever.

I’m a guy who doesn’t really care about glamour and big markets. I like to be home all day. I get up in the morning, I take a shower and I go to practice. When I’m finished, the only thing that’s on my mind is to go back home and spend time with my family. I usually feel that I prefer to hide from people.

Okay, if LeBron said to me ‘Come to my team and play with me,’ I’d think about it! (laughs) He’s the best player in the world and a member of that exclusive group of the best that have ever played the game. Still, though, the Milwaukee Bucks would come first. They will always be the team that gave me my chance and opened up the doors to paradise.

***

No. 2: Project Durant on track in Washington — The Washington Wizards aren’t running afoul of NBA tampering rules, but within the letter of the law, they’re not hiding the fact that they hope to be players in what most expect to be a Kevin Durant Sweeptakes next July. Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post looked at the Wizards’ plan, which will be competing with approximately 28 other teams’ plans 11.5 months from now in trying to lure the NBA’s 2014 MVP away from Oklahoma City:

The Washington Wizards have meticulously prepared for the opportunity to coax Durant, born in the District and a product of Montrose Christian School, to Washington once the clock strikes midnight on July 1, 2016. But the courting of Durant, 26, will be wildly competitive: Thanks to the coming flood of money from a new television contract that will kick in next July, a bevy of franchises will have the salary cap space to offer the maximum possible contract to Durant, the 2014 league MVP. Other teams are only a couple moves away from getting in the mix. It could become a free-for-all, raising the risks of going all-in for one player.

“The one thing I know about my brother is he wants to win,” said Damion James, Durant’s best friend and a member of the Wizards’ summer league team. “He’ll do whatever it takes to win. Whoever gives him the best chance to win is where he’s going to end up.”

“It’s difficult to imagine him leaving [the Thunder],” said a Western Conference executive, who spoke under condition of anonymity because league tampering rules bar discussing potential free agents who are still under contract with another team. “That team is loaded. If they can stay healthy, they’re championship favorites.”

Oklahoma City is one of the NBA’s smallest markets, a factor that would’ve repelled a player of Durant’s caliber just a few years ago, but technology has altered the NBA terrain. No longer does a player need to play in a metropolis to become a superstar and procure endorsement dollars. Every game is available to anyone, anywhere. Highlights are instantly accessible on the Internet. Social media is replete with NBA fandom. Durant, a Nike pillar, and [Russell] Westbrook, a fashion impresario of sorts, are two poster boys of the shift. The fact that [LaMarcus] Aldridge spurned a meeting with the Knicks and turned down the Lakers to sign this month with the San Antonio Spurs seemed to solidify the change.

***

No. 3: Knicks, if not Jackson, kept ‘Melo in loop — Lest anyone fret that Carmelo Anthony was being kept in the dark on the New York Knicks’ offseason maneuvers, the New York Post stepped up to report that the veteran All-Star scorer actually was in the loop on team transactions. Certainly no Knicks fan could aide Anthony not being consulted, considering how, er, well thing have gone around Madison Square Garden lately:

According to an NBA source, general manager Steve Mills has been in communication with Anthony across the free-agent process to explain the recent additions.

As president, [Phil] Jackson delegates a lot, and Mills is in charge of directly speaking with agents and other teams regarding potential trades or free-agent acquisitions. According to the source, Mills also handles reaching out to players on matters such as recent transactions.

In fact, Mills has said publicly Anthony spent a lot of time in his office going over “the boards’’ regarding potential free agents they were after. One of the combinations, Mills has said, was the trifecta of Robin Lopez, Arron Afflalo and Kyle O’Quinn. The Knicks still had enough cap space to sign 2011 draft bust Derrick Williams and re-up with Lou Amundson and Lance Thomas for more than their minimums.

Jackson raised eyebrows on Monday when he said he had yet to speak with the vacationing Anthony, sparking speculation perhaps the Knicks rehabbing superstar was displeased with the signings. The Post reported on Wednesday Anthony had been in touch with Knicks officials this week and expressed frustration he was being perceived as a malcontent, and said he still “had trust in Phil.’’

After the draft, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith reported Anthony felt “hoodwinked’’ by Jackson’s selection of European project Kristaps Porzingis with the No. 4 overall pick. The Post reported Anthony was indeed disappointed on Draft night but more because his friend Tim Hardaway Jr. was traded for a college prospect he barely saw play — point guard Jerian Grant. No one, other than Anthony, remains from the roster since Jackson took over 16 months ago.

Since, Anthony has been outspoken about his “love’’ for Porzingis and called him directly to tell him he wasn’t upset. Anthony watched Porzingis’ Knicks workout and multiple sources said he felt the Latvian big man would be a good pick.

***

No. 4: Smart to miss Africa game — The good news for Boston guard Marcus Smart and the Celtics was that the two fingers on his right hand that Smart injured Thursday in the Las Vegas Summer League won’t require surgery. The unfortunate news is that Smart will miss participating in the NBA’s exhibition game in South Africa Aug. 1. Here is some more on that situation from the Boston Globe:

Smart, guard Evan Turner, and coach Brad Stevens were to be among a contingent of NBA players and coaches taking part in the first NBA game played in Africa. But Smart will now stay in Boston as his fingers heal.

Smart has not been available to speak to reporters since suffering the injury. One source said the guard is disappointed about missing the game in Africa but relieved that his injury is not more serious.

With 6:34 left in the second quarter of Boston’s summer league game against Portland, Smart, guard Terry Rozier, and Trail Blazers forward Noah Vonleh all converged on a loose ball. Smart braced himself with his right hand as he fell, and his right index and middle fingers were dislocated.

A bone in Smart’s hand also punctured his skin, requiring five stitches. Those sutures could slow Smart’s recovery, as they will affect his ability to regain range of motion in his fingers. Still, the Celtics were relieved that the X-rays on Smart’s hand were negative.

Celtics assistant coach Micah Shrewsberry said Smart will remain with the team as long as they are in the summer league playoffs, partly because he wants to support his team, and partly because the medical staff is here. Smart will undergo further evaluation when he returns to Boston.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Cleveland Cavaliers might be adding another Russian center, this one a player whose NBA rights they’ve had for the past eight years. … Jimmy Butler said again, on yet another media platform, that his relationship with Derrick Rose is friction-free. … New Nuggets head coach Mike Malone talks with Grantland.com about Ty Lawson, what he learned in Sacramento and a little Boogie Cousins. … Seth Curry writes about what he hopes is the end of his D League days. … Everything old is new again, as some NBA rookies remind ESPN.com of certain predecessors. …

D-League considering Showcase in Vegas

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — The D-League is considering Las Vegas as a future stop for the Showcase even though the city does not have a team, commissioner Malcolm Turner said, a move that would deepen ties between the parent NBA and the gambling mecca.

The internal debate as conversations increase after the NBA All-Star weekend in mid-February in New York is clear: Continue the Showcase among the 16 locations with teams as a local marketing tool for the host club and the league as a whole or go to a city with a track record of successfully hosting major basketball events. Las Vegas’ relationship with the NBA as the site of the biggest of the three summer leagues — Salt Lake City will join the established Orlando operation — is an obvious selling point. It just doesn’t grow the brand where the D-League needs to grow.

“It’s one that we’re exploring,” Turner said. “It’s too early to say whether or not that is a strong possibility, but I think there are a lot of reasons why we would find it an attractive market to go to. Obviously that would work counter to … our teams hosting the Showcase. But Vegas is an interesting market for a lot of reasons.

“With NBA summer league in Vegas, we’ve had very good and strong experiences in Vegas. And certainly logistically and infrastructure wise, clearly that’s an easy box to check versus potentially some of the markets where we’re playing the D-League clearly there are some logistical hurdles. Las Vegas is set up to host big and significant events. That takes a lot of that (those hurdles) off the table.”

The gathering of every team for several days of games as the premier regular-season event for the D-League has been in Columbus, Ga., Fayetteville, N.C., Sioux Falls, S.D., Boise, Orem, Utah, Boise again, South Padre Island, Tex., Reno two years in a row and now Santa Cruz for the 2015 session that ended Monday. While Santa Cruz earned high marks as a host and has one of the best arenas in the league, Turner, in his first season as commissioner, prefers to move the Showcase around in the model of All-Star games in other sports rather than consecutive visits to the same city.

Also, Turner said the league expects to expand at some point, but not next season.

The Bakersfield Jam, the Suns’ affiliate, won the inaugural Showcase Cup, a tournament held amid the rest of the schedule here. Jam guard Archie Goodwin, on assignment from Phoenix, was named MVP.

 

D-League lacking draft prospects in ’15

hairston

P.J. Hairston is the only player from the D-League drafted in the first round of the NBA Draft (NBAE via Getty Images).


SANTA CRUZ, Calif. —
The D-League appears destined to go from the prominent role of having two players chosen in the 2014 Draft, including one in the first round, to no prospects being selected this June, affirmation of the uniqueness of last year in the NBA minor league than a sign of a setback this time.

P.J. Hairston joined the Texas Legends only because the NCAA barred him, after the season started, from playing at North Carolina. The shooting guard was a first-round possibility before the move to the pros and held the spot after stretches of play that showed a shooting touch with range packaged with the strength to get to the rim. The Hornets took him at No. 26, via a trade with Miami.

And, Thanasis Antetokounmpo was with the Delaware 87ers primarily because younger brother Giannis was in the United States, as a rookie with the Bucks. If Giannis had waited to enter the draft or was selected but spent another season in Europe, Thanasis likely spends 2013-14 overseas as well. Instead, he was in the D-League and selected 51st by the Knicks.

There is no sign of the same level of prospect in the minors this season, NBA executives and scouts here for the midseason Showcase, the gathering of every D-League team for five days of games at the home of the Warriors’ affiliate, agreed. That could change in future years, but it will take similar circumstances as 2014 to deliver a draft-eligible player to the D-League.

“I don’t think we’ll see it happen a lot,” one front-office rep said. “But I think it will happen when a guy can’t play in college or has to repair his image. The D-League or overseas would both be options.”

Prospects would typically choose the overseas route because international clubs will beat the D-League pay scale by a million dollars, as was the case this season with Emmanuel Mudiay, a point guard from Texas who planned to play at SMU as a freshman, only to sign in China and do an endorsement deal with Under Armour once the NCAA began to look into his academics.

Mudiay projects as a top-three pick despite an ankle injury that sidelined him in China. Even before that setback, NBA teams were openly speculating he might return to the United States before the end of the season to protect his draft stock.

Other players might chose the D-League as a short-term option, wanting to stay closer to home and avoid living in a different culture.

Familiar names on D-League draft board

Several players with NBA connections were selected in the NBA D-League draft Saturday,  led by former Rockets forward Robert Covington going No. 1 to the Grand Rapids Drive.

Grand Rapids, the Pistons affiliate coached by Otis Smith, signed Hasheem Thabeet and traded for the rights to Daniel Orton. The Drive also drafted Ben Hansbrough, Tyler’s brother, with the fifth choice.

The others at the top of the board were Elliot Williams, who previously played with the 76ers and Trail Blazers, second to Santa Cruz; Erik Murphy, with the Bulls last season, third to Austin; and Carrick Felix, formerly with the Cavaliers, fourth to Santa Cruz.

Among the other notables selected: Marquis Teague, (ninth, to Oklahoma City), Damien Wilkins (16th, Iowa), David Stockton, son of John (third round, Maine), Todd Mayo, brother of O.J. (fourth round, Westchester) and Ricardo Barbosa, nephew of Leandro (seventh round, Bakersfield).

The draft was for D-League placement only, not an affiliation with an NBA team beyond the working arrangement between the D-League organization and the parent company, although it is worth noting the Oklahoma City franchise, the Blue, adds Teague at a time the Thunder have a need at point guard after the injury to Russell Westbrook. Players selected remain free agents in NBA terms and can be signed by anyone in the NBA, not just the NBA team or teams connected to the minor-league club.

Nets’ Anderson Makes It All Way Back

h

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — As vibrant as Toronto is as a sports market, as passionate as its fans are for whichever team is working that night, the feeling among some NBA players remains largely unchanged from what it was 18 years ago  when the Raptors joined the league via expansion.

It’s that place up there, with the funky money, the customs checkpoints and defence that’s almost as tricky to spell as it is to play.

But the Air Canada Centre is Madison Square Garden or Staples Center as far as Alan Anderson is concerned. He learned the hard way the difference between basketball outposts and basketball outposts.

“Well, you go to China and to Italy and Russia and all those places, and you’ll see Toronto as the NBA,” Anderson said in a phone interview this week, after taking his physical and wrapping up paperwork on his two-year contract with the Brooklyn Nets.

He didn’t mention Croatia or Israel, or Tulsa, Albuquerque or Canton for that matter. But he didn’t need to. This NBA dream of his, a dream that nearly died overseas or grinding through the D-League for four seasons and nearly five years that could have been his basketball prime, is alive and well.

What’s dead is any shred of entitlement or arrogance or even self-pity that Anderson might have had about deserving better than what he got from 2007, when the Charlotte Bobcats were done with him, to March 2011 when the Raptors finally called.

The 6-foot-6 wing player from Minneapolis didn’t need much more humility, mind you, after going undrafted out of Michigan State in 2005, landing with Charlotte for a year and a fraction, then getting his passport stamped like Jason Bourne for the next several seasons. But the harder he pressed, the farther away he seemed to get. How often did he doubt he’d get another shot?

“Always,” Anderson said. “Once I left, I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, how long is it going to take me to get back? When am I getting back?’ And after a year goes by, two years go by…

“Actually, it was worse for me when I was thinking like that. That didn’t help me out at all. Once I started thinking about where I was at and winning a championship where I was at [in Croatia in 2009, in Spain in 2011], it started getting easier and I started seeing the NBA at the end of the tunnel.”

Anderson is forever indebted to former Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo and current head coach Dwane Casey for the call that finally came. In February 2011, he had come back from a completed season in China with hopes of a 10-day deal in Washington that never panned out. His agent Mark Bartelstein suggested that, beyond his individual workouts, Anderson head back to the D-League to keep his game sharp.

Shrewd move: He joined the Canton Charge, played eight games, averaged 21.5 points and shot 55 percent from the floor while helping them in a late playoff run and caught Toronto’s eye.

“He said to me, ‘Mark, just get me one more opportunity in the league. If you do, I’ll take advantage of it,’ “ Bartelstein said. “And that’s exactly what he did.”

Anderson stuck through two 10-day deals and the few days left in 2011-12 after that. He was back last season, averaging 10.7 points and 23 minutes off the bench, helping the Raptors to a 31-34 mark when he played [3-14 when he didn’t]. He scored 20 points or more eight times, including a 35-point performance against the Knicks on March 22, which might have been all the resume he needed to grab Brooklyn’s attention.

Now, Anderson is headed onto one of the league’s grandest stages, with the newly configured Nets battling the Knicks for New York and Atlantic Division supremacy. He’ll be a relatively anonymous role player on a roster now crammed with marquee names and proven veterans, eager to back up Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson as needed, flesh out a vastly improved Brooklyn bench and team with Kevin Garnett. Anderson first met Garnett back in Minnesota in 1997, when he was headed to De LaSalle High and Garnett was all of 21, working a summer camp.

“For someone growing up in the inner city, where I came from, we loved watching KG play and everything he brought,” said Anderson, who plays with a little on-court edge himself. “When I finally go to meet him, he was talking to me like we already knew each other as friends. That was big for me.”

So many years later, Anderson has a chance to help make Garnett’s twilight time special. He’s no kid himself –- Anderson will turn 31 in the preseason –- but his NBA miles are low and his adrenaline is spiking.

“I don’t think I do anything great, but I think I do everything pretty good,” said Anderson, whose minimum contract includes a player option for 2014-15. “I can spot-shoot, I can rebound, I defend, I can create, I can pass. Me being versatile, it can come down to me –- if we’re in a shooting slump or we need to get to the basket or need to get to the free-throw line, I think I’m capable of doing all of that.”

Anderson calls this gig a “blessing.” Bartelstein considers it a “wonderful story.”

“Alan’s a guy who just wanted desperately to get back to the NBA,” the agent said. “To be on a stage like he’s going to be on in Brooklyn, I’m so happy for the guy. A lot of people counted Alan out and thought his NBA career was over. So, to come back from playing internationally and rebuilding his career to levels that a lot of people didn’t think he could do, it speaks volumes about his perseverance and how hard he’s worked.”

D-League Select Squad: Summer League Underdogs

a


a
LAS VEGAS
– They’re the store brand here at the Summer League, to the point that you half-expect to see a bar code on the backs of their jerseys rather than traditional numbers. The D-League Select squad participating against the 21 NBA teams that sent rosters full of young and hopeful players to the desert is the Acme soup or Brand X cereal that allegedly tastes just like the highly marketed, big-label products, only without the big-label price.

No nickname. Just a generic logo from the NBA’s minor league on their shirts. And unmistakable chips on their shoulders.

Compared to other teams’ coaches and even players who have been grumbling about the new tournament format in the Las Vegas Summer League extending their stays and messing with offseason plans, the guys on the D-League Select team are grateful. Grateful for the chance to keep on playing, to keep on winning, to keep on attracting eyeballs.

The 14 teams on Friday’s scheduled of seven games were essentially done – they had dropped into the “consolation round” in the tournament format and, once they completed their fifth and final Vegas game, they were gone. But the D-Leaguers were 4-0 and still plugging, pitted against Charlotte in a quarterfinals game Saturday evening.

So yes, on Friday morning, they were practicing. Other quarterfinals clubs may have been cheerily wishing each other “Bad luck!” – with each loss came a ticket home – but these guys were hoping to stretch their stay through Monday’s championship game.

“We’re playing to win, whereas the NBA teams, it’s more about their one or two draft picks and their young guys,” said Alex Jensen, the D-League’s Coach of the Year in 2013 with the Canton Charge who is overseeing the summer squad. “Really, you can’t blame them.

“But I told [our players], ‘The best thing that can happen for all you guys is for us to win. Because then people will take notice that ‘You’re just as good as guys on any team that we will play. Believe me, it’s the truth.’ ”

Jensen is living the dream that his players still are pursuing; he has joined the Utah Jazz staff as director of player development for 2013-14. Few if any of the guys he is coaching have deals for next season anywhere.

“I just hope I get a job somewhere. Either it’s cross-seas or getting invited to training camp or hopefully be with an NBA team,” said forward Darnell Jackson, who played for the Reno Bighorns after stints with Cleveland (2008, 2009), Milwaukee (2010) and Sacramento (2012). He also has played in China and the Ukraine.

“If not, I’m just blessed to be in the situation I’m in now,” said Jackson, a second-round pick by Miami in 2008 after playing four years (with one NCAA title) at Kansas. “I just guess those guys who are saying they’re ready to go home are having a bad experience.

“With us, we’re all here trying to prove ourselves to the coaches and the NBA teams that we’re willing to be here and to keep working. And we’re having fun at the same time. We’re winning games, we’re playing hard together. We’re gonna keep pushing.”

Dominique Sutton, a 6-foot-5 wing player from North Carolina Central, averaged 10.2 points for the Tulsa 66ers last season and won the Slam Dunk contest at the D-League Showcase.

“We all had a goal at the beginning to try to surprise people, take people by storm,” Sutton said. “A lot of people look at the front of our jerseys and see ‘D-League Select’ and think we’re a bunch of guys that really don’t know the game. ‘It’s the D-League, they’re not playing for an NBA team.’ So we come in with a chip on our shoulders, man. We feel, just play harder and we’ll come up a success.”

In their four games, the D-Leaguers have outscored their foes by an average of 5.8 points, while outshooting and outrebounding them too. Stefhon Hannah, a 6-foot-1 guard from Missouri, the Santa Cruz Warriors and assorted teams in Europe, Asia and South America, was their leading scorer (14.8 ppg), and 6-foot-6 guard Elijah Millsap was next at 14.3.

Millsap is familiar – thanks to his brother Paul, the former Jazz and now Hawks forward – with what life in the NBA is like. But guard Kyle Weaver is one of the D-Leaguers who actually knows, having played 73 games in three seasons with Oklahoma City and Utah. He played in Belgium and Germany, too, and was with the D-League’s Austin Toros last season before being traded to Canton in February.

“A lot of guys are curious to try to get up there,” Weaver said after practice Friday. “That’s why you can see on the court how we’re playing. Guys are scrapping, guys just want to get that opportunity. Grinding with these guys has been good. It’s definitely worth it.”

So the D-League Select team keeps grinding toward the Summer League championship. It’s a crown mostly scoffed at by the established NBA teams but something the D-Leaguers are happy to chase, because it keeps them playing. The auditions aren’t over.

Rose Might Benefit From D-League Rehab

a

D. Rose. In the D League. In Des Moines.

The marketing opportunities would be enormous. And it might just help Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls in their long, arduous process of getting the 2011 NBA MVP back onto the court for a real playoff push.

Rose has been painstakingly working his way back through the demanding stages of recovery and rehabilitation from ACL surgery on his left knee. Meanwhile the Bulls have been waiting patiently and playing without excuses – coach Tom Thibodeau would tolerate nothing less – for what most have pegged as a late February or early March return.

Rose finally returned to practice last week, the last stage before he’s on the floor in a Bulls uniform on game night. But it potentially is a lengthy stage for reasons beyond his control, as the team’s executive vice president John Paxson told listeners of a sports talk show on the Bulls’ flagship station.

“We don’t have the defined plan yet because Derrick is still progressing,” Paxson said Friday on “The Waddle & Silvy Show” on ESPN 1000. “The way he feels and what his body tells him is going to dictate how we do things. But I can tell you one thing – and this is for certain – he’s going to have to have a high volume of practices and contact, and where he’s comfortable on the floor doing things that he used to do naturally. And that takes some time and he’s just starting that process now.

“We can’t sit here today and say he’s going to be back in three weeks or after the All-Star break.

High volume of practices. Paxson knows as well as anyone that the notion is an oxymoron at this stage of an NBA season – particularly for his club in its current condition. Beginning Saturday at Atlanta, the tail end of a back-to-back, they have six games in 12 days before the All-Star break. Upon their return, they play six in the final 10 days of February.

And now the situation is complicated by injuries to others on the roster. Center Joakim Noah sat out Friday in Brooklyn and informed reporters afterward he is suffering from plantar fasciitis in his right foot; the same condition in his left foot cost Noah 18 games in 2009-10. The first-time All-Star might not play again until that showcase event in Houston.

Forward Carlos Boozer might miss his third straight game Saturday with a lingering hamstring strain. The manpower drain has shifted heavier workloads onto Luol Deng, Taj Gibson, Nate Robinson and Jimmy Butler, leaving the Bulls not only with a number problem but with tuckered-out players. That’s not conducive, either, to 5-on-5 scrimmaging in the practice gym.

So what’s a fella like Rose to do? How does he get the game conditions he needs? Where does he find teammates fresh enough for near-full-speed practices, the elixir most necessary to his ultimate comeback step?

Go west, young man. Only not too far west, just as far as Des Moines, where the Iowa Energy has a full schedule and players with a different sort of NBA ambition.

Injury rehab assignments are common in baseball, most often used for pitchers trying to work their way back in game conditions. But there’s no reason that NBA players – if their teams are fighting fatigue or ailments – couldn’t do the same thing.

The Bulls could send whatever medical personnel they chose (short of head trainer Fred Tedeschi) to supervise, and a strict minutes limit could be imposed against the Austin Toros or the Sioux Falls Skyforce the same as if it were Philadelphia or Indiana.  Easier, in fact, since Energy fans probably would be thrilled just to have Rose in the building. Folks at United Center will almost instantly begin to weave postseason dreams and bracket possibilities as soon as Rose takes the court, and pulling him out after a prescribed 16 or 22 minutes could mess with those. In Des Moines, every minute would be a hoot.

There’s nothing inherently more risky about playing in the D League – chances are, those opponents might yield a little bubble of safety and respect to Rose that he won’t get against NBA defenders. The idea been brought up on occasion in the past – Elton Brand offered to play for Anaheim in March 2008 while rehabbing from a torn Achilles.

Now the league’s collective bargaining agreement with the players allows for such stints for veterans, with their consent. It was suggested in December, for example, that Washington’s John Wall might benefit from testing his knee injury in the D-League.

Look, if the D-League is all about prepping players for the NBA and strengthening rosters, that’s precisely what some brief rehab visits might produce.

Knicks Assign Stoudemire To D-League

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Relax folks, Mike Woodson hasn’t lost it.

The New York Knicks haven’t banished Amar’e Stoudemire to their NBA D-League affiliate, the Erie BayHawks, a move we knew was coming thanks to my main man John Schuhmann.

But the Knicks big man is going to the D-League to continue his rehab by reporting to the MSG Training Center in Greenburgh, N.Y. today as he continues to fight his way back from the left knee procedure he had on Oct. 31. He’s been cleared for practice and will work with D-League crew while the Knicks rest between games.

There are still plenty of issues Woodson and the Knicks have to work through where Stoudemire is concerned. Having Stoudemire get in two full practices is the best way to get a proper handle on where he stands going into the Holiday weekend.

The fact that Stoudemire is going willingly, however, is the surest sign that the 10-year veteran is eager to do whatever it takes to fit into what the Knicks are doing right now (last night’s beating at the hands of the Houston Rockets aside). He’s the most high profile player in league history record a D-League assignment.