Posts Tagged ‘Damian Lillard’

Blogtable: Who will shoot it the most?

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: On Popovich & Kobe’s careers | Clippers-Warriors rivalry | Who will shoot it the most?

VIDEOC.J. McCollum’s rise to stardom in Portland

> Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, or Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant? Which duo will average the most shots per game this season?

Steve Aschburner, Assuming all six stay healthy, I’m going with Lillard and McCollum. The Blogtable meister snuck them in here for a reason, namely that there aren’t many other reliable offensive options on the current Portland roster. So the Lillard/McCollum tandem’s current average of 40.1 field-goal attempts per game might hold in the absence of LaMarcus Aldridge & Co. Curry/Thompson prides itself too much on efficiency to hoist ’em at that level through 82 games — they were at 33.7 last season — and Golden State has additional weapons to deploy. And while Durant/Westbrook is at 41.8 right now, in their last full season together (2012-13) they combined to take 36.4 shots per game. Also, OKC coach Billy Donovan at least says he wants to develop other scoring options.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comWhile it’s tempting to go with Lillard and McCollum because they’re the only real bullets in a pop-gun offense that ranks in the bottom third of the league, I’m counting on the heavy artillery of Durant and Westbrook — especially Westbrook — to individually launch enough 25-30 shot barrages because, well, it’s who they are.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comMy actual answer is “I’m sure John Schuhmann did a spread sheet on this months ago, so whoever he picked.” But since he won’t let me look, I’ll go with Westbrook and Durant while making up logic as I go along. I think the Thunder will continue to play at a fast pace, while I’m not as sure the Blazers will keep it up. And I think the Warriors will benefit from not winning this category because it means Curry and Thompson will be resting in a lot of fourth quarters, in a good way.

Shaun Powell, The Portland duo, Lillard and McCollum, if only out of necessity. The ball should touch either Lillard or McCollum’s fingers on every possession. It’s not that they must shoot every time, but touch the ball and be a threat to score on an otherwise thinly-talented team.

John Schuhmann, Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. The lack of offensive talent on the Blazers’ roster has given these guys license to shoot anytime they’re open within 30 feet of the basket. Also, Terry Stotts is staggering their minutes, so that they each get plenty of time to dominate the offense with the other on the bench. In the Blazers’ second game (at Phoenix last Friday), McCollum took 12 shots in the nine minutes that Lillard sat, and it was something to behold.

Sekou Smith, If the Warriors keep waxing the opposition the way they did the Memphis Grizzlies, Curry and Thompson will be out of the running early because they won’t see the floor much in the fourth quarter of games. Durant and Westbrook are going to be volume shooters by virtue of their being no other clear-cut or reliable scoring options you’d be comfortable with on the Thunder roster. But Lillard and McCollum will have to fire away relentlessly to keep the Trail Blazers competitive all season. They will not only win this fight, they have to for the sake of basketball this season in Portland. They have to win this one!

Ian Thomsen, I’m guessing Westbrook and Durant will lead in this category because they are exceptionally talented and hungry to win. Will it be a bad thing if they dominate the shots for their team? It’s hard to answer that question because it’s been so long since we’ve seen them healthy together for an extended time. Maybe they are so good and so ready to fulfill their potential that the normal rules will not apply.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blogI’m going to immediately disqualify Curry and Thompson, because while they probably SHOULD take the most shots, the Warriors get so far ahead that Curry ends up resting for large chunks of games, which means their gross numbers will be a little lower than everyone else. Lillard and McCollum have had a great run to start the season, but they’re both perimeter players, and Westbrook/Durant can form an inside-out tandem and provide more diversity to the Thunder offense in that way. Also, just to be frank, Westbrook and Durant are the better players out of that final four. So I’ll go with OKC’s finest.

One Team, One Stat: Triple-Threat

VIDEO: Schuhmann’s Advanced Stats: Portland Trail Blazers’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2015-16 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the Portland Trail Blazers, who still have a guy who can make defenses pay.

The stat


The context

20151022_por_basicsAmong high-usage ball-handlers, Damian Lillard wasn’t the best shooter or most likely to shoot, but he took a lot more 3-pointers off of pick-and-rolls than any other player.

According to SportVU (different data from that above), Lillard led the league with 207 3-point attempts as a pick-and-roll ball-handler. Next on the list was Stephen Curry with 135. Lillard only shot 32 percent on those 3-point attempts, but because 3 > 2, they were worth more than his twos (45 percent) and he was the highest scoring pick-and-roll ball-handler in the league.

Like Curry and Kyrie Irving, Lillard is a triple-threat when he comes off a screen, with the ability to pull-up, get to the basket, or make a pass. He ranked second in the league in 3-point attempts and fourth among guards in shots in the restricted area.

In a league where more teams are going toward a conservative pick-and-roll scheme with big men hanging back in the paint on pick-and-rolls, scoring/shooting point guards like Curry, Irving and Lillard will alter a defensive game plan.

Of course, Lillard is the only player left from a starting lineup that played more minutes than any other lineup over the last two seasons.


The Blazers will obviously take a big step backward on both ends of the floor with the departures of LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Robin Lopez and Wesley Matthews. But they’ll look space the floor for Lillard, a guy who will still cause problems for a lot of opposing defenses.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

Morning shootaround — Oct. 18

VIDEO: Run through Saturday’s highlights with the Fast Break


Time for Dan Gilbert to step in? | Kawhi Leonard wants rings, not acclaim | Lillard ready to lead his team | Jabari Parker needs more time
No. 1: Time for Dan Gilbert to step in? — The ongoing negotiations, if that’s what you still want to call the state of stalled talks, involving the Cavaliers and holdout forward Tristan Thompson might require the pulling of an emergency cord. With the regular season just a week away, should Cavs owner Dan Gilbert get more involved in the talks in order to reach a solution? According to Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio News Group, it may come to that:

In fact, there doesn’t seem to be a sense of urgency from either side in reaching an agreement. And that means Thompson’s stalemate will continue to hover over the organization like a black cloud, a cloud LeBron James considers “a distraction.”

It may be time to signal to the dugout for Cavs owner Dan Gilbert.

Thompson’s presence on and off the court is sorely being missed. Internally, members of the Cavaliers have expressed to each other how it would be such an unnecessary hurdle to try to contend for a title without their best offensive rebounder and most versatile big defender.

James has been in constant contact with Thompson throughout the negotiations. He has made it clear the importance of ending the impasse as soon as possible.

A championship run is at stake.

“I try not to get involved in that, as far as what the team is speaking on or talking about,” James said about the stalled negotiations. “It’s basically more on a personal level, asking him how he’s doing and if his mind is right and things of that nature. There’s a lot of things that’s much bigger than basketball, even though I know he would love to be here right now and we would love to have him here, but I kind of stray away from that.”


No. 2: Kawhi Leonard wants rings, not acclaim — Some players say they don’t care about fame, applause, blah, blah, but when Kawhi Leonard says it, you tend to believe him. His previous pattern of being soft-spoken and staying in the shadows plays to his personality. And yet this season, Leonard will probably make the All-Star team for the first time if he takes another leap forward in production. Here’s Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News with a discussion with Leonard on this topic:

“I just want (another) one of those up there,” Leonard said, referring to one of the championship banners hanging from the Spurs’ practice facility.

Leonard, 24, has little concern with individual accolades.

“In 2014 I wasn’t an All-Star or Defensive Player of the Year,” Leonard told the Express-News. “If I can get back and win a championship, that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich wasn’t surprised Leonard’s motivation stems from pursuing a championship.

“That sounds like him,” Popovich said. “ … He really is more interested in winning than he is with (individual awards). He’s a really selfless kind of guy. … It’s not about him in any way, shape, or form. It’s always been about the group.”

It’s this type of attitude that supports the notion Popovich will be around for a few years after the Big Three dismantle. With Leonard, and now LaMarcus Aldridge added to the mix, Popovich doesn’t worry about character issues, just basketball.

“I’ve always said I’ve been fortunate with the guys I’ve had come through here,” said Popovich. “My job is pretty easy when people have that character and you don’t have to convince them to get over themselves, convince them to be happy for their teammate’s success, or to feel responsible to each other. (Leonard) already feels all that. He understands it when we talk about it. It makes it easier to have a team that enjoys playing together.”

But who could doubt Leonard if he did have MVP aspirations, or if making an All-Star team was a goal?

“I’m not one of the guys in the league for the fame,” Leonard said. “I’m here so I can take of my family, my mom, my friends and take care of myself. I love the game of basketball and as long as I can do that, keep playing and try to get some more championships with the organization, I’ll be happy. I don’t care about winning an MVP – the MVP doesn’t mean you’re the best player in the league.”


No. 3: Lillard ready to lead his team — It’s difficult to imagine the Trail Blazers finishing anywhere close to what they did last season, when they turned a 51-win season into yet another playoff berth. But then the mass exodus began and the lone returning starter is Damian Lillard, who’s hardly backing down from the challenge of spearheading the transition, painful as it might be. Lillard spoke about it with Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune:

If you’re counting, that’s four of five starters from the reigning Northwest Division champions. The rubble is clear, and Lillard is the only mainstay remaining. He’s the one being counted on to guide a bunch of young and unproven players, a gaggle of free agent signings and draft picks looking to make their mark.

Lillard says he’s up for the challenge.

“I have a lot of belief in myself,” Lillard told the Tribune. “I give a lot of credit to my upbringing, and I’ve already done more in this game than I ever thought I would. So I’m prepared for what’s to come. This year will be similar to what I went through at Weber State, except on a higher level.”

When the Jazz face the Blazers on Sunday at the Moda Center, the preseason will be almost over for both teams. When the regular season starts, Lillard will be counted on for more than just the 21 points, six rebounds and almost five assists per game that he provided last year.

He’ll be looked to for additional leadership. He’ll no longer have Matthews around to guard premier opposing backcourt players. He’ll have to take full ownership in clutch moments, instead of splitting them with Aldridge.

Most importantly, he’ll be the unquestioned top option, which means he’ll be at the top of opposing scouting reports nightly. Now in his fourth season, and armed with a new long-term contract, Lillard is prepared to be the face of the Blazers on and off the floor.


No. 4: Jabari Parker needs more time — Despite rehabbing well from the knee injury that ended his rookie season after a little more than a month, Jabari Parker will require a bit more time before he returns to the court. How much time is anyone’s guess right now, but the Bucks and Parker are playing it carefully and sense that there’s no need to rush. All they know is Parker will play at some point this season. Here’s Charles Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel with details:

Parker is making steady progress in his comeback from major knee surgery in January and is practicing with his teammates.

Right now, that’s enough for the 6-foot-8 forward and the Bucks.

“I’m feeling my legs getting underneath me,” Parker said after going through practice Thursday. “It’s going to be a grind.

“I’m looking long-term. I really don’t want to risk going back and lingering on if I’m not ready. I just want to be as productive as possible.

“There’s no use in me playing if I know I can’t contribute the way I want to.”

Parker suffered a torn left anterior cruciate ligament Dec. 15 in Phoenix, an injury that shortened his rookie season to 25 games.

But he said he doesn’t feel cheated by missing so much time.

“My No. 1 goal was to make the playoffs,” Parker said. “A lot of people looked at me like I was crazy.

“It’s all about the team; that’s where it starts. We all contributed at the end of the day.”

The Bucks did make the playoffs as the sixth-seeded team in the Eastern Conference, even without Parker. Now they have Parker returning and the addition of 6-foot-11 center Greg Monroe, raising hopes even higher for this season.

Coach Jason Kidd said no target date has been established for Parker to play in a game. Milwaukee has five preseason games left and opens the regular season Oct. 28 at home against the New York Knicks.

“For us it’s day by day, but at the end of the week we’ll see how he feels,” Kidd said. “We’ll continue with the game plan of loading and giving him more things to do and we’ll see how his body responds to it.

“So far his body has been great.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Chris Paul and Blake Griffin visit Lamar OdomArron Afflalo says he once hustled records to the stars … There’s a good chance that rookie RJ Hunter will pass James Young in the Celtics’ rotation … Is the NBA preseason too long or just right?… Dave Bing helps Pistons players adjust to life off the court.

Morning shootaround — Oct. 14

VIDEO: Highlights from games played Oct. 13


Curry, Green rip Warriors’ critics | Kobe expected to be fine after knee injury | Lillard ready to lead Blazers | West happy to be in San Antonio

No. 1: Curry rips Warriors’ many critics — Despite having won the 2015 NBA championship, the Golden State Warriors have taken flak from some around the league that their path to the title wasn’t that tough. Well, you can only poke at the champs for so long before they’re going to swing back and that’s exactly what happened yesterday. Stephen Curry and Draymond Green gave a sarcastic apology of sorts for their title run, writes Diamond Leung of the San Jose Mercury News:

No longer able to remain politically correct about the post-championship criticism they’ve been hearing from their NBA rivals, the Warriors are returning fire.

Stephen Curry grew sarcastic Tuesday following a preseason shootaround. Draymond Green likened those who questioned whether the Warriors deserved to be champions to “a bitter female.” Andrew Bogut told Sirius XM he would “sit back and laugh at some of these boneheads.” Even general manager Bob Myers acknowledged to the radio station that he thought “there has been a narrative of luck.”

Asked where he stood on other teams commenting on what the Warriors didn’t have to do to win the championship, Curry replied with sarcasm.

“I kind of want to just say, ‘I apologize for us being healthy. I apologize for us playing who was in front of us. I apologize for all the accolades we’ve received as a team and individually. I’m very, truly sorry. We’ll rectify that situation this year,’ ” Curry said.

He smiled and added: “I try to have fun with it.”

Green said the amount of criticism the Warriors have taken after the championship showed him just how many people there were in the league who didn’t want to see them win it all.

“People hate change,” he said. “People don’t accept change well. They’re used to Golden State just floating around the bottom of the league.”

Then Green ventured into some territory he probably will wish he hadn’t.

“So, it’s funny,” he said. “It’s like a bitter female. Like, you ever dealt with a bitter female that’s just scorned? God! That’s rough. When you’re dealing with a bitter female that’s scorned, that’s one of the worst things in the world. And God, that’s bad.”

Green indicated the criticism he was hearing came from teams that had not won championships.

Gregg Popovich didn’t say that,” Green said, referring to the Spurs coach. “That’s one organization I really respect. And you haven’t heard anybody in their camp say that. You ain’t heard anybody from OKC say that. Some of the organizations that I really respect.

“So if they’re saying that, it’s some bitterness and some saltiness going around, they’re obviously not the champs. So who cares what they say?”

*** (more…)

Morning Shootaround — Sept. 28

VIDEO: James Harden and the Houston Rockets are ready to roar after a banner 2014-15 season


Lillard ready to take control in Portland | Kupchak reiterates support for Byron Scott | Melo ready for end to long summer in New York | Grizzlies doubling down on grit and grind

No. 1: Lillard ready to take control in Portland — The leadership mantle in Portland is now Damian Lillard‘s and Lillard’s alone, as he enters his first training camp with the Trail Blazers without LaMarcus Aldridge, Wes Matthews and Nicolas Batum around to help shoulder the load. In preparation for his new role, Lillard made sure everyone understood that he was not only willing to take control and lead the way but ready to do so. Jason Quick of the Oregonian has the story …

One by one across the country, their phones lit up and vibrated, a text message arriving to members of the Portland Trail Blazers with an idea that could change their upcoming season.

For some, like Meyers Leonard in Portland, the number with the 510 area code was already programmed into his phone. Others, like rookie Pat Connaughton in Boston, were perplexed until they opened the message.

“Yo Pat, it’s Dame. We are going to San Diego to get the team together and to get ready for the season …”

The texts were from Damian Lillard, the lone starter remaining from a popular and successful Blazers team that disintegrated amid a summer of free agency and trades. Now, as the undisputed star of the team, Lillard was wading into his first wave of leadership.

It was August, and he wanted to get the young and unproven roster together before players started reporting to Portland in September. After some collaboration with teammates CJ McCollum and Leonard, Lillard settled on San Diego.

Soon, 11 Blazers – some complete strangers to each other– were booking flights and hotel reservations.

A Blazers player had never, in the franchise’s 45 years, attempted an off-season team-building event of this magnitude. Then again, this summer marked one of the biggest transitions in team’s history, a swift and purposeful dismantling of a talented squad in favor of a rebuild with cheaper and younger players.

Success this season won’t be judged wholey on wins and losses, but rather player development and growth. Among the more visible and tangible storylines is how and what kind of leader Lillard will be, and how much his influence could improve the team.

It’s why his August text could determine the course of this season.


No. 2: Kupchak reiterates support for Byron Scott — Byron Scott doesn’t have to look over his shoulder this season in Los Angeles. He has the full support of the front office, so says his boss, Mitch Kupchak. The general manager of the Los Angeles Lakers reiterated his support for Scott on the eve of what should be one of the most interesting training camps in recent memory for the franchise. Mark Medina of the LA Daily News has more …

For a franchise that usually evaluates itself on wins and losses, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak has shifted his expectations.

Though Lakers coach Byron Scott oversaw the team going 21-61 last season in what marked the franchise’s worst record in its 67-year-old history, Kupchak has not wavered in his support for Scott. Kupchak remained mindful of the Lakers missing an NBA-record 324 games because of injuries and a roster filled with unproven talent.

“He has more to work with this year,” Kupchak said of Scott. “I would think he would agree to that. So I’m hoping he’s rewarded with more W’s. I don’t expect him to conduct training camp any differently than he did last year.”

That will begin Tuesday in Honolulu. The Lakers’ nine-day camps will include seven days of practices and two exhibitions. Scott has developed a strong reputation for running conditioning-heavy practices in training camp, the latest one including three two-a-day sessions.

That partly explains Kupchak’s support for Scott, who has three years remaining on his contract. Kupchak praised Scott for the steady flow of Lakers players visiting the practice facility this summer for workouts. Even amid the losses, Kupchak also argued Scott improved the team’s culture.

“Under really tough circumstances, I thought he kept the group together,” Kupchak said of Scott. “They played hard every game and every practice was organized. He was always upbeat. I never sensed a down moment. When he went home at night, it had to hurt. But I thought he did a great job.”


No. 3: Melo ready for end to long summer in New York — When your names is tossed around the way Carmelo Anthony‘s has been all offseason, the start of training camp and actual basketball is welcome respite from the drama. Anthony said the drama is in his rear view as he readies himself and his team for camp, writes Daniel Popper of the New York Daily News

Over the past several months, Carmelo Anthony has sent mixed signals – publicly and privately – about his thoughts on the Knicks’ offseason.

Anthony’s concerns stemmed from Phil Jackson missing out on a bonafide star in free agency and drafting a project in 19-year-old Kristaps Porzingis with the fourth overall pick in June. But on Sunday, with Knicks training camp a day away, Anthony voiced support for the organization’s offseason moves.

“I was very excited about what we did this offseason. I liked the moves that we made,” Anthony said at his youth camp in Manhattan. “Was it any of the stars that we wanted to go after and go get? No. But the pieces that we got, I’m really intrigued.”

The Daily News reported in June that Anthony was unhappy with the Knicks’ decision to draft Porzingis, a pick that influenced Lamarcus Aldridge spurning the Knicks for the Spurs.

The Knicks wanted to play Aldridge at center to let Porzingis develop – something Aldridge was vehemently against. And at Team USA training camp in August, Anthony expressed frustration at how the entire situation unfolded, even saying he “threw” his headband when he found out the Knicks wanted Aldridge to change positions.

But now the offseason is in the past, and Anthony’s main concern will be returning from the season-ending knee surgery he underwent in February.

Anthony said Day 1 of training camp Monday will mark the end of a “long summer.”

“It’s been a long time coming,” Anthony said. “Just glad that I can be in the position I’m in right now.”


No. 4: Grizzlies doubling down on grit and grind — Small ball? Not in Memphis, where the rugged Grizzlies are holding on tight to their grit and grind roots. The rest of the league is welcome to tinker with smaller lineups and the pace-and-space revolution. When you have Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph anchoring your middle, there is no need to stray. Griz coach Dave Joerger isn’t interested in tinkering with what’s worked in Memphis for years, writes Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal …

Joerger’s mantra this summer has been for the already tough Griz to get “nasty,” doubling down on the grit-and-grind mentality that has made the team a perennial Western Conference contender.

The Griz remain committed to a bruising brand of basketball that’s served them well even as the rest of the NBA has become obsessed with 3-point shooting. recently wrote in a 2015-16 season-preview of the Griz: “They’d rather stay true to themselves and hope to be in position once again to scare the next NBA champion in the playoffs. That champion is unlikely to be Memphis, but the Grizzlies will be scary.”

That assessment might be selling the Grizzlies short. Despite the recurring theme of the need for long-range shooting, the Griz return with more versatility, the same expectation of winning 50-plus games and a place among the elite in the Western Conference.

There will, however, be challenges to work through during camp if the Griz are going to make good on their promise to contend:

1. Sorting out the wing positions: No one would ever accuse the Griz of lacking depth. They are deepest at the wing positions, meaning Joerger has a nice problem in determining who will get the bulk of the minutes at shooting guard and small forward. Tony Allen, Courtney Lee, Jeff Green, Vince Carter and Matt Barnes are veterans with meaningful careers. Last year, Joerger settled on starting the 6-5 Lee at shooting guard and the 6-4 Allen at small forward to start the season.

The coaching staff acknowledged concerns about such a small lineup given small forwards around the league typically stand 6-7 and taller. Green, 6-9, joined the roster around midseason. He played off the bench but was quickly inserted into the starting lineup and then went back to the bench. Green never found his footing and was inconsistent. With Green participating in a full camp, it’s conceivable that he will start at small forward. Joerger prefers the longer, more versatile Green. The question at camp will be who will start at shooting guard. Lee is a 3-point threat. Allen’s disruptive defense and infectious energy clearly make the Grizzlies “nasty.” As for second-year guard Jordan Adams? That’s a different topic.



SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Raptors are ready to take a (minimum deal) gamble on former No. 1 overall pick and native son Anthony Bennett … Year 2 of the (Jason) Kidd experience in Milwaukee comes with great expectationsMarcus Morris is still taking shots at the Phoenix SunsKlay Thompson is already taking full advantage of Steve Nash in his role as the Golden State Warriors’ part-time player development consultantThe Thunder have hired an assistant coach, Royal Ivey, with deep ties to Kevin Durant

ICYMI: The best alley-oops from last season:

VIDEO: 2014-15 Top alley-oops

Morning Shootaround — Aug. 31

VIDEO: Settle in and watch the Top 100 dunks from the 2014-15 season


Rookie Russell continues to ruffle feathers with Lakers, fans | Bulked up Anthony Davis ready to stretch his game | Report: Raptors an option for Thompson in 2016

No. 1: Rookie Russell continues to ruffle feathers with Lakers, fans — The most intriguing training camp in the NBA might not involve the champion Golden State Warriors or their foe from The Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers. If rookie D’Angelo Russell‘s summer, on and off the court, is any indication all eyes will be on outspoken Los Angeles Lakers’ rookie and one Kobe Bryant. Russell’s been a busy man, ruffling feathers with every post on social media (never slight Kobe to the hometown fans, young fella, with Tweets calling Tracy McGrady the greatest player of all time), and this after an uneven Summer League showing. Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News has more on Russell’s latest dust-up, which includes Russell calling a lot of Lakers fans “spoiled:

With one click of a button, Lakers rookie point guard D’Angelo Russell made an impassioned fan base more upset than anything regarding his Summer League play.

Russell suggested in a tweet nearly two weeks ago that Tracy McGrady is the greatest player of all time. Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and his legions of fans expressed their disapproval over Russell’s since-deleted tweet, though Russell said Bryant “was cool” about the incident.

“There’s a lot of spoiled Lakers fans. I wasn’t downgrading Kobe at all,” Russell said Saturday in an interview with the Los Angeles News Group. “I was just watching a highlight tape of Tracy McGrady and I got excited. I tweeted and the whole state of California went crazy.”

At least some of the Lakers’ fan base has simmered down.

Russell signed autographs and took pictures with Lakers fans on Saturday at The Grove, where he made a promotional appearance for Birchbox, which gave him a box of the company’s fragrance and skin-care products. Russell hopes to hear cheers when he throws out the first pitch for the Dodgers-Giants game on Monday night at Dodger Stadium.

But after spending the past month completing morning workouts and pickup scrimmages at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo, Russell sounded eager for his workload to grow. Among the first items to check off: Russell wants to meet both with Bryant and the recently retired Steve Nash.

“I’m trying to figure out their mentality with each practice and each game. How do they manage to be around the game for so long and be successful?” said Russell, whom the Lakers selected second overall out of Ohio State in this year’s draft. “I want to learn how to stick around this league. I don’t think there’s a cheat code to it. But the sooner you find it out, the better you’ll be.”

Russell could find out in about a month, when the Lakers begin training camp. Then, Russell will have his first chance to rectify his Las Vegas Summer League performance. As the Lakers went 1-4 during that stretch, Russell averaged 11.8 points on 37.7 percent shooting and had more turnovers (3.5) than assists (3.2). But Russell suggested what happened in Vegas will stay in Vegas.

“A lot of guys translate it over when it’s time, and a lot of guys don’t,” Russell said about Summer League. “I just want to be one of those guys that bring it when it matters.”


Morning Shootaround — Aug. 29

Leonard ready to lead | Clippers could go streaming | Boozer to wait it out

No. 1: Leonard says he’ll step up for Blazers — After making a commitment to one serious partnership by getting married this summer, now Trail Blazers big man Meyers Leonard says he’s ready to strengthen the bonds with teammate Damian Lillard in order to move the team forward. In the aftermath of LaMarcus Aldridge bolting to San Antonio, Lillard is at the forefront of Portland’s move in a new direction. But Leonard wants to help with the heavy lifting, according to Dwight Jaynes of Comcast SportsNet NW:

“Obviously, Dame and I are the guys who have been here the longest and he’s going to be our leader. But I hope to be right there by his side, kind of a co-leader, right there having his back through the ups and downs,” Leonard said Thursday night in Hillsboro.

I admire Leonard’s willingness to publicly apply for that job on this team. Quality leadership is imperative on all teams, not only the ones trying to win a championship but those just trying to improve and find their way in the league. But as everybody knows, people don’t get to be leaders by proclaiming themselves leaders — it comes from others’ willingness to follow them. Sometimes the most talented players become leaders. Others lead by example — which often stems from hard work, sacrifice and charisma.


No. 2: Clippers could choose streaming — As we move deeper into the 21st century, so many of the traditional ways of thinking and acting go out the window. Now the Clippers could be ready to take a new step as they consider the possibility of foregoing the usual method of televising games and streaming them for the 2015-16 season. With Steve Ballmer, the former CEO of Microsoft, now in his second year of owning the club, Dan Woike of the Orange Country Register says it’s being considered:

But could a leap as far as spurning traditional TV distribution for an online-based network happen as soon as 2016? Well, Ballmer’s considering it.

The Clippers recently turned down a $60 million-per-year offer from Fox to remain on Prime Ticket, and while negotiations with the network are ongoing, other options, including a streaming network, are being discussed.

That option was first reported by the New York Post.

No major professional sports team has bypassed cable in favor of Internet distribution of games, and the chance to be on the forefront of the movement would certainly appeal to someone with Ballmer’s tech background.

The Clippers are expected to counter Fox’s $60 million offer, which is a significant increase from the team’s current deal. The Clippers have one year remaining on their contract with Prime Ticket, which is worth $25 million annually.

Fox had exclusive negotiation rights with the Clippers in June, but the window closed without a new deal. A Fox spokesman declined comment Friday.


No. 3: Boozer to be patient — Despite the talk that he might be ready to head to China or other parts overseas, veteran free agent forward Carlos Boozer isn’t packing his bags just yet. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, the ex-Laker is hoping to find a need and an open spot with a playoff team for the 2015-16 season:



SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Toure Murry is returning to the Wizards … Jazz sign rookie free agent J.J. O’Brien … Finals MVP Andre Iguodala is taking a bite out of Japan … Isaiah Thomas has been working out with Floyd Mayweather and giving him a few lessons on the court … Luol Deng met with President Obama to talk about South Sudan.

Morning Shootaround — Aug. 25

VIDEO: Nerlens Noel 2014-15 highlights


Hornets extend Kidd-Gilchrist | Chris Paul remembers Hurricane Katrina | Noel working on jump shot

No. 1: Hornets extend Kidd-Gilchrist The Charlotte Hornets drafted Michael Kidd-Gilchrist second overall in the 2012 NBA Draft, largely based on the potential of Kidd-Gilchrist continuing to develop into a complete small forward. And while three years later he still has a ways to go offensively, Kidd-Gilchrist has been a great fit for the Hornets, and become one of the best defensive players in the league. Which is why the Hornets were so keen to sign Kidd-Gilchrist to a four-year contract extension, writes Rick Bonnell in the Charlotte Observer

The Charlotte Hornets have made sure Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is a Charlotte Hornet long-term.

The Hornets have agreed to a four-year, $52 million contract, sources confirmed Monday. The deal will keep him off the free-agent market, similar to when the Hornets signed point guard Kemba Walker to a four-year, $48 million contract a year ago.

Kidd-Gilchrist is considered the Hornets’ defensive stopper. Coach Steve Clifford has called him one of the best individual and team defenders in the league.

However, he lacks offensive prowess. He averaged 13.4 points and 9.4 rebounds and took no 3-point shots last season. Then-assistant coach Mark Price spent much of last summer improving his jump shot.

The Hornets were under a certain economic pressure to get this deal done. Three other rookie-scale extensions had been completed: Anthony Davis was signed for five years and $145 million, making him the highest-paid player in NBA history. Portland’s Damian Lillard got a 5-year, $120 million contract.

And most recently Jonas Valanciunas got a four-year, $64 million contract from the Toronto Raptors.


No. 2: Chris Paul remembers Hurricane Katrina Back in 2005, the New Orleans Hornets used the fourth overall pick in the NBA Draft to select Chris Paul out of Wake Forest. Paul arrived in New Orleans a decade ago this summer eager to make an impact on the franchise and the city. And as Arash Markazi writes, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans 10 years ago this week, having a lasting effect on one of America’s great cities

Paul’s first memory of Aug. 29, 2005, was the sound of his mother’s voice waking him up and directing him to the television. The images were hard to fathom as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes.

“It was one of the most devastating things I had ever seen,” Paul said. “That was my new home. Even though I had only just gotten drafted, it was going to be my first time away from home and I felt a connection to the city. I couldn’t believe what I was watching.”

Hurricane Katrina had struck New Orleans that early Monday morning, and as Paul huddled in front of the television with his family, he looked at his older brother and wondered what the future held for him and his new home.

“That was the most uncertain time of our lives,” C.J. [Paul] said. “Chris had just been drafted and closed on a house … he’s just getting a feel for the city and all of a sudden that new city you love is in trouble. Just to see all the people who were affected by it and to know we were there just a few days before it hit …

“It seemed like it was a third world country we were watching on TV,” C.J. added. “It didn’t seem like it was a place in the United States we were due to live in in a week.”

While Paul and his family watched Katrina’s wrath unfold on television, the experience of going through it left deeper wounds for those living in the city. Jim Cleamons, who was an assistant on head coach Byron Scott‘s staff, says he and his family still have emotional scars from Katrina 10 years later.

“It was a horrific experience,” Cleamons said. “To some degree, I don’t want to remember some of the things myself.”


No. 3: Noel working on jump shot After sitting out his rookie season to recover from a knee injury, Sixers center Nerlens Noel came close to averaging a double-double last season. But Noel is looking to improve on the offensive end, and is spending his summer in Rhode Island rebuilding his jump shot, writes Keith Pompey for…

Noel spent the month of June here before joining the Sixers at the Utah Jazz and NBA summer leagues in July. Then he returned in August.

Of course, Noel could be doing this at the Sixers’ practice facility at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

“Yeah, I could,” Noel said Wednesday night over dinner. “But I felt individualizing this for myself, putting all the attention on myself, working on something up here . . . I thought this is a little more dedication to be in Newport,R.I., where there isn’t too much going on.”

While his physique won’t be confused with Dwight Howard‘s, Noel’s muscle gain is noticeable.

The 21-year-old weighs about 223 pounds, up from the 217 he carried last season. Mainly, Noel has worked on his jump shot, which has been his Achilles’ heel.

“A lot of people say work on your weaknesses until they become strengths,” Carroll said, “because in the NBA if you have weaknesses, people will exploit them.”

If he improves his shooting, Noel’s ability to get to the rim will improve as well.

“I think it’s really going to help me as a basketball player overall, especially at [power forward],” Noel said of the daily workouts. “[It will] help space the floor with my ability and start hitting the jumper consistently and complement our whole offense. And, you know, just changing my whole game and how effective I am.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Utah Jazz have agreed to a multi-year deal with Jeff Withey  … Spurs assistant coach Ime Udoka may have been their secret MVP in their pursuit of LaMarcus AldridgeAndre Drummond has offered Pistons rookie Stanley Johnson a place to live next season … The Lakers have had “casual conversations” with Metta World Peace about a reunion … Could Nick Young join the Australian National Team? …

Morning shootaround — Aug. 12

VIDEO: Steve Smith and Stu Jackson review the first day of Team USA mini-camp

Durant returns for Team USA | Lillard understands why Aldridge left Portland | Anthony a fan of Knicks’ offseason | Report: LeBron may participate in Wednesday’s practice | Markieff Morris wants trade from Suns


No. 1: Durant returns for Team USA — Oklahoma City Thunder star and 2013-14 NBA MVP Kevin Durant hasn’t played in a basketball game since Feb. 19 when he was shut down for the season as he needed foot surgery. But word circulated yesterday that Durant would take part in some drills as Team USA holds its ini-camp in Las Vegas this week. Durant spoke to reporters after Tuesday’s mini-camp opener and says he’s feeling good and just happy to be playing again, writes our Steve Aschburner

Durant, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s All-Star forward and the NBA’s 2014 Kia Most Valuable Player, had been sidelined by a right foot fracture that required bone-graft surgery. He played his last game of the 2014-15 season on Feb. 19, limping into the sunset with more than a third of OKC’s schedule remaining.

While the Thunder sank in the standings and missed the playoffs, while head coach Scott Brooks got scapegoated and fired, while teammates Russell Westbrook won the scoring title and attracted MVP votes, Durant was left to recuperate, rehab and reflect on the game he loved and missed like never before.

“You remember Christmas as a kid? It’s like that,” Durant told reporters after Team USA’s first session Tuesday.

“I can go 100 percent. I’m not going to play 5-on-5 just yet, but everything else is no restrictions,” he said. “I’ve got to play against some guys to see. But I feel like I’m back to myself.

“I haven’t played since February. So of course, I’m human. I’ll go through a little bit of rust. But I think after two trips down, I’ll be all right.”

“You take it for granted a little bit,” he said of the game to which he’s devoted so many hours. “I missed the routine the most. Getting up, going to practice, getting my shots up before practice, I missed all that part. Hanging out with the guys in the locker room before the game, I think that’s what I missed the most. You can take that type of stuff for granted. I think I did and I learned my lesson.”

OKC trainer Joe Sharpe is one of three NBA trainers working with Team USA. That should reassure Thunder fans that Durant won’t overdo things even in this controlled environment. Besides, the 6-foot-10 forward doesn’t want to go re-setting his own recovery clock.

“It’s a long process, man,” Durant said. “I just tried to stay patient with it. … I have my days where I’m like, ‘Man, it’s not getting any better. I’m sick of working out. I’ve been working out for a year, I’m ready to play.’ … Feels good to stretch my legs a little bit.”

Durant, 26, said that his layoff has been made to feel even longer by the number of strangers or acquaintances who suddenly seemed interested — with him way less than 100 percent — in testing him.

“So many people been trying me though,” he said. “I walk down the street, everybody wants to play me 1-on-1. … The competitive juices are just boiling in my body and I’m just ready to play.”

*** (more…)

Morning Shootaround — July 30

VIDEO: Members of Team Africa and Team World have arrived in Johannesburg


Ujiri leads the charge in Africa | Veteran point guard Miller joins Timberwolves | Matthews: Trail Blazers ‘never made an offer’

No. 1: Ujiri leads the charge in Africa — Toronto Raptors GM Masai Ujiri is at the forefront of the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders initiative in Africa. It’s more than just an obligation from the Ujiri, it’s a passion project years in the making. Our very own Shaun Powell is on the ground in Johannesburg and captured the essence of Ujiri’s mission to serve as an ambassador for the game, and sports in general, on his native continent:

For anyone who might ask why the general manager of the Toronto Raptors is spending his summer threatening to go hoarse half a world away, well, you must know this about Masai Ujiri. When he’s in charge of an NBA franchise, he’s in his element, because his peers find him very astute and a few years ago voted him the game’s top executive. But when he’s developing basketball and teaching life skills to children and young adults in Africa, he’s in his homeland and his own skin, and there is no greater reward or satisfaction or privilege. When and if he wins his first NBA title, that might pull equal to this.


He was in Senegal last week, holding basketball clinics through his foundation, Giants of Africa. Next up: Stops in Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda and also Nigeria, his birthplace. He’ll spend three weeks on this side of the Atlantic with the hope of discovering the next Dikembe Mutombo from these clinics, but would gladly settle for the next surgeon.

This weekend is unique and special because here on Saturday the NBA will stage an exhibition game for the first time in Africa, and the participating NBA players and coaches are warming up by serving as clinic counselors.

One is Chris Paul, and the cheers he gets from campers are the loudest, but even an eight-time All-Star knows he’s not the star of the home team, not on this soil.

Ujiri ricochets from one group of campers to another like a blind bumblebee, carrying an air horn that blows when one session ends and another begins. After five non-stop hours of this he is asked if he’s tired, and no, he’s just amused at the question. Who gets tired from doing their passion?

“I look at these kids and they remind me of me of when I was a young kid,” he says. “I see me through them. All they need is a chance.”

It all runs with precision at this clinic, how the students are disciplined and determined, how their enthusiasm rubs off on the NBA players and coaches, how Ujiri’s vision seems so … right. As Ujiri gave pointers, a Hall of Famer who’s also the pioneer of African basketball stood off to the side, shaking his head, astonished at the spectacle and the man in charge.

“Masai has a lot of passion for this, and helping Africa year after year speaks about the person he is,” says Hakeem Olajuwon. “He is a prince. That’s what he is.”


No. 2: Veteran point guard Miller joins Timberwolves — Kevin Garnett won’t be the only “old head” in the Minnesota Timberwolves’ locker room this season. He’ll have some company in the form of veteran point guard Andre Miller, who agreed to a one-year deal to join the renaissance KG, Flip Saunders and Ricky Rubio are trying to engineer with one of the league’s youngest rosters. Miller’s role is more than just that of an adviser, though, writes Kent Youngblood of the Star Tribune:

It was less than two weeks ago that Flip Saunders, Wolves president of basketball operations, said his team might be in the market for a veteran point guard.

He has arrived.

A source confirmed a report that Wolves had come to an agreement on a one-year contract with veteran Andre Miller, who visited the Wolves on Wednesday.

It marks an evolution in Saunders’ thinking. Immediately after moving up to draft former Apple Valley star Tyus Jones late in the first round of the draft, Saunders sounded like he might be happy with Jones as Ricky Rubio’s backup. But the fact that Rubio is coming off ankle surgery and Jones is a rookie ultimately changed Saunders’ mind.

“You don’t want to put the pressure on the young guys so much,” Saunders said two weeks ago. “Hey, listen, we’re always looking to upgrade. It could happen.”

And it did. Miller, 39, is nearing the end of a long career, but his experience should help both Rubio and Jones while giving the Wolves some peace of mind. Originally drafted with the eighth overall pick in the 1999 draft by Cleveland, the 6-2 Miller has averaged 12.8 points and 6.7 assists over 16 seasons while playing for seven teams. Last season between 81 games in Sacramento and Washington, Miller averaged 4.4 points and 3.5 assists per game.


No. 3: Matthews: Trail Blazers ‘never made an offer’: — There is no need for an autopsy on Wes Matthews‘ exit from Portland via free agency. He’s a Dallas Maverick now and apparently for good reason. Matthews told Jason Quick of the Oregonian that the Trail Blazers never made an offer to keep him, allowing the injured free agent to take the offer from the Mavericks and move on after being an integral part of the operation in Rip City.:

He had hoped he could return to the city that had embraced him, to the team with players he considered brothers, to the franchise where he grew into one of the NBA’s most well-rounded and respected shooting guards.

But in the end, after five seasons, the feeling was not mutual. He was greeted with silence. No phone call. No text messages. The Blazers never made an offer.

“I was pissed off,” Matthews said. “I felt disrespected.”

He believed he was a viable option for teams, even as he continued to rehabilitate a ruptured left Achilles tendon suffered in March. In the days leading up to free agency, Matthews’ camp released video to ESPN showing him jogging in place, utilizing lateral movement and shooting jumpers. He was, he wanted the league to know, ahead of the eight-month recovery time estimated by doctors.

A story also leaked that Matthews expected negotiations to start at $15 million a season, or almost $8 million more than he made last year.

It was a ghastly number for the Blazers, even though they could technically afford him. Paul Allen is the richest owner in sports, but after a lost era during which he paid more than a combined $100 million to Brandon Roy and Greg Oden, only to see their knee injuries become chronic, Allen was wary of paying top dollar to a player coming off a serious injury.

The only chance the Blazers would pursue Matthews, top executive Neil Olshey later explained, was if free agent LaMarcus Aldridge chose to return, maintaining Portland as a playoff-caliber team. When Aldridge chose San Antonio, the Blazers decided to rebuild. Paying big money to a 29-year-old shooting guard coming off major surgery didn’t make long-term sense.

“I was angry,” Matthews said, “but I also realize that this is a business.”

He figured there would be trying times, with harsh realities, after he suffered his injury during the third quarter of a March 5 game against Dallas. Achilles injuries not only test one’s body, they challenge the mind.

He didn’t expect one challenge to come from the team to which he gave so much of his heart, so much of his sweat. Portland’s silence meant he was losing the greatest comfort of his career: a stable starting lineup, an adoring fan base and a rising profile.


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Chuck Hayes is headed back to Houston on a partially guaranteed one-year deal … Tyus Jones, the hometown kid, is leading the summer caravan for the Minnesota Timberwolves … A couple of Trail Blazers are going a bit Hollywood this summer … Amir Johnson was convinced Celtics fans would love him before he joined the team