Posts Tagged ‘David Blatt’

Wiggins handles rumors, pleased with effort

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: Andrew Wiggins discusses his Summer League performance and the constant trade rumors

LAS VEGAS – No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins says he’s as much in the dark as just about everybody else when it comes to the Cleveland Cavaliers’ plans for him.

He says if he’s Minnesota-bound in a trade that would deliver discontented Timberwolves power forward Kevin Love to LeBron James, the team hasn’t informed him of his involvement in the talks.

“Nothing to me,” Wiggins said as he flashed a playful personality with a wide smile after taking the Cavs’ Friday night Summer League finale off following four promising performances in his debut as a professional. “I just know what you know. I just see what you see on TV. That’s about it.”

The 6-foot-8 swingman said he’s letting his “agent and support system” handle the off-court twists and turns while he focuses on preparing for his rookie season, wherever it may be.

“I just play basketball, man, wherever I go,” Wiggins said.

James’ intent seem clear. On Thursday, Yahoo! Sports reported that James has reached out to Love about forming a superstar pairing few ever in thought about before a week ago. The Timberwolves have stood pat that there’s no deal unless Wiggins is the centerpiece. Whether or not the Cavs are now prepared to make their top pick available seems to change with the wind.

There’s just no clear indication yet of the Cavs’ position. It was only a week ago that James announced his return to the Cavaliers. Later that night Wiggins made his first appearance in Cavs colors at Summer League. Since then, Wiggins has been the at the main attraction in Vegas and at the center of constant trade rumors.

As he sat on the bench early in Friday’s game, a section of the crowd at the Thomas & Mack Center stood and chanted: “We want Wig-gins!”

“It’s been crazy, but it’s all positive stuff,” Wiggins said. “With LeBron coming back, there’s nothing negative about that; the best player in the world coming to your team. The organization is on the rise right now.”

That could go with or without Wiggins, who said he would relish the chance play by James’ side.

“It would be great for me, just really learn and pick his brain and see what it takes to get to his level,” Wiggins said. “That would be good.”

In four summer games, Wiggins averaged 15.5 ppg and 3.5 rpg. He didn’t shoot well, just 17-for-42 from the floor, but his long, lanky frame was nearly impossible to keep out of the lane. He got to the free throw line 37 times, including shooting 20 in his 21-point effort Thursday night.

“I was looking at Wig’s performances, the guy was in double figures every game, he rebounded, he defended, he went to the foul line, he played with intensity at both ends of the court,” first-year Cavs coach David Blatt said. “I thought for a rookie, for a guy with a lot on his shoulders as the first pick in the draft, for a 19-year-old, I thought he played extremely well. We’re real happy with what he did.”

Wiggins, unsure of whether he’s coming or going, should be pleased with his performances both on the floor and off during an unusual, to say the least, welcome to the league.

“I played my heart out since I’ve been here,” Wiggins said. “I showed people how quickly my skill set has developed and transitioned to the NBA. How the NBA operates, just like more one-on-one stuff, creating space, I think that’s what I really feel I can do.”

Now he waits to find out where he’ll be doing it.

Stay tuned.

Wiggins’ strange summer is no Love-in

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: Andrew Wiggins scores 21 points in Cavs’ Summer League loss Thursday

LAS VEGAS – The best advice for Andrew Wiggins at this point is to rent. Don’t buy.

If the recently re-crowned King of Cleveland is calling Kevin Love, as Yahoo! Sports reported Thursday, then it can’t be too long before the Wiggins-for-Love swap goes down. LeBron James gets what LeBron James wants.

And poor Wiggins thought getting used to hoops life in Lawrence, Kan. was a rough transition.

But man, all this so fast has to be a bit crushing for the 19-year-old No. 1 pick. First the best player on the planet completely omits him in his epic “I’m Coming Home” essay in Sports Illustrated and is now dissing the kid with the hope of discarding him by personally reaching out to Minnesota’s discontented double-double machine.

This has to be one of the strangest Summer League experiences in the history of top draft choices. Last Friday, as Wiggins is preparing for his hyped pro debut in Las Vegas against Milwaukee and No. 2 pick Jabari Parker in front of an overflow crowd, he finds out with the rest of the world that James is returning to Cleveland. Wow, cool. Then the rest of the world reads along with Wiggins about how excited James is to play with Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters and his favorite crazy-haired Brazilian Anderson Varejao. No mention of Wiggins. Whoa, not so cool. (Interestingly, James also didn’t list 2013 No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett as a member of his mentorship club either. Bennett would likely be included in a trade).

In the days between then and now, new coach David Blatt has told reporters Wiggins isn’t going anywhere while whispers come and go and come again that he is-he isn’t-he is available, and now LeBron’s talking to Kevin. To his credit, Wiggins, the one-and-done star out of Kansas via Canada, has handled it like a pro.

That the 6-foot-8 wing and projected phenom played against Houston on Thursday revealed that a trade is not imminent, not yet. The Rockets’ defenders had zero clue how to keep Wiggins from using his super-stretchy arms and legs to get from the top of the arc to the basket in only a few long strides with a ball fake or two mixed in.

Wiggins officially only attempted five shots, and made three, but secured 15 of his 21 points on 20 trips to the free throw line. He added five rebounds and another blocked shot, this one of the chase-down variety in the fourth quarter (he’s second in the Summer League in blocks per game and first among non-centers).

“You know what you got to like about a kid like that is it doesn’t make a difference if it’s the fourth game of Summer League and the fourth game in seven days or eight days, or if people are keying on him, or if the crowd has funny things to say to him,” Blatt said. “He just goes out there and really plays and has a nice calm about him and a real good demeanor. Andrew’s going to be a high-level player and it’s good to see it.”

The 6-foot-10 Love is a high-level player, a three-time All-Star, and he, James and Irving would make quite the offensive triple-threat. And that’s the crux of it all: Go for the gold right now with Love or patiently wait — hope — for the kid to get great. We know what LeBron wants.

With the rumors swirling, the Cavaliers aren’t exactly thrilled to have their new coach and top pick inundated by trade questions during what should be breezy Summer League postgame interview sessions.

After Thursday’s game, Cavs officials quickly whisked Wiggins off to an ESPN photo shoot and then immediately to a sit-down autograph session for trading card behemoth Panini in the concourse of the Thomas & Mack Center. Fans stood in a line that snaked around the corner and out of site.

From there, Wiggins was in the custody of his agent and was not made available to wax about his 15 free throws and 21 points or to talk ice fishing.

The second question posed to Blatt asked if the persistent trade rumors are a distraction for Wiggins. After all, a No. 1 pick is typically immune to the business side of sport for at least a couple years, not a couple minutes. If a top pick is traded it almost always occurs on Draft night, a deal having been worked out in advance. A Cleveland official monitoring the outwardly personable Blatt’s interview session quickly stepped in to deflect the question, but Blatt, just as quickly, said he could answer it.

“I can answer that just because rumors are rumors, that’s why they call them rumors,” Blatt said. “And sooner or later in one’s career, you’re going to have to deal with it. So if you have to deal with now, so be it. It’s Summer League, he’s learning everything as he goes along.”

Not exactly a comment to inspire confidence on a down payment. If the Cavaliers decide to move Wiggins in a deal for Love, the Timberwolves will jump for joy and jump on it fast, before Cleveland has time to rethink it. But watching Wiggins in Summer League should have the Cavs proceeding with caution. His size and ability are apparent to the most casual observer. He hasn’t shot the ball particularly well, but he’s showing he can use his length and quickness to be a very good two-way player, and soon.

And wouldn’t James love a young set of legs to chase the other team’s best player on a nightly basis? Wiggins could become James’ pre-knee problems Dwyane Wade, a slashing, offensive force and a defensive partner capable of hyper-trapping the perimeter and busting it the other way.

LeBron, fast approaching 30 and now taking his contract year-by-year — apparently to maximize his annual take as the salary cap is estimated to increase each year, and not as an escape — clearly doesn’t feel he’s got time to wait.

The ball’s in Cleveland’s court, and that’s got to be a tough thing for the No. 1 pick who has come to find out he isn’t fit for a King — at least not at this juncture of his reign.

“No, no, I don’t talk to him about any of that stuff because, for me, it doesn’t mean anything,” Blatt said. “At least not right now.”

How good can the Cavs be?


VIDEO: LeBron James: On Returning to Cleveland

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – LeBron James is back in Cleveland, leaving Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh behind and joining a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since he took his talents to Miami in 2010. Kyrie Irving is an All-Star, but he’s also just the second No. 1 pick in 10 years to not make the postseason in his first three seasons.

As he wrote on SI.com, James knows that this is a different situation than the one he had upon arriving in Miami.

I’m not promising a championship. I know how hard that is to deliver. We’re not ready right now. No way. Of course, I want to win next year, but I’m realistic. It will be a long process, much longer than it was in 2010. My patience will get tested. I know that. I’m going into a situation with a young team and a new coach.

But the Eastern Conference looks to be wide open. And if you have the world’s best player and some decent talent around him, you have to be considered one of the favorites. But how good can the Cavs be this season? That’s a question that requires a two-part answer. To truly contend, you need to be very good on both ends of the floor.

Offense

The Cavs ranked 23rd in offensive efficiency last season, scoring just 101.3 points per 100 possessions. They improved on that end after trading for Luol Deng, but weren’t much better offensively with Irving on the floor than they were with him on the bench.

The Cavs’ coaching change could have changed things by itself. David Blatt has coached one of the best offenses in Europe over the last few years.

And obviously, the addition of James means that we can just throw last year’s numbers away. James’ teams have ranked in the top six in offensive efficiency each of the last six years.

The last two seasons in Miami were the best of those. The Heat found their space-the-floor offensive identity in the 2012 playoffs, complemented James with a bevy of shooters, and basically eviscerated opposing defenses for two years straight.

So, with the Cavs, just how good they are offensively (Top 10? Top 5?) is going to be a matter of how much shooting they can put around James.

Last season, the Cavs had two guys who shot better than 37 percent on at least 100 3-point attempts. Both of them – Spencer Hawes and C.J. Miles – have left via free agency.

So the pressure is on Irving (35.8 percent from 3-point range last season) and Dion Waiters (36.8 percent) to improve from beyond the arc. No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins should be adjusting his pre-camp training to work more on corner threes. And Cavs GM David Griffin obviously has to make shooting the priority as he pursues other free agents (like Ray Allen and Mike Miller).

Playing with James should make everybody a better shooter. According to SportVU, Waiters shot 41.6 percent (72-for-173) on catch-and-shoot threes last season.

Irving will need to learn how to play off the ball. The good news is that he can’t be a worse 3-point shooter than Dwyane Wade. But Irving was better on pull-up threes (38.8 percent) than he was on catch-and-shoot threes (32.1 percent) last season.

A huge key for Miami was having another forward (Shane Battier mostly, Rashard Lewis in the 2014 playoffs) who can spread the floor offensively and defend opposing bigs (somewhat competently) on the other end of the floor. Maybe that’s Anthony Bennett some day, but right now, Cleveland doesn’t have that guy.

With the best player in the world and a smart head coach, it’s hard to imagine the Cavs not ranking in the top 10 offensively. But without enough complementary shooting, it’s also tough to see them in the top five.

Defense

Cleveland was one of the most improved defensive teams last season, allowing 2.1 fewer points per 100 possessions than they did in 2012-13 (as league efficiency improved). They ranked 13th on that end of the floor overall, but got worse defensively (and ranked 20th) after the Deng trade.

Again, we can throw that all out with the coaching change and the addition of James, who has the ability to be the best defensive player in the league when he has enough in the tank to do it. If Blatt’s system can take some of the offensive load off his shoulders, James can get back to contending for DPOY after what was his worst defensive season in several years. It will help that Irving can play more games and carry a bigger offensive load than Wade could.

But Irving’s defense has to improve. If he isn’t staying in front of the ball, the Cavs’ defense will break down early and often. Also key is Anderson Varejao‘s health. He’s Cleveland’s best interior defender, but he’s played just 146 games in the four years since James left. (For comparison, James has played 381.)

Elsewhere, the Cavs just don’t have any proven defenders. With another coaching change, their young players have to learn a new system. And the fatigue factor (four straight years of going to The Finals) still applies to James.

Without that Battier-esque “other” forward, James will either have to defend bigs (which he doesn’t like to do) or play more at the three. Two true bigs on the floor could help with paint protection, but will hurt the offense. Still, this may be the end of the floor where they truly need a year or two to develop before they can call themselves title contenders.

James will make the Cavs much better. They will surely be a top-five team in the East. But as he said, his patience will be tested. The Cavs are likely a year or two (and a player or two) away.

Bennett starts strong as summer soph


VIDEO: Anthony Bennett talks about his double-double in Cavs’ win

LAS VEGAS – David Blatt, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ new head coach, was backed up to the concrete-block wall as far as he could go. A semicircle of media folks, with flip-cams, records and the stray pen and notebook, pressed forward Sunday afternoon at the Cox Pavilion.

Made sense Blatt was in high demand. After all, barely 48 hours had lapsed since LeBron James stunned the sports world with his announcement that he was returning to Cleveland. Andrew Wiggins, the intriguing No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft in late June, had just played his second pro game. Then there was Blatt himself, a rookie in this league after building an extensive and impressive reputation internationally, who just learned he would have the planet’s best basketball player at his disposal.

Only, no one wanted to talk about that stuff. The first three or four questions Blatt took all were about a guy who averaged 4.2 points, appeared in only 52 games last season and missed 145 of the 225 shots he launched.

“What is this, the Anthony Bennett Show?” Blatt said, laughing.

Actually, yeah, it kinda was. Moments earlier against San Antonio’s Summer League squad, Bennett scored 13 points and hauled in 14 rebounds in the Cavaliers’ second victory of this event. In the opener Friday, he scored 15 points with seven rebounds against Milwaukee.

Bennett reined in his shot a little Sunday, shooting 5-for-8 compared to 6-for-16 in the opener. But he still oozed confidence, along with the sweat that glistened off a body in far more professional shape these days. The No. 1 pick in the 2013 Draft has shed 15 pounds, as he tells it, but it actually looks like more; he has leaned down and worked hard to gain definition and more freedom of movement.

“It wasn’t really that tough,” Bennett said. “My body is kind of weird. I can gain weight fast, I can lose weight fast. So it was just me maintaining it. Watching what I eat at night.”

The way he looks and has played so far, if that was the Anthony Bennett who had shown up for training camp in October, the Cavaliers might have been on to something. Then again, they might not have Wiggins right now because a productive Bennett might have meant more victories and fewer lottery balls.

Instead, offseason shoulder surgery wiped out summer league for Bennett and a slow uptick in picking up the pro game and his dubious conditioning ganged up on the regular season. He was a non-factor, nowhere to be found in Rookie of the Year voting or on the all-rookie teams. The meager stats he got were often of garbage time variety.

Everywhere the Cavs went, Bennett said he was doing fine, biding his time, ignoring the critics. But after his happier performance Sunday, he admitted that wasn’t entirely true.

“Most definitely,” he said. “Just putting a lot of pressure on myself. Things weren’t going right for me. Just everything just collapsing, just building up. I got down on myself. I spoke to the coaches, they helped me out a lot. Told me to keep working.”

Those were the Cavs’ old coaches. The new coaches feel the same way – what a shock! – and Blatt, the newcomer, says it is clean slate time all around.

“AB has been good since Day 1, since I came,” Blatt said. “He’s really working hard to get himself in shape. He’s really, really trying to do a lot of different things on the court to help the team win, and not be under pressure to do one thing. … It’s a work in progress but he’s doing a great job and I hope he continues in the same fashion.”

Bennett, a native of Toronto who attended high school in Las Vegas before his single season at UNLV, has plenty of support in the stands. That has boosted his confidence even more.

“I see my high school principal here,” Bennett said. “A couple of teachers here, my AAU coach, a couple of friends. I just feel more relaxed, more calm.”

Calm before a potential storm. James’ return to Cleveland has changed the entire Cavs atmosphere, and a young guy like Bennett – along with Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, Kyrie Irving and Wiggins – might find themselves winning more and speeding along their learning curves.

The alternative, though, is that Bennett might wind up instead in a trade package with a couple of those teammates, should Cavs GM David Griffin and Timberwolves president/coach Flip Saunders ever see eye-to-eye on a possible Kevin Love deal.

If that means Bennett is showcasing himself for Minnesota rather than Cleveland, so be it. Showcasing is better than warehousing, which is how his 2013-14 season went.

Morning shootaround — July 12


VIDEO: Gasol close to deal with Bulls

NEWS OF THE MORNING
Gasol headed to Chicago? | ‘Melo back to Knicks | Wade, Haslem next for Heat | Wiggins for Love? | New Cavs coach ecstatic to coach the King

No. 1: Gasol, Bulls getting closer – After he turned down contract offers from the Lakers, it appears 7-foot center Pau Gasol, and not Carmelo Anthony, could be headed to play for the Chicago Bulls. Gasol is considered the Bulls’ top choice if they were unable to land Anthony. ESPN.com’s Marc Stein has the details of a story broke in the wee hours of Saturday morning:

Pau Gasol is inching closer to becoming a Chicago Bull, according to the Spanish newspaper Marca and other media reports.

The paper first reported late Friday that the Bulls are closing in on a deal with Gasol despite the absence of a sign-and-trade agreement with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Sources close to the situation told ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne late Friday that a sign-and-trade arrangement had not been struck, with the Lakers still looking for draft compensation — as they received in Friday’s earlier trade with the Houston Rockets to take back the contract of Jeremy Lin — as the primary return for Gasol.

ESPN.com reported earlier Friday that the Bulls and San Antonio Spurs had emerged as the two leading candidates to land Gasol, with San Antonio poised to land the Spaniard if the Bulls and Lakers could not finalize a sign-and-trade deal.

Sources told ESPN.com’s Marc Stein late Friday that the Bulls were prioritizing their pursuit of Gasol even ahead of their long-running efforts to sign Carmelo Anthony, fearing that Anthony is likely to stay with the New York Knicks.

The Lakers appear resigned to seeing Gasol exit after a successful six seasons together. Prior to Friday, the Lakers offered Gasol two deals: two years worth $23 million, and three years worth $29 million, a league source told ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Dave McMenamin. Gasol turned down both offers, according to the source.

***

No. 2: Melo preparing for New York return — The process has taken longer than anybody expected, but it appears the end result will be what everybody expected, and that’s Carmelo Anthony returning to the New York Knicks. Frank Isola of the New York Daily News reports that forward will reveal his plan in the next 24 to 48 hours:

Carmelo Anthony will be competing against LeBron James for at least five more years but he wasn’t about to begin battling James for the national spotlight on Friday.

With James stunning the basketball world by announcing he was leaving the Miami Heat to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, a source close to Anthony said that the free agent forward would reveal his plans within the next “24 to 48 hours.” The same source said that Anthony was preparing to re-sign with the Knicks.

When reached in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Anthony told the Daily News that he would make a decision on Thursday. The News reported that Anthony, according to a close friend, was committed to re-signing with the Knicks. However, the Chicago Bulls made another strong push early Thursday, and Anthony postponed his announcement.

If Anthony agrees to return to the Knicks, he will sign a five-year contract worth $129 million. The Bulls can offer only $75 million over four years. For the past two days, however, the Bulls have been trying to orchestrate a sign-and-trade with the Knicks that could potentially increase Anthony’s deal to $90 million.

But the same source claims that a sign-and-trade is unlikely. If the Bulls are unable to acquire Anthony, they will shift their focus to signing Lakers free agent Pau Gasol, whom Knicks president Phil Jackson is also pursuing.

***

No. 3: Riley begins reconstruction job — The headline on the website of the Miami Herald screamed “ALL IS NOT LOST” and that’s because hours after the news broke that LeBron James was leaving the Miami Heat to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Heat president Pat Riley secured All-Star forward Chris Bosh and will also bring back Dwyane Wade plus Heat lifer Udonis Haslem, who had also opted out of his contract prior to the start of free agency. Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald has the story:

James’ pending decision had put the Heat’s free agency plans on hold for several intense days, but the rebuilding process moved quickly for team president Pat Riley after the stunning announcement. It didn’t take long for Bosh, Wade and Udonis Haslem to sign off on returns to the Heat.

Bosh – who all along said he wanted to stay in Miami but was considered by many a lock to sign with Houston after James’ departure – agreed to stay with the Heat and will get a five-year deal worth a reported $118 million. Deals were also being worked out for Wade and Haslem.

Wade, who brought Bosh and James to Miami four years ago and helped keep Haslem in the fold, attempted to engineer magic at the 11th hour for the Heat on Thursday. He attended James’ basketball camp in Las Vegas and then flew back to Miami with James on Thursday night. At that point, the around-the-clock coverage of the Heat’s saga appeared to be playing out positively for Miami. But behind the scenes, James had already made up his mind. He was going home.

***

No. 4: Wiggins in deal for Love? — The Cavaliers would love, no pun intended, to pair Kevin Love with LeBron James. But to get the discontented Timberwolves star in a trade, the Cavs will have to knock the socks off Minnesota president and coach Flip Saunders. And that means making No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins the centerpiece of the deal. There’s been conflicting reports as to whether the Cavs will be willing to do that. Ken Berger of CBSSports.com is hearing they just might:

A new superteam could form soon in Cleveland. CBSSports.com’s Ken Berger reported that there’s a feeling that the Cavaliers could make No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins available in a Kevin Love trade.

In addition, ESPN’s Marc Stein reported that Love is “intrigued” by the idea of playing with LeBron James and would sign a long-term deal with the Cavs.

Meanwhile, according to Yahoo Sports’ Marc Spears, Wiggins’ camp doesn’t believe he’ll be moved to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

It’s a tricky situation, as teams generally don’t like to trade 19-year-old potential stars. Generally, teams like Cleveland don’t get them, though. With James back in the fold, the Cavaliers are looking at contending for championships, and acquiring Love would get them to that point much faster than waiting for Wiggins to develop.

One has to wonder what James’ preference is. He obviously knows how great Love is, and has played with him on Team USA. He’s also known Wiggins since he was a high schooler, and discussed being a mentor to Cleveland’s young players in his announcement. Then again, he didn’t mention Wiggins by name in that story.

Thinking logically, it shouldn’t be surprising if a Love-Wiggins blockbuster is one of the moves set in motion by James’ signing. Love wants to win, and would have a great chance of doing that in the Eastern Conference alongside the best player in the world. Minnesota needs to get some young talent with star potential if it’s going to trade Love, and that’s exactly what it could get with Wiggins. It’s not the talented rookie’s fault he’s being mentioned in trade rumors, he’s just found himself in an extremely unusual situation.

***

No. 5: Cavs coach ecstatic to work with LeBron — Four years ago, Byron Scott took over the Cavaliers, surely expecting to coach LeBron James, who was a free agent. Scott never got the chance. When new Cavs coach David Blatt recently signed on, he had no inkling that he would coach James. Now he will, and he’s thrilled about the opportunity. The Associated Press caught up with Blatt at the Las Vegas Summer League:

“First and foremost I’m happy for LeBron, because he made a very difficult decision,” said new Cavaliers coach David Blatt after his team’s 70-68 win. “Obviously he made a decision from the heart more than anything else and I respect him for it and I’m joyful for it.

“Second of all, for the Cleveland Cavaliers and the state of Ohio – if you were around Cleveland today you would understand what I’m talking about – he just lifted a whole state by himself.”

Blatt said he learned the news at 9:45 a.m. Las Vegas time – 12:45 p.m. Cleveland time, about 30 minutes after the news broke — during his team’s shootaround.

Friday night, from media row, to fans in the stands, Summer League staff, to the person pushing buttons in the freight elevator — everyone was talking about King James.

“When I learned about it, I wasn’t altogether surprised, particularly after reading what LeBron wrote, which was heartfelt and so indicative of the kind of person that he is; that just made it all the sweeter,” Blatt said. “I thought ‘I’m gonna have an awfully good seat to watch the best player in the world play this year.’”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: After LeBron news, Cavs sell out season ticketsMemphis steals Vince Carter from Mavs … LeBron reaches out to friend, former Heat teammate Mike MillerJeremy Lin gets fresh start with the Lakers … Hawks sign Lakers swingman Kent Bazemore to two-year deal … Rookies Parker, Wiggins make Summer League debut in front of packed houseLamar Odom‘s comeback bid with Knicks ends quicklySuns acquire Kings point guard Isaiah Thomas in trade.

Morning Shootaround — June 20


VIDEO: Injury issues could cost Joel Embiid the No. 1 overall pick in next week’s Draft

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Celtics still interested in Embiid | LeBron’s next move defines him | Cavs go bold with David Blatt | Warriors have to break up Splash Bros. to get some Love

No. 1: Injury or not, Celtics still interested in Embiid – Fear has never been a part of the program in Boston under Danny Ainge. If there is a risk to be taken, Ainge is usually interested in at least exploring the possibilities. And now that the Draft world has been shaken to its core with the news that projected top overall pick Joel Embiid will have surgery on his foot today, in addition to the lingering issues about the back injuries that curtailed his freshman season at Kansas, Ainge’s curiosity factor has to be on high. And as Celtics Insider A. Sherrod Blakely of  CSNNE.com points out, the Celtics have been down this road before in the Draft:

The stress fracture in Joel Embiid‘s right foot will certainly scare some teams away from selecting him near the top of the draft.

But the Boston Celtics aren’t one of them.

In fact, a source tells CSNNE.com that the Celtics will give some serious thought to potentially moving up in the draft to select him.

Boston has kept “all options” open leading up to the draft, including the possibility of moving up from their current No. 6 spot.

However, Embiid’s injury gives them added incentive because this injury – which comes on the heels of a fractured back injury that shortened his lone season at Kansas – opens the door for them to acquire the player with the most upside in this year’s draft.

This latest setback which will force him to miss all of summer league and puts the start to his NBA career on uncertain ground, raises more and more questions about the 7-footer’s durability.

Embiid’s camp sounds resigned to the idea that he won’t be the No. 1 overall pick.

His agent Arn Tellem told Yahoo! Sports, “Joel will be unable to participate in any additional workouts, and will not attend the draft in New York.”

Boston heard similar concerns about Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger, players they selected who came into the draft with health concerns.

Although Bradley has had multiple injuries since the Celtics drafted him with the No. 19 pick in 2010, the 6-foot-2 guard has developed into one of the NBA’s premiere on-the-ball defenders.

Sullinger, drafted with No. 21 in 2012 after being projected as a lottery pick (top-14), underwent season-ending back surgery after appearing in 45 games during his rookie season.

He bounced back this past season and did not miss any games due to his back.

Moving up to get Embiid certainly would be a high-risk move by Boston. But considering he has the most upside in this year’s draft, the 7-foot native of Cameroon just might be worth the gamble with favorable comparisons made to a young Hakeem Olajuwon.

(more…)

What do FIBA stats tell us about David Blatt?


VIDEO: Cavaliers 2013-14 Season Recap

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Multiple reports have the Cleveland Cavaliers in negotiations with David Blatt to be their next head coach.

Blatt, an American, has been a head coach in Europe for more than 15 years. He was also the coach of the Russian national team from 2006-2012.

Interestingly, the numbers from his last few years of FIBA competitions paint a different picture of Blatt’s style than the last few years of Euroleague competition.

Blatt’s Russia teams have been better defensively than offensively. They’ve also played slow and shared the ball at a high rate.

Russian national team rankings

Year Event Pace OffRtg DefRtg AST/FG
2010 World Championship 17 12 5 2
2011 Eurobasket 21 6 2 2
2012 Olympics 9 5 2 2

Pace = Possessions per 40 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions

The high assist rate corresponds with Blatt’s Princeton background. He played under Pete Carrill at the Ivy League school. Those Russia teams did not have an offensive star, but rather a lot of solid players who worked well together.

But while Blatt’s Maccabi Tel Aviv teams have also played slow, they haven’t assisted at a high rate. And they’ve been better offensively than defensively.

Maccabi Tel Aviv rankings

Season Pace OffRtg DefRtg AST/FG
2010-11 8 1 3 12
2011-12 15 6 12 19
2012-13 17 4 7 15
2013-14 17 4 13 11

via gigabasket

The good news is that Blatt has had success on both ends of the floor. The bad news is that he’ll likely have much of the same roster that Mike Brown had this season. Under Brown, the Cavs were the seventh most improved defensive team in the league, but they actually regressed defensively after acquiring Luol Deng from Chicago and finished with below average marks on both offense and defense.

For Blatt to succeed, he’ll need to get Kyrie Irving to share the ball, put some effort into the defensive end of the floor, and take on a leadership role. Really, how well this works out is more about Cleveland’s supposed franchise player than it is about their new coach.

Morning shootaround: June 14


VIDEO: Fisher discusses the Knicks’ roster 

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Jordan explains Higgins’ exit | Beasley as Heat’s cavalry? | Jackson, Fisher huddle with ‘Melo | Cavaliers closing in on coach

No. 1: Jordan explains Higgins’ exit — For years, a lot of casual observers of the Charlotte NBA team (once Bobcats, now Hornets) figured Rod Higgins held his job as president of basketball operations largely because he was a longtime pal of owner/legend Michael Jordan. But in addressing the reason behind Higgins’ abrupt deision to resign – Jordan shifted more responsibilities to general manager Rich Cho – the GOAT made it clear why he valued having Higgins around too. Here’s a peek at veteran scribe Rick Bonnell‘s Jordan exclusive in the Charlotte Observer:

“Rod’s strong points are working with the coaches and the trainers, traveling with the team,” Jordan said. “He was my buffer zone with the coaches. I didn’t want to overwhelm them with ideas, so I’d work with Rod on that.”
Jordan said he wants Cho, with a background as an attorney, dealing more with budgets and managing the salary cap.
“One of (Higgins’) strong points is not negotiating, leveraging teams,” Jordan said. “Sometimes when teams would call (proposing trades), they’d bypass Rod to get to Rich.”
Higgins, with the franchise since 2007, teamed with Cho the last three years. Jordan said that arrangement led to some “confusion over who reported to whom. It created a contentious environment where I had to step in.”
That’s when Jordan proposed these shifts in responsibilities, which Higgins considered a demotion. At that point, Jordan said he asked Higgins if they could wait until after the draft to make a change.
“He chose to leave now,” Jordan said.
Higgins, 54, has been a friend and colleague of Jordan’s for roughly 30 years. They played together with the Chicago Bulls in the mid-1980s. Jordan later hired Higgins to help him run the Washington Wizards’ basketball operation. Jordan said that made Friday’s parting extra difficult.
“I had to make a decision about a brother,” Jordan said. “I hope he gets a soft landing and finds (the job) he wants.”

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No. 2: Beasley as Heat’s cavalry? — Before the 2014 Finals began, the suggestion that Miami might find itself in need of help from erratic forward Michael Beasley would have been seen as an implicit admission that the Heat were headed for trouble against the San Antonio Spurs. Well, they are in trouble, down 3-1 and facing elimination in Game 5 Sunday in San Antonio. And more than a few critics have wondered if Miami coach Erik Spoelstra might look to Beasley as an X factor and counter to Kawhi Leonard‘s offensive impact for the Spurs. Our man Jeff Caplan didn’t necessarily see much of a role for Beasley in the series when they chatted prior to Game 1, but now can offer a look at the maddeningly talented but scatter-careered forward:

Beasley has yet to be active in The Finals and has been inactive in 10 of Miami’s 19 playoff games. He’s played a total of seven minutes in three games. During the regular season, he appeared in a career-low 55 games and averaged career-lows in points (7.9), rebounds (3.1) and minutes (15.1).
Yet, Beasley said: “Honestly, this season has flown by faster than any other I’ve been in. I don’t know why, I don’t know how. I guess time really does fly when you’re having fun.”
The Heat had no fun in Games 3 and 4 in Miami and now head back to San Antonio for Sunday’s Game 5 in the unenviable position of trailing 3-1. After Game 4, Spoelstra was asked if Beasley could be an option in Game 5 to provide some much-needed scoring punch. While his playing time was sporadic, Beasley did record a career-high shooting percentage of 49.9 percent and 38.9 percent from beyond the arc, a better mark than only his rookie season.
Spoelstra didn’t give a direct answer, and in an indication as to how Beasley is still perceived, the questioner was roasted on Twitter by fans and also media covering The Finals for having even broached the subject.
“I shouldn’t say no. I do, but I’m not going to stress over it,” Beasley said when asked if he cares more now how others view him. “People who know me, my family, my kids, my closest friends, they know me. I’m not trying to get everybody to know that I’m a good guy, a great guy or whatever. At this point I’m just focused on playing basketball.”

***

No. 3: Jackson, Fisher huddle with ‘Melo — We can assume that, if numbers came up when basketball boss Phil Jackson, new head coach Derek Fisher and GM Steve Mills of the New York Knicks met with Carmelo Anthony and agent Leon Rose Friday in Los Angeles, the Knicks contingent detailed the pay cuts Anthony would be facing were he to leave New York as a free agent this summer. How big would those cuts be? The difference between a nine-figure deal with N.Y. vs. an eight-figure packages from outside suitors, the latest allegedly the Miami Heat in a refurbished Big 4 vision. Knicks beat writer Al Iannazzone laid out some of the basics for Newsday:

Phil Jackson led a contingent of Knicks officials into a meeting with Carmelo Anthony on Friday in Los Angeles, according to a league source, and presented their plan for turning the team into a contender.
The current blueprint includes Anthony, but he has the ability to opt out of his contract by June 23 and become a free agent. All indications are that Anthony will do that.
Jackson has said he hopes Anthony will “opt in” and wait until 2015 to become a free agent. But a league source said Anthony hasn’t changed his mind after saying all season that he would become a free agent this summer.
If Anthony were to opt in, it would give the Knicks more flexibility next summer, and perhaps in 2016, to sign multiple stars. The 2015 free-agent class could include LeBron James, Rajon Rondo, Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Chris Bosh and Marc Gasol. Kevin Durant is the big potential prize in 2016.
Jackson was accompanied by general manager Steve Mills and new coach Derek Fisher during the sit-down with Anthony and his agent, Leon Rose. It was the first time Anthony met with Fisher since he became coach.
The Knicks can pay Anthony more than any other team in free agency. A maximum deal from them would be five years and roughly $129 million. But Jackson also has said that if Anthony re-signs, he hopes he will take less to give the Knicks more room for other moves.

***

No. 4: Cavaliers closing in on coach — Holders of the Draft’s No. 1 pick, dreamers when it comes to LeBron James’ possible return as a free agent, the Cleveland Cavaliers are said to be getting closer to assigning value to at lease one of their multiple variables: their vacant head coaching position. Longtime Cavs beat writer Bob Finnan wrote about the narrowing field of candidates: Alvin Gentry and Tyronn Lue, both assistants on Doc Rivers‘ staff with the Los Angeles Clippers, and former Maccabi Tel Aviv coach David Blatt:

Clippers assistant coaches Alvin Gentry and Tyronn Lue and former Maccabi Tel Aviv coach David Blatt.
Gentry and Lue met with Cavs majority owner Dan Gilbert on June 13. It was their second interview with the Cavs.
Blatt reportedly will meet with the Cavs next week. He previously spoke to Cavs General Manager David Griffin about the position left vacant by the firing of Mike Brown on May 12. Blatt told Israel reporter David Pick that he interviewed for the Cavs’ head-coaching job via the phone.
The 55-year-old Blatt announced during a news conference in Israel on June 12 that he was leaving his position as head coach of Maccabi Tel Aviv. It is believed that he would be joining an NBA team. If he doesn’t get the Cavs’ job, he could join Golden State coach Steve Kerr’s coaching staff as his lead assistant.
However, he’s very much in the mix in Cleveland for the head-coaching position.
Griffin has been doing some background checks on Blatt, and Pick reported that he has spoken to former Cavs’ draft pick Milan Macvan, who played for Blatt in Maccabi. Macvan, a Serbian power forward, was a second-round pick of the Cavs in 2011.
There was a report that Blatt wouldn’t come to the NBA unless he got a head-coaching job. He said on June 12 that wasn’t true.
If those are the three finalists, two of them — the 37-year-old Lue, and Blatt — have never been head coaches in the NBA. The third, 59-year-old Gentry, is considered by some as a coaching retread who has a below-.500 record in 12 years as a head coach. All three coaches are known as offensive-minded, who would take advantage of the Cavs’ personnel.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Miami’s Ray Allen has at least one of these three R’s in his future: Return, relocation or retirement? … Celtics assistant Ron Adams might wind up on Steve Kerr‘s staff in Golden State, and Julius Randle refutes the claim that his right foot needs surgery. … Tim Duncan has until June 24 to opt in for next season. He, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Gregg Popovich all have contracts that run through 2014-15, should they choose to give it one more season. … One more inspiring scrap-heap-to-Finals-star Boris Diaw story. … Can Dante Exum vault into the Top 3 and rock the 2014 Draft? … Sid Lowe goes to the Timberwolves for a third (or is it fourth?) go-around, with Sam Mitchell invoking “country club” privileges next. … Larry Bird tries to help disappointed Pacers fans buck up … We’re not clear as to which trio should feel more disrespected by this, the Heat’s Big 3 or the classic comedic geniuses.

Morning shootaround: June 13


VIDEO: Daily Zap for June 12

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Duncan breaks two records | Higgins out as Hornets president | Sterling hires investigators | LeBron’s decision won’t hinge on title

No. 1: Duncan rewrites postseason history — Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said his all-time great power forward Tim Duncan won’t care about the two postseason records he set in Thursday’s Game 4. He might not just yet, but once he leaves the game — whenever that will be — those records will probably be quite meaningful to him. Duncan passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for most career minutes in postseason history (he now has 8,869) and he moved ahead of Magic Johnson for most career postseason double-doubles. Duncan’s 10 points and 11 rebounds gave him his 158th. Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express News has more:

While Duncan is far more concerned with securing the last victory the Spurs need to earn their fifth championship, he admitted to being honored after passing a pair of all-time greats in Thursday’s 107-86 victory over Miami: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the most career minutes in NBA postseason history, and Magic Johnson for the most playoff double-doubles.

Duncan, who scored 10 points with 11 rebounds, now has 8,869 minutes and 158 double-doubles in 233 playoff games.

“I can appreciate you saying the names and having passed them in anything,” he said. “It’s an honor to be in that position. Having won (Game 4) helps, obviously, but the focus is on winning one more, and once that is done I can look back and say hey, that’s truly an honor.”

Abdul-Jabbar feels similarly about Duncan, sending a congratulatory note via Twitter: Congrats to #TimDuncan on passing me for the most minutes played in the NBA Finals – I appreciate the fact that you did it with class!

***

No. 2: Higgins out as draft approaches — A story literally hot off the presses, the Charlotte Hornets issued a press release shortly after midnight on Friday stating president of basketball operations Rod Higgins “has stepped down.” The strangely timed press release, coming not long after the Spurs wrapped up Game 4 in Miami, said general manager Rich Cho will continue in his position. Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer has more details as much more will be learned today:

In an odd and ill-timed press release, the Hornets announced past midnight Friday that president of basketball operations Rod Higgins has “stepped down” two weeks before the Hornets make the ninth, 24th and 45th picks in the draft.

Higgins has effectively run the Bobcats/Hornets basketball ops since June of 2011. He was a key figure in the decisions to sign free agents Al Jefferson and Ramon Sessions.

The Hornets noted in their press release that general manager Rich Cho will continue to report to Michael Jordan and vice-chairman Curtis Polk.

***

No. 3: Sterling hires private investigators — The shamed owner of the Los Angeles Clippers has apparently decided to turn his fight against the league ugly. Donald Sterling‘s team of lawyers have hired four private investigators to dig up dirt on the NBA’s 29 other owners, plus former commissioner David Stern and new commissioner Adam Silver. The Associated Press has the details:

Investigators were given a six-figure budget over the next 30 days to examine the league’s finances, allegations of previous discriminatory conduct and compensation to past commissioner David Stern and current commissioner Adam Silver, said the person who spoke to The Associated Press on Thursday night on condition of anonymity. The person wasn’t authorized to talk publicly.

The person said the investigators also are looking into whether other owners made any off-color jokes, or racist or sexist remarks.

“The gloves are off, as they say,” the person said. “Have them dig up all the dirt they can find.”

The person who spoke to the AP said Donald Sterling reluctantly agreed to hire private investigators after this week’s legal proceedings in probate court. The NBA submitted a legal filing Wednesday urging a judge to confirm Shelly Sterling‘s authority to sell the team.

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No. 4: Finals outcome won’t sway LeBron’s decisionLeBron James can opt out of his contract by the end of this month, but his decision won’t be swayed by whether his Miami Heat win or lose the NBA Finals. If they win they will make history as the first team to ever come back from a 3-1 hole. Game 5 is in San Antonio on Sunday night. Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com was in Miami:

The Miami Heat would have to make history to come back from a 3-1 NBA Finals deficit, but the future of their best player doesn’t hinge on that happening.

The Heat’s success or failure in these Finals will not affect LeBron James’ decision on whether to opt out of his contract by the end of this month, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

James and the Heat would be the first team in NBA Finals history to overcome a 3-1 series deficit and come back and win a title. This is the 32nd time the Finals have been 3-1 after four games.

James, [Dwyane] Wade and [Chris] Bosh can all opt out of their contracts and become free agents after this season. ESPN’s Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst reported Wednesday that discussions have begun within the organization about creating sufficient financial flexibility to make an ambitious run at adding New York Knicks scoring machine Carmelo Anthony this summer in free agency.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Sam Mitchell finalizing deal to join Flip Saunders‘ staff in Minnesota … Top European coach David Blatt is headed to the NBA, just not yet sure whereMetta World Peace accepts assistant head coach job — on a high school girls basketball teamCavaliers coaching search kicks tires on Mark JacksonKurt Rambis could join Derek Fisher‘s staff in New York, but remains a top candidate to coach the Lakers.

Blatt Says ‘Nyet’ To Russia; NBA Next?

The question about David Blatt only flared up every two or four years, at least among casual fans of international basketball: Why isn’t that guy coaching in the NBA or at a major college program?

For seven years, Blatt -– born outside Boston, played at Princeton –- worked as coach of Russia’s national team. The American-Israeli serves in the same capacity as Maccabi Tel Aviv in Brooklyn. But his global work schedule will be opening up considerably with his decision, as announced by the Russian Basketball Federation and reported by Eurobasket.com, to step down from duty with Big Red’s national squad:

“Russia was a big part of my professional life. Our common achievements were exceptional and historical, and our impact on Russian basketball growth was tremendous,” Blatt said in a statement issued by the Russian Basketball Federation.

“These seven mutual years were amazing and I quit while Russian basketball is at a peak as the entire basketball world follows it closely.”

Blatt’s work with the Russians was impressive. He led them to a gold medal in the 2007 EuroBasket games, knocking off heavily favored Spain, 60-59. He helped them score a bronze in the same tournament in 2011 and Russia finished third to Team USA and Spain in the London Olympics in August. (more…)