Posts Tagged ‘Harrison Barnes’

Blogtable: Adrift In Golden State

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


Down with divisions | Missing in Golden State | Offseason hits and misses



VIDEO: DubMix Vol. 3 — Warriors highlights from early in the season

Golden State is looking … suspect. Is something missing (besides Iggy)?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comHome games. Only eight of their 22 games have been played in Oakland and they’re 6-2 there. Otherwise, the Warriors have been living out of suitcases and not living all that well. Their stats are worse almost across the board on the road, including a scoring differential that plummets from 8.1 per game at home to just 0.3. The reward, of course, is a schedule imbalance in the other direction going forward. Golden State fans should remain calm and enjoy the fireworks.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: We all probably expected to see a drop-off in the Warriors defense with Andre Iguodala out of the lineup.  But they might actually be missing him more on offense.  Harrison Barnes is scoring 14 points a game since he moved into the starting lineup, but has not fit as comfortably or effectively with Stephen Curry.  The Golden State offense is down roughly 18 points a game from the Iggy-Curry combo.  In short, yes, they miss Iggy.

Andre Iguodala

Andre Iguodala may miss another 2-4 weeks with a strained hamstring (Rocky Widner/NBAE)

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Well, defense, and that goes back to Iguodala. The Warriors allowed the Bobcats to score 115 points the other night. That’s utterly ridiculous. Let them get Iggy back, and some other players, too, get a rotation set and see how things go. This team will be dangerous.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comThe 2012-13 bench is missing. Taking care of the ball is missing. The absence of Andre Iguodala is big because it impacts the depth that was already a question mark going into the season, because he was being counted on to play more than one position and because Curry was missing part of the time as well. The Warriors overcame early injury adversity last season and then again in the playoffs largely because of Jarrett Jack, Carl Landry and Festus Ezeli. They don’t have any of them now, with Ezeli sidelined by a knee injury that is expected to cost him the first half of 2013-14, Jack in Cleveland and Landry in Sacramento. Marreese Speights was signed to replace Landry and (for a while) Ezeli, but he has not played well. Toney Douglas and Iguodala were supposed to play backup point guard, but they have been hurt. Meanwhile, the Warriors are still challenging for most turnovers in the league. That’s a problem even for a team with so many offensive threats.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: First, yeah, they’re missing Iguodala. And they were missing Curry for a few games before Iguodala got hurt. But they’re also missing additional depth beyond their big six. Their on-off-court numbers show that they’re pretty awful whenever Curry or Klay Thompson step off the floor. I understand the idea of using Iguodala as the back-up point guard, but they still need another guard to help the second-unit offense.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comThey lose one game to a Charlotte team I predicted in the preseason would an upstart and now my Western Conference pick is all of a sudden “suspect.” Seriously? Does every supposed contender get whacked like this after a surprising stumble a mere 22 games into the season? I would remind you all that if my Warriors (yes, my Warriors … it worked with the Hang Time Grizzlies and it’s going to work again here) were in the Eastern Conference they’d be a top-three seed in the playoff chase right now. Sure, they’ve stumbled a bit here early but they are fine. They are in good shape right now and we all know that they have the potential to do so much more once the injuries subside. Suspect, huh?

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com All Ball blogThey’re missing the element of surprise. Last season the Warriors found their groove when injuries struck and they went small/uptempo and started running people out of the gym. This season, they have targets on their backs, and opponents not only know what they’re in for, but they want to make a statement against the up-and-coming team. Also, we can’t discount the absence of Iguodala. Adding Andre was supposed to add versatility and make the Warriors even more potent. Not having him the lineup, to me at least, makes it still to early to pass any judgments on the Warriors this season.

Karan Madhok, NBA India: The Warriors aren’t that bad, their expectations are just higher. Iggy is missed, of course, and losing Curry for a few games didn’t help matters either. They are a team that lives and dies on the jump shot, and thus suffer when the magical shooting touch abandons them. Golden State needs a backup weapon to strengthen their identity, toughen up on the defensive end, and turn some of those closer losses into wins before they can start living up to their high expectations again.

XiBin Yang, NBA China: The Warriors shoot too many jumpers. Their offense relies on 3-pointers, which means they get to the free-throw line too infrequently (14 a game). Secondly, if you want to play a fast-paced brand of basketball, you have to grab more rebounds.

Davide Chinellato, NBA Italia: There’s definitely something wrong with the Warriors. They’re 12-10, the’ve lost 2 of their last 3 and they’re struggling defensively, having allowed more than 100 points in 9 of their last 10 games. It’s early in the season and coach Mark Jackson will eventually figure out. Injuries to Iguodala and Steph Curry have definitely been a problem, but the team is not responding the way everybody was expecting. Probably because they’re not a surprise anymore, as they were last season, and teams have found a better way to stop them. Since their offense is still there (103 points per game, 46.9 percent from the field and a league-best 41.7 percent from 3) they need to improve defensively.

Barnes’ Injury Could Rattle Warriors’ Rotation; Lakers Mull Big Man Mix

SHANGHAI, China – The Warriors and Harrison Barnes are expressing confidence that the injury to Barnes’ left foot is not major and that sitting him for exhibition games is just precautionary. Still, the injury could have major repercussions for the second-year small forward and the entire rotation if it lingers into the season.

Coach Mark Jackson has maintained he has open spots at shooting guard and small forward. He says that Andre Iguodala is a candidate for one of the starting jobs, not an automatic after arriving as a free agent with a four-year, $48-million deal. With Stephen Curry set at point guard, David Lee at power forward and Andrew Bogut at center, Klay Thompson, Igoudala and Barnes are challenging for the opening lineup at the two other positions.

Now, though, Barnes has missed two games, most of another, and will not face the Lakers on Friday night at Mercedes-Benz Arena (7:30 a.m. ET, NBA TV) here before both teams return to California. There is no indication when he will play, only statements that the Warriors are simply getting him rest when the calendar allows.

But, Jackson said, “Unfortunately [the injury] has got to play a factor because you didn’t really get to see those units together, no matter who it is. The good thing is, I know all of these guys. I envisioned when we got Andre how I would utilize all of them and that hasn’t changed.”

If Barnes starts for the second season in a row, it will be in the front court, no matter who Jackson picks as shooting guard. If Barnes does not start, Iguodala will be the small forward and Thompson the shooting guard.

The Warriors have two exhibition games remaining after returning to the United States, Wednesday at Sacramento and Thursday against the Trail Blazers in Portland. Golden State opens the regular season Oct. 30.

Meanwhile, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said he has not made a decision on the starting power forward and center. Pau Gasol gets one of the jobs. The decision for D’Antoni is whether Gasol plays power forward next to Chris Kaman at center or Gasol opens at center with Jordan Hill at power forward.

Morning Shootaround — Oct. 8

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Thompson not worrying about role | Felton ready to lead | Bulls dismiss talk of Forman-Thibs feud | Caldwell-Pope impressing Pistons

No. 1: Warriors’ Thompson not sweating starting gig: The top debate among Warriors faithful might be over who to start this season: second-year forward Harrison Barnes or third-year guard Klay Thompson? The addition of swingman Andre Iguodala in the offseason supplanted Thompson from his starting role of a season ago and in the preseason, the Warriors have used Thompson as a sixth man while Barnes has started both preseason games. Thompson tells Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune he’s not worrying about starting or coming off the bench, despite the stats seeming to say the Warriors are better with him on the floor more:

After posting a team-high 26 points against the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday, Thompson was arguably Golden State’s best player Monday in what was a relatively ugly showing by the home team at Oracle Arena. Thompson twice led the Warriors on deficit-erasing runs in a 94-81 victory. He finished with 17 points on 8-for-17 shooting.

Thompson was so effective that coach Mark Jackson had him back in the starting lineup to open the second half. Thompson’s activity and energy on offense is so evident that his teammates are looking for him consistently. He had a team-high 14 shots through the first 30 minutes Monday, including a left-handed scoop layup for a three-point play followed by a breakaway dunk that put Golden State up 55-52 with just over six minutes left in the third.

“Klay is going to always do what he does best,” Andre Iguodala said. “And that’s shoot the ball pretty well. … I told Klay that when he’s in the game with me, he’s going to get a lot of looks so he’s gotta be ready to shoot the ball. And he is.”

…Through two exhibition games, Barnes has totaled just over 34 minutes. During that span, he was 3 of 18 from the field with five turnovers. He did total eight rebounds and three steals in the same span, but he’s hardly looking like the burgeoning star everyone expects.

Certainly, an ailing foot would slow him, but his early offensive struggles might raise a legitimate question: Can Barnes be effective as the fifth option?

Inconsistency was probably Barnes’ biggest problem last season. He would be great one game and average the next two. Even Barnes acknowledged that he struggled to find his way in the offense as the fourth option.

No. 2: Felton ready to step into leadership role: In a great feature story by the New York Post‘s Marc Berman, Knicks point guard Raymond Felton talks about his struggles in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, his desire to prove that he play well in a traditional backcourt and that he’s ready to assume a captaincy role with New York as well. Felton is expected to be the full-time starter at the point this season, a role he didn’t always have in 2012-13 as coach Mike Woodson often used Felton and another of New York’s point guards — Jason Kidd or Pablo Prigioni — in tandem with Felton:

But as Felton and the Knicks disintegrated in the second round last May, with the Knicks starting point guard failing to a hit a field goal in the nightmare Game 6 in Indiana, Felton said a new chip has grown.

“The chip is still there,’’ said Felton, who got outplayed by Indiana’s George Hill. “It’s a bitter taste in my mouth the way the season ended last year. The chip is still there. If anything, it’s another chip. It’s now on the other shoulder. I’m still coming out with the same attitude, still with a lot to prove.’’

…Felton admits he puts his off-court leadership on the back burner last season in respect to Kidd. Felton told The Post before camp he hoped a captaincy was in the cards.

“That’s my job this year — I have to step up in that leadership role,’’ Felton said. “I took a step back last year out of respect for my team. Guys hadn’t played with me before. I’ll try to step back in that role of being vocal.

“He’s got to be more of a leader,.’’ Woodson said. “Point guards catch a lot of crap on everybody’s team because we expect so much from them. Ray performed great for us last season. He’s got to be more vocal and show more of a leadership role more than ever with Kidd gone now.’’

No. 3: Paxson refutes talk of Thibodeau-Forman feud: Shortly after Derrick Rose made his preseason debut against the Pacers on Saturday night, Yahoo!Sports.com’s Adrian Wojnarowski had a story that essentially said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau and GM Gar Forman are in the midst of some franchise-altering dysfunction. Since then, Bulls vice president John Paxson has chimed in on the alleged discord between the two men and tells the Chicago Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley nothing could be further from the truth:

Forman and Thibodeau haven’t always seen eye-to-eye on personnel moves, which has been well documented, but Paxson takes exception to the idea that it’s a feud heading toward a boiling point.

‘‘We’re so far past that,’’ he said. ‘‘To continue to try and keep it going, I don’t know what the agenda is. That’s one thing that we all talked about, really from the beginning of this year: No one has any agenda here.

‘‘If you’re really going to say something like that, then go on the record, be a man, put your name out there. Don’t hide behind that stuff. But from our perspective, from our seat, we’re doing great. The relationship is healthy. We all want the same thing, and that’s to be as good as we possibly can out there on the floor.’’

Chicago saw what a truly unhealthy relationship between a GM and coach/manager looks like when the White Sox’ Ken Williams and Ozzie Guillen captured headlines a few years ago.

Paxson snickered at the idea of the Bulls being anywhere near that.

‘‘I don’t think there’s any doubt that it’s been blown way out of proportion,’’ he said. ‘‘I think someone other than anyone in our organization has an agenda that really doesn’t suit what we’re all about. No matter what you do in this business, when you’re making decisions, whether it’s based on personnel or anything like that, you’re going to have ideas, different opinions, and that’s what we do. We sit in a room and talk these things through. The thing is, right now we’re all on the same page, and there are no hidden agendas from Gar, myself and Tom.’’

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No. 4: Pistons narrow shooting guard options: The No. 9 overall pick in the 2013 Draft, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, is making quite and impression in Detroit and may have a solid shot at taking the starting shooting guard job for opening night. According to David Mayo of MLive.com, Pope and veteran Rodney Stuckey have made the race for the starting job a two-man one and the pair is having fun competing against each other for the bid:

“He’s not showing one bit of nervousness when he’s out there playing,” point guard Brandon Jennings said.  “It’s like he’s been here before.  Guys want spots.  Guys want playing time.  This right here is how you earn it.”

Head coach Maurice Cheeks said Caldwell-Pope, “has a poise about him that, when he plays, he doesn’t get stressed out, he doesn’t get nervous.”

Cheeks, one day after saying he would use multiple starters at shooting guard during preseason, said the ultimate decision probably comes down to Caldwell-Pope or seventh-year veteran Rodney Stuckey.

Caldwell-Pope and Stuckey have gone hard at each other in early scrimmages and have had friendly discussions about the competition, the Georgia rookie said.

“It’s fun.  We laugh about it, we joke about it,” Caldwell-Pope said.  “At the same time, we’re also serious about it, because we are playing for the same position.  It’s great to compete against someone who’s been here, who’s older than me.  It’s a great challenge.”

Caldwell-Pope’s disadvantages in youth and experience against Stuckey could be alleviated by his advantage in perimeter shooting touch.  Both are solid defenders but Caldwell-Pope also brings a shot-blocking element.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Heat’s Norris Cole tuning out trade talks … The Lakers’ Chris Kaman and Robert Sacre bought a cow together (seriously) … Celtics coach Brad Stevens is still an early riser

ICYMI of the night: While the Warriors continue to weigh whether to start Thompson or Barnes this season, sit back and enjoy what we’re sure to see more of this season — alley-oops to Iguodala …

Five Who Could Crash Scoring Race Party

 

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – First-time scoring champ Carmelo Anthony lit up April, averaging 36.9 ppg to deny Kevin Durant a fourth consecutive scoring title.

It won’t be terribly surprising if Melo collects a second trophy this season. Prior to Durant’s three-peat, Kobe Bryant (2005, ’06), Tracy McGrady (’03, ’04) and Allen Iverson (’01, ’02) all repeated, so that’s a pretty decent track record for staking back-to-back scoring titles.

Starting with last season’s top five scorers — Anthony (28.7 ppg), Durant (28.1), Bryant (27.3), LeBron James (26.8) and James Harden (25.9) — plus a strong candidate pool coming, the scoring race should be a fun one, and the top five scorers in the league come April 2014 might look different than it did in 2013.

Of course, for a player to move into the top five, one most fall out.

So which player or players are vulnerable to vacating the top five? Start with the three players I think are as close to top-five locks as possible: Melo (he’s still just 29 and by far the Knicks’ No. 1 option); Durant (he has so many ways to score that he can drop 30 hopping on one leg); and James (he can score whenever and however he wants, and he’s finished in the top four in scoring in nine consecutive seasons).

That leaves two that could slip and open a spot: Harden (the addition of Dwight Howard will alter Houston’s offense and spread the scoring wealth); and Kobe (it’s dangerous to doubt him considering he’s finished in the top five since finishing sixth in 2001-02, but, at 35 years old and coming off Achilles surgery, there has to be some dropoff, right?).

Which players will make a run at cracking the top five? Here’s my top five:

1. Derrick Rose, Bulls: The offense-starved Bulls will welcome their point guard back after he missed all of last season recovering from ACL surgery. He’s had plenty of time to hone his game and Rose will return with a vengeance, perhaps reaching his 2010-11 level when he averaged 25.0 ppg and won the league MVP. That season put him on the cusp of the top five, just 0.3 ppg behind Bryant and Amare Stoudemire.

2. Kevin Love, Timberwolves: Another injury returnee, Love played just 18 games last season due to a right hand he broke twice. He’s got Ricky Rubio to set him up, an offensively gifted center in Nikola Pekovic to draw attention down low and shooters around him such as Kevin Martin and Chase Budinger. Love is set up to return to the 26.0 ppg he averaged  in 2011-12 when he shot 37.2 percent from beyond the arc and finished fourth in the scoring race.

3. Russell Westbrook, Thunder: Yeah, yeah, maybe he shoots too much considering he plays alongside that Durant guy. But Westbrook’s a stone-cold scorer and Thunder coach Scott Brooks knows it. After his knee injury in the first round, Westbrook (he finished sixth in scoring last season at 23.2 ppg) declared that he will return a smarter player. Maybe it means he’ll take fewer bad shots, but don’t expect him to necessarily take fewer shots since the Thunder lost 3-point ace Martin to the Wolves in free agency.

4. Blake Griffin, Clippers: This guy takes a lot of flak for a perceived lack of development in his low-post and mid-range game, and I have said that he must find less violent ways to score to truly become great. I think the powerful Griffin delivers this season on a team loaded with options and one that will be smartly coached by Doc Rivers. Despite a lack of finesse, Griffin still managed to average 22.5 ppg in 2010-11 and is a career 52.9 percent shooter. Only 24, Griffin’s career is just getting started, and he’s got Chris Paul to make his ascension all the easier.

5.  Stephen Curry, Warriors: The best pure shooter in the game today averaged a career-best 22.9 ppg last season and then increased it to 23.4 ppg with an electric postseason. His scoring potential is off the charts. But he’s also got a team to run and that includes some pretty nice targets in Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, David Lee, Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut. Still, like Westbrook, this kid is a born scorer and as long as his ankles hold up, Curry is going to put up some huge games for a team attempting to move up into the Western Conference elite.

Summer Dreaming: Most Improved Player

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HANG TIME, Texas — Fire up the grill. Ice down those frosty cold beers. Nothing says summer like a backyard barbecue.

Or sitting out in the hot sun daydreaming.

Sure, the NBA schedule comes out in a few days. Sure, the season openers are less than three months away. But why stop there? Let’s continue to wander all the way out to next spring when the 2013-14 season is over and get a head start on candidates for all the awards.

Today we’ll look at my handful of picks for Most Improved Player and you can chime in below.

Kawhi Leonard, Spurs Doesn’t everybody already know about the many splendored talents of the guy with Charles Barkley’s favorite name after he played a key role in the Spurs’ run to The Finals last last season? Of course, Leonard drew the toughest defensive assignment though every round of the playoffs, doing a creditable job on LeBron James. There were also nights when he had bust-out games on offense. But the feeling here is that Leonard has only scratched the surfaced of what he can do. It’s no longer a stretch to think he could live up to coach Gregg Popovich’s “face of the franchise” prediction. As the years keep piling up and the minutes keep getting restricted on Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, The Quiet One is going to get every chance to make big noise as he shoulders more of the burden. He could take the leap that last year’s winner Paul George did for the Pacers.

Harrison Barnes, Warriors Before he conked his head on the floor and eventually had to leave Game 6 of the West semifinals, Barnes was doing all that he could to force a Game 7 in the series with the Spurs. A member of the All-Rookie first team, he averaged 9.7 ppg and 4.1 rpg in just 25.4 mpg. When coach Mark Jackson went to him more and more in the playoffs, Barnes showed more and more of the things he can do. He got to the basket. He drained 3-pointers. In other words, as the games got bigger, he showed why Golden State made him the No. 7 pick in the 2012 draft. With Andre Iguodala around to run the floor and get plenty of attention from opposing defenses, the opportunity will be there for Barnes to take that big step up.

Jonas Valanciunas, RaptorsAfter being named MVP in the Las Vegas Summer League, there are lot of folks on both sides of the border who are expecting the young Raptors’ big man to take off this season, especially now that he doesn’t give up minutes to Andrea Bargnani. He’s done work building up the upper half of his slim body without seeming to have surrendered quickness. His rookie numbers of 8.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.3 bpg and a 55.7 field-goal percentage in 23.9 mpg showed that there’s room for growth with increased playing time, particularly on offense for a player who makes smart decisions and doesn’t force shots. But the Raptors will have to make an effort to get him to the ball. He gets to the foul line, trailing only Bradley Beal, Andre Drummond and Barnes among last year’s rookies in free throw attempts. As long as he keeps building up his bulk and strength, he can be a solid rim protector on defense. There is every reason to believe he can be the guy that Toronto spent the No. 5 pick in the 2011 draft on and then waited for year to get him to join the NBA. If not this season, then the next.

Eric Bledsoe, Suns There were a lot of places where Bledsoe could have wound up that would seem to make more sense than Phoenix. The Suns already have Goran Dragic at the point. But rookie coach Jeff Hornacek will likely play them in tandem and Bledsoe’s got the chops to play at the ‘2’ and use his defensive prowess to get steal and create transition chances and easy buckets for the offense. He’s been champing at the bit to get out from under Chris Paul’s shadow with the Clippers and if he can rein in a tendency to get a bit wild with his shot selection, Bledsoe could put up some nice numbers for a Suns team that will be thirsting for offense.

Jeremy Lamb, Thunder He moves around the court and makes every thing look so slow and easy that half the time you want to check to make sure that those sleepy-looking eyes are really open. He didn’t see much playing time as a rookie, doing a constant shuttle between OKC and Tulsa in the NBA D-League to get game experience. He scored big and played well at the Orlando Summer League and now with the departure of Kevin Martin, the door is wide open for the No. 12 pick in the 2012 draft to come in and knock down all those wide open shots that are created by playing with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. If those eyes are wide awake, Lamb could see his way to some very big things on the championship contender.

PREVIOUSLY: Sixth Man of Year | Defensive Player of YearRookie Of Year

Barnes Bulks Up For Small Ball





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Harrison Barnes wore his layer of new muscle in Las Vegas last week like a superhero wears his costume. He tried to act natural, like nothing had changed since the last time we saw him. But it’s hard to hide the obvious, especially when it’s 10 to 15 pounds of new muscle.

Barnes has bulked up considerably since his breakout showing against the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference semifinals. With the addition of Andre Iguodala this summer, Barnes knows that the time he spent working at power forward in the Warriors’ small ball lineup could be a more common occurrence during the 2013-14 season.

So he had no choice but to go to work on his physique. The gains were on display throughout USA Basketball’s mini-camp for the Men’s Senior National Team, and specifically in the Blue-White Showcase (just ask Ryan Anderson).

Warriors coach Mark Jackson will have to sort out his rotation and find creative ways to use Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Barnes and Iguodala in a way that capitalizes on all of their individual talents. That could mean a sixth man role for Barnes or a position switch and perhaps another move, possibly even trading David Lee or Andrew Bogut to create more time for that smaller lineup.

A key piece of the Warriors’ core group, Barnes is prepared for whatever comes his way.

“I’ve really been working hard this summer to get ready for that,” Barnes said. “I’ve really been working on my body. I need to get used to the toll it takes down low, boxing out and rebounding with the bigger guys. [Denver’s] Kenneth Faried definitely served as an inspiration and great guy to help prepare me for what it takes to play that position when you are considered to be undersized by people. But it’s like I said, I’ve been preparing for that change all summer.”

Thompson participated in the mini-camp, too. He acknowledged that changes that will come with Iguodala’s addition, and not just offensively.

“He’s going to help make us a stronger unit defensively,” Thompson said. “I think that’s the first thing that jumps out at you when you add him to our mix. We’ll adjust offensively. Coach Jackson can get creative with what he wants to do in that regard. Everybody will just have to wait and see what he comes up with.”

Watching Barnes work throughout the mini-camp and in that Blue-White game should be required viewing before any decisions are made. He played inside and out, ran the floor as well as anyone, guarded on the perimeter and in the paint and held his ground routinely against bigger guys. He scored 18 points in the game without any designed scheme to get him involved, which might be his best trait. He can adapt his game to whatever style of play the Warriors decide to utilize.

“The [USA Basketball] experience is great for me,” Barnes said. “It’s different for sure. But it’s kind of fun at the same time because you don’t have expectations for yourself. I don’t get game reps a lot at the [four], so I got to come out and here and just go on the fly. It was great, though. I’ve only had the chance to rock the USA on my chest one time, and that was in high school. So to come out here and get a chance to play against so many great players was fantastic.”

Barnes said he’ll take a similar approach to Warriors training camp. Instead of worrying about what he’ll have to sacrifice with the arrival of another player who will chew up minutes at small forward, he continue to focus on the positives and what it takes for him to be effective in whatever role he’s asked to fill.

“I don’t think it takes long for us to figure it all out as players,” Barnes said. “The best thing about Andre is he’s a great passer. And he’s got plenty of experience playing small ball. In my mind, our versatility is what’s going to set us apart. The fact that we’ll be able to play multiple guys at multiple spots is what will make us so dangerous, whether it’s me at the four and David Lee at the five or whatever it is we do against certain teams. We’ll have the advantage a lot of nights because we can match up basically with anybody.”

That was certainly the Warriors’ plan.


Irving And Davis Make It Clear They’re The Future Of USA Basketball

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LAS VEGAS – Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis likely had spots on next year’s U.S. National Team roster locked up before Thursday night. And if there was any doubt, the two former No. 1 picks likely removed it after their performance in the USA Basketball Showcase, a 128-106 victory for Irving’s White Team.

Irving got out in transition and sliced through the blue defense to the tune of a game-high 23 points (on just eight shots) and seven assists. He was the best player on the floor and made it clear that he’s not only a future National Team member but a star to watch in the upcoming NBA season.

“It’s a pick-and-roll league,” Damian Lillard said afterward, “and he’s really good at breaking guys down one-on-one. So if he has a pick-and-roll, a lot of times he has a big man in front of him and can take advantage of situations. When he gets that screen and has that big man on an island, he’s going to get around him and he can finish at the rim. When you have that type of handle and you can finish at the rim, that’s deadly.”

“I wanted to separate myself, somehow, from this group,” Irving said, “and show what I can bring to the team for next year.”

Playing alongside some other talented bigs, Davis looked like more of a stretch four on Thursday, showing off his ability to step outside and knock down jump shots. That might not be the role he plays with the National Team going forward, but he led the Blue Team with 22 points and seven rebounds. And after earning a gold medal as the 12th man on last year’s Olympic Team, he looks ready to take on a larger role for USA Basketball.

“As good as he was last year,” head coach Mike Krzyzewski said after the game, “he’s just stepped it up another couple of levels. And that was exciting to see. He got better throughout the week and put on a heck of a performance tonight.”

This was not a great environment to evaluate anybody’s readiness for international basketball. The two teams played with the international 3-point line and with FIBA officials, but not in a hostile environment or against international defenses. The pace was ridiculously fast (more than 100 possessions each in 48 minutes), with no savvy international guards stopping the U.S. fast breaks with timely fouls. Playing Spain in Madrid for the World Cup gold medal next summer would be an entirely different experience.

So Krzyzewski and USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo won’t be putting extra emphasis on these 48 minutes when determining who will be in their pool of players for the next three years. In fact, what may be more important is what these young players learn from this week and bring to their NBA teams in the fall.

“This was just another day in the life of our group,” Colangelo said. “We’re going to have a lot of time to evaluate the entire week, the game included. And we’re going to be watching each and every one them during the course of the season, because we have a lot of time on our side before we go forward.”

Still, in addition to Irving and Davis, there were a few players who likely enhanced their stock on Thursday, most of them on the winning White Team. Kenneth Faried and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist used their endless energy to put up solid numbers in minimal minutes. Jrue Holiday filled the boxscore with 12 points, seven rebounds and five assists. And Mike Conley and Ty Lawson proved to be a cohesive point-guard combo on the White Team’s second unit.

For the Blue Team, Harrison Barnes showed that he’s got the skills to be a small-ball (or international) four man, while Greg Monroe was solid inside with an ability to play off talented ball-handlers.

All of the above will certainly get serious consideration when Colangelo and Krzyzewski create a new pool of 25-28 players in January. From that pool, teams for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics will be selected, though names can always be added or removed from the list. The pool will be made up of players that participated in this week’s camp, USA Basketball veterans, and a few other players who couldn’t participate this week.

“It’s a very fluid pool,” Colangelo said. “Guys are going to keep developing.”

The experience they gained this week will surely help them do that.

Young Stars Look To Make An Impression At USA Basketball Showcase

 

LAS VEGAS – Summer hoops continues Thursday on NBA TV (9 p.m. ET) with the USA Basketball Showcase, the culmination of a four-day mini-camp that brought 28 young players into the program that has won two straight Olympic gold medals and 50 straight games.

USA Basketball Showcase – Blue Team
No. Player Pos
46 Harrison Barnes SF
36 DeMarcus Cousins C
42 Anthony Davis PF
41 DeMar DeRozan SG
37 Derrick Favors PF
31 Gordon Hayward SG
22 Damian Lillard PG
62 Greg Monroe PF
34 Klay Thompson SG
51 Dion Waiters SG
26 Kemba Walker PG
50 John Wall PG

Twenty-four of the *28 players will take the floor at the Thomas & Mack Center on Thursday, split into two teams that will be coached by Men’s Senior National Team assistants Tom Thibodeau and Monty Williams.

* Not participating: College players Doug McDermott and Marcus Smart, as well as the Bucks’ Larry Sanders (who turned his ankle in a scrimmage on Tuesday) and the Wizards’ Bradley Beal (who is rehabbing a right fibula injury and has only participated in drills).

With only 40 minutes of game action, the average player will see less than 17 minutes of playing time, which might make it tough for some to make a strong impression on USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo and head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who will be watching courtside.

But Colangelo and Krzyzewski won’t be making any roster selections in the wake of this mini-camp. The next step in the process will be to create a pool of 25-35 players from which to select teams for the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain *and the 2016 Olympics in Rio. That won’t happen until next Spring at the earliest and they will be keeping tabs on the entire group during the course of the 2013-14 NBA season.

* If the U.S. wins gold in Spain next summer, they automatically qualify for the Olympics and won’t need to send a team to the 2015 FIBA Americas tournament. If they don’t win gold next summer, they’ll need to field a team in 2015 and finish in the top two at the FIBA Americas tournament to qualify for the Olympics.

USA Basketball Showcase – White Team
No. Player Pos
24 Ryan Anderson PF
20 Mike Conley PG
25 Andre Drummond C
33 Kenneth Faried PF
29 Paul George SF
27 Jrue Holiday PG
23 Kyrie Irving PG
35 DeAndre Jordan C
32 Michael Kidd-Gilchrist SF
21 Ty Lawson PG
39 Chandler Parsons SF
28 Tyler Zeller C

That pool of 25-35 will be made up of USA Basketball veterans, players from this group and a few others that weren’t able to participate this week because of injuries. On Wednesday, Kevin Durant and Kevin Love — who each played in 2010 and 2012 — committed to playing next summer in Spain. And there will likely be other vets that join them.

So there are precious few roster spots available for the players at this camp. Many of them — though they’re stars with their NBA squads — will never play for the National Team. It’s a numbers game and Colangelo and Krzyzewski just have too much talent to choose from.

Of the 24 players who will see action on Thursday, three have the inside track to roster spots next summer. Paul George and Kyrie Irving are simply the best players in camp, while Anthony Davis has USA Basketball experience (at last year’s Olympics) and the skill set needed from U.S. bigs.

Seven of the 24, including Irving, are point guards, who could all be competing with Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and Deron Williams for roster spots down the line. Though point guards also play shooting guard in this system, the wings and bigs we see on Thursday certainly have a better shot of making it to Spain or Rio.

This is still a tremendous opportunity for everyone involved, including fans who want to see some high-quality, competitive hoops in the middle of the summer. There’s no better basketball being played in July and even if they aren’t eventually selected for the National Team, these players are making the most of their week in Vegas.

“You just try to take as much advantage of it as you possibly can,” Chandler Parsons said, “learn from it, take it back to your city and try to have a good season next year.”

Summer Star Bazemore Striving For More

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LAS VEGAS – Kent Bazemore couldn’t put “499” on his jersey, so he figured he’d have it stitched in gold on the blue underside of the tongue of his Under Armour sneakers.

That, No. 499, is where Bazemore landed on ESPN’s 2012 top 500 player rankings. The 2012 undrafted free agent out of Old Dominion came in one spot below Shan Foster, who has yet to play in an NBA game since being drafted 51st in 2008, and one spot ahead of Eddy Curry, who hasn’t kept a steady gig for five years.

Bad karma? Nah, it was cool, for Kenneth Lamont Bazemore Jr., who’s used to flying under the radar, as they say, and already beating the odds. He spent five seasons at ODU — he was a redshirt freshman, and who does that anymore? — raised eyebrows a year ago in the Las Vegas Summer League and then played sparingly as a rookie with the Golden State Warriors while frequently shuttling to the club’s D-League affiliate in Santa Cruz.

In fact, for the 24-year-old, No. 499 seemed fitting. He expects you to underestimate him. 

I’ve had my back against the wall my entire life,” Bazemore said. “Coming out of high school, I got a few Division I offers, but they were mid-major, a lot of D-II offers, you know, just a long, lanky kid from Kelford, North Carolina.

“But,” Bazemore continued, “I always worked. I had got my foot in the door last summer just playing defense, working with [Warriors assistant] Joe Boylan everyday and watching film.”

Now making his second tour in Vegas, Bazemore, who has always combined magnificent athletic ability and showstopping, raw talent with a bit of an on-court keystone cops routine, has emerged as a leading MVP candidate as the Warriors enter today’s semifinals of the inaugural summer league tournament undefeated at 5-0.

The 6-foot-5 shooting guard has scored 51 points in the last two games. He’s been running the point at times, particularly in crunch time, and using that long, lanky body to take any defender that plants himself up top off the dribble and to the rack. He burned the Lakers’ backcourt Saturday night for 10 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter as Golden State rallied from 10 points down to extend the team’s overall summer winning streak to 12.

“That’s what summer league is all about, developing guys and guys getting better and better in game situations against good talent,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. “It’s a process, but he’s a guy we really like a lot.”

Still, Bazemore remains a relative unknown on an emerging Warriors team that boasts young star Stephen Curry and up-and-comers Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes, and Bazemore will almost assuredly remain a depth player for Jackson after the Warriors added veteran Andre Iguodala this summer at Bazemore’s position.

But that’s also cool with Bazemore, who wisely seems to be treating his initial NBA seasons as an education.

“Hey man, that guy’s an Olympian, he’s an All-Star,” Bazemore said of Iguodala. “It’s the perfect situation for me because I can still sit back and learn, learn from one of the best that’s done it at every level. Now, as a leader of this [summer league] team, everything is under a microscope. [Saturday] I turned the ball over (seven times) and it’s kind of like letting my teammates down because they’re like, ‘Come on’ and ‘You shouldn’t be turning the ball over.’ But in the big leagues I’m going to be out there in spot minutes, so I can just go and wreak havoc.”

Which he did for a brief, and fleeting, moment in the wild, series-altering Game 1 against the San Antonio Spurs in the second round. Bazemore, playing in the final minute of double overtime because Thompson had fouled out, sprinted down the sideline after Tony Parker missed and Barnes pulled down the rebound, quickly feeding Curry. Forcing the pace, Curry spotted the galloping Bazemore, who took the pass, flew through the paint along the baseline and put in a tough reverse off the glass to give the Warriors a 127-126 lead with 3.9 seconds to go.

“I’m like, ‘All right, OK,’ but you’ve got a Hall of Fame coach on the other end,” Bazemore said. “They always get a great look after a timeout, so we’ve got to get a stop. That’s what Jarrett Jack was saying the whole time, ‘Got to get the stop, got to get the stop.'”

And then just as quickly as Bazemore looked to be the hero on the highlight-reel play of his brief career, he got tangled up in the paint on the Spurs’ inbounds pass, Manu Ginobili sprung free at the wing and as Bazemore tried to recover, launching his long, lanky body toward Ginobili, the 3-pointer dropped with 1.2 seconds to go.

Jackson subbed in Andrew Bogut and Bazemore took a seat.

“That was another welcome-to-the-NBA moment,” Bazemore said. “Manu Ginobili is arguably a Hall of Famer at the end of his career. [Spurs coach Gregg Popovich] drew up a great play. We wanted to switch everything, but they ran a little brush screen; they didn’t really screen, so [there was] miscommunication and Ginobili was wide open.

“Just a good player making a great shot.”

Which is exactly what Bazemore, No. 499, keeps working toward. He dares you to underestimate him.

Bench Mobs: Four That Got Better

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — Every general manager’s goal is to assembly an energetic, productive bench.

A strong second unit filled with single-minded role players enhances a team’s chances at winning. Just look at the two-time champion Miami Heat and perennially contending San Antonio Spurs: both clubs received significant bench contributions throughout the 2012-13 season. Still, a deep and talented bench does not ensure success — the Los Angeles Clippers being Exhibit A.

Arguably the NBA’s deepest bench last season, L.A.’s reserves ranked fourth in scoring and second in overall production (points, assists and rebounds combined). The second unit of Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, Lamar Odom and Ronny Turiaf ranked as the third-best defensive unit in the league. Yet the Clippers lost in the first round to the Memphis Grizzlies, whose thin bench was considered a major weakness.

The goal is to build a well-rounded and deep roster that doesn’t falter when the starters sit, that can change pace when needed and can light it up just as well as lock it down.

Four teams looking to make a charge in their respective conferences — including the all-in Clippers and the go-getter Golden State Warriors in the West; and in the East the rugged-but-reinforcement-thin Indiana Pacers and the money-is-nothing Brooklyn Nets — completed significant offseason signings and trades that should bolster each club’s depth:

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS

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Loses: G Bledsoe, G Chauncey Billups, F Odom (still available), F Grant Hill (retired), F/C Turiaf

Additions: G J.J. Redick, G/F Jared Dudley, G Darren Collison, F Reggie Bullock (draft pick)

Why they’re better: Only two members of the aforementioned third-ranked defensive unit, Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes, are returning as of today (Odom remains a possibility) to the Clippers’ second unit, so they could slip defensively. But the firepower is all-world with Redick (a 39 percent career 3-point shooter) and Dudley (40.5 percent) joining Sixth Man runner-up Crawford (35.0 percent). Collison has plenty to prove after twice losing his starting job in Dallas to late-30-somethings Derek Fisher and Mike James. The ultra-quick Collison backed up Chris Paul as a rookie in New Orleans and he now has a defined role that should suit his game. Plenty of experience and savvy leaves town in Hill and Billups, but they played a combined 51 games last season. Hill was not part of the playoff rotation until former coach Vinny Del Negro got desperate late in the first-round series loss. New coach and senior vice president of basketball operations Doc Rivers has given himself plenty of options with a bench unit that might top last season’s group. Free agents Barnes, center Ryan Hollins and guard Willie Green return.

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

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Loses: Jarrett Jack, Carl Landry

Additions: Marreese Speights, Toney Douglas, C Jermaine O’Neal, Nemanja Nedovic (draft pick)

Why they’re better: Simply, Andre Iguodala. Acquiring the veteran forced out Jack and Landry, but also provides instant depth for a young team that basically rode seven players in the playoffs after David Lee injured his hip. The tough call for coach Mark Jackson will be moving either semi-conscious shooter Klay Thompson or confident forward Harrison Barnes to the bench (both started every game they played last season) to make room for the 6-foot-6 Iguodala. Thompson could challenge for Sixth Man of the Year honors and he’d easily replace the scoring punch Jack provided. The second-year Barnes, who truly emerged during the playoffs, can provide everything the blue-collar Landry delivered only with advanced skills in every facet, especially with his burgeoning offensive arsenal. Barnes could discover some very favorable matchups off the bench. Speights, more accurately, will be expected to fill Landry’s role. The Warriors also bring back impressive frontcourt youngsters Draymond Green and Festus Ezeli, who should benefit from the presence of the steady veteran O’Neal.

INDIANA PACERS

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Loses: F Tyler Hansbrough, F Jeff Pendergraph

Additions: F Chris Copeland, G C.J. Watson, G Donald Sloan, F Solomon Hill (draft pick)

Why they’re better: The wild card here is forward Danny Granger, who missed all but five games last season with a left knee injury but will be back. With Paul George emerging as a star, Granger could find himself as the Pacers’ sixth man — imagine that. A better bench might have pushed Indiana past Miami in the East finals. The Pacers were one of six teams whose bench averaged fewer than 80 mpg, and they ranked 29th in scoring. The veteran Watson should stabilize a backcourt that had no consistent answer (D.J. Augustin) coming off the bench last season. Watson is a solid veteran who rarely turns the ball over — less than one a game in 19.0 mpg last season with Brooklyn — and is the type of team-first player president of basketball operations Larry Bird wants for coach Frank Vogel. And then there’s the unexpected feather in Bird’s cap — forward Chris Copeland. The 29-year-old late-bloomer provided the Knicks with energetic play off the bench and surprising accuracy from beyond the arc (59-for-140, 42.1 percent). The 6-foot-8, 235-pounder gives Indy a rugged backup for David West and weakens a rival.

BROOKLYN NETS

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Loses: G C.J. Watson, G Keith Bogans, G MarShon Brooks, F Kris Humphries

Additions: G Jason Terry, G Shaun Livingston, G D.J. White, F Andrei Kirilenko, C/F Mason Plumlee (draft pick)

Why they’re better: While a pudgy Deron Williams hobbled about on bum ankles for the first couple of months last season, the Nets’ bench carried the team, so they were no slouches to begin with. But when you add Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the starting lineup, that turns rebounding machine Reggie Evans and offensive weapon Andray Blatche into reserves and instantly improves that group. Terry remains a dangerous streak shooter even after a down season in Boston. The 6-foot-7 Livingston has quietly resurrected his career and should find a home backing up D-Will, who played like an All-Star in the second half of last season. The coup was snagging Kirilenko, who signed for $3.18 million after opting out of his $10-million deal with Minnesota. Kirilenko is always a nagging injury away from missing handfuls of games at a time, but the 6-foot-9 countryman of Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov is a do-it-all stat-sheet-filler. He is a sneaky offensive presence on the baseline and a rangy defender the Nets can use against Carmelo Anthony and other rival scoring threats.