Posts Tagged ‘Hasheem Thabeet’

Report: Former No. 1 pick Bennett nearing buyout with Wolves

He was included as a throw-in during a trade after his rookie season. He couldn’t crack the upper rotation of the Timberwolves last season. He will become the only No. 1 overall pick not to see the fourth year of his rookie contract or get an extension. He may need to continue his professional basketball career overseas.

He is Anthony Bennett, and is there any doubt whether he ranks among the biggest of busts?

In some respects, such a harsh label might be a bit unfair to Bennett, who is in the final stages of negotiating a buyout with the Timberwolves, according to a Yahoo! report. After all, he didn’t draft himself in 2013. He didn’t enter the NBA with grandiose expectations other than being a No. 1 overall pick. He had only one decent season in college. And he was part of what was projected as the least talented draft classes in years.

And yet: Bennett seems lost on this level of the game. He’s a classic ‘tweener who doesn’t do anything exceptionally well. He lacks range on his jumper, can’t hit a shot with any consistency, and lacks the low-post polish to be a brute near the rim. He’s caught in the middle, wayward, confused about his role and his potential, and fighting an uphill battle trying to impress the NBA that he has staying power, or a place other than on the bench.

He dealt with a shoulder injury that interrupted the start of his NBA career, but that only delayed the inevitable. It took him 33 games before he recorded a double-figure scoring game. The Cavs, who drafted him, had no use for him, other than using him to pad a deal for Kevin Love; Andrew Wiggins was Minnesota’s prize in that trade. And then last season with the Wolves, on a team in transition, Bennett couldn’t muscle his way into big playing time.

And if you can’t do that in Minnesota, where can you?

He is only 22 and he’s healthy. That might get him another look in the NBA, because there’s always one team that believes it can get the best out of a player such as Bennett. So he’ll get a chance, but where and when are the pressing questions. He might be served best by spending time overseas, or maybe a year in the D-League where he can get playing time and not be overwhelmed by the competition. That would allow him to gain confidence and stay in the loop. Of course, if he’s merely average, it could effectively kill his NBA career.

That’s what happened to former No. 2 overall pick Hasheem Thabeet, last seen playing for a D-League entry at the Las Vegas Summer League, and not playing very well. Bennett’s other obstacle is he isn’t a 7-footer; he’s merely an averaged-sized NBA player and they come a dime a dozen.

Strangely enough, none of the teams who took a chance on Bennett have suffered. The year after drafting Bennett, the Cavs signed LeBron James and used Wiggins, whom they drafted with another No. 1 pick, to get Love. They reached the NBA Finals last summer and could win it all next summer.

The Wolves are in a youth movement that seems to be moving in the right direction. Coincidentally, they landed the No. 1 overall pick in the June draft and took Karl-Anthony Towns, a big man with skills.

As for Bennett? His main job now is to avoid being lumped with LaRue Martin, Kwame Brown, Michael Olowokandi and a few others who “suffered” from being taken first overall in the draft. And he’ll have to do that somewhere other than Minnesota.


Ibaka’s absence brings ‘fluid’ lineups

By Jeff Caplan,

SAN ANTONIO — The Oklahoma City Thunder are doing their best sales job to suggest life without Serge Ibaka has to be business as usual. In basketball parlance, it’s simply next man up.

But, with 11:09 left in the second quarter of Monday’s Western Conference finals Game 1 against the San Antonio Spurs, the Thunder pulled out their most unusual lineup, especially for this juncture of the playoffs. Jeremy Lamb checked in for Kevin Durant, but the the little-used, second-year shooting guard getting such early run wasn’t the exceptional part. It was who he was running with: Derek Fisher, Reggie Jackson, Caron Butler and Steven Adams.

Kevin Durant will need some help in Game 2 (Wednesday, 9 p.m.)(Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE)

Kevin Durant will need some help in Wednesday’s Game 2 (9 p.m., TNT)(Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE)

“Our lineups can be very fluid and we have flexibility all year long to have done that,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said before Game 1. “We played small a lot and with Serge out, obviously we have more opportunities to play small.”

OKC climbed back from a 20-9 hole to 33-30 when Lamb came in for Durant. Exactly three minutes later, Lamb, whose head seemed to be on a swivel defensively as Spurs players raced by him to the bucket, checked out for Russell Westbrook and the Thunder trailed 45-37.

A small lineup that found success late in the second quarter was the unit of Westbrook, Jackson, Lamb, Durant and Kendrick Perkins. That group came together with 1:58 to go and OKC in big trouble, trailing 65-51. An 8-2 run trimmed the halftime deficit to a reasonable eight points, 67-59.

It’s a bad time of year to have to experiment with lineups. After the game, Brooks said he’s going to “have to find lineups that work.”

The Thunder’s best lineups are the ones in which Durant and Westbrook are on the floor together or, at least, with one of them in the lineup. And that’s mostly been the case. Durant logged 40 minutes in Game 1, the 13th time in 14 games this postseason in which he’s played at least 40 minutes, and the sixth in a row.

Brooks has to balance giving each of his stars some rest so they’re not totally gassed in the fourth quarter, but doing so while not putting the team at a severe disadvantage — which the Fisher-Jackson-Lamb-Butler-Adams group did.

There’s little choice for Brooks in deciding a starting lineup. Nick Collison is the only logical choice to fill in for Ibaka at power forward. Collison is a steadier player than the one that showed up Monday night and threw up three horribly off-target shots and was mostly poor defensively. A frontcourt of Perkins and Adams together doesn’t make much sense and Brooks clearly has little faith in 7-foot-3 center Hasheem Thabeet to contribute as a rim protector.

Although Brooks harped on defense after the game, his best bet might be to employ waves of small lineups that include Durant or Westbrook, or both, with Reggie Jackson and simply try to out-run and outscore the machine-like Spurs.

“I have faith in all of our guys to step in and do the job,” Brooks said. “No matter who we put on the floor, they have to be able to compete against this team. They have five guys that can score on the floor at the same time. You don’t have a possession off. Not one. We can’t hide anybody.”

Morning shootaround — March 22


Westbrook bangs knee; Durant scores 51 | Gasol leaves in walking boot | Knicks make it eight straight | Nash dishes 11 dimes | Bynum out indefinitely

VIDEO: Closer look at Durant’s 51-point performance

No. 1: Westbrook gets scare, Durant scores 51 — In a wild game at Toronto, Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook left in the third quarter after banging knees with Toronto’s Kyle Lowry. It was Westbrook’s right knee, the one he’s had three surgeries on since initially tearing the meniscus in the first round of last year’s playoffs. He immediately reacted to the pain and slammed his palm on the floor. He was assisted off the floor as the Thunder held their breath. More will be known as Westbrook is re-evaluated in Oklahoma City today. The Thunder won the game in dramatic fashion, 119-118, in double overtime. Kevin Durant capped a remarkable night with his seventh 3-pointer with 1.7 seconds to go, giving him 51 points. Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman has the details:

The official word is a right knee sprain, and the plan is to re-evaluate him Saturday in Oklahoma City.

Although Westbrook didn’t return to the Thunder’s thrilling 119-118 double-overtime victory over the Raptors, he was in great spirits after the game and said he doesn’t expect to miss any time. He left the Air Canada Centre walking just fine, without crutches or even a knee brace, just a routine black sleeve hidden under his pants.

And judging by Westbrook’s demeanor and that of his teammates and coach Scott Brooks, the injury didn’t appear to be serious.

“I feel good, man,” Westbrook said. “I’m pain-free. I’m just going to, (Saturday), get it looked at and go from there.”

The injury occurred with 7:37 remaining in the third quarter.

Westbrook made a slight jab-step beyond the 3-point line on the left wing. As Westbrook held his left foot in place as his pivot, Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry inadvertently bumped into Westbrook’s right knee while closing out.

Westbrook’s knee bent inward, and he immediately called a timeout, slamming the ball to the court upon doing so.

“You’ve been hurt before, you kind of get nervous like I did,” Westbrook said of his reaction.

After briefly attempting to walk off whatever pain or discomfort he was feeling, Westbrook was helped to the locker room by Thunder center Hasheem Thabeet and trainer Joe Sharpe. He remained in the dressing room for the duration of the game as the Thunder battled back from an eight-point deficit inside the final minute of double overtime.

Kevin Durant hit the game-winner, a 3-pointer from 31 feet with 1.7 seconds remaining. He then forced Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan into contested fadeaway from the right baseline. It fell short as the clock hit zero.

Durant finished with a game-high 51 points, his second 50-point game this season, and added 12 rebounds and seven assists.

“We couldn’t go another overtime,” Durant said. “So I had to live with whatever happened.”


VIDEO: Gasol injured in Grizzlies’ loss in Miami

No. 2: Gasol sprains left ankle — Midway through the third quarter, Grizzlies center Marc Gasol hobbled off the floor with a sprained left ankle and left the American Airlines Arena floor in a walking boot. It was a double whammy for the Grizzlies, one of the hottest teams in the NBA since Jan. 1. Not only must they wait and wonder about the health of the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, they lost a lead they had held for most of the game as the Heat pulled out the victory. More will be known on the severity of Gasol’s injury, but one thing is certain — Memphis needs its big man in the final month of the regular season to ensure it makes the playoffs, let alone have a chance to return to the Western Conference finals. Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal has more:

Memphis’ bigger issue seemed to be executing without Gasol.

The 7-footer left with 6:34 left in the third period. He was hurt earlier on a non-contact play. Gasol appeared to roll his ankle as he turned to run. Gasol left the arena wearing a walking boot and he’ll be re-evaluated Saturday before the Griz face the Indiana Pacers for the second game of a back-to-back.

“It made it tough, but we tried to play small and stretch them out,” Griz coach Dave Joerger said. “I thought we did a good job of getting it to Zach. He had a heck of a game.”

Gasol had been a force, too, and not just because of his 14 points and six rebounds.

“We were using him to make the second and third pass,” [Mike] Conley said. “He was playing point forward. The whole scheme went through him.”

The game was knotted at 68 entering the fourth quarter after both teams exchanged large scoring runs in the third. Memphis allowed a 12-point advantage to disappear in the final few minutes of the third.


No. 3: Knicks keep playoff push alive — The Knicks handed the Philadelphia 76ers their 23rd consecutive loss, but the bigger news was that New York kept its playoff hopes alive despite already having 40 losses as the calendar turns to spring. But that’s the beauty of the Eastern Conference, folks. And with the Atlanta Hawks losing, the Knicks moved within three games of the eighth and final playoff spot. And guess what? New York’s upcoming schedule offers even more hope with games against the hobbled Cavaliers and Lakers followed by the Kings. Peter Botte of the New York Daily News has the story:

With new team president Phil Jackson returning to his California home following his triumphant Garden return two nights earlier, the bench nearly coughed up a 17-point lead in a game the Knicks had controlled with five minutes left. But [Mike] Woodson turned back to his first unit in the final 30 seconds, and the Knicks just barely did what they had to do to survive and advance Friday night against a team that now has dropped 23 straight games, holding on for their season-best eighth straight win, 93-92, over the dreadful Sixers at Wells Fargo Center.

“We didn’t have no choice at that point. I felt like we had a very comfortable lead. It happened. Them guys never quit,” [Carmelo] Anthony said about having to return to the game after it looked like his night was finished. “You could just see the lead dwindling, possession by possession. You go from up (17) and you look up and we’re only up two with a couple of seconds on the clock, so hopefully we didn’t have to come up with a prayer.”


No. 4: Nash shines in return — Maybe 40-year-old Steve Nash has something left after all. Fighting injuries all season, the two-time MVP made yet another return Friday night just a week after being declared done for the season. The Los Angeles Lakers still lost to the Washington Wizards, but the aging wizard for L.A. put on quite a show, dishing out a season-high 11 assists to go with five points, four rebounds and three steals in 19 minutes. He came off the bench for the first time since March 9, 2000 with Dallas, snapping a stretch of 975 consecutive starts, reports Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times:

“Just to feel good and feel like you can make a play for your teammates and put pressure on the other team and move freely,” Nash said. “It’s why I love this game and that’s why I’ve kept fighting and trying to work in case I got another opportunity.”

Nash said he came out of the game in the fourth quarter after tweaking his back but remained hopeful he could play Sunday against the Orlando Magic. Lakers guard Xavier Henry also hurt his left wrist and said he would have an MRI exam on Saturday after X-rays were negative.

Nash made his first appearance since Feb. 11, when he suffered a recurrence of the nerve irritation in his back that has limited him to 11 games this season. There was concern in that Nash might never play another NBA game.

Lakers Coach Mike D’Antoni told reporters March 13 that Nash would not return this season because it didn’t make sense for him to push his 40-year-old body with so few games left.

Then Jordan Farmar strained his right groin in practice Monday, opening the door for Nash.
After entering the game to warm applause late in the first quarter, Nash quickly found Hill for a jump hook and made a couple of behind-the-back passes on the way to collecting five assists in his first six minutes.

D’Antoni said Nash probably would continue to come off the bench unless he “gets to a certain point and gets that good” because of limited practice time and the Lakers wanting to be cautious with his body.

Nash has one more season and $9.7 million left on his contract but could be waived by Sept. 1, allowing the Lakers to spread out his salary over three seasons.

He would prefer to prove over the next month that he’s ready to play one more.


No. 5:  Swelling puts Bynum on ice — If the Indiana Pacers truly signed big man Andrew Bynum to keep him away from the Miami Heat, well the Heat’s training staff will probably be sending a thank-you card. Experiencing continued swelling and soreness in his right knee, Bynum will be out indefinitely, the team announced Friday. Bynum signed with the Pacers on Feb. 1, but has played in just two games. On a strange note, although not so much when it comes to Bynum, he reportedly got his hair cut at halftime of Friday’s game against Chicago. Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star has more on Bynum’s injury status:

Bynum has played in two games with the Pacers, averaging 11.5 points and 9.5 rebounds in just under 18 minutes per game.

Though the Pacers expected to play Bynum in short spurts, last Saturday he reached 20 minutes against the Detroit Pistons. Since then, Bynum has been on the inactive list.

On Tuesday, Bynum, who did not participate in practice, said after the session that his swollen right knee needed to be drained.

“This one is a lot more concerning for me because it caused me a lot more fluid,” Bynum said.

Now days later, Pacers coach Frank Vogel answered “no” when asked if there had been any progress with Bynum’s knee since the return from Detroit.

“There’s still swelling,” Vogel said on Friday. “I really don’t have anything new. Other than it’s swollen right now, we’ll give you an update when we’re ready to.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Heat present Mike Miller his 2013 championship ring as Grizzlies visit Miami … Tony Parker says he will play five or six more years with Spurs then play for French team he owns … Andre Miller says Nuggets made him out to be the bad guyKevin Garnett is unsure of return from back spasms … Bobcats ask Charlotte for $34.1 million to improve arena.

BWB Africa: Fulfilling The Dreams

Basketball Without Borders Africa

NBA players, coaches and others attended the Basketball Without Borders camp in Johannesburg.

HANG TIME, Texas — It was just a few days after the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial that Kyrie Irving saw other dreams.

They were in one of the impoverished townships outside of Johannesburg. They were in classrooms where hungry minds craved answers for a better life. They were on the basketball courts where raw talent gathered to show their skills and sought a way out. They were on so many of the faces that crossed his path during the 11th edition of Basketball Without Borders, Africa.

“In my short NBA career, I’ve had lots of great experiences,” said the Cavs’ 21-year-old point guard during a phone conversation from South Africa. “Just being in the league, winning Rookie of the Year, playing against guys that I looked up to. But being here is an amazing experience in a completely different way.

“Kids are kids no matter where you go in the world and they’re always going to get a smile out of you and make you happy. But these kids that we’ve worked with here in the camps and the younger kids that we’ve met in the schools, they seem to draw even more out of you, because of the environment they come from.

“I’ve traveled around a bit and taken part in some UNICEF programs in the past. You think you’ve seen some situations that are bad. But the poverty in Africa is overwhelming. There are levels of poverty that I’m not sure we can understand as Americans without actually having been here.

“Some of the kids knew my name, who I was, where I played in the NBA. Others didn’t. All they wanted was somebody to be with them and be there for them. That’s the way we have to approach it — help one kid at a time.”

Basketball without Borders is the NBA and FIBA’s global basketball development and social responsibility program that aims to create positive social change in the areas of education, health, and wellness. To date, there have been 36 BWB camps in 21 cities across 18 countries on five continents.

The program has featured more than 150 current and former NBA/WNBA players and nearly 140 NBA team personnel from all 30 NBA teams as camp coaches and mentors.

The inaugural BWB camp was in July 2001 led by former NBA players Vlade Divac and Toni Kukoc, for 50 children from five nations of the former Yugoslavia. In 2013, BWB were held in three countries on three continents: Argentina, Portugal and South Africa.

FIBA and local federations help identify 50 to 65 of the top basketball players 18 and under from countries across the related continent to attend.

BWB has featured over 1,700 campers from over 120 countries and 28 BWB campers have been drafted into the NBA. There are currently 11 BWB alumni on NBA rosters: Jonas Valanciunas, Raptors/Lithuania; Donatas Motiejunas, Rockets/Lithuania; Enes Kanter, Jazz/Turkey; Greivis Vasquez, Kings/Venezuela; Omri Casspi, Rockets/Israel; Luc Mbah A Moute, Kings/Cameroon; Danilo Gallinari, Nuggets/Italy; Nicolas Batum, Trail Blazers/France; Marco Belinelli, Spurs/Italy; Marc Gasol, Grizzlies/Spain; Andrea Bargnani, Knicks/Italy.

Four former BWB campers were drafted in 2013: Sergey Karasev, Cavaliers/Russia; Kelly Olynyk, Celtics/Canada; Gorgui Dieng, Timberwolves/Senegal; Arsalan Kazemi, 76ers/Iran.

Other NBA players in South Africa were: Thabo Sefolosha, Serge Ibaka and Hasheem Thabeet of the Thunder, Jerryd Bayless of the Grizzlies; Bismack Biyombo of the Bobcats, Luol Deng of the Bulls, Al Horford of the Hawks and NBA Global Ambassador Dikembe Mutombo.

NBA coaches took part, too, including Tyrone Corbin (Jazz); Luca Desta (Mavericks); Mark Hughes (Knicks); BJ Johnson (Rockets); Jamahl Mosley (Cavaliers); Patrick Mutombo (Nuggets); Monty Williams (Pelicans) and ex-Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins.

The BWB program has been a favorite of Dikembe Mutombo, who attended the first in Johannesburg more than a decade ago.

“The biggest difference that I see from when we held the first camp here is the level of play,” Mutombo said. “Back then, a lot of guys were just lucky to be able to get into the gym and show a little bit. Now they’re getting coaching, getting direction and they are giving themselves a real chance for a better life.

“We all know that it is a long shot for anyone to make it into the NBA, even more when you’re coming from the background of Africa. That’s why the real goal for a lot of these kids is to come here and attract attention and maybe get an opportunity to come to the United States for a high school education, to play basketball and then maybe to attend an American university.

“To me, that’s how we make the world, and Africa in particular, a better place. We lift these kids up, educate them and hopefully many of them will return to their countries and try to make things better.”

Irving recalled that he had learned about apartheid in schools while he was growing up, but that had not prepared him for an up-close experience with people who had lived through it.

“To me, Steve Biko and Hector Pieterson were names I read in books,” Irving said. “But here I’m walking where they walked and talking with their people. It’s had more of an impact. It makes me know that I want to come back to Africa and do what I can in the future.”

The 47-year-old Mutombo, a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo, rarely misses an opportunity. He had spent millions of his own dollars building a hospital in his mother’s name in his homeland and has spent more to erect dormitories and classrooms during his many BWB trips to South Africa.

“On the anniversary of Dr. King’s speech, I took time to stop and think,” Mutombo said. “I have achieved so many blessings in my life after a childhood of poverty. I achieved a dream of working and getting noticed and getting myself an education.

“I realized a dream of playing basketball for a living and having the NBA doors open for me. I realized a dream of making a fortune and being able to use it to go back home and help my people. I realized a dream to build a hospital in my country.

“We all have to dream because big things are possible, especially in a world that has gotten smaller with things like cell phones and Facebook and Twitter.

“I tell these young players that come here that we’re all connected. What Dr. King was talking about fifty years ago was not African-American dreams or American dreams. These are human dreams all over the world and every time I come here see a young player like Kyrie with his eyes wide open on his first trip, I feel like we can fulfill more.”

Did OKC Loss Prove Lakers Have A Shot … Or That They Are Simply Shot?


OKLAHOMA CITY — It was a glass half-full, glass half-empty kind of night for the Los Angeles Lakers against the reigning West champs.

In one sense, everything that could go wrong Tuesday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder did. Kobe Bryant banged a nerve in his right elbow in the opening minutes, briefly had to leave the game and played through pain all night. Moments later Dwight Howard signaled for a timeout as the torn labrum in his ailing right shoulder seemed to flare. That issue and foul trouble made him a non-factor on either end of the floor, finishing with as many points (six) as fouls and as many field goals (one) as OKC’s six-minute man Hasheem Thabeet.

Yet despite a disaster of a 71-55 first half that sent Magic Johnson panic tweeting about deficient defense, a Steve Nash 3-pointer with 6:14 to go in the game made it OKC 110, L.A. 105, and a bit of apprehension gripped Loud City where the Thunder almost never lose.

The Lakers couldn’t buy a bucket the rest of the way; in fact, they didn’t score again and a game that felt like a Thunder rout throughout but wasn’t, ended up one anyway, 122-105. 

“Kobe didn’t look hurt to me. We’re not going to feel sorry for them,” Kevin Durant said. “If they’re out there playing then they can play. Kobe looked fine. Dwight [Howard] looked fine. We know they’re a resilient team, they’ve been fighting hard all year. They made some shots in that second half. They were making 3s, hitting contested 2s.”

If — and it remains a big if — the Lakers make the playoffs, they very likely could face this incredibly athletic and talented Thunder cast in the first round. If you’re buying half-full after this one then you believe that the Lakers are improving, that with a little more time, with a more engaged Howard (six points, six fouls, 16 rebounds in 37 minutes), with the likely return of Pau Gasol, they can at least muster up a scare.

If you’ve accepted that the 30-31 Lakers’ glass is half-empty with 21 games left, which in practical terms means their playoff tank is virtually bone dry, the view is that Kobe’s old-and-slow crew simply isn’t in the same class as the young Thunder with their dynamic, practically unguardable duo of Durant and Russell Westbrook, who was Wednesday’s leading scorer with 37 points on 15-for-29 shooting, plus 10 rebounds and five assists.

So which is it, half-full and rising or half-empty and leaking? Kobe just might have provided the answer when asked if the Lakers have the depth to make a seven-game series competitive with the Thunder, who got 63 points from Durant and Westbrook, and 39 more from its bench despite a slumping Kevin Martin.

“We do, but we don’t have the athleticism that they do, so if we allow them to play to their strengths and use their athleticism we’re going to be in trouble,” said Kobe, who finished with 30 points and a bum elbow. “They’re ready to get up and down and use their speed to get to the rim and we have to be able to alter that. If we can stay in front of the ball and be solid defensively, we give ourselves a much better chance.”

If …

The fact is the Lakers aren’t built to stay in front of the Thunder. Westbrook, 24, can’t be guarded by the 39-year-old Nash, and if Kobe’s on Westbrook then he can’t be on Durant, who is too much for Metta World Peace. Even speedy second-year guard Reggie Jackson had his way in the paint, juking for two key drives in the fourth quarter. The Lakers’ perimeter defense — and transition defense — failed miserably and Howard either wasn’t in position to guard the paint or was hung out to dry.

The numbers are jarring in the categories that include being able to “stay in front of the ball and be solid defensively.”

OKC outscored L.A. 52-22 in the paint and 22-6 on fast-break points. The Lakers committed 16 turnovers that the Thunder turned into 22 points. Meanwhile, in an anomaly, OKC tied an NBA record with just two turnovers. That won’t happen again, but unless the Lakers get a grip on their own turnovers — which they haven’t all season, ranking 27th in the league — it simply won’t matter.

No team other than the Miami Heat cashes turnovers into points more quickly than the Thunder.

But for those who insist on the Lakers’ glass still being half-full:

“I still think our team is capable,” said Nash, who corrected a 1-for-7 first half from the floor to score 20 points on 7-for-15 shooting. “I don’t think we had a good performance tonight by any means and we still had our chances to cut the lead to two or three a couple times. This is a process for our team. By no means are we a finished product or even in a comfortable place. We’re just trying to find ourselves still.”

They’ll find themselves in New Orleans Wednesday night, desperate again to get a win.

Wait … Kevin Durant Is How Tall?

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — As the Oklahoma City Thunder wrapped up morning shootaround a couple weeks ago in Dallas, Kevin Durant was asked about the one-legged fadeaway he borrowed from Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki and inserted into his own arsenal.

“I wanted to learn it because I’m 6-9 and Dirk used it so much on us in the playoffs and in the regular season,” Durant said.

Durant went on to talk about how if Dirk could master the shot then so could he, and with his length how difficult the shot is to block and this and that. But, I barely heard any of it as I fixated on the first part of his sentence. It bounced around in my brain like Durant splitting the lane with a dribble drive and finishing it off with a tomahawk jam.

“I wanted to learn it because I’m 6-9…

“…because I’m 6-9…”


Wait, Kevin Durant is 6-what?

“How tall is he?” OKC coach Scott Brooks said rhetorically. “Before or after a haircut?”

It says it right here in black-and-white in the Oklahoma City Thunder media guide. And it says it here and in all of the previous Oklahoma City Thunder game notes since Durant’s first game as a rookie with Seattle that he’s 6-feet, 9-inches. 


There’s been players who measure darn close to 7-feet tall if not 7-feet tall that have preferred to go by 6-11. But 6-9? Please, it’s insulting.

“Probably 6-11,” said backup point guard Reggie Jackson, who is a legitimate 6-foot-3. “I don’t want to boost his ego too much. He’s not 6-9. I’ll say 6-10 1/2, in shorts.”

In shorts? Huh?

Reserve guard Eric Maynor was the only Thunder to peg Durant at 7-foot, then he looked over at 7-foot-3 center Hasheem Thabeet and said of Durant’s mysterious height, “7-3?”

“Six-10,” Thabeet said. “He’s not as tall as me.”

Center Kendrick Perkins looked over at Durant, who was listening to music through his headphones a few stalls down, smiled and said, “6-11,” which would put Durant an inch above Perk’s scowl when face-to-face.

Russell Westbrook agreed with Thabeet: 6-10.

So to review, we have Durant’s official height listed at 6-9 — the one KD perpetuates — and then every inch thereafter up to the full 84.

What other player can span a tape measure like that and induce such heated debate in his own locker room?

OK, coach Brooks, care to give your estimation, before and/or after haircut?

“Six-10,” Brooks said, hardly convincingly. “Ish.”


These Six Still Have Something To Prove

It’s just two weeks from tonight when Miami and Boston resume their blood feud on the occasion of the Heat’s ring ceremony, and then the rebuilt Lakers will take on the Mavericks to close out the TNT doubleheader on opening night.

But that means there is still time for adjustment, improvement, healing and just plain eyeballing players who had something to prove going into training camp. Now midway through the preseason schedule, here’s a six-pack who still bear watching:

Jeremy Lin, Rockets — Nobody expected him to walk in and turn the clock back to the “Linsanity” of last February. But now that he’s been installed as the face of a completely rebuilt team, the Rockets need Lin to play more confidently and effectively than he’s shown in his first four preseason games. The point guard has made just 21.1 percent of his shots, including 0-for-5 on 3-pointers, and averaged 4.7 assists.

“I’m just trying to find my rhythm, find my comfort level again,” Lin said. “I can’t live with this in a season. I have a lot to learn.”

“He’ll have to be better,” said coach Kevin McHale after a particularly dismal effort against the Spurs on Sunday, where Lin made just 1 of 10 shots.

“That’s going to be a thing where he’s going to have to … He’s a young kid. We’re not talking about a 30-year-old guy, 10-year vet. You’re talking about a guy that has 20 starts under his belt.” (more…)

Report: Knicks Land Camby In Sign-And-Trade Deal

The New York Knicks continued to spend for quality depth before the end of the July Moratorium, agreeing to terms with veteran center Marcus Camby on a three-year, $13 million contract Monday in a sign-and-trade deal with Houston that will send Toney Douglas, Josh Harrelson and Jerome Jordan to the Rockets, along with two future second-round picks.

The 38-year-old Camby is still a productive player, averaging 7.1 points and 9.3 rebounds last season in 24 minutes a night for the Rockets after being traded to Houston from Portland for Jonny Flynn and Hasheem Thabeet. In New York he’ll be the backup to starter Tyson Chandler at center and spot Amar’e Stoudemire at power forward. It will be Camby’s second tour of duty in New York, after playing for the Knicks from 1998-2002.

His deal, according to a source, is only partially guaranteed for the third season, meaning it will either be a two-year deal for $10 million or revert to the three-year, $13 million deal if New York decides to keep him.

Douglas saw significant playing time as a rookie, but injuries and the electric play of Jeremy Lin consigned him to a deep reserve role last season. But in Houston, Douglas will be one of the few point guards on the roster. The Rockets have committed to giving Lin a four-year deal worth $28 million when the free-agent moratorium ends on July 11, but the Knicks are almost certain to match.

New York also agreed to terms last week with Jason Kidd to be Lin’s backup next season. Houston lost free agent Goran Dragic to the Suns in a free-agent deal and opted to trade last season’s starter at the beginning of the year, Kyle Lowry, to Toronto for a conditional Lottery pick.


No. 2 Can Mean Distant Second In NBA

Life is a lot better on Draft night than in free agency for the fellows selected second each June.

That point was driven home again Thursday with reports that Hasheem Thabeet and Michael Beasley are headed to new teams, yet again, as they seek traction to their sputtering NBA careers.

You would think that getting picked just one spot from the top would yield happiness and security for lads like them and others, but it often doesn’t work out that way.

Thabeet, the No. 2 pick in 2009, will join his fourth team in four seasons when his modest two-year deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder becomes official next week. Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman has the details on the move for the reigning Western Conference champs:

The addition of Thabeet all but guarantees veteran center Nazr Mohammed will not return to the Thunder. If not, that paves the way for third-year center Cole Aldrich to step into the primary backup role behind starter Kendrick Perkins. Thabeet is expected to be the third-string center.

Adding Thabeet also helps the Thunder preserve precious salary cap space, most of which will go toward paying its young players. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook already are locked into maximum-allowable contracts. Harden, Serge Ibaka and Eric Maynor are all now eligible for extensions to their rookie deals.

What the Thunder is doing in bringing in Thabeet, 25, is taking a flyer on a one-time promising prospect without paying him much and hoping he can develop into the player he once was capable of being. If he does, the Thunder gets a steal. If not, the team will not have lost anything. (more…)

Trail Blazers Send Camby To Houston

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Veteran center Marcus Camby is on the move again, this time to Houston that continues the Portland Trail Blazers’ roster trade deadline roster makeover. The deal was first reported by Yahoo! Sports.

The Trail Blazers will receive Hasheem Thabeet and point guard Jonny Flynn from the Rockets. Portland will take a totally new team on the floor after this afternoon’s trade deadline, including Mehmet Okur and Shawne Williams from an earlier deal with New Jersey.

The Trail Blazers are also in discussions with several teams about moving veteran guard Jamal Crawford as well.