Posts Tagged ‘John Henson’

Bucks see brighter ‘next tomorrow’ thanks to Parker, Antetokounmpo


VIDEO: Giannis Antetokounmpo looking toward 2014-15 season

ST. FRANCIS, Wis. – John Henson won’t turn 24 until three days after Christmas, but when you get him talking about his precocious Milwaukee Bucks’ teammates Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo, you start looking around for a front porch and a rocking chair. Henson isn’t about to drop a “whippersnapper” on anyone but yes, he admitted this week, the two kids do make him feel old.

“It does, man,” Henson said after a morning session Wednesday in coach Jason Kidd‘s first Bucks camp. “When I was 19, I was a sophomore in college, not even thinking about the NBA. It’s interesting, man. I’m as excited to see them grow as anybody else.”

The number of anybody elses is unusually high, too, considering it’s, well, Milwaukee. A training camp visit by a major sports network added to the buzz.

“I think it’s good to have some excitement out here,” Henson said. “I saw the ESPN [production] truck out there, I didn’t know what was going on. I had to search my app and make sure nothing came up. They were just talking about training camp. So that’s something that’s new for me here.”

The days of ignoring the Bucks are dwindling. Used to be, some big media enterprise or national reporter would wait for Milwaukee to come to them, say, for a road game in New York or L.A. It’d be a quick peek and then, yeah, back to flyover status for a team stuck somewhere in the NBA’s steerage class of the flawed and the futile.

Now the Bucks boast two of the league’s most promising, young talents. Parker and Antetokounmpo are twin sources of optimism and untapped potential for a franchise with new ownership, a new coach, hopes for a new arena and a fresh set of ambitions.

Last season, the Bucks lost their way to the opportunity to draft Parker with the No. 2 pick in the June draft. The rookie hopes he doesn’t have to go through anything resembling their 15-67 season.

“I think the guys really don’t take winning for granted, because they lost so much,” Parker said, sharing his first impression of his new team. “So with that attitude, that mindset, they appreciate winning a little more. They leave it out on the floor, just play with a little bit more heart, because they know winning isn’t guaranteed.”

It might be more achievable, at least, with the two teens in tow.

Parker and Antetokounmpo got to this point from widely divergent paths The former has competed at basketball’s highest levels in high school (Simeon in Chicago, Ill.) and college (Duke) before turning pro last spring in a flip-a-coin decision with Andrew Wiggins atop the 2014 draft.

Parker went second, which gave him way more stability this summer as the Bucks pledged their allegiance from the start. Wiggins, meanwhile, got embraced by the Cavaliers, got excited about LeBron James‘ return to Cleveland and then got traded to Minnesota as the major chip delivering Kevin Love.

Parker, listed at 6-foot-8 and 240 pounds, also got a head start on this whole NBA thing as the son of former Golden State forward Sonny Parker (1976-82).

“His time was different,” Parker said of going to school on his father’s experience. “During the ’70s and ’80s, they flew commercial all the time. And they practiced in two-a-days for a month straight, maybe even longer.

“But what he told me to remember is, the game never changes. Players change. But keep that same mentality. The rules of success, that formula, never changes. He always tells me to keep it by the playbook.”

Sonny Parker averaged 9.9 points and 4.1 rebounds in 24.2 minutes, the first two of which some Bucks fans might expect Jabari to double in his rookie season. But the younger Parker isn’t talking numbers and he’s maintaining perspective.

“Until I get to my sixth year, he’s got it over me,” he said of his father. “I’ve got to just listen to him and hopefully I’ll get to where he was.”

Parker and the Bucks have penciled him in as a power forward, a nod to his build and relative athleticism. He has impressed the staff and his new teammates with his diligence and his humility – even Antetokounmpo said, “He’s a great kid” – and has shrugged off early predictions as the Rookie of the Year favorite.

“More advanced, more comfortable,” Antetokounmpo said of the difference between his rookie arrival and Parker’s. “That confidence he has, for a young guy, he surprises you. He’s got, like, nerves. He’s always … how can I say it? … he don’t care who’s going to guard him. He even doesn’t care who he’s going to defend. Whether it’s a young guy or a big guy, he don’t care, he just plays his game.”

Said Henson: “Great rookie to have – comes in, works hard, doesn’t say much. Bought a stereo for the locker room so we can listen to music. Just goes about his business.”

If Parker is headed to power forward, Antetokounmpo could have his position decided by dartboard. Drafted 15th overall in 2013 as a raw sleeper pick from Greece, the lanky teen from Athens grew another two inches in the offseason. Now he’s 6-foot-11 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan and notions of actually playing point guard for one of the game’s all-time greats at that spot. Everyone in Milwaukee’s camp keeps a straight face on the possibility, too.

“We try to stay away from labeling,” Kidd said. “The one thing he has is a natural instinct to make plays and find ways to win. As far as being a point guard, I think he can start the offense, he can go coast-to-coast – he’s very comfortable with the ball in the open court.”

Can Antetokounmpo guard some of the gnats and water bugs among NBA point guards?

“We’ll see,” Kidd said. “He probably could play center. Y’know, 6-11. Guys, whatever they can do to help a team win. Magic [Johnson] played all positions to help win a championship [in 1980 with the Lakers]. When you have that type of ability and skill level to play multiple positions, it helps the coach, it helps your teammates and it also gives you more time on the floor.’

The key differences in their development, in Kidd’s eyes, are the refinements with which Parker has grown up, different from the rough edges so to be sanded off Antetokounmpo. But if Parker can produce half the YouTube moments that the “Greek Freak” did in 2013-14, the Bucks will be thrilled.

“You’re probably looking at small things – fundamentals, footwork – when you look at Jabari,” Kidd said. “But he probably isn’t growing any more. Giannis has grown over two inches – he gets accustomed to being 6-9, he wakes up and he’s 6-11. … He has to go through kind of understanding his body.

“They’re both 19 year olds, they’re both different. But they’re both capable of playing at a high level in due time.”

Some Milwaukee fans are thinking five, 10, even 15 years ahead with both these guys in the lineup. That’s a little far out there for Parker and Antetokounmpo.

“I’m thinking day by day,” Antetokounmpo said. “Hopefully we stick here for long years and everything goes well and we take the Bucks back to a championship like before [1971]. But if you don’t play hard now or tomorrow or the next tomorrow, it can’t happen.”

Morning Shootaround — Dec. 29


VIDEO: The Daily Zap, a quick rundown of the 12 games played Dec. 28

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Bosh rises to sink Blazers | Smith lashes out at Cheeks | Clippers interested in Bynum? | Wolves back to .500

No. 1: Bosh rises to sink Blazers — On a night the Miami Heat were looking to avoid consecutive losses for the third time this season, LeBron James sat out with a groin injury and Dwyane Wade didn’t have it going. But there was the often overlooked member of the Big Three, Chris Bosh, an All-Star in his own right, standing by to save the day. The Heat’s power forward outplayed LaMarcus Aldridge, posting 37 points, including the game-winning 3-pointer in the final seconds to beat the Portland Trail Blazers, the West’s No. 1 team. In the final huddle Heat coach Erik Spoelstra drew up a play, but Bosh overruled it, wanting to take the 3, and Spoelstra smartly rolled with it. After Bosh drilled the shot, the Heat bench, including James, erupted and showered Bosh with a wild celebration that revealed how big that win was and how much Bosh’s teammates enjoy seeing him succeed.
Ethan Skolnick of Bleacher Report provides the details:

“My call at the end of the game was much more conservative,” Spoelstra said, after the Heat’s 108-107 victory. “I drew something up to get him on the move, and he said no, I want it for three.”

Bosh wanted the extra space, especially since he knew his momentum would take him away from the hoop anyway.

He wanted the extra point too.

“I told him I wanted to go for the jugular,” Bosh said.

“So he overruled it and became a prophet,” Spoelstra said. “Why did I even diagram something else for him? I mean, he already hit two threes. He was feeling it, he wanted it, and as soon as he said it, I said, ‘Yeah, that makes sense.’ It was much better than what I had planned.”

It was. So much better.

Norris Cole inbounded to Dwyane Wade from the left side, with Mario Chalmers running Damian Lillard down the baseline from right to left, while Ray Allen occupied Mo Williams‘ attention on the left wing. It was similar to the previous play, in which Allen’s screen freed Wade for a slam.

Bosh set a brush screen—and this time, Aldridge left him to help Nicolas Batum chase down Wade.

“My job was to drive his man to me,” Wade said.

It went just as they planned.

“It didn’t really go exactly like that,” Wade said.

OK, it didn’t. Wade lost the handle briefly, before chucking the ball behind him on one bounce, fortunate that Williams didn’t budge.

“He threw a crazy pass a little bit, I’m not going to lie,” Bosh said. “But I was able to see it, nobody was in the vicinity, so I didn’t have to rush, and I was able to lock into the goal the whole time.”

Bosh collected it with his left side touching the three-point line, backing up, stepping in and launching from 26 feet with 2.6 seconds left.

With 0.5 seconds left, it fell through.

***

No. 2: Smith lashes out at Cheeks — The Detroit Pistons were on the verge of hitting .500, but have now lost four of five and two in a row, blasted on back-to-back nights by Orlando and then at Washington on Saturday. And now the Pistons have the first signs of internal conflict brewing with big free-agent acquisition Josh Smith unhappy about being benched for the entire second half and suggesting that coach Maurice Cheeks called him out for not playing hard. As David Mayo of MLive reports:

Josh Smith didn’t play the second half of a 106-82 blowout against the Washington Wizards, the second time head coach Maurice Cheeks has made that decision this season.

This time, Smith suggested Cheeks called him out for not playing hard, and that he took “real offense” to the accusation.

Smith also was benched the second half of a Nov. 12 game at Golden State.

“Like I told y’all before when we had this conversation, when you hit adverse times, characters are gonna be tested,” Smith said. “It’s either that we’re gonna come closer together and make it all one team, or are you gonna use a scapegoat to get away from what’s really at hand?”

What’s really at hand is the Pistons (14-18) have lost four of five, bombed in a two-game road trip against sub-.500 teams this weekend, and now have their first hint of internal upheaval.

How long it lasts remains to be seen.

Asked if Smith will start Monday’s home rematch with the Wizards, Cheeks replied, “I assume he will. I don’t know why he wouldn’t. We’ll wait until that next game gets there.”

Smith said he isn’t inclined to have a personal discussion with Cheeks about their disagreement before the next game.

“To me, it’s over with,” Smith said. “But you know, some people hold grudges longer than others. I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m not saying that he (Cheeks) does. I don’t know.

“But I’m not the type of person that really likes to go all the time in the coach’s office and have one-on-one sitdowns. I’m more of a team morale guy, worrying about what we can do, as far as teammates are concerned, to make ourselves more successful.”

***

No. 3: Clippers interested in Bynum?The former Lakers big man, troubled by knee injuries and possibly a lack of desire to play at the highest level, was suspended indefinitely by the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday for conduct detrimental to the team. Reports have the Cavs eager to deal Andrew Bynum. The Clippers, in need of frontline support behind center DeAndre Jordan and power forward Blake Griffin, could be one team interested in trying to make it work with the troubled 7-footer who had not long ago put himself in the discussion alongside Dwight Howard as the league’s top center. Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times breaks it down:

The Clippers would have interest in Bynum if he was released by the Cavaliers, according to several NBA executives who were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

But according to one Eastern Conference executive, the Clippers would have competition for Bynum because the Miami Heat also would have interest in the seven-footer.

The Clippers have the NBA-maximum 15-player roster and would have to waive a player if they were to sign Bynum, who is still only 26.

The Cavaliers signed Bynum to a two-year, $24-million deal over the summer. But only $6 million of Bynum’s $12.2-million contract for this season is guaranteed if he is waived before Jan. 7.

The Eastern Conference executive said it’s possible Bynum will be released by the Cavaliers in early January if they can’t trade him so the team is not on the hook for the last $6 million Bynum would be owed.

Bynum has averaged 8.4 points and 5.3 rebounds in 20.0 minutes in the 24 games he has played with the Cavaliers. He had 18 points and six rebounds in 24 minutes when he started for the Cavaliers against the Clippers on Dec. 7

.***

No. 4: Wolves back to .500It had been since Dec. 10-11 that the Minnesota Timberwolves had won consecutive games. A team expected to make the playoffs this season following last year’s disastrous injury problems, the Wolves have yet to find any consistency and have lost late leads in multiple games. On Saturday night, they avoided a letdown on the second night of a back-to-back, blowing out woeful Milwaukee to get back to .500. They haven’t won three in a row since starting the season with three consecutive victories. They’ll get the chance to match their season-high win streak at home on Monday against the Dallas Mavericks, a team they handled twice in November. Kent Youngblood of the Minnesota Star Tribune has the story:

The message, at halftime, was something like this: Don’t let it happen again.

The Timberwolves were winning against the lowly Bucks on the road Saturday night, but Milwaukee was getting too many easy baskets and points in the paint. This was feeling a bit too much like last week’s game against the Lakers. Or the week before in Boston, when the Wolves had followed an impressive win with a listless loss.

Not to worry.

With Kevin Love leading the way, the Wolves scored the first 14 points of the third quarter and built their lead to as much as 31 late in the quarter at Bradley Center. That was enough to withstand some shoddy play by the bench to start the fourth quarter. The result was a 117-95 victory that ended a three-game road losing streak and put the Wolves (15-15) back at .500 with five of their next six games at home.

“We haven’t played great in the second night of back-to-backs,” said Love, who scored 33 points with 15 rebounds. He made four of six three-pointers and had six assists. It was his 10th consecutive game with 25 or more points, most in the league this season, and his fifth game with at least 30 points and 15 rebounds.

The Wolves, who won Friday against Washington, have won two in a row, sweeping both ends of a back-to-back for only the second time in eight tries this season. Love and center Nikola Pekovic (19 points, 11 rebounds) took advantage of a Bucks lineup missing 6-11 John Henson. Kevin Martin added 20 points and Corey Brewer had 12.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Deron Williams‘ season keeps getting uglier as Nets get crushed by superior Pacers … Knicks hope to get Carmelo Anthony back for tough Texas road swing. … Bradley Beal makes welcome return 24 hours after limping off the floor and helps Wizards rout of Pistons … Nets center Brook Lopez will undergo foot surgery next Saturday

Sanders Frustrated By Short Minutes

VIDEO: Larry Sanders might need more quality minutes for more quality work

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MILWAUKEE – It is pro sports’ chicken-or-egg quandary, setting up an eternal conflict between coaches and athletes: Does a player play more when he plays better, or does the player play better when he plays more?

Milwaukee center Larry Sanders is solidly in the camp of the latter. Bucks coach Larry Drew? Leaning more toward the former right now.

Sanders – the 6-foot-11 defensive savant whose breakthrough 2012-13 season included strong support for the Defensive Player (seventh) and Most Improved (third) awards, as well as a four-year, $44 million extension over the summer – is one frustrated shot-swatter and rebounder at the moment.

Through Milwaukee’s first three games, his production is down significantly: 2.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and 17.3 minutes, compared to last season’s 9.8, 9.5, 2.8 and 27.3. After taking an average of 8.5 shots and making about half (50.6) in 2012-13, he has shot 4-for-16 so far, in a mixed bag of jump hooks, short jumpers and layups.

Sanders has been the opposite of smooth, offensively, looking at times like he’s wrestling a lawn chair. And in his view, he hasn’t broken enough of a sweat to do much better. He played 21:37 in the Bucks’ 97-90 loss to Toronto Saturday at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, contributing four points, four boards and one block.

“I feel like I’m capable of being in the game at the end and helping my team win, coming up with blocks and rebounds,” Sanders told NBA.com before exiting the locker room swiftly. “I haven’t been able to get my rhythm out there. I understand foul trouble situations, but tonight I wasn’t in foul trouble.

“Last year I finished so many games. I feel like that’s when I lock in the most. But I haven’t been able to get in the game to finish. That carries over to the next game. When you sit the last three quarters of each game, I can’t have no carryover. And it’s hard for me. I’m still a young player. It’s only my eighth year playing basketball.”

Sanders, 24, has played only 15 of his 52 minutes so far in the second half. He logged 3:12 at New York Wednesday, 5:34 at Boston Friday and 6:18 against the Raptors after the break. But then, the Bucks outscored the Knicks 52-34 after halftime and the Celtics 58-35. They had a 39-34 edge on the Raptors through 18 minutes of the second half Saturday before slipping back to lose the game by seven (and the half, 46-44).

Drew’s lineup in the fourth quarter Saturday primarly was O.J. Mayo and rookie point Nate Wolters in the backcourt, Khris Middleton, John Henson and 18-year-old project Giannis Antetokounmpo up front. That group, over the first 6:07 of the quarter, erased Toronto’s 12-point lead, getting the Bucks even at 85-85.

Drew subbed in Caron Butler for Middleton, who had missed a pair of free throws and a couple layups, over the final 3:04. Milwaukee got no closer than three.

“Throughout the game,” Drew said, “I just didn’t feel like we put a burst together, where we were really moving and flying around. So I elected to go smaller in the fourth quarter, move Khris to the four and Giannis to the three, and it got us going. At that point, I was really going to ride that group.”

Said Sanders: “That makes sense. But it’s not that group – Caron goes in. It’s about trust. Who you trust down the stretch, that’s who you’re going to play.”

If this is a trust issue, it may well be a temporary, evolving one. Drew has on his hands a roster that’s not just new to him but new to each other. He’s searching for combinations, with even his starting lineup fluid for now. His top two point-guard options – Brandon Knight (right hamstring strain) and Luke Ridnour (back spasms) – have been out, which messes with everyone’s rhythm.

Also, Drew has Zaza Pachulia as an option at center, a familiar face from the coach’s three seasons in Atlanta. Pachulia has averaged 13.0 points, 7.7 rebounds and 26.0 minutes – though it’s a small sample size and the burly veteran didn’t play in the fourth quarter Saturday, either.

Drew suggested some of Sanders’ struggle on offense and frustration overall stems from adjusting to his third coach (after Scott Skiles and interim Jim Boylan) in 10 months. “It’s him still trying to learn this system and trying to learn his teammates,” Drew said. “He had some point-blank shots right around the basket – he just couldn’t get ‘em to drop.

“I thought that Larry played with some energy though. That’s the thing that, in my conversations with him, I want him to bring on a nightly basis. The other stuff will fall into place.”

Henson – the second-year forward who has had to scrape for his own minutes amid the newness, despite his strong summer in Las Vegas – said he has tried to calm Sanders, whose emotions sometimes outstrip his maturity.

“I talk to Larry, because he’s one of my best friends on the team,” Henson said late Saturday. “I told him, ‘You’re going to close 90 percent of our games.’ He’s just frustrated right now.”

Henson thinks Sanders might be pressing to show the world he’s worth the fat contract extension he received in the offseason. Sanders doesn’t feel that way, though. And Drew said, even if he did, he shouldn’t.

“Yeah, I’ve had that conversation,” the coach said. “There’s no need to press now. He’s in a good position. I know a lot of guys who get in that position of not knowing what their future holds, they do have a tendency to press. But for him, nah, there’s no need to press. Just go out there and play.”

And there’s the rub. Sanders puts the emphasis in that sentence on “go out there.” Drew, at the moment, is focused on the “play.”

This isn’t so much Larry vs. Larry as it is one Larry seeing things differently from the other Larry while serving separate agendas. One man’s chicken to the other man’s egg, with 79 games to go.

Swift, Swat Start To Bucks’ ‘G-Bo’ Project

 

The initial plan had been to write a little on Twitter about Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Milwaukee Bucks’ roll o’ the dice, first-round draft pick. But by the time you get done with his name, his identifying information and the pronunciation guide (YAHN-iss Ah-deh-toh-KOON-bo), well, there goes your 140 characters.

So HTB it is!

To hear the Bucks’ bosses talk about their upcoming season and the need to stay competitive in a smallish market with many fans of limited means – and to maintain visibility and popularity for a new-arena pitch underway – the development of Antetokounmpo in 2013-14 figured to be a low priority. Yet the long-armed kid played 57 minutes in Milwaukee’s first two preseason games, getting force-fed on the NBA game while managing to force open a few skeptics’ or sleepers’ eyes.

The 6-foot-9 youngster scored 14 points in the opener against Cleveland, shooting 3-of 7 from the floor, 7-of-10 from the line and hitting one of his three 3-pointers. He had four rebounds, two assists, two steals and three blocks, with five turnovers and five fouls in 29:12. He was the best of the Bucks with a plus-13 plus/minus.

Against Minnesota in Sioux Falls Thursday, the fellow some have taken to calling “G-Bo” – headline writers are rooting for that to take hold – played another 28 minutes. He scored four points on 1-of-6 shooting with a couple free throws, and had seven boards, one steal, four blocks, seven turnovers and five fouls.

His minutes were due in part to Ersan Ilyasova‘s sprained right ankle. His play is expectedly raw. But the 7-foot-3 wingspan that helped generate those seven blocked shots in two games is something that can’t be coached. And Antetokounmpo already has shown glimmers of what convinced Bucks general manager John Hammond to grab him at No. 15 in the June draft.

Enough, perhaps to recalibrate some of the team’s hopes and dreams for his rookie season.

“To me, success for Giannis is, I want people to see it,” Hammond had said when camps opened. “When you see him make a play, when you see a kid 19 years old on the floor doing what he’s doing, you say, ‘I get it. I see who he can be.’ “

Hammond and Bucks VP of player personnel Dave Babcock watched Antetokounmpo work at Tim Grgurich‘s Las Vegas summer camp in August, with the GM ‘fessing up to moments when he got “giddy” over this play or that by the kid. Visions of the new guy alongside Larry Sanders and John Henson started swatting shots in Hammond’s head.

“I don’t think you’re going to see it, possibly, every night,” he said. “But just show it once in a while. To me, that’s what I’m looking for.”

Much has been written and said about Hammond’s marching orders from owner Herb Kohl. The NBA intelligentsia scoffs at the idea of a franchise getting itself “stuck in the middle,” settling for low playoff berths that generally translate into quick eliminations followed by mediocre draft position.

That’s the Milwaukee way, though, which makes Antetokounmpo a luxury of sorts. He is every inch a project player like Kwame Brown, Darko Milicic, Jonas Valanciunas and many others, but without the risk of the high picks spent on those guys. A mandate to compete, but with the permission to take a flyer on a potentially homegrown breakout talent, has the Bucks and coach Larry Drew on a dual track.

“We keep talking about him this upcoming season and what we expect of him,” Hammond said. “I would like to see him get exposed but not over-exposed. Give him an opportunity to be on the floor when it’s possible, but not have him out there too much where he would lose his confidence and those around him would lose confidence.

“At 18 years old, 19 in December, the kinds of things he’s doing on the floor are unusual to say the least. So it’s a growth curve but that curve could be extremely high.”

Higher, perhaps, even than the spelling and pronunciation curves.

Which State Could Construct The Best NBA Roster?

By Jonathan Hartzell, NBA.com

Just for fun, we decided to see which states produce the best NBA players. Then we created the best hypothetical teams that could be put together from players that were born in those states. Not surprisingly, the most populous states in sunny climes are well represented in our top 10, and a team full of All-Stars from a golden West Coast state runs away with the No. 1 spot. Here’s the rundown from 10th place up to No. 1:

 

10. Florida

New York Knicks v Miami Heat - Game One

Amar’e Stoudemire leads team Florida.

PG – Brandon Knight – 13.1 ppg, 3.9 apg, 3.2 rpg (career averages)

SG – Vince Carter - 20.8 ppg, 3.8 apg, 5.0 rpg

SF – Chandler Parsons - 12.8 ppg, 2.9 apg, 5.1 rpg

PF – Amar’e Stoudemire - 21.3 ppg, 1.4 apg, 8.6 rpg

C – Larry Sanders - 6.2 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 1.9 bpg

Bench: Marreese Speights, Marquis Daniels, Reggie Evans, Trevor Ariza, Udonis Haslem, Keyon Dooling, Steve Blake

Overview: Team Florida is led by Stoudemire of the New York Knicks and Parsons of the Houston Rockets. They would be tough to score on in the paint, but guard depth would be a clear problem for this squad.

9. New Jersey

Charlotte Bobcats v New York Knicks

J.R. Smith leads streaky team New Jersey.

PG – MarShon Brooks - 8.5 ppg, 1.6 apg, 2.4 rpg

SG – J.R. Smith – 13.2 ppg, 2.1 apg, 3.2 rpg

SF – Gerald Henderson - 11.3 ppg, 1.8 apg, 3.1 rpg

PF – Kenneth Faried - 11.1 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 1.0 bpg

C – Andrew Bynum – 11.7 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 1.6 bpg

Bench: David West, Earl Clark, Tyshawn Taylor, Jason Thompson, Chris Copeland, Randy Foye

Overview: New Jersey certainly would be an exciting team to watch. However, led by Smith of the Knicks and Bynum of the Cleveland Cavaliers, they would be an extremely streaky squad that could defeat or lose to any team on any given night.

8. Georgia

Dwight Howard and Josh Smith

Dwight Howard and Josh Smith finally would be able to play on the same team.

PG – Toney Douglas – 8.6 ppg, 2. apg, 2.3 rpg

SG – Jodie Meeks - 8.0 ppg, 0.9 apg, 2.2 rpg

SF – Al-Farouq Aminu - 6.3 ppg, 1.0 apg, 5.2 rpg

PF – Josh Smith - 15.3 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 2.1 bpg

C – Dwight Howard - 18.3 ppg, 12.9 rpg, 2.2 bpg

BenchDerrick Favors, , J.J. Hickson, Andrew Goudelock, Jae Crowder, Jordan Hill, Chris Singleton

Overview: Georgia is able to construct one of the best frontcourts in the United States with Smith and Howard. These two friends since high school would have their way around the rim, but the limited guard depth may prove to be too much to overcome.

7. Texas

LaMarcus Aldridge and Chris Bosh

LaMarcus Aldridge and Chris Bosh would create an extremely offensive frontcourt.

PG – Daniel Gibson – 7.8 ppg, 2.0 apg, 2.0 rpg

SG – Wesley Matthews – 13.4 ppg, 1.2 spg, 2.9 rpg

SF – Jimmy Butler - 6.6 ppg, 1.0 apg, 3.1 rpg

PF – Chris Bosh – 19.5, 2.1 apg, 8.9 rpg

C – LaMarcus Aldridge – 18.3 ppg, 1.0 bpg, 7.8 rpg

BenchDeAndre Jordan, Quincy Acy, Mike Dunleavy, Kendrick Perkins, Emeka Okafor, Ronnie Price, Darrell Arthur

Overview: While Georgia may have a more dangerous starting frontcourt, the bench depth of Texas allows them to claim the seventh spot. Bosh, Aldridge, and Matthews would be able to handle most of the scoring with Jordan, Perkins, and Okafor being huge bodies to have come off the bench.

6. Pennsylvania

Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant leads team Pennsylvania.

PG – Tyreke Evans – 17.5 ppg, 4.8 apg, 4.8 rpg

SG – Kobe Bryant – 25.5 ppg, 4.8 apg, 5.3 rpg

SF – Michael-Kidd Gilchrist – 9.0 ppg, 1.5 apg, 5.8 rpg

PF – Marcus Morris – 6.8 ppg, 0.7 apg, 3.1 rpg

C – Markieff Morris – 7.8 ppg, 1.2 apg, 4.7 rpg

BenchDion Waiters, Kyle Lowry, Dejuan Blair, Jameer Nelson, Lavoy Allen, Hakim Warrick, John Salmons

Overview: Pennsylvania is led by an intriguing backcourt of Evans and Bryant which would take some of the pressure off their tiny frontcourt. But Pennsylvania could be tough to beat if the Morris twins are able to hold their own and Dion Waiters provides a spark off the bench.

5. North Carolina

John Wall guards Chris Paul.

John Wall and Chris Paul would have their way with opposing defenses.

PG – Chris Paul – 18.6 ppg, 9.8 apg, 2.4 spg

SG – John Wall – 16.9 ppg, 8.0 apg, 1.5 spg

SF – Kent Bazemore – 2.0 ppg, 0.4 rpg, 0.4 apg

PF – John Henson – 6.0 ppg, 0.7 bpg, 4.7 rpg

C – Hassan Whiteside – 1.5 ppg, 0.8 bpg, 2.1 rpg

BenchIshmael Smith, Anthony Morrow, Eric Maynor, Darius Johnson-Odom

Overview: Yes. I know John Wall would be a weird, undersized shooting guard. But his and Paul’s speed would be nearly impossible to slow down and with the emerging Henson in the frontcourt, North Carolina could surprise some people. 

4. Ohio

LeBron James

LeBron James would be even more outstanding with Stephen Curry on his team.

PG – Stephen Curry - 19.2 ppg, 6.1 apg, 1.7 spg

SG – Kevin Martin - 17.8 ppg, 2.0 apg, 3.3 rpg

SF – LeBron James - 27.6 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 6.9 apg

PF – Jared Sullinger – 6.0 ppg, 0.8 apg, 5.9 rpg

C – Byron Mullens – 8.4 ppg, 1.0 apg, 4.8 rpg

BenchLuke Babbitt, Kosta Koufos, Norris Cole, Daequan Cook

Overview: James and Curry lead team Ohio and besides help from Kevin Martin, there wouldn’t be much more than those two scoring for this team. But those two are more than enough and James passing the ball out to Curry for countless 3-pointers would be beautiful to watch.

3. New York

Carmelo Anthony

Carmelo Anthony leads team New York.

PG – Kemba Walker – 15.2 ppg, 5.9 apg, 1.7 spg

SG – Danny Green – 8.7 ppg, 1.3 apg, 2.9 rpg

SF – Carmelo Anthony - 25.0 ppg, 3.1 apg, 6.4 rpg

PF – Joakim Noah – 9.4 ppf, 9.1 rpb, 1.5 bpg

C – Roy Hibbert - 11.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.8 bpg

BenchAndre Drummond, Tobias Harris, Jimmer Fredette, Greg Oden, Andray Blatche, Taj Gibson, Channing Frye, Metta World Peace, Maurice Harkless

Overview: Team New York is loaded with talent at every position and they have some of the best depth in the nation. Noah and Hibbert would be an unmatched force inside and Anthony would be able to handle most of the scoring. The main problem would be a lack of 3-point shooters but with a starting lineup like theirs, it could be worked around.

2. Illinois

Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade

Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade would be nearly impossible to defend.

PG – Derrick Rose – 21.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 6.8 apg

SG – Dwyane Wade – 24.7 ppg, 6.1 apg, 1.8 spg

SF – Iman Shumpert - 8.3 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.4 spg

PF – Andre Iguodala – 15.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.7 spg

C – Anthony Davis - 13.5 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 1.8 bpg

BenchTony Allen, Steve Novak, Will Bynum, Evan Turner, Patrick Beverley, Luke Harangody, Jeremy Pargo, Will Bynum

Overview: Team Illinois and team New York are relatively equal talent wise with New York having much better depth. But the backcourt of Rose and Wade would have their way with New York and the frontcourt defense from Shumpert, Iguodala, and Davis would be incredibly difficult to defeat, no matter how undersized Iggy is at power forward.

1. California

Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love

Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love lead team California.

PG – Russell Westbrook - 19.9 ppg, 6.9 apg, 4.8 rpg

SG – James Harden - 16.2 ppg, 3.3 apg, 3.8 rpg

SF – Paul George - 12.9 ppg, 1.5 spg, 5.8 rpg

PF – Kevin Love - 17.3 ppg, 1.9 apg, 12.2 rpg

C – Tyson Chandler – 8.7 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 1.3 bpg

BenchPaul Pierce, Andre Miller, Brook LopezJeremy Lin, DeMar DeRozan, Brandon Jennings, Klay Thompson, Jrue Holiday, Damian Lillard, Kawhi Leonard

Overview: Is there any argument that California doesn’t have the best team? Led by the backcourt duo of Westbrook and Harden, the Golden State has All-Stars at every starting position and three on the bench. They’re an excess of talent who would be nearly impossible for any other state to defeat.

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And just for argument’s sake, here’s the best roster the rest of the world could assemble:

International

PG – Kyrie Irving (Australia) – 20.6 ppg, 5.7 apg, 1.3 spg

SG – Tony Parker (France) – 17.1 ppg, 6.0 apg, 3.0 rpg

SF – Andrei Kirilenko (Russia) – 12.4 ppg, 1.4 spg, 1.9 bpg

PF – Dirk Nowitzki (Germany) – 22.6 ppg, 2.6 apg, 8.2 rpg

C – Marc Gasol  (Spain) – 13.3 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 1.6 bpg

BenchTim Duncan (U.S. Virgin Islands), Steve Nash (South Africa), Manu Ginobili (Argentina), Pau Gasol (Spain), Ricky Rubio (Spain), Omer Asik (Turkey), Ersan Ilyasova (Turkey), Nikola Pekovic (Montenegro), Luol Deng (Great Britain), Nicolas Batum (France)

Las Vegas Summer League: Day 11 Recap

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LAS VEGAS – Ian Clark is the essence of Summer League.

The 22-year-old out of Belmont was the Ohio Valley Conference co-player of the year. He was a two-time defensive player of the year and a four-time all-conference selection. He never shot below 40 percent in a season from behind the arc.

At the June 27 NBA Draft at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, Clark’s name was never called.

Undrafted and looking for his big shot, the unheralded, and mostly unheard of Clark — not Kent Bazemore or Draymond Green, but the 6-foot-3, 175-pound Clark — carried the Golden State Warriors, with seven 3-pointers and a game-high 33 points, to a  91-77 victory over the Phoenix Suns in the inaugural Summer League tournament championship game.

In the NBA playoffs they call that kind of performance a podium game because the player would be asked to appear at the dais to meet the media. In the Summer League, well, let’s call it a contract game. It might not come from the Warriors, whose well-stocked backcourt includes the impressive Bazemore (who was also voted to the all-Summer-League team). But there’s 29 other NBA teams out there that might want Clark, and only one has to make an offer.

At least a few, according to a Warriors official, have offered Clark at least a partially guaranteed contract. The 2013 Summer League championship game MVP, the official said, also has lucrative options in Europe.

“Hopefully,” Clark said of making an NBA roster after besting his career-high at Belmont by one point. “I just wanted to come out here and play hard, and I think that’s what Summer League is for, to come out here and showcase your talents.

Before the championship game, Clark had averaged 9.0 points, scoring 54 points in the previous six games.

The Warriors capped their Vegas run with a 7-0 record and made it consecutive summers without a loss. The Phoenix Suns, led by new coach Jeff Hornacek and key roster players Marcus and Markieff Morris, along with P.J. Tucker, suffered their first loss but may have gained a pretty good player as they continue to rebuild next season.

Late first-round draft pick Archie Goodwin had an impressive run and ended it with 18 points. The lanky, 6-foot-5, one-and-done guard out of Kentucky consistently outplayed Kendall Marshall, the Suns’ lottery pick from last season. Goodwin averaged 13.1 ppg and shot 50 percent from the floor.

So that will do it for the 2013 Las Vegas Summer League. The big boys are in town now for a U.S. Men’s National Team mini-camp that started Monday and runs through Thursday, when the intra-squad scrimmage will be broadcast live at 9 p.m. ET on NBA TV.

2013 All-Summer League Team

MVP: Jonas Valanciunas (Toronto)

Kent Bazemore (Golden State)

Cody Zeller (Charlotte)

John Henson (Milwaukee)

Jeff Taylor (Charlotte)

Henson’s Near ‘Triple-Double’ An Aggressive Summer Sign

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LAS VEGAS – A lot can happen in a year, and John Henson only had to glance at the end of the Milwaukee Bucks’ Summer League bench Tuesday for a reminder.

One year ago, Henson’s teammate Larry Sanders was trying to claw his way into a role with the Bucks. His summer work wasn’t all that special, though, and some scouts questioned his long-term viability – not just in Milwaukee but in the NBA – as training camp opened in October.

And then …

“I remember in a preseason game, Cleveland, the switch went on and he just took off,” Henson said.

Sanders’ game blew up in 2012-13 as he became a rebounding and shot-blocking menace in Milwaukee’s middle. He wound up third in balloting for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award and seventh for Defensive Player of the Year, and he’s in Vegas this week waiting for the USA Basketball Men’s National Team mini-camp to which he earned an invitation.

One year can make a huge difference, and Henson is eager to walk in his buddy’s shoes. In the Bucks’ opener Saturday, the 6-foot-11 forward from North Carolina had 19 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks. After missing the next game with a groin strain, Henson nearly got a “triple-double” Tuesday against Golden State – 15 rebounds (nine in the first quarter) with nine points and (gulp) eight turnovers. He blocked three shots again but shot 3-of-10 and got a little sidetracked in physical but fun matchup with the Warriors’ Draymond Green. Their rivalry dates back to college when Green was at Michigan State.

Green, who shot 2-of-12 himself, blamed Golden State teammate Harrison Barnes (another USA camp invitee) for “talking junk” to both Green and Henson to further stoke the matchup. Still, each got something out of it – Green coping with Henson’s length and Henson dealing with Green’s endless summer-league supply of bruising fouls.

“We both shot awful,” Green said. “But he’s always been active. He’s longer than a lot of guys in this league. He uses it well on the defensive end and offensive rebounds. We were able to kind of limit him in the post and he got a few turnovers, but overall I think John’s going to be a very good player.”

Said Henson of Green’s heavy contact: “That’s the summer league. I need that, so it’s cool. Just the physicality and crashing the boards and holding my position on the post. That’s all you can ask for.”

The Bucks are going to be asking Henson for a lot in his second season. He, Sanders, Ersan Ilyasova and raw draftee Giannis Antetokounmpo now form the core of their young front line. Veterans Samuel Dalembert and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute won’t be back, and while the Bucks battled the Warriors, warehoused big man Drew Gooden got shed via the collective bargaining agreement’s amnesty provision.

“Drew is gone? Aw [bleep],” Henson said, learning the news a few minutes after the game. “That’s kind of what’s going on. It’s everybody’s ‘first year’ with a new coach now [Larry Drew]. So we’ve all got to learn new stuff. It’s a new era.”

Henson doesn’t need a Sanders-like switch to flip in his game. His challenge was opportunity – he averaged 16.5 points and 12.9 boards pro-rated to 36 minutes. Problem was, he only had two games in which he played that much (17 points and 25 rebounds at Orlando in April and one week later 28 points and 16 boards at Oklahoma City). He averaged just 13.1 points for coaches Scott Skiles, then Jim Boylan.

This season, under Drew, the minutes should be there.

“He’s really working,” Sanders said. “He’s been working on his body, been working on his game. His awareness is really catching up to his body. So he’s figuring out where he is on defense, getting those boards. I think with experience he’ll keep getting better and better.”

Said Henson: “Some players like Larry, it happens [suddenly].”

He snapped his fingers, and continued: “Some people gradually build up to that level. I think I’m building up. Couple more years in, I hope I can be a force in this league. That’s kind of my goal.”

Las Vegas Summer League: Day 2 Recap

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LAS VEGASJonas Valanciunas looked like a man among boys Saturday night in Las Vegas.

The Raptors’ second-year big man was dominant early on, scoring 20 of his 23 points in the first half and grabbing seven rebounds in Toronto’s 81-72 loss to the Miami Heat in the final game of the day at the Las Vegas Summer League.

summer-league-logoValanciunas, who averaged 8.9 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in his rookie season in Toronto, looked noticeably bigger and showed off a polished interior game, getting to the rim repeatedly for highlight-reel dunks and putbacks. He was energetic, clapping and motivating his teammates, and ran the floor well in 26 minutes of action.

With a season under his belt, it looks like the 21-year-old could be ready to make a major step in his sophomore season.

Non-rookie of the day: Milwaukee sophomore John Henson had a monster game as the Bucks cruised to a win in their first action in Las Vegas. The Bucks’ second-year big man had 19 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks in just 20 minutes of action as the Bucks blew out Denver 88-74.

Other notables: Andrew Goudelock, Bulls. The reigning NBA D-League MVP who filled in for the banged-up Lakers in the playoffs, lit up the scoreboard with 26 points on 9-for-15 shooting, hitting 3-for-5 3-pointers in the Bulls’ 81-67 win over Memphis. Teammate Marquis Teague looked composed running the point, tallying 12 points and seven assists in the victory. Tony Wroten, Grizzlies. The second-year guard out of Washington did a little of everything with 17 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals in Memphis’ 81-67 loss to the Bulls.

Rookie of the day: C.J. McCollum, Trail Blazers. The Lehigh product scored 15 of his 22 points in the first half of the Blazers’ 82-69 loss to the Suns in his first action since being taken 10th overall in the 2013 Draft. McCollum also had three rebounds and four assists while going 9-for-19 from the field (2-for-5 on 3s). The 6-foot-3 point guard showed off a quick first step and a killer crossover before stepping back for one of his two 3s on the night.

Other notables: Sacramento rookie Drew Gordon had 17 points and 10 rebounds in 24 minutes. Gordon, who went undrafted in 2012 out of New Mexico and spent last season with Partizan Belgrade, was 7-for-12 from the floor, missing all three of his 3-point attempts. Also notching a double-double was Butler product Matt Howard, who is getting a shot with the Grizzlies after playing overseas the past two seasons. Howard finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds in 24 minutes of action.

Coming up: All 16 teams in action on Sunday have now played one game in Las Vegas. The Knicks and Wizards – and No. 3 overall pick Otto Porter, who had seven points on 3-for-13 shooting in his debut – tip things off at 4 p.m. ET while the Spurs and Raptors close things out at 10:30 ET in the Thomas & Mack Center. All games can be seen on NBA TV or online with Summer League Live.

Bulls Have No Go-To Scorer? Better Go To Offensive Boards





MILWAUKEE – When a team doesn’t have its go-to scorer, it needs something to go to down the stretch. In the case of the Chicago Bulls, that means having guys go to the offensive glass.

When the Bulls beat Milwaukee Saturday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, they shot just 39 percent (32 of 82) compared to the Bucks’ 43.2. They had 16 turnovers worth 15 points to Milwaukee compared to 10 and 7 by the home team. Yet Chicago beat the Bucks with some Chinese water torture – they made 25 of their 26 free throws vs. Milwaukee’s 7 of 10 – and by dominating them inside for second opportunities. And third. And fourth.

Bulls’ offensive rebounding
Season OREB% Rank 2CPTS% Rank
2010-11 29.4% 4 15.2% 3
2011-12 32.6% 1 16.4% 1
2012-13 30.5% 6 16.2% 3

Through Saturday, 11/24
OREB% = Percentage of available offensive
rebounds obtained
2CPTS% = 2nd chance points / Total points

The Bulls outrebounded the Bucks 54-40, including a 20-10 edge on the offensive end. Seven of those came in the fourth quarter and most of those came in the final minutes, when Chicago broke an 81-81 tie with a 12-5 run over the final 5:22.

It was a statistical edge and a psychological bonanza, as the Bucks had to stay in and reset their defense for a half minute, sometimes a minute at a time. The Bulls shot a lousy 31.8 percent (7 of 22) in the quarter, same as the other guys, but got eight second-chance points. They dominated that category, 25-5, even more starkly than the boards.

“There’s a lot of things that can break you,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Sometimes you can block out great and the ball takes a funny bounce, you don’t get it. Or maybe it’s a result of, you get broken down off the dribble, you get help, rotation, now the ball’s up…

“So offensive rebounding. Defensive transition can break your spirit too. Those things reveal a lot. It tells a lot about the character of your team. People talk a lot about fast breaks, but the second shot is another part of easy baskets.”

By the second shot, a defense might already be broken down. By the third or fourth, a backup screen-setter can seem as dangerous as a missing MVP candidate named Derrick Rose.

For Milwaukee, it was starting center Samuel Dalembert who was missing. He was a late scratch prior to tipoff, with whispers that he might have arrived late to the arena, though coach Scott Skiles called it simply a “coaching decision.” Then there was rookie power forward John Henson, who had grabbed 18 rebounds off the bench in 27 minutes Wednesday at Miami. Henson logged only 1:18 vs. Chicago.

Mostly, though, it was the Bulls’ relentless work at chasing down their own misses that left Milwaukee in shambles late, as surely as if the guy in the No. 1 jersey had been doing the attacking. The Bulls rank fifth in the NBA in offensive rebound percentage (30.5). And this is despite the loss this season of backup center Omer Asik, whom NBA.com’s John Schuhmann shared had an offensive rebounding percentage of 14.2 over the past two seasons, best on his team.

“[Getting beat on the offensive boards has] happened to us before,” said Chicago forward Carlos Boozer, who got eight of his 19 rebounds on the offensive glass. “It’s kind of demoralizing, especially when you’ve played good defense for 22, 20 seconds. The shot goes up – they get the ball back! That’s tough.

“The more you go, the more you get.”

That’s A Wrap For the Rookies

GREENBURGH, N.Y. – The 2012 Rookie Photo Shoot took place at the Knicks’ practice facility on Tuesday, with 39 incoming rookies making the rounds, posing for Panini and NBA Entertainment. It was a six-hour day, broken up by a lunch break reminiscent of a SportsCenter commercial.

Every first round pick from this year’s draft, except for the Magic’s Maurice Harkless, was here. Also here were a handful of second rounders and last year’s No. 5 pick, Jonas Valanciunas, fresh off Lithuania’s eighth-place finish at the Olympics.

We had five guys from Kentucky, four from UNC, three from Baylor and three from Duke. There were three Mavs, three Pistons, three Warriors, three Rockets and three Raptors. But none of the Nets’ three rookies were at the shoot, so the new black-and-white Brooklyn uniforms are still very much under wraps. No. 2 pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was in the building, sporting the new Bobcats road threads though.

In addition to posing for still photos, the players spoke with NBA TV’s Dennis Scott and the youngest member of the media, 16 year old Karl Towns Jr., who was interviewing players for MSG Varsity. (Here he is with Draymond Green.) Towns is the high school star from New Jersey who played for the Dominican Republic national team this summer and was about five minutes away from being an Olympian. And he’s already about as tall as Valanciunas.

Speaking of Olympians, Anthony Davis brought along his gold medal, and I believe that’s a first for the Rookie Photo Shoot.

Detroit’s Andre Drummond and Oklahoma City’s Perry Jones each tried their hands at the DJ table after lunch, but there was no impromptu dunk contest like when Terrico White stole the show two years ago. And apparently, the Carolina guys like old school R&B, because Kendall Marshall requested some Barry White and John Henson was seen singing along a few minutes later on the other side of the gym.

The photos have been taken, and soon the basketball cards will be printed. Now that the Rookie Transition Program and the Rookie Photo Shoot are over, it’s time for these guys to get back to getting ready for the season.