Posts Tagged ‘Kawhi Leonard’

Morning shootaround — Nov. 24

VIDEO: Highlights from games played Nov. 23


LeBron: Warriors are ‘most healthy’ NBA team he’s ever seen | Ainge pleased with Celtics’ direction | Spurs keep chugging along

No. 1: LeBron: Warriors are ‘most healthy’ NBA team he’s ever seen — The topic of good fortune often comes up when discussing the defending-champion Golden State Warriors, a point some use to illustrate the squad was lucky to win the title for a variety of reasons. Wherever you stand on that point, one thing that is true in terms of Golden State’s good fortune is the team’s health during its championship era. Few player games have been lost due to injury and really, only coach Steve Kerr (back) has been out for a prolonged time. Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James, who was defeated by the Warriors in the 2015 Finals, knows all too well how the Warriors’ health has helped them.’s Dave McMenamin has more:

LeBron James says there is a not-so-secret ingredient — beyond a talented roster that features reigning MVP Stephen Curry — to the Golden State Warriors’ success: avoiding injuries.

“I think it comes with a lot of health,” James said when asked about the Warriors tying the all-time mark for best start to a season at 15-0. “They’ve been healthy. They’ve been the most healthy team I’ve ever seen in NBA history, and they have great talent. Those guys all play for one common goal and that’s to win, and that’s all that matters.”

James said that continuity in the lineup has led to consistency in their play.

“They’ve just been consistent,” James said. “I think the most impressive thing is the way they just they’ve been playing at a high level, man, for so long.”

The Cleveland Cavaliers, meanwhile, are down four of their top eight rotation players at the moment with Kyrie Irving (left knee), Iman Shumpert (right wrist), Timofey Mozgov (right shoulder) and Mo Williams (right ankle) all sidelined.

“I’d much rather be on the other side and having guys in the lineup, having guys healthy,” James said. “I’ve always heard that saying of, ‘Is it a blessing that guys are out and guys can step in?’ I think it’s good for some of the guys that don’t get to play as much — they get an opportunity. But at the same time, I’d much rather be full and know what we’re going to have and play at a high level for most of the year so we know what we can fall back on at the end of the season.

“But that’s one thing you can’t control. You can’t control injuries. The one thing you can control is what you’re doing out on the floor, how well you’re playing, how hard you’re playing and how much you’re sacrificing and giving to your teammates.”

VIDEO: LeBron James talks about how health has aided the Warriors’ success

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Morning Shootaround — Oct. 26

VIDEO: The NBA remembers the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Flip Saunders


Saunders remembered as leader, cherished member of NBA family | Anthony, Knicks gain inspired by Mets | Parker ready for new, reduced role with Spurs | Ibaka the most unique big man in basketball?

No. 1: Saunders remembered as a leader and cherished member of NBA family — Flip Saunders lost his battle with cancer Sunday at 60, succumbing to Hodgkins lymphoma on the eve of a NBA season he was going to start away from the Minnesota Timberwolves as he continued his four-month fight. Instead, he’s being remembered around a league where he touched many throughout his career. Our very own Steve Aschburner, a longtime former Timberwolves beat writer, shared some of his own reflections on Saunders:

Saunders had other pet phrases, things he’d coined or gleaned from the many coaches’ books he devoured during his trek through basketball’s trenches — seven years in the CBA in Rapid City, S.D., in La Crosse, Wis., in Sioux Falls, S.D., after college work at Golden Valley Lutheran College, Minnesota and Tulsa. “You are the position you can guard,” he’d say. And: “You give a player only as much responsibility as he can handle.” And: “Your greatest strength is your greatest weakness.” Sometimes he’d footnote, sometimes he wouldn’t.

Flip also could prompt one back, typically when he’d claim that the only reason Marquette (my alma mater and first beat) won the NCAA men’s championship in 1977 (his senior year) was that Minnesota, despite its 24-3 record, was on probation and ineligible for the tournament. “But like Woody Allen said,” I’d remind him, “80 percent of success is showing up.” He’d wave his hand and we’d banter another day.

The fact is, Saunders disliked confrontations. It was the single biggest criticism of him as a coach and, when his teams in Minnesota and Detroit went through some tough times, it was cited as key to his undoing. When your best player, Kevin Garnett, is a blast furnace of motivation and improvement, there’s little about which a coach needs to confront him or the teammates intimidated into following. When some salty veterans such as Latrell Sprewell, Sam Cassell or Rasheed Wallace plant their heels, though, being player-friendly can get you pink-slipped.

Saunders was easily the most successful coach in Timberwolves history, particularly during his first stint. The Wolves went 411-326 and made the franchise’s only eight postseason appearances, reaching the Western Conference finals in 2004. All other seasons (including 2014-15 with Saunders navigating downward for lottery chances), they’ve gone 407-940 with zero playoff berths.

The good times were the product of Saunders’ coaching, Kevin McHale‘s acumen and Hall of Fame experience as VP of basketball operations, and the two college teammates’ and friends’ commitment to Garnett and, for as long as it lasted, to Stephon Marbury. That blew up in less than three seasons and, despite the subsequent playoff runs, Minnesota never got quite good enough.

A comment Flip made a while back in hindsight about that fizzled vision turned particularly poignant Sunday. “I hope years from now,” he said, “KG, Steph and I aren’t sitting around a table at All-Star Weekend saying, ‘We really screwed up.’ ”

He couldn’t push the Pistons over the top in three years, either, and the situation in Washington went sideways thanks mostly to Gilbert Arenas and his guns. And yet, while Saunders got fired three times at the NBA level — the Wolves dismissal, coming from McHale, stung all the way to the end — he got hired four times.


No. 2: Melo, Knicks gain inspiration from Mets — Give Carmelo Anthony credit for thinking big — and we’re talking championship big — as the New York Knicks head into this season. He’s drawing inspiration from the New York Mets, who’ll battle the Kansas City Royals in the World Series. And in the Mets, Anthony says he sees similarities in how they have gone from rebuilding to competing for a championship. Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News details Anthony’s vision and how the fortunes of these two Big Apple franchises relate:

It wasn’t long ago that another New York sports team was selling hope over substance, building around a combination of youth and veterans while resisting the quick fix.

So can the Knicks draw inspiration from the World Series baseball team across the East River?

Carmelo Anthony thinks so.

“That’s very inspiring to me, what the Mets have done this season,” he said. “But that didn’t start this season. That was a process. That was a build that was happening the last couple of years. To see them now kind of at the pinnacle of the sport, it’s a good feeling. Even if you’re not a Mets fan and you’re here, it’s a good feeling.”

The similarities between the Knicks and Mets also extend to championship droughts (43 and 29 years, respectively), although only the Jets can claim in New York that they’ve tortured their fanbase longer than the Knicks.

“I don’t want to say it’s similar but you can see some similarities in that,” Anthony said. “The way that they kind of broke everything down and kind of rebuilt piece-by-piece and all of it came together at the right time. I don’t want to say we’re in a similar situation, but we are. Right now we put pieces together and we have to go out there and build that.”

The big difference is the Knicks won 17 games last season and finished with one of the worst records in the NBA. So they’re not close to anything resembling a long playoff run, which took the Mets five years to accomplish since Sandy Alderson took over.


No. 3: Parker ready for new, reduced role for Spurs — The addition of All-Star help like LaMarcus Aldridge and the increased role of budding All-Stars like Kawhi Leonard could mean a new and reduced role for Tony Parker. And it’s a role Parker is prepared to embrace at this stage of his career. Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News details the changes on the horizon for one of the Spurs’ staples:

Days before the Spurs start their quest for championship No. 6, the 33-year-old Parker acknowledged his role is finally changing. No longer will he be relied to do so much on offense, instead passing that torch to Leonard and Aldridge.

“I understand my role is going to change,” said Parker. “I don’t need to score as much and I have to get LaMarcus and Kawhi (going). I know my role is changing, but I love it. The way that (Tim Duncan) changed towards Manu (Ginobili), and Manu changed towards me, it’s the same thing with me now.”

Parker echoed the words of Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, who mentioned to the Express-News how the Spurs “equal opportunity offense” will now shift towards Aldridge and Leonard. Popovich was quick to point out that Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker won’t be forgotten, but things will change.

Let Parker tell it, he’s fine with taking a backseat.

“The last four or five years it was my job to be aggressive and score, but this year is totally different,” said Parker. “I have to be the engine in another way.”

Parker has led the Spurs in scoring four of the last five seasons, before Leonard took over last season averaging 16.5 points (Parker averaged 14.4).

Asked his feelings when the offense was transitioning to Ginobili and Parker, Duncan admitted the competitor in him resisted, and still does a bit, but added his unselfishness took over.

“As an individual you got to try not to fight it,” said Duncan, who is entering his 19th season. “We’re all competitors and we all want to do what we’ve always done. You have to understand what’s best for the team and I think we’re all here for that. It’s just about accepting that and finding your niche in your new role.”


No. 4: Ibaka the most unique big man in basketball? —  On a team headlined by superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, might Serge Ibaka be the most unique talent for the Oklahoma City Thunder this season? It’s a great debate. One that Erik Horne of the Oklahoman argues in Ibaka’s favor with a new and crucial season for Ibaka and the Thunder on the horizon:

Catch Ibaka at the end of Thunder practice, and you’ll see the same guy who’s the active leader in blocked shots per game (2.58) outshoot fellow power forward Nick Collison from beyond the arc. At 34, Collison refers to the 3-pointer as something he’s tried to work on “to stay on the court” in the changing NBA.

Factor in the arrival of Billy Donovan, he of the pace and space offense and experience with the skilled big man, and the green light is even greener from 3 for the versatile Ibaka, who at 26, isn’t using the 3 to stay on the court, but expand his stranglehold on it.

“I feel very comfortable with him shooting threes, even corner threes, because of the time and effort he’s put into it,” Donovan said. “but also he’s a proven shooter – he’s a really good catch-and-shoot guy and that’s a unique combination for a frontcourt player in the league to have.”

Donovan couldn’t come up with a current or past comparison for Ibaka either, forced to look toward the future, a player who’s yet to play an NBA regular season game. Donovan said Indiana Pacers rookie Myles Turner has the skill set to mimic what Ibaka does on the floor.

Good luck, young fella.

“I coached him with the USA team. He’s somebody I think has a chance to maybe develop into that role,” Donovan came up with after a few moments of thought. “That would be the only guy I’ve been around and coached in the summer who I’d say is like that.”

What makes Ibaka even more of an outlier: He’s been capable of this longer than his uptick in 3-point attempts has indicated. He’s one of 11 players in NBA history taller than 6-foot-10 to shoot better than 35 percent from 3, 45 percent from the field and block 150 shots in a season. No big deal, except Ibaka’s the only one to do it three times.

The numbers summarize what left Jackson speechless when faced with the daunting question: Is anyone like Ibaka? Jackson knows what a great shotblocker looks like. He played with 7-footer Patrick Ewing, eighth all-time in blocks but someone who kept his game inside the arc offensively in an era where bigs weren’t encouraged to shoot from deep.

Last season, Ibaka attempted nearly twice the amount of threes Ewing hoisted in his entire career.



SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Who needs training camp and the preseason anyway? Tristan Thompson is ready for the Cavaliers’ season opener … Folks keep writing P.J. Tucker off in Phoenix and he keeps on grinding his way back into the mix … No one is sure what to make of the Sacramento Kings this year, which is exactly why they (DeMarcus Cousins, George Karl and Rajon Rondo in particular), are one of the truly intriguing must-see teams in the NBA this season … Serge Ibaka, the most unique big man in NBA history? … The Philadelphia 76ers don’t officially start this season until Wednesday and they are already limping …

Blogtable: First-time All-Stars in 2015-16?

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

BLOGTABLE: One thing to watch early on? | Predicting Golden State’s season | First-time All-Stars

VIDEOCan Bradley Beal take that All-Star leap?

> Give me two players — one from the East and one from the West — who will be first-time All-Stars this season.

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: East: Bradley Beal. West: Andrew Wiggins.

Steve Aschburner, East: Giannis Antetokounmpo. It’s unclear which player Milwaukee is going to rally behind as a leader – Khris Middleton might lead the Bucks in scoring and Jabari Parker in time might have the game and personality to be their alpha dog – but “The Greek Freak” still packs outrageous potential in so many areas. If he takes a good-sized stride in development this season, and the Bucks stay at or above .500, I think the coaches will honor him. West: DeAndre Jordan. Jordan’s selection might be tougher in a league that goes with “Frontcourt” All-Stars rather than true centers. But I think he’ll have gaudy enough rebounding and blocked shot numbers on a Clippers team with a dazzling record by February.

Fran Blinebury, East: I’m thinking that Bradley Beal will finally catch a break avoiding injuries and build on his last two years of big-time performances in the playoffs to join backcourt partner John Wall as an All-Star. West: Kawhi Leonard. After MVP of the Finals (2014) and Kia Defensive Player of the Year (2015), it’s just a matter of him staying healthy. LaMarcus Aldridge will get the headlines, but Leonard is the all-around cream of the Spurs crop.

Scott Howard-Cooper, East: Andre Drummond. The Pistons could push into the playoff picture and Drummond could be somewhere around 15 rebounds a game while near the top of the league in shooting and blocks. West: Kawhi Leonard, as part of a season that also includes making second- or third-team All-NBA at the end of the season. But it’s also impossible to disagree with Mike Conley, DeAndre Jordan or Gordon Hayward. No argument here for nominating any of those four, although Leonard, Conley and Jordan begin the season with an edge because Hayward will need to be especially worthy if the Jazz are headed toward the lottery.

John Schuhmann, East: Bradley Beal. Beal had a strong postseason, has vowed to change some of his long 2-pointers into threes, and should have additional space to operate with the Wizards playing more small ball. West: Kawhi Leonard: Leonard is simply the league’s best player who hasn’t been an All-Star yet, and his offensive role should continue to grow. Dark horse picks: Nicolas Batum, Mike Conley, Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, DeAndre Jordan and Isaiah Thomas.

Sekou Smith, East: Bradley Beal. He showed signs last season that he’s ready to take that step. He’ll join John Wall in Toronto for All-Star Weekend this season, in uniform on Sunday instead of street clothes. West: DeAndre Jordan. Both Kawhi Leonard and Draymond Green will battle it out in the Western Conference to join the All-Star crew. They both appear ready to take that step, but it’s a crowded field at small forward (and really at basically every position). But I’m picking Jordan to smash his way into the mix at center.

Ian Thomsen, East: Giannis Antetokounmpo. West: Gordon Hayward. The Jazz and Bucks are rising, and Hayward and Antetokounmpo are going to celebrate breakout All-Star years.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog: East: how about Jahlil Okafor. He’s going to have the chance to rack up points and boards with the Sixers, and if a Rookie is putting up 18 and 10 or something like that, it would be neat to see the coaches give him a gift. West: Kawhi Leonard. The more I think about the Spurs adding LaMarcus Aldridge, the more I think it benefits Leonard. He has been mostly overlooked in the Spurs constellation of stars, but if maintains the aggressive defense he played most of last season’s second half, and gets more open looks as a result of Aldridge, Leonard could be the key to the Spurs’ success. And get an All-Star nod along the way.

Morning shootaround — Oct. 18

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


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

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

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

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

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

A championship run is at stake.

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


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

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

Leonard, 24, has little concern with individual accolades.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Lillard says he’s up for the challenge.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So far his body has been great.”


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

Blogtable: Biggest storyline or event from the offseason?

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

BLOGTABLE: Offseason’s biggest storyline was? | Which Kobe will we get? | Assessing longer Finals

VIDEOThe Starters recount their favorite funny offseason moments

> With the offseason finally behind us, what do you think was the most significant news/transaction/event in the NBA’s Summer of 2015?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: Has to be the DeAndre Jordan Follies. The entire Western Conference was impacted; if Jordan had gone through with his original intention of joining the Mavericks, I’m still not sure Dallas would have been a top four team–but the Clippers surely would have been severely harmed (I doubt very much that Josh Smith would have signed there without Jordan, for example). That would have made things much easier for San Antonio, OKC, Memphis and Houston. Now, the Clips have a 2-3 year championship contending window that’s wide open.

Steve Aschburner, LaMarcus Aldridge to San Antonio, breathing renewed life into the Spurs’ dynasty, was big. So was free agent Greg Monroe choosing the fly-over Bucks rather than the Lakers or the Knicks. But to me the biggest event was DeAndre Jordan’s nyah-nyah-had-my-fingers-crossed Re-Decision to stay with the Clippers. That team was on the brink of plummeting into the lottery, had the big man gone to Dallas, but now is regarded by some as a title favorite. Instead, the Mavericks are the ones facing big unknowns because the moratorium turned into a less-atorium for them.

Fran Blinebury, LaMarcus Aldridge to San Antonio. It not only vaults the Spurs right back up into the top level of contenders for 2016, keeping the Tim DuncanManu GinobiliTony Parker championship window open, but enables the organization to transition into the next phase with Aldridge-Kawhi Leonard as the foundation.

Scott Howard-Cooper, The most significant announcement was the one that received little attention: LeBron James stayed in Cleveland. The spotlight wasn’t very bright because it was the expected outcome. It falls under news/transaction/event, though, and nothing that could have happened or did happen in summer 2015 shaped the NBA more than LBJ with the Cavaliers as opposed to LBJ moving as a free agent. The implications of not taking his talents elsewhere was enormous.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comAs big as it was that one of the top free agents joined the best franchise of the last 20 years, the Spurs have never been as good, statistically, as last year’s champs. And the Warriors’ ability to re-sign Draymond Green quickly and with little fuss was huge. Green was the most important part of the No. 1 defense in the league last season. Golden State is a young team coming off a championship and top-two rankings on both ends of the floor. They’re going to have to deal with Harrison Barnes next summer and Stephen Curry in 2017, but they took a big step toward a several-year run of contention by holding onto a key piece who’s only 25 years old. Green was a restricted free agent, but the Warriors’ Finals opponents can tell you how complicated that can be.

Sekou Smith, LaMarcus Aldridge taking his talents to San Antonio was the biggest power move of the summer. For the Spurs to pull that off — with basically every other team prowling the market trying to get an audience with Aldridge — ensures that the Spurs will have at least a two-man core of Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard to bridge the Duncan-Parker-Ginobili era. Pure genius on the part of the Spurs and an opportunity to chase championships for years to come for Aldridge. DeAndre Jordan sticking around Los Angeles with the Clippers is a close second.

Ian Thomsen, The acquisition of LaMarcus Aldridge was more important than DeAndre Jordan’s split-decision to ultimately remain in Los Angeles – because Aldridge is going to change the NBA’s model franchise. The Spurs’ style has been evolving over the years, bringing out the best in Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard. Now they’ll be adapting even more to enhance Aldridge. He makes them the most talented team in the NBA — but how will that talent fit together? How will they play? The answers are going to impact the championship race.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blogThe DeAndre Jordan saga was definitely the most hilarious thing to happen this summer, but as far as significance, I think the Spurs signing LaMarcus Aldridge could have both immediate and long-lasting effects. The Spurs become immediate contenders for this season’s title, and then they also get the guy who can take over for Tim Duncan going forward. There weren’t any emojis involved, but there will almost surely be championship contention on the way. Which is probably exactly the way Pop would want it.

Morning Shootaround — Sept. 7

VIDEO: Day Six Wrap: 2015 FIBA Americas Championship


The reinvention of Anthony Bennett is real | Minute reductions for LeBron, Kyrie | White ready to take his place in Hall of Fame | Is Bradley Beal worth the max?

No. 1: The reinvention of Anthony Bennett is real — Anthony Bennett‘s summer has been one positive step after another, as the former No. 1 overall pick works to reinvent himself and prove that he’s not the “bust” some have labeled him. His work with Team Canada has only bolstered his cause. He’s been a bit of a revelation during the FIBA Americas tournament, playing a vital role on his national team, as Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun writes:

Anthony Bennett didn’t have the loudest stat-line, but Canada’s resurgent star continues to be a key contributor for the squad.

Bennett quickly earned the confidence of head coach Jay Triano at training camp, was perhaps the best performer at the Pan Am Games in Toronto and was solid in Puerto Rico, before faring well here as well.

“I think Anthony Bennett’s summer has been absolutely fantastic for us,” Triano said after Canada defeated Panama on Sunday.

“He’s engaged in everything that we do on the floor, off the floor, rebounding. We’ve asked him to rebound, and he’s done it on a continuous basis. He runs the floor on a continuous basis. He provides help on the defensive end. He understands our defensive system.”

Confidence is important to Bennett and with Triano letting him just go out and play, he seems relaxed and is having fun. He looked relaxed before the game, throwing down a self-alley-oop reverse dunk in the layup line, and kept going from there.

“Coach was saying, ‘just line ’em up and knock ’em down,’ ” Bennett said.

“This is definitely a fun tournament to play in. A lot of competition, different teams, different styles so you’ve just got to adjust.”

Triano is pleased for the former No. 1 overall draft pick, who has had a tough first couple of NBA seasons.

“We told him earlier this summer if you do those things people are going to understand he’s got a lot of other offensive skills,” Triano said.

“His ability to pass the basketball, his ability to get teammates open. I’m really happy for him as an individual and we need him to continue to play that way.”


No. 2: Minute reductions for LeBron, Kyrie — The workload LeBron James and Kyrie Irving put in during their first season together in Cleveland won’t look the same this time around, and that’s not just because Kyrie might not be available until January due to injury. It’s time for a reduction in minutes for both of the Cavaliers’ stars, according to Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer:

There was a report about Kyrie Irving not being ready to play until January.

No one knows for sure, as Irving is recovering from surgery to repair a fractured knee cap. But the Cavs do expect him to play well before January. Of course, that can change once they see him in training camp.

Even if Irving’s knee is in excellent shape, they plan to cut his minutes early in the season. He ranked No. 3 in average minutes per game last season. LeBron James was No. 5. I recently wrote about this.

That’s too much for both players during the regular season.

The Cavs signed veteran Mo Williams, who has started 511 games in the NBA. That includes 33 at point guard last season. He averaged 14 points and can take some of the scoring load off Irving in the backcourt.

The Cavs also have Matthew Dellavedova coming back. So they have Williams and Dellavedova to help out at point guard, allowing Irving to miss some games. He also can play fewer minutes.

The re-signing of J.R. Smith should help the Cavs cut the minutes for James during the regular season. The 6-foot-6 Smith can play both shooting guard and small forward.


No. 3: White ready to take his place in the Hall of Fame — Jo Jo White has had Hall of Fame credentials for years, but only now is the former Boston Celtics great taking his rightful place alongside other Celtics greats in Springfield. Even though the honor seems long overdue, White is appreciative that his time has finally come. Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe explains:

In playing in seven All-Star Games, being named MVP of the 1976 NBA Finals, and with a franchise-record 488 consecutive games played for the Celtics, White possessed Hall of Fame credentials. But it appears the Naismith committee has been slow to embrace some players from the 1970s who were perhaps overshadowed by the likes of Julius Erving, George Gervin, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Although White’s accomplishments in the game have always been greatly appreciated in Boston, it has taken years for others to recognize his career as more than just above average.

“I’m just excited and I loved playing sports,” White said. “To touch the athletes you’ve played with, coaches that you had to deal with, and you find you’re getting very, very close to the team that you’re working with. What I’ve went through as a player, I’m just excited.

“I’m still rejoicing from where I’ve gone to where I am to what I had to go through to get where I am. I’ve gone through it.”


No. 4: Is Bradley Beal worth the max? — The Washington Wizards will have to figure out an answer to that question soon enough. A maxed out backcourt tandem of All-Star point guard John Wall and the sweet-shooting Beal could be on the horizon for a team with grand designs of climbing the ladder in the Eastern Conference in the coming seasons. Moke Hamilton of Basketball Insiders ponders the question a full summer ahead of time:

In all likelihood, Beal, whom the Wizards can make a restricted free agent next summer, will command a maximum offer sheet from some team at that time. Quite a few teams will have truckloads of cap space and can have a Brinks truck arrive at the residence of Beal at 12:01 a.m. on July 1, 2016. Until that time, though, since the Wizards will have the right of first refusal, it makes sense for them to wait—just like the Warriors did with Green, just like the Chicago Bulls did with Jimmy Butler and just like the San Antonio Spurs did with Kawhi Leonard.

Make no mistake about it, though, Beal is a maximum player in today’s NBA. That is true despite the fact that he has never played as many as 75 games in any one of his three seasons. It is also true despite the defensive ineptitude that he has shown on a fairly consistent basis over the course of his young career. And yes, it is true despite the fact that he has not consistently shown that he can impact the game on multiple fronts. Above all, he is regarded as a strong offensive player and a deadly three-point shooter (his career three-point conversation rate is about 42 percent). His ability to create his own shot has improved tremendously, and, still at just 22 years old, he is nowhere near his physical prime. As he ages and matures, he will only get better.

Indeed, in today’s NBA, contract impasses are nothing extraordinary. But as it relates to Beal, with his upside, his production thus far and the influx of money that the NBA will see over the next few years, even a blind man can see that this movie ends the same way as the ones we have just witnessed.

In Washington, D.C. or elsewhere, Beal is a maximum player. Drawing that conclusion is the easy part. The difficult part, for the Wizards, is determining whether or not he will fulfill the lofty expectations that such a contract would yield and whether they want to be the team to roll the dice on him.

But best believe, in today’s NBA, someone will.


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Jahlil Okafor is ready to tote the load for the Philadelphia 76ers … The players had a huge hand in the look and design of the Hawks’ new uniformsKyle Lowry chats about his summer slim downDwyane Wade was in attendance for one of the craziest games on college football’s kickoff weekend

ICYMI: The Sixers have good reason to be excited about Nerlens Noel:

VIDEO: Nerlens Noel’s Top 10 Plays from his All-Rookie first team season

Morning Shootaround — Aug. 23


Rubio thinks Wiggins will be big time | Also, Kawhi is thinking big, too | Horford talks Dominican hoops | Burke ready and able

No. 1: Rubio thinks Wiggins will be big time — There’s lots of optimism in Minnesota about basketball, and it doesn’t center on the Lynx for a change. No, the former WNBA champs could take a back seat, popularity-wise, to the Timberwolves this season. Over the last two years, since the Kevin Love trade, the Wolves have gradually stockpiled assets and young players and believe the best is yet to come. This represents a change for a franchise that really hasn’t been on radar since Kevin Garnett left for the Celtics. Anyway, Ricky Rubio is in Manila doing promotions and was asked about the Wolves. He didn’t hold back and saved his best props for Andrew Wiggins, as Naveen Ganglani of Rappler reports …

The 6-foot-4 Rubio, who averaged 10.3 points, 8.8 assists, and 5.7 rebounds a game last season with an effectiveness rating of 15.24, said that health will be a big factor in order for the playoffs-starved franchise to reach their goal.

“If we stay healthy, there’s no doubt that we’re going to have a chance,” said Rubio, who’s about to enter his fifth year in the NBA — all with Minnesota. “We [all] have to be there to do that, and dream big.”

Wiggins is the key factor. Good enough to win last season’s NBA Rookie of the Year, the former Kansas Jayhawk averaged 16.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per contest in his freshman campaign as a pro.

What’s more impressive than his statistics or athleticism is that he’s already displayed a great feel for the NBA game despite being just 20 years old, making pundits believe he can one day blossom into a top-5 player in the league.

His point guard is thinking even further.

“I think Wiggins is going to be an MVP one day,” said Rubio, who missed a large chunk of last season due to a severely sprained ankle injury.


No. 2: Also, Kawhi is thinking big, too It’s pretty common for players on the verge of stardom thinking they’re ready to take the next step, but in Kawhi Leonard‘s case, he might be on to something. Lots of the attention this summer in San Antonio was generated by LaMarcus Aldridge defecting from Portland and, to a lesser extent, David West from Indiana. And yet, lots of the Spurs’ upcoming season will depend on Leonard and whether he’s ready to be an All-Star. To hear him say it, he is. And Leonard doesn’t say much. But he has plenty of confidence in himself and is big on the Spurs, which is why he decided to stay and sign an extension. This is what Leonard told David Zink of the Press-Enterprise

Moreno Valley’s Kawhi Leonard usually lets his game do the talking.

But Saturday morning, the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year delivered an important message to the young athletes who attended his basketball camp at the Moreno Valley Conference and Recreation Center.

“I want the kids to know that it’s not a myth that somebody from their city plays and wins in the NBA,” said Leonard, who helped Riverside King High to consecutive CIF-Southern Section titles in 2008 and ‘09. “I just want to influence them to work hard and do whatever they want to do in life, whether it’s to be a basketball player or scientist … if they believe in themselves they can do anything.

“That’s why I have this camp.”

On Saturday, about 90 boys and girls spent the day at the free camp rubbing elbows with one of the great, young NBA talents.

Quiet and unassuming, Leonard, 24, is a relentless competitor who has taken the NBA by storm, carving out his spot among the elite players while playing in a San Antonio Spurs system that values hard work and unselfish play.

“Winning just rubs off on you, once you see Manu (Ginobili), Tony (Parker) and Tim (Duncan) wanting to win every game.”

Now that’s he’s reached a new plateau professionally, Leonard says he’s ready to make another big leap.

“I want to to be an (NBA) all-star and MVP of the regular season,” said Leonard. “I’m trying to be one of the greatest players so whatever level that consists of is where I want to take my game.”


No. 3: Horford talks hoops in the Dominican — Al Horford is the elder statesman of the Hawks, who won 60 games last season and reached the East finals for the first time, so he’s more qualified to discuss the state of the franchise than anyone else. He also won a pair of championships at Florida under Billy Donovan, now the coach of the Thunder, so while conducting a clinic with Basketball Without Borders, Horford let it fly about those two subjects and more to Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated

The NBA and FIBA’s Basketball Without Borders program held its first-ever camp in the Dominican Republic this week, and along for the ride was Hawks big man Al Horford, for whom the events held added weight.

Horford was born in Puerto Plata, lived in the country until the age of 14 and continued to visit every offseason to see family and help run basketball clinics. His father, Tito, also taking part this week, was the NBA’s first Dominican-born player. The Basketball Without Borders traveling contingent also included Mavericks forward Charlie Villanueva, whose parents are Dominican, and Horford’s former Florida teammate Corey Brewer of the Rockets. caught up with the All-Star center in the midst of his trip for a window into his experience and his take on a busy off-season for the Hawks, who are preparing to follow up on a 60-win campaign and the franchise’s first-ever trip to the Eastern Conference finals. This interview was edited for length and clarity. Given that you grew up in the Dominican, how meaningful is it to be a part of the first-ever camp there, and especially to be there with your dad?

Horford: It’s a pretty awesome experience. We’re very grateful that the NBA has brought this caliber of camp to the Dominican Republic, and we get to have an impact in the community as well. I’m excited, my family and I, this has been a week-long celebration, just being able to teach kids, spend time together and make a difference down here. As a kid, you chose basketball over baseball. Obviously baseball’s still the main thing there, but do you get the sense that interest in basketball has changed over the years?

Horford: No question. Baseball’s our dominant sport, obviously, but more and more, you’re starting to see kids from a very young age start to play basketball and really be interested in the game. There’s a big following here. People follow us, they know what’s going on in the NBA, and people here want to play basketball. It’s funny, you drive anywhere in the city, you’ll see courts and people out there playing at all hours of the day. It’s pretty impressive.


No. 4: Burke ready and able There’s been plenty of worry in Salt Lake City over the knee injury suffered by Dante Exum, which will likely sideline him for all of the 2015-16 season. But Trey Burke says, have no fear. With the Jazz down a point guard, Burke feels it’s time to start carrying himself like a veteran and help fill the void of Exum, who was expected to see increased playing time in the Utah backcourt. Here’s Burke discussing Exum and the clang to Aaron Falk of the Salt Lake Tribune

Trey Burke was sitting on the concourse at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday afternoon, signing autographs with a silver marker when a fan struck up a conversation with the Utah Jazz guard.

“Now for the most important question,” the man said after a while. “Utah or Michigan?”

Burke smiled and said he’d be rooting for his alma mater when Jim Harbaugh and company visit Salt Lake City on Sept. 3.

After some lighthearted razzing, the man chuckled and turned to the woman at his side and said, “He’s the perfect point guard except that he’s from Michigan.”

The couple laughed.

Burke, too.

He knows he has been far from perfect since he led the Wolverines to the NCAA Tournament championship game, won college basketball’s player of the year award and became the first point guard drafted in 2013.

“I haven’t hit the goals that I have for myself,” Burke said between fulfilling autograph requests and posing for pictures at a community fair. “But I feel like they’ve been two solid years. I’ve been learning a lot, especially over this summer and last summer. But I know I have a lot of room to improve and I’m willing to work on those areas.”

Burke knew he was facing a crucial year ahead even before knowing that starting point guard Danté Exum could miss all of next season with a torn ACL. Burke had shown flashes over his first 146 games in the NBA, but he also struggled for stretches when he was getting beat on defense or missing too many shots. So as he prepared to his third season with the Jazz, Burke said he was as motivated as ever to prove himself.


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Glen Davis believes the Clippers would’ve beaten the Warriors in the Western Conference finals even though the Clippers have fewer banners in Staples than Taylor SwiftCan the Rockets really sign Kevin Durant? … They love LeBron in the Philippines.

Morning Shootaround — August 10

VIDEO: LeBron James’ top 10 plays from the playoffs

MJ says he’d beat LeBron 1-on-1 | Exum injury doesn’t destroy Jazz | Time to make room for women coaches in NBA


No. 1: MJ says he’d beat LeBron 1-on-1, all-time Bulls would top all-time Lakers — When Michael Jordan speaks, we all listen. And he said plenty over the weekend at his annual Flight School, answering plenty of pertinent questions for the campers in attendance, including how he’d handle LeBron James in a game of 1-on-1 in his prime and responded to Shaq‘s challenge in regards to how the all-time great Bulls teams would fare against an all-time great team of Los Angeles Lakers. He poked Kobe Bryant, too, and even discussed Kwame BrownPatrick Dorsey of has the details: 

What did I think about when Shaq said that the all-time five of the greatest Lakers could beat the Bulls’ five greatest players?

“I just felt like he was just talking. It’s a debate. The thing is that we would never know. I think we would have killed them. He thinks they would have killed us. You guys decide. It’s just a debate.”

Favorite player to play pick-up games with?

“My best pick-up game I’ve ever played was the games and the practices with the [1992] Dream Team. … My team was myself, Scottie Pippen, Patrick Ewing, Larry Bird and Chris Mullin. We played against Magic Johnson, Clyde Drexler, Charles Barkley, David Robinson — that’s five, right? — and we killed ’em.

Note: That’s not five; the other player team’s fifth had to be either Karl Malone, John Stockton or Christian Laettner. There’s also a chance Jordan is misremembering a bit, and he’s talking aboutthis scrimmage covered in-depth by Sports Illustrated, which featured a Jordan-Malone-Ewing-Pippen-Bird five against Magic, Barkley, Robinson, Mullin and Laettner (although a 40-36 final score in favor of Jordan’s team hardly constitutes a “killing.”)

If I had the chance to go one-on-one with Steph Curry or LeBron, which one would I choose to go one-on-one with?

“Right now, or when I was in my prime? Right now? Buddy, I couldn’t beat — well, I’d go against [Stephen] Curry because I’m a little bit bigger than him. So I could kind of back him in. But LeBron is a little bit too big.”

[Note: Take that, 34 percent of America.]

If I had a chance to add another member to team Jordan, who would I hire?

“I’m a big fan of [Mike] Trout, the baseball player. I absolutely love him. I wish I could hire him. But he’s Nike, so I can’t steal Nike’s guys.”

This is the ESPN question. I know it’s going to be all over ESPN. [Note: He was right.]If I was in my prime, could I beat LeBron in a one-on-one game?

[Long pause in which the campers mutter/shout their opinions.]

No question!

[Huge applause.]

What did I see in Kwame Brown when I drafted him [No. 1 overall for the Washington Wizards in 2001]?

“I, along with everybody that was in that draft room, wanted Kwame Brown because of his athleticism, his size, his speed. He was still a young talent, 18-year-old, 19-year-old kid.”

If you went back and you couldn’t play basketball or baseball, what sport would you play?

“Great question. I went to college, I got my degree in cultural geography, and everybody wanted to know what is cultural geography? Well it’s an introduction to meteorology. I always wanted to be the weather man. Don’t laugh. But that’s what I really wanted to do. So if I wasn’t playing basketball or baseball, I was going to tell you what the weather was going to be like tomorrow.”

[Note: Don’t think meteorology is a sport? Tell that to Jim Cantore!]

What kind of advice would I give Kobe Bryant?

[Uncomfortable laughter in the crowd.]

“Actually, Kobe and I are good friends. I like Kobe, we talk a lot, I hope he comes back healthy. I think he’s one of the great players of the game, I think he’s done a lot for the game, and he has a true love for the game of basketball. I absolutely have high regard for Kobe Bryant.

“Even though he stole all my moves, but that’s OK. I still love him like a brother.”

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Report: Griffin to attend USA Basketball minicamp

VIDEO: Clippers big man Blake Griffin took his game to another level this season in Los Angeles

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Blake Griffin will be in attendance at next month’s USA Basketball minicamp in Las Vegas with an eye towards earning a roster spot on the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, according to a report to from Ramona Shelburne of

Griffin missed out on opportunities to chase gold medals twice before, having to withdraw due to injuries from the 2012 (torn meniscus left knee) team that won gold at the London Olympics and the team last year (back injury) that rolled to gold at the FIBA World Cup in Spain.

Griffin is one of the many NBA stars, including four members of the world champion Golden State Warriors, expected to convene in Las Vegas for the minicamp. Jerry Colangelo, USA Basketball’s managing  director, has already made it clear that any player interested in a roster spot for Rio must attend the minicamp.

More from Shelburne on some of the other stars expected to turn up in Vegas next week:

A source told ESPN’s Calvin Watkins that Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden will also attend the minicamp. Harden, who played a key role on the World Cup team last season, led the NBA with 2,981 minutes played during the regular season.

Sources told’s Marc Stein, meanwhile, that the newly crowned champion Golden State Warriors expect to have four representatives at the minicamp: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes.

Curry and Thompson were key members of the Team USA squad that won the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain. Green and Barnes, as reported earlier this month, are recent invitees to the minicamp, which USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo has billed as more of a “reunion” for USAB players, coaches and staffers than a competitive basketball event.

Sources told Stein that Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley has also accepted his recent invitation to attend the camp, with Washington’s Bradley Beal, Utah’s Gordon Hayward and Portland’s Mason Plumlee (who played on the World Cup team last summer) also planning to attend.

The San Antonio Express-News, meanwhile, reported Sunday that newly re-signed star swingman Kawhi Leonard will make himself available for the camp after he bypassed national team invites the past two summers.


Morning shootaround — July 7

VIDEO: What do the Cleveland Cavaliers have planned next in the offseason?

Okafor solid in Summer League debut | Continuity keeps Spurs chugging along | Parsons wants Jordan to be top-flight NBA center | Report: NBPA may fund health insurance for ex-players


No. 1: Okafor impresses overall in Summer League debut — The Philadelphia 76ers endured another awful season with the payoff coming in mid-June in the form of an NBA Draft lottery pick. That pick became Duke big man Jahlil Okafor, taken No. 3 overall, and in a rare turn of events of late for the Sixers, he is a rookie healthy enough to suit up for Summer League. Our Scott Howard-Cooper was on hand for Okafor’s debut in the Utah Summer League and says that after some early jitters, Okafor looked more than solid

His first game as a pro, his first five-on-five game since winning the national championship on April 6, his first time playing since the Philadelphia 76ers picked him third on June 25, but normal. The best possible outcome for Okafor and Philadelphia, in other words.

The Sixers desperately need the typical when 2015-16 arrives, the inside muscle with the ball that makes Okafor the ideal complement alongside the defensive presence of Nerlens Noel as an interchangeable power forward-center combination, no matter what happens with Joel Embiid and his uncertain recovery from a foot injury. The offense from anywhere, really, after they finished No. 29 in scoring, one-tenth of a point ahead of the Knicks for last. If Okafor can just be Okafor — and a lot of teams think the post game that abused defenses in the one-and-done at Duke will translate immediately because of that advanced skill level, along with being 6-11 and 270 pounds at 19 years old — Philly instantly moves forward.

Monday night inside EnergySolutions Arena, in the first game of the Utah Jazz Summer League, Okafor got the obligatory hit of nerves just before tipoff. And then he had a very slow start, making just three of 11 shots, mostly from close range, in the opening half. It was early July, so no big deal.

Then came the second half and the taking control inside and the seven baskets in 11 attempts, until he finished with 20 points and nine rebounds (five offensive) in a 74-71 loss to the Spurs. Okafor was being Okafor.

“I’ve been saying it for a week or so now, with every possession he’s going to just grow and grow,” said Billy Lange, the Philly assistant coach who is running the bench here. “We’ve been preparing him for — everybody’s going to come in and try to make a name for themselves against him. He wants to win and he wants to please. He’s a great kid, his heart is so pure that he’s probably pressing himself a little bit. But once he settled into the third quarter and we’re drawing plays up for him and he’s getting the ball in spots he probably hasn’t seen in a long time … I thought he did really, really well. And he pushed through. He played (29) minutes in this altitude and, I thought, competed pretty hard.”

That was the other thing. Actually, that was the bigger thing: After being knocked by some front offices for a lack of ideal conditioning last season, Okafor played his first organized game in exactly three months, played it at 4,300 feet, and not only lasted the 29 minutes but with his best moments in the second half.

VIDEO: Jahlil Okafor scores 20 points in his Summer League debut

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