Posts Tagged ‘Lucas Nogueira’

Morning Shootaround — Dec. 23


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Dec. 22

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Sometimes Love isn’t enough | Stephenson spoils Indy return for Stevens | Pistons ride roller coaster | Wade’s Holiday surprise

No. 1: Timberwolves get monster effort from Love and still lose — Kevin Love has been toiling like this now for a while. He puts up monster numbers, epic numbers often, only to see his Minnesota Timberwolves come up short in seemingly winnable games. Sunday night was no different, with Love posting just the fourth 45-points on 65-percent shooting, 15-rebounds and 5-assist game since the NBA/ABA merger and the Timberwolves found a way to fumble away a late lead in regulation and lose to the Los Angeles Clippers in overtime.

It makes you wonder if the Timberwolves are ever going to figure things out with this particular group … Rick Adelman in charge, Love and Ricky Rubio leading the way and Kevin Martin, Nikola Pekovic and others as role players.

Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com ponders the thought:

It’s getting harder and harder to believe in Minnesota, even for those among us who were ready to anoint them as this season’s Warriors. It all looked so promising six weeks ago. The Wolves were quickly mastering Adelman’s read-and-react offense from the high post and perimeter, but could also bully opponents down on the block.

The defense wasn’t half-bad either. Through the end of November, the Wolves ranked 9th in defensive efficiency. They didn’t have a legitimate rim protector on the roster, but they had good size, Ricky Rubio’s pressure up top, Corey Brewer’s skills as a stopper on the wing, and a very large man in Pekovic who nobody wants to encounter in the paint.

The December schedule hasn’t been terribly friendly, but the Wolves have been terrible, their big home win over Portland last Wednesday the one strand of hope. The offense looks nothing like anything Adelman has ever presided over. Half-court possessions are labored affairs, slow grinds into post isolations for either Love or Pekovic.

Martin has battled a knee injury for much of the month and hasn’t looked like himself. As a linchpin of the corner offense, Martin is often a bellwether for Adelman offenses, and if he’s not producing, chances are the offense is dragging.

The Wolves’ 3-and-D guy, Brewer, is shooting 17.1 percent from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, defenses willingly slough off Rubio, practically begging him to shoot. With his confidence waning, Rubio is still racking up assists, but is less a playmaker than a reversal machine, swinging the ball to the second side without truly challenging the defense.

Speaking of defense, the Wolves have given up 106.6 points per 100 possession, a mark that would rank 28th in the NBA. Asked to identify the specific problem prior to the game, Adelman said, “We’re not guarding anybody.” Those big bodies now just look slow. Whether it’s Martin or J.J. Barea alongside Rubio, the Wolves don’t get much defensively at the 2. Brewer has conceded that his wayward shot is affecting his defense.

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No. 2: Stephenson’s triple double trumps homecoming for Stevens — So much for that storybook homecoming for former Butler and now Celtics coach Brad Stevens. The Indiana Pacers, particularly Lance Stephenson, were having no part of the Holiday cheer. Stephenson collected his league-leading third triple-double of the season as the Pacers trounced the Celtics. Not bad for a guy who couldn’t help but dance a little bit (something Pacers coach Frank Vogel could have done without) on his way to yet another stellar performance.

Michael Pointer of the Indianapolis Star explains:

Stephenson finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists and looked very much like a player deserving of his first All-Star berth. No other player in the NBA has more than one triple-double this season.

“I’m happy I did it,” he said. “It was in the flow of the game. My teammates helped me out. We played smart. It was easy because I know my teammates are going to knock down shots.”

Stephenson did get plenty of help, most notably from Paul George, who scored 18 of his game-high 24 points in the second half. Danny Granger, playing in his just his second game after returning from a calf strain, was 4-for-5 from 3-point range and had 12 points. Roy Hibbert had 15 points and 12 rebounds.

But his teammates acknowledged afterward that Stephenson provides them an emotional lift like no one else.

“He’s just starting the game off more aggressively,” George said. “In practice, he’s been great. We’ve seen it develop over time. Now, when he gets into the game, it’s second nature to him.”

Added veteran forward David West: “One of the biggest things for young guys in the NBA is that once you work your way into the rotation and you become a guy we rely on, that just fills you up. We give him a lot of room to go out and play his game. … He definitely keeps us on our toes and keeps things light. He’s able to just do something we’ll talk about on the plane. It’s just who he is.”

Vogel wasn’t thrilled with a couple of celebration dances Stephenson did after baskets, but didn’t have much else to complain about.

“He’s such a gifted passer and playmaker for us and a huge part of our team success,” Vogel said.

STEVENS‘The emotions are in coming back and seeing friends’

Stevens, the former Butler coach who left the school in July to join the Celtics, got a warm ovation during pregame warmups and his team kept it close for one quarter.

But after that, the Pacers (22-5) showed why they have the Eastern Conference’s best record. They outscored Boston 50-22 in the paint, got 40 points from their bench and held the Celtics to just 38.1 percent shooting (32-for-84) en route to an easy victory.

As the game ended, Stevens shook hands with Vogel, a rarity at the end of a NBA game. He also shook the hand of several Pacers players.

“It was just because we’re friends and we know each other well,” said Vogel, noting they also shook hands after the Pacers’ 97-82 victory in Boston last month. “I came down and told him he was doing a great job with that team.”

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No. 3: Pistons’ roller coaster season confounds — If Maurice Cheeks had the answers he’d have pushed those buttons already. But he doesn’t and he hasn’t. And therefore, the curious ride of the Detroit Pistons continues as the coach and his staff try to figure out how to stop the roller coaster ride that is their season and stabilize things. That’s a lot easier said than done, however, as Vincent Goodwill of the Detroit News points out:

The last two home games, losses to the Houston Rockets and Charlotte Bobcats on consecutive nights over the weekend, is a clear example of nobody knowing which team will step on the floor on a given night.

“You know we’re still trying to get better,” Cheeks said. “As I said to our players, there’s going to be some good nights and bad nights. Last night (Friday) and (Saturday) was not our best.”

Cheeks believes the Bobcats loss led to the poor showing against the Rockets. The Pistons blew a 20-point lead to Charlotte on Friday and looking almost apathetic on Saturday.

“I believe there could’ve been some carryover,” Cheeks said. “I can’t discount that because it was a tough loss.”

Losing five of six at home is an unexpected circumstance, although there isn’t much shame in losing to the Miami Heat in a game where the champions were intent on sending a message.

But blowout losses to the Rockets and Minnesota Timberwolves are combined with come-from-ahead losses to the Bobcats and Portland Trail Blazers, mixed in with a win against the Brooklyn Nets that was tougher than it needed to be.

“I don’t know, I don’t know. I guess that’s determined when we go up and down the floor a few times,” said forward Josh Smith, when asked about getting a pulse on the team’s energy before games.

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No. 4: Wade surprises Union with Holiday ring – Heat guard Dwyane Wade has no problem mixing business with pleasure. He used Heat boss Pat Riley‘s annual Holiday party as his impromptu engagement party after officially popping the question to longtime girlfriend Gabrielle Union before they arrived at Riley’s affair. The surprise engagement was announced via social media. But Union showing up with a huge diamond ring on her finger added an extra dash of flair to the festivities, upstaging Riley at his own gig in the process, not that anyone was complaining about that. In fact, Wade popping the question was a bit of a team effort, so says Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald:

Wade proposed to Union before the party at his home and then announced the engagement on Twitter and Instagram.

Wade said his children helped him pop the question.

“We asked her to marry all of us, not just me,” Wade said. “It was a package deal.”

Wade and Union have dated since 2007.

“She was ready,” Wade said. “She had the ‘yes’ in her back pocket.”

At the holiday party, Wade then surprised his teammates with green custom-made sports coats commemorating their 2013 championship. The blazers featured the players’ jersey numbers on the sleeves and white Heat logos on the front pockets.

Wade said his inspirations for the unique mementos were the Masters golf tournament and Rasheed Wallace. Wallace famously had pro wrestling-style replica championship belts made for his Pistons teammates for winning the 2004 NBA Finals. Wade liked Wallace’s idea but wanted something a little classier.

Said Wade: “You know me, I’m always trying to do something different and out of the norm, and I started thinking about what have previous champions done … and then it came to be me, because of fashion and because of the Masters and how amazing it is when they win the green jacket and all the previous winners come back and take pictures with the green jackets and how prestigious it is … so I got with my stylist and created this Masters kind of feel.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Thunder fell victim to the red-hot Raptors and the schedule in their first home loss of the season Sunday … Much like their NFL counterparts, the Dallas Mavericks are having no problems scoring. It’s the defense that they are struggling with these days … The Hawks have brought big man Lucas Nogueira to Atlanta for treatment of his ailing knees.

ICYMI Of The Night: Kevin Love put up the stat line of the night and delivered the elbow of the week, but Blake Griffin got the win, the knot on his forehead and the shine on Nightly Notable …


VIDEO: Blake Griffin gets the shiner (on his forehead) and the shine in the end

Hawks’ Rookies Find International Connection

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LAS VEGAS – For Hawks rookies Dennis Schroder and Lucas Nogueira, speaking different languages hasn’t hurt their connection on the court.

Schroder, the team’s German point guard and Nogueira, the big man out of Brazil, connected several times on alley-oops in the team’s five games, giving Hawks fans a glimpse of what could become an exciting pairing at Philips Arena.

“We had a very, very good connection,” Schroder said. “He runs the pick-and-roll very well, so every time he looks at me I know he’s ready for the pass. That’s great for me having a guy like him I can throw it to.”

That connection may have to wait, however. Schroder is signed with the Hawks and will likely see time backing up Jeff Teague this season. Nogueira’s future, though, isn’t as certain. Nogueira, the No. 16 pick who famously — and briefly — donned a Celtics cap on his afro before being traded to the Hawks on Draft night, was a last-minute addition to the Summer League squad and management was using the time here to get a feel for their 7-foot (7-foot-3 with the afro?) big man.

“It was a really good learning experience for both of them,” said Hawks assistant Quin Snyder, who ran the team in Las Vegas. “I thought Lucas got better as the week went on and Dennis had a few really good challenges that he handled really well.”

Schroder showed a patience and ability to find the open man on offense, but shined defensively, where he was constantly hounding opposing point guards.

“I think being a point guard in Summer League is harder than any other position because there’s so much you have to control,” Snyder said. “He did a really good job defensively this week. He works incredibly hard on defense and he’s so long, so he’s tough to play against.”

Schroder finished his run averaging 10.8 points and 5.6 assists (against 3.4 TOs) while struggling a bit with his shot (34 percent overall, 7-for-24 on 3s). Schroder improved with each game, though, and seemed more comfortable offensively as the week progressed. Still, all the 19-year-old German wanted to talk about was his defense.

“The first thing I do is try to play good defense,” said Schroder, who led the Hawks with eight steals in five games. “Hopefully my teammates see that and play hard defense, too.”

Nogueira said he took notice of Schroder’s defense, and had his best game defensively Friday, bringing energy and tallying five of his 12 blocks in the Hawks’ finale.

“I like my progress this week,” said Nogueira, who says he plans to be in Atlanta by August and is preparing as if he’ll be with the team in the fall even though management may choose to keep him overseas. “I started slow, but I’ll go home happy with my progress.”

Nogueira admitted he didn’t know Schroder’s game before the Hawks took him with the No. 17 pick, but said he watched “all his YouTube movies” to better prepare for Summer League.

“He’s a very good guard, makes great passes and has great vision, so that’s good for me,” Nogueira said with a laugh.

And it could be a good connection – eventually – for the Hawks.

Nogueira Finally Ready To Make NBA Mark

Two days until the draft, and….

Lucas Nogueira is ready to learn his NBA future. At last. Without further delay.

The moment has been two years and, as of Thursday night, three drafts in coming. He was in the 2011 field, then withdrew just before the deadline. He stayed out last year. Now, after several calendars worth of scrutiny from front offices, Nogueira will hear his name called in the first round, maybe as high the teens, as the selections unfold at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

“He feels like in the past two years he needed to grow in several different areas,” Nogueira’s agent, Aylton Tesch, said. “His maturity, his knowledge for the game. And after the season that he had, he feels like he has accomplished some of it and he feels ready mentally to take the next step.”

The concern is whether the power forward-center from Brazil has grown enough, which is why Nogueira isn’t a lock for at least the middle of the first round as a rim protector who runs the floor, has quick reflexes combined with extensive international experience. All this time later, teams still have questions about his focus and whether Nogueira is capable of actually being a difference maker or will continue to be adrift in inconsistency.

“He had heard that before, like two years ago,” Tesch said. “But ever since, he changed his attitude on and off the court. Things have changed.”

Things?

“His personality overall, about being more serious and more professional on the court,” Tesch said.

It’s not just the mental. Nogueira needs to get stronger at 220 pounds, and there may be language issues: the Brazil native does large portions of interviews in Portugese. He is asked if he is comfortable with English.

“No,” Nogueira  said. “So so.”

He may use a translator as a rookie. On the other hand, if he comes to the NBA rather than spend another season in Spain in the second-best league in the world, at least Nogueira will be a rookie. Finally.

Eurocamp: Day 3

TREVISO, Italy – I came, I saw, I worked nonstop and absolutely, positively did not enjoy the food and beverage of the land or dine al fresco along a charming piazza on a perfectly breezy evening or have nightcaps of tiramisu and gelato. Although it would be OK if I did since one place was recommended by a general manager, so that counts as work.

There were productive days all around. The adidas Eurocamp that ended Monday was as successful as could be expected for the 30 teams represented at the largest annual international pre-Draft gathering, considering most of the players likely headed to the lottery June 23 declined to participate and two of the biggest names, Bismack Biyombo and Donatas Motiejunas, both had underwhelming individual workouts. But Jonas Valanciunas, Biyombo and Montiejunas at least met with teams, some in repeat visits, to allow executives to get a better sense of the players’ personalities.

Valanciunas confirmed earlier in the day, the deadline to withdraw from the draft, that he gave no consideration to pulling out, contrary to guessing that wrongly passed as guessing in some media outlets. His buyout terms are still being discussed and has become a source of concern for teams not interested in spending a top-five pick for a center who isn’t coming to the NBA for at least a year, but no one in a position to know ever expected a different outcome.

“It’s the 11th Commandment,” said one front-office official in attendance. “They just found it: Greed is undefeated.”

Meaning a difficult negotiation is expected to be completed before the draft to generate a financial windfall for Valanciunas and his team in Lithuania. He could be picked as soon as No. 4 to Cleveland.

Other news, notes and observations from the third and final day:

  • Lucas Nogueira, a possibility for the first round, was the biggest name to pull out on deadline day, agreeing with the assessment from teams he is not close to being physically ready for the NBA. Nogueira said he plans to be in the 2012 draft.
  • The top international prospects – Motiejunas, Biyombo, Valanciunas and Enes Kanter, who has stayed in the United States after a freshman year at Kentucky – all do well with English and most are engaging. There will not be any communications problems. I have not talked with Jan Vesely.
  • One executive was walking past in the gym. He stopped and turned. “Good triumphs over evil,” he said, smirking. Meaning Mavericks over Heat. Distaste for Miami and the coordinated effort to add LeBron James and Chris Bosh to Dwyane Wade isn’t just for fans and the media.
  • Opinions remain as unsettled as before the camp on the top international prospect in a draft when five players with overseas backgrounds could go in the top 10. Most picks are for Vesely or Valanciunas, with lesser support for the others, even if Kanter may be the first off the board with the Jazz known to be seriously considering him. One executive called Valanciunas “a future franchise center.”

Eurocamp: Day 2

TREVISO, Italy – NBA executives are increasingly predicting increased trade activity centered around the draft as the looming lockout puts teams on the clock to face the unusual prospect of needing to do an offseason of work within a short time.

“Trades could be explored more,” one front-office veteran said Sunday on the second day of Eurocamp about 20 miles north of Venice, the  largest annual international scouting session in preparation of the draft.  “Whether that happens or not remains to be seen. But, yeah, I definitely think the lockout could prompt people to make a lot of moves they might ordinarily wait on.”

The concern for teams in this case isn’t the length of the lockout that in all likelihood will begin July 1. The issue is the amount of time they will have once the work stoppage, if it happens, is settled. Or won’t have – if the labor dispute carries deep into the regular season, general  managers will have much less time than usual, perhaps just a couple weeks, between the time the lockout is settled and the start of the renovated schedule. Having more of a preferred roster in place by the end of June, rather than the usual schedule of being able to make adjustments throughout the  summer, will complete a lot of the work now.

“It could accelerate the process a bit,” one executive said of teams looking to make moves heading into the draft and the June 23 night itself.

Others agree. The premise is especially interesting in this of all years, with a draft so poorly regarded around the league that any picks being moved would be in a buyers’ market. Now, if teams genuinely are getting more aggressive in anticipation of a lockout, the mood changes.

There have already been a lot of calls directed at clubs late in the lottery, with one executive suggesting that, based on the needs of the suitors, shooting sensation Jimmer Fredette is a likely target. The possibility of a pick being moved goes all the way to No. 2, where the Timberwolves continue to have conversations but know the best offers probably won’t come until the final days before the draft.

Other news, notes and observations from the middle day of Eurocamp:

  • Lucas Nogueira, a skinny 7-footer playing in Spain, said he is seriously considering withdrawing from the draft as the Monday deadline approaches.
  • Most clubs feel that would be the right move – “I don’t know why they put him in the draft in the first place,” one scout said. Even if Nogueira stays in and gets the guaranteed money of a first-round pick, a possibility for a team picking near the end but wanting to avoid taking on a contract now, it is a near-certainty that he plays overseas at least one more season and possibly two.
  • Dwight Howard, in town as part of a promotional tour and scheduled to address the prospects on Monday, made a surprise appearance Sunday to join New Zealand’s junior national rugby team, in town for a tournament, to do the Haka at midcourt. A pre-game Haka, a traditional dance from the country, is a great moment no matter what. The Magic’s gregarious center in the spirit and putting full-throated energy into the Haka is even better.
  • There are very few signs many lottery picks from the 2012 draft and beyond will come from the combine. Some of the best European prospects for next June skipped the competition, to the surprise and  frustration of NBA teams that for some reason figured competition is good for  young players. One of the intriguing possibilities is Denmark’s Rasmus Larsen, a 7-footer at 16 years old and with the ability to do something with it.