Posts Tagged ‘Milwaukee Bucks’

Morning Shootaround — Sept. 29

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Noah lands in New York | Rings for everyone | Mavs hope for big impact from Curry | Stockton to Kidd?

No. 1: Noah lands in New York — After missing the first few days of training camp for the birth of his daughter, Joakim Noah was finally able to participate in his first practice with his new team, the New York Knicks. And as ESPN.com reports, his new teammates are already raving about the emotional presence he brings to his new team…

“He brings a different dynamic to the court,” Carmelo Anthony said after Noah’s first practice with the New York Knicks. “Mentally, he pushes you; he forces you to compete at a high level every time on the basketball court. Everybody. Whether you’re the 14th, 15th man on the team, or myself, or Derrick [Rose] or anybody else.

“Like, he pushes you to go out there and compete every play. If not, you’re going to hear about. I think that’s something we’ve been missing, this team needed, this organization needed and I like it. We like it.”

The Knicks signed Noah to a four-year, $72 million deal over the summer, in part, because of his leadership qualities.

The Rose trade left a void at center, and Phil Jackson believes Noah can fill it as a backbone of the Knicks’ defense. Only time will tell if Noah can provide elite rebounding, rim protection and pick-and-roll defense over the course of his contract.

But his intense nature — which has its own value on and off the court — was on display in his first training camp practice (Noah missed the first two days due to the birth of his daughter).

“If you’re not on his team, you’re an enemy,” Anthony said. “I think that mentality, that’s going to kind of trickle down to everybody else. It’s a different mindset that you’ve got to have coming into the game, going into practice. Even in practice, if you’re not on his team, if you’re not on the blue or white team with him, you’re an enemy. That keeps the competitive edge for everybody out there on the court.”

The perfect scenario for the Knicks is Noah remaining healthy, productive and being an influential presence in the locker room. “Jo’s [intensity] won’t slow down as the year goes on. We hope that’s contagious for the rest of our guys,” Jeff Hornacek said.

Intangibles aside, there are some question marks for Noah coming into the season. He was limited to just 29 games last year due to a shoulder injury; some observers believe his game had slipped prior to the injury.

Chicago Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf added to that theory when he told the Chicago Tribune the following about Noah’s departure:

“What we felt was it was time. We felt Joakim wasn’t going to be a front-line guy anymore. I was pretty confident that Pau [Gasol] was going to leave. So it was important for us to get the center in [Robin] Lopez.”

Noah was asked about the remarks on Wednesday and offered a measured response.

“It’s alright. He’s entitled to his opinion,” Noah said. “I feel like I have no regrets about my time in Chicago. I gave it everything I had. To me, that’s all that matters. I know that I did everything I could for that organization. I thought it was a little bit of a low blow, you know? But at the end of the day, I have nothing but respect for that organization. I’m just excited for this new chapter in my career.”

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No. 2: Rings for everyone — The Cleveland Cavaliers famously broke the city’s 52-year championship dry spell by winning the 2016 NBA Finals. And Cavs ownership is rewarding not just the players on the team, but pretty much everyone involved with the franchise. According to Cleveland.com, more than 1,000 people will be receiving championship rings in The Land…

From LeBron James down to the guy who sold you a hot dog on a Wednesday night at The Q, the entire Cavaliers’ family is getting a 2016 NBA championship ring.

Majority owner Dan Gilbert and his partners decided to present rings to more than 1,000 full and part-time employees throughout the Cavaliers and Quicken Loans Arena organization, employees who’ve been fitted for rings told cleveland.com.

A spokesman for the Cavs confirmed the information but declined to comment.

Of course, not every team employee will get the same, diamond crusted ring that’s going to rest on the fingers of James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and other players from last season, but ticket takers, seat ushers, security guards, Cleveland police officers and all who work behind the scenes at home games will be able to say they won a ring. And they’ll have proof.

The same goes for rings commemorating the Lake Erie Monsters’ AHL Calder Cup victory from last season. Virtually all employees involved with Monsters’ operations, including some who work for the Columbus Blue Jackets (the Monsters’ NHL affiliate) will get rings.

Employees learned about the rings earlier this month at something called the “Spectaculars,” a company-wide (Cavs, Monsters, Quicken Loans Arena) yearly meeting and employee-recognition event. The gesture extends to workers for Aramark, the contractor that supplies food-service workers for Cavs and Monsters home games.

A conservative cost for distributing rings to employees is more than $1 million.

The Cavs declined to say whether or not former coach David Blatt — who was fired in January — or former center Anderson Varejao (traded in February) were getting rings. But Gilbert is obviously in a mood to be inclusive.

Varejao, who played for the Warriors against the Cavs in the Finals, told reporters out West the Cavs had offered him a ring. Anderson, who played for Cleveland from 2004-16, said he was unsure if he would accept.

The Akron Beacon Journal reported that Blatt would get a ring, but both Gilbert (through a spokesman) and Cavs general manager David Griffin would not confirm the report.

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No. 3: Mavs hope for big impact from Curry — The Dallas Mavericks made some big moves this summer, adding a couple of former Warriors in Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut. But they’re hoping another new player with Golden State ties has an equally large impact. Seth Curry, brother of Stephen Curry, drew raves in last night’s open scrimmage. And Dallas coach Rick Carlisle says it’s not really fair to compare Seth to Steph

Curry is an intriguing newcomer for the Mavericks. He can shoot. The bloodlines guarantee it. But he needs to do other things to prove he can be a contributor this season.

What he did in the open practice Wednesday before a nice crowd at American Airlines Center was have 15 points and a couple of assists. He hit 3-pointers when the defense left him. He has all the looks of a young scorer at the combo guard spot.

It’s no surprise he can shoot. His father, Dell, and his brother are two of the best shooters in NBA history.

But the question remains: is it hard to be your own man when you have such strong ancestry?

“Not for me,” he said. “I don’t know how other people look at it, but I know my potential and that’s what I base myself on, not what my brother does or what my dad did.”

As for comparisons to his brother, coach Rick Carlisle said it’s about letting Seth Curry be Seth Curry.

“Let’s leave that alone,” he said. “This kid is a terrific player in his own right. To me, it’s a disservice to get into all that stuff. Let this kid be himself. He’s unique in his own right.”

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No. 4: Stockton to Kidd? — As coach Jason Kidd works on changing the culture in Milwaukee and making the Bucks contenders, he called upon a fellow NBA legend for some help. Kidd asked legendary Jazz point guard John Stockton to spend a few days with the Bucks, bringing the top two assist-givers in NBA history together

“If you want to help your guys at some of the positions, you find the best and I got very lucky John could join us these next couple days,” Kidd said.

Stockton teamed with Karl Malone in Utah to form one of the top tandems in league history. The point guard played all 19 seasons with the Jazz and his team made the playoffs every year. Stockton was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.

“He gave me a hard time for not saying he was a great athlete,” Kidd said. “You’re not (Russell) Westbrook or someone who is touching the top of the backboard.

“But you know how to play the game. Probably everyone counted him out, but him. Just running the show. We have Malcolm (Brogdon) and Delly (Matthew Dellavedova). I see like they have some of him. And I told him we have a pretty big point guard, too.”

Asked if Stockton could help teach a few things to 6-11 point guard Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks coach said, “We’ll see.

“You talk about the best player at his position to be here. We’re very lucky.”

Kidd was one of the all-time greats at the position and played 19 seasons, so it’s a point guard heaven at Bucks camp. Stockton and Kidd also rank 1-2 in steals.

“Very cool,” Bucks forward Steve Novak of seeing Stockton on the sideline. “He’s a legend. He’s a Dream Team guy. He’s one of the greatest players in NBA history.

“It’s just awesome to have someone like that who you looked up to so much.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: DeMarcus Cousins says he’s “excited” about the Dave Joerger era in Sacramento … Tim Duncan showed up at Spurs practice as a spectator … Michael Kidd-Gilchrist says he spent the summer working on his shotDarrell Arthur took less money to stay with the Denver Nuggets … Anthony Carter is back with the Heat, this time as a D-League assistant … NBA team owners continue buying esports teams

Morning Shootaround — Sept. 28

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Curry confident he’ll remain a Warrior | Hornets looking for a revitalized Hibbert | Parker hopes to create change | Jazz looking to pick up the pace

No. 1: Curry confident he’ll remain a Warrior — Now that one offseason is over, the questions about the next one will begin. And apparently, it’s Stephen Curry‘s turn to answer them. So, on the first day of practice, Curry was asked about his “impending” free agency, which is only nine months away. ESPN’s Ethan Sherwood Strauss has the story…

Stephen Curry indicated Tuesday he’ll likely re-sign with the Golden State Warriors after this season.

“Yes. Yes,” Curry replied to questions whether he’s optimistic about returning to the Warriors. Next offseason will be the two-time reigning NBA MVP’s first time as an unrestricted free agent.

Curry re-signing would be in contrast to decisions made by the other two most recent MVPs, Kevin Durant and LeBron James, who both went elsewhere after their rookie extensions expired. Durant decided to join Curry with the Warriors, while James jumped from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Miami Heat, only to return to Cleveland in 2014 after four seasons in Miami.

Asked if he’ll consult with Durant on contract matters this season, Curry said, “Maybe, but I’m not going to let it distract me at all.”

“I want to be back here. I like playing here, and that’s it,” he said.

As far as this season goes, you know that Curry will use the end of last season as motivation, as Michael Lee writes for Yahoo

Curry never used any excuses for his poor performance on the game’s biggest stage, never sought sympathy for his struggles – even as the Finals version of Curry rarely, if ever, came close to resembling that euphoric, fun-time version of Curry that challenged our definitions of heat checks and deep range before that unfortunate slip on a sweaty court in Houston derailed a dream season.

As he drifted into an offseason filled with the disappointment from surrendering to James an NBA title and his brief hold on the title of the game’s best player, Curry said he wouldn’t allow himself to wallow in the what-coulda-beens related to being at full strength. The Golden State Warriors lost. He lost. And that was enough to keep him motivated and focused on trying to avoid duplicating those feelings next June.

“That was the situation,” Curry said Tuesday about playing with knee and ankle injuries last postseason. “There are certain situations that everybody has to deal with and whoever is at the end … there is no need for any other storylines. I hated that I was asked about it that much, because at the end of the day, I was on the floor playing. If we would’ve won, the situation would’ve been different. Obviously, the question would’ve been a little different: ‘How did you overcome such a catastrophic injury and win a championship?'”

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No. 2: Hornets looking for a revitalized Hibbert — Roy Hibbert was the anchor of a defense that ranked No. 1 in the league for two straight seasons, making “rim protection” a permanent part of the NBA lexicon. But, looking to get better offensively, the Indiana Pacers decided to move on last year and Hibbert fell off the map in one season in L.A. In fact, he was the center on three of the league’s four worst lineups that played at least 100 minutes last season. Now Hibbert is in Charlotte, looking to resurrect his career, as Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer writes…

The Hornets got Hibbert for less than a third of what he was paid last season — he’s on a one-year, $5-million deal. He and Cody Zeller will mostly man the center position for the Hornets, with Zeller likely starting but Hibbert playing significant minutes. Hibbert will give Charlotte something the Hornets have lacked since they let Bismack Biyombo walk in 2015 — an imposing presence at the rim on defense.

But does that even still matter in today’s NBA? The Hornets obviously think it does.

Said Ewing, a Basketball Hall of Famer who was one of the best big men to ever play the game: “One of the first things I told Roy when we signed him was ‘Look, no more negative things about how the game has changed.’ Forget that. Forget it!”

Ewing smiled.

“I may not have used those exact words, though,” he said, leaving no doubt some of his initial speech to Hibbert wasn’t suitable for a family newspaper.

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No. 3: Parker hopes to create change — Jabari Parker is only 21 years old and doesn’t have the kind of profile that Carmelo Anthony or LeBron James have. But Parker isn’t going to take a backseat in regard to having his voice heard about race and inequality issues in his home city of Chicago and across the United States. Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel spoke to Parker about his efforts to make a difference …

While at times he can be reticent to talk to the media in basketball settings, Parker said Monday at Bucks media day that speaking out this summer wasn’t a challenge. It’s something he said he’s done at some level since high school and feels strongly about continuing now that he has a larger platform as a professional athlete.

“It’s been easy as me being a pro trying to create change, trying to help my neighbor, trying to help my community because honestly if I don’t stand up for something I know nobody else will,” said Parker, whom the Bucks drafted in 2014 out of Duke with the No. 2 overall pick in the NBA. “It’s part of my responsibility to come back and create awareness and create change.”

Parker took action this summer to back up his words. On Aug. 26, he hosted Pickup for Peace at Quest MultiSport in Chicago, an event featuring some Chicago AAU teams as well as a pickup game with Parker and other notable basketball players from Chicago, including Shawn Marion and Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley.

He called that event the most rewarding thing he did over the summer.

“That can make a lot of difference,” Parker said. “(It’s) three hours away from the streets. I just wanted to do my role, do what I know to do and that’s to play basketball and that’s what I’m going to do for a long time.”

Though the decision to add his voice to the discussion was a simple one, Parker noted he has received backlash for sharing his views. He’s heard criticism, especially on social media, from people saying he should stick to playing basketball and stay out of the social and political discussion. That’s something he won’t do.

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No. 4: Jazz looking to pick up the pace — The Utah Jazz led the league with 3.79 passes per possession last season, but that was in part because their possessions took so long. The Jazz ranked last in pace and only 35 percent of their shots came in the first 12 seconds of the shot clock, the lowest rate in the league by a wide margin (the league average was 51 percent). League-wide, field goal percentage drops as the shot clock goes down, so the Jazz can improve an offense that ranked 17th last season just by getting more shots early in the clock. And that’s what Quin Snyder‘s plan is, as Tony Jones writes in the Salt Lake Tribune

Snyder would like to see his team play at a faster pace this season, especially with the added depth. Added pace means added possessions, which leads to added depth coming more into play, which Snyder hopes can lead to his team wearing the opposition down when it matters.

As such, much of the scrimmage portion of Tuesday’s morning practice was played with a 14 second shot clock, instead of the normal 24 second clock. That forced quicker tempo and reactions from his team. Snyder said he wants to run more initial pick-and-roll sets out of transition, and forcing his team to shoot the ball within 14 seconds was a way to get the players into that mindset.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Tyronn Lue stole a page from Doc Rivers‘ coaching book during The Finals … Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak isn’t concerning himself with VP Jim Buss‘ timeline for contending for a titleIsaiah Thomas is sleeping more and eating McDonald’s lessMike Krzyzewski was at Wolves practiceFred Hoiberg says that there will be an open competition for the Bulls’ starting power forward spot … and there’s a similar situation at small forward with the Clippers.

Morning Shootaround — Sept. 27

NEWS OF THE MORNING
Miami moves on from Bosh | Wall, Beal downplay rift | Spurs missing their ‘In-Tim-idator’ | Losing Middleton stymies Bucks

No. 1: Miami moves on from BoshPat Riley, Miami Heat president, went so far as to mention Magic Johnson‘s stunning HIV diagnosis. That’s how seriously and emotionally Riley and his organization were reacting to what they consider to be the end of Chris Bosh‘s NBA career in south Florida. The latest chapter in Bosh’s ongoing health concerns, stemming from blood clots that have snuffed the second halves of his past two seasons, came Monday as Riley confirmed the Heat no longer are open to bringing the All-Star power forward back. Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel had the details:

President Pat Riley said Monday that the team views Chris Bosh’s career with the team as over, that the team no longer is working toward his return.

“We are not,” Riley said in his office at AmericanAirlines Arena. “I think Chris is still open-minded. But we are not working toward his return.

“We feel that, based on the last exam, that his Heat career is probably over.”

Asked if he felt Bosh’s NBA career was over, as well, Riley said, “that’s up to him.”

Bosh has been sidelined for the second half of each of the past two seasons due blood clots, recently failing the Heat’s preseason physical.

“It’s pretty definitive from us, in our standpoint, that this is probably going to be a time where we really have to step back,” Riley said

“His health, playing and economics — it’s been health, health, health,” Riley said before the start of the team’s media day at AmericanAirlines Arena. “Whatever the cap ramifications are, they are there, but we never ever thought about that.”

Of going forward, Riley said, “This one is cloudy, the environment, because of the C.B. situation, and we have to deal with that.”

The Heat would receive salary-cap relief going forward on Feb. 9 if Bosh is ruled medically unable to play by an NBA specialist.

Bosh said over the weekend he planned to continue his comeback attempt, posting on Twitter, “Setbacks may happen, but my intentions remain the same. Thank you all for the warm wishes and support.”

He then on Monday released the latest chapter of the video series chronicling his comeback attempt on the Uninterrupted digital-media platform.

“I put in all the work, so let’s see where I’m at,” Bosh said in the piece, which apparently was completed before his failed Heat physical. “I’m still hoping to have my moment.”

Coach Erik Spoelstra said the situation with Bosh has been emotionally grueling.

“I love C.B. dearly,” he said. “It was tough to watch C.B. and his family go through this the last couple of years. Your heart just goes out to him.”

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Bucks lose Middleton for six months

HANG TIME, N.J. — The first major injury of the 2015-16 season has hit, and training camps haven’t opened yet.

The Milwaukee Bucks announced Wednesday night that Khris Middleton is out six months with a left hamstring injury that will require surgery.

The Bucks signed Giannis Antetokounmpo to a $100 million extension on Tuesday, but Middleton (entering his fifth season) is still their best player. Last season, the team was 12.4 points per 100 possessions better with Middleton on the floor than they were with him on the bench. That differential ranked 10th in the league among players that logged at least 1,000 minutes for a single team.

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In his absence, Bucks coach Jason Kidd will have to get creative with his perimeter rotation. Second year guard Rashad Vaughn and rookie Malcolm Brogdon should see more playing time than previously expected.

The Bucks are reportedly making calls, looking for more help.

The list of free agent wings who are still available includes P.J. Hairston, who worked out for the Brooklyn Nets (who chose to sign Chase Budinger instead) this week. Because the Bucks are above the cap, they wouldn’t have the ability to outbid the Cleveland Cavaliers for the still unsigned J.R. Smith.

After a surprise trip to the playoffs in 2015, the Bucks took a big step backward last season, especially defensively, where no team saw a bigger jump in its points allowed per possession. Even if they are able to come up with a Plan B, Middleton’s injury will prevent them from getting completely back on track.

Blogtable: Which two teams are most intriguing in the East?

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: Intriguing East teams? | Intriguing West teams? | Taking slow approach with rookie

> As the start of Eastern Conference training camps near, which two teams are you most intrigued by? And what depth chart battle/storyline/offseason move(s) by those teams will you be watching most?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Two? Thought you said there wouldn’t be math on this. Well, I’m curious about a pair of East also-rans, New York and Milwaukee. The Knicks have undeniable buzz now, and I’m curious to see (in order of intrigue) how “back” Derrick Rose really is in his new surroundings as he eyes next summer’s free agency, how high of a priority Kristaps Porzingis‘ development remains on New York’s to-do list and to what degree Joakim Noah can put the paddles to that team’s collective heart. The Bucks, meanwhile, need significant bounce-back because they messed up the ramp-up of their rebuilding (you aren’t supposed to go from 15 victories to 41 to 33, especially when healthier and sporting an alleged big free-agent “get” in Greg Monroe). Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s nine-figure contract extension signed this week is the latest step toward a season that’s showtime now rather than any more dress rehearsals.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: The Celtics and the Magic, for different reasons. (Among the many possible answers.) Boston has a chance to push into the top three and be in good position if the Cavaliers falter. Brad Stevens is a leading preseason candidate for Coach of the Year. Orlando won’t play at the same level, but several offseason moves (especially up front, and hiring Frank Vogel as coach) definitely qualifies as intriguing. The Magic sorting through options and now without Victor Oladipo should be a good watch wherever they are in the standings. The depth-chart battle among Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon, Bismack Biyombo and Serge Ibaka will get the most scrutiny.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Bulls and Knicks. And not exactly a coincidence. The defections of Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah this summer will have a measurable impact on each team; we just don’t know whether it’s positive or negative and to what degree. Both teams will give off some hints during camp about their identity and what we might expect at least for the first month or two. The Bulls need to address their power forward spot with either Nikola Mirotic or Bobby Portis, while the Rose-Courtney Lee dynamic will bear watching.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Indiana and Philadelphia. The Pacers could see a boost in their offense with the additions of Jeff Teague, Thaddeus Young and Al Jefferson, along with the development of Myles Turner. But their defense is likely going to take a big step backward with the departures of George Hill, Ian Mahinmi and Frank Vogel. Can Nate McMillan find the right balance, and how much longer will Monta Ellis be around? And of course, it will be fascinating to see just how good the Sixers’ trio of rookies — Joel Embiid, Dario Saric and Ben Simmons — is and how Brett Brown is going to work out the frontcourt minutes while he still has all those guys plus Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: The Chicago Bulls and their three-alpha attack should provide for a fascinating chemistry experiment for Fred Hoiberg and his coaching staff. We all know what Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo and Jimmy Butler bring as individuals. How they mesh together and whether or not they can make the Bulls a top-four contender in the conference playoff chase remain the outstanding questions regarding this trio. The Boston Celtics swung for the fences in free agency and came away with a seemingly perfect fit in Al Horford, a veteran center/power forward who should stabilize things in the frontcourt immediately. He helped make Atlanta one of the top teams in the conference the past two seasons. I’m curious to see if Horford can do the same for the Celtics now.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comThe Heat have enough talent to contend for homecourt advantage in the East — if they can resolve their many issues, including the absence of Dwyane Wade’s leadership, the medical uncertainty of Chris Bosh’s future, the chemistry between Bosh and Hassan Whiteside, and the potential of Goran Dragic to become a go-to star, which at age 30 he must fulfill this year. This looks like an entirely different franchise because Wade is no longer there to accept the responsibility of making things right. It was his team and he took it personally when the team struggled. How do they replace that level of authority? The other fascinating team is Indiana, which will be playing in a hurry after surrounding Paul George with Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young. How quickly can 20-year-old Myles Turner emerge as their No. 2 star while creating mismatches at center? Another intriguing addition is backup center Al Jefferson, whose low-post game could enable Indiana’s second unit to change and control the pace.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: Atlanta, for one. I know bringing in Dwight Howard to replace Al Horford was made with an eye on the box office, but what kind of result will it have on the win column? I also wonder if enough attention is being paid to the change at the point, with Dennis Schroder replacing Jeff Teague and being asked to take on a starting role. Another Eastern Conference team I think may be interesting is Orlando. I’ve always admired Frank Vogel‘s ability to get a team to play a cohesive style of play. The Magic are still staffed with a lot of youth, but I wonder if Ibaka playing a more central role will get him back to being the dominant player he was a few years back?

Antetokounmpo signs extension with Bucks

From NBA.com staff reports

The Milwaukee Bucks have one of the most versatile young players in the league in Giannis Antetokounmpo as the leader of a core group that includes Greg Monroe, Jabari Parker, Michael Carter-WilliamsKhris Middleton and rookie Thon Maker. The Bucks are making sure Antetokounmpo isn’t going anywhere in the future, as The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports he and the team have agreed on a four-year, $100 million extension.

Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel also confirmed the report.

The team confirmed the deal shortly thereafter via an official statement:

 

The Milwaukee Bucks have reached an agreement with Giannis Antetokounmpo on a contract extension, General Manager John Hammond announced today.

Antetokounmpo, 21, appeared in 80 games (79 starts) last season and averaged career highs in points (16.9), rebounds (7.7), assists (4.3), blocks (1.4) and minutes (35.3). He became the first player in franchise history to record five triple-doubles in a season, and now ranks third on the Bucks’ all-time list for career triple-doubles.

Selected by the Bucks with the 15th overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, Antetokounmpo has career averages of 12.2 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists in 238 games (173 starts). He has improved his averages in points, rebounds, assists, blocks, field goal percentage and minutes over each season he has played in the NBA.

 

 

In 2015-16, Antetokounmpo set a team record for triple-doubles in a season (five) and averaged career highs almost across the board in every major statistical category. Under coach Jason Kidd, Antetokounmpo assumed many of the point guard duties last season and is expected to continue in that role in 2016-17.

 

Morning shootaround — Aug. 31

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Thunder bolster frontcourt, add Lauvergne | Dellavedova hoping for playoff run in Milwaukee | Ibaka didn’t want to be dealt from OKC

No. 1: Thunder bolster frontcourt in trade with Nuggets — Since the start of the offseason, the Oklahoma City Thunder have refused to stand pat with the squad that reached the 2016 West finals. Although Kevin Durant’s departure via free agency necessitated some changes to the roster, OKC has nonetheless been active in the trade market. First, it dealt Serge Ibaka to the Orlando Magic for Victor Oladipo and yesterday, the Thunder swung another deal, landing young big man Joffrey Lauvergne from the Denver Nuggets. Eric Horne of The Oklahoman provides insight on how the trade affects the Thunder:

In two NBA seasons, Lauvergne (6-foot-11, 220 pounds) has averaged 6.7 points and 4.4 rebounds per game for Denver in 83 games. The 24-year-old is fresh off a summer representing France in the Olympics, where he was the team’s third-leading scorer at 9.8 points per game.

Lauvergne will make $1.7 million this upcoming season before becoming a restricted free agent in the summer of 2017.

By trading for Lauvergne now, the Thunder is utilizing its cap space before it’s absorbed by players brought in on training camp contracts. For Denver, the Nuggets are acquiring picks while creating more playing time for its current crop of bigs. The Nuggets were facing a logjam of young frontcourt talent with the budding Nikola Jokic and Jusef Nurkic.

The move further fortifies the Thunder’s long-term frontcourt depth. Steven Adams, Enes Kanter, Mitch McGary, Domantas Sabonis and Lauvergne are all signed through the 2016-17 season and are each 24 or younger. The Thunder also still has 7-footer Dakari Johnson, 20, who could join the team next year after another season with the D-League Oklahoma City Blue or an overseas club.

In the wake of this summer’s signings of Alex Abrines and Ronnie Price, the Thunder now has 16 guaranteed contracts on its roster. It has until opening night (Oct. 26) to get back down to 15.

While it has parted with two picks in next summer’s draft in order to acquire Lauvergne, the Thunder still owns its first-round pick in 2017. The Thunder now has five players from the 2013 NBA Draft on its roster: Victor Oladipo (No. 2 overall), Adams (12), Andre Roberson (26), Abrines (32), and Lauvergne (55).

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Morning shootaround — Aug. 29

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: Lawson to Sacramento | Embiid finally ready? | Divac hope Cousins continues growth

No. 1: Report: Lawson reaches deal with Sacramento — After establishing himself as one of the best point guards in the NBA with the Denver Nuggets, last season was something of a lost campaign for Ty Lawson following a trade to the Rockets. But after sitting out most of this summer’s free agency, as The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski writes, yesterday Lawson agreed to terms with the Sacramento Kings, where he should have the opportunity to get playing time…

Lawson visited with Kings officials and coaches on Saturday in Sacramento and had planned to meet with New Orleans Pelicans officials early this week – until the Kings offered him a deal on Sunday, league sources said.

Lawson joins a backcourt full of opportunity in Sacramento, where the Kings lost Rajon Rondo in free agency to the Chicago Bulls. Darren Collison is expected to be the Kings’ starter at point guard.

For Lawson, the experiment of coexisting with All-Star guard James Harden didn’t work with the Houston Rockets last season. Lawson agreed to a contract buyout in March after the Rockets sent Denver a first-round pick in a July deal for him. He then agreed to a contract to finish the season with the Indiana Pacers.

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No. 2: Embiid finally ready? — The Philadelphia 76ers drafted Joel Embiid two summers ago with a lottery pick, and the knowledge that he would need some time to get healthy. Since then Embiid hasn’t played a second in a Sixers uniform, as Philly fans have waited to see him get healthy. At an event in Philly this weekend, Embiid made an appearance and said that he’s finally 100 percent and ready to play alongside Ben Simmons. Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com has more:  

“I feel a hundred percent,” Embiid said Saturday at the Sixers Beach Bash. “I’m ready to get started. My summer has been great. We’ve been working out a lot this past summer, just getting some runs in. I’ve gotten a chance to play a little bit against the guys.”

Embiid’s pro career has been sidelined by injuries, undergoing two foot surgeries in as many years. The first was to repair a stress fracture in his right navicular bone. The second, a bone-graft operation on the same bone.

The 7-foot-2 big man has been rehabbing since then, traveling as far as Qatar in the process. This offseason Embiid was cleared for monitored, five-on-five drills. He joined the Sixers during the Las Vegas Summer League to continue his recovery away from game competition.

“It’s been really tough,” Embiid said. “The main thing is, I haven’t gotten a chance to get on the court and play, or help my teammates, or play in front of Sixers fans. I look forward to it and I can’t wait.”

Embiid said he “definitely” plans to be a go for training camp. He expects there will be a transition period once cleared to play given the length of his rehab, but notes he is a quick learner. Embiid also anticipates having restrictions, but has not discussed the specifics with the Sixers.

“Probably,” he said. “But I think the restrictions would probably be about the fact that I haven’t played in two years. It’s not going to be about because people are worried that I’m going to re-injure myself, which I don’t think is going to happen.”

One player who is eager for Embiid’s return is rookie first overall pick Ben Simmons. The two have been friends since high school. They easily gel off the court, and plan to do the same in games.

“He has great footwork, he has great touch, so I’m looking forward to playing with him,” Simmons said, continuing, “Off the court, we’re like brothers. We have fun.”

Embiid has been present with the Sixers for games and practices. He has had numerous conversations with head coach Brett Brown about his days on the San Antonio Spurs coaching staff and how the organization achieved success with fellow big Tim Duncan, one of Embiid’s basketball role models.

With an abundance of bigs, the Sixers will have to determine how they share the floor. For Embiid, who can also knock down long-range shots, he plans to fill whatever role the coaches outline for him.

“I think I’ll take a couple threes, but I’ll do what’s best for the team and whatever I’ll feel comfortable doing,” he said. “Obviously they’re going to need my presence inside and that’s what I’m going to do. But when I’m open, I might fire some threes.”

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No. 3: Divac hope Cousins continues growth — The Sacramento Kings have seen a lot of changes the last few seasons, but the one constant has been All-Star big man DeMarcus Cousins. And while the Kings have changed coaches and players around him, as Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe writes, Kings general manager Vlade Divac hopes Cousins will use his gold medal winning experience this summer to take a step forward:

Vlade Divac is president of the Olympic Committee of Serbia and also general manager of the Sacramento Kings. During the 2016 Rio Olympics, his two worlds collided when his Serbian team matched up with Team USA twice in the Olympic tournament.

The first game was a tight 94-91 Team USA win during pool play. Divac had some fun with Team USA and Sacramento center DeMarcus Cousins, promising a Serbian victory if the teams met again. Well, they did meet in the gold-medal game and the Americans were impressive in their decisive 96-66 win.

Cousins turned in his most productive game of the tournament with 13 points and 15 rebounds after being beset with foul trouble for most of the Olympics.

“Boogie played well,” Divac said. “He’s a very talented kid. Hopefully he can bring that positive attitude that he had here to Sacramento next year.”

Cousins is considered one of the more talented centers in the league but has a reputation for being mercurial. He had to convince USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo to name him to the USA Select Team a few years ago, before he was named to Team USA for the 2014 World Cup.

Divac has maintained that Cousins will be a fixture with Sacramento after a tumultuous season that led to the firing of coach George Karl. Has the Olympic experience helped Cousins mature? Divac is banking on that.

“[The Olympics] helps international guys but it also helps NBA guys,” Divac said. “You see a different part of basketball. They can pick up some tricks. That’s how I look at it. When I used to play, I loved playing international because it’s more freedom and more ability to improve.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The recruiting pitches are already starting in Oklahoma City for Oklahoma native Blake Griffin Tony Parker helped out a locker room attendant who got robbed at the Olympics in Rio … The Bucks are hoping Jason Terry still has fuel left in the tankShane Larkin looks at playing in Spain as a stepping stone … If that intern at the NBA offices in New York looked familiar, that’s because it was tennis star Maria Sharapova

Morning shootaround — Aug. 19

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Smith: Call my agent about contract situation | Parker hoping to play five more seasons with Spurs | Report: Bucks, Terry talking deal

No. 1: Cavs’ Smith doesn’t want to talk about contract — For the most part, the big targets in the NBA’s summer free-agent signing period are off the market. A few known entities do remain in the job-seeking mix, one of whom is Cleveland Cavaliers shooting guard/fan favorite J.R. Smith. While Cleveland has worked quickly to re-sign LeBron James, Richard Jefferson and James Jones, Smith is waiting on a deal … and not wanting to get into where contract talks are, writes Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com:

J.R. Smith’s free agency has once again extended deep into the summer, as he remains one of the few players still without a deal.

After a rough last off-season where Smith eventually settled for two-year pact worth $5 million per season with a player option for the second year, the 3-point specialist changed agents. He joined the Klutch Sports Group, which is headed by Rich Paul, the same agent that reps Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James and Tristan Thompson.

Smith has been quiet about his contract situation, instead focusing on his wedding, honeymoon and golf. But he finally spoke up on Thursday, sending out a video courtesy ofUninterrupted prior to the J.R. Smith 10th Annual Golf Classic in Lakewood Township, New Jersey.

“I know you guys are going to ask me about my contract situation,” Smith said. “You’ve got my agent’s number so you all can call him. Rich Paul. You all know what it is. Klutch. You dig?”

Paul has a reputation for being a tough negotiator. Last off-season, he dragged conversations between the Cavs and Thompson into October before Thompson agreed on a five-year deal worth $82 million.

Smith and his reps understand the reality of the market following a wild summer. The enormous cap explosion has led to rotational players receiving around $10 million per season and Smith has earned a pay raise after proving to be such a valuable member of Cleveland’s title team.

However, he’s running into the same issue he dealt with last season. He doesn’t have much leverage.

His colorful personality and history of antics both on and off the court can’t be ignored. A contract is an investment, an agreement that involves trust.

Despite being on his best behavior since coming to Cleveland, he is still a risky investment, especially to other teams around the league that won’t have James to keep him in line or the winning organization that has contributed to his transformation. Those concerns have led to a lack of outside interest for the second straight off-season.

The Cavaliers are scheduled to join James for workouts in Los Angeles next month and training camp starts at the end of September. From that standpoint, there’s a sense of urgency to get a deal finalized. James even pointed that out when announcing his three-year contract with the Cavs last week.

“I’m ecstatic,” James said in his video. “I can’t wait to see my guys. I can’t wait to get back out there in the wine and gold and just get the band back together.

“Lastly, let’s get J.R. done. It’s that time.”

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Blogtable: Should teams pursue Ray Allen?

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: FIBA rule you’d like to see in NBA? | Should teams pursue Ray Allen? |
Thoughts on Kevin Durant as a villain?


> Ray Allen says he’s fit, healthy and interested in playing in the NBA this season. Should any teams be interested in him?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: In a league that has fallen head over heels with the three, how can I say teams shouldn’t take a look at Jesus Shuttlesworth? He keeps himself in ridiculous shape and is as smart as they come. I’m not sure how much he could have left in the tank, though; he was not quite the same in his last season with Miami, and that was two years ago. But, it’s his life. Fire away.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Sure. If he can put the ball in the basket that is the object of the game. Cavs? Spurs? Clippers?

Shaun Powell, NBA.comHe’s 41 and years removed from being a significant role player. It’s true that Allen takes great care of his body and that shooters are always the last to leave. Could he play 10-15 minutes for a contender? Perhaps. But I suspect most contenders are not a “Ray Allen away” from winning it all; they already have such a player in the rotation. I suspect his comeback window closed a year ago. I’d love for him to prove me wrong, though.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Yes. Even if he only played 10-15 minutes per game, he would be a threat that defenses would have to respect on any key offensive possession. Run him off a screen and he’s going to bend the defense and give your team a better chance to score, whether he touches the ball or not.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Absolutely, teams should be interested in Ray Allen. In a league where shooting is at a premium, perhaps moreso now than it has ever been, one of the all-time great marksman (even at his advanced age) should at least draw some interest. If nothing else, you find a gym and a ball rack and see how much Ray has left in his tank. If he’s as fit, healthy and interested as he says he is about lacing his Jordans up one more time, it’s worth investigating.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comLet’s see: You can offer your 15th roster spot to someone who might (or might not) play in garbage time; or you can invest in the most prolific 3-point shooter of all time with the potential of turning losses into wins. Allen sounds like a good gamble to me.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: Every team. The man is arguably the best three-point shooter to ever play the game, and he famously keeps himself in tip-top shape. So to me, if Ray Allen wants to play basketball, I’d be happy to have him. Especially with the way the NBA is today, with three-point shots carrying so much value. There’s been a lot of money floating around this offseason. If I was an NBA team, I’d have no problem giving a fat slice of that to Jesus Shuttlesworth.