Posts Tagged ‘Rudy Gobert’

Don’t Tell Rudy Gobert He’s A Project


VIDEO: Rudy Gobert misses but follows with a slam

 

RENO, Nev. — You can call Rudy Gobert young, inexperienced and maybe even still growing at 7-foot-2.

Just don’t call him a “project.”

“I know that’s the way a lot of people look at me,” said the Jazz rookie center from France with a shake of his head and crinkling of his face. “I don’t really like the word. I think it comes from people who have maybe seen me play maybe one time and they don’t really think that I know how to play.

“There are definitely things that I know I have to work on to improve my game, but I believer that there is much I can contribute if I get a chance to play.”

The 21-year-old Gobert has been assigned to the Bakersfield Jam for the NBA D-League Showcase and was impressive making 7-of-9 shots for 19 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in just 23 minutes of a win over Sioux Falls. It was the fifth game he’s played for the Jam, having gotten just limited minutes in 17 games with the Jazz.

“I try to work defensively on jumping straight up against my man,” he said. “That’s what the coaches want me to do. Work on my rebounding and offensively on my post game when I get touches.

“Everybody is probably not happy when they tell you they want you to do this, come to the D-League. I was not. I thought about it and I thought maybe it is not bad. I try to bring a positive attitude and say that it is good to get a chance to runs and play and see that it makes me better for the future. It’s good for me to get some playing time and just have fun.

“But I don’t want to say that it is better to be here than in Utah. I think anybody who is a professional would rather be in the NBA.”

Gobert set records at the NBA draft combine last year with a wingspan of 7-8 1/2 and a standing reach of 9-7 and was the 27th pick in the first round by the Nuggets before moving to the Jazz in a draft night trade. The physical traits are enough to make you drool even before combining them with a high revving motor that has him going after virtually every shot on defense.

“I think the main thing I have to do is build up by body and make myself stronger and I believe I am making progress,” he said. “I think I’m better at handling the physical parts of the game than when I came to training camp.”

In a season that the Jazz have committed to a youth movement with Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter, Alec Burks and Trey Burke, Gobert can’t help champing at the bit to get more of his own opportunity.

“I know that I am not going to play ahead of Enes at the five position, so I understand how it is,” Gobert said. “But it’s hard. I’m not very patient. I tell myself I’ve got to keep working and just stay focused. When I come to these games I have to just have fun and play and everything will be alright.

“Like I said, it’s hard. We have a rebuilding year with many young players and I want to be a part of that. My hope and my goal is in about three years we can be trying for the title and, of course, I expect to be a big part of that.”

It’s Time For New Year’s Resolutions

VIDEO: The Starters review the year so far

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Ring out the old. Ring in the new. As the calendar turns, it’s time for resolutions throughout the NBA:

Atlanta Hawks — Look Back to the Future: This was supposed to be the start of a brand new era for one of the NBA’s most moribund franchises, and things were actually looking good until Al Horford tore a pectoral muscle. With their undersized big man done for the season, the Hawks will only stay afloat because they’re in the horrid Eastern Conference. But they’re going in the right direction under GM Danny Ferry and coach Mike Budenholzer, and will get the lottery pick of the sinking Nets, so there’s reason for hope out of a draft class teeming with talent.

Boston Celtics — Move Fast on Rondo: According to the old saying, you’re either part of the solution or part of the problem. When Rajon Rondo is finally able to get back onto the court and prove that he’s close to his old self, rookie coach Brad Stevens and GM Danny Ainge have to find out right away if he’s mentally ready to anchor the rebuilding project. If not, the Celtics could reap a windfall in new pieces ahead of the trade deadline.

Brooklyn Nets — Fuhgetaboutit: OK, it was a nice little pipe dream to think that a couple of old codgers like Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce could shuffle up and down the court in slippers and robes to tangle with the Heat and Pacers. Fortunately, team owner Mikhail Prokorov can afford their salaries with the kind of change he finds in his sofa cushions. Pay them off, send them away and get back to building around Brook Lopez and Deron Williams with players who aren’t signing up for Medicare.

Charlotte Bobcats — Keep Him: For the first time in who can remember how long, Michael Jordan won’t have to spend next summer looking for a coach. The merry-go-round can stop. Steve Clifford has given Charlotte a sense of purpose, respectability and a solid identity on the defensive end. Now they’ve got to work on boosting production out of that woeful offense. One thing at a time.

Chicago Bulls — Play Derrick and the Dominoes: Even Layla couldn’t have knocked the Bulls off their feet like the second straight significant injury to their All-Star, MVP guard Derrick Rose. It might be time to reshuffle the bones on a club that hasn’t even won a conference title and already has significant money locked up in Rose, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson before re-signing Luol Deng to a big contract.

Cleveland Cavaliers — Stop Winning the Draft Lottery: Of course, that would require the Cavs to actually make the playoffs and not qualify for the lottery. This is a team that was supposed to be on the rise with enough young talent to make LeBron James think about returning, but instead has Kyrie Irving trying to do everything, Dion Waiters angry and Andrew Bynum maybe ready to give up the game. Time for an adult to take control here, coach Mike Brown.

Dallas Mavericks — Embrace Reality: It’s a bit ironic that a guy like Mark Cuban that has made a name for himself in the world of reality TV shows rarely faces up to it with the Mavs. He’s fun. He’s entertaining. He’ll say anything, such as there’s no telling whether Houston getting Dwight Howard or Dallas getting Monta Ellis was a better free agent signing last summer. Now go get yourself some defense, Mark, before Dirk Nowitzki winds up running on his tongue trying to outscore everybody.

Denver Nuggets — Respect Yourself: There shouldn’t be a decent team that breaks camp without a solid sense of its identity. A year ago with George Karl pulling the strings from the sidelines and Andre Iguodala setting the pace on the court, the Nuggets had that. Now they are often just a bunch that is stuck in the middle of the pack on offense (18th) and defense (16th) and too often can’t defend its home court.

Detroit Pistons — Say It Ain’t So, Joe: A few years ago, it was signing Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva as big-money free agents. This time GM Joe Dumars figured it would be a good idea to upgrade the Pistons by tossing the combustible Josh Smith onto the fire to light up the frontcourt. So, Smith is already calling out coach Mo Cheeks and the Pistons are backsliding from the .500 mark. Things are getting ugly early again in the Motor City. And, oh yeah, nobody is coming to watch the Pistons, who are last in the league in attendance.

Golden State Warriors — Do the American Hustle: Like the hit movie, was last year’s magical little run through the playoffs by Mark Jackson’s team just one glorious con job? Yes, they’ve played a tough schedule, but something is missing. Lack of last year’s bench? A failure to take care of the ball? You get the sense that the Warriors were just trying to pick up this season right where they left off without putting in all of the gritty groundwork.

Houston Rockets — Rebound, Then Run: Everybody loves watching the Rockets run like methamphetamine-fueled hamsters on a wheel. But for a team that has Dwight Howard in the middle, they are horrible at giving up second-chance points to opponents and it has often proved costly. It’s nice to run, but better not to turn your back and head down the court while the other guy is dropping another put-back into the net.

Indiana Pacers — Don’t Stop Believing: The Pacers came into the season convinced that they could live up to the old axiom of playing them one game at a time and that grind-it-out method would eventually deliver the best record in the league and home-court all the way through The Finals. With Paul George tossing his hat into the MVP ring and Roy Hibbert making opponents ears ring with his physical style, it’s working quite well for coach Frank Vogel’s team.

L.A. Clippers — Say Goodbye to Hollywood: The sooner the Clippers can get rid of all the extraneous things in their game — yes, you, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan — and get down to the serious business of playing some real defense around the basket, the sooner we’ll take them seriously as real contenders in the Western Conference. At this point, despite all the good work by Chris Paul, the Clips are still one of those acts that gets eliminated early on “American Idol.”

L.A. Lakers — Lock Up Kobe: Yes, we know he’s the Black Mamba. We know that he’d be the guy standing out in the rain with a fork and still believe he’d quench his thirst. But the Lakers aren’t going anywhere this season and it doesn’t help their cause for next year if Kobe Bryant returns and pushes himself to the limit again in a debilitating run that winds up far short of the playoffs. It’s time to think about the limited — and high-paying — future he has left. Oh yeah, and trade Pau Gasol.

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Morning Shootaround — Dec. 11


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Dec. 11

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: Aldridge may pass on Team USA | Rondo mentoring rookie Olynyk | Jazz parents question lineups vs. Blazers | Charlotte to unveil new Hornets logo soon

No. 1: Report: Aldridge yet to talk to Colangelo about Team USA spot — Big man LaMarcus Aldridge has been a crucial reason for the Blazers’ early-season success and standing among the upper crust in the Western Conference. It was reported in October that Aldridge, who is among the names being bandied about for this season’s MVP, would want to play on Team USA for the 2014 FIBA World Cup of Basketball in Spain. But so far, according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today, Aldridge hasn’t contacted USA hoops boss Jerry Colangelo about his interest:

Despite saying he would reach out to USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo and express interest in playing this summer, Aldridge has not done so, a person familiar with the situation told USA TODAY Sports. The person requested anonymity because of the fluid nature of the relationship.

In October, Aldridge told CSN Northwest that he planned to contact Colangelo about playing for the U.S. in the summer. Earlier this year, Aldridge said, “If they call me, I’m definitely interested in doing it.”

But Aldridge hasn’t called, and if he truly wants to play (and he might not), he misread the situation. Colangelo is not going to call Aldridge and ask him to play, believing that USA Basketball doesn’t need solicit players.

Colangelo is a strong believer in what he calls equity, a term he uses repeatedly when discussing players who have shown a commitment to USA Basketball.

Aldridge has not built that equity. In 2010, he withdrew his name from the pool of candidates for the world championship team. And in May 2012 hip surgery took Aldridge out of consideration for the London Olympic team.

In 2007, Aldridge withdrew from with the U.S. select team, which scrimmaged against the national team before the FIBA Americas Championship, and in 2009, he pulled out of USA Basketball mini-camp, one year before the world championship.

Team USA could use Aldridge. But if he doesn’t want to play, Colangelo isn’t going to beg, not when others — such as Anthony Davis, Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond, Derrick Favors and DeMarcus Cousins — have shown a willingness to play.

***

No. 2: Rondo takes on mentoring role with rookie Olynyk — Celtics star guard Rajon Rondo ended his long media silence yesterday, providing Boston fans with a long-awaited update on how his recovery from ACL surgery is going. In short, Rondo isn’t about to rush back, but he’s seeing progress more and more each day. That means, for now, Rondo will continue to sit on the bench in a suit. But when he’s on the bench, Rondo often sits near rookie center Kelly Olynyk and does what he can to offer words of teaching and praise to the youngster, writes Jessica Camerato of HoopsWorld.com:

There are no assigned seats on the Boston Celtics bench, but the unspoken arrangement had been consistent early in the season. Team leader Rajon Rondo, sidelined by an ACL injury, had the first chair next to the coaches while 11th-year veteran Keith Bogans, who plays sparingly, sat next to him. The rest of the team followed after with levels of experienced mixed in across the sideline.

The order shifted when rookie Kelly Olynyk suffered a sprained right ankle on November 22 in a game against the Indiana Pacers. Dressed in a suit, he initially sat next to Bogans. During his injury, the order changed again. Olynyk began taking in games one chair up the bench flanked by Bogans and Rondo. Bogans made the decision to help the rookie learn in the midst of the action.

“[I gave him my seat] so he could talk to ‘Do (Rondo), sit in between the two of us,” Bogans explained. “We could talk to him about the game a little bit, educate him a little bit. He’s a young guy. He needs to learn. [I decided to] put him between us, listen to what we’re talking about.”

Even though he has not played in nine straight games, including Tuesday’s contest against the Brooklyn Nets, he is finding out about pro basketball from a different perspective.

“I try to learn as much as I can [watching the games next to my teammates],” Olynyk said. “It’s a great opportunity. You’re there for three hours, critiquing the game. … [It helps] just being able to see what drives success at this level and what works, what doesn’t work, how guys like to play, that sort of stuff. You can learn everything. A lot of times it just comes down to playing hard, playing smart, playing tough.”

Sitting in between a savvy veteran and one of the top point guards in the league has bolstered that learning experience. Both Olynyk and Bogans emphasized the educational value watching a game next to Rondo.

“He’s like a coach,” Bogans said. “He’s into the game the whole time, he knows everything that’s going on, pays attention to everything.”

Echoed Olynyk, “He’s real intellectual. I learn tidbits from the game, angles, good stuff, bad stuff. It’s like a tutorial basically.”

Olynyk is working to return to the court, and when he does he will have years of his teammates’ experience to add to his own.

“It’s a great opportunity, to learn to grow, to become a better player,” Olynyk said. “It’s something you can’t take for granted.”

***

No. 3: Parents of Jazz youngsters question lineup moves — This is perhaps all to be taken with a HUGE grain of salt, especially when considering much of the conversation took place via Twitter. That being said, Andy Larsen and the fine folks over at SaltCityHoops.com noted that both Jazz veteran Brandon Rush and the parents of rookie guard Trey Burke took to Twitter during Utah’s loss to the Portland Trail Blazers to question either their role on the team or the team’s rotation. In short, Rush — who was a DNP-CD for the Portland game — was asked why he didn’t play while Ronda and Benji Burke (Trey’s parents) questioned why veteran Andris Biedrins were playing over rookie big man Rudy Gobert:

With the frontcourt of Richard Jefferson, Mike Harris, and Andris Biedrins starting the 4th quarter tonight, Alec Burks not getting playing time in crunch time after leading the team in scoring, and Rudy Gobert’s DNP-CD, there was much consternation surrounding the team, especially on the Twitterverse. Jazz Twitter, even nationally, is well known for its slightly kooky opinions, and general tendency for overreaction.

That being said, typically reaction does not come from personalities so close to the team. Brandon Rush, also the recipient of a DNP-CD, responded this way when he was asked why he didn’t play:

Then, both of Trey Burke’s parents got in the action. Trey’s mother Ronda started by calling for the rookie French center Rudy Gobert to receive playing time over Andris Biedrins and whatever Biedrins is at this point of his career:

Then Benji, Trey’s father and agent, got into the mix, denigrating the Jazz’s 3rd quarter performance and the overall veteran-heavy strategy:

.***

No. 4: Charlotte to unveil new Hornets logo before Christmas — During the offseason — on July 18, specifically — the NBA approved the Charlotte Bobcats’ request to switch their name and colors to that of the last NBA team in town: the Charlotte Hornets. That name change and color swap won’t take effect until the 2014-15 season, but in keeping with the team’s season-long push to drum up interest in the change, the team will reveal their new Hornets logo on Dec. 21. The Charlotte Observer‘s Rick Bonnell has more on the news:

The Charlotte Bobcats plan to unveil their new “Hornets” logo at halftime of the Dec. 21 home game against the Utah Jazz. This is the next step in their rebranding to the Hornets, which takes force at the start of next season.

The team previously revealed, in an interview with the Observer, that it will adopt the Hornets’ traditional teal-and-purple as primary colors next season. Uniforms will be the next step, sometime over the next few months.

Bobcats owner Michael Jordan will do the logo unveiling at a halftime ceremony for the game, which starts a half hour later – 7:30 p.m. – than most Bobcats home games at Time Warner Cable Arena.

The game against the Jazz is the first of five “Buzz City”-themed giveaway nights. The team will distribute long-sleeve “Buzz City” T-shirts that night to the first 10,000 fans through the doors. Later giveaways will include bobbleheads for former Charlotte Hornets Dell Curry, Muggsy Bogues and Kelly Tripucka.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: So far this season, Sixers big man Spencer Hawes is hitting 3-pointers at a rate better than Ray Allen … Rockets guard Jeremy Lin says he’ll play against Portland … Fresh off a win over the Heat, the Pacers get more good news — Danny Granger says he should return soonShaquille O’Neal once put former Suns teammate Gordan Giricek in a sleeper hold

ICYMI Of The Night: There are fadeaway jumpers, and then there are faaaaaade-away jumpers like this one John Henson hit last night in Chicago …


VIDEO: John Henson clinches the win with a rainbow fadeaway jumper

Back And Forth With Bones: Bulls-Jazz

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Back and Forth With Bones is an email exchange between NBA.com’s John Schuhmann and NBA TV’s Brent Barry during a Monday night game. This week, they sat down (Schuhmann at home in New Jersey, Barry in the studio in Atlanta) to watch the 6-6 Chicago Bulls and the 1-14 Utah Jazz on NBA TV.

Pregame

Schuhmann: I think this game qualifies as the Saddest Matchup of the Season. The Bulls just lost Derrick Rose for the year and the Jazz are 1-14, having trailed three of their last four games by at least 28 points. But somebody has to win tonight!

Chicago has actually been much better defensively with Rose off the floor, and Kirk Hinrich and Jimmy Butler is a pretty strong defensive backcourt. But for the time being, they’re also without Butler. So Marquis Teague and Tony Snell will each have a chance to prove they belong in the rotation. Long-term, they should be OK defensively, and they’ve been pretty poor offensively thus far, but they won’t be able to get much better without Rose.

And obviously, this puts more pressure on Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah to play big minutes and stay healthy. Noah’s minutes (29.3) are down below where he was two years ago (30.4) after a big increase last season (36.8), but I wonder if they go back up now that Rose is out.

Utah had two of their better offensive games upon Trey Burke‘s arrival, but they’ve actually been at their best with Diante Garrett playing point. This guy is a plus-24 for a team that’s been outscored by 67 points since he arrived.

Chicago can get points on second chances. They rank third in offensive rebounding percentage and the Jazz rank 29th in defensive rebounding percentage. It’s strange that Utah is such a bad rebounding team with Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter (who’s out with a sprained ankle) up front. They’re actually worse with both of them on the floor than they are overall, but we talked a couple of weeks ago about how they extend out too much on their pick-and-roll coverage.

What are you looking for tonight?

Barry: So many things going wrong for both of these teams. Both are coming off very embarrassing performances and have a number of players in the role of proving they belong to be in the rotation, if not in the NBA.

The Kanter loss for the Jazz will greatly affect their ability to score points. Burke is trying to get his legs and conditioning back after just one start. And beginning his career with a team under these circumstances is very very tough.

I guess this game boils down to the identity of the teams. The Bulls have one and Utah has yet to establish one. I look for the Bulls to respond in a way that they have in the past without Rose. Even though the makeup of this team is different, they should be able to pull this game out with the experience of their roster.


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Lob City … Alive And Kicking?




HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Blake Griffin said Lob City was dead.

He lied.

And that might actually be a good thing for the Los Angeles Clippers.

That obituary highlighted here and elsewhere at the start of training camp was a tad bit premature. The Clippers remain a highlight show waiting to happen under Doc Rivers, courtesy of Griffin and plays like this one (sorry Rudy Gobert). I’m not complaining, mind you. I loved everything about the Clippers’ Lob City routine. When you are a team in the midst of the transformation the Clippers are in right now, a clear-cut identity is a good thing to get a handle on.

And when you possess the parts the Clippers do — Griffin, a masterful architect in Chris Paul, a fellow high-flyer in big man DeAndre Jordan and others — playing to those strengths, at least offensively, makes perfect sense.

The Clippers have the personnel to run several different styles. Versatile talents like Jamal Crawford, Jared Dudley, J.J. Redick (who made his preseason debut in Wednesday night’s win over the Utah Jazz), Matt Barnes, Ryan HollinsByron Mullens, Darren Collison and others give Rivers an assortment of player to choose from on any given night.

Continuing the Lob City movement would be no problem, if that’s what Rivers wanted to do. Rivers, of course, has already made it clear he has something else in mind. He wants to upgrade the toughness of this crew and make sure they are don’t fall into the trap of thinking highlight plays will deliver them deep into the playoffs.

It’s going to take more than a month to teach, preach and truly embed his philosophy into the collective psyche of this bunch.

But Paul is the ideal leader to spearhead Rivers’ effort. He bought in immediately, before free agency began in July. So Rivers has already solidified the initial bond with the principles needed to run whatever system he needs. Griffin and Jordan are his biggest projects and, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com, they’re all in as well:

“Actions speak louder than words. You can say this or that, but then you get out there and it doesn’t really happen,” Griffin said when asked why he has responded to Rivers’ approach so quickly. “I think that’s the biggest reason. He says it, and then you see it in action.”

As the senior vice president of basketball operations, Rivers has the power to trade any of his players. That’s something of a double-edged sword for a coach. That power isn’t always a good thing. But in Rivers’ case, so far at least, it has helped his relationships with the two players who are crucial to the Clippers’ championship aspirations.

From the jump, he looked both in the eye and said he believed in them.

“As soon as [Rivers] got here he told me, ‘We’re going to do it here with you,’ ” Jordan said. “He looked me in my eyes and I knew he was telling the truth.

“I respected that on a different level once he told me that up front.”

It was exactly what he needed to hear after two seasons of feeling insecure about his place in the organization’s plans, and a summer of reading his name in trade rumors.

“This summer, I just felt like he had to be here for us to be what we want to be,” Rivers said. “And he’s done it. He’s really played terrific basketball. His defense has been unbelievable.

“You guys can’t hear his talk, but I can. His talk on the floor has been terrific. I didn’t know DeAndre so I didn’t know if he could or would do that. But he’s been just off the charts.”

All of that precious Ubuntu-esque chatter can’t obscure the obvious. The Clippers, at least through the preseason, are still relying on the same things they did before Rivers arrived. Lob City is alive and kicking.

Chances are the Clippers will need to lean on that familiar mode of operation at times throughout this season, even as they pledge to continue digging that early grave for Lob City!

Summer Dreaming: 2014 Rookie Of Year

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HANG TIME, Texas — Maybe it’s the heat. Or the humidity. Or those icy margaritas that have been sipped by the pool.

The beginning of August gets the mind to wandering in all sorts of different directions. Sure, it’s tempting to start thinking about the season openers that are barely three months away. But why stop there? Let’s wander all the way out to next spring when the 2013-14 season is over and get a head start on candidates for all the awards.

Today we’ll look at my hot fun in the summertime top five picks for Rookie of the Year. Send me yours.

Victor Oladipo, Magic The No. 2 pick in the Draft showed in the Summer League that he has a long way to go to run an offense as a point guard. But that doesn’t mean Oladipo won’t get plenty of chances to shine as the young Magic just turn him loose. Arron Afflalo will have to move on in order to let Oladipo fully blossom. However, the nonstop, high-energy guy with the first-class defensive chops will thrive in the transition and find plenty of opportunities to get to the basket with the floor spacing in the NBA. In a Draft that seemed to jump the rails right from the first pick, Oladipo was the player the Magic targeted to be a star for the future. There’s no reason to think that he won’t get off to a fast start on a young team that craves a leader.

Ben McLemore, Kings He came out firing unconscionably and mostly missing in his first two Las Vegas Summer League games, but give him credit for not reacting by crawling into a hole and becoming shy. By the end of the his desert run, McLemore was as hot and flashy as anything on the Vegas strip. The long-suffering franchise wants him to run the floor, use his athleticism and fill up the basket. He’s got a sweet stroke, plenty of range and now that Tyreke Evans is gone to New Orleans, he should have plenty opportunity. The lesson learned from Vegas is not to paint himself strictly as a long bomber and work to improve the other areas of his game. It’s also about his attitude. There is a reason that some folks had him tabbed as the No. 1 pick and could be part of the road back for a Kings franchise that will celebrate staying in Sacramento.

Cody Zeller, Bobcats Zeller was a standout in Las Vegas, showing all the hustle, smarts and athleticism that made him a star at Indiana. Never mind that his arms are short and some think he’ll have trouble on the inside at the NBA level. Playing for the hapless Bobcats, Zeller is going to get all the time he needs to figure things out and find a way to get off his shot. This is the umpteenth time that Michael Jordan’s Bobcats are starting over and rookie coach Steve Clifford will be happy to plug the Zeller’s intelligence and skills into the lineup and let him complement free-agent signee Al Jefferson.

Anthony Bennett, Cavaliers There’s a chance the Cavs will bring the No. 1 pick in the Draft along slowly. That’s especially likely since he is a frontline tweener (6-foot-7) who will have to learn to maneuver around the bigger bodies in the NBA and learn how to get off his shot inside (since he’s not especially mobile). He’s 3-point range and while he may struggle to find his place in the offense, Bennett has a nose for rebounding and could make his presence felt by going to the glass. That’s a good way to make an impact, put up numbers, get attention and maybe even work his way off the bench by the second half of the season.

C.J. McCollum, Trail Blazers Can the Blazers go back-to-back on Rookie of the Year winners? After Damian Lillard practically went wire-to-wire to claim the award last season, Portland went out and almost drafted a clone. The conventional thinking is that McCollum will get stuck on the bench playing second fiddle to Lillard and that will limit his production. But there is really no reason to think the Blazers were drafting a sub at No. 10. They’re gonna find a way to get their pair of ball-handling scorers on the floor together as much as possible. There are plenty nuances of the game McCollum has to learn, but he’s got the swagger to take on anything thrown at him and find a way to shine.

Rudy Gobert, Jazz OK, he’s No. 6 and is a longer shot than a mule winning the Kentucky Derby. But give me a personal indulgence after watching the 7-foot-2 Frenchman with the 7-foot-9 wingspan and 9-foot-7 reach — that’s five inches below the rim — swat down everything that came into his airspace in the Orlando Summer League. He’s raw and must bulk up to eventually thrive in the NBA. But he’s only 21 and defensively has a nose for the ball that says he’s going after every shot. Of course, the shot-blocking Gobert will get time sparingly this season, but I’m telling you he’ll be fun to watch whenever he’s on the floor. Besides, you’ve got to love a guy who’s already picked up a classic nickname — the Stifle Tower.

PREVIOUSLY: Sixth Man of Year | Defensive Player of Year | Most Improved Player

Jazz’s Burke Struggles With Start

ORLANDO, Fla. — Nothing at all that happened in a few rough days of summer league play suggests that Trey Burke won’t be the point guard of the future for the Jazz.

But a touch of the brakes were applied to the timeline when the No. 9 pick in the draft took a position on the bench rather than the starting lineup for Wednesday’s win over Brooklyn.

“It was just a case of wanting to get him a little rest and maybe a chance to watch things from a different perspective,” said Jazz assistant Sidney Lowe, the team’s summer league coach.

“He’s going to be a good player. There’s no need to worry about Trey Burke right now.”

However, in two games Burke struggled mightily with his shot, missing 21 of 27 attempts and he turned the ball over four times in Utah’s second game, a loss to the Rockets on Tuesday.

Burke took in the game from a seat next to assistant coach Brad Jones, exchanging observations and getting pointers.

“It’s funny how you can sit on the sidelines and see so much more than when you’re out there in the middle of everything,” Lowe said. “The idea was to get Trey to watch the flow of the game, try to see how everything fits together. It’s huge for him to just be able to sit back and watch.”

As the collegiate national player of the year and the guy the Jazz traded up for on draft night to be the last piece in their starting lineup puzzle with their so-called “Core Four” of Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Alec Burks and Enes Kanter, Burke’s every move will be under the microscope by Jazz fans.

“I told him there’s a target on him,” Lowe said. “The expectations are there off and on the court. People are gonna come after you. All you can do is play hard execute.”

While Burke has struggled, two other rookies have had their moments to shine. Rudy Gobert has been effective at the defensive end. The 7-foot-1 French center has blocked seven shots in 58 minutes of playing time, changed others and has been effective on the boards. Brazilian guard Raul Neto, drafted in the second round and acquired in a trade from the Hawks, saw his first playing time Wednesday and in an often frantic 18 1/2 minutes, hit 2-for-3 from the field, scored seven points and also had four rebounds and three assists. Dionte Christmas, a summer league star a year ago with the Celtics, is making another bid for a training camp invitation with 10 points.

But those are all subplots to Burke, who said on draft night that he expected to be in the Jazz starting lineup in October and might be pushing himself a bit too hard and too fast to be effective right now.

“I’ve told him that the highs are not as high and the lows are not as low as you think they are,” Lowe said. “The thing is, he cares. I didn’t know that about him. He’s a serious young man. He’s got that side of him where he really wants to be good. It’s good to see that he cares.”

It will be better to see that shot start to fall.

Orlando Summer League Tips Off Sunday

HANG TIME, Texas — You’ve got rookies often trying to wildly impress, second-year players who have a better understanding of what is expected and a few veterans who are hoping to get another taste of the big time.

The Southwest Airlines Orlando Pro Summer League tips off Sunday with some familiar names from the 2013 Draft and plenty of other hopefuls trying to crack an NBA roster.

NBA Summer LeagueNine first-round picks — led by No. 2 Victor Oladipo, No. 8 Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and No. 9 Trey Burke – will take part in the six days of competition that will take place on the Magic’s practice court at Orlando’s Amway Center. The games are not open to the public and will only be attended by media and league personnel. All games will be shown on NBA TV.

A new format will be added this summer with two extra teams and one extra day added to the schedule. Under the new format, each team will play five games over the six-day event, concluding with a championship day. Standings will be based on a seven-point system for each game — three points for a win and one point for winning each quarter.

Here’s a quick look at roster highlights of the 10 teams that will participate:

Boston Celtics — It’s a whole new ballgame for the Celtics’ rebuilding program and there would seem to be plenty of room for new faces to earn a ticket to Boston now that Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Doc Rivers are all gone. New coach Brad Stevens will be on hand to observe, but leading the team will be assistant coach Jay Larranaga. First-round pick Kelly Olynyk, obtained by trade from Dallas, will be the biggest name on the roster, though last year’s draftee Fab Melo is physically bigger. Avery Bradley is being given a rest from duty and Jared Sullinger is still recovering from back surgery.

Brooklyn Nets – The remade and reloaded Nets will have first round pick Mason Plumlee suiting up for the first time along with a pair of last season’s veterans Tornike Shengelia and Tyshawn Taylor. But all eyes during the week will surely on the rookie on the sidelines. After a 19-year playing career that will surely send him to the Hall of Fame, Jason Kidd is taking no time off and going right to the bench. It will be most interesting to see if Kidd is as good in this transition as he was on the court.

Detroit Pistons — Andre Drummond arrived in Orlando a year ago with something to prove to the doubters and then went back to Detroit and showed that he was not merely a summer fling. Drummond will return, but is not expected to play the full slate of five games. The Pistons will have their entire rookie class of 2013 — Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tony Mitchell and Peyton Siva. New coach Maurice Cheeks may have his work cut out resurrecting the Pistons at the NBA level, but the summer roster is quite capable.

Houston Rockets — After all their maneuvering and salary cap gymnastics to try to land free agent Dwight Howard, the Rockets did not have a first-round pick this year, but may have gotten first-round quality in point guard Isaiah Canaan. Terrence Jones, a No. 1 from a year ago, will be on the team and continuing to show that he’s a keeper and this Houston bunch is also loaded with Patrick Beverley and Greg Smith.

Indiana Pacers – It seems like much longer than just four years ago that Jonny Flynn was the No. 6 pick in the 2009 draft and maybe that’s because he’s mostly been on the outside everywhere he’s gone, trying to justify that selection and prove that he belongs. Now he’s back from playing in Australia and trying to get that third guard spot with the Pacers, who are also bringing in Donald Sloane. This year’s first round pick Solomon Hill will join holdovers Miles Plumlee, Orlando Johnson and Ben Hansbrough from last season’s roster.

Miami Heat — After winning back-to-back NBA titles, the Heat aren’t taking the summer off. In fact, they’re working overtime, the only franchise to be fielding teams at both Orlando and Las Vegas. Miami didn’t have a first-round pick — remember, it was traded for that LeBron fellow. The rosters will be led by last season holdover center Jarvis Varnado and second-round pick James Ennis, a swingman out of Long Beach State. A couple of high profile college guards, Larry Drew II of UCLA and Myck Kabongo of Texas will play for the Heat. Joining the team in Orlando only are Cedric Jackson, Ian Clark, Dewayne Dedmon and D.J. Stephens.

Oklahoma City Thunder — While three rookies Steven Adams, Andre Roberson and Grant Jerrett will be on hand for their Thunder debuts, most eyes of the coaching staff and back in OKC will be on holdovers from the main roster Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones. Jackson dazzled with his play in Orlando last summer, giving the first hint that he’d be ready to step into the point guard job when Russell Westbrook went down.

Orlando Magic — When it looked like everybody was losing their minds at the top of the draft a week ago, Magic GM Rob Hennigan kept his eye on the prize and simply chose his man Victor Oladipo. Is he a point guard or a shooting guard? Or is he just ready to do anything the Magic ask in the backcourt? Forward Romero Osby, a second round pick, has a lot of folks saying he’s a sleeper. Second-year men Maurice Harkless and Andrew Nicholson are also on the roster.

Philadelphia 76ers —
While many Sixers fans are still reeling from the draft night trade that shipped out the young All-Star and favorite Jrue Holiday, this will be everyone’s first chance to see how his successor measures up.  Michael Carter-Williams will be given the keys to the offense in Philly when the season starts in October, so consider this his going out to take the test for his driver’s license. Nerlens Noel, the prize that came in the trade for Holiday, will not play as he’s still rehabbing his knee injury.  But Justin Holiday, Jrue’s brother, will be back to see if he can stick with the Sixers again.

Utah Jazz – Top draft pick Trey Burke said on draft night that he hopes to be the Jazz’ starting point guard on opening night next season. So he’ll start to press his case by running the summer show. Rookie center Rudy Gobert hopes to get in a few runs maybe by the end of the show in Orlando. He’s currently trying to work out a buyout of his contract with his French team and will need FIBA clearance. Center Enes Kanter is still recovering from shoulder surgery and neither Gordon Hayward or Derrick Favors will play, because they’re both part of the Team USA camp in August. Jazz fans will get to see a Stockton back in uniform. Hall of Famer John Stockton’s son Michael is a free agent signee.

Adetokunbo Scouting Run An NBA Event

JESOLO, Italy – No mascots, no Red Panda or Quick Change at halftime. No lob dunks, no TV timeouts, no air rifles shooting balled-up T-shirts into the crowd in the upper deck. No crowd in the upper deck.

But what an NBA happening Saturday night.

Greece-Croatia in the opener of a four-team under-20 tournament inside Pala Arrex was not just another age-group matchup in another neutral setting in another sleep gym that couldn’t build excitement if it had a quarry’s worth of equipment. It was Giannis Adetokunbo, international man of mystery, in a real game at the same time the adidas Eurocamp was taking place 30 miles away in Treviso, and that meant it was a league event.

Dozens of executives and scouts broke away from Eurocamp in the early-evening to make Jesolo by the 6:15 p.m tip, putting recognizable faces everywhere among the crowd of approximately 300, in the latest attempt at a decision with the June 27 draft bearing down and Adetokunbo still tracking to the end of the first round.

Is he a worthwhile investment for a team willing and able to be patient with a long learning curve or a one-hit wonder of 2012-13 who has gone from nowhere to the guaranteed money only because he faced very weak competition in a lower-division Greek league?

Saturday offered little in the way of concrete answers. Or as one front-office veteran said when asked afterward what he learned from Greece 62, Croatia 52: “Not much.”

Adetokunbo is smooth and has a good feel for the game for a 19 year old with little, and maybe less than that, experience against elite players. He can handle the ball at 6-foot-8, a particularly intriguing aspect, though nowhere near well enough to seriously be considered a possibility for a matchup nightmare at point guard. He can’t shoot. And he needs to get a lot stronger.

“Three or four years,” one scout said of a realistic timeline for Adetokunbo to make an impact in the NBA. “Maybe five.”

The Croatians were probably a step up from the competition Adetokunbo had faced in Greece, the equivalent of Division II or III in U.S. colleges. He did not, however, overwhelm the opponent in the way a prospect with size, mobility and court sense should torch a junior national team 19 days before the draft. The unknown to at least some of the NBA evaluators, and maybe all, was whether he was unable to assert himself or was simply fulfilling the role handed down by the Greek coach.

To members of personnel departments seeing him for the first time, it was not a great first impression. But there will also be more chances. The age-group tournament continues Sunday evening with Greece against Turkey, as the Europcamp also continues in a dose of convenient timing and location for NBA front offices. Before leaving Jesolo on Saturday, some had already bought game tickets to return.

The Eurocamp itself faced further attrition with the loss of two of the biggest names, with French center Rudy Gobert going from planning to play one of the three days in Treviso to withdrawing all together because of food poisoning and Australian shooting guard Dante Exum skipping at least the opening day to rest a foot injury. Exum instead did light shooting on a side court in the La Ghirada complex.

Neither absence will have a major impact – Gobert, trying to make a push to get into the end of the lottery, was at the Chicago pre-draft combine and has a full schedule of visits to NBA teams leading to June 27, while Exum is not in the draft until 2014 at the earliest and possibly 2015. Additionally, small forward Sergey Karasev, who would have been a candidate to play at Eurocamp, or at least show up for private workouts and interviews with NBA executives, has cancelled all visits, Yahoo! Sports reported. Karasev apparently has a promise from a team, but also gives up the chance to impress someone else enough into pick him higher and make more money.

Noel Anticipating Christmas Return

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CHICAGO – Potential No. 1 pick Nerlens Noel said his recovery from a torn knee ligament is going better than anticipated but that he expects to make his NBA debut sometime around Christmas, an assessment that should end speculation about whether he could be ready for the start of the season.

The Kentucky power forward/center is rivaled by only Kansas shooting guard Ben McLemore as the clear favorites to be chosen first overall in the June 27 NBA Draft. Noel has an edge in their head-to-head matchup but McLemore is a realistic option based on team need once the lottery order is set Tuesday. But Noel has the unique risk for a possible No. 1 of coming off knee surgery in March, late enough that he not only is unable to work out for clubs but also will force him to miss summer league and training camp.

His report on the current rehabilitation in Birmingham, Ala., offers the prognosis of a successful recovery yet also the reality he will probably miss at least the first two months of his rookie season. Noel said the timetable is based on what he calls ‘very encouraging’ feedback on the recovery efforts along with the initial estimate of needing six to eight months to get back on the court.

“I have no doubt that I will be 100 percent, [and] even better than before, especially with everything I’m doing now,” he said. “I’m strengthening everything – upper body, lower body. I’m sure I’ll be better than 100 percent when I get back.

“It’s [going] better than I expected. I expected to be moving at a fast rate, and I definitely am. I’ll be looking to make a comeback as soon as possible. I just want to make sure my knee is in a good state.”

While it is impossible to get a definitive read on the knee, there is the other update on his conditioning and prep work for the draft: Noel measured at 4.2 percent body fat earlier this week as part of all prospects from U.S. colleges going through physicals, a very good outcome for anyone but particularly a player who isn’t able to go through the same training regimen. He measured 6-foot-10 without shoes and 6-11 ¾ with shoes, and 206 pounds.

“There’s no risk at all,” Noel said of a being chosen first with the uncertainty of a knee injury. “I definitely have the mindset that I’m going to come back from this…. When I get back, I’m going to be the hardest worker I can be and do what I have to do to be the player I want to be and do good things for the team I get drafted by.”

Other news, notes and observations as the second and final day in the gym at the pre-draft combine concluded Friday afternoon:

  • Rudy Gobert, on the bubble for the lottery, scored points with teams by participating in drills when it has become common for most prospects with a good shot for the middle of the first round to skip the basketball portion of the event to protect draft stock. Front offices are annually frustrated by players ducking the competition. Gobert, a center from France, did not duck. “It shows that somebody’s aware,” one executive said. “The knock on him is that he doesn’t want to compete. Whether he listened to an agent or a coach or decided on his own, it’s a good sign that he’s here.”
  • Gobert looked stunned to learn there were doubts about his drive. But he did say he liked the idea of sending the message that he wants to face the top competition to get better after so far spending his entire career in Europe. Gobert also has the “Wow” factor with a wing span of 7-8 ½ and a standing reach of 9-7 in addition to standing 7-2 in shoes, meaning he can at least come close to touching the rim without jumping. His wingspan has been an obvious attribute for a long time, with people often asking him to stand and stretch his arms, just to get a look. One executive, seeing Gobert in person for the first time, said it’s a sight just to watch Gobert’s reach while standing next to another player. Teams want to fall in love with this guy. He had a disappointing 2012-13 in Europe, but with his potential plus the physical, Gobert easily moves into the lottery if he does anything in the individual workouts. He was No. 16 in the last NBA.com ranking.
  • Jeff Withey, center from Kansas, is aware teams like him around the middle of the first round for defense and rebounding, and has been working to improve his mid-range and post game since the end of the season. The result was some positive feedback off drills in the gym.
  • Steven Adams, was the big man who impressed the most in that area, showing a mid-range game that didn’t get noticed in one season at Pittsburgh. That Adams is expanding his game is especially noteworthy as a relatively inexperienced player, and very inexperienced at a high level of competition, after learning the game in his native New Zealand. He is an aggressive, fluid 7-footer.
  • Dennis Schroeder, the German point guard making a late charge up draft boards, has singled out Utah and Milwaukee as preferred destinations on draft night. The disclosure is particularly relevant because the interest may be mutual and both will probably be picking in the right range, with the Jazz at 14 barring a long-shot climb into the top three on lottery night and the Bucks at 15. As Schroeder himself pointed out, the Jazz have the position need as Mo Williams heads into free agency (with a good chance they’d have the need even if Williams wasn’t). When asked what he considered the best place to start his NBA career, he mentioned Utah first. Milwaukee is a possibility with Brandon Jennings about to become a free agent. That draft-night decision by the Bucks, if Schroeder is available at 15, will be as much about weighing their future with Jennings as weighing Schroeder. And if they draft one and re-sign the other, it creates trade chips. Schroeder said he has scheduled a work out with the Rockets as well as the Jazz and Bucks. Houston picks 18, though. At this rate, he’ll be long gone.
  • McLemore-Shabazz Muhammad was once shaping up as the best matchup once individual workouts got underway for the top prospects following the lottery. No more. Now it’s Schroeder-Trey Burke, even if Michael Carter-Williams, not Schroeder, remains the second-best prospect among point guards. The warp speed of Schroeder, the tournament-tested experience of Burke, the drive of both – that’s a great show.
  • One GM, on Tony Mitchell, once a possibility for the lottery but now trying to hold on to a spot in the first round after a difficult season at North Texas: “He’s the best athlete here. It’s not even close. He’s a freak of nature.”