Posts Tagged ‘Utah Jazz’

Morning shootaround — Sept. 4

VIDEO: Day Four Wrap: 2015 FIBA Americas Championship


Morris ready to leave Phoenix | Beal, Wizards still not close on extension | Heat could have hard time keeping Whiteside | Prokhorov to buy rest of Nets, Barclays

No. 1: Morris ready to leave Phoenix — It’s been a few weeks since Markieff Morris said that he wouldn’t be in Phoenix much longer, possibly traded by the start of training camp. The Suns have stood pat since then, but Morris hasn’t backed down. On Thursday night, he reiterated his stance on twitter…

Morris’ contract extension (four years, $32 million) kicks in this season. The Suns traded his brother Marcus to Detroit in July, when they were looking to clear cap space for free agents. They added Tyson Chandler, but struck out on LaMarcus Aldridge.


No. 2: Beal, Wizards still not close on extensionAnthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the No. 1 and No. 2 picks of the 2012 Draft, have signed contract extensions that have them under contract through the 2020-21 and ’19-20 seasons, respectively. There are still almost two months for ’12 draftees to sign extensions, but one might not get done for No. 3 pick Bradley Beal if he’s looking for the max (about $120 million over five years), because the Wizards will want to maintain flexibility for next summer, when a certain D.C. native will be a free agent. J. Michael of CSN has the latest on where Beal and the Wizards stand…

While talks remain open, was told, there hasn’t been any movement. Beal, who believes he’s worth a max deal, just returned from Taiwan and president Ernie Grunfeld had been on vacation.

The lack of reaching a compromise isn’t an indication of any greater problems, but the Wizards aren’t in a position in which they must commit to a four-year deal fully guaranteed right now with so many moving parts ahead in free agency in the summer of 2016.

If a move is going to be made, it appears it would have to come from Beal to make a deal happen.


No. 3: Heat could have hard time keeping WhitesideThe Miami Heat have changed the terms of Hassan Whiteside‘s contract, which now gives him a fully guaranteed $981,348 salary for 2014-15, rather than partial guarantees until Dec. 1. If Whiteside continues to play as well as he did at times last season, that 981K is a bargain. But a strong season for Whiteside could make it difficult for the Heat to retain him next summer, as the South Florida Sun Sentinel’s Ira Winderman explains…

The change of the 2015-16 terms does not ease the Heat’s tenuous status with Whiteside going forward.

With Whiteside to fall short of full Bird Rights due to only a two-year tenure with the team, the Heat still will have to create salary-cap space to re-sign him next summer. The only way for the Heat to go over the 2016-17 salary cap to re-sign Whiteside would be if he would sign for the average salary as part of his Early Bird Rights, a figure of less than $10 million, one expected to be far below his market value.


No. 4: Prokhorov to buy rest of Nets, Barclays — Earlier this year, there were stories that Mikhail Prokhorov could be selling his share of the Brooklyn Nets. Now, Prokhorov is on the brink of going all-in on both the Nets and their arena, as the New York Post reports…

Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov is nearing a deal to buy all of the Barclays Center and the Brooklyn Nets from Bruce Ratner’s Forest City Enterprises, The Post has learned.

Prokhorov has been in talks to buy the 55 percent of the arena and 20 percent of the NBA team he does not already own. Under the deal being discussed, he would kick in little cash beyond forgiving the roughly $31 million Forest City owes him to cover team losses, according to two sources familiar with the situation.

Mitch Abramson of the New York Daily News says there’s still issues to be addressed before the deal is done

But, according to three high-ranking officials with both the Nets, Prokhorov and Forest City, the deal with Forest City Enterprise isn’t close to completion and won’t be done for perhaps another month.

“I don’t see this deal getting done probably for maybe the better part of three to four weeks,” one source told the Daily News. “There’s just a lot of issues that remain before we’re even close to being a done deal. It’s a complicated deal and it just takes time. But nothing is imminent.”

The source did say that both Prokhorov and Forest City are “motivated” to reach an agreement and the likelihood was still good the transaction happens.

But the deal won’t occur before a Sept. 8 deadline set by Prokhorov’s private investment firm, Onexim Group, for Forest City to pay back $6 million in debt, the sources all agreed.


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: LeBron James is helping adults get their GEDsDante Exum had surgery to repair his torn ACL on Thursday … Free agent Landry Fields had hip surgeryKyle Lowry talks weight loss … and Rick Carlisle is a pilot.

ICYMI: Some ankle-breaking highlights from last season:

VIDEO: Top 60 crossovers of ’14-15

Darryl Dawkins dead at 58

VIDEO: The Inside the NBA crew remembers Darryl Dawkins’ backboard dunks

HANG TIME BIG CITYDarryl Dawkins, the supersized NBA big man with an even larger personality, died today at the age of 58, according to the New York Daily News.

In 1975, the 6-11 Dawkins was drafted directly out of high school in the Orlando area with the fifth overall pick by the Philadelphia 76ers, making Dawkins the first prep-to-NBA player in history. He was athletic for a man his size, but his youth required a few years of development before he could play regularly. Dawkins broke into Philadelphia’s rotation in the 1977-78 season. As the Sixers, led by Julius “Dr. J” Erving, established themselves as contenders in the NBA’s Eastern Conference, Dawkins became a starter and established post presence.

In 1982, the Sixers traded Dawkins to the New Jersey Nets for a first-round pick, where in 1983-84 he averaged a career-high 16.8 points per game. After missing most of the 1986-87 season due to injuries, Dawkins had stints with the Utah Jazz and Detroit Pistons, but wasn’t able to stay healthy enough to contribute regularly. Dawkins played several seasons in Italy, and then a year with the Harlem Globetrotters before retiring.

Dawkins showed tantalizing flashes of brilliance, but struggled to sustain that type of brilliant play. This was perhaps best exemplified by Dawkins during 1979, when Dawkins broke backboards during slam dunks two different times. (He later claimed to have also broken two backboards in Italy.)

Dawkins seemed to have an innate understanding of the type of self-promotion that many players didn’t embrace until years later. Dawkins went by the nickname “Chocolate Thunder,” which was purportedly selected by Stevie Wonder, and Dawkins claimed to hail from the planet Lovetron. After shattering a backboard above Kansas City Kings forward Bill Robinzine, Dawkins named the dunk, “The Chocolate-Thunder-Flying, Robinzine-Crying, Teeth-Shaking, Glass-Breaking, Rump-Roasting, Bun-Toasting, Wham-Bam, Glass-Breaker-I-Am-Jam.”

In recent years, Dawkins dabbled in broadcasting and coached in several basketball minor leagues, and most recently coached at Lehigh Carbon Community College. He was also a fixture at the NBA’s annual All-Star Weekend events, always wearing vivid suits.

Those suits may have been colorful, but they could never match the personality of the man himself.

Morning Shootaround — Aug. 25

VIDEO: Nerlens Noel 2014-15 highlights


Hornets extend Kidd-Gilchrist | Chris Paul remembers Hurricane Katrina | Noel working on jump shot

No. 1: Hornets extend Kidd-Gilchrist The Charlotte Hornets drafted Michael Kidd-Gilchrist second overall in the 2012 NBA Draft, largely based on the potential of Kidd-Gilchrist continuing to develop into a complete small forward. And while three years later he still has a ways to go offensively, Kidd-Gilchrist has been a great fit for the Hornets, and become one of the best defensive players in the league. Which is why the Hornets were so keen to sign Kidd-Gilchrist to a four-year contract extension, writes Rick Bonnell in the Charlotte Observer

The Charlotte Hornets have made sure Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is a Charlotte Hornet long-term.

The Hornets have agreed to a four-year, $52 million contract, sources confirmed Monday. The deal will keep him off the free-agent market, similar to when the Hornets signed point guard Kemba Walker to a four-year, $48 million contract a year ago.

Kidd-Gilchrist is considered the Hornets’ defensive stopper. Coach Steve Clifford has called him one of the best individual and team defenders in the league.

However, he lacks offensive prowess. He averaged 13.4 points and 9.4 rebounds and took no 3-point shots last season. Then-assistant coach Mark Price spent much of last summer improving his jump shot.

The Hornets were under a certain economic pressure to get this deal done. Three other rookie-scale extensions had been completed: Anthony Davis was signed for five years and $145 million, making him the highest-paid player in NBA history. Portland’s Damian Lillard got a 5-year, $120 million contract.

And most recently Jonas Valanciunas got a four-year, $64 million contract from the Toronto Raptors.


No. 2: Chris Paul remembers Hurricane Katrina Back in 2005, the New Orleans Hornets used the fourth overall pick in the NBA Draft to select Chris Paul out of Wake Forest. Paul arrived in New Orleans a decade ago this summer eager to make an impact on the franchise and the city. And as Arash Markazi writes, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans 10 years ago this week, having a lasting effect on one of America’s great cities

Paul’s first memory of Aug. 29, 2005, was the sound of his mother’s voice waking him up and directing him to the television. The images were hard to fathom as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes.

“It was one of the most devastating things I had ever seen,” Paul said. “That was my new home. Even though I had only just gotten drafted, it was going to be my first time away from home and I felt a connection to the city. I couldn’t believe what I was watching.”

Hurricane Katrina had struck New Orleans that early Monday morning, and as Paul huddled in front of the television with his family, he looked at his older brother and wondered what the future held for him and his new home.

“That was the most uncertain time of our lives,” C.J. [Paul] said. “Chris had just been drafted and closed on a house … he’s just getting a feel for the city and all of a sudden that new city you love is in trouble. Just to see all the people who were affected by it and to know we were there just a few days before it hit …

“It seemed like it was a third world country we were watching on TV,” C.J. added. “It didn’t seem like it was a place in the United States we were due to live in in a week.”

While Paul and his family watched Katrina’s wrath unfold on television, the experience of going through it left deeper wounds for those living in the city. Jim Cleamons, who was an assistant on head coach Byron Scott‘s staff, says he and his family still have emotional scars from Katrina 10 years later.

“It was a horrific experience,” Cleamons said. “To some degree, I don’t want to remember some of the things myself.”


No. 3: Noel working on jump shot After sitting out his rookie season to recover from a knee injury, Sixers center Nerlens Noel came close to averaging a double-double last season. But Noel is looking to improve on the offensive end, and is spending his summer in Rhode Island rebuilding his jump shot, writes Keith Pompey for…

Noel spent the month of June here before joining the Sixers at the Utah Jazz and NBA summer leagues in July. Then he returned in August.

Of course, Noel could be doing this at the Sixers’ practice facility at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

“Yeah, I could,” Noel said Wednesday night over dinner. “But I felt individualizing this for myself, putting all the attention on myself, working on something up here . . . I thought this is a little more dedication to be in Newport,R.I., where there isn’t too much going on.”

While his physique won’t be confused with Dwight Howard‘s, Noel’s muscle gain is noticeable.

The 21-year-old weighs about 223 pounds, up from the 217 he carried last season. Mainly, Noel has worked on his jump shot, which has been his Achilles’ heel.

“A lot of people say work on your weaknesses until they become strengths,” Carroll said, “because in the NBA if you have weaknesses, people will exploit them.”

If he improves his shooting, Noel’s ability to get to the rim will improve as well.

“I think it’s really going to help me as a basketball player overall, especially at [power forward],” Noel said of the daily workouts. “[It will] help space the floor with my ability and start hitting the jumper consistently and complement our whole offense. And, you know, just changing my whole game and how effective I am.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Utah Jazz have agreed to a multi-year deal with Jeff Withey  … Spurs assistant coach Ime Udoka may have been their secret MVP in their pursuit of LaMarcus AldridgeAndre Drummond has offered Pistons rookie Stanley Johnson a place to live next season … The Lakers have had “casual conversations” with Metta World Peace about a reunion … Could Nick Young join the Australian National Team? …

Blogtable: Favorite Kobe moment?

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: Favorite Kobe moment? | Should Kobe do Rio? | Greatest Kobe feat? | Greatest Laker ever?

VIDEOKobe Bryant’s career top 10 plays

Kobe Bryant turns 37 Sunday and is heading into what could be his final NBA season.  What is your all-time favorite Kobe moment?

Steve Aschburner,“Favorite” unshackles this from any requirement that it be an “important” moment, so Bryant’s 81-point performance against Toronto on Jan. 22, 2006 would seem an easy choice. But I’d be lying because I didn’t see that game – I was covering the big clash that day between mediocre Philadelphia and middling Minnesota that Andre Iguodala won at the buzzer in Minneapolis. I only could watch highlights of Kobe’s explosion the next morning, and watching a succession of scoring plays in replay captures none of the excitement they pack live. So I’m split between Bill Russell handing Bryant his first Finals MVP trophy in 2009 and the precocious 1998 Bryant waving off Karl Malone from an attempted pick-and-roll in the All-Star Game so he could square up against Michael Jordan.

VIDEO: Kobe Bryant accepts the 2009 Finals MVP trophy

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comWhile it’s tempting and certainly valid to say Kobe scoring 81 on the Raptors, I’m going with Aug. 24, 2008. That’s the night at the Beijing Olympics when Kobe and Dwyane Wade led the USA Redeem Team to the gold medal. Bryant was a hungry, fierce, driven leader all through the campaign to put the U.S. back on top of the basketball world and he hit big buckets down the stretch to seal the gold medal. I was in the building and the feeling of accomplishment was palpable and probably as satisfying to Kobe as any of his five NBA titles.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comPicking 10 favorites would be hard enough, let alone a single all-timer, and this is No. 1 for the moment because there will be more candidates to come. But if I have to choose one, let’s go with April 12, 1997, at Utah. (So many historic Laker moments intersected with Salt Lake City and the Jazz.) A rookie Kobe Bryant air-balled four shots late in the fourth quarter and into overtime of Game 5 of the West semifinals of the playoffs. Those misses, one brick after another, clinched the Lakers’ 98-93 OT loss as Utah won the series 4-1. And he was unfazed. Bryant did not flinch, not when he got the ball as the bad misses piled up and not in the visitor’s locker room afterward as he faced the media scrutiny. It may not have been the indication of what was to come on the court, but that was the clear preview of the future of the Black Mamba personality. He would back down from nothing and nobody.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comThis isn’t the 81 points or a playoff moment or a Finals moment. But on the final regular-season game in 2003-04 (against the Portland Trail Blazers), Kobe made a pair of hellacious buzzer-beating 3-pointers that defy logic (they’re plays No. 2 and No. 1 here). The first happened at the end of regulation at the top of the key with Ruben Patterson (the Kobe Stopper) painted all over him. The second was at the end of the second overtime, when Kobe took an inbounds pass with one second left and turned almost completely around and splashed. He ran off the court and was hugged by Shaq, the last time that happened.

VIDEO: Relive Kobe Bryant’s best plays from the 2003-04 season

John Schuhmann, Bryant didn’t play great for most of the 2008 Olympics. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade did the heavy lifting for the U.S. through the first 7 1/2 games in Beijing, with Bryant often showing some frustration with his shooting struggles. But when things were tight down the stretch of the gold medal game against Spain, he hit the two biggest shots for the Americans, including the four-point play that essentially put them on the top of the medal stand. Considering the stakes, that was maybe the best game I’ve seen in person, and Bryant backed up his rep as the best closer in the game.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comThere are so many it’s hard to choose just one. But the 2003 All-Star Game at Philips Arena comes to mind because it illustrated to me what sort of a cut-throat competitor Kobe really was. It was supposed to be a celebratory send off for Michael Jordan, his final All-Star Game appearance and a chance to all of the current stars to bow down one last time to the G.O.A.T. Vince Carter gave up his spot in the Eastern Conference starting lineup and East coach Isiah Thomas had instructed his guys to show MJ the respect he deserved. Kobe, of course, ignored the memo. He wasn’t having it. He went at MJ like it was Game 7 of The Finals and didn’t let up, including knocking down two free throws to tie the game and send it into double-overtime (after Jordan had hit what could have been the game-winner for the East with 4.8 seconds to play). The Western Conference won by 10 in double overtime with Kevin Garnett winning MVP honors. Kobe could have missed one of those free throws on purpose or even decided against pulling up for the potential game-winning 3-pointer (he was fouled by Jermaine O’Neal with a second to play) and let me MJ have the storybook ending. But it’s just not who he was or is … it’s not in his blood.

VIDEO: Kobe vs. MJ in the 2003 All-Star Game

Ian Thomsen, In his second season, in 1998, Sports Illustrated sent me to Los Angeles to report what would be Kobe’s first cover story. He picked me up in a new SUV and we went to an outdoor patio restaurant for an interview that went on for hours. A woman sitting next to us asked if he played for the Lakers: He introduced himself, and she said she would be following his career. Much has changed since then, but not his confidence: That night at age 19 he was predicting basically everything he would go onto accomplish in basketball.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blogI was there at Madison Square Garden in 2009 when the Lakers came to town. It was an early February game, with the All-Star break a few weeks away, and despite it being two marquee franchises — the Lakers! Against the Knicks! — in the world’s most famous arena, there was no great sense of anything special hanging in the balance that night. And then Kobe went for 61 points, scoring from all over the place and setting a Madison Square Garden record. Even as provincial as Knicks fans can be, I’ll never forget the chants of “MVP! MVP!” for Kobe.

VIDEO: Kobe Bryant scores 61 on Knicks

Morning shootaround — Aug. 7

VIDEO: Dante Exum talks after Utah’s 2014-15 season comes to a close

Jazz won’t deviate from their plan | Rockets confident Lawson making progress | Rose’s Team USA days likely done for good


No. 1: Jazz won’t compromise future in wake of Exum injury — The Utah Jazz had a lot of optimism heading into the 2015-16 season given how strongly they finished up the 2014-15 campaign. Understandably, some of that hope has been dashed after word came down yesterday that second-year point guard Dante Exum has a torn left ACL and will likely miss all of this season. Given that the Jazz are, in some folks eyes, close to being a playoff contender, what’s the plan now? Aaron Falk of the Salt Lake Tribune has more: 

But with Exum likely out at least six months after surgery and missing the entire 2015-16 season a real possibility, the Jazz front office has a significant hole to fill on the court at point guard.

Exum averaged a rather uninspiring 4.8 points and 2.4 assists per game last season as a 19-year-old rookie, but the Aussie’s defense helped him overtake the more experienced Burke as Utah’s starting point guard. The Jazz went 24-17 with Exum as a starter and put together a 19-10 mark after the All-Star break. So while GM Dennis Lindsey has acknowledged baseline production at the position “has to improve” going forward, it was also clear to team officials that Exum was a major contributor to Utah’s success in the second half of last season and that, with his mix of size and speed, Exum had a chance to take a major step forward next season.

Without him, where will the Jazz turn?

This late in the summer, the NBA’s free agent cupboard is bare, so expect the Jazz to instead survey the trade market in search of a stopgap to provide the experience Bryce Cotton and Raul Neto lack. But if the Jazz do make a trade, the splash likely won’t be that big. Utah’s decision-makers have made it clear that they do not want to unnecessarily disrupt their young team’s chemistry and development.

So, for now at least, Burke remains Utah’s most likely starter, a role he held for his first year and a half in the NBA. The former college player of the year struggled to make shots last season, but the Jazz and head coach Quin Snyder have not given up on his development.

*** (more…)

With Exum injured, Jazz face uphill climb

HANG TIME BIG CITY — The road to postseason contention for the Utah Jazz just hit a significant bump.

The Utah Jazz announced Thursday afternoon that guard Danté Exum tore his ACL in his left knee earlier this week, while playing for the Australian National Team in a game in Slovenia.

“First and foremost, our overriding concern is with Danté and his long-term health,” said Utah Jazz General Manager Dennis Lindsey in a press release. “We are continuing to work closely with our medical staff, Danté and his representation in order to reach an accurate diagnosis and recommended treatment so that we can provide him with the best possible care. We all know how hard he will work to make a full recovery and look forward to his return to play.”

A 6-6 combo guard, Exum was selected fifth overall in the 2014 Draft by the Jazz. Exum played in all 82 games as a rookie, and moved into the starting lineup in late January. With first-year head coach Quin Snyder on the sideline and developing big man Rudy Gobert defending the rim, the Jazz became one of the Western Conference’s most interesting teams down the stretch, including posting an 8-1 stretch in early March. Exum finished his rookie season averaging 4.8 ppg to go with 2.4 apg in 22.2 mpg.

This season, the Jazz looked to continue their development and move into playoff contention. The injury to Exum makes that a little less likely. While the Jazz haven’t put a timetable on Exum’s return, it’s unlikely he will be able to contribute significantly any time soon. With Exum out, the Jazz will likely rely more on point guard Trey Burke, as well as perhaps pursue help from outside, as the Desert News‘ Jody Genessy noted on Twitter…

Morning shootaround — Aug. 5

VIDEO: Dante Exum’s best plays from 2014-15 season

Report: Exum may have torn ACL | Report: Wall to attend Team USA mini-camp | Teams face difficult extension decisions


No. 1: Report: Exum may have torn ACL — The Utah Jazz finished the 2014-15 season fairly strong, going 19-10 after the All-Star break (after a 19-34 start) and improved by 13 wins from the 2013-14 season. The team’s top rookie, guard Dante Exum, struggled in his debut campaign but showed some defensive prowess during Utah’s late-season surge. All that together means the Jazz have big hopes for Exum and the team in 2015-16 … and Tuesday’s news may deal a big blow to those hopes. Exum injured his left knee while playing for the Australian national team in a friendly game. Worst yet, writes Jody Genessy of the Deseret News, is word that Exum may have torn his ACL: 

The Australian point guard injured his left knee Tuesday while playing for the Boomers in an international friendly game against Slovenia.

Initial concern is that Exum might have torn the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, a source told the Deseret News.

Exum will return to Utah for further evaluation on his knee by the team’s doctors at the University of Utah Health Care, the Jazz announced shortly after the injury occurred on the other side of the world.

If the injury is an ACL tear, surgery would be required and Exum would possibly miss the entire 2015-16 season while rehabilitating his knee.

It isn’t known when Exum will arrive in Utah or how soon he will be evaluated.

Exum, who didn’t miss any of Utah’s 82 games as a rookie, was injured while driving into the lane against Slovenia in Australia’s final game of a European tour. The point guard planted awkwardly with his left foot and his knee buckled inward as he attempted to jump for a shot attempt, forcing him to flail backwards in pain.

Barring a trade or a late free-agency signing, third-year playmaker Trey Burke would fill in as the Jazz’s starter if Exum has to miss time. Utah also has two other young point guards under contract in Brazil’s Raul Neto and summer league standout Bryce Cotton.

Utah drafted Boston College point guard Olivier Hanlan, but it’s uncertain if he’s going to sign with the team or perhaps play elsewhere as a stash player.

Shooting guard Alec Burks and small forward Gordon Hayward are also adept at running the Jazz offense.

*** (more…)

Jazz hold breath on Exum injury

VIDEO: Should NBA teams prevent their players from playing internationally?

Seriously? The NBA is dealing with a potentially serious injury and the season is three months away?

For a league that has suffered so much carnage over the last three or so seasons, and superstars haven’t been spared, along comes another. We won’t speculate about the knee injury (and potential ACL tear) suffered by second-year Utah Jazz guard Dante Exum while playing for the Australian national team, but given the crummy luck of the NBA lately, you really must guard against pessimism.

Exum was making a move against Slovenia and then the non-contact injury happened. His left knee buckled and he had to be helped off the floor and given crutches. Here’s video from Slovenian journalist Damir Radenovic:

Currently Exum is on his way to Salt Lake City for further examination. Man, this stinks. The team offered the following statement on Tuesday afternoon:

Exum suffered a left knee injury today while competing for the Australian National Team in a game against the Slovenian National Team in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Exum was initially treated on site and will now return to Salt Lake City for further medical evaluation by the Utah Jazz medical staff and official healthcare partner University of Utah Health Care.

Further updates will be provided when appropriate.  

I spoke recently with former Pelicans coach Monty Williams about the sad trend of injuries and he believes players, by the time they reach the NBA, have so much wear on their bodies from year-round play that they’re susceptible to injury. But what about back in the day, when players would be on the schoolyard from sunup to sundown? Williams said today’s teenagers are playing three and sometimes five AAU games in one day. Bottom line is there’s no scientific study done to give clear answers, and all we’re left with is armchair speculation … and debilitating bodies.

Exum, the No. 5 pick in the 2014 Drafthad an uneven rookie season for the Jazz. Still, the franchise remains high on him. He’s still a teenager and he hadn’t played against competition this steep, so he deserves plenty of time to get acclimated. If the knee was merely hyperextended or badly sprained, then that’s one thing. If there is graver damage, that’s another.

Another issue is players using their summer to train with and play on their national teams. Might we see a decline in numbers in the future? Especially following last summer’s gruesome leg injury suffered by Paul George? With so much money at stake, and careers so precious, it wouldn’t be a surprise if some, especially those who already won their Olympic medals, decide to confine their court action to the NBA. That said, most international players are so loyal to their countries that they’ll probably take the risk.

Again, no reason to speculate about Exum. The Jazz should know something by Wednesday, or Thursday at the latest. Hopefully this isn’t an indicator of what’s coming next season.

Morning Shootaround — August 2

VIDEO: Team World rallies past Team Africa


Olajuwon, Mutombo return for Team Africa | Knicks to sign Vujacic | Teague making impact off-court

No. 1: Olajuwon, Mutombo return for Team Africa Yesterday’s NBA Africa 2015 exhibition game was a success by any measure, but the game’s signature moment may have come midway through the second quarter when Hakeem Olajuwon and Dikembe Mutombo checked into the game. As our Shaun Powell writes, it was a moment that almost didn’t happen

Hakeem Olajuwon and Dikembe Mutombo, the greatest players Africa ever produced, were asked by league organizers to come out of retirement and make a cameo in the exhibition. Olajuwon is a Hall of Famer and Mutombo will be enshrined next month. They would suit up for Team Africa, a squad of players with African blood, against Team World. Their jerseys, along with one belonging to the late Manute Bol, hung ceremoniously in the rafters above the court inside the arena.

Therefore: A simple and brilliant request, right?

Brilliant, yes. Not so simple.

Mutombo was receptive. Olajuwon said no. Olajuwon is 52, Mutumbo 49. They are fit and trim, but as basketball players, they were finished. It was not going to happen. Organizers pleaded. The answer, up to the day before tipoff, was no from Olajuwon. Truth be told? Both were afraid of being embarrassed on TV, in front of fans who knew them as legends. Neither wanted to play like chumps.

And then: Olajuwon weakened. He brought along his two pre-teenaged boys, who never saw him play, and so he agreed.

When they checked in midway through the second quarter wearing their throwbacks — Rockets for Olajuwon, multi-colored Nuggets for Mutombo — the NBA Africa game had its signature moment, its energy, its second-loudest applause of the day.

The biggest bedlam? That burst arrived when Olajuwon reeled back to 1993, executed the Dream Shake that froze Nik Vucevic, faded and shot a 15-footer that kissed the rim and fell in. Cray-zy. The crowd pounced. Players on both benches jumped.

“I made the move, I made the shot, it went in,” said Olajuwon. “I missed my first shot and was happy to make the next one. And I was really happy to participate.”

After a minute of action, Olajuwon playfully grabbed his chest, Fred Sanford-style. Gregg Popovich, who knows about coaching old players with the Spurs, did the humanitarian thing and allowed Olajuwon to wobble back to the bench and into re-retirement.

As for Mutombo? Didn’t one trademark basketball moment deserve another? As in, a blocked shot and finger wag? Popovich drew up a defensive play that you’ll never see in a Spurs game. He ordered his players to allow guard Trey Burke to reach the rim, where Mutombo awaited. The trap was set but the mouse didn’t cooperate. Burke passed the ball.

“So many of these young players don’t want to see themselves on YouTube,” said Mutombo, “so they run away.”


No. 2: Knicks to sign Vujacic The Knicks have made no secret that they’re trying to find players who fit into their “Triangle” offensive system. So who better to add to their roster than former two-time champ Sasha Vujacic, who played for Phil Jackson‘s Lakers? As Ian Begley writes, signing Vujacic should help the Knicks stretch opposing defenses

Vujacic played for the Los Angeles Lakers from 2004 to 2011. He spent five of those seasons playing under Knicks president and then-Lakers head coach Phil Jackson, and four playing alongside Knicks coach Derek Fisher, who played point guard for the Lakers.

Vujacic, 31, has played overseas for much of the past four seasons. His lone NBA stint during that stretch was in 2013-14, when he played 10 minutes over two games for the Los Angeles Clippers.

Assuming he makes the regular-season roster, Vujacic could give the Knicks a needed threat from the perimeter.

He is a career 37.1 percent 3-point shooter in the NBA. Vujacic is also familiar with the Knicks’ triangle offense thanks to his time in Los Angeles. So he could help the Knicks’ younger players adapt to the system.

The 6-foot-7 Vujacic is the latest player coached by Jackson to sign a deal with the Knicks. New York has also signed former Lakers Lamar Odom, Shannon Brown and DJ Mbenga — but none of those players had long stints with the team.

With Vujacic on board, the Knicks have 12 players signed to guaranteed contracts. Counting Langston Galloway, who has a partially guaranteed deal but is expected to make the regular-season roster, they have two open spots.


No. 3: Teague making impact off-court Atlanta Hawks All-Star point guard Jeff Teague took a visit last summer to Atlanta’s Hughes Spalding Children’s Hopsital, and ended up raising thousands of dollars for the hospital throughout the season. Teague has continued the partnership, and as Chris Vivlamore writes, Teague says the association has grown into something “beautiful”…

The Hawks guard felt compelled to donate $20 for each assist he had the previous season, a sum of $11,260. He felt he could do more. Teague and the hospital set up a program where he would match the figure again this year and challenge others to do the same. Those who matched his $20 per assist total would be All-Star sponsors. Others could give $2 per assist ($1,126) as Teammate sponsors. The money benefits the Hughes Spalding Hospital, according to a hospital representative.

“I went on a visit to Children’s to try to give the kids a little inspiration,” Teague said recently. “They go through a lot. I wanted to go there, see the kids, interact with them and have them interact with me. When I got there, I was touched. I wanted to do whatever I could to help out. That’s when we came up with the program.”

The giving will culminate with Teague’s inaugural Hoops for Hughes dinner Aug. 15 at Maggiano’s Buckhead. The event will feature a dinner, question-and-answer session, photographs with Teague and more for those who gave this year.

“When I met Jeff Teague of the Atlanta Hawks during a recent visit to Hughes Spalding, his thoughtfulness, kindness and compassion impressed me even more than him being a young basketball superstar,” said Julia Jones, vice president for operations at Hughes Spalding. “His sensitivity towards the children we care for and his concern for their needs was very genuine. He seemed truly interested in gaining a greater understanding of the important work that is being done at Hughes Spalding and committed to supporting that work in every way he can.”

Teague said the Hawks also donated to the cause.

There are plans to continue the program next year — and for years to come. Teague finished last season with 620 assists in the regular season and playoffs combined. He finished 10th in the NBA in regular-season assists with 513 and added 107 more in the postseason. His donation will be $12,400. He will ask others to match or give $1,260 at $2 per assist.

“I just wanted to give back,” Teague said. “I didn’t think it would grow into something like this. It’s a beautiful thing. At first it was just something I wanted to do from my heart. I just wanted to give back. Now, it’s grown into something beautiful and large.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Derrick Rose is reportedly undecided on playing for Team USA … Glen Davis may be willing to sign a contract overseas if he doesn’t sign an NBA deal … Pacers center Jordan Hill was charged with driving violations outside Atlanta.

Morning shootaround — July 19

Stop and Pop with Nets rookie Rondae Hollis-Jefferson


RHJ brings personality to the Nets | Casey on Raptors’ ‘painful’ finish, more | Williams undrafted, undersized, overachieving | Some Pau in Porzingis?

No. 1: RHJ brings personality to Nets — It hasn’t been the best of offseasons for the Brooklyn Nets. They bought out point guard Deron Williams‘ contract, paying him a reported $27.5 million not to play for them over the next two seasons. They signed Andrea Bargnani, the unfulfilling 7-footer who was found wanting by the Nets’ rivals across the river and whose third chance at NBA success might be his last. What had been a spend-now, win-now approach has been pushed aside for a youth movement, a much tougher sell in the big city. While fans patiently (or not) await a bunch of salary-cap space 12 months from now – when seemingly every team will have it, by the way – Brooklyn at least added a new player whose game and personality could be worth cheering. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson got the up-close-and-personal treatment from the New York Post‘s Tim Bontemps:

Anyone who meets Rondae Hollis-Jefferson today sees someone about as outgoing and confident in himself as a person as you can be. After all, it takes plenty of confidence to hop up onto the stage at the NBA Draft wearing plaid pants, or to end your initial press conference with reporters with a freestyle rap about being the newest member of an NBA franchise.

But there was a time when Hollis-Jefferson wasn’t so confident, when he did worry about what others said and thought about him. At least, that was the case until he was entering high school and grew tired of the way people were always discussing his afro.

“People would always talk about my hair,” he said. “They would always call me names or whatever, and I was just like, ‘I like it.’ As I got older, I just got really comfortable with [my personality] and said, ‘To hell with whoever doesn’t like it.’

“Growing up, sometimes you worry what people think, who is going to say something about me … but after that, I was like, ‘Whatever makes me happy, that’s what I’m going to do.’ ”

It’s a philosophy that has served Hollis-Jefferson well, helping carry him from his hometown of Chester, Pa., to the University of Arizona for two years then to the Nets — who sent Mason Plumlee to Portland to acquire the rights to the 23rd-overall pick, who the Nets feel is the best defensive player in the entire draft and could become a longtime fixture for them on the wings.

Though Hollis-Jefferson has all the traits you look for in a lock-down wing defender, he may also be the draft’s most effervescent personality — a bundle of energy who seems incapable of having anything but a smile on his face or a stream of entertaining dialogue tumbling out of his mouth.

Given that one of the biggest criticisms of the Nets recently has been a lack of emotion and passion, it’s not just his basketball skills that make him a welcome addition to the roster.

“He doesn’t hold anything back,” said Brandon Ashley, Hollis-Jefferson’s teammate at Arizona who played for the Hawks during summer league here. “Sometimes that’s a good thing and sometimes that’s not the best [thing], but you always know what to expect from him.”


No. 2: Casey on Raptors’ ‘painful’ finish, more — Toronto’s dismal finish to 2014-15 – an 11-16 mark over the final two months, followed by an 0-4 ousting in the playoffs’ first round – had folks speculating about coach Dwane Casey‘s job security and the franchise’s viability as a contender. But a busy summer so far by GM Masai Ujiri has rounded up newcomers DeMarre Carroll, Cory Joseph, Luis Scola and Bismack Biyombo, while bidding adieu to Amir Johnson, Lou Williams and Greivis Vasquez. That’s a lot of change, about which Casey spoke to our own John Schuhmann for an Q&A. Here are some excerpts:

Q: What hurt you offensively in the playoffs?
DC: Physicality and size. We were small with Lou and Kyle [Lowry] on the floor at the same time. Size and length took us out. They made our big guys make plays. So a big emphasis this summer for them is learning how to play out of blitzes on the pick-and-roll, when they’re taking the ball out of DeMar’s and Kyle’s hands. They got to make plays and burn them if they’re going to bring two to the ball. We didn’t do a good job of that in the playoffs.

Q: What was your pitch to [DeMarre] Carroll when you met with him?
DC: We need you. You’re a defensive guy. We want to be a defensive team. We had been until last year. We moved from 30th [in defensive efficiency in 2010-11, the season before Casey was hired] to top 10, and then took a step back unwillingly. He’s a big part of us taking that next step. That was the pitch. I love his story, that he’s a self-made player. If you said six years ago that DeMarre Carroll would be one of the top players in the league, nobody would have believed you. But he’s made himself into that player. That’s my kind of guy and our kind of guy.

Q: Has Terrence Ross hit a ceiling?
DC: I don’t think so. What a lot of people don’t understand is that he had a lot of stuff in his ankle. He had that taken out this spring. He played through it last year. Whether that was why he took a dip defensively, I don’t know. I tell everybody that he was our best defensive wing player two years ago, and we were pretty good. He’s got to get back to that level more so than with his shooting. But I don’t think he’s hit a slump. He didn’t take that next big step. He hasn’t forgot how to shoot. Even with one leg, he was shooting this morning. So we’re looking for big things out of him and this is a big year for him, career-wise.


No. 3: Williams undrafted, undersized, overachieve — Everyone gets excited to see the stars of the NBA Draft in the weeks following their selections and destinations. A bunch of sophomores-to-be attract attention by showing what they learned as rookies (or what they didn’t). But for many hoops devotees, the summer leagues in Orlando, Salt Lake City and Las Vegas are about guys like Alan Williams. Williams, a 6-foot-8 big man from UC-Santa Barbara, put up some big numbers playing for the Houston Rockets’ entry in Las Vegas, including a 22-point, 20-rebound performance against Philadelphia’s team. Considered too small for the spot he plays, by NBA standards, Williams remains a free agent in search of a training camp in October. But he made sure no one outworked him in Vegas, per

His energy level on the boards has always been great, even going back to when he was one of the advanced metric darlings of college basketball over the course of the last three seasons. He’s been in the top-10 nationally in both offensive and defensive rebounding rate over each of the last three seasons, and led the entire country in PER in 2014 at 35.7.

But this week, he kicked it up a notch, largely due to some work he did in the offseason. [The first thing a scout] pointed out was that the 6-foot-8 big man seemed to have slimmed down, which may have pushed him into another gear as far as his endurance and athletic explosiveness. Williams himself confirmed as much after the game.

“I had to, I had to,” Williams said with a smile when asked if he’d lost weight. “That’s what the NBA guys want to see. Me being able to trim that baby fat that I had in college and continue to elevate my game and keep up with that same energy and intensity that I’ve had for so long.”
That hard work has been emblematic of Williams’ career to this point, as the big man went from a lightly recruited high school prospect all the way to this moment.

“You hear this about a lot of guys, I’m sure, he’s a better person than he is a basketball player,” Williams’ coach at UC Santa Barbara, Bob Williams, told me prior to this 2014-15 season. “He’s a phenomenal kid.”

Williams did give a little blush [over] the superlatives that have been laid upon him as a teammate in the past, but he said his parents — his mom is a police chief and his dad a judge — instilled the best values in him possible to give him a shot at success.

“My parents did a really good job of making me the best man I can be,” Williams said. “Not only the best basketball player, but the best man. And I don’t know if that gives me a better chance [to make a team], but I definitely believe that it should be a contributing factor. Someone’s character is always taken into place because you never know who’s watching. You want guys that are going to go out there and put their best foot forward for the organization and I feel like I’m one of those guys who can be a model citizen, a great teammate, and go out there and bust my butt on the floor.”


No. 4: Some Pau in Porzingis? — Knicks head coach Derek Fisher was asked all sorts of unanswerable – or at least, not ask-worthy – questions in Las Vegas, with inquiring New York scribes wanting him to project the team’s starting lineup for November or discuss the perfect ratio of triangle vs. other geometric forms of offense for his squad in 2015-16. He mostly stayed away from comparisons of the Knicks’ new young players to known NBA quantities, based on the unrealistic expectations such comments spark. Fisher did acquiesce, though, when one such parallel was drawn between 7-foot-3 rookie Kristaps Porzingis and veteran All-Star Pau Gasol. Marc Berman of the New York Post relayed Fisher’s responses:

But Fisher only will compare the two Europeans as far as their mental makeup — not their on-court game and slight builds. And Fisher raves that Porzingis stacks up well with Gasol, the five-time All-Star, in all those vital intangibles.

“I’m very reluctant to throw around a lot of comparisons before a guy has played a [preseason] game,’’ Fisher said late Friday night at the Thomas & Mack Center after the Knicks’ summer league was history. “But I would say the similarities are the character, that Pau’s an amazing person and Kristaps is the same type of guy in terms of a good teammate, good guy to be around, enjoys working hard and really wants to be the best.

“We’re very fortunate from that standing. His career will take care of itself because of those reasons.’’

Many of the post-draft questions about whether Porzingis would stand his ground defensively because of his ultra-skinny frame were answered in Las Vegas. Knicks president Phil Jackson was more worried than anyone. Porzingis sat out Friday’s summer-league finale, already having proven through the first four games that he was ready to mix it up and not back down.

With Fisher starting the perimeter-oriented Latvian at center purposely — to see how he dealt with the NBA’s inside physicality — Porzingis blocked shots, drew fouls and rarely looked out of his element. He averaged 10.5 points on 48 percent shooting and 1.8 blocks per game, earning loud cheers from Knicks fans in Sin City. His rebounding (3.3 per game) and boxing out needs work, as well as his hands.

Porzingis’ natural position will be power forward — maybe as a starter alongside center Robin Lopez — but he says he will play minutes at center. A starting frontline of Lopez-Porzingis-Carmelo Anthony may not be shabby in the mediocre East.

Sources say the goal is for Porzingis to put on 10 to 15 pounds by the opening of training camp Oct. 1 — which would put him at roughly 245 pounds.

“He’ll mature and fill out physically as he ages,” Fisher said. “We’re not obsessed at putting a lot of weight on him all at once. I think he’s in good position. I’m glad to have him healthy and so he can have a great 10-week stretch to get him ready for training camp.’’


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: NBA legend Jerry West, a.k.a., “The Logo,” considers the Golden State Warriors’ front office to be the “most healthy’ environment in which he’s ever worked. Which seems to say something about some portions of his long tenure with the Lakers. … Minnesota’s Zach LaVine didn’t play in the first quarter but scored 49 points in the final three, with a game-winning 3-pointer, in the annual Seattle pro-am game. … Paul George of the Indiana Pacers told a crowd in China that he wants to be the NBA’s Most Valuable Player. If he repeats it on Pacers’ media day, it will generate bigger headlines. … Cady Lalanne, the Haitian-born forward who has played for San Antonio in the summer league, probably had a tougher trek to grab an NBA rung than your favorite player. … Phoenix center Alex Len isn’t bothered at all by the arrival of veteran Tyson Chandler, who will take some of Len’s minutes. … Mark Cuban shrugged off, once again, DeAndre Jordan‘s Re-Decision. … Utah’s Gordon Hayward did a pretty good job on his blog of providing play-by-play of Bernadette Marie Hayward‘s arrival into his and wife Robyn‘s lives. …