Posts Tagged ‘yao ming’

Morning shootaround — Sept. 24

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Is Garnett completely gone from Wolves? | Bosh needs to concede and move on | Donovan remains with OKC for long haul

No. 1: Is Garnett completely gone from Wolves? — He announced his retirement Friday after 21 years in the NBA, fitting since that was his uniform number, and Kevin Garnett will be forever linked to the Wolves perhaps more than the Celtics. But what’s in his next chapter? There was always scuttlebutt about Garnett becoming a part-owner of the Wolves but that doesn’t appear likely. And the coaching position is filled. Maybe Garnett should cut the cord completely if he’s not involved in ownership, so says Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune

It was such a nice story, evoking nostalgia and promise in the same swoop of the pen.

Flip Saunders employed all of his charm to woo Kevin Garnett back to Minnesota, offering trunks of money, a voice at practice, a place in the starting lineup and a future in franchise decision-making.

When the Minnesota Timberwolves were desperate for validation and credibility, Flip’s seduction of the greatest player in franchise history made sense. Then everything changed.

Flip passed away, leaving Garnett without his greatest champion and intermediary in the organization.

Garnett played a career-low 15 minutes a game in a career-low 38 games, undermining his ability to lead by example on the court.

Wolves owner Glen Taylor hired Tom Thibodeau and Scott Layden to run his basketball operation.

In the old Wolves world order, every former employee of any pedigree had a virtual lifetime contract, renewable whenever convenient for the employee.

Flip’s passing and the arrival of the best cache of young talent in Wolves history, and perhaps the most authoritative coach in franchise history, converted the Wolves from the best version of their old self under Flip to the New Wolves Order.

Flip built relationships and sometimes avoided conflict. For him, Garnett could be the ideal partner — a superstar who was also taskmaster and intimidator.

Thibodeau likely wants his voice to be the loudest in every practice and huddle. He is the alpha male in the organization, and by nature of his personality needs little help yelling out defensive instructions or wielding power.

If Garnett is not going to become a part-owner or assistant general manager or loud voice at the end of the bench, he has no role in the New Wolves Order. He’s no longer even needed to sell tickets or lead marketing campaigns. That falls to Karl-Anthony Towns, a fast-rising star who is also as likeable and marketable as was the young Garnett, before he grew quills.

Channeled rage made Garnett great, and would make him an uncomfortable member of the NWO.

Now is the right time for Garnett to move on. The method by which that would happen is a matter for Taylor and Garnett. It would be best for the Wolves if Garnett simply retired, but let’s not go so far as to say that Garnett owes that to the Wolves. He carried the franchise for a decade, brought the Wolves their greatest success and had to be coaxed into accepting the trade to Boston.

Taylor (the owner of the Star Tribune, by the way) needs to do whatever it takes to buy out Garnett, to give Thibodeau a locker room where his voice will be the loudest.

If Garnett departs, the NBA and Minnesota sports will officially be changed places. The NBA could find Garnett, Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant in the same Hall of Fame class. Minnesota will have experienced the retirements of Torii Hunter, Jerry Kill and Garnett, and career-threatening injuries to Teddy Bridgewater and Adrian Peterson.

Garnett would retire as the only player in NBA history to reach at least 25,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, 5,000 assists, 1,500 steals and 1,500 blocks. He may also be the rare NBA superstar to have punched multiple teammates during practices over the course of his career.

Perhaps Garnett could have written a sweeter ending to his career than a buyout, but old knees don’t understand story lines.

Garnett was great, and he should have played his entire career in Minnesota, and nothing guarantees a happy ending, not even when a superstar comes home.

***

No. 2: Bosh needs to concede and move on — After failing his physical with the Miami Heat reportedly due to blood-clot complications, Chris Bosh remains in limbo. He won’t report with the team for training camp and all along the Heat have kept themselves at arm’s distance regarding Bosh and his medical condition. Almost everyone, even former teammate Dwyane Wade, has dropped hints that maybe Bosh should seriously rethink his desire to play this season, or ever again. Meanwhile, Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside are looming as the core of a team that once featured Bosh, Wade and LeBron James. Here’s Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald with the latest …

The question, with camp opening Tuesday: Can their on-court chemistry continue to improve?

The off-court dynamics between the two were so off kilter at times last season that Erik Spoelstra, last February, ordered them to go to dinner or do absolutely whatever was necessary to improve their chemistry.

Their collaboration improved almost immediately after that, and it will never be more important than it this season, with the departure of Dwyane Wade, who had better synergy with Whiteside than anybody, and the loss of Bosh.

Whereas Wade assisted on 92 Whiteside baskets and 29 alley-oops, Dragic assisted on just 65 of Whiteside’s hoops and 14 of his alley-oops.

But 50 of Dragic’s 65 assists to Whiteside came in 28 games after the All-Star break, compared with just 15 in 54 games before.

One reason why: The two teammates started talking a lot more, both off the court and during games, and the results have been noticeable. Whiteside started setting better screens for Dragic, which helped free him offensively.

“It was great,” Whiteside said this offseason, via Heat.com. “Each game me and Goran got better. He’s easy to talk to. He’s a really good point guard. As the season went on, me and Goran understood each other better.

“[This] year is going to be even bigger. More of me and Goran communicating on that basketball level and getting to know each other better.”

Spoelstra said earlier this year that the key was they both “committed to working together, before practice, after practice. Two guys that want to do it right and they understand they’re involved in a lot of collaborations together and they have to spend time working on it.

“It’s not going to happen through osmosis. They both wanted to make it better. They just didn’t necessarily know how to make it better. Just spend time together and you’ll figure it out.”

Dragic said he never ended up going “alone with Hassan” to dinner, but they did spend more time together in groups with teammates, and it helped because “you discuss things. You get to know the guy better and where he comes from. He opened up to me and vice versa. You know what the guy is thinking now.”

Also helpful: Dragic said he and Whiteside practiced pick-and-rolls alone, after practice.

Though they’ve always gotten along, Dragic, from Slovenia, and Whiteside, from North Carolina, don’t necessarily have a lot in common.

“He likes to play video games; I don’t do that,” Dragic said. “I have a family [with kids]; he doesn’t. But we both love basketball.”

The upshot, Dragic said, is they now they mastered non-verbal signals, to the point where Whiteside can anticipate a Dragic alley-oop before the defense knows it’s coming.

“It was hard” to get to this point, Dragic said. But the improved communication “has helped us function.”

Said Whiteside: “I know it looks like sometimes we’re out there arguing or fussing. But every time I see something, I tell him. And it goes both ways.”

***

No. 3: Donovan sees himself with OKC for long haul — When the Thunder lost Kevin Durant to free agency, it created a rather weird reality for coach Billy Donovan. He came to the Thunder two summers ago fully realizing that he might have only one season coaching Kevin Durant and that the team’s identity (and title chances) could drastically change overnight if Durant left. Maybe Donovan would regret leaving a comfortable gig with the Florida Gators. Well, when the Thunder opened camp Friday, Donovan was fully committed to the present and the future. Berry Tramel of the Oklahoman spoke with Donovan about this…

Billy Donovan’s second NBA season begins Saturday with Thunder training camp. Perhaps you’ve heard, Kevin Durant won’t be there.

The team that Donovan signed up for 17 months ago — a superstar-heavy, NBA-title-contending roster — has changed. Still talented. Still interesting. Still a winner. But not a title contender unless the basketball gods bestow upon us the sports story of the century.

Makes you wonder if Donovan laments coming to town. Makes you wonder if Donovan wonders what in the heck he’s gotten himself into.

This week, I asked Sam Presti how Donovan has responded to the different landscape. From knowing exactly what he had to not sure what he has. From NBA overdog to NBA underdog. From two superstars to one.

Presti said to ask Donovan. But then Presti told us what he thinks of the coach who leads the Thunder. “I think it is the same situation he signed on for, because the things that make a Billy Donovan a Billy Donovan is he wants to be the coach of the Thunder,” Presti said. “He wants to coach in Oklahoma City. He wants to coach with an organization that is committed to the values that I’ve covered … I think those are the things that drive a person like Billy Donovan. He wants to be a part of something. He wants to be a part of representing a city and the values of a city. And he wants to work his craft.”

Well, working his craft is not going to be a problem. To whatever extent Donovan was able to roll out the basketball and let Durant and Russell Westbrook perform their magic, that will happen no more. Donovan will be free to coach his butt off this season.

Truth is, Donovan did just that last season, when the Thunder traversed repeated valleys and emerged as a playoff force. No team played better in the 2016 playoffs than did Donovan’s Thunder. In the month of May, OKC went 7-6 against teams with 67 (Spurs) and 73 (Warriors) wins.

Donovan pushed all the right buttons, and the Thunder’s eventual fall had nothing to do with the quality of the coaching. Durant and Westbrook just famously locked up in the final five minutes of the Western Conference Finals’ Game 6.

The Thunder won’t get that close this season. Donovan won’t admit that, of course. He also talks like it’s OK if it is true.

Donovan said Clay Bennett and Presti made it clear that Durant’s return was no sure thing. Said he came to OKC not because of the dual superstars, but the values and culture that had been created.

“I believed in the vision of the organization,” Donovan said. “Those things resonated with me.”

You know the drill. All the things that Presti talks endlessly about. All the things that now will be put to the test in the post-Durant era. Hard work. Holistic approach to people. Trusting the process.

“Nothing’s really changed here,” Donovan said, words that will be tested on Oct. 25, when Durant dons a Warrior jersey for his first real game with Golden State. “The principles, the vision, those things haven’t changed. It’s not like the mission and the values have changed here.”

Donovan says he’s used to player departures. Nineteen years at Florida taught him to adjust. Players graduating. Players transferring. Players going pro early. Donovan went to Final Fours with virtual all-star teams and went to Final Fours with virtual no-name teams.

Truth is, Oklahoma City is a lot more accustomed to Durant than Donovan is to Durant. We had the tall drink of water for eight glorious seasons. Donovan coached him for one.

“When players leave, you gotta be aligned with the people that are in charge and the people you’re working with every single day,” Donovan said.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Jrue Holiday and wife had their baby and now Lauren Holiday awaits surgery for a brain tumor … Russell Westbrook still hasn’t spoken with you know who … Knicks are staying mum about the charges against Derrick Rose for now … Yao Ming is having his jersey retired by the RocketsNik Pekovic may never play for the Wolves againJeff Teague is getting to know his new teammates in his hometown of Indy … Mitch McGary is very, very sorry.

Hang Time Podcast (Episode 248) Featuring David Aldridge

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — All of the stars came out for the 2016 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame ceremony last weekend in Springfield, Mass. Its annual right of passage for the best of the very best. Shaquille O’Neal, Allen Iverson, Yao Ming and Sheryl Swoopes were all honored.

And so, too, was one of our very own. The great David Aldridge, winner of the Hall of Fame’s Curt Gowdy Media Award, was feted alongside those giants of the game.

No one covers the NBA and basketball the way DA has and continues to for TNT, NBA TV and NBA.com (you’ve enjoyed his work for three decades on every platform). The basketball insider’s insider, Aldridge’s career spans eras, from the golden years of the Showtime Lakers, Big 3 Celtics and Bad Boys Pistons to the Jordan era to Shaq-Kobe Lakers to this current super team era.

DA has seen it all and covered it all, and better than anyone.

That he found his way to the Hall of Fame was simply a matter of time. Going in on the same weekend as the likes of Shaq, Iverson and Yao seems only fitting for a man who has helped change the game, in his own right, for so many.

We dig in on DA’s wild and crazy summer, which included his covering Kevin Durant’s free agent summer and the Rio Olympics, his views on the current state of the game, athlete activism and so much more heading into the 2016-17 season.

Check it out on Episode 248 of The Hang Time Podcast featuring our very own David Aldridge.

LISTEN HERE:

As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including the Hang Time Podcast, co-hosts Sekou Smith of NBA.com, Lang Whitaker of NBA.com’s All-Ball Blog and renaissance man Rick Fox of NBA TV, as well as our new super producer Gregg (just like Popovich) Waigand.

– To download the podcast, click here. To subscribe via iTunes, click here, or get the xml feed if you want to subscribe some other, less iTunes-y way.

***

Morning Shootaround — Sept. 11

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Next up for HOF consideration | LeBron continues Hollywood expansion | Brooks sees no chemistry issues for Wizards

No. 1: Next up for HOF consideration? — Now that the star-studded Hall of Fame class of 2016 has been praised and inducted, it’s time to look forward to next year’s candidates. Our Scott Howard-Cooper takes a look at the candidates most likely to make the list for 2017 … a group that could include Kevin Johnson, Tim Hardaway and Chris Webber:

No vote-sucking automatics of the O’Neal-Iverson-Kidd variety are coming up for nomination in fall/winter this year among players with strong NBA or ABA ties, before the field is narrowed to finalists prior to All-Star Weekend in New Orleans and a second round of voting takes place in time to announce the winners during the Final Four in Glendale, Ariz. There is the interesting case for Ben Wallace, but he is the closest to anyone big-footing their way on the ballot, the way 2016 included O’Neal, Iverson and Izzo as three obvious calls and the 2018 headliners will arrive with hefty credentials. Even George McGinnis’ new status breaks right for the carryovers, with McGinnis moving from the North American group, the committee that includes Johnson, Hardaway and Webber, to the veterans. That makes one less candidate in North America to draw support away, not to mention that the possible benefit for McGinnis of only needing one round of voting in for enshrinement in his new category.

While the timing issues would be relevant any year, they are especially important this time as three ex-players search for reason to hope after the letdown of the recent election cycles. If Hardaway, Johnson and Webber can’t get traction when Wallace may be the biggest newcomer, after all, depending which college and NBA coaches go on the ballot for the first time, it does not say much for their chances when several marquee names are added for 2018.

Johnson needs a push after reaching the finalist stage this year, again, but failing to receive the necessary support, again. He is the lone NBA player who reached the second round of voting in 2016 without getting elected, along with college coaches Lefty Driesell, Bo Ryan and Eddie Sutton.

Hardaway, meanwhile, is going backward, from previously making finalist to being cut in the initial balloting in ’16 and not even making it to All-Star Weekend despite making five All-NBA teams and five All-Star games in a career that included five seasons averaging at least 20 points and three seasons with double-digit assists.

Webber is in the deepest hole of all: two years on the ballot, two years of not making it past the first round, after 20.7 points, 9.8 rebounds, five All-Star games and five All-NBA spots. Not making it just to finalist in 2017 would be the most-damning statement of all, and it might be anyway, no matter how many coaches are potentially drawing votes away.

There could also be newcomers who have been eligible but have yet to be nominated — Penny Hardaway, Brent Barry, Bruce Bowen, Robert Horry — but none would seem to have the same case as Wallace, the former center best known for patrolling the inside for the Pistons. And there is a case.

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Morning shootaround — Sept. 10

NEWS OF THE MORNING

An Epic Class | Born Ready in the Big Easy | Richardson suffers knee injury | Colangelo suggests “guarded optimism”

No. 1: An Epic Class — Each year sees a new class inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, and by nature, some classes are more star-studded than others. But the class of 2016, inducted last night in Springfield, was as big as it gets. As our own Scott Howard-Cooper writes, last night’s induction ceremony was some kind of party …

These are the nights that make the Hall of Fame, when Bill Russell, Shaquille O’Neal, Bill Walton, Alonzo Mourning, Yao Ming and Dikembe Mutombo are under the same roof and all we need is for someone to run a play through center and dare the guy with the ball to get past Russell or Mutombo, when Allen Iverson can barely get through a syllable without choking up while mentioning Larry Brown, John Thompson and Julius Erving on stage with him as presenters, and when Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf, of all people, is auditioning for “Saturday Night Live” while being enshrined.

“A Bar Mitzvah is the time in his life when a Jewish boy realizes he has a better chance of owning a team than playing for one,” Reinsdorf said, recalling his in 1949, the same year he would scrape together money to watch professional basketball at Madison Square Garden.

That was some Friday night at Symphony Hall. That was some party.

There hadn’t been this kind of star power at the enshrinement since 2010, probably the greatest of all, with Karl Malone, Scottie Pippen, the 1960 Olympic team led by Oscar Robertson and Jerry West, plus the 1992 Dream Team that mostly came down from Mt. Olympus to attend. This time, O’Neal, Yao and Iverson were among the 10 members of the Class of 2017 and sparkle was everywhere in the audience, some just watching and some with ceremonial duty as presenters: Russell and the entire center depth chart, Dr. J, Scottie Pippen, Phil Jackson, Larry Brown, Isiah Thomas, Gary Payton, Earl Monroe. On and on.

It wasn’t just the list of career accomplishments under one roof either. Put O’Neal, Iverson and Yao, the headliners among the inductees with NBA or ABA ties, in front of a microphone anywhere and good things will happen. Put them in front of a microphone at the same event, with historical figures engrossed or laughing along in the audience and a very good night for basketball happens.

Yao was dignified and humorous and smart and personable, everything he was as a Rocket, even in the trying times as the injuries piled up, until finally he had to retire early and his only chance for enshrinement was through the International committee, not on his NBA credentials. He successfully meshed growing up in China with growing in stature in Houston — “I’m a Texan, I’m a Houston Rocket for life” — and later, after returning to the audience to hear the nine speeches that followed, laughed along as O’Neal told the story of not knowing for years that he could converse with Yao in English.

Iverson was again the A.I. everyone expected, just as he had been the day before with a series of candid, thoughtful responses, especially in choking through his words and tearing up at the seemingly vanilla question on the importance to his career of having good teammates. He didn’t even get that far Friday. Iverson got emotional before even taking the stage, just from host Ahmad Rashad beginning the introduction. The audience cheered in support, backing him in a way few, if any, enshrinees had been cheered in recent years.

When Iverson did deliver his acceptance speech, he was The Answer in his prime, storming downcourt with the ball, on a laser line to the rim, no finesse, no pretense. He did 31 minutes straight from the gut. Iverson thanked Thompson, his Georgetown coach, “for saving my life” and listed dozens of family members, teammates, executives, coaches and media members. There were more raw emotions.

“I have no regrets being the guy that I am, a person my family loves, my friends love, my teammates love, my fans love,” Iverson said.

And Shaq. It may have been his best speech of the last 20 years, true appreciation of his place in basketball history without the loud stomping, the dramatics, that accompanied so many previous comments. It was strange to not mention Jerry West among many, many names who influenced his career, and any impression of a thawing with Kobe Bryant in recent seasons now must include O’Neal at the podium noting “the great Kobe Bryant. Kobe Bryant, a guy who will push me and help me win three titles in a row. But also help me get pushed off the team and traded to Miami.”

***

No. 2: Born Ready in the Big Easy — The last major free-agent domino seems to have fallen into place. According to his agent, Lance Stephenson has agreed to a one-year deal with the New Orleans Pelicans. As John Reid writes for NOLA.com, the Pelicans found themselves in need of backcourt help, although Stephenson may still have to earn a roster spot …

The move comes less than a week after point guard Jrue Holiday said he would miss the start of the 2016 season to care for his pregnant wife, former U.S. soccer star Lauren Holiday, who is facing brain surgery.

Guard-forward Tyreke Evans also is expected to miss the start of the season because he has not fully recovered after undergoing three surgeries on his right knee in a nine-month span.

Still, Stephenson will have to earn a roster spot because the Pelicans already have 15 players under guaranteed contracts.

Stephenson is a six-year veteran, most recently played with the Memphis Grizzlies, averaging 8.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and three assists per game. The Clippers traded Stephenson, 26, to the Grizzlies in February after he played 43 games and averaged 4.7 points.

Stephenson, 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, has ability to create off the dribble and provide needed scoring in the backcourt. The Pelicans put Stephenson through a workout at the practice facility last month to evaluate before offering him a deal.

A free agent, there was speculation that Stephenson might not land a NBA contract and would have to play in Europe.

Although talented, Stephenson has a reputation as a difficult player to coach. When he played for the Indiana Pacers, Stephenson got into a fight with teammate Evan Turner during a practice before their opening-round playoff series in 2014 against the Atlanta Hawks.

***

No. 3: Richardson suffers knee injury — The Miami Heat haven’t had the best offseason, losing several key players such as Dwyane Wade to Joe Johnson. And now they may be one more man down, at least for now, as explosive guard Josh Richardson suffered a knee injury yesterday during a workout. As Ira Winderman writes for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Richardson was in the mix for a starting spot …

An uneven offseason for the Miami Heat became a bit more challenging Friday, with second-year guard Josh Richardson suffering a knee injury during Friday’s voluntary workouts at AmericanAirlines Arena.

The injury was confirmed to the Sun Sentinel by a party close to the situation after Yahoo Sports reported Richardson sustained a partially torn MCL in his right knee.

A Heat spokesman said Richardson currently is being evaluated by the team’s medical staff.

The expectation is that Richardson will not be available for the start of training camp, which opens for the Heat on Sept. 27. He is tentatively still scheduled to make a promotional appearance Saturday in Fort Lauderdale, which indicates reduced concern about the injury.

Richardson downplayed the injury, posting on his Twitter account, “Thanks everyone for the tweets and texts. I see them. I’ll be back asap no worries.” He posted on his Snapchat, “Can’t hold a real one down!!!”

The Heat open their preseason schedule on Oct. 4 on the road against the Washington Wizards and their regular-season schedule on Oct. 26 on the road against the Orlando Magic.

An injury such as Richardson’s can take from two, three weeks to two, three months for recovery, depending on the grade of the tear.

A regular at the team’s offseason sessions, Richardson had been considered a candidate to emerge in the starting lineup this season, either at shooting guard or small forward.

***

No. 4: Colangelo suggests “guarded optimism” For the last few years, Philadelphia 76ers fans have been asked to trust the rebuilding process and look toward the future. Now that future is finally becoming the present, after two years waiting for former lottery pick Joel Embiid to get healthy enough to take the court. Speaking this weekend in Springfield, Sixers special advisor Jerry Colangelo said that Sixers fans should have “guarded optimism” when it comes to Embiid’s return…

“I’m sure that everyone should have optimism,” Colangelo told CSNPhilly.com at the Basketball Hall of Fame. “But there’s a word I’ve always used over the years about optimism. It should be guarded optimism because things take time. When you’re building teams — and I’ve had the privilege of doing that quite a few times in my career — you’re adding pieces here and there, and then once in a while you strike out and get that last piece. I think where the Sixers are today is, this is the beginning of that particular process, and that is building what everyone would hope to be a championship team.”

Two focal points of the Sixers’ future are Ben Simmons and Embiid. Simmons, a 6-foot-10 point-forward, is ready to make an impact as a rookie. Embiid, on the other hand, has been waiting two years to play following foot surgeries. Last month Embiid said he feels “100 percent” and plans to participate in training camp.

“With all of the reports that I’ve seen and all the footage I’ve seen in terms of video, it appears that he’s headed in the right direction,” Colangelo said of Embiid. “I know that everyone’s excited about training camp because of all of the new faces. … The fortunate ability to have the first pick and select Ben Simmons, you put all those new players on paper and to add that to a roster, it’s going to be really interesting, exciting to see how it all plays out.”

When it comes to incoming international players, Colangelo’s involvement with Team USA gave him the opportunity to meet with Dario Saric and Sergio Rodriguez in Rio during the Olympics. Saric, who signed with the Sixers two years after being drafted, had a solid showing for Croatia, while Rodriguez helped Spain win bronze.

“I thought [Saric] played very well and I complimented him on his performances,” Colangelo said. “Both of them showed great enthusiasm about coming to training camp. I think it’s going to be exciting to have them in Sixers uniforms very shortly.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: New Wizards coach Scott Brooks says he isn’t worried about the relationship between John Wall and Bradley Beal … Phil Jackson pays tribute to Shaq … Draymond Green pays tribute to Allen IversonKevin Durant says he and Russell Westbrook are “still cool” … LeBron James‘ production company has sold a “sports medicine drama” to NBC.

Hang Time Podcast (Episode 247) Featuring Pat Croce

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — An argument could be made that Allen Iverson was the most influential sports figure of his generation, both and off the floor, when you factor in his accomplishments in uniform and the culture he created out of uniform.

There were plenty of challengers for that throne — Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and a host of others — but none with the on-court and street credibility that Iverson brought to the world stage.

No one had a bigger personality than Iverson, who redefined what it meant to operate with swagger. No one was as fearless (or stubborn, depending on who you talk to) than the pint-sized dynamo who didn’t to challenge the order of things when he entered the NBA.

When the Philadelphia 76ers drafted Iverson No. 1 overall, it was a seminal moment in Philadelphia sports history and the start of an era that would see the Sixers go from worst to first in the Eastern Conference, culminating in a trip to The Finals in 2001.

Pat Croce, the colorful and outspoken president of the Sixers, was in the middle of the mix at the time, living the Iverson experience from ground zero. Now, on the eve of Iverson’s induction into the Naismith Hall of Fame, Croce joins us to reflect on the life and times of soon-to-be Hall of Famer Allen Iverson.

“He was David in the land of Goliaths,” Croce said. “He was a warrior with a quarterback’s mentality … Allen was the most interesting person I’ve ever met in my life.”

Trust us, you absolutely do not want to miss what Croce has to say. He has insights and a perspective on Iverson that few have been privy to over the years.

Check it out on Episode 247 of The Hang Time Podcast featuring Pat Croce.

LISTEN HERE:

As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including the Hang Time Podcast, co-hosts Sekou Smith of NBA.com, Lang Whitaker of NBA.com’s All-Ball Blog and renaissance man Rick Fox of NBA TV, as well as our new super producer Gregg (just like Popovich) Waigand.

– To download the podcast, click here. To subscribe via iTunes, click here, or get the xml feed if you want to subscribe some other, less iTunes-y way.

***

Hang Time Podcast (Episode 246) Featuring Dennis Scott

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — It’s Shaq Week around here and we’re celebrating the big fella, Shaquille O’Neal, in all his splendor in advance of his induction next week into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame.

Normally a player has to wait until later in his life to take this introspective look at his own life and times. But for a player of Shaq’s magnitude, both on and off the floor, there is no reason to wait.

Folks knew Shaq would leave an indelible mark on the game, hence his name. Shaq’s Orlando Magic teammate Dennis “3D” Scott (the social media master) knew it from the first moment he laid eyes on the big fella that he would go down as one of the all-time greats (big men and players overall) in basketball history.

Shaq checked all of the boxes — multiple championships, Finals MVPs, gold medal, assault on the record books, entertainer, rapper, actor, law enforcement officer, pitch man extraordinaire, all-around renaissance man, etc. — and did in his own style, thank goodness for the rest of us. Rick Fox even showed up to weigh in on his good friend, whose love for the game and his teammates sticks out in hindsight.

You don’t change as many lives of the guys who played alongside Shaq and not leave a dramatic impression on those who were as close to him as both 3D and Fox were.

The stories they can tell publicly (and the ones they cannot) are seemingly endless.

It’s all Shaq, all day long on Episode 246 of The Hang Time Podcast featuring Dennis Scott, just the way it should be.

LISTEN HERE:

As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including the Hang Time Podcast, co-hosts Sekou Smith of NBA.com, Lang Whitaker of NBA.com’s All-Ball Blog and renaissance man Rick Fox of NBA TV, as well as our new super producer Gregg (just like Popovich) Waigand.

– To download the podcast, click here. To subscribe via iTunes, click here, or get the xml feed if you want to subscribe some other, less iTunes-y way.

***

Morning shootaround — Aug. 22

NEWS OF THE MORNING

USA’s Rio Gold Rush | Popovich takes over Team USA | Gasol not ready to end international career | Wall continues making an impact off the court

No. 1: USA’s Rio gold rush With an experienced coaching staff and roster stuffed with NBA All-Stars, the United States Men’s Basketball Team entered the 2016 Rio Olympics as heavy favorites to win the gold medal. And with yesterday’s 96-66 blowout win over Serbia, Team USA did in fact win gold, although the journey may have been bumpier than many expected. As our own John Schuhmann writes from Rio, several lessons were apparent along the way:

This team had some bad defenders, and too many of them were in the starting lineup together until head coach Mike Krzyzewski changed things up before the quarterfinals. On this team and in years past, we’ve learned how important it is to have an Andre Iguodala or a Paul George to complement the guys who can put the ball in the bucket. Kawhi Leonard, you have a 2020 roster spot if you want it.

This team also fell victim to an exhibition schedule that was too easy. That wasn’t necessarily a mistake, because they were only able to play teams that traveled through the U.S. on their way to Rio. But it was clear that the Americans weren’t prepared for a step-up in competition after cruising through the exhibitions and their first two pool play games.

And as much talent as the U.S. has, it’s impossible to make the most of it over the course of five weeks. The national team is made up of stars who aren’t used to playing with one another, and they were playing their first elimination game less than a month after they began training camp.

Other teams don’t train for much longer than that, but almost all of them have more roster continuity than the U.S. does. The U.S. had just two players back from its last Olympic Team, as well as four from the team that won the World Cup of Basketball in 2014. Serbia, meanwhile, returned nine players from the team that lost to the U.S. in ’14.

And that’s concern No. 1 for USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo. He knows that it’s always going to be difficult for the U.S. to flow freely offensively and play on a string defensively when they only have three weeks to prepare a brand new roster.

“Basketball is the ultimate team game,” Colangelo said. “And when you have 10 new people and you only have them for a few weeks, it’s not enough time. For me, I’m glad we’re past this. It’s justification for all that we’ve done. But it also says to me we need to continue with the continuity. We can’t go back again with 10 new players. It’s not going to happen.”

This year, the Americans were fortunate to have the two Olympic vets that they did. Durant put the team on his back in the gold medal game. Carmelo Anthony, who retired from the national team after Sunday’s game as the only player with three Olympic gold medals in Men’s Basketball, turned into a leader for the younger players to rally around.

Those younger guys will be asked to keep coming back. And continuity will become even more important down the line, because the rest of the world is continually getting better. While this tournament saw the final games of Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker in their national-team uniforms, there is more talent coming up behind them.

The 46 NBA players in these Olympics was an all-time high. Australia took a big step forward, put itself on the second tier of national teams, and has the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft in its pipeline. Serbia isn’t going anywhere, France has good, under-30 players in the backcourt and on the frontline, Croatia and Lithuania have young NBA talent, and it’s just a matter of time (and participation) before Canada breaks though.

The United States’ winning streak in international tournaments, which now stands at 53 games, will come to an end at some point. But this group of 12 didn’t let it happen on its watch.

There were close calls, but they still went 8-0, played their best game with gold on the line, and stood on the top step of the podium on Sunday afternoon. Lessons were learned, but gold was earned.

***

No. 2: Popovich takes over Team USA — After 11 years at the helm and a perfect record in the Olympics, Coach Mike Krzyzewski now hands over Team USA to San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich, who will be Team USA’s new man on the sideline. As ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan writes, to truly understand Pop, you have to understand where he comes from and the disappointments that have helped shape him…

Gregg Popovich graduated with a degree in Soviet Studies in 1970 and joined the U.S. Armed Forces basketball team, touring Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, using his fluent Russian to brief his coach on helpful buzzwords.

His team won the AAU championship in 1972, and when he returned to the U.S., he learned the Olympic basketball trials would be held at the Academy. Jack Herron Jr., who was named to the 1972 U.S. Olympic selection committee, made it his charge to make certain Popovich received an invitation.

Herron, whose father Jack Sr. played for Olympic coach Hank Iba at Oklahoma A&M (later Oklahoma State), had just spent a year as an Air Force basketball assistant and recruiting coordinator. Popovich had earned rave reviews for his overseas performances, but they were neither televised nor publicized.

“It was a fight just to get him there,” says Herron. Back then the Olympic team was selected from a pool of players representing AAU, the NAIA, junior colleges, the Armed Forces, and both the university and college divisions of the NCAA. Players were split into groups of 10 to 12 and assigned a coach. Popovich played for Indiana coach Bobby Knight; one of his teammates was forward Bobby Jones.

Jones remembers that Popovich was in his group but could not recall particulars of his game, even though Popovich led all players with a .577 shooting percentage. What Jones recalls with clarity, though, was how, before the last scrimmage of the trials, Knight informed the group that only two of them had a shot at making the final Olympic squad and the rest should pass them the ball to enhance their chances.

“The two guys were Kevin Joyce and me,” says Jones. “I had never heard a coach be so honest. I don’t know how Gregg and the other players felt about it.”

Herron suspects the subtleties of Popovich’s game were lost among the other candidates who were jacking up shots and looking to put points on the board. “Gregg could have been more showy,” Herron says, “but he played the way Mr. Iba told him to play. It probably hurt him in the end.”

Herron says he attended every single Olympic selection committee meeting and that Popovich was among the top 14-16 players in each of those discussions. But as the committee began to vote on the final roster, members who hadn’t showed up at any of the previous meetings suddenly surfaced. When Herron asked why they were there, he says they told him, “We’re here to get our guys on the team.”

The process, Herron says, quickly dissolved into factions fighting for representation instead of choosing the top performers. When the final roster was announced, Popovich was left off.

“I’ve been aggravated about this for almost 50 years,” Herron says. “Gregg belonged on that team.”

Larry Brown was invited by Iba to attend the tryouts and was suitably impressed by Popovich’s moxie, so much so that he invited him to try out for his ABA team in Denver later that fall (Popovich was among the final cuts).

“Pop was real tough and tenacious, like [Cavs guard Matthew] Dellavedova, although a little more athletic,” Brown says. “But there were so many talented players there.”

***

No. 3: Gasol not ready to end international career In other Olympic basketball action yesterday, Spain defeated Australia, 89-88, to win the bronze medal, behind 31 points from Pau Gasol. And while Gasol will be 40 years old by the time of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, he’s not ready to say he’ll be finished with his international career by then:

Gasol, who will spend this upcoming NBA season in San Antonio and hasn’t committed to playing at Tokyo in 2020, and his teammates celebrated by piling on top of each other near center court. This wasn’t the medal they wanted, but after losing their first two games in Brazil, it beats nothing.

“Unbelievable,” forward Rudy Fernandez said. “It’s an amazing feeling.”

It is a feeling Gasol wishes could last. He isn’t ready to shed his Espana jersey.

“I’m getting older and at some point I’m not going to be able to play,” said the 36-year-old. “So when that day comes, I’ll accept it. It’ll be hard, but I had an incredible run. I can’t ask for anything else. Everything I gave, everything I lived as a basketball player, it’s a plus. It’s a gift.

“I’m just enjoying the ride.”

***

No. 4: Wall continues making an impact off the court Washington’s John Wall wasn’t able to participate with USA Basketball this summer because of offseason knee surgery, but his rehab from the injury hasn’t kept him from being involved off the court in D.C. As the Washington Post‘s Candace Buckner writes, Wall recently gave out backpacks at a local elementary school, his latest attempt to make a difference in his community…

John Wall remembers how as a child he had to strap on the same backpack from elementary age until seventh grade. It’s one of the reasons why Wall showed up in Southeast Washington on a blazing hot afternoon to give away 250 backpacks.

On Saturday at Malcolm X Elementary School, the John Wall Family Foundation hosted its third annual Back to School Block Party. The event featured local organizations that donated back-to-school items, a DJ blasting up-tempo tunes, a bouncy house, face painting and free food. However, the main attraction was Wall, who personally placed backpacks on children and posed for photographs.

“I didn’t have an opportunity to meet my favorite player or an NBA player [when] I was growing up,” Wall said. “But [now] I can see the smiles that I put on these kids’ faces.”

Wall arrived at the event with little fanfare — though the DJ dropped the beat to welcome the guest of honor with “Teach Me How To Dougie.” Wall then walked the perimeter of the parking lot and basketball court to shake hands with every volunteer.

Following his gratitude lap, Wall took the microphone and addressed the crowd.

“I’m excited to be at Malcolm X Elementary school to give back to the community,” Wall said. “Like I told a lot of people before, we’re not forced to do this. I do it because I want to. I do it to be involved and be involved with the kids.”

School Principal Zara Berry-Young said Wall’s foundation reached out to her school because it specifically wanted to help in the Southeast Washington community. Wall echoed this sentiment, saying he picked an area “where people and the kids are going through tough times. . . . It’s kind of easy because it’s kind of over here by where our practice [facility] is going to be. I’m going to be over here a lot and seeing these people.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: In an emotional interview following the gold medal game, Carmelo Anthony announced his retirement from Team USACatching up with Brazilian hoops icon Oscar SchmidtYao Ming reflects on his Olympic experiencesAllen Iverson picks his top five players of all-time … The Heat and Chris Bosh are reportedly still discussing his returnKobe Bryant today will announce a venture capital fund for investing in technology, media and data companies …

Blogtable: Most memorable career moment from 2016 HOF class?

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: Predicting East’s middle seeds? | Predicting West’s bottom seeds? |
Top moment from 2016 HOF class?



VIDEOGet to know the 2016 Hall of Fame class

> Shaquille O’Neal, Yao Ming and Allen Iverson headline the new Hall of Fame class. Which player had the most memorable moment, what was it and why does it still resonate with you?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: I’m going with Shaq and the moment is personal, because I was in Orlando on April 20, 1994 when the big man dropped 53 points on Minnesota. Wait, make that threw down 53 points. I know Shaq eventually would top that – he got 61 for the Lakers on his 28th birthday – and he had lots of other unforgettable plays. But I’ll never forget the cannon sound effect the Magic used back then for dunks and how, with Shaq destroying Christian Laettner, Mike Brown and Stanley Jackson inside, it sounded like they were playing the “1812 Overture” without the band. O’Neal made 22 of 31 shots, grabbed 18 rebounds and even hit nine of his 13 free throws that night. It was as if he was playing against Jabbawockeez, not Timberwolves.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comOne moment for these three? Really? It’s just not possible. That single tear that Shaq shed in the moment after he won his first championship with the Lakers? The smile of acceptance when the combative, criticized Iverson raised his first All-Star Game MVP trophy in Washington, D.C. in 2001? But I will say the one that made me chuckle loudest was a Dec. 2006 game with the Rockets at Clippers. A dominant Yao Ming scored 32 points and after making one especially nifty fourth quarter turnaround jumper over Chris Kaman that sealed the win, he turned and shouted at the Clippers bench: “You can’t (bleep)ing stop me!” It was a positively raw moment that bridged the cultures of China and the United States. Pure playground, pure basketball, pure Yao.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comIt’s Shaq taking the lob from Kobe Bryant, slamming it through the net with his right hand and running back downcourt with his eyes bugging out in marvel at what had just happened. That exclamation moment had just happened, for one thing, in the final minute of Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference finals, but it was the entire fourth quarter at Staples Center really. It changed history. The Lakers went from 15 points down with about 10 minutes to play, well on their way to being eliminated, to a six-point lead with 41.3 seconds remaining after the Kobe-Shaq connection. It was the final step to the pair winning the title together as part of a fourth quarter that was a huge step in what became a threepeat.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Yao Ming couldn’t get anywhere in the playoffs and also dealt with too many injuries. This is really a two-man contest between Shaq and Iverson, and does any pure “moment” from Shaq compare to Iverson’s step-back and step-over shot against Tyronn Lue in the 2001 Finals? That gets replayed almost as much as Iverson’s rant about practice.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: There are more basketball fans in China than there are people in the United States. I got a little taste of that when I was sitting near the top of the arena on the first night of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. The atmosphere was electric for China-USA and the building exploded when Yao opened the scoring by hitting a 3-pointer. He was recovering from foot surgery and out of shape, but he had an obligation to be out there for the biggest game in his country’s history. Shaq and Iverson had incredible careers, and basketball was popular in China before Yao came along. But that moment, for me at least, just illustrated how much of an impact he’s had on a global scale.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: Shaq won four championships, the first three when he was the world’s dominant player, and it is not any single moment that resonates so much as his run with the Lakers when all of the NBA was loading up to overcome a single player. The 2003-04 champion Pistons collected four 7-footers around center Ben Wallace; they were inspired by Shaq to gamble the No. 2 pick in 2003 on Darko Milicic. It speaks to O’Neal’s majesty that his “moment” carried on for three years.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: This is a particularly memorable class for me, because I began my career as a writer as Shaq and Iverson were entering the NBA. I got to spend a good bit of time with each of them during their careers, and as a fan I enjoyed watching both of them play, a couple of polar opposites of the NBA. But while Shaq seemed like a Hall of Famer from the moment he was drafted, Iverson’s professional path was never guaranteed, so his ascension to the HOF seems like a geniune accomplishment. As for a single moment, I have to go with Iverson crossing over Michael Jordan. That was a true changing of the guard.

Shaq, Iverson, Yao lead 2016 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame class


VIDEO: A closer look at the careers of Yao, Iverson & O’Neal

HOUSTON — For so many years they were the long and short of excellence in the NBA, so it was only fitting that Shaquille O’Neal and Allen Iverson led the way together for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2016.

The 7-foot-1 O’Neal played 19 seasons in the NBA, averaging 23.7 points and 10.9 rebounds. He was MVP in 2000 and a three-time MVP of the NBA Finals.

The 6-foot Iverson played 14 seasons, averaging 26.7 points and 6.2 assists. He was named MVP in 2001.

O’Neal and Iverson are among 10 new inductees for 2016. They were joined by”

  • Yao Ming, who was the No. 1 pick in the 2002 NBA draft and spent his entire career with the Houston Rockets before it as cut short by injuries in 2010.
  •  Jerry Reinsdorf, long-time owner of the Chicago Bulls, whose team dominated the NBA by winning six championships in the 1990s.
  • Sheryl Swoopes, three-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist, four-time WNBA champion and three-time WNBA MVP.
  • Tom Izzo, head coach at Michigan State, where he has led the Spartans to the 2000 NCAA title and seven trips to the Final Four.

There are four posthumous inductees:

  • Zelmo Beatty, who spent most of his career in the ABA, averaging 17.1 points and 10.9 rebounds.
  • Darell Garretson, former referee.
  • John McLendon, former coach who won three NAIA championships.
  • Cumberland Posey, a star in the early 1900s, who is also in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Report: Yao Ming chosen for Hall of Fame

Yao Ming was far more than just another talented prospect when the Houston Rockets made him the No. 1 pick in the 2002 draft.

The 7-6 center from Shanghai was a bridge for the NBA to make inroads into China and was a key player in the globalization of the game.

Now the former eight-time All-Star has been selected for induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports. The official announcement will be made Monday at a news conference in Houston preceding the NCAA championship game.

Yao had been nominated and enters the Hall of Fame under a newly created Direct Elect International Committee.

Yao, 35, is largely responsible for the NBA’s massive reach into China and the Far East. Television ratings and merchandise sales exploded there upon Yao’s rise to stardom in the NBA.

As the No. 1 overall pick in the 2002 NBA draft, Yao made a dramatic and celebrated entrance into the league. After rapidly developing into a dominant force, several lower leg and foot issues severely damaged his durability and shortened his career. Yao averaged 19 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game across parts of eight seasons.

In a career cut short because of chronic injuries – including a third left foot fracture in 2010 –Yao retired in 2011. He was twice voted to the All-NBA second team (2007 and ’09) and three times made the All-NBA third team (2004, ’06 and ’08).