Nets need consistency from Taurean Prince

Here’s the New York Post with some words on Nets forward Taurean Prince:

Prince found himself pulled from the starting lineup by Atkinson in the deposed coach’s final game, and was still used as reserve by interim coach Jacque Vaughn until the season was shut down.

“I’m a grown man, it’s fine,” Prince had said. “Do I want to come off the bench? Completely not. But do I want to do whatever it takes to help the team get to where we ultimately want to go? Any day of the week.”

But how can the Nets best use Prince to get where they want to go when — or if — play resumes? Or next season when Kevin Durant returns?

Prince averaged 12.1 points and a career-high six rebounds, but his 37.6 shooting percentage was the worst of his career and lowest of any Nets rotation player. And after inking Prince to a two-year, $29 million extension in October that kicks in next season, the Nets need a more consistent Prince.

The NBA season is currently on hold, and it’s unclear if we’ll get more action anytime soon.

Kentucky guard Tyrese Maxey entering 2020 NBA draft

The Kentucky Wildcats continue their long tradition of producing NBA prospects. Here’s the Courier-Journal with the latest:

Kentucky’s run of one-and-done players will continue.

Freshman guard Tyrese Maxey has declared for the NBA draft as expected, becoming the 26th player to enter the draft after just one season in John Calipari’s 11 seasons as Kentucky’s coach. Kentucky has had at least one one-and-done player in each of those seasons.

ESPN projects Maxey as the No. 6 pick in its most recent 2020 mock draft…

The SEC All-Freshman Team honoree finished the year averaging 14 points and 3.2 assists per game while shooting 29.2% from 3-point range.

The 2020 draft is scheduled for Thursday June 25, though with the coronavirus pandemic affecting the entire planet, all scheduled dates for pretty much anything, in or out of sports, should be considered subject to change.

Kevin Garnett part of 2020 Basketball Hall of Fame class

The 2020 Basketball Hall of Fame class was announced this weekend, and one of the former NBA superstars to make it is Kevin Garnett.

Here’s the New York Post reporting his reaction to the honor:

“It’s the culmination,” Garnett said on ESPN. “It’s the culmination, man. You put countless hours into this. You dedicate yourself to a craft. You take no days off. You play through injuries. You play through demise. You play through obstacles. You give no excuses for anything. You learn, you build.

“This is the culmination. All those hours … this is what you do it for, right here. For me, to be called a Hall of Famer, is everything.”

The Class of 2020 will be enshrined in the Hall, located in Springfield, Massachusetts, on Saturday, August 29, 2020.

LaMelo Ball and manager reportedly buy Australian NBL team

LaMelo Ball is expected to be drafted high in the 2020 NBA draft. He prepared this season by playing pro basketball in Australia. And he went out in style, reportedly by buying the team he’d been playing for. Per ESPN.com:

Potential No. 1 NBA draft pick LaMelo Ball and his manager, Jermaine Jackson, have purchased his Australian NBL team, the Illawarra Hawks, Jackson told ESPN on Thursday.

“We own the team,” Jackson said. “It’s a done deal.”

No financial details were revealed, and the team has not commented on the sale.

Ball arrived in Australia in August as part of the league’s Next Stars program and established himself as a strong candidate to be the top pick in the draft. The 6-foot-7 point guard averaged 17.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.0 assists in 12 games with the Hawks, posting back-to-back triple-doubles before a foot injury ended his season.

Ball played for the team, put up big stats, his season ended, and then he bought the team. That’s a Big Baller move.

Of course, real big ballers then go on to do great things in the NBA. Which from the looks of it, LaMelo has the ability and potential to do.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra speaks on being home during shutdown

Here’s the South Florida Sun Sentinel on how Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra is managing these days:

Had the NBA not been shut down after the Heat’s March 11 loss to the Charlotte Hornets at AmericanAirlines Arena, the Heat would be in the midst of a four-game, eight-day trip. Instead, Spoelstra is home with [wife] Nikki, [two-year-old child Santiago Ray] and four-month-old Dante.

“It’s been an incredible blessing to be around our family much more often,” Spoelstra, 49, said. “We’re able to spend our meals together. I wake up every single morning and not be in a rush to do anything. I can be at breakfast. I’m barbecuing every single night. I’ve never been a barbecue guy. I’ve always been a takeout, order-out guy, but now I’m cooking meals for this family. I’ve had a lot of peace of mind doing that every afternoon…

“Look, my kids are young kids under the age of two. They have no idea what’s going on. They just think this is a big party in the backyard every single day. So, it is unique, and we do want our team to be thinking of others and to feel the real empathy and giving nature during this time. That also can help deal with some potential anxiety or stress that somebody may be going through with this, to focus on helping other people.”

We’re all just trying to make the best of this global coronavirus situation. Which for most of us will involve just staying home for the time being.

On the last Thunder game before league play was put on hold

Here’s the Oklahoman editorializing on the last game the OKC Thunder played before league play was put on hold, a Sunday, March 8 105-104 win against the Celtics in Boston, with comments from point guard Chris Paul:

After the 105-104 win, Paul told Thunder sideline reporter Nick Gallo that he hadn’t gotten that excited in a long time. Paul also talked about how great a win it was, how much fun the team was having, how together everyone was.

I knew that game was in the final days before the coronavirus shut down the NBA, then all of sports in this country, but since the past few weeks feel like a few years, I couldn’t remember if the Thunder played any more games after that game in Boston.

I went to check my calendar.

(Yes, I’m old — I still keep a written calendar in a day planner.)

That game in Boston was Sunday, March 8. The Thunder then had two days off before a home game Wednesday, March 11 against the Jazz.

You know what happened there.

So, that game at Boston, that masterful win against the Celtics was the last time the Thunder played.

That win was OKC’s 8th in their last 10 games. It was their third win in a row, for a 40-24 record, tying them with the Rockets for the 5th best winning percentage in the Western conference.

Bucks staying ready in case season continues, says coach

The Bucks spent the 2019-20 season as winners, and per this ESPN.com report, their head coach says the team has no interest in breaking that mentality:

While some might speculate that the NBA season will not resume because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Milwaukee Bucks, who had the league’s best record when play stopped, are going forward as if they will eventually be on the court.

“We are operating and functioning and just have a mentality that we will play,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said Wednesday during a conference call. “I think it’s important for players and all of us to function that way, to think that way, and it’s out of our hands.

“Luckily, [commissioner] Adam Silver and the league office, they’ll make the hard decisions and they’ll do what’s best for everybody, but I think it’s certainly important that we kind of operate and have a mentality that we will play again, and we’ll be excited about that if and when it does happen.”

There is no downside to these guys staying ready.

Unfortunately, for now, there’s no reason to expect action to resume anytime soon.

Blazers guard Damian Lillard staying in shape with home gym

Here’s an update on Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, via NBC Sports Northwest:

“I haven’t been able to get into the training facility,” Lillard said. “At the moment, they don’t want us in the practice facility. They don’t want us training with any of our coaches or anything like that. They also don’t want us training at a third-party gym or with a third-party trainer, so it’s basically like if you don’t have a gym at home, you can’t train. So fortunately for me, I have a gym at home, so I’ve been able to kind of continue and get work done.”

The only players allowed to enter the Trail Blazers practice facility at the moment are the players who are still rehabbing from injuries, including Zach Collins, Jusuf Nurkic and Rodney Hood…

Lillard has thought about the players around the league who aren’t able to continue to train and workout in a home gym.

“People who don’t have that and at some point are going to be expected to come back as a professional athlete and perform on call, that makes it tough,” Lillard added.

It’s no surprise, of course, that Lillard has a gym at home. Most NBA players do. And for the near future, home is where they’ll be staying safe and healthy while waiting this whole thing out as the world deals with the coronavirus saga.

Kelly Olynyk faces opt-out decision next NBA offseason

Here’s the Miami Herald reporting on Heat big-man reserve Kelly Olynyk:

When life was normal, less than a month ago, it seemed no Heat player faced a tougher offseason decision than Kelly Olynyk, who has the option of bypassing $13.6 million in the final year of his contract and instead entering free agency this summer.

Now, with pro sports facing unprecedented uncertainty in the coming months amid the coronavirus pandemic, coupled with the possibility of a lower NBA salary cap because of lost revenue, the choice could essentially be made for Olynyk and many others with 2020-21 player options: The security of opting in suddenly seems pretty appealing.

Even before coronavirus affected everything, Olynyk faced a landscape in which only six other teams, besides Miami, would have cap space above $10 million this offseason, per capologist Jeff Siegel: Atlanta at $49.1 million, New York at $44.3 million, Detroit at $31.9 million, Charlotte at $25.2 million, Memphis at $16 million and Phoenix at $13.9 million.

The big takeaway here goes way beyond Olynyk. League-wide, it makes sense, as of a few weeks ago, to assume that lots of players with contract options who may have tested free agent waters during the next offseason to play it safer and opt for short-term security.

On the great NBA rookie season of Ja Morant

Here’s the Memphis Commercial Appeal on Grizzlies guard Ja Morant, who was doing big things in the 2019-20 season before action was paused due to the world’s coronavirus spread:

Zion Williamson was averaging 26.4 points on 59.8% shooting in his last 11 games. The Pelicans forward looked every bit like the No. 1 overall pick with his highlights and dynamic play. But there’s nothing he can do to supplant Morant.

Morant’s 27-point, 14-assist performance to beat the Lakers on Feb. 29 was enough evidence to show why he’s made the Grizzlies a playoff contender. He was still leading all qualified rookies in points, assists and double-doubles, so the question isn’t his resume; it’s how he would’ve added to it to finish the year.

Could he break the Grizzlies’ rookie record with 15 assists in a game? Who else would he have dunked on to send Memphis and NBA fans into a frenzy? That’s what’s being missed now.

We look forward to seeing Morant’s magic on the court when play eventually resumes.