Archive for September, 2018

The Jazz led the Perth Wildcats 44-13 after one quarter and 75-34 at the half. This thing wasn’t close. Jazz player stats for this game are on the inflated side. Still, a win is a win, and it was a very impressive career NBA preseason debut by Jazz rookie Grayson Allen, who made it rain from three-point range in impressive fashion.

Here’s the Deseret News reporting:

Allen sank the first five shots he took, including four straight 3-pointers, and by the midpoint of the second quarter, already had 14 points. He cooled off a bit in the second half but still ended up leading all Jazz scorers with 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting and 5 of 9 from long range.

The rookie from Duke said he wasn’t expecting to lead all scorers, but all in all was pleased with his first performance in a Jazz uniform, even if it wasn’t against a real NBA team.

“I was a lot more comfortable after the first three went down,” he said. “It felt good. These guys are really easy to play with. It’s really seamless when you’re jumping in there with a lot of smart basketball players. It makes my job a lot easier.” …

Besides finishing with 19 points, Allen also had three rebounds and an assist. His only real negative was a team-high four turnovers on the night, which Allen mentioned after the game as something to improve on.

A few extra turnovers comes with the territory. It was a nice debut by Allen.

Preseason for the league began Friday.

Nice preseason debut for Luka Doncic

Luka Doncic is one of the most intriguing NBA rookies in a while. And while preseason isn’t a time to make firm judgments about anyone, it’s still a good sign when a rookie comes out and does nice things right away.

In adding Doncic, the Mavs got a player who has already proven to be able to compete at a higher level than the best of college basketball. He’s one of the main rookies to keep a constant eye on, both now and at least for a solid first month of the regular season.

Here’s ESPN.com on how his career preseason debut went:

Luka Doncic’s performance in his preseason debut provided some glimpses of the unique skill that persuaded the Dallas Mavericks to trade up to draft the European teen star.

Doncic, the No. 3 pick in the draft, scored 16 points on 5-of-7 shooting in 30 minutes during a 116-63 victory Saturday night over the Beijing Ducks.

“It was great to be out there,” said Doncic, who also grabbed six rebounds and blocked three shots. “It’s been a long time since I played a game, so I’m really happy to be here. Always the first game, you’re a little bit nervous — new team and everything. I think everything went well.”

The 6-foot-7 Doncic made a few dazzling plays off the dribble, something the Mavs are expecting on a consistent basis as he serves as one of their primary ball handlers despite playing mainly power forward.

Preseason stats aren’t that important. It’s about the skill level of a player and the potential to do big things at regular-season intensity.

One important note, though, is the opponent wasn’t competitive at all. The Mavs absolutely dominated the Beijing Ducks in a game that really wasn’t even at a preseason basketball level. We can’t hold that against Doncic, though. But the next step of course is an actual NBA opponent.

Still, a nice first showing.

Pelicans sign center Brandon McCoy

The New Orleans Pelicans have signed free agent center Brandon McCoy.

It is very likely a non-guaranteed deal that merely brings McCoy to training camp.

McCoy, 7-1, 250, went undrafted in the 2018 NBA Draft. The Chicago native spent one season at UNLV, appearing in 33 games and averaging 16.9 points, 10.3 rebounds and 1.8 blocks.

McCoy will wear #12 for the Pelicans. New Orleans’ training camp roster now stands at 20.

Many of you have forgotten about Michael Carter-Williams. Or you’ve written him off. But he’s in an interesting situation now, as a backup in Houston to some of the league’s best guards. It’s tough to predict how many minutes he’ll get this regular season but he certainly has an opportunity to earn a pretty big supporting cast role, off the bench.

Of course, watching him as a rookie it was presumed he’d be a starter in the league. Maybe he will be again. But for now, the Rockets are a nice opportunity. Here’s the Houston Chronicle with more on him:

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said Carter-Williams has looked ready to be a fill-in at the point if Harden or Paul are out, but that the play is still to have Paul work as the backup point.

“We keep either James or Chris on the floor all the time,” D’Antoni said. “We’ll still stagger James and Chris so MCW will be off the ball more than he does in scrimmages. That’s just the way our team is made up. But if we needed him if someone got injured or was out of the game, he would be the backup point. He can play off the ball, too. He’s in a good spot. James and Chris like to play together (in practices) because they’re still learning what they can do.”

The Rockets have another serious guard to bring off their bench: Brandon Knight. Though he still needs to get healthy, and that has been a lengthy concern. So for now, MCW has a very clear window of opportunity.

Pistons training camp report

Training camp came, then preseason quickly started. There’s basketball being played. It’s just preseason basketball, but the teams are actual NBA teams, and therefore everything is amazing, even if stars played limited minutes and the main goal is to loosen up.

As for the Pistons, here’s the Detroit News reporting:

The Pistons finally got away from the grind of practice and got closer to a game atmosphere. Sort of.

The Pistons wrapped up a week of training camp in Ann Arbor with an open scrimmage Saturday afternoon at Crisler Center, before a crowd of just more than 4,000.

The standout was Andre Drummond, who had 25 points on an array of scoring — including a 3-pointer — and helped the Blue Team to a 73-66 victory.

The starting lineup for the Blue Team was Reggie Jackson, Luke Kennard, Stanley Johnson, Blake Griffin and Drummond. That could be the starting lineup to start the regular season, but coach Dwane Casey said it was more to balance the lineups.

The Pistons are worth keeping an eye on. Reggie Jackson, Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond form an intriguing core. However, it’s one that isn’t great enough to do monster things on their own. Serious Pistons talent needs to emerge (or be found) in the shooting guard and small forward spots. And the entire bench.

Even so, if Jackson, Griffin and Drummond are actually all healthy, they can do some things.

Championship or bust, says John Wall

Every NBA player wants to win a championship, but for most, of course, it simply won’t happen. And of course, simply making the league is a great accomplishment, let alone enjoying a full career, especially as a star. But Wizards guard John Wall, he definitely wants that ring. Here’s NBC Sports Washington  with more:

Wall, naturally, wants to win an NBA title. But it’s not just a goal, it’s the benchmark for which Wall will measure his basketball career.

“I think for me to have a heck of a career – if I don’t win a championship, I feel like my career was a failure. So that’s my ultimate goal,” Wall said.

Wall, 28, has never been past the second round of the NBA playoffs. The closest his Wizards team has been to advancing further was in 2017 when they lost in Game 7 of the second round to the Boston Celtics.

The Wizards as they currently stand face an uphill battle in reaching the 2019 NBA Finals, but they remain one of the East’s better teams. But several key players on the squad must emerge as serious difference-makers for the team to reach that elusive next level.

The 2018-19 NBA preseason began Friday, with a Hornets victory over the Celtics. Some quotes on the game:

Charlotte Observer: “Jeremy Lamb says his dream growing up was to be an NBA starter. That didn’t look plausible based on most of his pro career to date, but he sure made a case in the Charlotte Hornets’ first exhibition. Lamb, starting at shooting guard, hit three of his five 3-pointers, finishing with 15 points and looking generally impressive in the Hornets’ 104-97 victory over the Boston Celtics at the Smith Center on North Carolina’s campus.”

The Observer on Celtics guard Kyrie Irving: “The Celtics’ point guard looked sharp in his first game back since a knee procedure in March that ended his season.”

Boston Herald: “Gordon Hayward’s first game in roughly a year had predictable rust, and the equally expected self-critique by the Celtics forward when it was all over. But forget about the warts and the Celtics’ 104-97 loss to Charlotte in their exhibition season opener in the Dean Smith Center. He was playing again. “It definitely was (a small victory),” Hayward said after scoring 10 points in 22 front-loaded minutes. “I’ve been through a lot this last year. Just to be out there in front of the fans and playing with my teammates – there were moments last year when I definitely was not able to do that. Definitely a win.”

Legendary former Lakers role player Kurt Rambis is back with the squad. Not as a role player again, which would be fun considering his playing days are long over, but as Senior Basketball Advisor.

Rambis will report to President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson, and support the basketball operations and coaching staffs in their day-to-day functions.

“As a member of the Showtime Lakers, Kurt is a champion and knows how to win,” said Johnson. “He has been an integral part of the Lakers organization winning four NBA Championships as a player and an additional four as a part of the staff. His insights and wide range of experiences will be a huge benefit to our operations.”

Rambis has spent the past 16 years (1994-2009, 2013-14) in various coaching and front office roles within the Lakers organization. During that time, the team made six NBA Finals appearances (2000-02, 2004, 2008-09) and won four NBA Championships (2000, 2001, 2002 and 2009).

Rambis also served as the head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves from 2009-11 and for four years from 2014-18 was associate head coach of the New York Knicks, including a brief stint as interim head coach.

“I’m happy to welcome Kurt back to the organization,” said Lakers head coach Luke Walton. “Kurt’s vast NBA experience and knowledge of the game will be a great asset to the team and I look forward to working with him again.”

NBA preseason is generally filled with minor injuries that are the opposite of serious and generally only require a day or two’s worth of rest to heal.

Unfortunately, this is not the case with Lauri Markkanen. The young Bulls power forward sustained a right elbow injury in practice on Thursday, Sept. 27. He underwent an MRI today that showed a high grade lateral elbow sprain.

Markkanen is estimated to be out six-to-eight weeks.

And according to the Chicago Sun-Times, after averaging 15.2 points and 7.5 rebounds last season and being named to the NBA All-Rookie first team, Markkanen added 17 pounds of muscle this offseason and was expected to be a focal point of the offense. “Lauri looks great,’’ guard Zach LaVine said just days before Markkanen suffered the injury in practice Thursday. “He got a little bit stronger; jumper still looks pretty as all get-out. Still the funniest dude in the world. He looks good, man.”

Look. Preseason starts tonight. Which means for the next week or so, there is going to be tons of speculation about which young players are ready for a breakout season.

Of course, players who were rookies last year and showed some skills are almost all expected to do better as NBA sophomores.

But what about guys who have been in the league for a few seasons, and haven’t shown the anticipated improvement, and need to step up sometime soon to keep themselves on the basketball map?

Here’s the New York Post on Knicks guard Emmanuel Mudiay:

Less turnovers. Less pounds.

That’s been point guard Emmanuel Mudiay’s modus operandi during the first week of Knicks training camp.

First-year coach David Fizdale said Mudiay has the lowest turnover rate of anyone during the first week of scrimmages. Mudiay’s loss of 10-15 pounds since the regular season finale has helped with stamina and adjusting to Fizdale’s fast offense.

He looks much improved so far from late last season when he didn’t make a big impression after the February trade with Denver.

Sounds reasonable. If he really did work hard enough to drop that much weight, maybe something is brewing.

Preseason begins tonight with Celtics vs Hornets.

Marcus Smart out for Celtics tonight

Preseason is a warmup period. Many stars play sparingly. Plenty of players suffer very minor bumps and bruises and wind up sitting out more than probably necessary, just to be on the safe side. But personal tragedy, which Marcus Smart recently suffered, as his mother recently passed away, can of course happen at any time. Here’s the Boston Globe:

The Celtics will begin their preseason without guard Marcus Smart, who did not make the trip with his teammates to North Carolina and will miss Friday’s opener because of what the team called personal reasons.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Smart is expected back with the team Saturday or for Sunday’s game against Charlotte and that Smart is physically healthy. Smart, 24, is still grieving following the death of his mother, Camellia, on Sept. 16 and admitted moving on from her passing has been difficult.

Preseason begins tonight, with the Celtics facing the Hornets.

Will Rockets defense hold up in 2018-19?

The Rockets were an excellent defensive team last season. It was a total team effort, but a couple of key individual reasons why the squad defended well are no longer wearing Rockets jerseys. Presumably, they’ll drop off a bit in that department then, yes? Maybe. Here’s the Houston Chronicle reporting the words of head coach Mike D’Antoni, who of course isn’t about to agree that the team will drop off in any way.

For the second time this week, Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni on Friday expressed great confidence about his team’s defense despite the departures in free agency of Luc Mbah a Moute and Trevor Ariza. He specifically cited the defensive abilities of Eric Gordon and James Ennis III who have both worked extensively with the starters in training camp.

The above will certainly be worth watching. Especially the role Carmelo Anthony winds up playing.

No matter what, the Rockets should be one of the West’s best squads again, but whether they can match last season’s success of course remains to be seen.

Kyrie Irving focusing on staying healthy

Yes, every pro athlete tries to stay healthy. That’s probably your first reaction to the headline. But it’s not that simple, obviously. NBA players are paid to give their all. And in the playoffs, more than that. Sure, players take it slightly “easier” in the regular season than the postseason, but nothing about playing pro basketball is easy. And now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, here’s the Boston Herald reporting on Kyrie Irving:

There’s a lot of miles in those 26-year-old legs, and as such the Celtics guard is tweaking his pre-game routine – most mundane, but all geared to readiness.

“It’s figuring out what works best for you,” said Irving. “My routine has been pretty much the same for eight straight years, but now it’s time to do things to better suit my body.”

Health has always been a major consideration for Irving. He’s never played a full NBA season, with only three times when Irving played 70 or more regular season games. His high-usage mark was a 75-game season in 2014-15.

Last season’s travails limited him to 60 games, so now’s the time to make adjustments.

The Celtics are the clear East favorite entering the 2018-19 season, and Irving remains a big key to their success.

The Utah Jazz backcourt is crowded

The Utah Jazz are a talent-filled serious Western conference team that won 48 games last season and should only keep getting better. Their backcourt is on the crowded side, however. Which can make it tough on a coach to fully maximize the talent. Here’s the Salt Lake Tribune reporting:

While coach Quin Snyder called it “a good problem to have,” the depth the Jazz have at the guard positions still is a problem.

Just look at the Jazz’s roster and you’ll see seven players with a “G” next to their name: Ricky Rubio, Donovan Mitchell, Dante Exum, Royce O’Neale, Alec Burks, Grayson Allen, and Raul Neto all will make the roster, and all have pretty good cases to earn playing time at their preferred position.

Rubio and Mitchell will take up the lions’ share of the minutes, though. Mitchell, after his meteoric rise, is the Jazz’s best scorer and face of the franchise, it seems reasonable to pencil him in for 35 minutes a night. Rubio has become part of the Jazz’s identity too, and it’d be a shock to see him play significantly less than 30 minutes a night.

Full article

The Lakers underwent big-time changes this summer, adding LeBron James and an interesting cast of supporting players, but the core of the team aside from James remains the youth: Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball. While LeBron tends to play the role of a point-forward, or rather a do-everything forward, Ball’s best attribute is still his passing. It’ll be fascinating to see how the two co-exist on the floor. But before all of that, Ball must regain full health, and yesterday he took a solid step in that direction, per the Daily Breeze:

By the end of Thursday’s training camp session, Lonzo Ball felt fatigued. But he was more focused on what he didn’t feel.

Pain.

For the first time this season, Ball, the 20-year-old second-year point guard felt healthy enough to go through an entire practice. Since a knee injury that ended his rookie year prematurely and led to offseason surgery for a torn meniscus, Ball has been sidelined and limited from full competition.

While he’s not likely to take the floor in Sunday’s preseason opener against the Denver Nuggets, getting back into a full practice felt like a significant step in the right direction after months of restrictions.

“Did the whole practice. Did everything today,” he said. “Obviously I was a little tired but had to get back.”

Full article

NBA preseason action begins tonight with Celtics vs Hornets as the lone matchup. The Celtics remain built around Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford, with support from Marcus Morris, Marcus Smart, Aron Baynes and Terry Rozier. The Hornets are built around Kemba Walker, aging new addition Tony Parker, Jeremy Lamb, Nicolas Batum, and a big supporting cast, some of which will have to emerge as leaders for the Hornets to go anywhere. Here’s the Boston Herald with some notes on key Celtics items to watch:

Having gotten to see Gordon Hayward for all of five minutes and 15 seconds last season before he suffered an horrific lower leg injury, it will be interesting to see how he’s moving in the first game with brighter lights and referees and a crowd…

Kyrie Irving’s season-ending surgery wasn’t as traumatic in nature as Hayward’s injury. And, by all accounts, he’s been just fine physically in camp and in the pickup games that preceded it. What we’re interested in more is how he runs the show…

In that it won’t be a regular game rotation, it will be hard to get a handle on how Stevens will use his bigs. But if Al Horford is going to play mainly at center, we’ll be curious to see how Aron Baynes and Daniel Theis are able to find their respective grooves…

Even with being such a high draft pick (third overall), Jayson Tatum still had a better than expected rookie season. Now he’s had time to catch his breath and put in offseason work that included time with Kobe Bryant. His mates all say he’s demonstrably better, and even with the limited looks that come in the preseason, we’re looking forward to seeing it.

Full article

Magic sign Devin Davis, waive Gabe York

Magic sign Devin Davis, waive Gabe York

The Orlando Magic have signed free agent forward Devin Davis. The team has also waived guard Gabe York.

Davis (6’6”, 225, 3/29/95) played in 55 career games (48 starts) during two seasons (2016-18) at the University of Houston, averaging 9.9 ppg., 5.9 rpg. and 1.2 apg. in 24.1 minpg. As a senior (2017-18), he played and started in all 35 contests, averaging 10.9 ppg., a team-high 6.3 rpg. and 1.3 apg. in 26.0 minpg. Davis was the only Cougar to start all 35 outings and ranked seventh in the American Athletic Conference in rebounding.

Spurs exercise options on Dejounte Murray, Jakob Poeltl and Derrick White

The San Antonio Spurs have exercised their fourth-year team option on guard Dejounte Murray and center Jakob Poeltl for the 2019-20 season.

In addition, the Spurs have exercised their third-year option on guard Derrick White for the 2019-20 season.

Murray is entering his third season with the Spurs after being selected by San Antonio in the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft (29th overall). Last year, Murray was named to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team, becoming the youngest player in NBA history to be named to an All-Defensive Team. He ended the season with 459 rebounds, setting the record for most total rebounds in a single season by a point guard in Spurs history passing the previous mark of 378 by Johnny Moore in 1984-85. The former Washington Husky has appeared in 119 career NBA games, averaging 6.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 17.4 minutes.

Poeltl is in his first season with the Silver and Black after being acquired from the Toronto Raptors on July 18. Last season, Poeltl averaged 6.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.22 blocks in 18.6 minutes. Selected by the Raptors with the ninth overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, the 7-0, 230-pound center has appeared in 136 games in his two-year NBA career, averaging 5.4 points and 4.1 rebounds in 15.8 minutes. Poeltl holds a career field goal percentage of .641 (320-499), which ranks fifth in the NBA among all players with at least 300 field goals made in the last two seasons.

White appeared in 17 games during his rookie season with the Spurs, averaging 3.2 points and 1.5 rebounds in 8.2 minutes. The former Colorado Buffalo helped lead the Austin Spurs to the 2018 G League Championship, averaging 24.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.80 steals in 32.8 minutes in the G League Playoffs. He appeared in 24 regular season games for Austin, averaging 20.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.29 steals and 1.17 blocks in 28.2 minutes. White was drafted by the Spurs with the 29th overall pick in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft.

Cavs hire Liron Fanan as Director of G League Player Development

The Cleveland Cavaliers have hired Liron Fanan as Director of G League Player Development. In her role, Liron will work to enrich Canton Charge players off the court through both League and team initiatives.

In addition to her Charge responsibilities, Fanan will also utilize her extensive international basketball background to assist the Cavs scouting department and General Manager Koby Altman.

“We are thrilled to welcome Liron to the Cavaliers organization and for her to become involved in all of our basketball operations initiatives,“ said Altman. “She’s a basketball lifer with incredible experience internationally and has a great basketball acumen we are very fortunate to have.”

Fanan comes to Northeast Ohio after having spent the last nine years co-founding and managing her own agency, 2Talent Sports Management, where she built a roster of athletes to serve their needs through player contracts, individual business interests and community engagement. Prior to venturing on her own, Liron served as Assistant General Manager for Maccabi Tel Aviv from 2005 to 2009, where she oversaw the club’s marketing and ticket sales efforts in addition to her basketball responsibilities. Fanan, a native of Israel, also has spent time on the side involved with NBA Summer League, NBA Basketball Without Borders and the NBA’s Global Camp in Italy.

Magic exercise contract option on Jonathan Isaac

The Orlando Magic have exercised their third-year team option on forward Jonathan Isaac.

Isaac is now signed through the 2019-20 season.

Isaac (6’10”, 210, 10/3/97) played in 27 games (ten starts) during his rookie campaign last season with the Magic, averaging 5.4 ppg., 3.7 rpg., 1.22 stlpg. and 1.11 blkpg. in 19.8 minpg. Isaac was originally selected by Orlando in the first round (sixth overall) of the 2017 NBA Draft.

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