This summer, basketball teams around the world are trying to lock down spots in the 2016 Olympics. Here’s the Oregonian reporting on a new member of the Portland Trail Blazers:

Al-Farouq Aminu steps up for Nigeria at AfroBasket

Trail Blazers forward Al-Farouq Aminu helped Nigeria get one step close to qualifying for the 2016 Olympics on Wednesday. Aminu led his home country to an 88-63 win over the Central African Republic at the AfroBasket, a FIBA tournament held in Tunisia in which the winner earns an automatic bid to the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Brazil.

Aminu scored a team-high 15 points to go with eight rebounds and three assists in just over 20 minutes of playing time. He hit 6 of 8 shots and added an impressive dunk in the opening minutes of the game when he finished a half court alley-oop lob from teammate Olaseni Lawal.

Pelicans sign Bryce Dejean-Jones

The New Orleans Pelicans announced today the team has signed free agent rookie guard Bryce Dejean-Jones.

According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, “his signing officially brings the Pelicans to 13 guaranteed contracts while New Orleans’ pursuit of point guard Norris Cole is still ongoing.”

Dejean-Jones, 6-6, 209, was a member of the Pelicans summer league team in Las Vegas after going unselected in the 2015 NBA Draft. In six games, Dejean-Jones averaged 12.8 points on .619 shooting from the field, including .500 from three point range, to go along with 1.8 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.2 assists in 21.7 minutes per game.

During his senior season at Iowa State University, Dejean-Jones averaged 10.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.1 steals, helping the Cyclones win the 2015 Big 12 Tournament.

Here’s the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporting on Chris Copeland, who became a member of the Bucks this summer:

Influence of Jason Kidd helped bring Copeland to Milwaukee

Chris Copeland said his relationship with Bucks coach Jason Kidd played a big role as the the 31-year-old forward signed a one-year deal with Milwaukee last month.

Copeland is expected to play a key role off the bench and his ability to space the floor should complement the Bucks young forward duo of Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

“Jason Kidd has been a top reason,” Copeland said of choosing the Bucks after spending the last two years with the Indiana Pacers. “It was a blessing playing with him when we were in New York (during the 2012-’13 season). I learned a lot from him behind the scenes.

“I watched him in a short period of time show his capabilities as a coach. I just look forward to the opportunity. When they reached out, it was a no-brainer.”

The Utah Jazz announced today that the team has promoted Mark McKown to director of sports science/assistant coach and Isaiah Wright to head strength and conditioning coach.

McKown will enter his 19th season with the Jazz in 2015-16 and became the team’s first full-time strength-and-conditioning coach upon his arrival 1997. McKown, in conjunction with Wright, has helped the Jazz become one of the league’s most progressive franchises in the implementation of applied sports science. The Gaffney, S.C. native graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science and physical education from the University of South Carolina Upstate as well as a master’s in sports science from the United States Sports Academy.

Wright will enter his third season with the Jazz strength and conditioning staff after spending 2012-13 as a strength and conditioning intern. The Salt Lake City native previously spent seven years with the franchise working with the team’s equipment staff as a team attendant. Wright graduated with a bachelor’s degree in exercise and sports science from the University of Utah.

Video: Ricky Rubio season highlights

Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio only played 22 games in the 2014-15 season, and didn’t score much, but he still averaged a very impressive 8.8 assists per outing. His passing is fun to watch. Enjoy these video highlights:

Raptors sign Jonas Valanciunas to contract extension

The Toronto Raptors announced Thursday they have signed center Jonas Valanciunas to a multi-year contract extension.

According to Yahoo Sports it is a four-year, $64 million extension.

“Jonas’ contributions continue to improve with each season and we view him as a significant part of what we are building in Toronto,” said Raptors President and General Manager Masai Ujiri.

In his three seasons with the Raptors, the 23-year-old Valanciunas has averaged 10.9 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and 26.3 minutes in 223 career games, including 218 as a starter. He has shot .553 (936-1,694) from the field. In the postseason, he owns averages of 11.0 points and 9.5 rebounds in 11 contests, with a .575 (50-87) field goal percentage.

Valanciunas, 7-foot, 270 pounds, averaged a career-best 12.0 points, with team highs of 8.7 rebounds and 1.2 blocks, in 80 contests last season. He finished second in the NBA with a .572 (373-652) field goal percentage. He paced the Raptors in double-doubles (22), rebounds (693) and blocks (95). He posted averages of 11.3 points and 9.3 rebounds in four playoff outings.

Valanciunas appeared in 81 games in the 2013-14 season, where he averaged 11.3 points and a team-leading 8.8 rebounds. He shot .531 (359-676) from the field and paced the team in rebounds (714) and double-doubles (26). In seven playoff games, he shot .633 (31-49) from the floor and contributed averages of 10.9 points and a team-best 9.7 rebounds.

The native of Lithuania was selected fifth overall by the Raptors in the 2011 Draft. He averaged 8.9 points, 6.0 rebounds and 23.9 minutes in 62 appearances in his rookie campaign. He ranked among the top-3 rookies for field goal percentage (.557), rebounds and blocks (1.3). He captured Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month honours for March, averaging 11.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and shooting .620 from the field in 15 outings.

Timberwolves sign Tayshaun Prince

Timberwolves sign Tayshaun Prince

The Minnesota Timberwolves today announced the team has signed veteran forward Tayshaun Prince.

“We’re excited to add a veteran like Tayshaun,” said Timberwolves president of basketball operations and head coach Flip Saunders. “Having coached Tayshaun for three seasons in Detroit, I know that his experience and defensive mindset will benefit our younger players. He also has shown that he can shoot from long distance, which will help our ability to stretch the floor.”

Prince give the Wolves yet another highly experienced veteran to help teach the tricks of the trade to young building blocks like Andrew Wiggins.

Prince, a 6-9 forward, averaged 7.5 points and 3.6 rebounds in 24.1 minutes per game over 58 contests between Memphis, Boston and Detroit last season. He began the season with the Grizzlies, appearing in 26 games before being acquired by Boston on Jan. 12 in a three-team trade. Prince played nine games with the Celtics before finishing the season in Detroit after a three-team deal on Feb. 19.

Prince spent the first 10-plus seasons of his 12-year career with the Pistons before being traded to Memphis on Jan. 30, 2013 in a three-team trade. He has career averages of 11.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 940 games. Prince’s played in all 82 games in six consecutive seasons (2003-04 – 2008-09), averaging a career-high 14.7 points on a career-best 48.7 percent from the field in 2004-05. He played under current Wolves head coach Flip Saunders from 2005-08.

Originally selected with the 23rd overall pick by the Detroit Pistons in the 2002 NBA Draft, Prince has appeared in 140 playoff games with Detroit and Memphis, averaging 11.4 points and 5.2 rebounds in 35.6 minutes. He averaged a career-high 16.4 points in 18 games for the Pistons in the 2006 NBA Playoffs and averaged 9.9 points and 6.0 rebounds as Detroit won the 2004 NBA Championship.

Raptors 905, the NBA Development League affiliate of the Toronto Raptors, has selected the rights to 16 players in the 2015 NBA D-League Expansion Draft. Raptors 905 will hold the rights to these players for two seasons.

And now, a useful reminder from InsideHoops.com: Just because a D-League team has the rights to a player doesn’t mean that player is definitely playing for that team. Some of these players may get an NBA contract, or sign overseas. But if they want to play in the D-League, they’ll be on the Raptor 905’s.

The players selected in today’s Expansion Draft will form Raptors 905’s Returning Player List in advance of the inaugural season. Each of the 2014-15 NBA D-League teams were able to protect the rights of up to 12 players as part of the draft process. Raptors 905 then selected from the pool of unprotected players from the 2013-14 and 2014-15 NBA D-League rosters, with no more than two selections coming from any one team.

Seven of the 16 players selected by Raptors 905 have NBA experience, including former first-round draft picks Earl Clark, Nolan Smith and Dahntay Jones.
Following are the complete results of the 2015 NBA D-League Expansion Draft:

PLAYER POS HT WT COLLEGE PREVIOUS NBA D-LEAGUE TEAM

Dee Bost Guard 6-3 176 Mississippi State Idaho Stampede (2013-14)

Earl Clark* Forward 6-10 234 Louisville Rio Grande Valley Vipers (2014-15)

Abdul Gaddy Guard 6-3 214 Washington Maine Red Claws (2013-14)

Luke Harangody* Forward 6-8 240 Notre Dame Texas Legends (2014-15)

Dahntay Jones* Guard 6-6 225 Duke Fort Wayne Mad Ants (2014-15)

Kevin Jones* Forward 6-8 250 West Virginia Canton Charge (2013-14)

Ricky Ledo* Guard 6-7 195 South Kent HS Texas Legends (2014-15)

C.J. Leslie Forward 6-9 209 North Carolina State Idaho Stampede (2013-14)

Ramone Moore Guard 6-6 190 Temple Delaware 87ers (2013-14)

Mustafa Shakur* Guard 6-3 190 Arizona Oklahoma City Blue (2013-14)

Will Sheehey Forward 6-7 200 Indiana Los Angeles D-Fenders (2014-15)

Nolan Smith* Guard 6-2 185 Duke Delaware 87ers (2014-15)

Scott Suggs Forward 6-6 190 Washington Santa Cruz Warriors (2013-14)

Ty Walker Centre 7-0 230 Wake Forest Reno Bighorns (2014-15)

Mitchell Watt Centre 6-10 225 Buffalo Santa Cruz Warriors (2014-15)

Michael Williams Guard 6-2 185 Cal State Fullerton Sioux Falls Skyforce (2014-15)

* - denotes players with NBA experience

Hawks sign Jason Richardson

Hawks sign Jason Richardson

You forgot about Jason Richardson. But he still exists and still plays basketball. And now he adds depth to the bench of a very good Eastern conference squad.

The Atlanta Hawks have signed Richardson, it was announced today by President of Basketball Operations/Head Coach Mike Budenholzer.

A 13-year NBA veteran, Richardson has played in 857 career regular season games (842 starts) with Golden State, Phoenix, Orlando, Charlotte and Philadelphia, averaging 17.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.2 steals in 34.1 minutes. In 37 postseason games, he has put in 17.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.1 steals in 34.1 minutes.

In 19 games last season with the 76ers, Richardson averaged 9.1 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 21.9 minutes.

NBA promotes Kiki VanDeWeghe

The NBA announced today that Kiki VanDeWeghe has been promoted to Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations. VanDeWeghe, who has been serving as Senior Vice President, Basketball Operations, will lead the Basketball Operations department effective immediately.

The league also will hire a new President, League Operations. VanDeWeghe and Mike Bantom, Executive Vice President, Referee Operations, will both report to that person.

The moves come as two top executives depart the league office. President, Basketball Operations Rod Thorn retired this month after more than 50 years as a player, coach, and executive in professional basketball. In addition, President, League Operations Joel Litvin will be stepping down effective Sept. 1 after a 27-year career in the league office.

“Kiki is one of the sharpest basketball minds in the NBA,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “In addition to his storied UCLA and NBA playing career plus his extensive experience as a general manager, coach, and TV analyst, he has most recently helped drive innovations in analytics that are reshaping the league in areas such as scheduling, game statistics, and player health.”
VanDeWeghe joined the league office in April 2013 as Vice President, Basketball Operations and was promoted to Senior Vice President, Basketball Operations later the same year. He has been involved in a broad range of basketball matters, including the development of playing rules and interpretations, game analytics, and policies and procedures relating to the operation of NBA games.

Before his time with the league office, VanDeWeghe served as the general manager of the New Jersey Nets from 2008 to 2010 and the general manager of the Denver Nuggets from 2001 to 2006. His tenure in New Jersey included a stint as interim head coach during the 2009-10 season. He also worked as an NBA analyst for ESPN and Fox Sports.

VanDeWeghe’s NBA playing career spanned 13 years, with the Nuggets, Portland Trail Blazers, New York Knicks, and Los Angeles Clippers, during which he averaged 19.7 points per game, made two All-Star appearances, and helped his teams reach the playoffs 12 times.

Bantom, an NBA executive for 26 years, has overseen the league’s officiating program since 2012. He was hired by the NBA in 1989 after a 16-year professional playing career. Bantom averaged 12.1 points and 6.4 rebounds in nine NBA seasons before playing seven more seasons in Italy.

Here’s CSN Bay Area reporting on Warriors center Andrew Bogut, who is currently helping represent Australia on the court:

Andrew Bogut fights through back pain for Australia

On Tuesday in Wellington, New Zealand, Bogut performed at a level that suggests he still has game.

The 7-foot center finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots to lead Australia to an 89-79 win over New Zealand in a FIBA Oceana qualifying game that clinched the Aussies’ bid for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

And Bogut did this while fighting through same nagging back soreness that might be making the Warriors a bit nervous.

“The body felt good,” Bogut told reporters. “I was battling a few little things but if you take enough pills and things you end up getting there. It worked out all right. I felt pretty good out there. Tomorrow morning won’t be as good but we got the job done and we’re going to the Olympics.”

Nuggets waive Joey Dorsey

Nuggets waive Joey Dorsey

The Denver Nuggets have waived F Joey Dorsey, General Manager and Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly announced today.

Dorsey was acquired by the Nuggets by trade from the Houston Rockets on July 20.

Cavs may sign center Sasha Kaun

According to the Northeast Ohio Media Group, the Cleveland Cavaliers may soon add depth at the center spot:

Veteran Russian center Sasha Kaun embarked on a mini-tour of Cleveland on Monday, league sources informed Northeast Ohio Media Group.

His visit was for the purpose of house hunting, among other things, sources said.

Kaun, 30, and the Cavaliers have yet to reach an agreement. However, “it’s only a matter of time” before a deal is struck, according to a person with direct knowledge of the negotiations. The Cavaliers’ main focus is on locking up a longtime pact with restricted free agent Tristan Thompson.

Dorell Wright to play in China

Here’s the South Florida Sun Sentinel reporting on Dorell Wright, who will reportedly take his talents to the other side of the world:

Dorell Wright to play in China

Although he had expressed interest in a reunion with the Miami Heat as early as a month ago, free-agent forward Dorell Wright on Monday agreed to play the coming season in China.

Wright confirmed on his Twitter account the one-year contract with the Chongqing Soaring Dragons of the Chinese Basketball Association.

Wright, 29, was drafted by the Heat with the No. 19 pick in the first round of the 2004 NBA Draft, spending his first six NBA seasons with the team. He spent the past two seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers, utilized primarily for his 3-point shooting.

Bucks sign forward Marcus Landry

Bucks sign forward Marcus Landry

The Milwaukee Bucks have signed free agent forward Marcus Landry, General Manager John Hammond announced today.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Bucks blog, “Landry’s contract is not guaranteed, but it gives him the opportunity to demonstrate his skill and compete for a roster spot during training camp. Earning a roster spot may be difficult — but not impossible — as the Bucks are currently carrying 15 guaranteed contracts. NBA teams can invite up to 20 players to training camp, but are only allowed 15 rosters spots during the regular season.”

Landry, 29, was undrafted after a four-year collegiate career at the University of Wisconsin. A Milwaukee native, Landry has played professionally in the NBA, the NBA D-League and internationally since wearing the Badgers uniform from 2005-09.

Last season, Landry played 49 games for CAI Zaragoza in Spain where he averaged 10.0 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.1 assists. He played parts of the 2013-14 and 2011-12 seasons in Spain, as well as stints internationally in Puerto Rico, China and Venezuela.

Landry began his professional career with the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics in 2009. He also played for the Maine Red Claws and Reno Bighorns in the D-League. He was named to the Futures All-Star roster for the 2013 NBA D-League All-Star game and won the Three-Point Shootout.

A look at Miami Heat ticket price tiers

Here’s the South Florida Sun Sentinel reporting on Miami Heat ticket pricing, which takes into account the fact that some teams are bigger draws than others:

With Monday’s release of the Miami Heat’s partial-season ticket plans came the release of pricing tiers for 2015-16 opponents.

When it comes to the top tier of the five pricing ranges, one team stands alone: James’ Cleveland Cavaliers. Not only are the Cavaliers’ two visits to AmericanAirlines Arena listed in the “Inferno” pricing range, but they are the only two 2015-16 home games priced on the plan in that highest-tiered range…

Beyond the Cavaliers’ two visits, the next-highest pricing range is listed as “Blazing,” which includes the Christmas Day game against the New Orleans Pelicans, the New Year’s Day game against the Dallas Mavericks, as well as the lone visit of the season by the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors.

Utah Jazz sign Treveon Graham

The Utah Jazz announced today that the team has signed free agent guard/forward Treveon Graham (TRAY-vee-on).

Until we hear otherwise, we will assume this is a non-guaranteed deal that merely brings Graham to training camp.

Graham (6-6, 220, VCU) played four seasons at Virginia Commonwealth University, serving as team captain and averaging 16.2 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists during his senior campaign. He was also named to the All-Atlantic 10 First Team for the second-straight year (2014, 2015). He ranked eighth in the conference in scoring during the 2014-15 season and logged 28 games of 10-or-more points. Graham also led VCU to four consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances (2012-15). In 2013, he competed for Team USA at the 2013 University World Games in Kazan, Russia.

A native of Temple Hills, Md., Graham played high school basketball at St. Mary’s Ryken High School in Leonardtown, Md.

Video: Emmanuel Mudiay summer highlights

Enjoy this video of Denver Nuggets rookie Emmanuel Mudiay, as he got drafted and then played summer league in preparation for the pros:

Pistons arena being renovated

It’s always fun to see the new version of an NBA arena after it’s been renovated. Even slight changes, if done well, can make a place seem new. Looking forward to the final result. Here’s the Detroit Free Press reporting:

For those fans hoping that the Pistons eventually would move back to downtown Detroit: Forget about it.

Owner Tom Gores has put $40 million into renovations in the Palace over the past four years.

The current project is replacing all the seats in the Palace and refurbishing the floors, a project that will take three years to complete, according to Kevin A. Grigg, vice president of public relations for Palace Sports & Entertainment and the Pistons.

“This is the first phase of what’s going to be a three-year seating renovation inside the Palace,” Grigg said Wednesday. “The first stage that you see now will be completed per the start of the preseason. That involves from the lower-level suites all the way down to the floor. We’ll have new courtside seats and new seats going into the stands up to the first-level suites.”

Here’s ESPN.com reporting on the Sacramento Kings, who have found themselves a new analytics guy:

The Sacramento Kings have come to terms with Roland Beech to hire the longtime NBA sabermetrician to head up their analytics department, according to league sources.

Sources told ESPN.com that Beech is poised to join the Kings as their vice president of analytics under Vlade Divac, Sacramento’s new head of basketball operations.

Beech will thus fill a void created after another of the league’s foremost analytics experts — Dean Oliver — recently left the organization.

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