Vince Carter's big night

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531.jpgFor the first half of the season, Vince Carter was one of the most disappointing players in the league. In the latest chapter of a career that’s sadly become synonymous with disappointment, Carter has underperformed badly in Orlando.

On paper, replacing Hedo Turkoglu with Carter didn’t look like a bad idea. On the court, however, VC has been a disaster. Vince is shooting under 40% from the field, and he’s only averaging 2.8 assists per game. Vince’s PER is currently at 15.79, which is significantly worse than his previous career low of 18.93. 
Vince has struggled from everywhere on the floor this season, but most of his problems have come from his inability to get baskets at the rim. Even though Vince was once one of the most electrifying high-flyers in the history of the league, he’s had serious trouble when he’d tried to attack the basket this season. 
Vince is only averaging 1.8 dunks or layups per game this season, down from 2.3 conversions at the rim per game a year ago. The really bad news for the Magic is that this appears to be the continuation of a trend. Since the 2006-07 season, Vince’s makes at the rim per game have steadily decreased from 3.8 to 3.1 to 2.3 to 1.8. Worst of all, Vince’s percentage at the rim has been terrible, as he’s now making less than half of his attempts at the basket. For a long time, Vince’s head was perceived to be the only thing holding him back from greatness; now his body seems to be letting him down. 
Carter’s 48-point explosion against the Hornets on Monday night has given Magic fans hope that Vince will be able to turn it around after all. For Magic fans, the most heartening thing about Vince’s performance shouldn’t be how many points Carter scored, but how he got them. During the Magic’s fourth-quarter comeback, Carter was on fire from the outside. Carter hit two tough mid-range jumpers and three three-pointers in the fourth quarter of Monday’s game, scoring 13 points on eight shots from outside the paint. Many of those jumpers were contested shots off the dribble with a very high degree of difficulty, classic superstar shots. The highlights show just how dialed in Vince was in that fourth quarter, and how he’s still capable of taking over a game when he’s firing on all cylinders. 
What the highlights won’t preserve is that before his amazing fourth quarter, Carter got himself going by taking the ball to the rim time and time again. According to HoopData, Carter went 9-11 on shots at the rim, with 8 of those makes coming in the first three quarters. Vince only took 5 shots from midrange the entire game, preferring to to his damage from inside the paint and beyond the arc. Vince won the game by making tough shots, but he put the Magic in position to win by creating easy ones. Not only was Carter’s big night what the Magic needed to win the game, but it may serve as a blueprint for how he can be effective over the rest of the season. 

Reports: Lakers, Pacers both confident in tampering case

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The Lakers reportedly expect to be cleared of the tampering allegations brought by the Pacers over Paul George.

As for the Pacers?

Bob Kravitz of WTHR on The Rich Eisen Show

They feel very strongly that there were correspondences between Lakers executives and Paul George’s representative. They had heard those rumors for quite some time. They think there’s some there there.

Wishful thinking by both sides? It sure looks like it.

The Lakers probably tampered, because everybody tampers. But teams are rarely punished for it, so they can also believe they did nothing egregious enough to become an exception.

A paper trail between the Lakers – Magic Johnson or any other executive – and George’s camp would go far. But even that must be more specific. George’s agent, Aaron Mintz, also represents Lakers forward Julius Randle and former Lakers guard D'Angelo Russell. So, he’d have good reason to communicate with the organization.

I don’t know what the NBA will do here. Tampering rules are rarely and arbitrarily enforced. That gives each team plenty of room to believe it’s right.

Only two of 38 rookies surveyed say No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz will have class’s best career

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The 76ers drafted Ben Simmons No. 1 last year, believing he’d have the best career of anyone in his draft class. This year, Philadelphia traded up to draft Markelle Fultz No. 1 for the same reason.

Their fellow rookies – Simmons missed all of last season due to injury – aren’t nearly as enthused.

John Schuhmann of NBA.com conducted his annual rookie survey, polling 39 players who weren’t allowed to vote for themselves or college or NBA teammates. Thirty-eight responded to the best-career question:

Which rookie will have the best career?

1. Lonzo Ball, L.A. Lakers — 18.4%
Jayson Tatum, Boston — 18.4%

3. Josh Jackson, Phoenix — 10.5%
Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas — 10.5%

5. De'Aaron Fox, Sacramento — 7.9%

6. Markelle Fultz, Philadelphia — 5.3%
Harry Giles, Sacramento — 5.3%
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia — 5.3%

Others receiving votes: Jarrett Allen, Brooklyn; John Collins, Atlanta; Jonathan Isaac, Orlando; Luke Kennard, Detroit; Kyle Kuzma, L.A. Lakers; Donovan Mitchell, Utah; Malik Monk, Charlotte

Simmons might not have come to mind to players at the rookie photo shoot, which was for the most recent draft class. And rookies have tended to pick someone other than the No. 1 pick for this question. Anthony Davis in 2012 was the last No. 1 pick to lead voting. Simmons tied for fourth at 6.7% last year – behind Brandon Ingram, Kris Dunn and Buddy Hield. Even Karl-Anthony Towns landed behind Jahlil Okafor in 2015.

But so few votes for Fultz – the consensus top prospect in the draft – is fairly stunning.

Dennis Smith Jr. received the most votes for Rookie of the Year, but at just 25.7%. A large majority of rookies picked someone other than the Mavericks point guard.

Lonzo Ball (71.8% for best playmaker) was the only player to receive a majority of votes in a category. Luke Kennard (48.6% for best shooter) and Smith (43.6% for most athletic), who each tripled second place, came close.

LeBron James reemerged as rookies’ favorite player after a three-year run by Kevin Durant. Maybe that Warriors backlash if finally catching up to Durant?

Kendall Marshall, Marshall Plumlee headline Team USA’s AmeriCup roster

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AmeriCup, previously called the FIBA Americas Championship, lost its luster when FIBA decided the continental tournament wouldn’t double as World Cup qualifying.

But the U.S. is still sending a team, coached by Jeff Van Gundy. The roster (team last season):

  • Billy Baron (UCAM Murcia, Spain)
  • Alec Brown (Windy City Bulls)
  • Larry Drew II (Sioux Falls Skyforce)
  • Reggie Hearn (Reno Bighorns)
  • Darrun Hilliard (Detroit Pistons)
  • Jonathan Holmes (Canton Charge);
  • Kendall Marshall (Reno Bighorns)
  • Xavier Munford (Greensboro Swarm)
  • Marshall Plumlee (New York Knicks)
  • Jameel Warney (Texas Legends)
  • C.J. Williams (Texas Legends)
  • Reggie Williams (Oklahoma City Blue)

The Americans should still be favored, though obviously not as overwhelming as they’d be with NBA players, in a field also comprised of Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Uruguay, Panama and U.S. Virgin Islands.

This will be a good benchmark, as the U.S. might take a similar roster into World Cup qualifying.

Report: Tampering investigation stems from Magic Johnson’s TV interview

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In April, new Lakers president Magic Johnson went on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and discussed then-Pacers forward Paul George:

We’re going to say hi, because we know each other. You just can’t say, “Hey, I want you to come to the Lakers,” even though I’m going to be wink-winking like [blinks repeatedly]. You know what that means, right?

Now, the Lakers – at Indiana’s request – are being investigated for tampering.

Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times:

The investigation, which has been going on since May, stemmed from comments Magic Johnson made on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” that angered Pacers owner Herb Simon, according to several NBA officials who were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

This doesn’t mean the Pacers believe Johnson tampered with his televised comments. It seems as if that was the last straw following numerous rumors about George going to Los Angeles.

However, there’s a case Johnson’s televised remarks alone would constitute tampering. The Collective Bargaining Agreement prohibits “assurances of intent, or understandings of any kind (whether disclosed or undisclosed to the NBA), between a player (or any person or entity controlled by, related to, or acting with authority on behalf of, such player) and any Team (or Team Affiliate)” – and even attempts to solicit assurance of intent or understanding – when the player is still under contract with another team. Johnson sure appeared to do that.

But it’d be shocking if Johnson or the Lakers were punished for the interview alone. Indiana probably needs more evidence.

Then again, the arbitrary way the NBA enforces tampering, who knows?