Exploring the Nuggets' need for another big man

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There isn’t a roster in the league that you could look up and down and say “Ehh, they couldn’t use another big man.” That’s the very reason that the Big Z-Cleveland release-and-catch is so offensive to so many teams; the move doesn’t seem like it should be legal, sure, but those who have been the most vocal about it are those threatened by Cleveland’s competition or those that would be vying for Ilgauskas’ services.

Productive centers with decent size go a long way in the NBA, and true depth at the 5 is something of a Holy Grail for many championship and playoff contenders.

In that light, the Nuggets’ rumored flirtations with just about every free agent big man on the NBA radar makes perfect sense. They could very well find themselves matched up against the Lakers in the playoffs, and that frontcourt? Not exactly small. L.A.’s size is one of the reasons they’re so difficult to match and match-up with.

To further complicate things, Chris Andersen, a vital component of Denver’s bench and their most effective center behind Nene, isn’t well. He hasn’t been for some time, and won’t be for a long while. From Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post:

On the orders of the training staff, [Andersen] sat out the second half of the Nuggets’ 101-85 loss at Phoenix on Monday. Then there was a day off before the Oklahoma City game. “With four games in five nights, it’s really not enough time for you to do as much treatment as I needed, and to get in the weight room. So it was tough,” Andersen said. “But I got a little bit of rest, even though I didn’t want to. I tried to give it a go against Phoenix, and they said just (to) sit out the rest of the half due to the fact that my knee was strained. But it’s a matter of bouncing back, because we definitely needed that game (on Wednesday). We definitely have to take care of our home court.”

Andersen will likely not be 100 percent during the rest of the regular season or into the playoffs. Asked if he knows what he’ll feel like from one day to the next, Andersen said “No.”

“Usually when I get up, I’m in some big pain, but that’s just the way it goes,” he said. “It’s been a tough year so far with all of the back-to-backs we’ve had. It’s just a matter of fighting through it.”

Andersen’s injury is even more damaging to the Nuggets because Andersen’s real value comes in his activity level; he’s more mobile than most centers, which makes him an incredibly effective weak-side shot blocker. But when he’s enduring constant soreness and pain in a bum knee? Well, it doesn’t exactly improve his abilities as a rotating defender, that’s for sure.

But these are hardly developments with Andersen’s injured knee so much as they are lingering storylines. It’s something that will chase Denver through the rest of the regular season and into the playoffs, and the only plausible solution at this point is to grab a free agent and hope they’re able to provide Chris some rest.

The Nuggets just need few minutes out of a capable third center. That man is not Malik Allen , nor Johan Petro. But considering how late it is in the season and Denver’s circumstances, there may not be many other options. So they’ll chase Z, they’ll probably chase Mark Blount, or Jake Voskuhl, or some unsigned “gem.” And though expectations will likely be pretty low for a guy of Blount or Voskuhl’s caliber, they’re not needed for much: just a simple role and a simple job that could be all the difference come April, maybe May, and hopefully for the Nuggets, June.

Monty Williams is back coaching with Team USA, ready to get back on NBA sidelines

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 18:  Draymond Green #14 of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team drives against assistant coach Monty Williams of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team during a practice session at the Mendenhall Center on July 18, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Watching Monty Williams back on the court at the USA basketball camp/practices in Las Vegas, you could see he was at home. He’s easily the best 44-year-old defender on the planet — he went toe-to-toe with Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, and the rest, was physical, and made them work for buckets. Then he’d instruct. He’s just a natural.

Back in February, Williams’ wife was killed in an auto accident. It devastated the devout family man, in ways it’s hard for us to understand who have never experienced it. He walked away from coaching the rest of the NBA season with the Thunder, and nobody questioned it for a second.

Now, after getting his feet wet with Team USA (where he is an assistant to Mike Krzyzewski), he told Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman he is ready to get back on the sidelines.

“I wouldn’t even think that if I didn’t know, one, my wife would want me to; my kids talk about it all the time. And there have been some things that have happened in my life lately that have allowed me to get that back. I’m so juiced up and ready to get back into it again.”

He is one of the better respected assistant coaches in the league, and a guy who will get another shot at a top spot someday. Soon. Can’t wait to see him back on the sidelines.

Ben Simmons says he plans to work on shooting, handles, getting stronger before camp

Philadelphia 76ers' Ben Simmons cheers from the bunch during the first half of the team's NBA summer league basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Thursday, July 14, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
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The leap from college — even high-level college programs — to the NBA can be hard to describe. Now everybody is bigger, longer, and far more athletic — the guy at the end of the bench barely getting any burn was one of the best players on his college team.

Players get their first taste of that at Summer League. The Sixers’ No. 1 pick Ben Simmons looked pretty good when he got that taste, but you can see the development that needs to go on as well.

He’s spending the time between now and the start of training camp working on his shooting and getting stronger, among other things, he told Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com.

“I think just getting in the gym and making sure I’m getting reps up, shooting-wise, dribbling,” Simmons said earlier this week after an appearance at Sixers Camp in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “The weight room as well, making sure I get my strength back and my weight up.”

All good things. Handles and shooting in particular — he’s about to start seeing much better defenders nightly. It’s going to take time, and we’ll see how far he can go, but Simmons unquestionably brings a lot of skill and potential to the table. That he’s putting in the work is a good sign — that was one of the concerns about him heading into the draft.

New GM Bryan Colangelo is going to benefit from Sam Hinkie’s process. So long as he doesn’t screw it up.

Report: Warriors sign JaVale McGee to make-good training camp contract

JaVale McGee
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JaVale McGee is getting another shot in the NBA.

He played just 34 games off the bench for Dallas last season. He played 23 games the season before that due to injury.

But the Golden State Warriors are thin up front — Zaza Pachulia will get the bulk of the minutes at the five (when the Warriors use a traditional center), and there is the often-injured Anderson Varejao behind him. The Warriors could use another big. So they are giving McGee a look, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

This is a low-risk move by the Warriors, and it’s worth the gamble. Vintage McGee, for all his Shaqtin’ a Fool flaws, is far more athletic and a better rim protector than any of the guys the Warriors now have at the five. If it doesn’t work out — and the odds are it will not — they cut him, if it does they pay him a minimum deal.

I hope he makes it, just because the league is more fun when McGee is in it.

Russell Westbrook laughs off question about Kevin Durant

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 21:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Kevin Durant #35 discuss play during the first half against the Los Angeles ClipperLos Angeles Kingsat Staples Center on December 21, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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At some point, Russell Westbrook will sit down with members of the media and discuss Kevin Durant leaving the Thunder, how he felt about the move, and how it impacted him both personally and professionally.

But not right now. He remains silent.

This Vine making its way around, where Westbrook laughs — probably at the question, although read into that whatever you want — when asked about Durant sums up where we are.

https://platform.vine.co/static/scripts/embed.js

In the full Facebook clip, Westbrook walks away, too. It’s his right. He can talk about it on his schedule.