I’ve never really understood watching scrimmages. I mean, I do it a lot. I’ll watch basketball pretty much at any level. But the players are just so removed from the effort level we find most enjoyable to watch. That level, if you’re wondering, is a Game 7 in the playoffs in the semifinals or higher.
A scrimmage is, by its very definition, practice. It’s simply a final practice round in a game simulation. It’s one thing when it’s a team that is competing for spots on a roster, fighting, dying, working hard every play. It’s a very different thing when it’s an international team scrimmage in a non-Olympic year.
The Team USA scrimmage Saturday night showed us a handful of things that are relevant. Some we knew, some we didn’t.
- Team USA is small. Jeff Green played significant minutes and while he’s unlikely to make the roster, no bigs outside of Tyson Chandler made an impact. Unless JaVale McGee makes a huge jump and makes the roster. But considering his inexperience and resume, that’s hard to argue for. Brook Lopez’s game is dependent on post-scoring, but in the trapezoid, in a guard-heavy set, it’s hard to find that spacing. Team USA is going to have a hard time against the bigger international teams.
- Kevin Durant is great. You know what we needed to see from Durant as we look to him to take the reins of our country’s team in international competition? It’s not dominance. This is a scrimmage. It’s the “man among boys” effect. We needed him to look like he was simply better than the rest in every way, that he didn’t even need to try. Andre Iguodala looked like if he efforted, he could be on the floor with this team. Kevin Durant looked like he could go at 50% and still dominate.
- The guard competition is fierce. O.J. Mayo looked terrific, but his defensive liabilities may keep him off-squad. Chauncey Billups looked marginal, but will probably make the roster based on experience. Derrick Rose looked terrific, somehow faster than he was previously. Rajon Rondo looked sloppy and disinterested. And all of them are worthy of inclusion on the team, along with Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook.
- Rudy Gay had one of his best games as a professional, which says a lot about Rudy Gay.
- Lamar Odom managed to get lost in a Team USA scrimmage game. Only Lamar.
Cuts will be made, Curry will likely go for shooting, Mayo will likely stay home for size, and Kevin Love is more respected on Team USA than in Minnesota. Strange things afoot as the team prepares for Turkey.
Tommy Hawkins passed away recently at the age of 80.
The former NBA player was the first black athlete to earn All-America honors in basketball at Notre Dame (he still holds the school’s total rebounds record), was drafted in the first round, and went on to have a 10-year NBA career playing for the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers as well as the Cincinnati Royals. Los Angeles fans may also remember him as the long time director of communications for the Los Angeles Dodgers after his playing days ended.
The NBA put together this well done video look back at Hawkins’ career.
Isaiah Thomas said he expects to be ready for the Celtics’ training camp next month. The guard’s All-NBA season came to an early end in the playoffs when he aggravated a labral tear in his right hip initially suffered back in March. At least the injury did not require surgery.
Players are also about the worst judges of when they will recover from an injury. They pretty much all think they are invincible and will be healthy faster than doctors predict.
Coaches tend to be more pragmatic. Take Boston’s Brad Stevens, who told Chris Mannix on The Vertical Podcast that tests in a couple of weeks will show if Thomas is ready for camp.
“He has another follow-up and another scan in the early part of September. Obviously, it’s been a lot of appropriate rest, a lot of rehab. There have been some good strides here certainly in the last month or few weeks, but we’re not going to know that until after that early September timeframe.”
The Celtics are understandably going to be cautious with Thomas, while Thomas wants to prove he is healthy and has no ill effects from the injury as he enters a contract year (one where he expects to get PAID). Also, the Celtics could use him in camp as they start to figure out how he and Gordon Hayward can share playmaking duties.
Still, from the outset, the timelines have suggested he should be ready for camp in late September. Coaches are just cautious on these things by nature.
LeBron James has four NBA MVP trophies in his case. (Does he keep that case in his home in Akron or the one in Los Angeles… that’s a question for another day.) Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six) and Michael Jordan (five) have more.
Could LeBron James add a fifth to his case this season?
Allen Iverson said yes at last weekend’s Big3 playoffs in Seattle.
LeBron was fourth in preseason odds to win the MVP at 15/2, behind Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard.
To me, LeBron could be a good bet. If/when Kyrie Irving is traded, the chances of LeBron getting the MVP go up. If LeBron puts up impressive numbers (again) and leads a depleted Cavaliers team to a top two seed in the East, he is certainly going to be in consideration. And should be.
It’s a long season, and personally, I think you need to get midway through the season before seriously considering the year-end awards. But history says LeBron will be in the mix, and Allen Iverson could be proven prophetic.
With the cooler-than-I-expected solar eclipse on Monday came a lot of bad solar eclipse jokes on Twitter. Because that’s what Twitter does. Especially the NBA Twitterverse. We knew a lot of “where on the flat earth will Kyrie Irving watch the eclipse?” jokes were coming.
There were a couple of good ones, however.
Appropriately, the Phoenix Suns won the day.
One personal favorite here, an old meme that never goes out of style.