The FIBA World Championships warning label, brought to you by Hamed Haddadi

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hamed_haddadi_iran_memphis_grizzlies.pngThough the FIBA World Championships provide refuge for basketball fans during the off-season, they are not the NBA. On a very basic level, basketball is basketball. Yet the differences in talent and style between the World Championships and the NBA are notable enough to significantly affect player performance. The product doesn’t just seem different. It is different.

That discrepancy can, in a sense, create a mirage for NBA GMs to chase. In the never-ending search for more talent, the World Championships would seem to provide a terrific look into how a particular prospect might fare against NBA-level competition. And, if that prospect happens to run into Team USA, how they might fare against NBA-style competition.

In a sense, it does. However, over the years, success in events like the World Championships and the Olympics have not been good indicators of future NBA performance for foreign prospects.

Hamed Haddadi is a fine example. Haddadi, a 7-foot-2 center, averaged 16.6 points and 11.2 rebounds in the 2008 Olympics while leading the games in blocked shots. He posted game totals of 21 and 9 against Lithuania,  21 and 16 against Argentina, and 17 and 15 against Croatia. On the strength of his 2008 Olympic run, Haddadi signed a three-year deal with Memphis, and well, he hasn’t done all that much since.

It’s not entirely fair to blame Haddadi. While he’s the clear-cut star of the Iranian national team, Haddadi has only played a total of 360 minutes (over two seasons) for the Grizz. There’s certainly a question of opportunity inherent in all of this, with utilization being a serious undertone. Maybe Memphis really is using Haddadi incorrectly, and he’s a shot-blocking force just waiting to be unleashed.

Or maybe it’s exactly what it looks like; Haddadi is a big that averages more fouls than rebounds, hasn’t managed to adjust to the NBA in the — albeit limited — time he’s been given, and thus far has yet to really make any significant impact whatsoever in Memphis. There are certainly factors working against him, but Haddadi didn’t exactly walk into the FedEx Forum a double-double machine, either.

Haddadi hasn’t looked good while playing in the faster NBA game. Though Haddadi could still probably have a long and illustrious career as a back-up, back-up center (he’s still a 25 year-old big, after all), he has yet to show any sign that he’ll really figure out the American pro game, or boast even a shade of the defensive impact he’s flashed on the international stage.

So performances like Haddadi’s 27-point and nine-rebound outing against Lithuania? 16 points, nine rebounds, and five blocks against Brazil? We’ve seen this room, we’ve walked this floor. We know what Haddadi is capable of against international competition, but he remains a remarkably unspectacular NBAer, nonetheless.

This happens. It’s part of the game. Darko Milicic looked great against Pau Gasol in the summer of 2006 (18 points, 15 rebounds, and three blocks of good, to be exact), but it didn’t mean that Darko was threatening to bust the seams of his NBA role. He was still the same player he always was, just shone in a different hue. One that apparently doesn’t quite register in the States.

The production doesn’t always translate, and though there are plenty of players who have prospered on both stages, there are also many for whom the NBA just isn’t a great fit. It’s too early to say that Haddadi is one such player, but based on his NBA career thus far, it’s fair to question if the disparity may be too much for him.  

Raptors unveil updated court design

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Several teams have updated their court designs this offseason, including the Bulls, Nuggets, Bucks and Hawks. The Raptors are the latest team to update their floor, to go along with a new logo and uniforms. Here’s what the Air Canada Centre will look like this season:

It features their new claw/basketball logo at center court and the font on their new uniforms at the baselines. The “We The North” along the sideline is a nice touch, too. Overall, the Raptors have done an excellent job with their rebrand, just in time for All-Star Weekend to be hosted in Toronto for the first time.

Former UCLA, NBA player Dave Meyers dies at 62

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LOS ANGELES (AP) Dave Meyers, the star forward who led UCLA to the 1975 NCAA basketball championship as the lone senior in coach John Wooden’s final season and later played for the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, died Friday. He was 62.

Meyers died at his home in Temecula after struggling with cancer for the last year, according to UCLA, which received the news from his younger sister, Ann Meyers Drysdale.

He played four years for Milwaukee after being drafted second overall by the Los Angeles Lakers. Shortly after, Meyers was part of a blockbuster trade that sent him to the Bucks in exchange for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

The 6-foot-8 Meyers led UCLA in scoring at 18.3 points and rebounding at 7.9 in his final season, helping the Bruins to a 28-3 record. He had 24 points and 11 rebounds in their 92-85 victory over Kentucky in the NCAA title game played in his hometown of San Diego.

Meyers Drysdale also played at UCLA during her Hall of Fame career.

Meyers assumed the Bruins’ leadership role during the 1974-75 season after Bill Walton and Jamaal Wilkes had graduated. Playing with sophomores Marques Johnson and Richard Washington, Meyers earned consensus All-America honors. Meyers made the cover of Sports Illustrated after the Bruins won the NCAA title.

“One of the true warriors in (at)UCLAMBB history has gone on to glory,” Johnson wrote on Twitter. “Dave Meyers was our Captain in `75 and as tenacious a player ever. RIP.”

Johnson recalled in other tweets how Meyers called him `MJB’ or Marques Johnson Baby when he was a freshman, and later in the NBA, Meyers was nicknamed “Crash” because he always diving on the floor for loose balls.

As a junior, Meyers started on a front line featuring future Hall of Famers Walton and Wilkes.

Meyers was a reserve as a sophomore on the Bruins’ 1973 NCAA title team during the school’s run of 10 national titles in 12 years under Wooden. The team went 30-0 and capped the season by beating Memphis 87-66 in the championship game, when Meyers had four points and three rebounds.

In 1975, Meyers, along with Elmore Smith, Junior Bridgeman and Brian Winters, was traded to Milwaukee for Abdul-Jabbar and Walt Wesley.

During the 1977-78 season, Meyers was reunited with Johnson on the Bucks and averaged a career-best 14.7 points. He missed the next year with a back injury. Meyers returned in 1979-80 to average 12.1 points and 5.7 rebounds in helping the Bucks win a division title.

Born David William Meyers, he was one of 11 children. His father, Bob, was a standout basketball player and team captain at Marquette in the 1940s. The younger Meyers averaged 22.7 points as a senior at Sonora High in La Habra, California.

Meyers made a surprise announcement in 1980 that he was retiring from basketball to spend more time with his family. He later earned his teaching certificate and taught sixth grade for several years in Lake Elsinore, California.

He is survived by his wife, Linda, whom he married in 1975, and daughter Crystal and son Sean.