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.  

Danny Green: Kawhi Leonard report ‘couldn’t be anymore incorrect’

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A pattern is emerging.

A report said there’s a disconnect between Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs. Leonard’s uncle denied it.

A report said San Antonio held a players-only meeting to implore Leonard to play. Danny Green denied it.


Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN wrote the latest article. Michael C. Wright and Ramona Shelburne contributed. These are credible reporters.

At minimum, someone wants the information out there. That alone makes this an issue. The Spurs, so unaccustomed to dealing with this noise, are facing it now.

Is every detail in the report accurate? Is it accurate overall? I don’t know.

But Green is loyal to San Antonio. Him shooting down a report of disarray means something, but it doesn’t mean everything.

Report: Spurs held players-only meeting imploring Kawhi Leonard to play

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Gregg Popovich’s thinly veiled attempt to pressure Kawhi Leonard into playing apparently had an effect – on Leonard’s Spurs teammates.

They, apparently led by Tony Parker, confronted Leonard.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The San Antonio Spurs held a players-only meeting to implore All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard to return to the lineup and help the team in its push for the playoffs, league sources told ESPN.

Spurs guard Tony Parker, a four-time NBA champion, quarterbacked the meeting with his teammates and Leonard after Saturday night’s victory over Minnesota, league sources said.

The conversation was described as tense and emotional at times, league sources said.

Several teammates spoke up, expressing frustration and confusion over a growing divide with Leonard that has created significant tension between the franchise star and the Spurs, league sources said.

Leonard, 26, was resolute in response, insisting that he had good reason for sitting out all but nine games with a right quad injury this season, league sources said.

That optimism around Leonard? It just went up in flames like Nick Young‘s Forever 21 clothing.

The Spurs have cleared Leonard to play, but he and his medical team don’t feel he’s ready. That’s an uneasy disagreement, but not necessarily illegitimate. Players know their own bodies and can sometimes sense problems doctors can’t identify. As of a few weeks ago, Popovich said Leonard was doing what he’s supposed to do.

So, a locker room full of players telling Leonard to play anyway sounds pretty unhealthy. It’s a shocking development in San Antonio, where the Spurs’ culture is recognized as arguably the NBA’s best and where the team is known for erring on the side of caution with injuries.

Fairly or not, Leonard probably invited this showdown with his handling of the injury. He told teammates he’d return to play then repeated the message publicly while adding soon. He reportedly targeted last Thursday, but a week later, he remains out. The disconnect between him and the franchise certainly didn’t help his teammates understand his point of view.

That disconnect was largely pinned on Leonard’s quiet nature, which makes it so rattling to imagine him facing a room of frustrated and confused teammates. Good for Leonard for standing up for himself if he truly isn’t ready to play.

But his teammates’ questioning will only increase the belief he’s just malingering. After all, if anybody could relate to him, it’s other professional athletes – especially Parker, who had a similar injury and recovered much more quickly (which doesn’t prove anything about Leonard, but certainly could influence opinion).

After the meeting, Manu Ginobili said, via Michael C. Wright of ESPN:

“He is not coming back,” veteran guard Manu Ginobili said. “For me, he’s not coming back because it’s not helping [to think Leonard is returning]. We fell for it a week ago again. I guess you guys made us fall for it. But we have to think that he’s not coming back, that we are who we are, and that we got to fight without him. That shouldn’t be changing, at least until he is ready for the jump ball.”

That sounded as if Ginobili were just trying to talk him into that mindset, so he’d stay sharp while Leonard remained out and wouldn’t be disappointed by a continued absence. But after knowing Ginobili got information straight from the source, that comment looks much more telling.

Kelly Olynyk nutmegs Kyle O’Quinn to set up Josh Richardson dunk (video)

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In the Heat’s rout of the Knicks last night, Kelly Olynyk scored 22 points and dished a career-high 10 assists.

This was the prettiest, a pass between Kyle O'Quinn‘s legs to Josh Richardson, who dunked.

Malik Beasley stumbles, bumbles, fumbles during turnover (video)

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Malik Beasley isn’t a point guard, but he was playing the position for the Nuggets in garbage time of their win over the Bulls last night. And Torrey Craig‘s pass was low and behind Beasley, which is why Craig was assigned the turnover.

With those caveats acknowledged, Beasley’s contortions as he tries to corral the ball are something to behold.