Game of the Night: John Wall vs. Evan Turner turns out to be about Andray Blatche

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We tuned in to see John Wall matched up on Evan Turner — and we got a little of that late in the game.

But it ended up being about a lot more. It ended up being about Andray Blatche finding the guy from the end of last season. It ended up being about whether or not to foul when up three late. It ended up being one of the more entertaining games of the young season — Wizards won 116-115 in overtime.

It even started out entertaining, with Wall doing the dougie out to the other starters before the game. Washington is all about Wall.

Then for the first six minutes of the rookie’s home opener, Jrue Holiday took Wall to school. On one of the first possessions, Holiday just stepped behind a screen and knocked down a two. Two possessions later he was coming off the baseline out to the wing, felt Wall overplaying and denying the pass so Holiday went backdoor and just lost him and got a dunk. On a Wizards possession a couple plays later Wall gets the handoff coming off a wing screen and tries to drive but Holiday catches him and ties him up. At least Wall won the tip. A little bit later, Holiday with a long two over Wall.

Wall is going to be very good, but nerves and another good point guard gave him a wake up call.

Then Wall settled down Lou Williams came in for Holiday. Wall was too quick, too strong for Williams and he started getting in deep, getting good looks or getting fouled. Wall ended up with 29 points and 13 rebounds. Meanwhile Wall just seemed to go off: Half of Wall’s 16 shots came at the rim (dunks and layups) and he was 7-8 at the rim, 2-8 on jump shots (both deep twos). Wall also was fouled a lot and got to the line 14 times. He was aggressive at both ends, getting nine steals.

Evan Turner, the No. 2 pick of the Sixers, doesn’t bring the dynamic play of Wall, but you can see him starting to find his way through and around the NBA game and the Sixers play.

Well, you didn’t see that in the first half. He really just floated through the half, playing but not really impacting the game at all. But in the second half he started to find his spots, he got to play a little point guard late, he seemed able to assert himself more that way. He got all his points in the midrange — he cannot explode to the rim like Wall.

While Wall was a star, tonight saw the return of the Andray Blatche from the end of last season that carried the Wizards — because he stopped settling and started just attacking the rim. Something he said he would do before the game — 7 of his 17 shots came at the rim. More than that he drew contact and got to the line for 14 free throws.

Nowhere was that aggression more evident than the game-winning basket in overtime, where Blatche set a down screen for Al Thornton, then popped to 12 feet, got the pass, jab stepped then went by Elton Brand like he was a statue to get to the rim. Brand had to foul, Blatche drained the free throws. Blatche has so many skills — he’s not always efficient with them but he has the skills — and when he just goes at it and attacks those skills are hard to stop.

The one other interesting thing was something Sebastian Pruiti wrote about at NBA Playbook — the Sixers fouling at the end of regulation up three. Pruiti and I disagree about whether or not to foul in that situation. I think you do it at the six second mark or less. But I agree with Pruiti on this — the first last foul, on Wall was too early and in a bad spot. They fouled Wall while he was dribbling early and not in a dangerous spot on the floor. The second time — Cartier Martin’s tying shot, they did not foul when a quick foul was what they needed.

The Sixers did not execute the late fouling strategy well, extended the game and gave the opposing team a chance. And lost.

Gordon Hayward: My relationship with Brad Stevens ‘completely overstated and overhyped’

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Gordon Hayward is still trying to seize control of the narrative surrounding his free agency.

The Celtics – coached by Brad Stevens, Hayward’s coach at Butler – expressed interest in Hayward in 2014. Then, with Stevens still in Boston, they completed their highly anticipated pursuit of Hayward by signing him this year.

Just don’t pin that all on Stevens.

Hayward on The Woj Pod:

The relationship between Brad and I has been completely overstated and overhyped from everybody.

And you mentioned it. There was always rumors about going to Boston, and those, to me, were always just rumors. I didn’t really ever think about it, because I wasn’t a free agent, wasn’t really concerned with the Boston thing. But everybody else was saying, “Oh, he’s going to go to Boston because of Brad.” And we had a great relationship, but it wasn’t like we were constantly texting each other or calling each other. He’s the head coach of the Boston Celtics. He’s got things to worry about.

I played for Brad for two years. And so it wasn’t like everybody kind of made it seem, like we were besties or something.

That was something I kind of was – “what’s this going to be like? It’s been seven years since he coached me.” And immediately though, he called me July 1. And after that phone call, I thought like, “Oh, no. This isn’t going be any different.” It was one of those things where he made me feel like, even if I don’t go to Boston, it’ll be fine, and we’ll still have that great relationship, and he’ll still be in my corner, and he’ll still be rooting for me and supporting me.

Hayward was in control, and he chose Boston. Stevens didn’t do it for him. Hayward did it – and he did it the evening of July 4, not before.

Got it?

That darned fake news, always talking up the Hayward-Stevens relationship. Take this article in The Players Tribune, in which the author contends Hayward viewed Stevens as “the person I knew I could count on the most.”

Look, NBA players generally like the trappings of being recruited. They generally dislike the perception that they were recruited and weren’t in complete control. That’s why Kevin Durant keeps denying Draymond Green‘s stories of recruiting the superstar to the Warriors.

Elements of Hayward’s relationship with Stevens were probably perceived incorrectly by some. I doubt the Celtics’ coach was in frequent contact with a Jazz player. But the underlying idea – that Stevens made Boston more likely to pursue and get Hayward – was also probably correct.

Report: Cavaliers prioritizing youth in Kyrie Irving trade

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In the wake of Kyrie Irving‘s trade request, the Cavaliers have three fundamental options:

  • Trade Irving for immediate help to continue a championship chase around LeBron James
  • Trade Irving for younger players and/or draft picks to kick start a rebuild in case LeBron leaves next summer
  • Don’t trade Irving

It seems Cleveland is taking the second route.

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

The Cavaliers are projecting confidence they can snare a king’s ransom for Kyrie Irving, and more than that, they are acting — for now — as if a trade is almost inevitable, and that there is little chance of salvaging their relationship with him, according to several sources familiar with the situation.

Cleveland is seeking a bundle of assets, but the highest priority right now is snagging a blue-chip young player, according to sources across the league. That is not necessarily a signal they think James is leaving. They would like to get everything: one or two veterans who can help LeBron dethrone Golden State, that blue-chipper, and picks. They want to prepare for a worst-case scenario of LeBron leaving without shoving him out the door by acquiring players he deems unready. Even so, the blue-chipper appears to be their guidepost, sources say.

Barring a misevaluation by another team, Cleveland can’t trade Irving for better players now and significant long-term assets. The Cavaliers could try to straddle both paths, but the more they prioritize the future, the less they’ll get for the present (and vice versa).

I’m a little surprised the Cavs aren’t posturing about not trading Irving to drive up his value – especially after the leak – and I’m surprised they’re not pushing in for next year. A championship lasts forever, and they’re still contending.

But it seems they’ve chosen their course. The big danger: It reduces their ability to win this year and pushes LeBron further out the door.

Reading that description of Cleveland’s target, does anyone fit better than Andrew Wiggins – whom, in a strange twist, the Cavaliers drafted then traded for Kevin Love? The 22-year-old is seen by many as a rising star, and his value is in Irving’s general range. Plus, not only did Irving list the Timberwolves among his preferred teams, Jimmy Butler (a friend) and Karl-Anthony Towns are urging Minnesota management to deal for Irving.

The Wiggins we’ve seen so far – an underwhelming defender and 3-point shooter – would fit poorly with LeBron. Wiggins is young enough to develop and adjust, but LeBron’s free agency is only a year away. It’s a dangerous time to take a step back.

But if the Cavs are going to trade Irving for a young player, that’s almost certainly what they must do.

Damian Lillard talks about his “no pressure” pitch to Carmelo Anthony, selling Portland

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Self-made, over-achieving players in the NBA tend not to be the recruiters. They worked hard and made it to where they are more on their own, and their world-view follows that path. Think Derrick Rose in Chicago.

Damian Lillard was one of those guys, but he has done a little recruiting of late — he reached out to Carmelo Anthony last week. Lillard told Chris Mannix of NBC Radio (who is filling in for Dan Patrick for the day on his national radio show) that it wasn’t really the John Calipari hard-sell.

“It wasn’t really a pitch, I just reached out to him and let him know the interest just wasn’t from our front office, if there was a possibility there was definitely interest from the players as well, and I didn’t want that to be confused,” Lillard said on the radio show. “I didn’t put no pressure on him or ask him a bunch of questions, I just said what it was from our end.”

That is nice, but Anthony reportedly has focused in on Houston, and might settle for Cleveland (if there was a deal to be had). Would ‘Melo waive his no-trade clause to head to Portland?

“I didn’t get a sense that he wouldn’t,” Lillard said in a tepid response. “What we have here is a good situation for him and that’s just kind of where it went. I let him know what I thought he could do for our team and what our team could do with his presence. And that was it. We didn’t go over no details or talk about a no trade clause or nothing like that. He’s gonna make his own decision to do that or not, I just want to make sure we had some kind of a conversation.”

It’s a start. It’s likely not enough. Anthony wants to go somewhere and chase a ring, and despite what C.J. McCollum thinks, Portland with ‘Melo isn’t a contender. Even with Anthony, I would have them sixth in the West, maybe fifth at best (Warriors, Rockets, Spurs, Thunder, and probably Minnesota are better still). And this is assuming Portland can find a team to take on Myers Leonard’s contract to make a deal work.

What Lillard wanted to get across was that Portland is a great place to be an NBA player.

“I think people talk about what it would be like in Portland or to play in Portland, but actually having lived here, I live here year-round, so I know it’s a great place to live,” Lillard said. “Some of the best food in the United States. You talk about loving the game of basketball, our team and the soccer team are all the city has, so we get a lot of support and our fans really back our team and are really passionate about our team. That type of environment, and that type of love and support around the city, what NBA player wouldn’t want to be a part of that?”

Jimmer Fredette re-signing in China

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Jimmer Fredette played well in China last year, and buzz even emerged about him re-joining the NBA after the Chinese season ended in March. Never happened.

Even in the offseason, when every NBA team had open roster spots, nobody stateside has signed Fredette.

So, he’s returning to the Shanghai Sharks.

Fredette:

Fredette retains a cult following in America, but not the talent of an NBA player. He can score plenty in a lesser league, but his game doesn’t fit with better players on the floor.

Perhaps, he could’ve gotten a training-camp invite, maybe even with a small guarantee. But would’ve faced an uphill battle sticking into the regular season. Better for him to lock into a bigger salary in China now.