Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley and the importance of pre-draft interviews

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When we talk about draft picks we discuss athleticism, outside shot, basketball IQ, college success, vertical leap and the other things we as fans can see and measure.

But maturity and passion for the game and the craft matter more in how a player develops. Competitiveness matters a lot. We can’t measure it, and a lot of teams seems to ignore it.

To illustrate the point comes a fascinating story from The Jerry Tarkanian Show on Tuesday night, as told  by Clippers’ Director of Player Development Dave Severns (via the Jack Fertig blog).

Remember that the Chicago Bulls had the first pick in the 2008 draft. Coach Vinny Del Negro and owner Jerry Reinsdorf had personal interviews with the guys they were considering to be the No. 1 pick, including Derrick Rose of Memphis and Michael Beasley of Kansas State. Serevens takes the story from there.

During the session with Beasley, there were a couple occasions in which (one of) his (two) cell phones went off.  Believe it or not, he answered the calls!

New head coach Vinny Del Negro advised him that he was meeting with the owner and that, at that time, there couldn’t be too many things more important than listening to what Mr. Reinsdorf had to say and answering whatever questions the people at the meeting had of him.  When Reinsdorf posed the question, “What about college basketball bothered you most?” Beasley contemplated for a moment and said, “When you go on the road and the referees make bad calls.”

When it was Rose’s turn in front of the brass, he sat up straight and was totally focused.  He had a thorough grasp of the magnitude of the encounter.  He put his ego aside.  Consider this is a guy who won back-to-back state titles in high school and went 38-2 in his only season in college, dropping the national championship game in overtime.  His answer speaks for the kind of guy Derrick Rose is and why he’s destined for (even more) greatness.  What was his response to Reinsdorf’s question, “What about college basketball bothered you most?”

“Losing.”

It’s not about the shoes: Kevin Durant loses his, blocks two shots anyway

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Shoes? Kevin Durant don’t need no stinkin’ shoes.

Early in the second quarter of the Warriors win in New Orleans Friday, Durant came out of his shoes on a layup in the lane. He then picked up his shoe, carried it to the other end, flipped it to the bench, and played defense without it, and while he got moved out of the way allowing an offensive rebound for the Pelicans he then proceeded to block Tony Allen twice at the rim.

Durant — after deciding to play the rest of the game in shoes — had seven blocks on the night, to go with 22 points.

Joel Embiid frustrated, wants more post touches, to play back-to-backs

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Joel Embiid remains a frustrated man.

He wants to be unleashed on the NBA, and he feels he’s being held back.

Part of that is not playing in back-to-backs — Embiid started Friday night against Boston but will sit out by plan Saturday night against the Raptors in Toronto. Embiid knows the plan to help protect a body that has played only 31 games in three seasons before this one and was not cleared for most of training camp, but that doesn’t mean he likes it, as he told Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia.

“I just want to feel like an NBA player,” Embiid said.  “I feel like I’m not an NBA player because I can’t play back-to-back.”

I get his frustration, but can you blame the Sixers for treating the guy like he’s made of glass at this point? Hopefully, later in the season, he can be cleared to play on both ends.

His second frustration came from the loss to the Celtics on Friday — he wants more post touches. In the video above he is clear, “I didn’t get the ball enough in the post.”

He’s right here. Embiid had three post-ups all game, one in each of the game’s first three quarters (stat via Synergy Sports). Embiid is efficient in the post — he has shot 9-of-12 on those plays overall this season and the Sixers score 1.33 points per possession when he does. That will work especially well against teams going small (for example, the Cavaliers with Kevin Love at the five), although Friday night Boston had big man Aron Baynes starting at center (in part because of Embiid, in part because Marcus Smart was out injured). Still, Embiid can score on Baynes.

Take a look at Embiid’s shot chart from Friday night.

Part of this is on him with all the threes, but they have to utilize him better. It’s part of the Sixers growing pains that will come this season.

Nets’ national anthem singer kneels to finish performance

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NEW YORK (AP)—  The national anthem singer at the Brooklyn Nets’ home opener took a knee at the end of her performance.

Justine Skye was nearing the completion of the song Friday night when she went to one knee for the finish. There were some cheers, but appeared to be more boos from the crowd at Barclays Center to see the Nets play the Orlando Magic.

NBA players have continued to stand during the playing of the anthems, as required by league rule.

Mavericks’ rookie guard Dennis Smith Jr. misses game with knee swelling

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DALLAS (AP) — Dallas Mavericks rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. missed Friday’s game against the Sacramento Kings with swelling in his left knee.

Smith, the ninth pick in the NBA draft out of North Carolina State, had 16 points and 10 assists in the Mavericks’ season-opening loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

Smith participated in the Mavericks’ shootaround on Friday morning and was a late scratch. It is not known if Smith will play Saturday for Dallas.

The Mavericks were also missing guard Devin Harris, who was granted leave of absence after his brother died on Thursday.