NBA Draft Combine news and notes

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The NBA Draft Combine in Chicago is a big deal, and it isn’t.

For a guy like Kyrie Irving, him basically skipping the event other than to get measured doesn’t matter. He did have 10.2 percent body fat, pretty high for a guard, and that doesn’t matter. He will go No. 1 to Cleveland anyway. Most of the top prospects skipped out on the drills, something that will not impact their draft status if they look good in individual workouts going forward.

But for other guys father down the list, this can move them up in the draft, drop them or get them noticed at all.

After two days of reading Draft Express, watching the ESPN coverage and looking at everything else here are some notes of guys who got noticed at the combine. Follow this link to the full list of measurements from the combine.

• Enes Kanter, center, Turkey: You remember his as the guy who went to Kentucky but couldn’t play because he’d played for a professional team in Turkey at 16. Because he basically hasn’t played anywhere outside of the NIKE Hoop Summit in the last two years, scouts and GMs were watching closely. What they saw was pretty impressive athleticism, good touch, not much on the defensive end. What he did was probably work as hard or harder than any other center out there. That matters.

But there are also a report from Andy Katz of ESPN that Kanter stood up the Utah Jazz, Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee bucks for interviews. The Jazz are the team with the No. 3 pick. Interesting, and there are rumors he doesn’t want to play for them. Remember that Utah tried to chase Chris Paul around for an interview back in the day, and the fact they got sick of it was part of the reason they took Deron Williams ahead of him.

• Jeremy Tyler, center, he’s been everywhere: You may remember this story, Tyler was one of the leading prep prospects as a junior in San Diego and he skipped his senior year of high school and all of college to play overseas. Where he was almost invisible in Israel and Japan, not impressing in not very good leagues. He’s got size — 6’10” with a 7’5” wingspan — and he just looks like an NBA player. There is some real buzz about him as he showed of a respectable midrange game and worked hard at the combine. That said his skill set seems to need a lot of work and after he floundered in mediocre leagues there should be questions. Might be a good second round pick as a project, he could develop into a rotation player (but expect a year in the D-League for him).

Nikola Vucevic, center, USC: He was the tallest player at the combine, 6’11” and 3/4, plus he showed surprising skill around the basket. Big, NBA ready body. Most people think he was a second rounder going in, but big men tend to move up as the draft gets closer, don’t be shocked to see him late in the first round.

• Marshon Brooks, guard, Providence: 6’5” with a massive 7’1” wingspan, he showed some real athleticism with some big dunks and blocks. But he also seemed to have a real feel for the game and be quite smooth. That should move him up. Then again, according to Jonathan Givony at DraftExpress Brooks referred to himself in the third person during interviews, turning some teams off.

• Kenneth Faried, forward, Morehead State: This guy had the Ronny Turiaf camp — he doesn’t have a lot of skill but he does know who he is on the court and wants to out work everyone. Turiaf was a guy diving two rows into the stands for the ball at Summer League, Faried could be that kind of guy. GMs love those kind of guys. Lots of good buzz, expect him to stay in the first round.

• Jordan Williams, forward/center, Maryland: He measured just 6’9” in shoes so thinking of him as a center isn’t going to work. But, he dropped about 15 pounds since the end of the season, showing he is taking the whole thing very seriously. He’s a second rounder but it’s things like the body transformation that keep him from dropping down and out.

• Klay Thompson, guard, Washington State: The son of former No. 1 overall Mychal Thompson came into the combine thought of as one of the better shooters in the draft and he didn’t disappoint. He knocked everything down. In a draft where teams drafting from 10 to 25 are looking for guys who can help a little, being a guy who can shoot gets you noticed. Think mid first round.

Report: Tampering investigation stems from Magic Johnson’s TV interview

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In April, new Lakers president Magic Johnson went on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and discussed then-Pacers forward Paul George:

We’re going to say hi, because we know each other. You just can’t say, “Hey, I want you to come to the Lakers,” even though I’m going to be wink-winking like [blinks repeatedly]. You know what that means, right?

Now, the Lakers – at Indiana’s request – are being investigated for tampering.

Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times:

The investigation, which has been going on since May, stemmed from comments Magic Johnson made on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” that angered Pacers owner Herb Simon, according to several NBA officials who were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

This doesn’t mean the Pacers believe Johnson tampered with his televised comments. It seems as if that was the last straw following numerous rumors about George going to Los Angeles.

However, there’s a case Johnson’s televised remarks alone would constitute tampering. The Collective Bargaining Agreement prohibits “assurances of intent, or understandings of any kind (whether disclosed or undisclosed to the NBA), between a player (or any person or entity controlled by, related to, or acting with authority on behalf of, such player) and any Team (or Team Affiliate)” – and even attempts to solicit assurance of intent or understanding – when the player is still under contract with another team. Johnson sure appeared to do that.

But it’d be shocking if Johnson or the Lakers were punished for the interview alone. Indiana probably needs more evidence.

Then again, the arbitrary way the NBA enforces tampering, who knows?

Report: Nerlens Noel hires Rich Paul as agent, looking for big deal from Mavericks

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It’s been a rough year for restricted free agents (and plenty of unrestricted ones). After NBA teams spent like drunken sailors on shore leave last summer, this time around — with the cap not rising as much as had been expected — the market got tight quickly, and few questionable contracts were handed out. A year ago the Brooklyn Nets were making the Miami Heat pay big to retain Tyler Johnson and the Trail Blazers pay big to keep Allen Crabbe. This year teams were not biting the same way on restricted free agents.

Which left guys like Nerlens Noel, who expected to be maxed out by the Mavericks (or someone), still looking for a deal. Noel was frustrated enough to switch agents, picking up Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, according to Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders.

Paul is LeBron James‘ agent, and in recent years has done well getting Tristan Thompson and Eric Bledsoe good contracts as extensions to their rookie deals. In both cases, he showed a fearlessness in holding out longer and being willing to push the envelope. That had to appeal to Noel.

But it doesn’t change the underlying dynamics at play — and not just with Noel. Paul also represents restricted free agents this summer Shabazz Muhammad — who has yet to sign a deal — and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who had to take a one-year deal with the Lakers for $18 million (well below his max). Throw in Noel’s injury history, and teams were not eager to jump in with a big offer for the athletic big man.

At this point, no team has the money to offer Noel a max contract right now — the Bulls have the most available money at $17.3 million, the Sixers and Suns have about $15 million and $14 million. Noel’s max is $24.7 million a year. Dallas is playing hardball because they can — without another offer on the table, Noel’s only real threat is to sign the qualifying offer (about $6 million) and play the season for that, then become an unrestricted free agent next summer. That’s possible, but a guy with Noe’s history of injuries may want to be careful betting on himself like that.

With Paul in the negotiations, expect them to drag out. That’s about the only sure thing.

Remembering Notre Dame, Laker legend Tommy “the hawk” Hawkins

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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.

Celtics’ Brad Stevens said early September tests will show if Thomas ready for camp

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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.