Wizards should play even faster with Vesely in lineup

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The Washington Wizards knew what they had — last year at Summer League Sam Cassell (coaching the team in Vegas) and Flip Saunders said the Wizards were going to run. They had John Wall, they were going to up the tempo and get in in the open court.

And they did, they moved from 21st in the league in possessions per game two seasons ago to ninth last season (2.2 more possessions per game faster, so they can do more).

They may go even faster, which is part of the reason they drafted Jan Vesely. He and JaVale McGee make an athletic front line that can finish spectacularly.

Vesely told CSNWashington.com he wants to be a part of that.

“I like Washington’s game,” Vesely said. “They are fast and we can run the floor and we can work. This is a young team and we have enough time to work hard and practice well. I came here to help the team.”

“He [Wall] is a very good point guard and very quick, and I can run the fast break with him,” Vesely said. “It will be good. I play very fast basketball, and I think it will translate well.”

A number of scouts think Vesely’s game is better suited to the NBA than Europe. He can run, finish and block shots, the rest of his game needs to grow (in particular perimeter shooting).

The Wizards need to run even more next season — they should be in the top five in the league in pace. Big men that can beat their opponent down the floor (even in the secondary break) put incredible pressure on a defense. The Wizards have guys that can do that and a point guard in John Wall who can get them the ball. One key is rebounding — Washington was the second worst defensive rebounding team in the league last year, and you can’t run without the ball. It’s part of the need to improve their defense overall — the Wizards were pretty good at creating turnovers last season (seventh best in the league) but not at getting stops.

But we do know this — the Wizards may end up being the most entertaining team in the league next year. They will be a highlight reel.

Jazz boost international bona fides with new minor-league coach

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Martin Schiller has been named coach of the Salt Lake City Stars, the Utah Jazz’s NBA G League affiliate.

Schiller previously served as an assistant coach of MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg in Germany and replaces Dean Cooper. He was an assistant coach for the Artland Dragons from 2010-15.

Schiller has also been an assistant coach on the German National Team since 2015, where he worked with Jazz assistant coach Alex Jensen.

Schiller hails from Vienna, Austria, and Stars vice president of basketball operations Bart Taylor lauded him for his international experience and player development background.

The Jazz organization is known to have close relationships with the international basketball community. The Jazz currently have eight international players.

Kyrie Irving will wear No. 11 with Celtics

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BOSTON (AP) — Newly acquired guard Kyrie Irving will wear No. 11 in Boston because the Celtics already have retired the numbers he wore in college and with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Irving wore No. 11 at two New Jersey high schools before switching to No. 1 at Duke. He wore No. 2 with the Cavaliers for the first six years of his NBA career.

The Celtics retired No. 1 for founder and original owner Walter Brown. They retired No. 2 for former coach and general manager Red Auerbach.

In all, the Celtics have retired 21 numbers, with Paul Pierce’s No. 34 next in line for the TD Garden rafters.

 

PBT Extra: Cavaliers’ new GM aces first big test with Kyrie Irving trade

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Everyone in the NBA — heck, nearly everyone living in the Western hemisphere — knew Kyrie Irving wanted out of Cleveland. That should kill the Cavaliers’ leverage and make it hard to get enough quality back.

New GM Koby Altman — the guy thrust into the job when David Griffin was shown the door — pulled it off brilliantly.

That’s what I talk about in this new PBT Extra. With Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder, the Cavaliers remain the team to beat in the East this season. The Brooklyn Nets pick gives them flexibility going forward, whatever LeBron James decides to do next season.

First time at the plate in the big leagues and Altman crushed it to straight away center field.

Cavaliers-Celtics deal first offseason trade involving players who just met in NBA Finals or conference finals

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The Cavaliers and Celtics played in last year’s Eastern Conference finals. The teams were widely expected to meet there again.

Yet, Cleveland and Boston just completed a blockbuster trade – Kyrie Irving for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Nets’ 2018 first-round pick.

That seemed odd.

In fact, it’s unprecedented.

That is an incredible fact, one which speaks to LeBron Jamescachet. The Cavs are emphasizing this season, LeBron’s last before a player option, by loading up with veterans Thomas and Crowder. With LeBron still reigning in Cleveland, the Celtics are delaying their peak by acquiring the younger Irving.

Adding to the intrigue: the Cavs and Celtics are still favored to meet in this year’s conference finals. At minimum, they’ll face off in a(n even more) highly anticipated opening-night matchup.