Stephon Marbury doubts Amar’e or Melo could hack it in China

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It’s always a nice Saturday morning when Stephon Marbury is back on our pages. It’s comforting. Like the crazy old guy at the coffee shop who wants to talk to you about how aliens stole his shoes. The New York Post gave Marbury a ring to ask him whether it would work for Carmelo Anthony or Amar’e Stoudemire to play in China. The former Knick and Vaseline-eater was highly suspicious of whether they could deal with the culture shock. Not from living in China, but from playing for a team there:

Citing the tough travel and rigorous training methods, Marbury said he doesn’t see the stars going to China, where the Coney Islander has spent the past two seasons.

“I don’t think those guys will want to go through it,” said Marbury, who is training in Los Angeles. “China is not for everybody — a whole ‘nother world. I don’t think they’re going to go there, not the big-time guys. Maybe they’d come for a little bit, but if the season is cancelled for the year, I don’t think they’d want to stay. They’ll want to go home.

“I don’t think Carmelo Anthony is going to run like they want to run in practice,” Marbury added. “They want to run you to death. The first time I got there, they ran in practice for two straight hours. I said, ‘Is that what we have to do every practice?’ “

via Marbury: China not for Melo – NYPOST.com.

Marbury overlooks a key element here. When Marbury began playing in China, his stardom was already compromised. He’d already jumped the tracks. Melo and Amar’e are both in their primes with powerful agents behind them. A desire to play in China would lead to negotiations which would prevent them from having to participate in the same kind of rigorous practice or deal with the same kind of hardships as the rest of the players. It’s not fair, but it’s business. As much as that kind of approach is built into Chinese culture, the superstars have too much leverage to be denied pretty much whatever they want.

Basketball is popular enough in China to warrant players of this caliber having that pull. Marburym may have had a rough time in China, but then, Marbury had a rough time in the NBA. Things work out differently depending on your talent and how you structure things.

Spurs’ LaMarcus Aldridge nails three from one knee during warmups (VIDEO)

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Take that Stephen Curry.

Gregg Popovich would pull him so fast he’d look like a fidget spinner if he tried this in a game, but during warmups before Game 4 Monday night LaMarcus Aldridge knocked down a deep three from one knee.

If Aldridge is taking a lot of threes that’s not a good sign for the Spurs, but we’ll see if he can have a big night and keep the Spurs alive in this series.

Stephen Curry drains shots from near half court during warmups like they’re layups

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Stephen Curry‘s pregame warmups draw people into the arena early, it’s a show in and of itself.

Before Game 4 Monday night, Curry was taking a couple shots from the center-court logo. And draining them. Like layups. Because he can.

We’ll see if he can put on that kind of show when the game tips off.

Gregg Popovich makes it official: No Kawhi Leonard for Game 4

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This was expected. It still sucks to hear.

Kawhi Leonard is out for Game 4 vs. the Warriors Monday night.

Leonard has sprained his left ankle in Game 5 against the Rockets and sat out Game 6 of that series (a San Antonio win), then returned for Game 1 against the Warriors. He re-injured his ankle twice in that game — once stepping on David Lee‘s foot, once when Zaza Pachulia slid under him on a jumper and took away his landing space. Leonard left that game with his team up 23 points, but the Warriors rallied back to win Game 1 and have controlled the series ever since. Leonard has not returned to the series.

San Antonio will play with pride on Monday night, but it may not be enough. You can bet the Warriors were reminded all day about taking their foot off the gas after what happened with Cleveland Sunday.

Report: Orlando hires Toronto GM Jeff Weltman to be president of basketball operations

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In Toronto, Masai Ujiri is the head of basketball operations and the guy with the hammer on deals. Jeff Weltman was his right-hand man and team GM.

Make that was his right-hand man, Weltman has been hired by the Orlando Magic to run its basketball operations, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Orlando Magic have hired Toronto Raptors general manager Jeff Weltman as the franchise’s president of basketball operations, league sources told The Vertical.

Weltman met with Orlando CEO Alex Martins and ownership on Monday, finalizing a five-year deal, league sources said.

Orlando officials had been intrigued with Cleveland GM David Griffin, but moved steadily toward Weltman as they became further engaged with his candidacy in recent weeks, league sources said. Weltman has been deeply involved in every aspect of the Raptors’ front office under president Masai Ujiri as Toronto became a perennial Eastern Conference contender.

Making a move now is smart in this sense: The Magic have the No. 5 pick in this draft and would want the guy making the big picture decisions about this roster on board to make this selection.

That roster already has some quality pieces — Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier, Nikola Vucevic, maybe Elfrid Payton — but has underachieved. There were questions about the culture and a lack of accountability, and that blame ultimately fell on GM Rob Hennigan and he was let go. Frank Vogel is locked in as

Frank Vogel is locked in as coach, so how well Weltman and Vogel work together — and share a vision — will be key.

Weltman is well-respected around the league. He spent five seasons as an assistant GM in Milwaukee, and has been with the Raptors since 2013 as that team has risen up the Eastern Conference standings and had its best run in franchise history. He also has worked with the Clippers and in Denver. He’s been one of those guys expected to get a chance in the big chair for a few years now.

He’s got it, and it’s an interesting challenge in Orlando.