A reminder of what can happen if basketball doesn’t work out

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From Eyewitness News 7 in New Jersey:

SPARTA, N.J. (WABC) — In New Jersey, four burglary suspects, including a former NBA player, are under arrest after a high-speed chase.

A Sparta police officer stopped the vehicle carrying the suspects for speeding but when he approached the SUV, the suspects took off.

via 4 arrested in NJ after high-speed chase | 7online.com.

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I met Sean Banks at my first NBA Summer League. I was there covering the event for FanHouse (RIP), trying to bring original content in smaller blog posts on things you don’t get from the general coverage (RIP). As part of that gig, I was also covering the D-League for a site I started for SB Nation, Ridiculous Upside (now run by the brilliant and enterprising Scott Schroeder). I had this idea to talk to two fringe D-League guys, one who was one of the better guys in the league, who had great prospects for his career, and the other who was a longshot. I asked around, and the long shot wound up being a guy with incredible talent.

Sean Banks.

Banks was the Conference USA Freshman of the Year in 2004, a 6-8 forward with crazy athleticism, he was naturally gifted at basketball. You don’t score 17.4 points per game for the Memphis Tigers and snatch 6.5 boards as a freshman if you’re not. I keep wondering what he must have thought of his life then, how great everything must have seemed, how certain he must have been that everything was going to work out.

It didn’t.

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After a high-speed chase, the runaway SUV flipped over and crashed trapping the four occupants inside.

via 4 arrested in NJ after high-speed chase | 7online.com.

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I wrote a three-part series (part 1, part 2, part 3) on Banks, and tried to be honest in both of the sides. On the one hand, he had a history of monumentally stupid and illegal behavior, from drunk driving to a gang-oriented marking of a girl with a cigarette.  Meeting him, it was like pretty much every story you hear about these kinds of things. He seemed like a sweet kid. He wasn’t all there, and there was definitely an edge that he was protecting, but he also seemed desperate to try and turn his life around. He talked about his son, about how he had to change when he became a father. He was in great shape. A solid Summer League performance and you could see a team taking a flyer on him again, even after getting cut from the Hornets after a gambling-related suspension. He needed guidance. The talent was there.

He just needed someone to get through to him, to finally knock some sense into him and convince him to commit to all the things he said he wanted to do.

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Police say they recovered more than $20 thousand worth of valuables, from two burglaries, inside the suspect’s SUV.

via 4 arrested in NJ after high-speed chase | 7online.com.

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Banks didn’t play well in that Summer League, as you can probably guess. He had two plays which were absolutely tremendous, and I saw scouts raise their eyebrows. But looking back, I wonder if there was anything that could have convinced a team to take a chance on him. He’d shown too great of a void in judgment. His coaches in the D-League, which is the one place that should show you “This is it, there is nowhere lower for you to drop in terms of being paid to play basketball; if you don’t make it here, it’s over” talked about him being a headcase, about how frustrating it was to try and get through to him.

And still, Sean was trying to stay positive. He was really excited about the possibility of playing for Britain’s national team. He was really certain that he would get things right because of his son. He was sure that if he just kept his head down and kept working, things would work out for him. He was nervous, he was scared, but he had so much hope, still, even if he was the same knucklehead he’d always been. He didn’t want things to go badly for him, didn’t want to make a bad decision.

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Police have identified one of them as Sean Banks, a former NBA player who was cut from his team after being suspended for gambling.

via 4 arrested in NJ after high-speed chase | 7online.com

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This isn’t to try and say that Banks was a good kid who had things go bad for him. He made these decisions. He chose to live his life this way. He wound up back in the D-League last season, averaged 10 points and 2 rebounds in 20 minutes per night. Now he’s in all likelihood going to jail for a long time. Maybe he was always going to end up like this, no matter what. I spoke to him for a combined three hours over three days. I don’t have any huge knowledge of who Sean Banks is.

I want to say that this is why the D-League matters, why it needs more resources. Banks could play, at one level or another. Maybe he couldn’t do anything else in life, but he could play. With more resources I want to believe maybe someone could have convinced him to keep at it, to not turn to crime, again, as a way of life. (Banks is also a suspect in three other burglaries.) And maybe it would have failed, maybe he’d still be in a New Jersey jail cell, but it would have been worth a shot, to try and have a kid’s athletic potential turn into something more than this.

And then I think about how many coaches must have tried to get through to him, how his agent must have tried to, how even if no one really sat down and put forth the effort to help someone who didn’t want to help themselves, there were people that offered a hand. We make our decisions, and we live with them.

It’s just still sad that so often we make the wrong ones. I have enough sense not to excuse Banks or to believe he’s misunderstood, but I also have enough compassion to regret that things came to this, that his life came to this.

“I’m only 23, you know?  I’ve got so much ahead of me, so much to look forward to, in basketball and out of it.  I know I’ve still got so much potential.  I just have to work for it.” – Sean Banks, 2008

via No Entry: Summer League with Sean Banks, Part III – Ridiculous Upside.

Kevin Durant on Giannis Antetokounmpo: “I would tell him to play for himself”

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Kevin Durant was once the big star in a little city. The former Oklahoma City Thunder star now plays for the Golden State Warriors, and has a championship ring to his name after making a switch in 2016.

So Durant has at least some experience similar to that of Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Greek Freak is currently leading the charge for the Bucks against the Boston Celtics in the first round, and he’s seen as the future in Milwaukee. Antetokounmpo signed a 4-year, $100 million contract in the summer of 2016, so presumably he’ll be in Wisconsin for some time.

Meanwhile, Durant had some advice for Antetokounmpo, should he ask for it. In a feature on ESPN, Durant was quoted as saying he felt Antetokounmpo should be sure to have fun, and to play for himself.

Via ESPN:

What I would say to him, I would tell him to play for himself,” Durant said. “Because he’s the one out there putting in the work, he’s the one out there getting up in the morning staying committed to the game. Obviously [the comments about staying put] sounds good to the fans in Milwaukee and to the ownership, because he cares so much about wanting to please them and play well for them, and I get it. But his career is about him; it’s about whatever he wants to do and however he feels is right for him. And what type of basketball does he want to play? He’s not going to stay in Milwaukee if he’s not having fun playing the game.

That’s some pretty good advice, although factors surrounding Antetokounmpo will likely weigh the same as they did on Durant in OKC. The Bucks presumably need a new coach once their season ends. They’re currently helmed by interim coach Joe Prunty, who took over when Jason Kidd was fired earlier this year.

The Bucks also need to fill out their roster and find a way to stay healthy. The Thunder famously had roster issues (read: the James Harden trade) and eventually the lack of playoff success drove Durant to switch teams.

Milwaukee doesn’t seem close to that kind of juncture, although eventually things will flip for the young Bucks and fans and management will expect some kind of production in the postseason.

Giannis Antetokounmpo beats Celtics with late-game tip-in, series goes 2-2 (VIDEO)

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It was an exciting finish in Milwaukee on Sunday, where the Bucks took home a win on their home court to level the series against the Boston Celtics, 2-2.

The game came down to the wire, with 2016-17 NBA Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon giving the Bucks the lead after a corner 3-pointer with just 33.5 seconds left. The Celtics responded with a sideline out of bounds play that resulted in Al Horford tying the game with free throws.

On their final possession, the Bucks again went to Brogdon, who missed on a layup driving to the left side of the floor. Luckily, Giannis Antetokounmpo was there to follow with the tip-in with just five seconds left.

Via ESPN:

Boston was unable to convert on a final play, and Milwaukee grabbed the win, 104-102.

Game 5 will be in Boston on Tuesday.

Report: Ime Udoka, Ettore Messina, David Fizdale to interview for Hornets job

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The Charlotte Hornets have a new GM in Mitch Kupchak. Upon taking the helm, Kupchak made short work of firing head coach Steve Clifford.

Now, the Hornets need a new coach and they have quite a few names to choose from.

According to a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Hornets will be interviewing current San Antonio Spurs assistants Ime Udoka and Ettore Messina along with former Memphis Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale.

Via Twitter:

All three have extensive coaching experience under their belts. Udoka played in the NBA for seven seasons and has been an assistant coach in San Antonio since 2012.

Messina is a four-time Euroleague champion as a coach, and a two-time winner of the Euroleague Coach of the Year award. He’s coached abroad and in the U.S. since 1989, and he’s been with the Spurs since 2014.

Fizdale coached the Grizzlies for two seasons. Before that he was a longtime assistant coach with the Miami Heat under Erik Spoelstra.

Hornets star Kemba Walker said that who the team chose as GM would influence his decision to re-sign after 2018-19. Walker loved Clifford, so who Charlotte picks as coach could carry significant weight with Walker as well.

LeBron James, Cavaliers hope to even series with Pacers

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — LeBron James has been in this playoff position before, just not in the first round.

With Cleveland down 2-1 to the Indiana Pacers in the first round, James was asked if Game 4 in Indianapolis Sunday was a must win.

“It’s the postseason,” said James, who is 10-0 in his career in first-round playoff series with Cleveland and Miami. “Every game is a must win. You want to come in and play well and win no matter what. No matter if you have home-court advantage or if you’re starting on the road, that’s the mindset you have to have. I felt like (Friday) was a must win. We didn’t win, obviously, but it’s the same mindset on Sunday.”

James, who scored 28 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and delivered eight assists in a 92-90 road loss Friday night, rejected what he felt were reporters’ attempts to ask if the other players needed to do more.

“You guys think I’m going to throw my teammates under the bus? I’m not about that,” James said. “Guys just, we have to be better, including myself. Had six turnovers (Friday). I was horrible in the third quarter, couldn’t make a shot. If I had made some better plays in the third quarter, the lead doesn’t skip.”

The Pacers cut a 17-point halftime deficit to six points in the third quarter and finally took their first lead in the fourth quarter.

“We know we all gotta play better as a collective group, no matter who it is,” James said. “We got production to start the game and in the second half there wasn’t much production. We still had a chance to win. We’ve got to regroup and figure how we can be better in Game 4.”

Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said the Cavaliers were limited because George Hill‘s back “locked up” in the second half. Hill played only nine minutes in the second half, scoring two of his 13 points. Lue used James and Jordan Clarkson rather than backup point guard Jose Calderon in the fourth quarter. If Hill can’t go Sunday, Lue said he will likely start Calderon.

Hill had an MRI on Saturday, but the results weren’t back. He is listed as questionable for Game 4 with back spasms. Hill was hurt during Game 1 when Trevor Booker set a back screen and felt stiffness before Game 2, but played 20 minutes.

For the Pacers, Bojan Bogdanovic was the difference maker, scoring 15 of his team-high 30 points in the fourth quarter. Bogdanovic struggled shooting the first two games of the series.

Bogdanovic, who made 7 of 9 3-pointers, kept his focus after two quick fouls in the first quarter and had to leave briefly in the fourth when he picked up his fifth foul. The seven 3-pointers tied a franchise playoff record, also held by Reggie Miller twice, Chuck Person and Paul George.

“I thought it was going to be another poor performance from myself, but in the second half I started hitting shots and started feeling (much) better and I think a did a great job (Friday night),” the Croatian forward said.

Bogdanovic said he was most pleased with his defense against James.

“Everybody thought before this season that I cannot play defense,” he said. “I don’t say that I am playing great defense, but I am working hard at trying to make it tough for each offensive player that I am guarding.”

Bogdanovic said he tries to push James so he catches the ball far from the basket.

“Against those type of players you just try to stay aggressive on them,” Bogdanovic said.

Pacers coach Nate McMillan was impressed with his ability to produce both ways.

“You’re taking a pounding if you’re on the defensive end of the floor if you’re guarding LeBron,” McMillan said. “But offensively he found some energy. He got some good looks and he knocked them down.”

The Pacers came back to win eight times during the regular season after being down 15 or more points.

“We’ve been resilient,” guard Victor Oladipo said. “We made an adjustment in the second half and it helped us. But it’s only one game; I’m looking forward to Sunday.”