Rio Grande Valley Vipers v Los Angeles D-Fenders

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.

Carmelo Anthony gathers athletes, cops, kids in conversation

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 22:  Carmelo Anthony #15 of the United States stands on the court as the American national anthem is performed before a USA Basketball showcase exhibition game against Argentina at T-Mobile Arena on July 22, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The United States won 111-74.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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LOS ANGELES (AP) Carmelo Anthony spent the U.S. Olympic basketball team’s precious day off running a two-hour town hall meeting at a South Los Angeles youth center because he can’t sleep anymore.

With only a few spare hours Monday before jetting off to continue the Americans’ pre-Olympic tour, Anthony gathered basketball stars, community leaders and police officers to speak with teenagers and young adults about the importance of respect, communication and safety. Roughly 200 people came together for the meeting, and Anthony believes everyone left with something to contemplate.

“We really got a lot of messages out of today,” Anthony said. “Hopefully we can continue this dialogue, and we created something today that will continue on.”

Anthony shares many Americans’ profound disquiet with gun violence after this year’s series of increasingly dismaying shootings. With both the men’s and women’s Olympic teams in Los Angeles at the same time, the New York Knicks star recruited fellow Olympian Tamika Catchings and other like-minded athletes at the Challengers Boys and Girls Club to begin a badly needed nationwide conversation.

“There were some very, very powerful messages that were being talked about,” Anthony said. “Not just amongst us as athletes, but among the youth. The youth really spoke out today about how they feel about their community, how they feel about police officers, how they feel about relationships and how we can mend these relationships.”

Anthony’s awakening interest in social activism was piqued after he spent a day watching news coverage of the latest shootings earlier this month. He awoke in the middle of the night and wrote a 280-word Instagram post declaring that the “system is broken” and calling on sports figures to lead change.

“The first thing that came to my mind was, I have to get my athletes, my fellow athletes, to step up and use their voice and use their platform in the best way they can,” Anthony said.

Two weeks ago, he took the stage at the ESPY Awards with Chris Paul, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. The four superstars decried violence and called for open conversation on racial issues.

Anthony backed up the group’s words before Team USA left Los Angeles following an exhibition game on Sunday night. He plans to keep finding ways to facilitate communication after this gathering led to frank discussions.

Catchings recalled young adults telling police officers about the fear they feel when approached by officers with their hands on their guns. One young woman told officers: “Just smile! A smile goes a long way.”

“Definitely tension, and definitely some tears,” said Catchings, the three-time Olympic gold medalist and former WNBA MVP. “One young lady said that when she got off the bus and saw the (police) uniform, right off the bat, she was scared.

“But coming into this environment and hearing everything, she (said), `I doubted if I really wanted to be a part of it, but I’m so glad I came, because now I feel like I’m walking away with so much more than I thought I was going to get.’ When you have conversations like that and you get feedback like that, we know we’re going in the right direction.”

The community leaders invited by Anthony echoed his confidence in the importance of communication, particularly between police and young black men. Deputy Chief Bill Scott of the LAPD brought a large group of officers to join the meeting.

“Many of the kids in our group said, `We’re thrilled to be here,”‘ said Calvin Lyons, the CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Los Angeles. “`We have a higher level of respect for the officers because of what they’re sharing.’ There was no fear.”

Anthony hopes to be a three-time Olympic gold medalist at this time next month, possibly capping a remarkable international career with another title in Rio before he heads back to the Knicks. He knows his work in American communities will go on much longer than even his NBA career, but he welcomes the challenge.

“We know that nothing is going to happen overnight,” Anthony said. “But what we wanted to do was create something that we could start right now, and continue on when we leave here today.”

Timberwolves new CEO knows exactly what he’s getting into

This 2016 image provided by the San Francisco 49ers shows Ethan Casson posed at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. In 1998, Casson called sports teams all over the country asking to get a foot in the door. The Minnesota Timberwolves answered, giving him an entry-level position. Almost 20 years later, Casson returns to the franchise as the team's new CEO hoping to help a team that has struggled on the business side almost as much as it has on the court. (Terrell Lloyd/The San Francisco 49ers via AP)
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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) In the winter of 1998, Ethan Casson started calling professional franchise after professional franchise, begging them to get his foot in the door in any capacity.

One night, a human resources employee for the Minnesota Timberwolves picked up the phone and Casson talked his way into a meeting. He flew from the East Coast, met with several Timberwolves executives and, during the third quarter of a game against the Golden State Warriors, was offered an entry-level position on the business side of the operation at $24,000 per year.

“To think that what started as a cold call of me begging an HR person to let me come in and prove my worth 18 years later turned into me coming back as a CEO is amazing and certainly very special to me,” Casson told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

Casson had to sell his car and some other possessions to raise the money to pay for his move from Boston to the Twin Cities, but the leap of faith has paid off. Six years after he left the Timberwolves to climb the ladder with the San Francisco 49ers, he is returning as CEO to breathe new life into one of the NBA’s struggling operations.

Timberwolves President Chris Wright remembered the impression Casson left in those first face-to-face meetings.

“I told him we’re going to find a place for you in this franchise because you are exactly the type of person that we want build this franchise around,” Wright said.

Casson’s first stint with the Timberwolves lasted 11 years. He worked his way up to senior vice president of corporate partnerships and met his future wife here before leaving for the 49ers in 2010.

When he arrived in the Bay Area, the once-proud 49ers were in the midst of an eight-year playoff drought. Their revenue had dropped to near the bottom of the league and they were playing in an outdated stadium that couldn’t compete with the shiny new ones popping up around the league. He leaves after helping to secure a 20-year, $220 million naming rights deal with Levi’s for the new stadium and rebuilding the franchise’s business operations.

The Timberwolves have not made the playoffs since 2004, the longest active drought in the league. That futility has contributed significantly to plummeting revenue and a dwindling season ticket base.

“I’m not saying it’s apples to apples, but I certainly feel I’ve been on a six-year journey that involved a lot of similar themes,” Casson said. “And I’ll apply all of those lessons to this next phase of my career.”

Casson replaces Rob Moor, the longtime CEO who stepped aside to work more closely with Wolves owner Glen Taylor’s other business interests. At 42 years old, Casson is part of a youth movement coming into the organization. Taylor also brought in 41-year-old New York real estate mogul Meyer Orbach and 35-year-old Chinese entrepreneur John Jiang as minority owners, and he hopes the three of them help bring a new perspective and energy to the business side that mirrors the vibe youngsters Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine are bringing to the team.

“I was very aware and respectful that taking on this role wasn’t about coming in and fixing things that were broken,” Casson said. “I don’t look at opportunities like this as somethings not working. I look at it as an opportunity to reset and plot out a different course or a different version of a course that moves the business forward.”

The challenges are real. The Timberwolves’ competitive dormancy buried them in a crowded sports marketplace. Tickets have been hard to sell and the NFL’s Vikings, the NHL’s Wild and MLB’s Twins are competing for the corporate dollars.

“I’ve been here for a long time,” said Wright, who is entering his 25th season with the Wolves. “I’ve tried to do it what I consider the best way for the franchise given all of the different sort of environments we’ve found ourselves in over the last 12 years as we’ve not been making the playoffs. And I think Ethan is going to just bring a completely fresh, new look to all of that and lead us in the direction we need to be as a club in the 21st century.”

The Wolves have one of the most promising young cores in the league, a brand new practice facility in downtown Minneapolis and have begun renovations on the dusty Target Center.

“There’s a lot of momentum in and around the organization that made it very exciting for me as a fan and now as someone who is coming back as CEO,” he said. “That will come and go. The renovation will eventually be complete. The team will stabilize and be competitive. You still have to make sure the business model is sustainable and drivable. That’s what we’re going to be.”

Joel Embiid arm wrestled Justin Bieber in a club? Yup. There is video.

THERMAL, CA - APRIL 16:  Professional basketball player Joel Embiid attends the Levi's Brand and RE/DONE Levi's presents NEON CARNIVAL with Tequila Don Julio on April 16, 2016 in Thermal, California.  (Photo by Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images for Tequila Don Julio)
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Joel Embiid is officially 7’0″ tall and 250 pounds, although when you see him in person now that number seems low, he looks thicker and stronger.

Justin Bieber is a 5’9″ waiflike person.

So of course, they arm wrestled at the club Hyde in Los Angeles. It went about as you’d expect. Here is some video, hat tip to Dan Devine at Ball Don’t Lie (arguably the best arm wrestler in the NBA media).

If you’re about to make an “at least Embiid didn’t get hurt” joke, be more creative.

Hopefully, we get to see what Embiid can do on the court this fall, where the competition will be a lot tougher than any Canadian pop star.

Larry Sanders asks in Twitter poll what team he should play for next season

Larry Sanders
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Larry Sanders is talking about getting back into the NBA. He walked away in 2015 to say he needed to deal with anxiety and depression, to find a balance in his life. Recently he told Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders this:

“But I feel like I’m in a much better place right now and I’m equipped to be able to put myself in that situation again.”

But where? A lot of teams could use an athletic big who averaged 1.4 blocks per game over the five years he was in the NBA, although with the conservative nature of NBA front offices they will not want to take much risk (Golden State reportedly thought about it and decided not to offer him a contract).

Sanders decided to ask Twitter where he should go, putting Twitter’s poll feature to good use.

The question becomes, where is there mutual interest from any of these teams?

If Sanders and his agent can win a team over in an interview, the contract will be small and the number of guaranteed years is not exceeding one (if even that). From the perspective of an NBA team, Sanders has to prove himself again.

But never underestimate how many chances big men get in this league.

(Hat tip Eye on Basketball)