Talking Vegas Impact Series with Jared Dudley (and why you should watch)

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The days right after Labor Day is when the great migration of NBA players usually takes place. Like geese heading south for the winter, they board planes and fly to the city where they will get paid to ball — weeks before training camp opens — to start working out and playing pickup with their teammates at team facilities.

Not this year. Players are locked out of team facilities. They can’t even talk to coaches and trainers.

So a number of them — upwards of 50 with others expected to drop in — are headed to Vegas for the Impact Competitive Training Series. This new series is two weeks of organized workouts and pickup games that will be open to the public (and streamed online). The games start next Monday (Sept. 12). Everybody involved has (or recently had) an NBA contract. Big names such as Zach Randolph, Chauncey Billups and John Wall will be there, among many others.

The Suns Jared Dudley said this is the chance for teammates to start building that chemistry that would normally be growing on team facilities right now.

“Like myself, guys are trying to get a couple of their teammates to come out there so they can play with them,” Dudley told ProBasketballTalk. “So myself, I called Channing (Frye), Hakim (Warrick) is coming out, Aaron Brooks is going to be coming out.

“A lot of guys are bringing a couple of their guys in, so then in the morning you’ll train, you’ll work out, then go home and rest. Then at night you come back and play in games that will be open to the public, but you’ll be playing with guys you’ll be playing with in the season. So it helps their chemistry, something you would have potentially lost. It’s not going to make a huge factor, but it’s a factor.”

Fans love watching these types of games — whether it be the official (but cancelled this year) NBA Summer League or pro-ams like the Goodman League — but these games also get knocked for the lack of defense.

Dudley counters that guys will be focused defensively, and while you may not see mid-season defensive rotations, you will see effort.

“It’s just competitive because nobody wants to go out there and get fried, nobody wants to get embarrassed, so people are going to go out there and play defense. People are going to go out there and try to score…” Dudley said. “If Tayshaun Prince is out there killing me, and the game is going to be live and streaming, if SLAM Magazine and NBC Sports can write about it, I’m going to be finding a way to stop him.”

The names of those participating is supposed to come out Thursday, but guys that are in include Wall, Billups, Rudy Gay, Stephen Curry, Stephen Jackson, DeMar DeRozan, Al Harrington, Jermaine O’Neal, DeAndre Jordan, Chase Budinger, Omri Casspi and Eric Maynor, just to name a few.

For fans jonesing for some hoops, this might be the best thing they can get for a while. If it goes well and the lockout drags on, there could be another session in October.

The gym at Impact only holds about 700 fans, so it’s going to be intimate. Games will take place at 3, 5 and 7p.m. daily. Dudley said it’s going to be interesting.

“It’s interesting to see because nobody has done anything like this” Dudley said. “They didn’t have a Vegas Summer League so it kind of makes up for that. It’s a mix of big names to up and coming names.”

For more details, check back to PBT in the coming days or log on after Thursday to the Impact Basketball website.

Did Russell Westbrook really block a teammates shot to get ball back during Game 5?

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Well, this video plays right into the hands of the anti-Westbrook crowd.

The knock on Russell Westbrook‘s season-long triple double and MVP candidacy is that he is chasing stats, padding his numbers at the expense of efficiency and making the Thunder a better team. Basically, he’s looking out for himself and to heck with his teammates.

Which leads to this fourth-quarter video from Game 5.

It sure looks like Westbrook blocks Jerami Grant‘s shot to get the rebound (we only have the one camera angle here).

I would argue that this was just Westbrook being uber aggressive — the only way he ever plays — and he was going hard for the rebound and not noticing it was his teammate about to get the ball. Westbrook just wants the ball and gets it. But he also wants to win and would not have taken the ball out of Grant’s hands had he seen who it was in time to react.

Game 5 — where the Rockets eliminated the Thunder — was a microcosm of the Westbrook debate. Westbrook finished with 47 points on 15-of-34 shooting, but was 2-of-11 in the fourth quarter. Oklahoma City was +12 in the 41:52 that Westbrook played, but was -18 in the 6:07 he sat. You can read whatever you want into those numbers.

Much like the video above.

Former Pacers’ star Danny Granger on Paul George: “you can’t fault him if he leaves Indiana”

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There was a time when Paul George was an up-and-coming but raw young player on an Indiana team led by Danny Granger. It was when Granger went down injured that George was thrust into a larger role, where he thrived in the trial by fire.

Granger knows what it’s like to be the star player of the Pacers, and he knows George, so on Bill Reiter asked Granger his thoughts during an episode of CBS’ “Reiter Than You” and Granger’s answer was not what Pacers fans wanted to hear.

“You look at him in that press conference (after losing to Cleveland) and his face and the dejection on it – the guy wants to win. Money don’t make everybody happy, but winning and success and your craft, that does fill a void that a lot of these players have. So you can’t fault him if he leaves Indiana, I’ll tell you that.”

Oh, Pacers fans will fault him. Even if he’s traded.

Pacers’ decision maker Larry Bird isn’t going to do anything until he sees if George makes an All-NBA Team, because if he does Indiana can offer him the new “designated player” contract this summer worth around $80 million more guaranteed than any other team can offer. George will not walk away from that.

However, if, as expected, George doesn’t make an All-NBA team, Bird is going to have to revisit the idea of trading George, who can be a free agent in 2018 — and the sense around the league is he will walk away at that point if the Pacers are not contenders. (There are a lot of Lakers’ rumors there, but whether George would leave a team where he is dragging lesser players to a low playoff seed and a first-round exit in Indiana for the same situation in his old hometown is up for debate.)

Bird isn’t going to deal George for pennies on the dollar at this point — think the Kings’ trading DeMarcus Cousins — but if some team comes through with a legitimate quality offer of young players that can help jump start the rebuild in Indiana, he may have to jump at it.

Either way, Granger is right that you can’t blame George for wanting to move on, but plenty of fans will anyway.

Russell Westbrook, Patrick Beverley keep trading insults in postgame press conferences

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Russell Westbrook and Patrick Beverley were having their war of words during Tuesday night’s close-out game that ended the Thunder season, and they both picked up technical fouls for it.

The two continued that postgame speaking to the media.

Westbrook was up first, and he was asked what happened between him and Beverley (see the video above).

“He was talking about he was first team all-defense, but I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about because I had 42 at the time, I don’t know, maybe he was dreaming or some s—.”

You know the media was going to ask Beverley about that.

“He said no can guard me I’ve got 40 points, I’m like, that’s nice but you took 34 shots to get it.”

So, no Christmas card exchange for those two.

For the record, Westbrook finished the game with 47 points on 15-of-34 shooting, but he was 2-of-11 in the fourth quarter as he started to wear down. The Thunder were +12 in the 41:52 that Westbrook played, but were -18 in the 6:07 he sat to get rest. The game was almost a Rorschach test for what you think of Westbrook on the season — he wasn’t terribly efficient, but he carried OKC as far as he could, that just wasn’t as far as James Harden could take a superior Rockets’ team. If you were in the Harden (or Kawhi Leonard) for MVP camp, you can point to the inefficiency and the end result. If you’re team Westbrook you can point to the raw numbers and what happened in the limited time he sat.

Also, Beverley is going to make an NBA All-Defensive team. If he doesn’t make the first team, that’s more about the time he missed due to injury (and a good field of guards who can defend) than his play.

Beverley has the advantage now of being able to turn his attention to how to defend Tony Parker (or maybe Mike Conley), as the Rockets are advancing to the next round.

 

Watch Gordon Hayward, Chris Paul get double technical fouls after wrestling for ball (VIDEO)

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I said earlier on Tuesday that the double technical foul handed out to Russell Westbrook and Patrick Beverley during Game 5 of the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder series was the weakest of the playoffs so far.

All I had to do was wait about two hours. The NBA fixed that right up for me.

Late in the game between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz, Chris Paul and Gordon Hayward got tied up on a jump ball. The two ended up on the floor, and neither wanted to let go of the ball.

Hayward and Paul wrestled for the ball, with Hayward eventually winning. Paul then gave him a little shove in the back. Both, somehow, wound up with a technical foul.

I … what?

Utah won an exciting game at the wire, 96-92, to take a 3-2 series lead.