Ray Allen, Nick Young

Ray Allen talks about team building blocks, Wizards


Ray Allen has been around for a while, seen the mountain top and more than one valley. There’s some wisdom there.

In an interesting interview at CSNWashington.com, Allen talks about the kind of team and franchise culture high-profile players look for when deciding where to play as a free agent. Yes, the main motivation is money, but if you’re high profile enough that’s going to be roughly the same everywhere and the intangibles come into play.

“Ultimately it involves around building a culture where you have players that have been there, a core group of guys that have won games and will continue to win games. Guys understand that and see it. It’s almost like you look around the league and you see the best teams, the payroll. They’ve done what they can to put together guys – not just throwing the high salaries in there – but a good mix of guys that are playing well. Get it centered around a coach that creates that culture and tradition of winning.”

The conversation drifted to the Wizards, a young team with talent trying to change the culture of a long-suffering franchise. For obvious reasons, the veteran Allen values what veterans can bring to the table on a team. But his point when talking about the Wizards and John Wall specifically is a very good one.

Yeah, but it’s not just him. It’s the other guys around him that make Wall look good. The guys that comes in and comes to work every day and you can appreciate on your team. It’s never just one guy, it’s how well you play together as a team.

Wall’s young, it’s his second year in the league. Having a guy like Rashard Lewis on the squad helps, but you need more than just Rashard Lewis. You have to have 2-3 guys like that have their feet firmly planted on the ground that know how to practice the right way, know how to get the young guys ready the right way. Those guys can play and teach so you can see it, then you see [the franchise] go through change.

I remember walking into the Oklahoma City locker room before a playoff game against the Lakers two seasons ago and thinking it was about the most studious, professional locker room I had seen during the playoffs in a long time. They had talent, but they also had an uncommon maturity for a young team in their first playoffs. They were more focused than even the Lakers (they just weren’t good enough to beat them then). It was the real moment I understood just how good OKC could eventually be.

Has anyone ever thought that about the Wizards? Not just now-gone Gilbert Arenas lineups but the current one with young players such as Andray Blatche, Nick Young and JaVale McGee. Is this a team that is dedicated to the craft of basketball?

It’s something to think about when considering how a young team is built. Is the mix of players one that has veteran leaders and can grow together, or is it a clash of egos and rudderless? Do you need teachers in the locker room who are not coaches?

Kevin Love unsure about opening-night return

Kevin Love
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He’s back in practice with the Cavaliers, but there’s still no clarity on whether Kevin Love will be available for the season opener. Love had shoulder surgery in April after suffering a torn labrum in Game 4 of the Cavs’ first-round series against the Celtics, and doctors initially gave him a timetable of four to six months for a return. The six-month end of that is right around opening night (October 27), but Love still doesn’t know whether he’ll be able to play against the Bulls—although he is hopeful.

Via the Sporting News‘ Sean Deveney:

“I feel pretty good,” Love told Sporting News. “As far as the opener goes, I am not completely sure. I’ll probably get with the doctors and see what they have to say. I know that my six-month post-op is coming up here pretty fast. As far as getting the strength back, getting the range of motion, I feel pretty good, so I am looking forward to getting into some more contact, getting into a rhythm and getting out there as quickly as I can.”

Love has been cleared for 3-on-3 practices, but not yet for 5-on-5. If it were up to him, he’d be back on the court, but he understands he needs to follow the rehab protocol for his injury.

“(Six months is) just a ballpark figure that has generally been thrown out there by anybody who has talked about the rehab process for this kind of an injury,” Love said. “I like to think that I am ahead of the game, but there’s different tests and the due diligence that the doctor will go through and the training staff will go through. So all I can do is go out there every day and attack my rehab and hopefully I will be able to go out there and help these guys as soon as possible.”

At the very least, the Cavs will be without Kyrie Irving (still recovering from knee surgery) and Iman Shumpert (out up to three months with a wrist injury), and probably Tristan Thompson too, unless his contract situation changes unexpectedly. So having Love available would be some much-needed good news. But it’s more important that Love (and everyone else) is healthy for the playoffs. If he’s not ready to play, there’s no need to rush back for an October game.

Greg Smith fails physical, will not join Pelicans

Greg Smith
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With both starter Omer Asik and backup Alexis Ajinca out injured for the rest of the preseason (and maybe a little longer), the Pelicans are looking for a center to put next to Anthony Davis for a stretch. That could include a handful of regular season games.

Greg Smith was going to be that man, but the 24-year-old failed his physical, reports the Times-Picayune.

The New Orleans Pelicans were set to sign power forward Greg Smith, but sources said Friday night that he failed his physical examination and will not be joining the team.

And so the search goes on.

The problem is, there are not quality big men still out there on the market, there is a limited supply and just about anyone worth having is spoken for. A few with non-guaranteed contracts may be waived as we get closer to the end of training camps, but that is likely a couple of weeks away.

With both Asik and Ajinca expected back in a few weeks, it’s not worth making a trade or some big move to bring in a center, the Pelicans are just going to have to live with what is out there.