Ray Allen talks about team building blocks, Wizards

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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?

Giannis Antetokounmpo announces he will not play for Greece in Eurobasket

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Giannis Antetokounmpo said had big plans to play for the Greek national team this summer, taking his country back to the top of the European ladder at EuroBasket (they had won the tournament a dozen years ago).

Instead, a sore knee will keep the Greek Freak out of EuroBasket. He made the announcement on his Facebook page.

Antetokounmpo had missed all but one of Greece’s early EuroBasket tune-ups due to a sore knee. That, understandably, concerned the Bucks, especially with his four-year, $100 million contract extension about to kick in next season.

Antetokounmpo is in China promoting shoes, but said he on Facebook he took a physical while there and was not able to complete the exercises due to pain.

“It is by far the biggest disappointment in my career. I must deal with the problem,” Antetokounmpo said in the Facebook post (written in Greek).

Within hours of the post going up, the Greek basketball federation released a statement slamming the Bucks and Antetokounmpo, saying they had done an MRI of his knee and found no damage.

“The simultaneous report by the Milwaukee Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo himself, by phone and social media from faraway China, and not by the appropriate official manner, of his inability to join the national men’s team saddens us … but is not surprising… A series of indications … had convinced us of the existence of an organized and well-staged plan by (the Bucks), with the full knowledge if not encouragement of the NBA that put the athlete on the spot and forced him to announce today that he is no longer part of the men’s national team.”

Great, just what the world needs, another conspiracy theory.

While NBA teams generally are not huge fans of their stars playing in national team tournaments (due to the injury risk), teams cannot stop a healthy player from playing. Antetokounmpo said this was his decision because he is in pain and has to think about the upcoming NBA season.

Whatever the Greek Federation believes internally, slamming the player and his team publicly like this is one good way to make sure he will not want to play for them in the future. He’s got knee pain, they are saying “you’re fine, walk it off, ” and that must have Antetokounmpo and the people around him wondering if the Greek Federation has his best interests — or theirs — at heart.

Akron store already selling “Stay Home 23” shirts, hats as LeBron decision looms

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We’ve seen this movie before.

There is all sorts of buzz around the league that LeBron James has one foot out the door in Cleveland. While people around LeBron denied he the rumor he is “100 percent” leaving, good luck finding any league source who thinks he is staying put next summer. Nothing is set in stone, his options — including staying — remain open, but we’ve all been down this road before.

The hometown fans are going to do their part to urge LeBron to stay.

Fan sentiment has some pull with LeBron (he came back to win the city a title). However, what matters more is a sense of a plan to keep the Cavaliers as title contenders for the coming years — and that is more than just Dan Gilbert paying the tax. The Cavs did nothing this summer that got them closer to beating Golden State, and while they swung for the fences with Paul George, what they really needed was wing defenders and athletes, and they didn’t get those either. Luc Mbah a Moute signed a one-year deal for the minimum somewhere else. Instead, Cleveland overpaid Kyle Korver.

Despite all that, the Cavs remain the team to beat in the East. If Cleveland gets to the Finals — LeBron’s eighth in a row — and they win or make it close, he may see staying as his best option. A season can be a lifetime in the NBA in terms of shifting attitudes. Still, I wouldn’t bet the rent on it.

Marshall Plumlee gets camp invite, partially guaranteed contract from Clippers

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The Los Angeles Clippers have 14 fully guaranteed contracts on their roster, plus a partial guarantee for DeAndre Liggins (who likely is on the roster opening day). They also are pretty much set at center with DeAndre Jordan and Willie Reed (plus when they go small they can play Blake Griffin there, something I wish they’d do a little more).

That said, Doc Rivers — just a coach now — needs bodies for camp, so in comes former Duke star and Knick Marshall Plumlee, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Plumlee played in 21 games for the Knicks last season, logging a total of 190 minutes. He bounced between New York and the D-League Westchester Knicks, when down he averaged 12.3 points and 9.8 rebounds a game.

He’s not making the Clippers’ squad (barring injury), but he could show well and get noticed by other teams. Over the course of a season, there will be a need for bigs as guys go down injured, Plumlee is getting a chance to show how his game has developed. And he makes some money in the process.

Kawhi Leonard is smiling, and that confuses Manu Ginobili (PHOTO)

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Much like Kevin Durant, it appears that Kawhi Leonard is having a great summer.

In fact, this appears to be the Summer of Kawhi Smiling. Which, according to one of his longtime teammates, is a bit confusing.

When the Spurs posted a photo of Leonard with a big old grin on his face to their Twitter feed recently, San Antonio legend Manu Ginobili responded asking the team whether something was up.

Specifically, Ginobili said that he had seen more photos of Leonard smiling in the past two days then he had in six seasons as a teammate.

Via Twitter:

You can leave an anonymous tip about why Kawhi Leonard is smiling so much by contacting the produce manager at your local H-E-B.