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?

Kobe Bryant announces this is his final season


It has seemed like this was it for a while. Kobe Bryant has been frustrated; he hasn’t been able to produce like he expects — his play has been hard to watch — and the Lakers are a train wreck.

Kobe made it official Sunday via the Players’ Tribune — this is his final season. He did it via a letter called “Dear Basketball.”

You gave a six-year-old boy his Laker dream
And I’ll always love you for it.
But I can’t love you obsessively for much longer.
This season is all I have left to give.
My heart can take the pounding
My mind can handle the grind
But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.

And that’s OK.
I’m ready to let you go.
I want you to know now
So we both can savor every moment we have left together.
The good and the bad.
We have given each other
All that we have.

It’s not coincidental this was announced a couple days before the Lakers travel to Kobe’s hometown of Philadelphia to face the Sixers. Also remember Kobe is an investor in The Players’ Tribune.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver quickly released this statement:

“With 17 NBA All-Star selections, an NBA MVP, five NBA championships with the Lakers, two Olympic gold medals and a relentless work ethic, Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest players in the history of our game.  Whether competing in the Finals or hoisting jump shots after midnight in an empty gym, Kobe has an unconditional love for the game.

“I join Kobe’s millions of fans around the world in congratulating him on an outstanding NBA career and thank him for so many thrilling memories.”

Kobe will go down as one of the game’s all-time greats. Few can come close to his resume: Five NBA titles, two NBA Finals MVPs, 15 time All-NBA teams, one MVP, 17 times an All-Star (and the All-Star Game MVP four times). And we could go on and on.

Good on Kobe for doing this now. After 55,000 NBA minutes his body has quit on him, and where his mind is still willing the flesh is clearly weak right now. He has not been able to adapt his game to the changing realities of what he can do.

Kobe has said he doesn’t want a “Derek Jeter Farewell Tour” but that will be the feel from here on out. Expect some special recognition at the All-Star Game in Toronto.

Bulls’ Dunleavy to see specialist after suffering setback with back injury

Mike Dunleavy, Joakim Noah
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CHICAGO—Over the past few weeks, Bulls forward Mike Dunleavy has seemed to be making progress in his back rehab. Dunleavy underwent back surgery shortly before the start of training camp and was initially given a timeline of 8-10 weeks. Recently, he’s been increasing his workload, and he traveled with the team on their recent west coast road trip.

However, his recovery may have hit a snag.

“Mike is going to see a doctor again tomorrow and then we should have a better update after that,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said after practice on Sunday. “He had a little bit of soreness. But we’ll have more on that tomorrow.”

An update to Dunleavy’s status is coming, but given Dunleavy’s age (35) and the frequency of back injuries to reoccur, this news certainly isn’t encouraging. Between Tony Snell and Doug McDermott, the Bulls have struggled at both ends of the floor on the wing. Getting Dunleavy back, whenever that happens, will be a huge help. But nobody knows when that will be.

Stan Van Gundy calls out Andre Drummond’s effort after loss to Thunder

Andre Drummond
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After a promising start to the season, the Pistons have lost three of their last four games and seven of their last 10. And although he’s been outstanding for most of the season, Andre Drummond has not been above receiving criticism from Stan Van Gundy. The coach called out Drummond’s effort on Friday night after a loss to the Thunder.

Via Sportando:

“I didn’t think he brought much energy to the Milwaukee game, and I didn’t think he brought much energy tonight,” Van Gundy said of the two beatings the Pistons received this week. “Why that is, I don’t know. But we need a lot more from him than we got tonight.”

Calling out your best player in the media is bold, but Van Gundy has enough of a track record and a reputation, going back to his days in Orlando with Dwight Howard, that he can get away with it. It also sends a message to the entire team that Van Gundy isn’t going to hold his star to a different standard than the rest of the team.

Despite a couple of poor performances, Drummond is having a career year, leading the league in rebounding at 17.1 per game while also averaging 17.9 points.

Lopez twins don’t live together because their cats don’t get along

Brook Lopez, Robin Lopez
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The Lopez twins have always been close. They were teammates at Stanford, they’re both heavily into comic books (and even write their own together), and they both have Instagram accounts for their cats (here’s Brook’s cat, Poupin, and Robin’s cat, Prince Edward Zephyr). So naturally, this summer, when Brook re-signed with the Nets and Robin signed with the Knicks, the logical thing to do would be to live together. Apparently that isn’t happening, because their cats don’t get along.

Via Kirsten Fleming of the New York Post:

“Brook’s cat is very two-faced,” Robin tells The Post. “Everybody loves Brook’s cat. To everybody’s face, he’s such a nice cat. And it may sound like I’m joking, but I am dead serious. He acts like a lazy, sweet cat when everybody is looking. But when their heads turn, he’ll try to chase after [my cat] Edward. The second I lay eyes on him, he’ll act like, ‘I’m a cherub. I’m innocent.’ I’m not buying it.”

Brook agrees that it would be a bad idea.

“We thought about it,” Brook tells The Post. “But the cats really wouldn’t get along. They just wouldn’t allow it.”

This is an extremely valid reason, even though it’s a disappointing. The Lopez twins are two of the most entertaining people in the NBA, and them living together would have had off-the-charts reality TV potential.