D-League Showcase: Day 1 Features Plenty Of Talent Vying For A Call-Up

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The first day of the eighth annual NBA Development League Showcase tips off Monday afternoon as the legendary Antoine Walker and the Idaho Stampede face-off against the New York Knicks-owned Erie BayHawks. There’s probably no better way to shake off the cobwebs of the weekend than sneaking out of the office for a late lunch to catch the first of eight D-League games airing live on NBA TV this week when this game tips off at 1 p.m. ET.

The D-League Showcase, as explained earlier, is an annual event where all 16 teams from the NBA Development League converge on one location — this season it’s lovely Reno, Nev. — to showcase their skills in front of scouts from all 30 NBA teams as well as a handful of executives from European and Asian squads looking for a mid-season boost. Knowing that, the players are going to play harder than they’ve ever played, the coaches are going to coach like their jobs depend on it and the fans … well, hopefully they show up considering the hosting Bighorns don’t play until the fourth game of the day.

The Stampede, coached by former NBA draft pick and 1993 Naismith Player of the Year Randy Livingston, have a couple of names that should be familiar to basketball fans in the frontcourt for those that decide to tune-in for the matinee. Walker, best known for his ‘shimmying’ with the Boston Celtics, is playing in his second season with the Boise-based team while 12-year NBA veteran Mikki Moore is expected to play his first game with Idaho after joining the team on Sunday as they make up the oldest frontcourt in the D-League (yes, Antoine Walker is now exclusively a forward as he’s lost a step or three since his NBA days).

Idaho’s opponent, the Erie BayHawks has added some veteran help as well over the past couple of weeks. The Pennsylvania-based tea, bought by the Knicks over the summer, added longtime NBA guard Mike James last week to a roster that already features NBA call-up candidates Devin Green, Chris Daniels and former St. John’s standout D.J. Kennedy.

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The second game of the day will feature the Los Angeles Lakers of the D-League taking on the New Jersey Nets’ Development League affiliate when the L.A. D-Fenders and Springfield Armor do battle in a game scheduled for tip-off on NBA TV at 3:45 p.m. There’s going to be NBA talent at every position on the court when this game gets underway, making it Monday’s must-watch game (if such a thing exists in the D-League).

The D-Fenders, coached by former NBA Coach of the Year runner-up Eric Musselman, boasts a lineup featuring former NBA Draft picks Gerald Green, Mardy Collins and Orien Greene along with NBA call-up candidates Brandon Costner, Elijah Millsap (the younger brother of Utah Jazz forward Paul Millsap), Malcolm Thomas and Courtney Fortson. The scouts should be out in full force to watch Los Angeles play this week with former dunk champion Green likely being a focus of plenty of those in attendance.

The Armor rely pretty heavily on their backcourt featuring a pair of Nets training camp invites in JamesOn Curry (learn more about him here) and Jerry Smith, but their man in the middle is bound to get some attention this week as well. Cornell product Jeff Foote is averaging 16.1 points and 9.3 rebounds since the lanky 7-footer enter the D-League following a camp invite with the Portland Trail Blazers.

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The rest of Monday’s action will only be available live on NBA Futurecast, the D-League’s free streaming service, but there are a couple of interesting storylines to follow for those in it for the long haul.

Monday’s third game will feature the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, who recently decided to promote assistant Steve Gansey as the head coach, facing off against the Bakersfield Jam. Both teams have plenty of players with ridiculous upside on their roster, but Fort Wayne might look a little worse for the wear as they were only scheduled to arrive in Reno at 11 a.m. Monday after having travel issues Sunday afternoon.

The final game of Monday’s quadrupleheader will take place between the hosting Reno Bighorns and last year’s Showcase hosts, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. NBA fans will likely be most interested when rookie Tyler Honeycutt, on assignment with the Bighorns from the Sacramento Kings, is on the court at the same time as Marcus Morris, the Rockets’ first round pick currently playing for the Vipers.

For those that aren’t able to catch Monday’s action: Don’t worry! There will be 12 more games the rest of the week with comprehensive coverage continuing here at Pro Basketball Talk.

Pat Riley: Friend talked me out of going Dan Gilbert when LeBron James left

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When LeBron James left Cleveland, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert released his infamous letter.

When LeBron left Miami, Heat president Pat Riley issued a classy statement.

The difference was nearly not as stark following Riley’s final meeting with LeBron in 2014 in Las Vegas.

Wright Thompson of ESPN:

Riley told his lieutenant, Andy Elisburg, to get the two championship trophies LeBron had won and pack them in their hard-shell carrying cases. Elisburg also brought charts and an easel for a presentation about the free agents the Heat would pursue. The day of the meeting, a hotel bellhop followed them with a luggage cart carrying the presentation and the two trophies. Riley brought wine from a Napa vineyard named Promise. It was the same label Maverick Carter had presented Riley with when they did the deal four years earlier. Riley respects Carter, and when he walked into the suite and saw James with agent Rich Paul and friend Randy Mims but no Maverick, part of him knew the meeting wasn’t sincere. He told Elisburg to keep the trophies and easel in the hall. James and his associates were watching a World Cup game, which they kept glancing at during the presentation. At one point, Riley asked if they’d mute the TV.

Riley flew home worried and got a text telling him to be ready for a call. About 15 minutes later, his phone rang and Paul was on the other end. The agent handed the phone to LeBron, who started by saying, “I want to thank you for four years …”

“I was silent,” Riley says. “I didn’t say anything. My mind began to just go. And it was over. I was very angry when LeBron left. It was personal for me. It just was. I had a very good friend who talked me off the ledge and kept me from going out there and saying something like Dan Gilbert. I’m glad I didn’t do it.”

The most shocking element of Gilbert’s letter wasn’t that he wrote it. People say dumb things, especially in the heat of the moment. But it was surprising nobody stopped Gilbert from publishing it. Of course, he runs the franchise. But nobody felt empowered to tell him it was a bad idea?

Riley was obviously fortunate to get that message and wise to heed it. But even he has let his disdain for LeBron leaving slip out a couple times.

John Wall doesn’t sound super enthused about Dennis Schroder’s summer-workout request

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The Wizards and Hawks are knotted in a 2-2 first-round series.

A subplot: John Wall vs. Dennis Schroder. They have a history – Schroder starting random trash talk and then telling a teammate to hack Wall’s recently injured wrist, according to Wall – and Wall stared down Schroder after a dunk in Game 2.

A sub-subplot: Wall’s and Schroder’s summer plans.

Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Wall, via Chase Hughes of CSN Mid-Atlantic:

“I’ve never heard of that going on in the middle of a series,” Wall said Monday after shootaround for Game 4 later tonight at Phillips Arena. “I’m not talking about it right now. I’m locked into a series competing with a guy that’s playing well for his team, competing for his team. That’s probably a conversation I’ll have later on, but I’m locked into Wizards versus Hawks.”

Aside from that, Wall tends to be a loner during the summer when he’s getting ready. He was supposed to work out with Damian Lillard a few seasons ago, but even that didn’t come to fruition. Teammate Brandon Jennings sensed that about Wall.

“I really don’t work out with anybody, to be honest,” Wall said. “Brandon said the same thing, ‘You’re the type of guy that don’t like to work out with people.’ I just always worked out by myself a lot.”

Maybe Schroder thinks Wall will see himself in the Atlanta point guard – a fearless young player trying to prove himself by standing up to established players. And maybe Wall does.

But I suspect Wall just sees Schroder as a pest.

If that’s the case, it certainly won’t change until this series ends.

Marcus Smart responds to Jimmy Butler: ‘It ain’t hard to find me’ (video)

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Jimmy Butler said Marcus Smart is “not about that life.”

Smart, via MassLive:

Laugh at that. This about the Celtics versus Chicago Bulls, not Marcus Smart versus Jimmy. I ain’t got to sit here and say this and that. I’m this. I’m that. I ain’t that type of guy. My actions speak louder than words. It ain’t hard to find me. But, right now, I’m focused on my teammates and this series.

That led to a few excellent follow-up questions:

Are you about that life?

Like I said before, I ain’t got to talk about what I am about. I just show you. I can show you, but I’m not going to tell you. Like I said, it ain’t hard to find me. You heard him. He said, “I don’t think Marcus Smart is about that life.” Last time I checked, if you’re going to say somebody ain’t about that life, you should know, right? But like I said, we’re going to keep this Chicago Bulls vs. Boston Celtics, not Marcus vs. Jimmy.

Has anyone accused you not being tough before?

Never.

What was your reaction to that?

Haha.

Smart flops too much. He gets overly emotional.

But he’s way too tough to let Butler’s comments pass without rebuttal.

The real test will come on the court in Game 5 tomorrow.

Damian Lillard ‘obsessed’ with beating Warriors

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The Warriors just eliminated the Trail Blazers for the second straight year.

Portland star Damian Lillard sounds hardened by the experience.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

After the Portland Trail Blazers were swept by the Golden State Warriors on Monday, point guard Damian Lillard told ESPN he’s developed a newfound obsession with trying to take down the Warriors.

“You have to be obsessed with that because you know that they’re so good that they’re going to be there,” Lillard said after a 128-103 loss in Game 4. “That’s who you’re going to have to get through to get to where you want to get to. That’s what it is.”

I have no doubt this will drive Lillard. He just finds way to lift himself.

But will the rest of the Trail Blazers keep up with a team that features Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson?

C.J. McCollum is a solid co-star, but it gets dicey beyond that with several players locked into expensive long-term contracts. Portland will have to pry enough production from Jusuf Nurkic, Al-Farouq Aminu, Maurice Harkless, Allen Crabbe, Noah Vonleh, Ed Davis, Meyers Leonard and the Nos. 15, 20 and 26 picks in the upcoming draft.

The Trail Blazers have a path upward, but needing to climb as high as Golden State, the road is narrow.