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.

Watch LeBron James’ top highlight from each of his postseason appearances (video)

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LeBron James and Tony Parker are the only players to play in the last dozen postseasons.

(If you’re wondering, Manu Ginobili missed the 2009 playoffs due to an ankle injury.)

It’s fair to say LeBron was a bit more spectacular than Parker in that span. As LeBron enters his seventh straight Finals, the NBA released this awesome video showing LeBron’s best playoff highlight from each year:

There’s no entry for this year. Here’s betting it comes against the Warriors in the NBA Finals.

David Stern: We thought we could re-work Chris Paul-to-Lakers trade until Mitch Kupchak ‘panicked’

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NBA commissioner David Stern – acting as New Orleans’ owner representative, he says – infamously vetoed a potential Chris Paul-to-Lakers trade in 2011.

But that didn’t close the possibility of Paul going to the Lakers.

The New Orleans Hornets (now the Pelicans and not be confused with the current Charlotte Hornets), Lakers and Rockets tried to rework the three-team trade that would’ve sent Paul to the Lakers, Pau Gasol to Houston and Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and a first-round pick to New Orleans. But talks fell apart around the time the Lakers dealt Odom to the Mavericks.

Stern on Nunyo & Company (hat tip: Harrison Feigen of Silver Screen & Roll):

In fact, in the course of the weekend, we thought we could re-do the deal. We really thought that Houston would be ready to part with Kevin Lowry, and we had a trade lined up for Odom that would have gotten us a good first-round draft pick – not we, but my basketball folks. But Mitch Kupchak at the time panicked and moved Odom to Dallas. So the piece wasn’t even there for us to play with at the time. So that was it — just about what was good for the then-New Orleans Hornets.

Remember, Stern – roundly criticized for his handling of this episode* – has blamed the Lakers and Rockets for the lingering perception. This could just be him again trying to shift responsibility.

*Somewhat fairly, somewhat not. Owners veto general manager-approved trades often enough, and Stern was acting as New Orleans’ owner after George Shinn sold the franchise back to the league. But Stern had an agenda as commissioner. He never should have assumed such a large conflict of interest. What he did with the Paul trade was reasonable for an acting owner, but because Stern was also commissioner, it’s fair to question how much New Orleans’ interests and how much the league’s interests factored into the decision-making.

But let’s take Stern at his word – that he and the Hornets thought they could re-do the trade and send Paul to the Lakers. That doesn’t mean they were right. Maybe the Lakers and Rockets (who had Kyle Lowry, not the “Kevin Lowry” Stern named) were never going to part with enough to get Stern’s approval.

And maybe New Orleans didn’t properly convey its interest in still completing a deal. Perhaps, Kupchak acted reasonably by trading Odom to Dallas – for a first-round pick, a deal Mark Cuban would ultimately regret – rather than wait around for the Hornets, who eventually sent Paul to the Clippers.

It’s easy to blame Kupchak, but he might tell a different story.

Isaiah Thomas makes it clear he wants to stay in Boston

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It’s been a long time since there was so much discussion about whether a team needs to trade or just let go of an All-NBA and All-Star player at his peak who is clear and away a fan favorite.

Yet that’s where the Boston Celtics and Isaiah Thomas find themselves. After landing the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft — where they will almost certainly take point guard Markelle Fultz — and with the Celtics looking a full couple steps behind the Cavaliers in the playoffs, the question about whether Thomas is part of the future in Boston has come up. He is a free agent in 2018 and are the Celtics willing to pay the big money it will take to keep him?

Know this, Thomas wants to remain a Celtic and win a Celtic. You can listen to his full comments above, but Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe has the money quote:

Outside of chasing Gordon Hayward, this summer the Celtics are going to focus on getter some frontcourt help, someone to help with rebounding and rim protection. They will look to get better, but Danny Ainge isn’t going to push all his chips into the middle of the table to make a gambit on immediate massive improvement. He will remain patient, building this team so that in three years and five years they will be a force in the East.

And the Thomas discussion likely gets put on hold for a year (unless there is a change of course and contract extension talks come up, but that’s only if Boston misses on Hayward and any other big targets).

Stephen Curry says talk of lack of competitive balance “disrespectful” to Warriors, Cavaliers

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This year’s NBA playoffs have been horribly lopsided and they lacked drama because we all knew where it was headed: Golden State vs. Cleveland. They were so dominant that between them they lost one playoff game so far. This has brought up discussions of competitive balance — we have seen the same Finals three years in a row, and we will almost certainly head into next season expecting a fourth. Then maybe a fifth.

Not surprisingly, Stephen Curry isn’t a fan of the lack of competition argument, saying it disrespects the Warriors and the Cavaliers.

“That almost is kind of disrespectful, because it’s not like it’s easy for us to get here. It wasn’t that at all. Us and Cleveland worked our butts off all year to put ourselves in a position to be playing for a championship. The league is as strong talent-wise across the board as it’s ever been. Every night we get challenged. Obviously, we had that one stat I guess, point differential, all year. We had a pretty solid showing in that respect. But, every night was hard. Every night was challenging. You can’t just sleepwalk through a season and sleep walk through the playoffs and expect to be here. You got to do something. You got to come out every night and prove yourself. Granted, anybody who was betting on who was gonna be in the Finals probably picked those two. It’s easy for them to say that and just wake up in June and see it happen. We had to put that work in all year long to make it happen.”

Curry is right in that nobody should question the work the Warriors and Cavaliers put in to get to this point, and that the other teams did not just roll over for them. Also, both teams did get a little lucky with injuries.

However, that doesn’t change the fact that right now there is a dominant team in each conference, and that sucks the drama out of the postseason. (Maybe a healthy San Antonio team could have pushed the Warriors, we didn’t get to find out.) Golden State has four of the top 15-20 players in the NBA, and that makes them a juggernaut — again, regardless of the work put in. Other teams don’t have much of a chance if the Warriors are healthy and focused, not in a seven game series. The fact that it was flukey circumstances that put a dominant team in each conference — there isn’t another LeBron James returning home, and out West it took a one-time salary cap spike to add Kevin Durant to a 73-win team — doesn’t change the fact this season has felt like a foregone conclusion from the start.

Right now we’ve got what we wanted and expected, the trilogy between the Warriors and Cavaliers. But if we head into next season expecting (and maybe getting) round four of this matchup in the Finals, is that good for the league? Why watch the movie if you know how it ends before it starts?