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.

Report: Pelicans picked up Alvin Gentry’s option for next season before sweep

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Last summer the buzz was all over the league: Pelicans GM Dell Demps and coach Alvin Gentry were given a “playoffs or bust” mandate by management. If the Pelicans were not in the postseason — and just barely getting in and then blown out in the first round might be good enough — there was going to be a housecleaning.

The Pelicans made the playoffs as the six seed with 48 wins despite losing DeMarcus Cousins to a torn Achilles midway through the season.

That alone was good enough to get Gentry another season in New Orleans, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

As noted, this happened before the Pelicans swept the Trail Blazers out of the first round and into a summer of re-evaluation. This option season is the last of Gentry’s original deal with the Pelicans.

Gentry has the Pelicans playing fast, using the elite defense of Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday to get stops, and right now Davis is leading an offense that is just getting it done, with guys such as Nikola Mirotic stepping up. Gentry has earned another year, and a shot to integrate Cousins into this style and level of play, to see where that could take New Orleans next season.

It will be interesting to see if Demps can add more shooting and versatility with a capped out roster.

Report: Suns talk to Jason Kidd, Vinny Del Negro about coaching job

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Mike Budenholzer is out (and may be thinking New York). Suns’ interim coach Jay Triano and former Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale are still in the mix.

The Suns also have reached out to Jason Kidd — who was let go by the Bucks mid-season — and former Bulls and Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro, reports Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic.

This is still early in a lengthy search process, there is a long way to go before anyone gets offered this job.

Kidd now lives in Phoenix. He’s considered a smart coach but one who falls in and out of love with players fast, pushes hard for the players he wants (and against those he doesn’t), and didn’t utilize the talent on the Bucks to its best advantage. The Suns have to ask if he is the right guy for a rebuild. He can coach, he’s going to get another chance, but do the Suns want to give it to him?

Mentioning Del Negro will lead to howls from the Suns’ fanbase, but to be fair he gets a bit of a bad rap as a coach. Del Negro won 53.3 percent of his games as a coach, and no team he coached ever finished below .500. He’s had some success developing players, starting with Derrick Rose. All that said, there are reasons Suns’ fans are right to howl: simplistic offenses, a heavy reliance on pick-and-roll sets, and remember he broke the confidence of DeAndre Jordan (Doc Rivers had to build it back up).

Phoenix fired Earl Watson just three games into the season and are looking to replace him. The new coach will have a very good young scorer in Devin Booker on the roster and after that a lot of young question marks. This is a development job where the Suns need to hire a guy who can put in a system, then bring in more talent and stay out of the new coach’s way. We’ll see if the Suns can do that.

Hours after game-winning tip, restaurant told Giannis Antetokounmpo he had to wait

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Giannis Antetokounmpo was the toast of Milwaukee Sunday night: With the game on the line after a Boston comeback, he tipped in a missed Malcolm Brogdon lay-up that proved to be the game winner. (Jayson Tatum was in good position for Boston, he tried to move Antetokounmpo out of his rebounding spot, it just didn’t matter.)

Well, you would have thought Antetokounmpo was the toast of the town, but when he went to BelAir Cantina (a chainlet of Mexican restaurants in the area) he was told he had to wait. And wait. To the point he eventually left.

As you might imagine, the 6’11” Antetokounmpo walking into a restaurant a couple hours after tying up the series with the Celtics drew fast attention on social media. So did the fact he couldn’t get service.

First, good on Antetokounmpo for not pulling the “do you know who I am?” line. He was reportedly unassuming and just left after a while. No hard feelings, his girlfriend later tweeted this out.

As for BelAir Cantina, I kinda get it — I worked my way through college as a waiter and bartender. The restaurant got slammed, everyone working there was in the weeds, and things fall through the cracks. It happens.

But when the 6’11” toast of the town walks in, he cannot slip through the cracks. Cannot. Rather than social media posts about him not getting served and walking out, there would have been pictures all over of him eating the lamb barbacoa or whatever. It’s good for business. If you give the man a little special treatment after the game, nobody is going to complain (except the people who were going to complain about everything anyway… in that sense working in a restaurant was good preparation for me to use Twitter someday).

 

 

Kevin Durant apparently likes Instagram comment critical of Russell Westbrook (photo)

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Last summer Kevin Durant tweeted and deleted that the Thunder’s surrounding cast around him and Russell Westbrook was lacking when he played for Oklahoma City. Those tweets – another criticized Thunder coach Billy Donovan – appeared to be intended to come from a burner account, but Durant said he actually meant to send them from his own account.

Now, he apparently liked an Instagram comment with the opposite message about Westbrook. (I say apparently, because I can’t verify the authenticity of these screenshots, but they at least pass the initial smell test.)

“Like” is Instagram’s word. Maybe Durant uses the function for a different purpose – to note a comment, rather than endorse it.

Perhaps, Durant misread the conversation. The comment he liked rejected the notion that the Thunder were “subpar,” but it criticized Westbrook for them not living up to their ability. Perhaps, Durant focused on the comment sticking up for Oklahoma City overall and missed the part about Westbrook being the shortcoming. Skimming that conversation, it’s a plausible mistake.

Maybe Durant just actually hit the like button. It’s easy enough to do.

Or maybe Durant and Westbrook haven’t really gotten less hostile toward each other. Maybe Durant meant to like this from a burner account.

Those nefarious possibilities are the scintillating ones.

After getting crushed for those tweets last summer and repeatedly downplaying his feud with Westbrook, the Warriors star clearly wanted to move on from these storylines. But all those questions have suddenly reemerged. Perhaps for legitimate reasons, perhaps for benign ones. But we won’t know more about Durant’s intent until he answers to this.