The NBA D-League Showcase Begins Today. Wait, What’s A D-League Showcase?

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The eighth annual NBA Development League Showcase will tip off at 1 p.m. ET on Monday afternoon as executives from all 30 NBA teams (and your’s truly for Pro Basketball Talk) converge on Reno, Nev., to get an in-person look at the top prospects playing in the NBA’s official minor league. The D-League has quite a bit of talent in the league this season, too, meaning at least a couple of call-ups could happen with standout play this week.

Over the next four days, all 16 D-League teams — from everyone’s favorite team, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, to the Cleveland Cavaliers’ own expansion Canton Charge — will play two games as they look to showcase their talents in hopes of moving up to the next level. There’s a pretty good chance of moving up to the next level, too, considering 138 players have already earned their way from the D-League to the big league in the past with the Showcase usually kickstarting that process each season.

The talent at this year’s Showcase is going to be phenomenal. I know what you’re thinking: ‘It’s the freakin’ D-League … How is it possible for you, Mr. New Guy, to come here and say the games are even going to be worth watching, let alone phenomenal?’

Tough crowd.

To answer that question, though, this summer’s NBA lockout forced quite a few players to stay close to home in hopes of making their way into the NBA by way of training camp invites. Not many were able to make it via that route, however, and the majority of overseas jobs were filled by players back in September after the “how u” Tweet ended up being a lot less promising than it sounded on first read.

Training camp cuts aren’t the only well-known names playing in Reno this week, however, as there are quite a few ballers from yesteryear hoping to show scouts and executives in attendance that they’re worth one more contract even if they are past their prime. Some of the more well-known names that will be in action this week include the notorious Ricky Davis, a non-flattopped Greg Ostertag, a still-shimmying Antoine Walker, 12-year journeyman Mikki Moore and (former?) sharpshooter Damon Jones as they look to get called up to the same league they were starters in earlier in their career.

The ‘D’ in D-League does stand for development, however, so there will be a decent number of youngsters in attendance as well. NBA teams have assigned some of their brightest youngsters to get some in-game seasoning this week as three first round picks — Marcus Morris of the Houston Rockets, the Denver Nuggets’ Jordan Hamilton and San Antonio Spurs guard Cory Joseph — join veterans like Yi Jianlian and Sean Williams (yes, the guy who puked all over that can also kiss the rim) as players assigned by NBA teams to get some seasoning until the big club is able to utilize their talents in the rotation.

Along with the aging veterans and players owned by NBA teams that have been sent down on assginment, there are plenty of players available for any NBA team to call-up.

Former NBA Draft picks JamesOn Curry, Gerald Green, Mardy Collins, Terrico White, Orien Greene and Da’Sean Butler litter rosters around the D-League. There are also undrafted players with NBA experience — like Bobby Simmons, Blake Ahearn, Larry Owens, Maurice Baker and Renaldo Major — and guys that aren’t household names quite yet, but could be soon (a la Ivan Johnson last week with the Atlanta Hawks) such as Justin Dentmon, Courtney Fortson, Edwin Ubiles, Charles Garcia and Jeff Foote.

Those players and more will be looking to gain not only the attention of scouts around the NBA this week, but fans of basketball as well as 12 of the 16 Showcase games will be broadcast on NBA TV with veteran play-by-play man Chad Andrus joining Kenyon Murray to call the action from courtside.

A full schedule of this week’s action is available here, but Pro Basketball Talk will provide a preview of each day’s action, interviews featuring the players and scouts in attendance and recaps of the standouts each day — Stay tuned!

Russell Westbrook, Paul George call out Zaza Pachulia for “dirty” fall on Westbrook

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Zaza Pachulia has a reputation. The league even created a rule — the “Zaza rule”  — after he stepped under Kawhi Leonard last playoffs and twisted the forward’s ankle, ending Leonard’s playoffs and the Spurs chances.

Then Saturday night, as the Warriors pulled away in the second half and routed the Thunder, this play happened, where Pachulia fell on Westbrook’s leg.

While there was some contact, was that really enough to knock Pachulia over? It doesn’t look like it, it looks intentional, but remember Pachulia falls into a lot of guys — including Kevin Durant last season. This, however, was ugly.

After the game Westbrook and Paul George called Pachulia out.

Even the Celtics’ Kyrie Irving chipped in on this.

It will be interesting to see if the league does follow up. There is some history here.

After two lopsided losses to OKC, Kevin Durant leads Warriors rout

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Kevin Durant scored 28 points for Golden State while avenging an embarrassing home loss to his former Oklahoma City team earlier this month and another on the road in November, leading the Warriors past the Thunder 112-80 on Saturday night.

Stephen Curry added 21 points with five 3-pointers, nine rebounds, six assists and three steals as Golden State put on the kind of defensive performance coach Steve Kerr has been seeking from the defending champs.

Russell Westbrook had 15 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists for Oklahoma City, which failed to reach 100 points for the first time in the last five games. The Thunder had scored at least 100 in 14 of their last 16.

Durant’s pretty layup off a perfect pass by Curry with 3:06 left in the third put the Warriors up 75-66. That was part of a 37-11 Golden State run that included 30 points over the final 8:48 of the third – when Zaza Pachulia subbed in to relieve JaVale McGee.

The Warriors held Paul George to five points. George’s 3-pointer at the 7:52 mark of the third with Durant’s hand in his face was his first basket after going 0 for 9 to begin the game. He finished 1 for 14 after going off for 38 points in the last meeting when Oklahoma City left Oracle Arena with a 125-105 rout on Feb. 6.

Golden State also lost at OKC by 17 on Nov. 22.

Draymond Green added 10 points, eight assists and five rebounds. He picked up his 15th technical of the season with 1:04 left in the first half, moving him within one of an automatic suspension. That came after Durant and Carmelo Anthony pushed, shoved, yelled from close range and had to be separated, receiving double technicals.

It was a testy rematch after the Warriors received five technical fouls in the previous meeting. That prompted general manager Bob Myers to address the importance of keeping poised.

Durant announced his decision to join the Warriors and leave OKC on July 4, 2016, making him an instant villain in his former city.

He scored 33 in the Feb. 6 meeting but got plenty of help this time.

Earlier this month against the Thunder, Curry and Klay Thompson were a combined 11 of 27 from the floor and 4 for 15 on 3-pointers as the Warriors lost for the third time in four games. Thompson had 11 points Saturday, shooting just 1 for 11 from deep.

The Warriors on Saturday improved to 8-1 this season in the next game against an opponent after losing the previous meeting.

After Shaun Livingston‘s jumper at the 8:47 mark of the second quarter, Golden State went nearly five minutes without scoring before Curry’s basket at 4:51 started a 7-0 burst.

The Thunder grabbed eight offensive rebounds in the opening quarter to score 10 second-chance points, with Westbrook getting eight boards and George five. But Oklahoma City went 2 for 11 on 3s in the initial 12 minutes – Anthony, George and Westbrook a combined 1 of 8.

 

Steve Kerr “disappointed” in alma mater Arizona; wants to see NCAA follow new model

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Before he was the coach of the Golden State Warriors, before he was a five-time NBA Champion playing next to Michael Jordan and Tim Duncan, Steve Kerr was one of the great players the University of Arizona ever produced. The crowd would echo the announcer after ever made three — “Steeeve Keerrr” — where he was an All-American and helped lead a team (with future NBA players Sean Elliott and Tom Tolbert) to the Final Four.

There is a crisis around Arizona basketball right now. Coach Sean Miller was caught on a federal wiretap discussing a $100,000 payment for star recruit Deandre Ayton (expected to be a high lottery pick in June, possibly the No. 1 pick). Miller did not coach Saturday and changes are coming to Arizona.

Kerr was asked about it before the Warriors took on the Thunder Saturday.

Kerr said he was “disappointed” in his alma mater over the incident. Which is understandable.

Not to completely excuse it, but what Miller got caught doing is commonplace — money is funneled to families or the players of top recruits on a regular basis. What is more troubling (in my mind) is the money paid under the table to AAU coaches, family members, and others close to elite recruits to funnel them to a specific “financial planner” or agent, or a specific university. People in positions of trust with the player are bought and paid for.

Kerr put out one solution that would certainly be a big step forward: follow the Olympics model and let elite players get sponsorships that don’t end their college eligibility.

This system has its flaws as well, but it gets some of the dirty money out in the open. It would be better than the hypocritical facade of amateurism the NCAA has hit behind for years.

Joel Embiid has 28 points, 14 rebounds leads Sixers to Seventh straight win

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Joel Embiid had 28 points and 14 rebounds, and the Philadelphia 76ers extended their season-high win streak to seven with a 116-105 victory over the Orlando Magic on Saturday.

Six 76ers scored in double figures. Ben Simmons had 17 points and seven assists, and 3-point specialist J.J. Redick added 16 points on 6-for-8 shooting – and just one 3-pointer. Marco Belinelli had 15 points, Robert Covington had 12 and Dario Saric scored 11.

Aaron Gordon led Orlando with 20 points, including four 3s, to go with seven rebounds and seven assists. Evan Fournier scored 16 points, and former Sixer Nik Vucevic had 15 points and nine rebounds for the Magic, who have lost five straight.

Philadelphia led 58-40 at halftime and 71-49 in the third when Orlando used an 11-2 burst, capped by Aaron Gordon’s 3-pointer, to close within 13.

But the Sixers put on a show to finish the quarter.

Embiid overpowered a few Magic defenders for a slam, and then gestured to the crowd after being fouled while soaring to the hoop on a dunk attempt. After Embiid and Trevor Booker swatted consecutive shots in the final seconds, T.J. McConnell used a crossover move to finish a drive at the buzzer and give the Sixers an 87-71 lead entering the fourth.

Orlando used a late 15-2 run to get within nine and nearly cut it to six with 1:21 left, but a 3-point attempt by Mario Hezonja spilled out.

Midway through the first quarter, Philadelphia had more turnovers (three) than field goals (two) and trailed 15-6. The Sixers then erupted for a 21-3 run and ended the quarter up 27-18.

E-A-G-L-E-S

Orlando head coach Frank Vogel wore an Eagles Super Bowl champions T-shirt during his pregame media availability. A native of Wildwood, New Jersey, Vogel makes sure to get a taste of home when he returns to the Philadelphia area.

“Cheesesteaks, Tastykakes, Yuengling beer if we beat the Sixers,” Vogel said. “Wawa coffee, but I get Wawa in Orlando now. I did get a cheesesteak today.”

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz rang the ceremonial Liberty Bell before the game.

“I think it’s awesome,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. “He can come over and ring as many bells as he chooses.”