Brandon Costner

Brandon Costner Highlights Top Performers In D-League Showcase’s First Day


The NBA Development League Showcase has 16 games scheduled over the next four days in Reno, Nev., but as the name implies, the entire point of the D-League’s annual affair is for players to showcase themselves in front of the plethora of NBA decision makers in attendance. As Brandon Costner and the Los Angeles D-Fenders showed Monday, however, playing well and winning can happily coincide with each other.

Costner scored 29 points on 12 field goal attempts as his D-Fenders breezed to a 97-82 victory over the Springfield Armor in the second game of the day. The 6-foot-9 forward out of North Carolina State was originally invited to training camp with the Chicago Bulls last month, but was caught in a numbers game before ever being able to report to the team — a frustrating outcome, but one he seemingly took out on the Armor while helping his team post a tally in the win column.

“Coach Musselman had us really prepared for today. We wanted to come to the Showcase and stay hot so we came in focused and got a win,” Costner told Pro Basketball Talk after the game. “It’s always good to win while allowing the whole team to be successful so everybody can be seen in a positive light. It’s not too beneficial when you’re the leading scorer on a sub-.500 team. Nobody wants to see that, but when you’re playing well and playing together, everyone in attendance can see the camaraderie and that helps the whole team out.”

Costner isn’t mentioned in most circles as a call-up candidate, but the sweet-shooting big man — he made four of his seven attempts from beyond the arc on Monday — is certainly going to open some eyes if he’s able to post impressive numbers in the D-Fenders’ games this week. The stocky power forward doesn’t do a lot of his work down low, but there aren’t many players out there with his combination of size and range — something he’s hoping to take advantage of during his second D-League season.

“I came back to try and achieve my dream — The dream of playing in the league,” Costner said.  “Honestly, I feel like this is the second-best level of competition in the world. I’ve played overseas, but there aren’t any other places that are top to bottom as good as the D-League and that competition drives me. This is the best league available and I like try and play well against the best so that’s what keeps me coming back.”

Other notable performances in the first day of D-League Showcase action included:

  • Walker Russell led the Fort Wayne Mad Ants out of a 19-2 deficit to open Monday’s matinee game all the way back to a 100-96 victory over the Bakersfield Jam. Russell, playing in his fifth D-League season, scored 19 points to go with 19 (yes, NINETEEN) assists as he helped teammates Darnell Lazare, Jarrid Famous, Sadiel Rojah and Cameron Jones score in double figures on the way to the comeback win.
  • Mike James, the veteran point guard who’s played for nine different NBA teams, has acclimated himself to the D-League quite well. In just his second game with the New York Knicks owned Erie BayHawks, James led his team to victory with 23 points, five rebounds and five assists while showing he was in game shape by logging over 41 minutes of playing time in the 103-101 victory.
  • In the nightcap, Andre Emmett gave the hometown fans something to cheer about as he scored 15 points in the first quarter on the way to 36 totals points and five steals in a blowout over the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. Emmett’s point guard, Blake Ahearn, was perhaps even more impressive as he scored 26 points and dished 12 assists while turning the ball over just two times in 38 minutes of action.

D-League Showcase coverage will continue on Pro Basketball Talk on Tuesday so be sure to check it out as Greg Ostertag and Ricky Davis make their Reno debuts!

Five Takeaways from NBA Wednesday: Stories to be thankful for this season

Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson
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Happy Thanksgiving. In the spirit of the day, our five takeaways have become five storylines we should be thankful for this young NBA season. We at PBT are thankful to you for being here, reading our work, and, of course, we’re thankful for stuffing (the best part of the Thanksgiving meal). 

1) Record-setting Golden State revolutionizing the game. The Warriors’ revolution will be televised. And copied by half the league or more. Golden State put together the personnel to take full advantage of the current rules (zone defenses, no hand checking on the perimeter), to take what Mike D’Antoni and Steve Nash started to do in Phoenix and win with it. Golden State is at the forefront of the small ball revolution sweeping the league because they can make it work — but nobody can quite copy it because nobody has Stephen Curry or Draymond Green. Those guys are the lynchpins. Curry is the perfect modern point guard, one who can shoot the three comfortably out to nearly 30 feet, but can also recognize the defense and set guys up. Green is his dangerous pick-and-roll partner who makes going small work because their defense doesn’t suffer when they do.

Golden State is kind of like Brazil in international soccer — they’re everybody’s second favorite team to watch because they play such a beautiful and entertaining game. And in the case of Golden State they are winning doing it — they are a record-setting 16-0 to start the season after they won the NBA title. They are the bar to clear in the NBA right now.

2) Kristaps Porzingis, Karl-Anthony Towns lead an impressive rookie class. Even Porzingis’ biggest supporters on draft night thought it would be a year or two before he could contribute at the NBA level. Nope, he’s good right now with the potential for greatness. Karl-Anthony Towns had great offensive moves and vision but back at the draft was seen as a defensive project (especially off the ball). Nope, he is an effective rim protector and pick-and-roll defender now who looks like a franchise cornerstone big man (to go with franchise cornerstone wing Andrew Wiggins) in Minnesota. Justise Winslow is already a good NBA defender who can get some points for Miami on offense. Jahlil Okafor is as advertised, a scoring machine when he gets the ball in the post. Emmanuel Mudiay is improving and showing strong NBA potential up in Denver. Stanley Johnson and Frank Kaminsky are already contributing in Detroit and Charlotte, respectively. And the list goes on.

This is a great rookie class that is going to be fun to watch for a long time.

3) Highlights like these. The NBA’s highlight factory is back in full session with plays like these from Russell Westbrook and Blake Griffin — and these were just Wednesday night’s plays. It’s like this every night.

4) Paul George is back. This is maybe my favorite story of the young season — I was not sure we’d ever see peak Paul George again after his horrific leg injury playing for Team USA. He is all the way back and more. George has scored at least 25 points in nine straight games, he has developed a much more reliable jump shot, and he can still play lock-down defense. He is back to being an elite player, and with him the Pacers are back to being a good and potentially danger ous playoff team (9-5 so far, with a top five defense). 

5) Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan are defying Father Time. Nowitzki’s jumper seemed to be deserting him in recent seasons, and then this season he has gone and gotten it back — he’s shooting 51 percent from three this season. Teams have to game plan for him again like it’s 2011. Duncan and Manu Ginobili are playing their best ball in years for what felt like it could be the final run for this era of the Spurs — San Antonio has been the second best team in the NBA so far. Duncan is playing great defense and understands what he can still do efficiently on offense. Duncan and Nowitzki could well be All-Stars in the West — and they will have earned it, they deserve it for their play.

LeBron James calls Cavs players’ only meeting after loss to Raptors

LeBron James

Yes, the Cavaliers are 11-4 on the season and on top of the East. Yes, they are outscoring teams by 6.7 points per 100 possessions, which is fourth best in the NBA. They have the third best offense in the league. All that without their starting backcourt (Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert). There are reasons to be optimistic.

But the Cavaliers have a middle-of-the-pack defense and their efforts have been up and down. Wednesday night was one of those down nights, they lost on the road to Toronto, dropping the Cavs to 3-4 outside Quicken Loans Arena. All those losses are to teams in the East.

It was enough for LeBron James and James Jones to call a players-only meeting, reports Dave McMenamin at ESPN.

Following a 103-99 road loss to the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday, the Cleveland Cavaliers held a players-only meeting during which LeBron James and James Jones got on the team for its inconsistent play through the Cavs’ 11-4 start to the season, multiple sources told….

“It’s all mindset,” James said after the game, still visibly frustrated. “It comes from within. I’ve always had it; my upbringing had me like that. It’s either you got it or you don’t.”

When asked whether fatigue was a factor, James said, “No. It’s not an excuse.” When another reporter asked whether injuries were to blame, James repeated, “It’s not an excuse.”

Injuries and fatigue did play a role, this was a team without four regular rotation players and that puts more of a burden on everyone else. Players can’t look at it that way, but injuries are a reality and they are impacting the Cavaliers right now.

But I get it. LeBron is trying to set a tone, one he learned in Miami and is now trying to instill in the Cavaliers. It’s about effort, it’s about attention to detail, it’s about building good habits over the course of a season so they can pay off in the playoffs. The Cavs are winning, they look clearly like the best team in the East once healthy, and yet LeBron rightfully isn’t convinced they could beat Golden State or San Antonio right now. The good news is they don’t have to beat them right now, but they need to beat them eventually. The building blocks for that are laid during the season. He wants that building to start going up.

But getting guys healthy would solve a lot of those problems.

Jason Kidd ejected; shoving match ensues between teams after Kings beat Bucks

Jason Kidd

Jason Kidd is going to miss a game or three (and some dollars to go with it), and he could not be the only guy in trouble with the league after a tension-filled end to the Kings’ win over the Bucks Wednesday.

There wasn’t a ton of drama at the end of the contest itself. The Bucks played a “defense optional” game that led to 36 points for Rudy Gay and 13 dimes for Rajon Rondo, and the Kings won their first game this season without DeMarcus Cousins (back issue). That frustrated the Bucks to no end.

Jason Kidd expressed that frustration by slapping the ball out of referee Zach Zarba’s hands, a move that rightfully earned him an instant ejection.

You can be sure a suspension is coming for Kidd — the league can’t let that slide. This was not a Budenholzer incidental bump. After the game here is what Kidd had to say.

After Kidd had gone to the showers, there was a little jawing on the court between Cousins (in street clothes) and the Bucks’ O.J. Mayo. That spilled over after the final buzzer into the tunnel, where there was at the very least some jawing, maybe a little shoving, and a lot of security stepping in before anything serious happened.

Whatever happened in the tunnel is going to be a lot harder for NBA disciplinarian Kiki Vandeweghe (technically the vice-president of basketball operations for the NBA) to sort out. Who started what, and did it rise to the level it calls for a fine or more, is going to be tricky, especially since this was out of site of the arena cameras.