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

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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!

Hornets’ owner Michael Jordan: “I’m not looking to trade Kemba” but he’ll listen

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The Charlotte Hornets are having a disappointing season. Projected by many (myself included) to be a playoff team (with an under/over of 42.5 in Las Vegas), Charlotte is 19-26 and four games out of the playoffs in the East.

That has left Charlotte management with a question: Is it time to trade Kemba Walker, work to tear the team down and rebuild, or do they chase the eight seed? Walker doesn’t want to be traded.

Team owner Michael Jordan doesn’t want to trade him, but he’s listening to offers, he told Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer.

“We bred him, we chose him, we groomed him to be a good player for us,” Jordan said of Walker, who the Hornets drafted ninth overall in 2011, to a great extent because Jordan saw traits in Walker that reminded him of his own playing career.

“I’m not looking to trade Kemba, but I would listen to opportunities….

“It’s not like we are shopping him. We would not just give him up. I love Kemba Walker. I would not trade him for anything but an All-Star player.”

Charlotte with Walker is in the same place as the Clippers with DeAndre Jordan — moving him would mean a dramatic shift for the organization going forward, so they are only going to do it with a quality offer in return. It’s going to take some combination of good young players and picks that can jumpstart a rebuild, and in the Hornets case they want to attach one of their bad contracts (such as Marvin Williams).

So far, those offers have not come for either team. The trade market has been tight, in part because a lot of teams are in the playoff hunt (such as the Hornets) and don’t want to move quality players, and in part because teams spent a lot of money in 2016 and are pushing the luxury tax (such as the Hornets) and they can’t take on salary (and with that are finding it hard to move bad contracts).

Come Feb. 9, expect Walker to still be wearing the team uniforms of Charlotte as no deal is found. But also expect Michael Jordan to feel cans for another day.

Watch DeMarcus Cousins’ historic 44/24/10 night

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The last time somebody did this — scored more than 40 points, had more than 20 rebounds, and dished out more than 10 assists in a game — “Poseidon Adventure” was in the theaters and Elton John had just released “Rocket Man.” It was Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar when he was still playing in Milwaukee.

Monday night, DeMarcus Cousins did it.

Cousins scored 44 points, had 24 rebounds, and dished out 10 assists in the Pelicans’ double OT win against Chicago. These were not meaningless points, Cousins picked up seven of them in the second overtime.

Cousins has had a monster first half of the season and earned his first All-Star Game start this year.

Report: Kevin Love called out in emotional Cavaliers team meeting

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Having lost 8-of-11, a Cavaliers team meeting where the players got to vent seemed inevitable. There isn’t one person in that Cavaliers locker room that doesn’t deserve some blame for how things have turned.

However, Kevin Love apparently became the whipping boy.

From Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The Cleveland Cavaliers held a fiery team meeting in the practice facility locker room prior to Monday’s practice, during which several players challenged the legitimacy of Kevin Love’s illness that led him to leave Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma City early and miss Sunday’s practice, league sources told ESPN.

Several players were pushing for the Cavaliers’ management and coaching staff to hold Love accountable for leaving the arena before the end of Saturday’s game, and then missing Sunday’s practice, league sources told ESPN.

The meeting was loud and intense, only calming down once Love spoke to those gathered in the room and explained himself, league sources said.

The more things change, the more things are always Kevin Love’s fault.

According to the report, the majority of the team seemed to accept Love’s explanation. Love left the Cavaliers ugly, nationally televised blowout at the hands of the Thunder in the first half and did not return due to what was described only as an illness. He did not stay around for the end of the game. I’m not about to speculate on how ill he was or was not, what matters is that his teammates were not buying it. When a team is losing finger-pointing is almost inevitable, and Love has gotten more than his fair share of it in Cleveland. At least he stood up for himself.

Team meetings may allow a pressure release in a locker room, but they almost never result in any kind of meaningful change. We’ll see what if anything changes in Cleveland.

Bucks GM on Jason Kidd firing: “This is a performance-based thing”

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Last season the Bucks went 42-40 in the regular season and were up 2-1 in their first-round playoff series against Toronto before ultimately losing in six.

This season, expectations were high. Before the season there was talk from the team of a 50-win team (Las Vegas oddsmakers set the under/over at 47.5) that would finish in the top four in the Eastern Conference, hosting a playoff round. There was hope that the defense would improve, and with that the Bucks would look like a young team figuring it out.

They haven’t looked like that at all — they are 23-22 (with the point differential of a 20-25 team), and their defense is 25th in the NBA. Currently, they have just a one-game cushion for the final playoff slot in the East.

That cost coach Jason Kidd his job, first-year Bucks GM Jon Horst said Monday night at a press conference, as reported by Matt Velazquez at the Journal-Sentinel.

“At the end, this is a performance-based thing,” Horst said. “We believe in this team, we believe in our players and in the talents that they have. We’re looking forward at making playoff appearances in consecutive years for the first time in over a decade and hopefully winning a first-round series for the first time in over a decade. So we felt like at this time, this is the right decision to help this team get there.”

Around the league the move was not a total surprise, but the timing caught people off guard. Horst said it happened “relatively quickly” and explained:

“A general manager in the NHL had a statement once: ‘If something is inevitable, why wait?’ I think we came to the conclusion that this was the best thing for the future of the franchise and this was the time.”

Come this summer this will be the hottest coaching job available because of Giannis Antetokounmpo and the potential of this roster. Names such as Jeff Van Gundy and former Pelicans coach Monty Williams have been mentioned, but the ultimate list will be longer. Honestly, a few coaches with jobs might rather have the Bucks job (although the challenges between the two owners there can make things uncomfortable at times).

“We have another game on Friday and between that time we have a plan that we’ll put in place that we’ll kind of layout for the rest of the season,” Horst said. “We’ll go into the summer and have an extensive coaching search with an opportunity to hopefully find a great coach for this organization of which (interim coach) Joe Prunty has every opportunity to be a part of based on what happens going forward.”

This is going to a rough adjustment for Antetokounmpo and some of the players, who respected and trusted Kidd. There’s a lot of pressure on Horst with this hire.

That doesn’t make it the wrong move — Horst did the right thing here. The Bucks were going to be moving on, they just did it sooner rather than later.