Booker Woodfox

It’s All About Having An NBA Skill At D-League Showcase

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The eighth annual NBA Development League Showcase is officially halfway over with the conclusion of Tuesday night’s games, but there’s plenty of talent still hoping to standout in front of the bevy of decision makers that made the trip to Reno, Nev., for the D-League’s premier event of the season. In order to get their attention, it’s been proven in the past that having one transferable skill is all that is absolutely necessary.

Having a certain amount of upside is one way to get  a call-up — as Malcolm Thomas with the Spurs proved earlier this week and fellow rookie prospects like Greg Smith, Edwin Ubiles and  Frank Hassell will likely prove as the season progresses — but it certainly isn’t the only way (Grantland’s Jonathan Givony noted earlier Wednesday that it isn’t even completely on-the-court talents that matter to when teams look to call up a player).

A player can average 25 points per game in the D-League and get lots of attention, but it’s the players that are able to do just one thing at an NBA-level — rebound, defend on the paint or in the wing, shoot consistently from beyond the arc, run an offense without turning the ball over — who garner the most attention when it comes to the executives in attendance.

The players that have been able to carve out a long-term niche in the NBA by way of the D-League prove this, too, because it isn’t often that guys like Chris Andersen, Lou Amundson, Matt Carroll, Anthony Tolliver and Greg Stiemsma are the most talented players on an NBA court. They’re all able to do one thing very well, however, and that’s what allows them to find themselves on a big league roster.

The D-League wasn’t created for making stars, after all, but rather helping develop players into NBA contributors. There are plenty of players on NBA rosters already that can put a ball in a bucket.

One of the best examples of a player exemplifying the role-playing role, as it were, is Greg Ostertag. Ostertag’s NBA comeback has been well-publicized and, even though it looked like it might be a disaster at first, the longtime center for the Utah Jazz seems to have a solid plan for working his way back to the NBA.

“Teams know what I can bring to the table – putbacks, clogging the paint, rebounding and that’s it,” Ostertag told Pro Basketball Talk on Tuesday. “It’s more just a matter of getting into shape enough to go out and play 10 minutes or 20 minutes or whatever an NBA team wants me to play.”

The 38-year-old told the Legends that he wants to play role player minutes in the D-League, too, to prove that he can still be effective in that role … even if he is slightly past his prime.

Some of the top role players can be identified simply by looking through the D-League’s statistical leaders: Booker Woodfox is shooting 46 percent from beyond the arc, Marcus Lewis of the Tulsa 66ers is averaging an impressive 14.2 rebounds despite not showing a lot of other discernible NBA skills, journeyman point guard Walker Russell is averaging two more assists than the next any of his D-League counterparts and 7-foot-5 center Will Foster is blocking more than three shots per game at the rim.

There isn’t a column in the box score that measures a player’s ability to do the little things, however, why is why scouts from all 30 NBA teams showed up in Reno this week to watch 160 off-the-radar players in person. It’ll be interesting to see which players stood out as call-ups begin to come in full-force during the upcoming weeks.

Cavaliers’ defense foundation for blowout win

CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 25: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers gestures in the second half against the Toronto Raptors in game five of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Cleveland blitzed Toronto from the opening tip.

Literally.

Cleveland cranked up their defensive pressure by getting back to aggressively blitzing Raptors’ guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan every time they came off a pick. Or they would chase DeRozan over the top of the pick and trail him, never letting him get comfortable to pull up from the midrange. Whatever the defensive scheme, the Cavaliers were physical with Lowry and DeRozan — the pair was 4-of-14 shooting in the first half.

From the start, the Cavaliers defense dictated the flow of the game and set the tone for a 38-point blowout win.

It is that defense they will need to close out this series on the road Friday night.

“We understood that coming back from Game 3 and Game 4 we just didn’t play our defense the right way,” LeBron James said after the game. “We didn’t play how we should have played, and they took advantage of every moment. We had to get back to our staple; we had to get back to what we wanted to do defensively in order for us to play a complete game. That’s the most satisfying thing, the way we defended, holding these guys to 39 percent shooting.”

Defense triggered the offensive runs by the Cavaliers in the first half — Cleveland had eight steals and scored 20 points off turnovers before halftime. Playing with a renewed energy, the Cavs did a fantastic job fighting over screens and disrupting plays, and they closed out on shooters at the arc. It was their best defensive game of the series. It was the polar opposite of how they played in Toronto.

“I think our intensity picked up, our aggressiveness picked up, we were very physical to start the game and it just kind of led to us getting out in transition, us getting steals and getting easy baskets,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said.

“They were locked in, from the start to the finish,” according to Raptors coach Dwane Casey.”The force that they play with is different here and we didn’t meet it.”

Back home and with their backs against the wall, you can expect a very different, very desperate Raptors team. Lowry and DeRozan will shoot better.

But if the Cavaliers pack their defense and take it north of the border this time, they should close out the series.

LeBron James was dunking all over the Raptors (VIDEO)

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With their defense creating turnovers to get breaks — and the Raptors’ defense just breaking down — the Cavaliers put on a dunking exhibition against Toronto Wednesday.

LeBron James led the way, with 23 points and plenty of dunks. Here is another.

To change things up, here is an and-1.

Cavaliers retake series lead at home with rout of Raptors

CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 25:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers drives to the basket in the second quarter against the Toronto Raptors in game five of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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The Eastern Conference Finals have been all about the comforts of home. Through five games between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors, the home team has come out on top convincingly every time. Wednesday’s Game 5 was no different, with the Cavs destroying the Raptors, 116-78 to take a 3-2 series lead.

After a pair of awful games in Toronto, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving stepped up at home to score 25 and 23 points, respectively, to go along with 23 from LeBron James. The big production from their stars was enough to keep the Raptors at bay — the only other Cavs player to score in double figures was Richard Jefferson, who had 11 points, but it didn’t matter.

On the other side, after coming up huge at home in Games 3 and 4, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan combined to shoot 7-for-20 from the field Wednesday, and nobody else did much to pick up the slack. After not trailing by 30 at a half at any point this season, Toronto trailed by 31 at halftime, and the lead ballooned to 100-60 at the end of the third quarter. From the beginning, this game was one-sided.

The Cavs can close out the series on the road on Friday, ensuring James’ sixth straight trip to the Finals. But the Raptors have been a different team at home during this series, and in a do-or-die situation they should come out with more fight. It’s hard to imagine things going much worse than they did Wednesday.

Report: Joakim Noah having “positive dialogue” with Bulls about future

Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah dunks the ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons, Friday, Dec. 18, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
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And the spin keeps on happening.

First came the report that Joakim Noah was telling teammates he was out of Chicago. Followed by Noah’s agent — the person charged with keeping Noah’s options open — saying that was not true.

Now comes team management — the people who said they want to keep Noah with the Bulls — saying the sides are still talking, and they want him to stay. Via Nick Friedell of ESPN:

Veteran Bulls center Joakim Noah, his representatives and the Chicago front office continue to have a “positive dialogue” about a new contract amid a report that Noah has been telling teammates he’s ready to leave the franchise, a league source told ESPN.com on Wednesday.

Those close to Noah, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, are still hopeful that he will be able to work out an agreement to stay in Chicago long term.

I’m going to let you in on a real insider bit of knowledge on what team Noah will play for next season:

Whatever team pays him the most money.

I know, it’s crazy, but sometimes people make a decision about where to work based on pay. Right now, everything is posturing. Come July 1, money will go on the table, and then Noah will know just how badly the Bulls want to keep him vs. other teams wanting to bring him in. Once the money is out there, if things are roughly even, then minutes and role on the team, lifestyle, weather and all the rest come into play.

But Puffy had it right — it’s all about the Benjamins.