Final day of NBA D-League Showcase offers last chance for players to impress

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The eighth annual NBA Development League Showcase will begin its final day on Thursday afternoon when the Austin Toros game against the Dakota Wizards tips off at 1 p.m. ET on NBA TV. All 16 D-League teams have right around 30 games left this season, but the final games in Reno are quite important as players look to leave the NBA decision makers in attendance with a positive lasting impression.

The Austin Toros have quite a few players on the cusp of the NBA as Justin Dentmon, Lance Thomas, Leo Lyons and Da’Sean Butler were all invited to training camps last month, but Thursday’s game against the Dakota Wizards will be the last time this season that they’re in front of as many NBA scouts as there are in Reno this week. There’s quality buzz around Dentmon and Thomas — both camp invites of the New Orleans Hornets — entering the Showcase finale, but it could be all for naught if they’re unable to impress one more time.

The Dakota Wizards’ top prospect is swingman Edwin Ubiles, a swingman from Siena that’s technically playing out his rookie season after being forced to sit last year due to injury. Ubiles is a great shooter and certainly looks the part, but it’s up to point guard Maurice Baker to get the Dakota offense in sync so the entire team is able to showcase their skills.

Thursday’s second NBA TV game will feature the Oklahoma City Thunder-owned Tulsa 66ers meeting up with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants at 3:45 this afternoon. The Mad Ants will have to prove that they’re more than just good minor league players against a Thunder team that includes leading rebounder Marcus Lewis along with Jerome Dyson, one of the top perimeter defenders in the D-League.

The Rio Grande Valley Vipers will play the Springfield Armor in the penultimate Showcase game on Thursday afternoon in a game that will feature a few interesting match-ups. JamesOn Curry is hoping to get another chance at the NBA by way of starring in the Springfield backcourt while Greg Smith, a rookie big man for the Vipers, has to prove he has the skillset to match his impressive physique at such a young age.

The final game of the D-League Showcase pits the Canton Charge, excellently-run by the Cleveland Cavaliers, against the Iowa Energy. The player to keep an eye on for the Charge is former Cavs wing Manny Harris as he recovers from injury, but it might not be the most exciting game to watch after Iowa was blown out by 30+ points in Wednesday’s nightcap.

Rumor: Grizzlies had to choose between Marc Gasol and David Fizdale

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David Fizdale has been linked to most of the NBA’s head-coaching vacancies.

He developed a legion of backers as lead a Heat assistant, and he did good things guiding the Grizzlies before they unexpectedly fired him. He deserves consideration.

But he also must explain his fractured relationship with Memphis star Marc Gasol. They weren’t speaking for a while.

And maybe the problem was even worse than that.

Marc Berman of the New York Post:

According to a source close to Fizdale briefed on the Grizzlies’ decision, it was ownership having to make a choice — trade their All-Star center Marc Gasol, who has fallen in love with its small-market city, or fire the coach. Their relationship had gotten that bad.

If Grizzlies ownership felt it had to choose between Gasol and Fizdale, it’s not clear why.

Fizdale benched Gasol down the stretch during the coach’s last game, and Gasol publicly expressed his frustration.

But Gasol denied issuing a me-or-Fizdale ultimatum. Fizdale said focus on his relationship with Gasol was “overblown,” adding he cared far more about whether he could win with a player than whether they got along personally.

Memphis obviously sided with Gasol – probably too strongly.

LeBron James bought Cavs teammates matching designer suits to wear to game tonight

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I’m still trying to decide if this is cool or a little too Stepford.

The Cavaliers rolled into the Bakers’ Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis tonight wearing matching designer suits, all paid for by LeBron James and custom fitted to each player.

If a college team rolled into a game in four-digit designer suits, the NCAA would have questions. And not about the vests.

The Cavaliers are LeBron’s team, and if he wants to buy his teammates suits and tell them to wear them it’s going to happen. Is it a bonding thing that helps bring them together? Sure. Is it in place to make sure LeBron remembers which ones are his new teammates? Probably not.

Do the suits help on the court? No. And the Cavaliers better bring it in Game 3 because if they go down 2-1 in this series — something that is a realistic possibility — the whispers of doubt are going to get a lot louder.

Report: Knicks to discuss coaching vacancy with Hawks’ Mike Budenholzer

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Mike Budenholzer is restless in Atlanta, seeing a rebuild coming and looking at other jobs (something Hawks management is fine with). He went down the road a ways with the Suns before pulling out of that process, but he’s still looking around.

The Knicks are casting a wide net in their search, talking to virtually everyone looking for coaching jobs.

So, this seemed inevitable, right? Budenholzer and the Knicks are going to talk, according to Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

This will be very preliminary. The Knicks have already had some level of conversation with Mark Jackson, David Fizdale, Jerry Stackhouse, David Blatt, Mike Woodson, and TNT analyst Kenny Smith (Jackson and Fizdale are the rumored early leaders). Budenholzer has established a style and culture in Atlanta, giving the franchise a path forward. New York could certainly use that.

However, the Knicks job comes with real challenges, too. That starts with James Dolan as owner and the erratic, at times paranoid culture he has created there. Also, expectations in New York are always high, but the team will be without Kristaps Porzigis for at least half (maybe all) of the upcoming season as he recovers from an ACL injury, and that puts a ceiling on the team in the short term. Is all that worth leaving Atlanta for?

 

Stephen Curry to begin “modified” practices with Warriors

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Golden State has flipped the switch in the first round, going up 3-0 on overmatched San Antonio. The Warriors have been outscoring the Spurs by 20.2 points per 100 possessions in the series, allowing less than a point per possession on defense and scoring when and where they want. Kevin Durant is averaging 27.3 points per game, Klay Thompson is shooting 63.3 percent from three and scoring 25.7 points per game, and the Warriors are clicking.

But they are not yet whole — they need Stephen Curry back. Not for this round, but before the Western Conference Finals for sure.

Curry was re-evaluated Friday and will begin practicing with the team in a limited — or “modified” to use the team’s term — way.

The target has always been a return somewhere during the second round, and that still seems to be on track. That is also a little faster than traditional for a Grade 2 MCL sprain, which can take up to two months to heal (not the 4-6 weeks of the Warriors timeline), but the Warriors are being cautious here for now.

Eventually, the Warriors will need him back — their offense is built around Curry and his ball movement and movement off the ball. Curry’s gravity to draw defenders, even when he doesn’t have the ball, opens up the floor for others. Put simply, if he’s 28 feet from the bucket on the weak side defenders still have to watch and be near him, and help defenders need to be aware, which pulls the defense to wherever he is. Without Curry and the Warriors take more midrange jumpers, it’s just in the first round series against the Spurs they are hitting them.