Damian Lillard, Julian Demalleville

Best prospect you won’t see in Tournament: Damian Lillard

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Don’t you go sleeping on Weber State — they have sent eight guys to the NBA, most recently Lance Allred and Eddie Gill.

And they have a lottery-level prospect this year in point guard Damian Lillard. However, those of you who like to do your NBA draft scouting during the NCAA Tournament are out of luck, Weber State isn’t dancing. They didn’t get out of the Big Sky this year.

In an NBA where quick, athletic point guards who can score are at a premium, Lillard is a guy turning a lot of heads. He is averaging 24.5 points per game on 15.2 shots (with the opposing defense keyed on him), he’s taking mire than 7 threes a game and knocking down 43 percent of them, and in his final college game he put up 29 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Here is what DraftExpress wrote about him.

As we’ve mentioned before, Lillard possesses very appealing physical tools for an NBA point guard prospect, standing at 6’2” with an excellent frame and wingspan, to go along with very good athleticism.

He combines those physical gifts with a confident, attacking mentality and a well-rounded skill set, playing as a scoring point guard, capable of carrying a large load offensively at the college level.

I know, I hear you: But he played at Weber State. Think about the level of competition. That’s why the combine and workouts will be important for him. But the decision makers are starting to buy in, as evidenced by this tweet from Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress on Thursday:

I asked a GM if Damian Lillard will go lottery. “He should but no one will have the balls to take a guy who played at Weber State that high”

That attitude may be changing. Chad Ford at ESPN wrote this:

When we moved him into the lottery in mid-February, there were still plenty of skeptics. Interestingly, a few weeks later, very few scouts or GMs remain unconvinced. Virtually every source I speak with has Lillard ranked as a lottery pick. The Jazz and Suns are obvious landing spots for him come draft night. Unless he really disappoints during workouts, I think Lillard is going to go high.

Like virtually all of you reading this, I have not seen Lillard play. I’m looking forward to the reports out of camps. But DraftExpress has him at 13 and late lottery seems likely if his workouts show like the people who have seen him expect. You’re not going to see Lillard the next month, but when you do keep your eyes on him.

Steve Kerr on Stephen Curry: “it’s not an injury”

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In the age of social media and spin, the idea of a nuanced answer — where there is some truth to a statement, but it is not the only reason for something — gets drowned out.

For example, let’s take the case of Stephen Curry‘s below-par performance against the Oklahoma City Thunder (he was 6-of-20 shooting with six turnovers in Game 4 and is 5-of-21 from three in the last two games). A report came out Wednesday morning saying Curry was only 70 percent following his knee surgery, which first led to a lot of silly “excuses” comments on Twitter. This led to Steve Kerr denying the injury, via Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times.

Here’s a radical idea: Curry’s struggles are a combination of things.

Yes, the improved, athletic, and lengthy Thunder defense is giving Curry problems. They are meeting him out high, often doubling off the pick-and-roll, and when that pick is set by Draymond Green Kevin Durant and his length is doing a great job of blowing that play up. Also, it is clear the physical exertion of guarding Russell Westbrook is wearing Curry down.

But also, he has lacked the explosiveness we saw lift him to a second consecutive MVP during the season. He’s had great quarters — the fourth and OT in Game 4 vs. Portland, and the second quarter of Game 2 vs. OKC — but he has not been the consistent force we are used to seeing.

Welcome to the playoffs, where if someone is a little bit off that gets exploited by the other team.

That is what is going on, the rest is just spin.

Frank Vogel says it would be “inaccurate” to say he begged for his job with Pacers

TORONTO, ON - MAY 01:  Head Coach Frank Vogel of the Indiana Pacers looks on in the first half of Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Toronto Raptors during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at the Air Canada Centre on May 01, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  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 Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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This is all moot now. Frank Vogel has landed on his feet with a promising young Orlando team; Nate McMillan slid up a chair to take over the head coaching job in Indiana (which is an odd hire if Larry Bird wants the Pacers to play faster). But…

Frank Vogel wants you to know he did not beg for his job.

At the post-firing press conference of Pacers’ coach Larry Bird, he said that Vogel basically begged for his job. Vogel, speaking on ESPN Indianapolis Radio’s Dan Dakich Show Tuesday, via the Indianapolis Star:

Larry’s going to speak his mind. A lot of people talked to me about it who didn’t like that and it’s probably an inaccurate perception that I was begging him to stay. … I fully respect Larry and the process. He knew it was going to be an unpopular move but he did what he had to do.

“I felt like we were on the verge of some big things. We stood toe-to-toe with a 56-win team. I told my team after the series that were poised … I felt like I was going to be able to do that with this group. That was my only mention to Larry.”

Again, this is all moot.

The reality is Vogel was never Bird’s guy, Bird wanted the Pacers to play faster than they did last season (11th in the NBA in pace), and Bird thought it time for a change. He’s the team president, it’s his call.

But did Bird make the Pacers better with this move? Begging discussion aside, that is the question to which he must answer.

Kobe Bryant texts Draymond Green, says making history is not easy

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The Golden State Warriors made history — they won 73 games, more than any team in NBA history.

But they are on the verge of being remembered like the 2007 Patriots.

The Warriors are down 3-1 to the Thunder for a variety of reasons — the Thunder defense has been exceptional, Russell Westbrook is a beast, for whatever reason Stephen Curry is not playing like MVP Stephen Curry — but there is another key one:

Draymond Green has played like crap the last couple games.

Kobe Bryant, who relates to Green’s drive and intensity, texted him a message according to Sportando:

That reflects Kobe’s world view.

It may be very different from the Warriors’ reality — even if Curry and Green were back to playing at their peak, it very well might be a coin toss with this Thunder team playing at their peak. The struggles of those two — Green has turned the ball over, missed shots, and missed defensive rotations for two games — have a lot to do with the quality of play of that Thunder defense.

But if the Warriors can come back and win the series (and the title), it will add to their legend.

Report: Grizzlies offer David Fizdale head coaching job

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This is a quality hire, a respected long-time NBA assistant who has deserved a shot in the big chair.

But is he an upgrade over Dave Joerger?

Apparently the Grizzlies are betting that Miami Heat assistant coach David Fizdale is the man they need. From Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Casual fans may not know his name, but this could be a good hire for Memphis. Fizdale is an assistant coach with a quality franchise who has paid his dues and deserves a chance. For example, in Miami Fizdale had won the trust and respect of a team full of players that had won rings. He was a guy they leaned on. As an example, Fizdale worked hard with LeBron James on developing a post game; he was the guy LeBron trusted.

But how will he deal with an aging roster that lacks shooting? The Memphis job is a good one, but it has its challenges.