2012 adidas Eurocamp preview

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The NBA’s pre-Draft camp in Chicago, which wrapped up on Friday, is the place where league front-office types get a combine-style look at U.S. college players. The equivalent for international players is adidas Eurocamp, a three-day event which kicks off June 10 in Treviso, Italy.

The camp is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, and adidas, who has been affiliated with it for the last three, is making sure it remains the premier place for NBA teams to view and interact with international prospects. Houston Rockets director of scouting Artūras Karnišovas is in his first year as the camp’s director, and Minnesota Timberwolves assistant coach Bill Bayno is in his first year as the camp’s coaching director. Kevin McHale will be in attendance to hold a special clinic for bigs, and other familiar basketball names working the camp include Blazers head coach Kaleb Canales, Grizzlies assistant Dave Joerger, and Suns assistant Igor Kokoskov.

Chris Grancio, Head of Global Sports Marketing for adidas, gave me an overview of what the camp is all about, and explained how adidas is doing everything it can to continue to make it a success.

“We’ve really tried to focus on elevating all elements of the program,” he said. “As the official outfitter of the NBA, we’re very well-connected to the league, and we saw it not only as an opportunity, but a responsibility really to look at continuing to elevate and invest in this platform so it became better and better.

“Some specific examples — for us, it’s always about talent. We really focus on every year ensuring that we have the best players coming for the scouts that come over to watch them play. We focus on ensuring that we continue to develop and grow the content, so that the players that do come are getting the best possible basketball experience on the court, and a great experience off it as well. And then the last real objective that we set our eyes on in the recent past and immediate future, is really doing everything in our power to elevate the camp itself so that it becomes a true one-to-one experience compared to the Chicago pre-draft camp, which so many U.S. fans are used to seeing and hearing about.

“We’re also bringing Trajan Langdon over, to help really strengthen the coaching staff’s connection to the players. Trajan’s a little bit more of a younger guy, he had a fantastic career in Europe. He himself is an aspiring coach in the long-term, and it’s a great opportunity to bring somebody in that has a lot of similar, relevant experience to our players, and put him in a role where he can help connect, relate, and communicate with them over the course of the camp.”

The players’ experience seems just as important to adidas as ensuring that the practices, drills, and scrimmages showcasing them remain not only relevant to NBA teams, but consistent with the information they get on prospects from the states.

“We’ve made some big steps over the last year by including BAM (Basic Athletic Measurement) testing, which is the official biometric testing of the NBA,” Grancio said. “They partner with the league at the Chicago pre-draft camp to measure agility, jump height, quickness, and we’ve invested in bringing them into the Eurocamp environment so we can get the exact same metrics and readings off of all of the athletes that are participating. So if you’re a general manager, you can look at statistics that are absolutely identical, measured the same way, and certified by the same group of people to compare an athlete that might be coming from Slovenia, and a kid that’s coming from Kansas.”

In addition to skills testing (and unlike the Chicago camp where it is solely measurement and drill-based), the players have the opportunity to participate in games against one another. Some choose not to, of course, in favor of individual workouts where there is less downside and a player’s unique skill-set can be showcased.

The talent level at the camp, at least in terms of players who might make an immediate NBA impact next season, isn’t nearly as deep as in years past. Only one international player, shooting guard Evan Fournier of France, is projected as a possible late-first-round pick, while just a few others — Tomas Satoransky (combo guard, Czech Republic), Kostantinos Papanikolaou (small forward, Greece), Tornike Shengelia (power froward, Georgia), and Nihad Djedovic (wing, Bosnia) — are projected to possibly be taken in the second round.

As a comparison, last year’s camp had three top-10 2011 NBA draft picks attend — Jonas Valanciunas, Jan Veseley, and Bismack Biyombo. But the amount of NBA-ready talent is always going to fluctuate year over year, so the important thing for adidas is to do what they’ve been doing, which is to continue to put on the premier pre-draft camp for international players.

There are plans in the works to televise portions of the camp in the future, most likely through a partnership with NBATV. In the meantime, keep it here over the next few days as we bring you the latest news from Treviso.

Cleveland GM David Griffin: “I hope everybody says we have no chance”

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The Golden State Warriors are heavy favorites to win the NBA title. According to bovda.lv, bet $100 on the Warriors to win the title and you get $41.7 dollars. Bet $100 on the Cavaliers and you get $200. And that number is likely to get worse for Warriors fans.

The Cavaliers are okay with that. They like being the underdogs. Look at what GM David Griffin said in a televised interview after they eliminated the Celtics in Game 5, via Cleveland.com.

“I hope everybody says we have no chance,” General Manager David Griffin said during a TV interview following the Cavaliers’ 135-102 win Thursday night against the Boston Celtics, clinching a third straight NBA Finals appearance.

“Obviously the team we’re playing is as good as you can possibly put together, it’s going to be an unbelievable battle for us, but I think [the Cavs] love battling together. The greater the odds, the better we seem to play together. We really do rally around each other in that sense.”

There is some truth to that.

There’s also a difference between that truth and slowing Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. How the Cavaliers are going to do that will be the interesting part of these playoffs.

Detroit’s Van Gundy honored for cooperation with media, fans

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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Stan Van Gundy of the Detroit Pistons has won the Rudy Tomjanovich Award, which honors an NBA coach for his cooperation with media and fans, as well as excellence on the court.

The Professional Basketball Writers Association announced the winner Friday. Van Gundy was one of five finalists for the award. The others were Steve Clifford of the Charlotte Hornets, Mike D’Antoni of the Houston Rockets, David Fizdale of the Memphis Grizzlies and Brad Stevens of the Boston Celtics.

Dwane Casey of the Toronto Raptors won the award last season.

No surprise: It’s Cavs-Warriors in the NBA Finals, again

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OAKLAND (AP) — Here they go again.

For the third straight year, it’s Cleveland and Golden State in the NBA Finals. The 2016 champions versus the 2015 champions . The first “threematch” – rematch of a rematch – in league history. It’s the matchup most expected, the matchup most predicted, and probably the matchup the Cavaliers and Warriors wanted as well.

Let the hype, and the waiting, begin: Game 1 isn’t until June 1.

“I’ve been very blessed the last few years to be a part of this league and play on the big stage,” said Cleveland star LeBron James, who has now reached the Finals for the eighth time – including each of the last seven years. “But we’re going to enjoy this for a couple more days before we have to lock in on that juggernaut out west.”

The Cavaliers and Warriors split their two meetings this season, both winning at home. Cleveland won by one on Christmas Day, Golden State prevailed by 35 on Jan. 16.

Golden State led the league with 67 wins this season and is a staggering 27-1 in its last 28 games – including a perfect 12-0 in the Western Conference playoffs, the first time a team has gone this deep into an NBA postseason without losing. Cleveland, which seemed sleepy at times in the regular season, went 12-1 in the Eastern Conference playoffs that ended with a win over Boston on Thursday night.

“Playing in this league, you can’t take anything for granted,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said. “Thirty teams suit up every year trying to get to this point, and only two teams do. So you have to appreciate it. … We need to understand the privilege that we have and the opportunity that we have to play in the Finals again, to have the opportunity to win a championship.”

Already, the back-and-forth is underway.

Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue was quoted earlier this week saying he thought Boston’s offense was “harder to defend” than Golden State’s. Countered Golden State acting coach Mike Brown, when asked about it Thursday: “That’s his opinion. It’s cute.”

And there will be reminders of the Halloween party that James threw for the Cavaliers last fall, with “3-1 Lead” – a nod to what the Warriors lost in last year’s Finals – prominently displayed on the drum set.

Much more of that sort of that will likely follow over the next week, filling time before Golden State plays host to Game 1. But there’s also a clear respect level between the clubs as well.

“The best team in our league the last three years,” James said of the Warriors. “And they’ve added an unbelievable player in Kevin Durant this year. So it makes it even more difficult. They’re going to challenge us a lot, offensively, defensively, mentally, physically. We have to be ready for the challenge.”

For James, the Finals are an annual rite.

For Durant, this trip ends a five-year wait.

Durant’s only other time in the Finals was 2012 when he was with Oklahoma City. The Thunder lost to Miami in five games, a series that made James a champion for the first time.

At the very moment where the clock ran out in that series, the person James was embracing was Durant – telling the then-Thunder star, his offseason workout partner at the time, how proud of him he was.

“Hopefully,” James said that night, “I don’t continue to have to run into him.”

They’ll collide again, starting next week.

Durant’s decision to leave the Thunder for Golden State as a free agent last summer meant the Warriors went from mere overwhelming favorites to win the West again to super-duper-overwhelming favorites to win the West again. They got a big scare in late February when Durant had a left knee injury, but he’s back and the Warriors have rolled since.

“It’s a little different, definitely. I can’t lie,” Durant said, when comparing the 2012 Finals trip to this one. “I went when I was 23 years old, and it felt like the Western Conference Finals was almost like the championship. Just getting to that point, you know how hard it is and how much work you put in to start the season. So it’s a little different now, obviously. We have a bigger goal in mind.”

The storylines are many. Can James win his fourth ring? Can Durant win his first? Will the Warriors be haunted by letting last season’s 3-1 lead slip away? Will they become the first team in NBA history to go undefeated in a postseason? How will Golden State guard Kyrie Irving? How will Cleveland try to contain Curry?

There’s also the irony that Brown, the first coach who took James to an NBA Finals in 2007 – Cleveland was swept by San Antonio – will now coach against him, likely in the same leading role he’s had for Golden State since head coach Steve Kerr was forced to take a break because of continued problems with his surgically repaired back.

“I don’t care who you’re playing, to make it to the NBA Finals, to win your conference finals, it’s a big task,” Brown said.

The biggest task awaits.

Isaiah Thomas wants Celtics to sign free agents, reportedly they are not looking to trade him (yet)

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The Boston Celtics made a huge leap forward this season: They got the No. 1 seed in the East and made it to the Eastern Conference Finals. For a team on the rise, that’s impressive.

However, as soon as they landed the No. 1 pick in this draft, a big question started to bubble up:

What is the future of Isaiah Thomas with this team? Which is a strange thing to say about a guy who averaged 28.9 points per game and was All-NBA this season, but here we are.

First, the Celtics are not looking to trade IT this summer as some have suggested, reports Sean Deveny of the Sporting News.

That starts with All-Star Isaiah Thomas, whose name has lately been the subject of trade speculation. But league sources indicate that any talk of dealing Thomas is strictly speculation at this point — the Celtics have had no such discussions. Not yet, at least.

The challenge for the Celtics seems to be this: If they draft Markelle Fultz No. 1 (as is expected by everyone around the league), then what is the future for Thomas? Do you want to pay Thomas max money just as he turns 29 when you have a stud young point guard coming up behind him?

That led to talk of extending Thomas this summer with the team’s cap space (which assumes they do not sign Gordon Hayward). Except Thomas would rather the money be spent on free agents than himself, as he told Chris Forsberg of ESPN.

“We need the best possible player that’s gonna help us win, and I’m with that,” said Thomas. “Anything Danny and this organization need me to do to help bring even more talent to this city, I’m all for that. I want to win a championship and being so close to getting to the Finals, that makes you want it that much more.

“I’m all help if they need it. I’ll be around.”

Nothing is certain in the NBA, but here is the most likely outcome of the Isaiah Thomas situation: They keep him, they draft Markelle Fultz, they do not extend Thomas (whether they land Hayward or not), and they see how it all fits together for a season. Then they make a decision on Thomas in the summer of 2018. The bottom line is he may well have more value to the Celtics than another team, and while he’s certainly getting a raise from the $6.3 million, he will make next season he may fall short of the max, and in a zone where the Celtics are willing to keep him.

In pure basketball terms, the Celtics may be hesitant to spend on Thomas, but he is also the most popular player on the team by a mile. Letting him go is not that simple.

There are a lot of questions to be answered between now and next summer when it comes to IT.