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.

Here’s LeBron James trying on Lonzo Ball’s weirdo jump shooting form (VIDEO)

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Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James is shooting 37.3 percent from 3-point range this season. That’s up a little more than six percent from last season, and three percent better than his career average. He doesn’t need much help there this season, but you know that LeBron is always looking for ways to improve.

Including, apparently, trying on UCLA star Lonzo Ball’s shooting form.

During warmups on Thursday before the Cavaliers took on the Chicago Bulls, LeBron messed around with Ball’s awkward shooting form. If you haven’t seen it, it’s an odd draw from right-to-left, with the right-handed Ball almost shooting from the left side of this face.

Ball was a 41.3 percent shooter from deep during his one season at UCLA and will be a top pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, perhaps much to the chagrin of whichever team has to deal with his dad, LaVar.

Scottie Pippen throws blame for Knicks woes at feet of his former coach Phil Jackson

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Apparently, it’s not “be kind to your former boss month.”

Bulls legend and Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen was on ESPN’s “The Jump” — the Rachel Nichols hosted NBA show on each afternoon — and the topic turned to how much the Knicks stink. And why. Of course, there’s plenty of blame to go around for just about everyone on that front, but Pippen threw his former coach under the bus (transcription via the New York Daily News).

“To be honest with you, I’m going to have to go at my old coach Phil Jackson,” Pippen said on ESPN’s “The Jump.” “I think he just hasn’t put the right pieces on the floor. I give a lot of credit to Carmelo who is being very professional in getting through these 82 game season. And now he’s being benched to some degree, they’re taking a lot of his minutes away. But this team just hasn’t had it. They haven’t had it since Phil Jackson landed there. There hasn’t been any upside.”

After saying “fans would love to see Carmelo in New York and Phil out,” Pippen was asked by host Rachel Nichols if he believes Jackson “should be out.”

“Yes,” Pippen replied emphatically.

Most of Jackson’s former players have his back, most recently Shaquille O’Neal who laid blame at the feet of the Knicks’ players. The ones that Jackson assembled into a mismatched team.

Phil Jackson’s record may be 77-162 since taking over the Knicks, but reports are he isn’t going anywhere. While owner James Dolan can flip like a pancake on a griddle, the sense is that Jackson will keep collecting his $12 million annual salary and will keep trying to build a triangle-offense team. That means Carmelo Anthony likely gets moved this summer.

Jackson has seemingly fallen into the trap the Knicks have been unable to climb out of for years — since James Dolan took over as owner seemingly — of not just picking a system, sticking to it, being patient and avoiding quick fixes. Triangle, Rhombus, pick-and-roll heavy, whatever offense the Knicks use should be built around getting Kristaps Porzingis touches and playing to his strengths. Get younger players who fit that system to go around him and let it grow together. Be patient. Instead, it’s Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah.

Jackson deserves blame. A significant amount. So do the players. So does Jeff Hornacek as coach. But make sure Dolan gets a big slice too, this team has struggled since he was given control, and he is the one constant.

Frustrated Kyrie Irving on another ring: “And I want more. I’m going to go take it.”

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Since the All-Star break, the Cleveland Cavaliers have not looked like a championship team. They have been in a malaise going 8-10 with the second-worst defense in the NBA during that stretch. The Cavs like a team that is just waiting for the games to have meaning again in the playoffs. It makes one tempted to say this will come back to bite them in the postseason, but which team in the East is going to beat them?

The Cavaliers players are frustrated with their play of late, too.  Kyrie Irving vented about it after practice, as reported by Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

“Obviously it was just a frustrating game and there have been a few frustrating games for all of us,” Irving said. “Just getting back to what we do, having fun with one another and being truthful with one another — we’ll be good…

And then Irving said: “You can’t rely on just thinking that one championship is enough. It’s natural for human beings to just get comfortable. To rely on just having won a championship. But if you a (competitor) you want two, you want three, you want four. And if you dedicate yourself more like you say you do, then you want more. And I want more. I’m going to go take it.”

Injuries have had key players, most recently Kevin Love and J.R. Smith out of the rotation of late, and working them back in has not gone smoothly. Still, this is the same core from the team that won the title last season, it shouldn’t be that difficult to get back into a groove.

Cleveland is acting like a team that thinks it can flip the switch.

Maybe they can, but there are some powerful teams out West who seemed to have flipped theirs long ago.

 

Rumor: Bulls ready to move on from Jimmy Butler this summer

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Predicting what the Chicago Bulls front office will do this summer is a game of roulette — the ball can land anywhere and it wouldn’t be a surprise. Is Dwyane Wade coming back? Is Nikola Mirotic part of the future? Fred Hoiberg? What kind of team are the Bulls trying to build, anyway?

Then there is the biggest one: Is Jimmy Butler still part of the long-term plan? Or is he going to be moved to facilitate a rebuilding process?

Last summer when the Bulls had the chance to trade him, they kept Butler to build around him… then made some interesting choices in trying to do that. They didn’t get enough shooting, players didn’t fit well, and others didn’t develop, and the Bulls are struggling to even make the postseason.

So what do the Bulls do this summer? One exec told Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer that the Bulls were going to move Butler.

Paul George and Jimmy Butler were involved in trade rumors at the deadline, and all indications are that those conversations will resume this offseason. One front-office source told me recently that Butler is “as good as gone,” while George sounds like a player who wants out.”

Paul George wanting to contend (or if not, be in Los Angeles) is not news, but whether the Pacers decide to be serious about trading him this summer depends on a number of factors that we’re not going to get into here. This article is about Butler.

Do the Bulls want to trade Butler? Some in the front office do, some don’t. There were reports the Bulls wanted an All-Star level player for him so the team did not take a step back, but nobody was giving that up. Everyone in Chicago from ownership through management is not on the same page, which helps explain some of the stop-gap team building moves by the team. Chicago needs to decide if it wants to go for the full rebuild, which is what happens if they trade Butler. The playoffs are out of the questions for a few years if they do, but that’s not a bad thing if they draft well and commit to the plan. However, there is a sense that ownership thinks “this is Chicago, we don’t rebuild.”

All of which is to say, if the Bulls trade Butler it’s not a huge surprise. If they keep him, it’s not a huge surprise. But other teams — hello Boston — may be prepping for him to come back on the trade market around the draft.