2012 adidas Eurocamp: Day 2 recap

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Evan Fournier is the top international prospect in attendance at adidas Eurocamp, and after skipping the first day of action, Fournier was a full participant in Day Two’s activities. Projected as a mid-to-late first round pick before playing at Eurocamp, if anything, his play on Monday solidified his draft position, and perhaps even made his stock rise.

Fournier is listed as a forward on the camp’s roster, but spends plenty of time handling the ball, and is comfortable at the two as well, where he has no trouble showcasing a smooth shooting stroke, even from deep three-point distance. His value as both a playmaker and a legitimate wing who can competently play three positions is undoubtedly going to be of interest to plenty of NBA teams.

Fournier played in the first game of the day, and wasted no time delivering the highlights.

On the game’s first possession, Fournier was defending the ball-handler as he crossed halfcourt. When the high screen came, Fournier went under as his opponent got by him, but only until he was in position to rip the ball from behind, which he did flawlessly before taking it untouched the other way for a breakaway slam.

The consensus was that his overall level of talent was simply a step above the rest of the players at camp, and he has a polish to his game that may have him ready to contribute immediate, meaningful minutes for an NBA team in the right situation. Other highlights from his first Eurocamp game included a one-handed bounce pass from just inside halfcourt on a fast break that led to an easy two, a steal out top that came by defending the passing lanes, a perfect pass off of a pick and roll where he was the ball handler that found his big man right at the rim, and precise entry passes to the post from the wing position.

After playing 29 minutes and scoring 12 points in the Eurocamp exhibition, Fournier then suited up for team France in the very next game, and contributed another 14 points in 28 minutes in their win against the U20 team from Russia.  He combined to go 11-19 from the field in the two games, including 4-7 from three-point range.

Fournier seemed like the real deal in his first day of action, and it wouldn’t at all be surprising to see him drafted near the end of the lottery or just after, considering his versatility and NBA-ready skill set.

*****

Donatas Motiejūnas made an appearance at Eurocamp on Sunday, and was there clearly at the request of the Houston Rockets. Head coach Kevin McHale and general manager Daryl Morey are among the members of team’s brain trust in attendance, and they were seen exchanging pleasantries with the seven-footer from Lithuania who was the 20th overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft.

Houston traded for Montiejunas on draft night, but the big man elected to play in Europe last season instead of beginning his career in the NBA. The Rockets hope to have him on the roster next season, and McHale put the player he calls D-Mo through a private workout at the camp on Monday afternoon.

*****

Restricted Portland Trail Blazers’ free agent Nicolas Batum was at Eurocamp on Monday, in advance of the Q&A session he and Danilo Gallinari are scheduled to hold with the players on Tuesday. He told me he was disappointed by the way things unfolded in Portland last season, and that many factors would weigh into his upcoming free agency,

“For this team, we always have high expectations,” he said. “And from the first day, when your go-to guy retires, that’s tough. That’s tough to replace; you can’t replace a guy like Brandon Roy, on and off the court.  We were maybe the unluckiest team in the league, but we kept playing and we didn’t make excuses. We had a very good start, and then we started to lose some games and we started thinking too much. Then we had a bad series of losing games, and then we cut the coach, and we trade two veteran guys — (Marcus Camby) was the voice of the locker room. We tried to do something, we kept battling until the end, but that was a tough season for us.”

Batum also mentioned that the team’s choices — in terms of whether it wants to try to compete now or build for the future — will be a factor in his free agent decision.

“I want to be sure which way we want to go,” he said. “What they want to do, and when they want to do it. That’s going to be huge for me. I don’t know yet, we’ll see July 1 what happens. I’m going to check every situation to see which one is the best for me. I don’t have cities or teams in mind right now, but I just want the best situation.”

Keep in mind that Portland can match any offer that Batum receives from another team, so ultimately, the decision to stay or go isn’t his to make.

Meanwhile, Batum had plenty to say about fellow Frenchman Evan Fournier.

“I played against him during the lockout,” Batum said. “I’ve known him for four or five years now, and he’s a great player. He’s very confident about himself, trust me. He’s a little bit like Tony Parker (in that regard). Tony said he wanted to be the best point guard in the NBA, and he almost did it. Evan is the same way. He said ‘I’m going to get drafted in the first round, maybe a lottery pick.’ And he’s almost there.”

*****

Kevin McHale gave an informative and inspiring clinic on post play to the players in attendance during his guest speaker spot after the morning session. He also talked about the state of post play in today’s NBA, and the reasons why he believes players and teams have gone away from it over time.

*****

A couple of other quick notes as we put Day Two in the books:

– Tomas Satoransky, the clear-cut star of Day One, bowed out of the second day’s activities. Satoransky was around; I saw him at lunch in street clothes. But word had it he was pleased with his opening day performance in the camp, and was preparing to head to the states for individual workouts with various NBA teams.

– Riccardo Moraschini (Italy) definitely showed some signs. As a 6’5″ wing, he goes hard to the basket and takes the contact, while still delivering results. He was good off the dribble, has explosive hops, and was physical in trying to score the basketball inside.

Rumor: Carmelo Anthony to accept trade to Trail Blazers if Knicks and Rockets don’t strike deal

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Carmelo Anthony trade talks between the Knicks and Rockets appear to be going nowhere.

Yet, Anthony’s camp is reportedly cautiously optimistic he’ll get dealt by Monday.

This might explain why.

Jason McIntyre of Fox Sports:

Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum have recruited Anthony to Portland. The Trail Blazers have plenty of expendable players who could be aggregated to matching Anthony’s salary – Evan Turner, Maurice Harkless, Meyers Leonard, Al-Farouq Aminu and Ed Davis – plus lower-paid players to give New York value. This certainly looks plausible.

It’d make sense for Anthony to hold out as long as possible for Houston, his ideal destination. He can use his no-trade clause to force the Knicks to deal with only the Rockets.

But what if that fails?

I’m skeptical New York, Portland and Anthony all agree to a deal. There are just too many sides to please.

The Knicks will need more than just bad contracts to move Anthony, and the Trail Blazers don’t need more scoring enough to relinquish significant assets. Anthony would also have to approve, and as miserable as the Knicks have been, the New York market still matters.

Again, this is plausible, but I’m doubtful. Either way, we should know soon with training camp around the corner.

LeBron James reportedly “invested” in helping Derrick Rose get next big contract

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Reality smacked Derrick Rose across the face last summer.

Last season, the former MVP made $21.3 million in the final year of a five-year rookie contract extension, and while injuries had slowed his game he was playing better. Combine that with seeing the drunken sailor spending spree the previous summer, and he was hoping for — if not a max contract — still a healthy eight digit one. Instead, he signed a one-year deal at the veteran minimum, $2.1 million, to play for the Cavaliers.

LeBron James wants to see his man Rose get paid again, Dave McMenamin of ESPN said on The Jump.

“I’ve heard that for the first couple of days, Derrick Rose has been ‘killing it.’ I’ve also heard that LeBron is invested in Derrick Rose’s career so that he can get that next contract.”

The first part of that, the “killing it” part, you can just throw out. Maybe Rose looks great at the mini-camp LeBron is hosting for the Cavs in Santa Barbara, I hope he is, but preseason everybody is “killing it” or “has lost/gained 15 pounds and is in the best shape of his life” or “has worked hard and now has an impressive jump shot.” Rose probably does look great in Cavaliers camp against Jose Calderon, let’s see how he looks once he has to go up against real NBA players.

Rose’s next contract will be interesting. Maybe LeBron can set him up to look better this season, but it’s going to be on Rose mostly. Once healthy (whenever that is), Isaiah Thomas will be the starting point guard in Cleveland, plus as always LeBron James will have the ball in his hands a lot. (Which he should, he’s the best player on the planet.) But that means Rose needs to learn to work off the ball with LeBron more, and when LeBron (and eventually Thomas) sit, Rose needs to take over and show he can get a team buckets for a 5-7 minute stretch. Do that and he has a role that will get him some money. I’m not sold Rose can do much more than that at this point in his career.

How much money Rose will get is another issue. It’s going to be a tight market next year where only a few teams have much money to spend, and Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Tony Parker, Cory Joseph, and maybe Rajon Rondo (depending on how he does in New Orleans) will be higher on team’s boards than Rose.

But if LeBron is “invested” that could help Rose make a little more green next season.

Another report Andrew Wiggins about to sign max deal in Minnesota

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Is Andrew Wiggins a max player?

If by that you mean “does Andrew Wiggins deserve to be a max player?” then it’s a controversial question around the league. He averaged 23.6 points per game last season, shot 35.7 percent from three, played solid defense, and is just 22 years old. But he’s not a great playmaker, not consistent, and on a team with Karl-Anthony Towns and Jimmy Butler is the third best player. Is that a guy who gets max money?

However, if by max player you mean “he will make max money” then yes, Wiggins is about to be a max player. We have written before that a max deal was all but done, and Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo sports is the latest to confirm this is about to go down.

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins is progressing toward a five-year, $148 million maximum contract extension and is hopeful to sign soon, sources told The Vertical.

The Timberwolves prioritized extending Wiggins this offseason, and both sides are hopeful of completing the contract shortly, league sources told The Vertical…. Wiggins’ previous agent, Bill Duffy, negotiated a maximum contract with the Timberwolves this summer before the sides parted ways.

It’s a max contract, so there is no salary negotiating, and the delay is just likely tied to the changing of agents. That said, it will get done.

Wiggins is going to face some new challenges this year. He’ll be teamed with Jimmy Butler, the two have similar games but Butler is basically better at most things. Towns is going to (and should) get more touches. Can Wiggins make the adjustments and accept his role now? If so, he may well be worth that max money.

Warriors’ Mike Brown says Steve Kerr communicates as well as Popovich

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Mike Brown has been around the league and back as a coach. He was an assistant coach under Gregg Popovich in San Antonio, went on to be the head coach of the Cavaliers (taking them to the 2007 NBA Finals) and the Los Angeles Lakers, and now is the lead assistant under Steve Kerr with the Golden State Warriors. He’s seen a lot, and watched a lot of different styles of coaching.

Kerr played for Popovich in San Antonio, so you’d expect the Warriors coach picked up some tricks from the master. But what is most similar about them is how they communicate, Brown told Mark Medina of the San Jose Mercury News.

“[Steve’s] communication skills are on par with one of the greatest communicators of all time in Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs. Their style is a little bit different. But it’s just as effective, just as powerful and garners just as much as Pop does from some of the greatest players of all time because of the way he communicates. One of the attributes that I observed on a daily basis was how even keeled he was. He never got too excited, nor did he ever get too down, no matter if things were good or things were bad in front of him. Our guys, especially the veteran group we have, really feed off of that. They know if Steve was a believer in them and he was calm, cool and collected, that they would be the same and just focus on trying to do their jobs at the highest level. For me, that was one of the biggest things I wanted to concentrate on.”

For a coach at the NBA level, it’s in large part about the culture and having a feel for the team. Is it a young team that needs more discipline? A veteran team that needs more rest? Being able to communicate what is needed in a way that the players listen to and respect can be a hard line to walk. In the case of the Warriors, with a lot of driven players in their prime, it’s partially about keeping the game fun. The NBA is a business, players need to be professional and held accountable, but at the end of the day it’s still a game and there should be joy in playing it. The Warriors players and coaches use that word a lot, “joy.” It’s a priority for them, and it shows on the court (and in the locker room).

Part of Kerr’s job is making sure the joy is there, and to make sure he is clear in his communication about what work needs to be done along with it. His cerebral, level-headed style works for these players. Which is just another reason the Warriors will be racking up more rings in the coming years.