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.

Markieff Morris calls Paul Millsap a “crybaby,” Millsap responds “It definitely got personal now”

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The Atlanta Hawks owned the Washington Wizards from the opening tip Saturday, making it a 2-1 series with an easy win.

It’s a series now — and that includes trash talk.

Paul Millsap had 29 points, pulled down 14 boards, got to the line 11 times, and led the Hawks to the win. He got the calls he wanted this game, but Washington’s Markieff Morris was not exactly down with high praise for Millsap.

The key line here: “”He just did more for his team. He’s a crybaby. Get all the calls and you a crybaby.”

Millsap was asked about that comment in his postgame presser — and the best part may be Dennis Schroeder’s reaction.

“It definitely got personal now, yes. I mean, I don’t care. So what? He can take his loss and go back to the hotel and be ready for the next game.”

These two have already had a beef this series.

Game 4 in this series just got a lot more interesting.

Marc Gasol game-winner tops Kawhi Leonard’s brilliance, evens Spurs/Grizzlies series 2-2

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Best. Game. Of. The. Playoffs.

So far at least.

Kawhi Leonard scored 16 consecutive points for the Spurs down the stretch of regulation to force overtime, then in OT hit a corner three with 7.2 seconds left to tie the game at 108-108. Leonard finished the game with a career playoff high of 43 points.

It wasn’t enough. Because in those final seconds Marc Gasol did this.

The 110-108 Memphis win ties the series at 2-2 as it heads back to San Antonio for Game 5. I might not want to sit next to Gregg Popovich on the flight home.

While Gasol hit the big shot, he never gets the chance if Mike Conley isn’t every kind of amazing through the clutch parts of this game. Conley finished with 35 points, and that includes a floater in the lane that forced OT (although Leonard got a pretty good look to end it in regulation and just missed). I’m surprised the Spurs switched on the pseudo pick on this play.

The Spurs struggled to get stops down the stretch, mostly because they had David Lee and Tony Parker both on the floor and Memphis did a good job getting switches onto those defenders. Spurs starting center and best defensive big Dewayne Dedmon missed the game due to an illness, and that ended up mattering.

Hawks take control early, romp past Wizards 116-98

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ATLANTA (AP) — Paul Millsap scored 29 points, Dennis Schroder had 27 and the Atlanta Hawks delivered an early knockout blow against Washington, cruising to a 116-98 victory Saturday that sliced the Wizards’ lead to 2-1 in the opening-round playoff series.

After two tight losses in Washington exposed some bad blood between the teams, Atlanta returned home and built a 25-point lead by late in the first quarter.

The Hawks were never seriously challenged by the Wizards, who were essentially a one-man team. John Wall kept up his dazzling play in the series, scoring 29 points, but the point guard got no help from his teammates.

The other Washington starters combined to score 30 points on 14-of-45 shooting.

Millsap also had 14 rebounds, while rookie Taurean Prince chipped in with 16 points.

Game 4 is Monday night in Atlanta.

The Hawks came out intent on moving the ball, getting open looks and cutting down on the turnovers that plagued them in the first two contests.

Talk about following the game plan.

Atlanta pushed out to a double-digit lead before the game was 3 minutes old and stretched the margin to 38-13 with just under a minute to go in the opening quarter on Schroder’s 3-pointer.

Wall did everything he could to spark the Wizards. He posed along the baseline after a thunderous dunk, which might have had more effect if the Wizards weren’t losing by 23 at the time. He also darted through the lane against a collapsing defense to bank in an improbable shot, drawing gasps from the Atlanta crowd.

Wall made all but one shot and scored 21 points in the first half, but the Wizards trailed 64-46 heading to the locker room. The other four Washington starters had just 18 points.

Beal, in particular, had a miserable night after averaging 26.5 points in the first two games. He was held to 12 points on 6-of-20 shooting, missing all six of his attempts beyond the arc.

TIP INS

Wizards: Wall is averaging 31 points per game in the series. … F Otto Porter Jr. left in the third quarter with a strained neck and didn’t return. … After a video review, Jason Smith was called for a flagrant foul against Millsap late in the third quarter.

Hawks: C Dwight Howard remains a non-factor in Atlanta’s offense. He scored five points and took just four shots, giving him a mere 15 attempts over the first three games. He did have 11 rebounds. … Schroder had some issues at the free-throw line, making only half of his eight attempts. Millsap did, too, going 5 of 9. … Atlanta had a double-digit lead for the final 44:24 of the game. … Prince picked up a technical foul for taunting the Wizards after an alley-oop dunk in the closing minutes. … The Hawks had just 11 turnovers.

 

Portland’s Jusuf Nurkic to play, start vs. Golden State in Game 3

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In 20 games after the Trail Blazers traded for him, Jusuf Nurkic averaged 15.2 points 10.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 2 blocks per game. Portland was 9.7 points per 100 possessions better with him on the court and went 14-6, a surge that helped get them into the playoffs. Then a leg fracture had him sidelined for the end of the season and the start of the playoffs.

Until Saturday.

He will play limited minutes, but the Blazers will take it.

Portland is down 0-2 to the Warriors but are coming home to take on a Golden State team that will be without Kevin Durant again (strained calf) and coach Steve Kerr (illness).

Nurkic gives Portland some hope, he certainly helps their defense. We’ll see if that’s enough.