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.

Irving’s 47 lead Celtics past Mavericks to maintain streak

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DALLAS (AP) — Kyrie Irving scored 10 of his season-high 47 points in overtime as the Boston Celtics rallied once again from a double-digit deficit to beat the Dallas Mavericks 110-102 on Monday night and extend their winning streak to 16 games.

The Mavericks led by as many as 13 points in the fourth quarter, but as they have several times during their winning streak, the Celtics stormed back.

The winning streak ties the fourth-longest in Celtics history.

Boston tied the game at 96 when Irving stole the ball from Dirk Nowitzki and fed Jayson Tatum for an alley-oop lay-up that hung on the rim for a full second before dropping through.

Irving scored his team’s first six points of overtime. Then after Jaylen Brown gave Boston a 104-102 lead with a jumper with 1:39 to play, Irving went to work on Yogi Ferrell, backing him down and drawing contact on a lay-up with 48.5 seconds to play. Though Irving missed the free throw to keep the score 106-102, Dallas never got closer.

Harrison Barnes scored 31 points and Wesley Matthews had 18 for Dallas, which came back from an early double-digit deficit as the Celtics went cold for much of the second and third quarters.

Irving and Barnes had chances in the final 30 seconds but both missed shots that would have given their teams the lead.

The Mavericks fell behind by as many as 15 points in the first half, outscoring the Celtics 55-35 over the second and third quarters.

Dallas took its biggest lead of the game when Yogi Ferrell fed a cutting Dwight Powell for a lay-up to make it 87-74 with 7:47 to play before the Celtics rallied.

Boston shot just 10-for-34 over the two middle quarters after building the early lead.

 

DeMarcus Cousins ejected after elbowing Russell Westbrook in head

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DeMarcus Cousins‘ history of flagrant fouls certainly didn’t help him here, but if anyone elbows a guy in the head, he’s going to get tossed.

And that’s what Cousins did here.

Midway through the third quarter in New Orleans, Cousins blocked a putback attempt by Russell Westbrook, then grabbed the rebound. Westbrook tried to reach in across Cousins’ body for the steal, and Cousins cleared out space with his elbow — right to Westbrook’s head. Cousins walked around saying “no, no, no” afterward, and he likely thinks the officials had it out for him here because he was just getting a guy off him, but we go back to the original point — elbow a guy in the head, get tossed. The league is cracking down on blows above the neck. Westbrook did not leave the game.

The Pelicans went on to come from 19 down to win the game 114-107, behind 36 points and 15 boards from Anthony Davis.

Damn, Paul George with the in-game bounce pass alley-oop to Jerami Grant

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The game has been close (as of midway through the third quarter), but that didn’t stop Oklahoma City from putting on a show in New Orleans.

Paul George had the ball on a 2-on-0 fast break and decided to throw the playground bounce-pass alley-oop, which Jerami Grant got up and finished with authority. This could be one of the dunks of the year.

We’re going to see that highlight for a while.

Jusuf Nurkic’s agent says big man wants to stay in Portland this summer

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Last season, after his trade from frustrated backup big in Denver to new starter in Portland, there was a honeymoon — the Blazers went 14-6, their defense was better, and Nurkic was a big man setting big picks for quick guards in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

This season the honeymoon is over, things have been up and down, but far from time to say the marriage should end, as he is a free agent next summer. Nurkic is the only real starting center on the roster (even if coach Terry Stotts left him on the bench in the fourth quarter in favor of Ed Davis a few games back). Nurkic is averaging 14.6 points and 7.2 rebounds a game, and the Blazers’ defense is 1.5 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court. However, his effort level has been up and down, and his shot is off, with a true shooting percentage of just 49.4, and he is shooting just 56.6 percent in the restricted area.

Nurkic wants to stay in Portland, his agent told Ben Golliver in a story at Sports Illustrated (that story is worth the read for the Nurkic origin story, which is amazing).

“I feel like the Blazers are very happy with Jusuf and Jusuf is very happy there,” Tesch, the agent, told The Crossover by telephone this week. “We had some [extension] talks but we decided to play it out this year and engage in talks again in July. He has already proven that he can help the team. There is a fit for Jusuf in Portland and he’s looking to stay there long-term.”

The two sides talked extension before the season, but Portland understandably wanted to make sure there was more to this relationship than just a honeymoon. It gave Nurkic a chance to drive up his asking price.

Portland and Nurkic likely will find a long-term deal next summer because it just makes sense for both sides. There are not a lot of teams with max free agent money next summer (4-6, I was told by an insider), or a lot of money to spend in general, and both DeAndre Jordan and DeMarcus would be centers on the market who rank ahead of Nurkic. Portland will offer more than other free agent destinations, if not as much as Nurkic dreamed of, and they will find common ground.

But there is a lot of season to play out before then. The Blazers feel like a team that should be better than its record so far, and Nurkic is part of that untapped potential. If things change, that’s good for Nurkic — and the Blazers.