adidas Eurocamp Day 2

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.

Paul George says “I’m ready” to challenge LeBron James for supremacy in East

CLEVELAND, OH - FEBRUARY 29: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks for a pass while under pressure from Paul George #13 of the Indiana Pacers during the first half at Quicken Loans Arena on February 29, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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LeBron James is the best basketball player walking the face of the earth. The only guy who could start to challenge that supremacy the past couple of years has been Stephen Curry, and last season’s NBA Finals answered that question for now.

In the Eastern Conference, for years now it has been LeBron James and his team then a step back to everyone else — LeBron has been to six straight NBA Finals, four in Miami and the last two in Cleveland. Most pundits (myself included) think that’s going to be seven in-a-row because the Cavaliers are clear and away the class of the East.

Paul George says he and the Pacers are ready to change that narrative. Here is what he told Michael Lee of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

“Honestly, I look at us challenging them. I’ve been in the East and I’ve been No. 1 with LeBron being on a team,” George told The Vertical in a recent telephone interview, harkening back to when the Pacers finished with the best regular-season record in the East in 2013-14, the season before his gruesome Team USA leg injury….

“I’ve always matched up with him like, ‘I know he can do this, I know he can do that,’ ” George told The Vertical about James. “Not in an awe fashion, but it’s more so, ‘I’m not supposed to win these games. This is supposed to be the best dude in the NBA. I’m trying to challenge him. I know what I’m up against.’ Now it’s, ‘I’m ready. I’m ready for you. I’m a veteran. I know you, you know me. Let’s meet here, let’s get this job done.’ I’m prepared. I’ve had time to figure this out. I’ve had time to lick my wounds. I’m ready.”

Good for George — this is exactly what you want an elite competitor and top player to say heading into the season. He sees Everest in front of him, and he wants to climb it.

I’m also higher on the Pacers than most; I think they are a top-four team in the East that can finish top two. They upgraded at the point with Jeff Teague, plus they added the underrated Thaddeus Young (although they will miss Solomon Hill) and depth up front with Al Jefferson. I don’t get Larry Bird pushing Frank Vogel out the door at all, but Nate McMillan is a solid NBA coach to take his place. I think the Pacers are taking a step forward this season, maybe a fairly significant one.

But they’re still not in the Cavaliers’ class.

The East is still Cleveland then everyone else. Last season Toronto won 56 games and had its best season in franchise history, and they were still a step or two below the Cavaliers. No team in the East — not the Raptors, not the Celtics, not the Pacers — are making up those steps. Unless injuries or something else unforeseen brings the Cavaliers back to the pack, the Eastern Conference once again will look like Secretariat at the Belmont.

Russell Westbrook says he will not kneel for national anthem “as of right now”

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook spins the ball as he poses for photos during the 2016-2017 Oklahoma City Thunder Media Day in Oklahoma City, Friday, Sept. 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
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Without question, some kneeling/raised fist protests of the National Anthem are coming to the NBA once preseason games start in a couple of weeks. Clippers’ coach Doc Rivers has already come out saying “there’s no more American thing to do than to protest.” Teams are discussing the need for social change.

While the NBA has a rule that players must stand for the anthem, the NBA and players’ union are already discussing exactly how and if that rule should be enforced.

While some players will kneel, Russell Westbrook will not be among them. Probably. Here’s is what he told Fred Katz of the Norman Transcript.

Obviously, Westbrook is leaving himself some wiggle room here. Also, if there is one NBA star you can expect to be blunt about the situation when talking to the media, it’s Westbrook (when he feels like opening up to the media, anyway).

I expect few if any of the NBA’s top stars — the guys with the biggest international brands — will join the protests. However, there certainly will be players taking part. For a league that sees itself as progressive — and has a more politically progressive fan base compared to other American sports — how the league handles this will be watched.

Timberwolves coach and president Tom Thibodeau thanks Kevin Garnett after retirement announcement

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 28: Kevin Garnett #5 of the Boston Celtics sits not he bench prior to Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs against the New York Knicks on April 28, 2013 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
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Tributes have poured in all over the NBA world since Kevin Garnett announced his retirement on Friday afternoon — from other players, commissioner Adam Silver and media members who covered him. Garnett and Tom Thibodeau have a lengthy history together: Thibodeau coached Garnett in Boston as an assistant under Doc Rivers, and they won a championship in 2008. This spring, Thibodeau took over as head coach and president of basketball operations for the Minnesota Timberwolves, the team that drafted Garnett, saw his best years and saw him end his career. Thibodeau released a heartfelt statement on Saturday congratulating Garnett:

“I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate and thank Kevin for all of his great accomplishments and contributions to the NBA, the Minnesota Timberwolves organization, and for me personally with the Boston Celtics. Kevin combined great talent with a relentless drive and intelligence. I will always cherish the memories of the way in which he led the Celtics to the 2008 NBA Championship. His willingness to sacrifice and his unselfishness led us to that title. Kevin will always be remembered for the way in which he played the game. His fierce competitiveness, his unequalled passion for the game, and the many ways in which he cared about this team was truly special. KG is without question the all-time best player to wear a Minnesota Timberwolves jersey, and he is also one of the best to ever play this game.”

It’s a shame that Thibodeau didn’t get to coach Garnett again in Minnesota, but the team is in good hands with Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns.

Pacers unveil 50th anniversary patch for their uniforms (PHOTO)

NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 28:  Leandro Barbosa #28 of the Indiana Pacers looks on against the New Jersey Nets at Prudential Center on March 28, 2012 in Newark, New Jersey. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Chris Chambers/Getty Images)
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The Indiana Pacers have been a franchise for 50 years — 10 in the ABA and 40 in the NBA. To celebrate this anniversary, they’ve unveiled a new patch that they will wear on their uniforms this season. You can check it out below:

It looks pretty sleek, combining the Pacers’ logo with the zero in “50.” It’s subtle and well-designed.