Last night I watched a preview copy of the NBA Dream Team documentary that airs on NBA TV Wednesday, highlighting the 20th anniversary of the original (and greatest) Dream Team and their run up to and through the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
Watch it. It is fantastic stuff. Great stories, a reminder of how huge this was and how it changed international basketball, and just a fun trip down memory lane.
But one thing that stuck out — everyone confirmed the long-time rumor that Pistons guard Isiah Thomas was blackballed from the team. It started with the Bulls Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, although Jordan hints there were people up the USA Basketball ladder that were more than happy to do that, and NBA exec Russ Granik basically confirmed that.
Jordan and Pippen pulled no punches.
“That was one of the stipulations put to me (on the team) that Isiah wasn’t part of the team,’’ Jordan said.
“Isiah was the general (of the Bad Boy Pistons),’’ Pippen said. “He was the guy who would yap at his teammates and say ‘Kick them on their ass. Do whatever you have to do.’ No, I didn’t want him on the Dream Team.’’
Granik pointed to an incident at the end of the Bulls/Pistons playoff series that year where Thomas led his teammates off the court before the final buzzer even sounded. That kind of sportsmanship and image was not what the NBA wanted to project to the world.
So Thomas was out in 1992. He would not be part of this documentary, either.
Seriously, watch the entire documentary. You’ll learn a lot more than this. But this part may be one of the most gripping.
Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry is on shaky ground.
What about New Orleans general manager Dell Demps?
A long-swirling rumor is getting renewed.
Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders:
A few league sources peg the New Orleans Pelicans as a team that is going to make sweeping changes once their season ends in eight games.
The Pelicans have long been rumored to be the next stop for former Piston’s executive Joe Dumars, who is a Shreveport, Louisiana native and has close ties to the ownership and leadership of the Pelicans and Saints organization.
League sources said recently that Dumars has been active in the NBA front office circles, scouting players and reconnecting to the process.
Demps has done a lousy job building a supporting cast around Davis. Part of the reason trading for the risky DeMarcus Cousins made so much sense: The Pelicans were so underwhelming, they wouldn’t be much worse off if Cousins destroyed their culture and/or bolted in 2018 free agency.
But it’s not too late to salvage Davis’ tenure in New Orleans. He’s locked up for three more seasons, and Cousins is an extremely talented No. 2.
Is Dumars the right man to bring it all together?
He masterfully built the Pistons into the 2004 NBA champions. He also played an integral role in the team’s downfall.
Another factor: There appears to be a mutual respect between Cousins and Dumars, who coveted the big man since he was coming out of Kentucky. That could help the Pelicans re-sign Cousins in 2018.
Dumars’ success should get him general-manager job interviews, but his more-recent failings demand tough questions. I’m unconvinced the Pelicans are scrutinizing Dumars enough, and they’d probably benefit from a more-thorough search.
But Dumars might be a fine hire. Dumping Demps would at least be step in the right direction.
Maryland guard Melo Trimble declared for last year’s NBA draft but withdrew.
This time, he’s not turning back.
Don Markus of The Baltimore Sun:
Trimble, less than three weeks removed from finishing his junior season with the team’s first-round loss to Xavier in the NCAA tournament, announced Wednesday he will make himself available for the NBA draft.
Unlike a year ago, when Trimble went through the pre-draft process without signing with an agent and then decided to return to school hours before the deadline, the 6-foot-3 point guard will forego his senior season.
“The deciding factor was that I felt there was nothing more I could do,” Trimble told the Baltimore Sun from the Stamp Student Union during a lunch break. “I felt like I did everything I could for the program. We went to the [NCAA] tournament three years in a row, and I had the same amount of points three years in a row. I felt that if I wanted to hopefully get to the next level, I had to leave at this time.
Trimble’s scouting report hasn’t changed much in the last year. He’s a scoring guard whose size (6-foot-3) will require him to play point guard in the next level, but he hasn’t shown the necessary distributing skills.
The biggest difference: He’s now 22, not 21.
Trimble had a superb college career, but at this point, his range is second round to undrafted.
DeMarcus Cousins had a bitter exit from the Kings, but that won’t be the last they see of him.
Cousins’ Pelicans will host Sacramento tomorrow night.
Not that Cousins rushed to talk about the matchup.
Justin Verrier of ESPN:
Cousins is pretty funny when joking with the media, and his smile is contagious. Just listen to all the laughs Cousins generates as he goes through his shtick.
Bonus points to Cousins for eventually breaking down and providing real answers. Some of his relationships in Sacramento were clearly meaningful to him, and he wanted to acknowledge those — even if he’d prefer just to get past this awkward game and all the talk it invites.
Lauri Markkanen is 7-foot and made 42% of his 3-pointers this season.
That combination alone will have NBA teams drooling, and the Arizona freshman will capitalize.
Evan Daniels of Scout:
Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen is declaring for the NBA Draft and is expected to sign with an agent, multiple sources told Scout.
Markkanen seems pretty certain to get picked in the lottery, likely in the top 10.
Calling him a good shooter for his height undersells him. It’s not just he shoots so efficiently from deep, it’s that he can generate 3-pointers in so many ways — pick-and-pops, spot-ups, off off-ball screens and even running pick-and-rolls himself. Having the height to shoot over defenders is his most noticeable asset, but don’t undersell his mobility.
Markkanen also finishes well at the rim and offensively rebounds at extremely impressive clip for someone who spends so much time on the perimeter. Those interior skills instill belief he will eventually become a suitable defender.
There are a couple red flags. He’s old for a freshman, turning 20 before the draft. He leaves plenty to be desired defensively, especially due to his lack of strength.
But his size and shooting are tantalizing. That’s plenty for now.