2012 adidas Eurocamp: Day 3 recap

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The final day of adidas Eurocamp didn’t necessarily feature the camp’s best players, but that doesn’t mean that there weren’t a few guys who made their presence felt. The camp’s top prospects were long gone by Day Three, with Evan Fournier, Tomas Satoransky, and even Nihad Djedovic all choosing to forego the last day’s activities.

That left the door open for others to shine, and the main beneficiary of the top players’ absence seemed to be Tornike Shengelia. He showcased a nose for the ball and an ability to do the dirty work inside, along with an energy level and an offensive skill set that’s certainly worth being noticed by NBA scouts. His play on Tuesday, particularly in the final game against the France national team, was definitely one of the day’s highlights.

In talking to coaches and scouts, Fournier and Satoransky were the clear-cut winners of the camp in terms of solidifying or improving their draft position, but many other prospects — specifically the bigs at the 4/5 or the guys at the wing positions — were able to make waves, as well.

Here are some of the other names that stood out on the camp’s final day:

– Daniel Diez (Spain) was measured at 6’8″, 203 at camp. He’s Athletic, flies around the court on both ends, plays aggressive defense with nice footwork, and compliments all of that with a nice offensive skill set. In the camp’s final game, he used his speed to get out in transition multiple times, and defended the passing lanes to perfection. His energy, athleticism, and knack for the game is certainly a winning combination.

– Oleksandr Lypovyy (Ukraine, pictured) was solid in the last game of the day, and one of the better wings in camp overall. There were several times he was able to take it fearlessly to the other team’s bigs — at times absorbing contact in mid-air and continuing to get his shot up on the rim, before  following a miss with an offensive rebound and put-back for a score. He was named the camp’s MVP.

– Rudy Gobert participated in camp as a member of the France national team, and he had plenty of opportunities to be seen. He was one of the most athletic and polished big men seen at Eurocamp, and was able to score, rebound, and block shots with ease against most of his competition. He’s still a year away from being NBA-ready, and needs to get bigger and stronger to bang with the bigs he’ll see at that level. But the overall skill set is there, and if he continues to develop as expected, he’s a name you can expect to hear at a draft in the very near future.

– Darko Planinic (Bosnia) was another big man who had an excellent camp. At this stage, his size and strength (6’11”, 255) are his biggest assets, and he still needs to work on developing his offensive skill set. But his activity and toughness around the basket already make him a very intriguing prospect.

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Camp coaching director (and Minnesota Timberwolves assistant coach) Bill Bayno held the morning lecture session that Kevin McHale had on Day Two, and once again the topic was post play. But Bayno’s differed in that he focused on specific techniques that guys can use to get to their spots, such as the swim move. Bayno also got quite a workout in himself, putting on the large arm pads and banging hard with the prospect he used to demonstrate the points he was trying to get across.

Bayno spent considerable time teaching post players how to make contact with the shoulder to create space. “Inside shoulder, outside hand” was the mantra he kept repeating — meaning, create that contact with the inside shoulder, before shooting with the outside hand so the defender can’t reach it.

Maik Zirbes (Germany) was the one Bayno worked with while teaching the rest of the players, and Zirbes responded well to the coaching, and looked strong with mostly good footwork while banging with Bayno’s arm pads during the workout. Also of likely interest to NBA scouts is the fact that he had the best measurement at Eurocamp in one of the categories most personnel evaluators like the most: wingspan. Zirbes came in at 87.5 inches.

One other fun note from Bayno’s session: Don’t like the fact that NBA players yell every time they go up for a shot in the lane, trying to draw a foul call from the officials? Blame the coaches, who teach players to yell every time they get hit at a very young age. “The refs play the yell,” Bayno told the players. “Yell and you might get the call. Don’t yell, and you probably won’t.”

Check out the following video of the first six minutes or so fo Bayno’s teaching session on Tuesday.

*****

Danilo Gallinari and Nicolas Batum were at camp on Tuesday, and held a question and answer session with the players. The two answered basic questions about who was the toughest player they’ve played against — both mentioned the same three in Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and Kobe Bryant — and Gallinari was even asked where he gets his hair cut,  which he answered with a sense of humor before camp director Arturas Karnisovas reminded the players good-naturedly that he was hoping they’d ask basketball questions.

Gallinari’s most interesting words came when he was discussing what it’s like for European players to transition to the NBA, and how hard they have to work to earn their respect. He also had some interesting things to say on getting his start in the league with the New York Knicks and playing for Mike D’Antoni.

Check out his full comments on these topics right here.

*****

This was Bill Bayno’s first year as the camp’s coaching director, and he seemed to truly enjoy the experience. I caught up with him near the camp’s close, and while he admitted the NBA-ready talent pool isn’t as deep in Europe as it has been in recent years, he said it was an absolute pleasure to work with the European players. He applauded their work ethic and overall grasp of the game, and gave credit to the European coaches for imparting such a wealth of knowledge to the players at an early age.

“I think it went well,” he said. “I think the talent is down this year in Europe, but I thought we had some really good young kids. Maybe the point guard play wasn’t as good this year; we only had Satoransky and Fournier for a day. All in all, I thought the wings were really good, and the European kids, they’re just fun to coach. They’re highly coachable, they play hard, and I think Europe has gotten stronger and stronger in the NBA over the years because the players are so coachable.

“But also, I think you’ve got to give the European coaches a lot of credit. These kids play hard, they understand defensive concepts, they make it tough for you to even enter the ball, they all know how to deny. Their weak side principles are very good, so it was fun. It was a good camp.”

*****

All of the participants at Eurocamp were treated to a special players edition of the latest basketball shoe from adidas, the Crazy Light 2. The black/bright orange/white colorway features the adidas EUROCAMP logo on the tongue and sockliner, and looked sharp on the court.

Check out the gallery below for some images.

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Stay tuned to the adidas Basketball Facebook page for exclusive content and follow the conversation on Twitter at @adidasHoops with #lightdoneright.

Draymond Green is texting Joel Embiid advice during playoffs

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In Game 1 of their series, the Philadelphia 76ers — without Joel Embiid — blew the doors off the Miami Heat, winning by 27. It’s the kind of game that can lead a young team to overconfidence.

That’s when Draymond Green texted Joel Embiid some words of advice, reports Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia.

“Draymond texted me after the first game when we blew Miami out,” Embiid recalled Monday. “He basically told me that it’s not going to be the same in Game 2. They came back and they won that game.”

Green was right, but it’s one of the harder things for young players to understand, how much the ground can shift game-to-game in the playoffs. For the first four games especially, matchups and strategies will change night-to-night, and around Game 5 that tends to settle down and become more about execution (and talent).

For the Sixers, everything in their series changed with the return of Joel Embiid. Unhappily wearing a mask, Embiid’s defensive presence in the paint slows the Heat attack and allows things like Philly’s Game 4 comeback win on the road. Now Embiid’s about to make his home playoff debut in Game 5 Tuesday night, with a chance to close out the series.

“The atmosphere was amazing, it was insane,” Embiid said of the home crowd in Games 1 and 2. “After going to Miami, I felt like nothing compared to it. … We’ve been almost perfect [at home] since the beginning of the year. It just shows you how much we need them. Especially myself, I play better in that type of environment. I need the fans to get into it and push me. That makes me elevate my game.”

Beyond the first round, in an East where the expected best teams — Toronto and Cleveland — have looked vulnerable, the door is open.

“A lot of people say that we have a bright future, but I think our time is now,” Embiid said. “We have a pretty good chance. We have a special team, a lot of great guys. I don’t think we need anybody else. We’ve just got to work with what we have, and we have a special team. I feel like we have a pretty good chance to go far.

Jazz shut off Thunder in feisty Game 4 win

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Jae Crowder threw an ejection-drawing elbow, and teammate Donovan Mitchell couldn’t contain his grin as he pulled Crowder from the scuffle.

Steven Adams took the elbow in the face, and he didn’t even flinch.

Both the Jazz and Thunder showed their competitiveness in Utah’s chippy 113-96 Game 4 win Monday. The difference: The Jazz delivered the blow. Oklahoma City took it.

Utah has won three straight to take a 3-1 lead in the first-round series. Teams without home-court advantage up 3-1 in a best-of-seven series have won it 89% of the time. Still, those leading teams lose Game 5 on the road 74% of the time. Game 5 of this series is Wednesday in Oklahoma City.

In other words: The Jazz have seized control of the series. They probably won’t close it out in Game 5 – though the way they’re playing, the certainly could.

Mitchell scored 33 points tonight, the first 30-point playoff game by a rookie since Brandon Jennings in 2010 (34 points). Mitchell has already scored 110 points this postseason, the most by a rookie since Harrison Barnes in 2013 (193 points). With Utah increasingly likely to advance, Mitchell has a chance to catch Dwyane Wade (234 points in 2004).

“He’s playing amazing,” Ricky Rubio said of Mitchell. “He doesn’t seem a rookie at all.”

Rubio, the star of Game 3, happily deferred to Mitchell tonight. Russell Westbrook‘s guarantee to shut down Rubio meant little, as Rubio set the tone as a passer. His eight assists don’t do him justice, as he made key passes that led to fouls drawn and other advantage situations for his teammates.

“We play as a team,” Rubio said.

Westbrook, on the other hand, looked out of control. He committed four first-half fouls, and though calls were questions, he also committed five turnovers and shot just 7-for-18. The question isn’t whether Westbrook was reckless. He was. The only debate is just how reckless.

Westbrook’s fervor hardly stood out. In addition to Crowder’s ejection, the game featured six other technical fouls – on Paul George, Quin Snyder, Steven Adams, Joe Ingles, Rudy Gobert and Raymond Felton. And there was even more trash-talking and physicality than whistled.

There just wasn’t nearly enough sustained production from the Thunder.

George (32 points on 9-of-21 shooting with six turnovers) had moments but was far too sloppy. Oklahoma City’s big three shot dreadfully from beyond the arc – Carmelo Anthony (0-for-6), Westbrook (0-for-3) and George (2-for-9).

Utah led by double digits the final 23 minutes. Joe Ingles made as many 3-pointers (5-for-11) as the Thunder combined (5-for-26).

Ingles is an excellent shooter, but the Jazz’s offense hummed and got him open looks. His outside shots are a bellwether – of a Utah team cruising.

Mitt Romney taunts Russell Westbrook after fourth foul

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It’s been a glorious night for Utah Jazz fans.

In Game 4 the Jazz have taken care of the big three of the Thunder in what has been a very physical, chippy game (Jae Crowder even got ejected). Between their team going on big runs and the physical play of the game, the Utah crowd — one already with a reputation for verbal hostility toward opponents — has savored every second of it.

That includes former Massachusetts Governor, presidential candidate, and current Utah Senate candidate Mitt Romney, who reminded Russell Westbrook exactly how many fouls he picked up.

Twitter – which has its own reputation for verbal hostility — was not kind to Romney after this. Of course, he earned it with that outfit.

MVP James Harden, dominant Rockets show up in second half, crush Timberwolves

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We had to wait three-and-a-half games for it.

We had seen James Harden play like an MVP all season. We had seen the Rockets bury threes at a record rate all season. We had seen Houston’s switching defense impress all season (sixth best in the NBA). We had seen Houston rack up 65 wins and make it look easy.

Then we got to the playoffs and the Rockets couldn’t put it all together at once. Harden struggled after Game 1, including going 0-of-7 in the first quarter Monday night. The defense was inconsistent and the threes were not falling. All of it let the Timberwolves hang around in the series — down 2-1 — and the same in Game 4, down just a point at halftime.

Then the Harden and Rockets we all expected showed up.

Houston put up 50 points in the third quarter alone, shooting 61 percent overall and 9-of-13 from three, plus they got to the line 13 times and made every shot. The Rockets opened the second half on an 11-0 run that extended all the way to 25-4, with almost all of the damage from Harden, who had 22 in the quarter.

The Rockets pulled away and cruised from there to an easy 119-100 win.

“We hit the switch, the switch we’ve been trying to hit since the beginning of the playoffs on both ends of the floor,” Harden said postgame. “It’s pretty scary what we’re capable of when defensively we’re locked in like that, and offensively we got rolling.”

Houston now leads the series 3-1 and can close it out at home in Game 5 Wednesday night.

In the first half this looked nothing like something that would end with a comfortable Rockets win. Houston struggled at the start of Game 4, opening 0-of-5 in the paint, including Harden missing an open layup. As a team, the Rockets started the game 4-of-16 from three, and a lot of those were uncontested looks. The Rockets play a lot of isolation, but even for them the ball seemed to stick in the first half. If not for Trevor Ariza knocking down three from beyond the arc, the Timberwolves might have been able to pull away.

The fact they didn’t was a blown opportunity for the Timberwolves, something they just can’t do in this series. It was a one-point Rockets lead, 50-49, at the half.

Minnesota had some moments on offense in the game, usually when attacking quickly off the Rockets switch. Derrick Rose had some moments and finished the game with 17 points. Karl-Anthony Towns had 22 points and 15 rebounds, Jimmy Butler had 19 points on 17 shots.

But that was no match for the Rockets when they flipped the switch.

It was a barrage of threes that we have waited for all season, and it all started with Harden and Chris Paul, they had all of the first 15 points of the second half for Houston. Harden finished with 36 points and hit 5-of-11 from three. CP3 had 25 points and six assists, Eric Gordon finally woke up in this series with 18, and Ariza finished with 15.

Minnesota is a talented team, but they are learning fast what a contender can do — even not at their peak the Rockets had taken two of the first three in the series, and when they did flip the switch it was another level. A level the Timberwolves want to get to, there are just some rough lessons along the road to getting there.