Uconn's Drummond fights for the ball as Syracuse's C.J. Fair and Fab Melo defend during their game at the 2012 Big East men's NCAA college basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York

Three guys who could be the surprise second best player in this draft

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Make no mistake, this is the Anthony Davis draft. He is the franchise player, the guy who can be a top 10 player in the league, the guy you build a contender around, the guy people pay to see. The Hornets have literally won the lottery.

After that there is a consensus of guys going 2-5 — Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Thomas Robinson among them.

But below them are a few guys who will get picked Thursday with the potential to be the second best player out of this draft, to be a perennial All-Star, a guy who is the heart of his team, three guys who could be to their team what the Hornets hope Davis will be. These are guys that have questions, and will need a few years to develop, but if they do they could be very special players.

Or, they could flame out spectacularly. Which is why none of them are going No. 2. They are risk/reward guys. But these are the three guys with the “upside” potential to be the second best player out of this draft.

1) Andre Drummond (7’0” center, Connecticut) He could be the anchor every team wants in the middle — maybe a Serge Ibaka, maybe even better an Andrew Bynum. He has a rare mixture of size and elite athleticism, he has all the tools and from day one he should get rebounds and shot blocks galore.

Should. The problem is his drive, his motor, his passion is constantly in question. The buzz is his workouts have not impressed teams and he could slide down the board. He dropped 22 pounds after the college season ended, which makes you wonder where that effort was before, and even then he doesn’t blow people away in workouts.

UConn coach Jim Calhoun has said a few times that in three or four years we will see the potential in Drummond realized. Some guys (think Bynum with the Lakers) do put in the work and develop into great players in a few years. But he could become an Andray Blatche kind of talent, too. And if you haven’t seen the work ethic up to now…

One of the biggest risk/reward picks in the draft. He has unbelievable physical tools and, while he needs to develop, he could be an Andrew Bynum/Serge Ibaka like center in five years. But with all that he averaged 10 points and 7.6 rebounds per game in college, there are serious questions about his desire and commitment to himself and the game. He could be a big bust. Workouts drew really mixed reviews.

2) Perry Jones III (6’11” power forward, Baylor) A guy with this much individual talent falling out of the lottery — which is what DraftExpress and every other mock has happening now — says everything you need to know about the concerns about his desire, his commitment to the game and himself. Take him in the lottery and he is the kind of pick that gets GMs fired. There’s also a question about where to play him, Baylor used him as a center but some scouts see him more as a tall three.

What everyone agrees on is this: If he could harness those talents and play to his potential he would be an absolute beast. He can score in the post or out on the perimeter, he runs the floor in transition very well, he leaps out of the building and can rebound the rock. He has the potential to be a Lamar Odom on a good night type of player — but his flake factor is bigger than Odom’s. Which should scare everyone.

3) John Henson (6’10 power forward, North Carolina) If I were going to make a bet on any of the guys on this list, it would be Henson. Why? Because the guy hustles hard every game. He is like a poor-man’s Anthony Davis because from the moment you draft him he can defend and rebound (although he needs to put on weight fast, currently he could turn sideways and you wouldn’t see him). But that is not a great description because he also just has a unique, hard to define game. Well, outside of the fact he is very long and very athletic.

His offense is raw. Also, he’s not a guy that fits easily into a traditional offensive system — he’s too thin right now to bang with fours and fives in the NBA (see the paragraph above) but he’s not a three. However, he is the one guy you know will put in the effort, work on his offensive game, get stronger and in three or four years could be a real force.

Most people don’t think he has the upside of Perry and Drummond, but this is the guy I would be more willing to invest in because some return seems more likely.

Hakeem Olajuwon has nothing but praise for Joel Embiid, can “see himself” in rookie

Hakeem Olajuwon
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The most interesting comparison I heard a scout make about Joel Embiid was this is what people expected Greg Oden to be, before Oden’s body betrayed him.

But do you see some Hakeem Olajuwon in his game?

Olajuwon does, and he has nothing but praise for the rookie, as you can see in this video via the NBA’s Twitter account.

https://twitter.com/i/web/status/821424375819685888

I can see it in terms of mobility — Embiid is agile for a big man. He’s also a good passer and has a good feel for the game.

But he’d be the first to admit he has a long way to go to be in the same club with one of the greatest centers ever to play the game. Embiid needs to become a much better defender, and he needs a lot more polish on the offensive end.

Embiid has the potential to get there. That’s what we all see.

It’s official: NBA, NBPA announce new CBA signed

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 12:  NBA commissioner, Adam Silver speaks during a press conference prior to the NBA match between Indiana Pacers and Denver Nuggets at the O2 Arena on January 12, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
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When was the last time you saw any labor contract — not just the NBA, not just pro sports, but in any business — get done before either side could opt-out, let alone the actual deadline?

That’s what happened with the NBA’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). The teams had until Dec. 15 of last year to opt out, with the real deadline for a new deal being July 1 of this year. Yet the two sides reached a deal before either side even opted out.

Thursday the NBA and National Basketball Players’ Association announced that the new CBA had been signed. It’s a seven-year deal that kicks in July 1.

The deal got done primarily for two reasons. One, the league is awash in cash with the new television deal and neither side wanted to put that at risk. Second, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and NBPA Executive Director Michelle Roberts do not have the long, scarred history of their predecessors (David Stern and Billy Hunter), so they didn’t come to the table with distrust and looking to settle old scores.

The new CBA is largely status quo, which is another reason it got done quickly. Here are the highlights.

• The roughly 50/50 split of revenue remains in place (the players get between 49-51 percent of “basketball-related income” depending on if the league meets revenue goals). It’s always about the money, once this got done the rest tends to fall in line. The rising tide of the new national television contract has floated all boats and nobody wanted to rock that boat.

• The college one-and-done rule will remain. However, both sides will continue to look at the issue. (Will it change eventually? It’s a negotiation, if one side really wants the limit moved they are going to have to give something else up.)

• A new “designated player” rule, which we should just call the Kevin Durant rule. The rule allows teams that have a player they drafted that is entering their seventh or eighth year in the NBA to be offered a longer, larger contract extension — five years starting at 35 percent of the salary cap, same as 10-year veterans. The qualifications are the player has to be with the team that drafted him (or have been traded during his rookie deal, the first three seasons), and have been MVP or made the All-NBA team that season (or two of the previous three). Other teams could only offer four years starting at 30 percent of the cap. For example, Golden State can and will offer Stephen Curry that extension this summer. The more interesting test will be DeMarcus Cousins — the Kings say they will offer it and Cousins has said he will sign it.

• The NBA players’ union now will handle negotiations for player-likeness rights (such as those used in video games). This is something the union wanted and they see as a growth area of revenue, and how were the owners going to push back on the idea of players controlling their own images?

• The preseason will be shortened by three or four games, allowing the regular season to start a week to 10 days earlier. That additional time will be used to reduce the number of back-to-backs and nearly eliminate four games in five nights situations.

• The scaled salaries for rookies will increase.

• There will be some changes to cap holds that will make it harder to do what Kawhi Leonard and Andre Drummond did with their rookie deals, delaying signing an obvious max extension to allow the team to use that cap space to put a better team around them.

• The NBA will create a fund to help with medical expenses and more for retired players who need it.

• NBA teams can have up to three “two-way contracts” that will pay between $50,000 and $75,000. This is something the NBA borrowed from the NHL. These players will have two salaries on the books, their D-League salary and an NBA salary (the minimum, most likely) and will get pro-rated portions of said salaries depending on where they are playing. Teams will be able to move the player between the leagues much more freely.

• There will be changes to the NBA’s domestic violence policy which will clarify the disciplinary procedures in dealing with domestic violence incidents. This will include fines and suspensions, but also will go beyond that and include counseling and other steps to end the cycle.

There was the time Barack Obama taunted Joakim Noah for his shot, so Noah shut him down

Barack Obama
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Barack Obama is the biggest basketball fan ever in the White House, and the best basketball player ever to be president (Abraham Lincoln maybe could have given him a run for his money, except the game hadn’t been invented yet).

Over the past eight years, Obama has hosted a number of pick-up basketball games with NBA players, celebrities, and government officials. It’s pretty standard for half of Washington D.C. to pick up the hobby of the president, and when Obama took office suddenly everyone was a baller. Or wanted to be.

At GQ, they put together a great oral history of some of those games, and there are a bunch of great stories. But this one with Joakim Noah is my favorite.

David Axelrod: [The President] ticked off Joakim Noah because the president was trash-talking him about his shot, [which is], shall we say, unorthodox. The president said, “Where’d you get that shot? That’s the ugliest shot I’ve ever seen.” So at some point, Noah decided, “Okay, let’s see about yours.” And he completely smothered the President. I mean he was guarding him and the President could not go anywhere. But I will say that with all of that, somehow playing against all these NBA players, he mysteriously was able to hit the winning shot.

Obama is a lefty with — according to those who played against him — some old man at the Y in his game. He’s crafty.

Here’s another good story, but you should go read the entire piece.

Marty Nesbitt: The first possession when the president had the ball, Chris Paul was guarding him. He took a couple of dribbles right, and then he crossed over and went left, and then he threw this behind-the-head pass to Pau Gasol, who made a lay-up. It was spectacular. I was teasing Chris Paul a little bit. He said, “Hey, man, I led the NBA in steals. If I wanted to take that—” And I said, “No question, but you didn’t know the man could really play, right? So he surprised you.” He just didn’t expect that Barack could play as well as he could.

Chris Paul (Guard, Los Angeles Clippers): I was shocked at how good he was. Nice lefty jump shot. But he got lucky one time on the break. I sort of jumped out, made him guess which way to go and he made the right play, crossed over, made it look like he crossed me up. It’ll never happen again. Hopefully now that he’s out of office we’ll have some time to see if it was real.

I’m going to miss having a Baller-in-Chief in the White House.

TNT to cover NBA games with only former players, no traditional play-by-play men

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 19:  Grant Hill #33 of the Phoenix Suns looks to move the ball as Derek Fisher #2 of the Los Angeles Lakers defends in the first quarter of Game Two of the Western Conference Finals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on May 19, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. 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 Harry How/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK (AP) — TNT will use broadcast teams featuring only former players and no traditional play-by-play men during five NBA doubleheaders later this season.

The “Players Only” schedule runs Monday nights from Feb. 27 to March 27 and includes matchups such as Golden State-Oklahoma City on March 20 and Cleveland-San Antonio a week later.

Brent Barry will serve as the primary host of one team with Derek Fisher and Grant Hill, while Greg Anthony partners with Kevin McHale and Richard Hamilton on the other.

Lisa Leslie and Dennis Scott will serve as reporters.

Turner Sports says Thursday that Chris Webber will anchor the studio coverage with Isiah Thomas and Baron Davis, and that additional NBA players will contribute to the five-week program.