Louisville is totally serious about getting an NBA team

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Louisville’s basketball crazy, and they want more of it. The Louisville Courier-Journal reports that a group of business owners met with the mayor and other government officials recently to talk about the possibility of the city bringing in an NBA team. And they sound pretty psyched about the idea. From the Courier-Journal:

A group of community leaders convened by restaurant franchisee and former professional basketball player Ulysses “Junior” Bridgeman met with Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer on Friday to discuss the possibility of a National Basketball Association team coming to Louisville, Fischer’s office said.

In a statement, Fischer said the meeting gauged the “level of interest” and the “conditions necessary to attract a team.”

“There was a lot of excitement in the room about what an NBA team could mean for Louisville’s global recognition and as a job attractor and economic engine. There are many elements involved in a journey such as this,” the mayor said. “This must be a win for the University of Louisville, as well as other stakeholders. I’m excited to be part of the dialogue and I continue to believe we should be ready if an opportunity presents itself.”

via Mayor, community leaders discuss NBA possibilities for Louisville | The Courier-Journal | courier-journal.com.

Here’s the deal. I think it’s awesome that Louisville wants a team. I’m not being patronizing there. I genuinely think it’s great to see a community actively excited about bringing the prospect in, especially when so many current locations have such a lackluster response to their own teams. Louisville knows basketball, it would have a great, excited fanbase, no doubt, and it would allow the NBA to make strides in an area that  has been absolute death for them over the years, the Southeast (outside of Florida… /awkward glance towards empty Hawks games).

But this won’t happen.

I love the idea of expansion teams. New talent, more teams, more exciting basketball, more rosters to consider. And I’m of the opinion that if the NBA did a better job with its development, they could support more teams. But they don’t, and the overriding sentiment towards people on the East Coast (or as I like to call them “apparently the only people who matter”) is that the league is watered down and we need fewer teams, not more. So expansion’s out.

And if expansion’s out, Lousiville goes on a list that includes Seattle first and foremost, Kansas City, San Jose, Anaheim, Vancouver, another Chicago franchise, and a few other places. They probably land somewhere between the California markets and right around, if not above, Kansas City. The big problem? Their arena. The city wants to use the KFC Yum! Center (which I will never, ever call it if they do get a team) which is owned by the University. They want the pro franchise to use the college kids’ court. This is not going to fly with a modern NBA owner who will want their own arena, subsidized by the taxpayers (because that makes sense), with all the modern styling and accouterments.

So this is not likely to happen. If it does, good on Louisville. But they’ve got a ways to go for this to actually become a reality.

Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry: Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo will both start

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After signing Jrue Holiday to a massive contract, the Pelicans added Rajon Rondo while putting out word that the two point guards would play together.

They won’t just play together. They’ll start together.

New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry confirmed the plan on Dunc & Holder then expanded (hat tip: Mason Ginsberg of Bourbon Street Shots):

I like Jrue off the ball to start the game as a scorer. I like Rondo being on the floor as a leader. Now, obviously, Jrue is going to play some where he’s the primary ball-handler. I spoke to Jrue at length about this, and I think it’s something that can really help us.

Holiday’s value is maximized at point guard. He’s better than Rondo, and it’s generally better to give the ball more often to the better point guard.

But Holiday can defend multiple positions and work off the ball. Rondo can’t. New Orleans is short on wings, so shifting Holiday there is a reasonable option.

Rondo is a minus shooter for his position, but Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins have improved their range immensely. This won’t necessarily be a prohibitively cluttered starting lineup. Paying a starter just $3.3 million is a bargain – one the Pelicans needed considering their self-inflicted constraints. They couldn’t afford someone who’d create no complications. I just think the difficulties causes by starting Rondo are manageable.

The bigger question is what New Orleans does on the wing beyond E'Twaun Moore. Solomon Hill and Dante Cunningham (who’s unsigned but whose Bird Rights are still held by New Orleans) are better at power forward. Darius Miller is far from a proven NBA commodity. Quincy Pondexter can seemingly never get healthy.

If Quinn Cook is ready for the rotation, that could help. He could play when Rondo sits and allow Holiday to spend all his time at shooting guard. But I’m not sure Holiday is ready to cede all his minutes at point guard, the higher-profile position. (I’m also unsure Cook is ready to play regularly.)

Starting Holiday at shooting guard mitigates the wing problem, but it doesn’t solve it. There are still too many wing minutes to go around, and New Orleans is running out of money to spend – both with exceptions and below the luxury-tax line.

76ers second-rounder Jonah Bolden signs in Israel

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Jonah Bolden – No. 16 on my draft board – slipped all the way to the 76ers at No. 36 in the NBA draft. An impressive summer league has raised his stock significantly.

But Philadelphia won’t reap the rewards this season.

Bolden signed a three-year contract with Maccabi Tel Aviv, the team announced. The club also said the deal contained NBA outs and the 76ers helped facilitate his move from his previous team, Red Star in Serbia.

This is a helpful arrangement for Philadelphia, which is running out of roster spots. Bolden will develop elsewhere while allowing the 76ers’ to maintain his exclusive negotiating rights.

Bolden must get stronger and more adept at handling physicality. The athletic stretch four can also continue developing his burgeoning perimeter skills.

Then, next year, maybe the 76ers will have room to sign him themselves.

Anthony Davis does #DriveByDunkChallenge (video)

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If you’re not up with what the kids are doing, the cool thing this summer is the #DriveByDunkChallenge – driving to random houses, running out of a still-running car, dunking on their basketball hoop, running back into the car then driving off.

It sounds like a lot of fun for those who can dunk (and don’t get accosted by startled homeowners). An example:

Pelicans star Anthony Davis took his turn:

Report: Thunder signing Dakari Johnson two years after drafting him

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Two seasons ago, Dakari Johnson was the youngest player by more than two years on the D-League’s All-Rookie team. Last season, Johnson was the youngest player by more than a year on an All-D-League team – and he made the first of three teams.

Now, Johnson – who the Thunder drafted No. 48 in 2015 and whose rights they continued to hold – is finally moving up to the NBA.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Thunder have already used the full taxpayer mid-level exception, so presumably Johnson will get the minimum – $2,128,226 over two years. That, plus two years of meager D-League salary, will be Johnson’s return for granting Oklahoma City four years of his services.

He could have forced the Thunder’s hand either of the previous two years by signing the required tender – a one-year contract, surely unguaranteed at the minimum – a team must extend to retain a draft pick’s rights. Accepting the tender would have meant Johnson earning an NBA salary (and gaining a year of service) if Oklahoma City kept him past the preseason. Or, if they waived him, he would’ve been an unrestricted NBA free agent. He still could have developed with the Thunder’s D-League affiliate while available to any NBA team.

Instead, Johnson repeatedly rejected the tender, allowing Oklahoma City to maintain exclusive negotiating rights.

At least the Thunder helped develop him. A strong 7-footer, Johnson has improved his mobility and skill level. He’s still an old-school center in a league moving away from that style, but he’s now more equipped to keep up.

Whether he’s ready enough is another question. Johnson will fall behind Steven Adams and Enes Kanter on the depth chart. At just 21, Johnson is still a decent developmental prospect.

Johnson gives the Thunder 16 players on standard contracts, one more than the regular-season maximum. They could waive Semaj Christon, whose salary is unguaranteed, but I’d be leery of having only Raymond Felton behind Russell Westbrook at point guard. Nick Collison at least provides insurance at center.

So, there’s no guarantee Johnson sticks into the regular season. One thing working in his favor: His salary will be luxury-taxed at the rookie minimum, because the Thunder drafted him. Christon or any other player acquired through free agency would be taxed at the second-year minimum.

No matter how it shakes out, Johnson is at least finally getting significant money in his pocket.