Leonard from Illinois University shakes hands with NBA Commissioner Stern after he was selected by the Portland Trailblazers as the 11th overall pick in the 2012 NBA basketball Draft in Newark

Coach’s assessment: Blazers’ Leonard is a work in progress

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Portland is rebuilding their team. They will not be terrible because LaMarcus Aldridge won’t let them be (and because I think Damien Lillard is going to be pretty good), but they have time to let young players learn and develop.

Like rookie center Meyers Leonard. He has a lot of developing to do.

Blazers assistant coach and big man gury Kim Hughes — a great coach to speak with because he is just honest and a good guy — put it plainly and simply for Chris Haynes at CSNNW.com.

“He needs to set picks and he needs to roll,” Hughes said. “A lot of times if he’s standing on the weak side, that means he’s making a mistake. If he makes a move on the low block without conviction, it’s wrong. He should probably throw it out and set a pick. And he can garner that information pretty quickly.”

“Defensively, he has to be a lot more active, he’s got to vocalize what’s going on. If he sees it, it has to say it,” Hughes said. “So for instance, if his man sets a pick, he has to tell the guard the pick and the location of the pick and that’s been hard for him. He’s not a vocal kid that way.”

At the collegiate level his size and athleticism could cover up a multitude of mistakes, if for no other reason than a lot of players were making them. That is not the case any more. Leonard is going to be on the court nightly against men as more athletic than himself, and with a knowledge of the game.

As with most rookies, it’s not the physical but the mental side that is the hardest adjustment, and what Hughes said he was working hard on.

“He’s struggled a little bit in training camp, he admits it,” Hughes said. “And he’s gotten down a few times and I try to fight that with him in saying that, ‘You’re tired, it’s a battle out here. It’s a war and you have to just fight through the fatigue, the stress of learning a new offense and just learning a different game…

“He’ll have to learn that and his own teammates are going to get on him and he can’t let it get him down. So far he’s been good that way, but young guys always do that, they get too down on themselves and he can’t fall victim to that.”

These comments shouldn’t be seen as an indictment of Leonard, rather it is pretty much what most NBA rookies face in one form or another. Anthony Davis is going to be facing some of these same challenges and issues. It’s a matter of what it takes to overcome them and how Leonard works through it. His development over the next couple years could be huge for the Blazers and what they are trying to build.

Rajon Rondo: You couldn’t name three players on 2015-16 Kings, but I led NBA in assists

SACRAMENTO, CA - MARCH 09:  Rajon Rondo #9 of the Sacramento Kings dribbles the ball against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Sleep Train Arena on March 9, 2016 in Sacramento, 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 Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Months into his first and only season with the Kings, Rajon Rondo declared himself to be the first veteran teammate ever respected by DeMarcus Cousins.

As he deals with new problems with the Bulls, Rondo is again trashing his former Sacramento teammates.

Rondo, via David Aldridge of NBA.com:

“It’s just, maybe, the personnel in this situation,” Rondo says in response. “I mean, last year — I hate to keep talking about last year — but you couldn’t name three people on my team, the Sacramento Kings, and I led the league in assists. You know? I don’t know. I believe so (that his skill set still has value), given the right personnel and the flow of the game.”

Rondo is right: Playing with Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade is not ideal, and his passing was an asset to the Kings.

He’s also proving his critics right: He’s too often a jerk.

Rondo has declined significantly overall, particularly on defense. His plus passing is barely enough to make him rotation-worthy. It’s not enough for teams cast aside his hardheadedness.

But is Rondo right that you can’t name three members of the 2015-16 Kings? Take this quiz to find out:

Report: Nike doesn’t plan to make sleeved NBA jerseys

LeBron James
AP Photo/Tony Dejak
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Sleeved NBA jerseys sell poorly. Players dislike them.

So, the NBA switching from adidas to Nike is apparently an excuse to ditch the sleeves.

Sara Germano of The Wall Street Journal, via Paul Lukas of Uni Watch:

Nike, meanwhile, is expected to present its initial NBA jersey designs to retailers beginning this week. The company said it doesn’t plan to produce sleeved jerseys, a style debuted by Adidas in 2013 that received mixed reviews from players and fans.

Whether or not sleeves were introduced for ad space, uniform advertisements are still coming. The ads can fit on standard jerseys, no problem.

At this point, there’s just little to no upside for sleeved jerseys.

Nostalgia will treat sleeves better than present-day evaluations, but until we look back wistfully on this mostly failed experiment, good riddance.

Report: Carmelo Anthony twice asked to meet with Phil Jackson, who will get around to it soon

New York Knicks president Phil Jackson watches from the stands during the second half of the Knicks' NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans at Madison Square Garden in New York, Monday, Jan. 9, 2017.  The Pelicans won 110-96. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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Despite sounding like he wanted a conversation with Phil Jackson, Carmelo Anthony said he hadn’t spoken with the Knicks president since Phil Jackson mouthpiece Charley Rosen wrote Anthony no longer fit in New York.

It hasn’t been for a lack of effort.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

If you’re trying to keep up with the Jackson-Anthony feuds, their previous meeting came after Jackson publicly critiqued Anthony’s ball-hogging.

That affair should’ve provided a sense of Jackson’s communication skills. This latest episode only reinforces it.

The Knicks were in New York on Thursday, when Rosen’s article was published. They played in Toronto on Sunday and returned home for a game yesterday. That’s plenty of time for Jackson and Anthony to talk.

Why hasn’t it happened yet?

Isaiah Thomas on pace to break modern-era fourth-quarter scoring record

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With seven and a half minutes left, Isaiah Thomas drained a 3-pointer, held up his left wrist and stared at it.

It was time.

His time.

Thomas scored 17 fourth-quarter points in the Celtics’ win over the Hornets yesterday.

“It doesn’t surprise me,” Thomas said. “It just surprises everybody else.”

It shouldn’t any longer.

Boston has won seven of eight, and in that span, Thomas has scored most of the Celtics’ fourth-quarter points. He has pushed his fourth-quarter scoring average to 10.1 for the season – putting him on track to break the modern-era record.

Kobe Bryant scored 9.5 fourth-quarter points per game in 2006, the most in the previous 20 years (as far back as NBA.com has data). The leaderboard:

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Russell Westbrook is also on track to surpass Kobe and join this rarified air. LeBron James, Tracy McGrady, Kevin Durant and Dwyane Wade are the only other players to average even eight fourth-quarter points per game in a season over the previous 20 years. Not even Michael Jordan (7.1 in 1997, 7.3 in 1998) did it.

Boston’s offense has blasted into the stratosphere with Thomas on the court in the fourth quarter, scoring 122.1 points per 100 possessions. However, the Celtics allow even more with him on the floor in the final period (122.8 points per 100 possessions). The 5-foot-9 point guard has limits.

But where those limits exist when it comes to his clutch scoring – we haven’t found them yet.