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.

Jared Dudley: Giannis Antetokounmpo practiced mean mugging in locker room

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Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s Game 3 dunk over Aron Baynes was great.

Antetokounmpo’s Game 4 dunk over Al Horford (seen above) is even better, because of the fantastic mean mug that followed.

The rise of Antetokounmpo is no accident. He worked hard to develop his on-court skills. And that includes all aspects.

Suns forward Jared Dudley, who played with Antetokounmpo on the 2014-15 Bucks:

This is the inside info we need.

Report: Knicks are Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer’s top choice for job

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Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer withdrew from the Suns coaching search, but that he was even involved with another opening while under contract with Atlanta is telling. It probably wasn’t about the Phoenix job being special. He’s also talking with the Knicks – and maybe that goes somewhere.

Marc Berman of the New York Post:

Mike Budenholzer is genuinely interested in the Knicks’ job, according to an NBA source who has spoken to the Hawks coach.

“New York’s his top choice,’’ the NBA source said. “If they offered him the job, he’d say yes. He wants to live in New York.’’

“Phoenix and the Knicks are trying to win every game,’’ said the NBA source who has spoken to Budenholzer recently. “There’s a good chance Atlanta is not looking to win games the next two years. This wasn’t Mike’s decision. He didn’t expect it. He doesn’t want to lose games.’’

Going to the Knicks to win? What a time to be alive.

But the Hawks are only one year into what appears to be a multi-year rebuild. Relative to that, New York is ahead.

When Kristaps Porzingis returns is the biggest variable. But Enes Kanter, Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee and Trey Burke are all in their primes. Atlanta is much thinner.

The Knicks would probably also offer Budenholzer a raise and the Hawks compensation. Though dealing with James Dolan carries downside, this could be a financial boon to everyone else involved. It’s no wonder Budenholzer and the Hawks are both into this.

The big question is whether New York, which is casting a wide net, tabs Budenholzer. He doesn’t have a clear connection to Knicks president Steve Mills or general manager Scott Perry. But Budenholzer is a demonstrably good coach, and that ought to matter plenty.

Andrew Bogut signs to play in NBL in native Australia

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Back in January, the Los Angeles Lakers waived Andrew Bogut. He had a very limited role on a Los Angeles team that was not making the playoffs, serving as a backup big man against teams who use a traditional center. That’s not much of a role anymore. He’s a center who can pass, shoot from the midrange a little, and knows where to be defensively, but the game has evolved as Bogut’s skills have faded. Bogut tried to latch on with a contender for the playoffs, but could not find a team to take him.

So he is going home.

Bogut is signing to play for the Sydney Kings in Australia’s NBL.

Bogut was the first No. 1 draft pick from Australia when he was selected by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2005. He made the All-Rookie team that season, was All-NBA in 2010, but may be best known for his role as a crucial part of the defense of the NBA champion Golden State Warriors in 2015 (and his injury during the 2016 Finals is an underrated reason Cleveland was able to pull off a miracle comeback).

At age 33 Bogut may not have a spot in the NBA, but in the NBL he both will thrive for a few more years but also be a huge draw and get the welcome home from fans that he deserves.

When Lance Stephenson gets a traveling call, he earns it (VIDEO)

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Yes, guys get away with traveling in the NBA. James Harden on the step back (sometimes, not always), or guys sliding left/right to avoid a closeout at the arc and not bothering to dribble while they do it.

Lance Stephenson got called for traveling Sunday in the Pacers’ loss to the Cavaliers. In a game where Stephenson got under the skin of LeBron James and drew a technical (and tied him up for a jump ball at one point), this was the best Lance highlight of the game. Because if you’re going to travel, you should go all in.

Never change Lance. Never change.