Monday And-1 links: Royce White joins Rockets; more camp notes

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Here is our regular look around the NBA — links to stories worth reading and notes to check out (stuff that did not get its own post here at PBT) — done in bullet point form. Because bloggers love bullet points like men love Mila Kunis.

• Rookie Royce White joined the Houston Rockets training camp Monday, with an agreement sort of in place to deal with his anxiety disorder (he’ll be taking a bus to most team road games). It’s good to see him there and the organization trying to accommodate him not just look past a talented player because things might be a little harder. Feel free to draw your own life/business conclusions from that.

• J.J. Hickson is your starting center for the Portland Trail Blazers, at least right now through the preseason. Yes, that J.J. Hickson.

• It’s not really a surprise, but the Clippers confirmed Chris Paul will not play against the Heat in preseason games in China due to his thumb surgery recovery.

• DeJuan Blair is having trouble finding a defined role on the Spurs this season, and he’s a little frustrated with that. If you’re looking for guys to put near the top of your “I bet they get traded” list, Blair would be a good choice.

• Rasheed Wallace is getting in shape for the Knicks by boxing. There’s a joke there but I just can’t find it.

• The Washington Wizards are concerned about the point guard position, particularly after John Wall. They should be.

• The Hawks Anthony Tolliver scratched a cornea during Sunday’s preseason game and he could miss some camp time.

• Suns guard Shannon Brown needed stitches after bumping heads with a teammate in practice.

• There are some Celtics fans who, after Jared Sullinger had a couple good preseason games against Euro teams, are thinking he should start over Brandon Bass. I think those fans need to get back on their meds. But Sullinger can be important for the Celtics.

• Eddy Curry may not make the Spurs roster, but if he doesn’t the Bucks, Trail Blazers, Hornets and Bulls may have interest in him, reports Sam Amico of Fox Sports Florida.

• Bradley Beal is doing an online rookie diary.

• Kobe was asked about Shaq cracking on Dwight Howard (and Howard defending himself) but decided not to really play along.

• Here is a full transcription of a radio interview with Phil Jackson, where he says among other things it is not going to be easier for LeBron James to win another title now that he has won one.

• Speaking of radio interview transcripts, here is Magic coach Jacque Vaughn dodging the word rebuilding but basically saying just that.

• Things went off without much of a hitch at the new Barclay Center in Brooklyn for the recent run of Jay-Z concerts, but there were issues with the first basketball event (a Harlem Globetrotters event).

• And we close tonight with Scott Machado’s sweet no-look alley-oop pass.

D’Angelo Russell on criticism of him in L.A.: “It’s the past. I’m here now. It’s irrelevant.”

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NEW YORK (AP) — D'Angelo Russell wasn’t only traded, he was insulted on the way out the door.

After the Los Angeles Lakers selected Lonzo Ball with the No. 2 pick in the NBA draft, team President Magic Johnson said Russell played well but stressed that he needed a leader as his point guard. Given that Johnson is one of the greatest ever to play the position, the sting might have really hurt Russell.

But his turbulent time in Los Angeles is over, so the only voices Russell are listening to are in Brooklyn.

“It’s good to be here. I can’t really control that, what they say,” Russell said Monday. “I’m gone. It’s the past. I’m here now. It’s irrelevant, honestly.”

The Nets introduced Russell and center Timofey Mozgov in a news conference at their training facility, having acquired the pair in the deal last week that sent center Brook Lopez and a draft pick to Los Angeles.

Russell is just 21 and himself was the No. 2 pick just two years ago, the kind of player who isn’t usually available via trade. But the Lakers needed to make room for Ball, and the Nets are in desperate need of talent after finishing with the worst record in the NBA.

“Looking at what the Lakers were dealing with, we’re always in that talent-acquisition mode here,” general manager Sean Marks said. “We will be for a while, but adding a player – specifically D’Angelo being 21 – we could’ve easily drafted somebody who was a year older than D’Angelo.”

Russell averaged 15.6 points last season, an improvement over his rocky rookie season. Fitting in under coach Byron Scott in Kobe Bryant’s final season was a difficult transition, and Russell made it harder on himself when his video of a private conversation with teammate Nick Young ended up on social media.

Even though Russell played better under Luke Walton, the fallout from the video may have already damaged his ability to become the leader Johnson was seeking. Marks didn’t dwell on the past, believing Russell will find a more stable situation under second-year coach Kenny Atkinson.

“I think everybody’s going to question what happened in the past with the whole Nick Young so forth,” Marks said. “But as I said before, I’m not really concerned about that, because I think if any one of us looked in our little dark secret of closets there would be things that we would be embarrassed about and wish we could take back. So again, I’m going to bet on this group, from Kenny, the coaching staff, they’ve done a terrific, terrific job of developing these guys.”

Lopez was the Nets’ career scoring leader, but Atkinson believes the Nets will get strong play from Mozgov, remembering how hard the Russian worked when Atkinson was on Mike D’Antoni’s staff with the Knicks. Mozgov didn’t play late last season as the Lakers went with their youth, but he is a strong rim protector who won an NBA championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

But the key to the deal will be Russell, who joins Jeremy Lin as the point guards on the Nets’ roster. His transition from Ohio State to Los Angeles was rough. Perhaps going coast to coast will be a smoother start.

“A lot of guys have it easier. A lot may have it harder,” Russell said. “My situation was different. It was what it was. It’s the past. I’m here and looking forward to it.”

 

Report: Jeff Van Gundy to come out of booth, coach USA Basketball in World Cup qualifying

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For reasons that confused thinking people everywhere, FIBA — the body that oversees international basketball competitions — changed the timing of the qualifying for the 2019 Basketball World Cup from the summer to the fall and winter. That would be during the NBA season, and the seasons of other major leagues around the globe. Many if not most of the world’s best players cannot now take part in qualifying. (This isn’t soccer, where breaks are traditionally built in the season so players can go to the national teams for a couple of weeks, that’s not happening with hoops, certainly not the NBA.)

The USA — which has to qualify, despite winning the last World Cup (and last Olympics) — will have games next November and February. A team of primarily D-League players will represent the USA in those games.

Jeff Van Gundy will come out of the broadcast booth to coach those teams, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

Jeff Van Gundy will coach USA Basketball’s roster of non-NBA professionals who will try to qualify for the Americans for the World Cup in 2019, league sources told The Vertical.

Van Gundy, an 11-year NBA head coach and currently a TV analyst for ESPN, will coach a roster compromised largely of NBA Development League and overseas American players in tournaments over the next several months.

It will be Van Gundy’s first formal coaching assignment since resigning as the Houston Rockets coach in 2007. Van Gundy has talked with several NBA teams about returning as a head coach in recent years, remaining immersed throughout his TV career in continuing to polish his coaching craft.

Could this be the first step in Van Gundy returning to the sidelines in the NBA? Maybe. That’s really up to Van Gundy, he’s had the opportunity to return before. He will keep getting those calls.

However, he should be perfect for this. He’s a smart, quality coach who can work with the talent given to play an up-tempo international style taking advantage of the USA’s general superior athleticism to its opponents. That may not be the style of play Van Gundy’s Knicks teams were known for, but he is certainly a coach capable of more than one style of play. Plus, he’s a guy who will get the instant respect of his players because of his standing.

Gregg Popovich will coach a team of NBA players in the 2019 World Cup in China. If the USA is one of the two best teams from the Americas in the World Cup — a highly likely result — that will qualify the USA for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Popovich will coach that as well (with likely much of the same roster from 2019).

Getting to the World Cup will fall on the D-League stars and Van Gundy.

 

John Wall says he’s trying to recruit Paul George to Washington

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The Washington Wizards head into this offseason with a real challenge to improve their team — they have no cap space. More than that, just keeping restricted free agents Otto Porter and Bojan Bogdanovic could send them into the tax (and it’s fair to ask if owner Ted Leonsis is willing to pay that). GM Ernie Grunfeld needs to find a way to bolster the bench, yet also could need to shed salary.

That hasn’t stopped John Wall from trying to recruit Paul George to the Wizards, he told Marc Spears at ESPN’s The Undefeated.

“I am talking to some guys — Paul. I know his ultimate goal of where he wants to be. I’m trying to see if we can make something happen,” Wall told The Undefeated before the NBA awards on Monday night….

“Look at our team. We are one piece away,” Wall said. “We have the point guard, we have the shooting guard, we have the center, we have the power forward. Our 3-man, [Porter], did great for us. You can’t take nothing away from what he did. But, [George] is a guy that can guard LeBron and go back at LeBron. It’s a piece that you’re going to need to win. If you don’t have a guy who can do that, you don’t have a chance. …

You got to add another star. You got to add another piece. You got to have three guys. And that’s what it’s looking like.”

Wall isn’t wrong about what George could bring on the court, he would be an upgrade over Porter. That said, Porter shot 43.4% from three and averaged 13.4 points per game while playing good defense, and considering the demand for good wings in the league right now Porter likely will get a max or near max contract this summer. He has value.

The problem for the Pacers in bringing in George — who will be a free agent in 2018, so if the Wizards could convince him to stay would still need to be maxed out in a year — is money. Next season Wizards have Bradley Beal making $25.8 million next season, Wall at $18 million, Ian Mahinmi at $16.7 million, Marcin Gortat at $12.8 million — and every one of them is signed until at least the summer of 2019. That’s a lot of big salaries, and we haven’t got into the lesser salaries and cap holds — the Wizards are up against the tax and well over the cap. Even if the Wizards could swing a trade for George (say a sign-and-trade with Porter, plus a couple of future first round picks, even though those picks will be lower than the Pacers have been asking) Washington would need to dump a couple of those salaries to have money to re-sign George in 2018. And dumping those salaries would require giving teams young players and/or picks as sweeteners to absorb the costs. It’s not that practical.

All that, and George could just walk as a free agent in 2018. His interest in playing for the Lakers is widely known.

It’s a good effort by the Wall, but in the end the Wizards likely keep Porter and hope for improvement internally.

Bill Russell to Shaq, Kareem during awards show: “I would kick your ass”

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Bill Russell is one of the greatest basketball players to have ever lived. His dominance for the Boston Celtics is unquestioned.

And, he apparently knows it.

Russell received a lifetime achievement award on Monday night during the 2017 NBA Awards. Joined on stage by NBA big men Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, David Robinson, Alonzo Mourning, and Dikembe Mutumbo, Russell opened his acceptance speech of the award with a little joke.

Via Twitter:

Tell ’em, Bill