With Silver, NBA gets same business with softer face

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Things are not going to change much. There will come a time, just a few years into his tenure as commissioner, when Adam Silver will walk out on the stage at the NBA Draft and be instantly booed by fans. Just as David Stern has been for years.

A lot of things will stay the same. In 15 months, when Adam Silver takes over for David Stern, there are not going to be big changes for the NBA. The league is going to still be pushing its brand internationally, it will still be trying to negotiate larger television deals, it will still be trying to figure out how to make the digital space work for them, it will still be about protecting the league’s image. Mostly, it will still be about making money for the owners, with the players getting a cut of the pie.

Yet there are plenty of people around the NBA happy to see the change coming because they see Silver bringing a softer side, a more inquisitive and open mind to the big desk.

David Stern is an old-school, alpha-male businessman. His trademark dry sense of humor has come off as both funny and harsh. Stern has a temper. He can be condescending. Stern likes things done just so and isn’t afraid to intimidate to get it. Stern can be charming, and he can put people off.

Silver, due to both age and temperament, just handles things differently. People feel like he listens to them, that you can have a conversation with him. This could bode well for things like player relations — after things such as the dress code and more Stern is not loved among players. Chris Paul’s first reaction (and he was involved in the CBA negotiations) was to say he feels he can talk to Silver. That’s a start.

During the lockout, Silver was often the league’s attack dog at press conferences, the bad cop taking the more strident owners’ side, which allowed Stern to sound softer. Silver had to do that to get Stern’s job someday — Silver had to show the owners he would fight for them and their pocketbooks. That he could get down and dirty if he needed to.

That was the show, but Silver is still seen as a guy teams can have a conversation with on issues, that he has an open mind. Stern is a “my way or the highway” kind of guy, a friendly ear in talks can go a long way.

But starting a year from February, Silver is going to have to be the guy that says no sometimes. He’s the decision maker, and not all his decisions will be popular. It is Silver that will have to deal with the Sacramento situation (although Stern is trying to get that resolved), and whatever city is the next Seattle or Sacramento. Silver is going to have to deal with flopping and whatever is the next big on-the-court issue after that.

Silver will at some future date have to make decisions that will anger fans or players or some other owners. He can’t just be the good cop anymore.

And he’s not going to dramatically change the course of the good ship NBA. Things will remain pretty much as they are.

Just with less ego at the top. And that can be a good thing.

Raptors’ Jonas Valanciunas offers advice to Ball brothers on Lithuania

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Lithuania is a hoops-mad country.

The Baltic nation has fewer people in it than the Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan area, yet it has three players in the NBA right now — Jonas Valanciunas, Donatas Motiejunas, and Mindaugas Kuzminskas — and has put 11 players in the league total (such as Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Arvydas Sabonis, and Sarunas Marciulionis). The country has won three bronze medals in the Olympics ( 1992, 1996, and 2000). It’s Lithuanian league also has been the launching pad for Celtics’ Aron Baynes to make the NBA.

Now the Ball brothers LiAngelo and LaMelo are headed there on professional contracts.

One of those players — the Raptors’ Valanciunas, had advice for the Ball brothers, speaking to ESPN.

“They’re getting themselves into a great opportunity. Lithuania is beautiful country… We have great basketball history. We’re such a small country, but we have many, many great players. Our basketball school is good., so they chose a really good school. They just gotta work hard — it’s all about working. You can be as good as you can be by working. Talent is one thing, but work you put in, that’s gonna show up.

“If they have any problems, let me know. I can help them out.”

Good luck finding anyone around the NBA who thinks this ends well, especially those who know the Ball family. They are sending a college freshman and a high school junior to a small city in a former Soviet bloc country with a very different culture, that will be a major adjustment. The coach doesn’t speak English and his former American players have not spoken highly of him. The Lithuanian league itself has men — far more physically developed than the Ball brothers — and is known for a physical style of play. It’s also known as a league where the players have a reasonably high hoops IQ and don’t like undisciplined players.

But if LiAngelo and LaMelo have any problems, they can call Valanciunas.

Paul George on return to Indiana Wednesday: “For whatever reason, I’ll be booed”

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This week is the Oklahoma City Thunder’s “you can’t go home again” week of the schedule. On Saturday night, Carmelo Anthony will return to New York where Knicks fans should welcome him with cheers and open arms — he meant a lot to that franchise in recent years — but may very well not.

First up, however, Paul George returns to Indiana in a Thunder uniform Wednesday night.

There’s little doubt how he will be greeted by Indiana fans, who felt betrayed by a man they stuck by through recovery from a severe injury. George knows what is coming,

Here are the key lines from PG13:

“Boos. I honestly wouldn’t think it would be any other way. The Pacers fans outweigh the Paul George fans. That’s what I’m looking forward to. For whatever reason, I’ll be booed, but I’m gonna embrace that. I’m gonna thrive on that.”

For whatever reason? You asked to be traded and fans take that personally. There is no loyalty in sports — I have no problem with players asking out because teams show no hesitancy in dumping players they no longer have a use for (and fans are almost always good with that) — but he had to know how this would be taken in Indiana.

What George might want to worry about is stopping the red-hot Victor Oladipo (he averaged 35.7 points per game last week), because he and the Pacers are playing better than the Thunder right now.

Kawhi Leonard returns Tuesday on minutes restriction

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The Spurs have been the Spurs this season, going 19-8 with an elite defense and offense that’s good enough to get them wins, thanks to LaMarcus Aldridge playing at an All-Star level.

Starting Tuesday, they add Kawhi Leonard back to the mix.

He will return to the lineup against Dallas, but will be on a minutes restriction, coach Gregg Popovich said on Tuesday. He would not say how many minutes, although around 20 seems a logical starting spot.

Leonard is one of the five best players in the NBA (and that may be selling him short). He averaged a career-high 25.5 points a game last season, he’s arguably the best perimeter defender in the NBA, and he finished third in the MVP voting last season.

However, there are going to be adjustments. LaMarcus Aldridge has been the focal point of the offense, but he could see fewer touches, particularly in crunch time. Kyle Anderson could see fewer minutes, and Rudy Gay may as well because Popovich liked some small-ball lineups last season with Leonard at the four. A lot of players will see their rotations change.

That said, it’s the Spurs. Do we really expect them to be anything but an incredibly good regular season team? One that is about to get better?

 

 

 

Pelicans’ Tony Allen out 3-4 weeks with fibula fracture

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The injuries just keep hitting the Pelicans. Guys like Solomon Hill and Alexis Ajinca are out for extended periods of time. Anthony Davis has missed four of the team’s last six games and is questionable for Wednesday night due to a left adductor injury.

Now comes the news that reserve guard Tony Allen will be out three to four weeks due to a nondisplaced left proximal fibula fracture, the team announced Tuesday. This is the part of the bone near the ankle.

Allen has played a limited role for New Orleans off the bench this season, averaging 12.4 minutes a game, and averaging 4.7 points. His reputation is that of a defensive stopper, and when he is on the court this season the Pelicans’ defense has been 5.6 points per 100 possessions better. However, father time has started to catch up with him and he is not the defender he once was.

Expect the minutes to bump up for Jrue Holiday and E'Twaun Moore with this injury, which is not a bad thing as they have played well (they were knocking down threes against the Rockets Monday like they were named Curry), plus Ian Clark could get a little more run.