Tyson Chandler among Bulls refuting claim that members of 2002-03 team smoked pot before games

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In an excellent New York Times piece that was published over the weekend, former Duke basketball standout and current ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Williams recounted his experience dealing with the aftermath of a motorcycle injury that ended his professional basketball career.

It was a powerful story, one that included Williams discussing his feelings at his lowest point, which had him considering suicide.

There was another nugget in there, however, that’s now gaining some national attention, thanks to the way it’s affecting some of Williams’ former teammates he played with while he was a member of the Chicago Bulls during the 2002-03 season.

From Greg Bishop of the Times:

“I didn’t know how to handle it at first,” Williams said. “I didn’t know how to be around it. Guys were on the bench, trying to kick it to girls in the stands, having ball boys run over. I mean, some guys were high.”

Asked to clarify, Williams said: “There were guys smoking weed before games. Guys asking in the middle of the game, ‘Do you smell popcorn?’ ”

He noticed the nervous laughter around the kitchen table. “You think I’m playing,” Williams said. “Can you imagine! Guys are gambling. They’re playing dice in the back of the plane for money. Like, we just lost by 30 tonight! And we’ve got a game tomorrow! It bugged me out.”

Players “smoking weed before games” is a strong statement, and it must have been at least perceived to be true by Williams for him to even broach the subject.

But the fact that he mentioned it at all, and did so without naming names, is leaving his ex-teammates scrambling to explain.

Tyson Chandler, who now plays for the Knicks and earned his first selection to the All-Star team this season, was on that 2002-03 team with Williams. And not surprisingly, he’s not letting that claim from Williams go without a response.

From Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork:

“I don’t know why he would say something like that. I think that’s ridiculous that he would come out and say something. I don’t remember that to be honest with you. And it’s unfortunate that he would make that kind of statement about our game,” Chandler said at the team’s charity bowling event to support Madison Square Garden’s Garden of Dreams Foundation.

Other Bulls on that team, including Donyell Marshall and Rick Brunson, similarly took exception to Williams’ assertion.

Williams released a statement Monday essentially saying he was done talking about the issue.

“I gave an honest account of my struggles and observations during a specific time in my life; that was one small element. It was a long time ago and I am not looking to make it a bigger issue,” he said.

The interview Williams gave was so wide-ranging that it might not have even occurred to him at the time the gravity of what he was saying. If he had thought it through a little bit before making those comments, he might have realized how many people were going to be affected by such a serious accusation.

Report: First-round draft prospect says Phil Jackson fell asleep during his workout

AP Photo/Frank Franklin II
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Like I said, there are better reasons to criticize Phil Jackson than him saying his priority was the Knicks and that he had discussed trading Kristaps Porzingis.

Jay Williams of ESPN:

A top-15 draft pick told me the other day, because we were involved in this out of this conversation about Phil Jackson and the Knicks, and he said, “Phil Jackson was falling in and out of sleep in my workout.”

Yes. “Falling in and out of sleep at my workout.” This is what this guy told me.

Especially given Jackson’s salary and reputation for not being a diligent worker, this story is too good to check out.

O.G. Anunoby invited to NBA draft, Harry Giles declines

AP Photo/Darron Cummings
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The NBA’s invitations to the draft are a good indicator of when players will get drafted. The league samples executives, who are more likely to be honest here than in leaks to the media, about how they rank players. So, the list is worth monitoring.

The players who will attend tonight’s draft nearly match the leaks – with one exception. O.G. Anunoby is going, and Harry Giles isn’t.

Here are the players who will be at the draft – a reasonable placeholder for the players most likely to get picked in the top 20 – via A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN New England:

Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress:

Harry Giles declined his invite sources told DraftExpress.

Did Giles decline his invite because, with his extensive injury history, he feared falling too far? Or did he just prefer to watch elsewhere?

Was Anunoby simply 21st on the NBA’s list of players to invite? Or was the league too unsure of his medical status to include him until getting a stronger grasp now?

I don’t know, but the possibility that Giles could slip or Anunoby is more secure alters my perception of their draft stock (Anunoby up, Giles down).

Report: Knicks’ asking price for Kristaps Porzingis ‘massive’

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What has Phil Jackson actually done? He discussed trading Kristaps Porzingis with other teams and called the Knicks, not Porzingis, his priority. That’s it.

At face value, this is fine. It’s what devoted executives, not always Jackson, should do.

Jackson hasn’t traded Porzingis for meager return. He hasn’t traded Porzingis at all.

Everyone up in arms should take a deep breath.

Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe:

David Aldridge of NBA.com:

I wouldn’t rule out the Knicks trading Porzingis. The No. 1 pick got traded, after all. I wouldn’t rule out them trading Porzingis for too little return. Look at Jackson’s track record running the front office.

But wait until they do before bashing Jackson for not understanding Porzingis’ value.

There are plenty of better reasons to criticize Jackson, including overseeing the toxic culture that led to Porzingis skipping his exit interview and setting this latest “crisis” into motion. Publicly discussing trading Porzingis won’t endear Jackson to the budding star, but the problem is how it reached this point. Players in sound organizations can handle this. Jackson has engendered little confidence from his players, the distrust existed well before this round of trade talks.

Lonzo Ball recruits LeBron James to Lakers (video)

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Lonzo Ball doesn’t play for the Lakers. LeBron James isn’t a free agent.

But they’re headed that way – and Ball is already embracing it.

The Lakers are expected to draft Ball No. 2 tonight, and rumors are heating up about LeBron leaving the Cavaliers in 2018.

Why should LeBron join Ball in Los Angeles?

Ball on ESPN:

LeBron, I like to win. I know you like to win. I think our games can help each other out a lot. Any time you want the ball, just let me know. It’s going to be there.

Ball was asked to to pitch LeBron, so it’s not as if Ball is out here talking so brashly on his own. But answering the question was a rookie mistake.

Besides, I’m not sure Lonzo Ball can undo the bad blood between LeBron and LaVar Ball.