Shabazz Muhammad is 20, not 19, which will hurt his NBA Draft stock

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UCLA forward Shabazz Muhammad is the subject of an article by Ken Bensinger of the Los Angeles Times that has the college-basketball world buzzing, and the piece also raises several questions that will affect Muhammad’s NBA Draft stock.

Let’s start with the most tangible issue:

According to the UCLA men’s basketball media guide, he was born in Los Angeles on Nov. 13, 1993.

But a copy of Shabazz Nagee Muhammad’s birth certificate on file with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health shows that he was born at Long Beach Memorial Hospital exactly one year earlier, making him 20 years old — not 19 as widely reported.

How and when he lost a year of his life are unclear.

Asked about the discrepancy, [Ron] Holmes insisted his son was 19 and born in Nevada. “It must be a mistake,” he said.

Several minutes later, he changed his account, saying that his son is, in fact, 20 and was born in Long Beach.

NBA teams obviously prefer younger players, which is a big reason 22-year-old Damian Lillard slipped to No. 6 in last year’s draft. Advancing a year in age  will be especially questioned for Muhammad, who excels at posting up less physically advanced players. Is he just taking advantage of playing younger competition, or will that skill translate to the NBA?

The questions don’t stop there.

Because his son suffered from a mild case of Tourette’s syndrome, which can cause tics and other problems, Holmes told him he had to work that much harder.

Professional sports teams are often wary of players who are different, and in light of the difficulties the Houston Rockets and Royce White have had with each other, NBA teams might be especially leery of drafting a player they perceive as having any similarities to White. White’s and Muhammad’s issues are not necessarily similar medically, but here, the perception matters more than the science.

And that leads to, perhaps, the biggest issue:

Holmes’ life mission, though, has been to raise his three children to be professional athletes.

“If you’re a doctor, your kid is going to med school. If you’re a lawyer, he’s going to law school,” Holmes said. “I was an athlete. That’s what I could do for my kids.”

Holmes has pinned most of his hopes on the middle child, Shabazz.

Does Shabazz love basketball?

NBA teams want players who work out at all hours, who push aside other aspects of their lives and devote themselves to the sport, who want to win more than they care about anything else. Most players who are drafted love basketball, because the only way to reach even that level of the sport is to already care deeply about it. Those who don’t typically fall behind much sooner in the weeding-out process.

But does Shabazz love basketball enough that he’ll continue to work hard at it, or is he just trying to please his father? If it’s the latter, there’s a much higher risk Shabazz loses his passion, and that could derail an NBA career.

Between now and the June 27 draft, NBA teams will have the opportunity to investigate Muhammad themselves, but Bensinger’s article reveals a lot about what they might find.

Victor Oladipo’s practice dunk better than anything he – or maybe anyone – did in dunk contest (video)

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Victor Oladipo has grown into far more than just a dunker.

In fact, in Saturday’s dunk contest, he didn’t look like a dunker at all.

The Pacers star missed all three attempts of his first dunk, and a Black Panther mask was by far the biggest draw of his second. Oladipo was eliminated after the first round.

Maybe Dennis Smith Jr. wasn’t the only eliminated dunker who left something in his bag. This Oladipo dunk – 180 degrees, throwing ball off the backboard with his left hand while in mid-air, dunking with his right hand – while preparing in Los Angeles was awesome.

Larry Nance Jr. had the contest’s best dunk. This would have rivaled it.

Pelicans owner Tom Benson hospitalized with flu symptoms

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METAIRIE, La. (AP) — New Orleans Saints and Pelicans Owner Tom Benson has been hospitalized with flu symptoms.

A statement released Wednesday by the NFL and NBA clubs says their 90-year-old owner is resting comfortably at Ochsner Medical Center, a hospital which also serves as a major sponsor and which owns naming rights to the teams’ training headquarters.

Benson has owned the New Orleans Saints since 1985 and bought the New Orleans Pelicans in 2012.

In recent years, Benson has overhauled his estate plan so that his third wife, Gayle, would be first in line to inherit control of the two major professional franchises.

 

Report: Seattle hosting Kings-Warriors preseason game

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Kevin Durant spent his rookie season in Seattle, before the SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder. He has said Seattle fans deserved to see him grow up in the NBA after supporting his promising start.

They’ll get their chance.

Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee:

The Kings and Golden State Warriors have scheduled a preseason game next season in Seattle, according to multiple league sources.

The Oct. 6 meeting between Northern California teams will be the first NBA game in the Key Arena since the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City after the 2007-08 season and became the Thunder.

This game will be loaded with storylines. Not only Durant, but the Kings considered moving to Seattle a few years ago. And of course, the return of NBA basketball to Seattle.

At some point, Seattle will get its own team again. For now, this preseason game creates intrigue there.

Report: Kawhi Leonard cleared medically, seeking second opinion

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he’d be surprised if Kawhi Leonard played again this season, a stark reversal from just a month ago. Back then, even while announcing Leonard was out indefinitely with a quad injury, the San Antonio coach said Leonard wouldn’t miss the rest of the season.

What’s going on?

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

After spending 10 days before the All-Star break in New York consulting with a specialist to gather a second opinion on his right quad injury, All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard bears the burden of determining when he’s prepared to play again, sources told ESPN.

Leonard has been medically cleared to return from the right quad tendinopathy injury, but since shutting down a nine-game return to the Spurs that ended Jan. 13, he has elected against returning to the active roster, sources said.

The uncertainty surrounding this season — and Leonard’s future which could include free agency in the summer of 2019 — has inspired a palpable stress around the organization, league sources said.

At first glance, this sounds like Derrick Rose five years ago. Even after he was cleared to play following a torn ACL, the then-Bulls star remained mysterious about when he’d suit up. His confidence in his physical abilities seemed to be a major issue, and he was never the same player since (suffering more leg injuries).

But the Spurs famously favor resting players to preserve long-term health. They seem unlikely to rush back Leonard. They might even sit players who want to play more often. And Leonard isn’t Rose.

Still, it’s clear something is amiss in San Antonio. Maybe not amiss enough to end Leonard’s tenure there, but the longer this lingers, the more time for tension to percolate.