Lucas Nogueira says he’s flexible on developing his skill set either in Europe or in the NBA

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TREVISO, Italy — Lucas Nogueira performed well during the first day of adidas Eurocamp, and perhaps even a bit better than expected. The competition level is always to be taken into account, but he showed a maturity on the floor and a controlled athleticism that made it easy to see why he’s projected as a first round draft choice.

“It went as I had planned,” Nogueira told NBCSports.com on Sunday, with the help of some translation assistance from his agent, Aylton Tesch. “I just tried to show what I could bring to an NBA team, which is protecting the rim, finishing plays at the rim, and running the floor. Just showing my athleticism. I feel comfortable (with how it went), but I know I have a lot of room for growth.”

The translation piece was a bit odd, considering a team source said that they were able to interview Nogueira completely in English. But speaking to the media in a second language can be a trickier proposition, so the precautionary measure wasn’t exactly a surprise.

Even with the translating happening, it was clear that Nogueira understood the majority of what was being said in English, and came across as relaxed, comfortable, and intelligent.

As far as areas where he needs to improve, Nogueira seemed to be aware of what scouts have been saying about him — especially as it relates to his size.

“Defense,” he said. “My vision of the court, and post defense. Because before I can block a shot, the offensive player will try to bang in the post. That comes into my physicality, and I’ll need to bulk up a little more. I’m also working on being more aggressive on the boards.”

The only real knock on Nogueira from scouts and NBA executives is his lack of muscle, which comes with it questions of whether or not he’ll be able to add the necessary bulk to be effective competing against bigs at the professional level. But Nogueira believes his overall talent should be able to overcome questions about his size.

“I will look to develop my body,” he said. “But at the same time, there’s something that I bring to the game that no one else does.”

Nogueira’s agent chimed in and stated the obvious — that knocking younger players for having a slender frame is a bit silly, considering that’s the case for most prospects, especially the ones like Nogueira who approach being seven feet tall.

“He’s just 20 years old,” Tesch said. “I think he could end up having the body of like a Jermaine O’Neal or a Joakim Noah. They may not have broad shoulders, but you can see how they were able to fill in.”

Besides the physical development, Nogueira knows that he needs to continue to develop as a player. Interestingly enough, he seems fine with doing that either in Europe or the states, depending on what the team that drafts him believes will ultimately be the best course of action.

“I think that the teams play a major role in the development of young players,” Tesch said. “We’re not here to force any NBA team to take him, because he’s still 20 years old. We know that he has to develop a lot, so we have to have a team on board with that to help him through this process, whether it takes a year or two more years in Europe, that’s fine. He’d still be just 22 at that point, so there’s plenty of time.”

Nogueira maintains a positive outlook on it all, and just seems to want to be drafted by an organization that will take the time necessary to invest in his future.

“I’ll leave that up to the team that picks me,” he said. “I’m flexible about going back to Europe, or staying in the NBA depending on what they feel is best. I just want a team that has a plan for me that I can follow.”

LeBron James on the Finals: “I feel good about our chances. Very good.”

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If there is one team in the NBA that can knock off the Warriors in a seven-game series, it’s the Cavaliers. They are the best team in the NBA at creating mismatches and isolating them, and in Kyrie Irving and LeBron James they have two of the best isolation scorers in the game. Cleveland is strong on the boards and is capable of impressive defense. Also, they have the best player on the planet.

If nobody else is confident in the Cavaliers chances, he is.

Here is what LeBron James said his confidence level facing the Warriors in a Finals trilogy.

What else is he going to say?

And if anyone should be confident, it’s LeBron. He can change a series.

From the outside, we saw a series last year where everything needed to go right for Cleveland to win — LeBron playing the best ball of his career for the final three games, Kyrie Irving hitting big shots, Draymond Green getting suspended, Andrew Bogut getting injured, Stephen Curry being off (due to injury or fatigue or just a slump). And even then took the Cavaliers seven games and heroics at the last minute. Now the Warriors add Kevin Durant, and it’s hard not to see this ending differently.

However, LeBron James is the one guy who can alter that vision. And he’s confident he can do it, he’s done it before.

Steve Alford: LaVar Ball never meddled with UCLA Basketball

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Is LaVar Ball just a harmless loudmouth, or will he actually undermine the team that drafts his son, highly touted guard Lonzo Ball?

The Lakers, who hold the No. 2 pick, are the most likely team to find out.

President Magic Johnson said LaVar won’t affect whether they draft Lonzo, but coach Luke Walton wants the team to ask UCLA coach Steve Alford about LaVar’s involvement.

Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times did just that:

Was LaVar Ball around the team much?

“Zero,” Alford said.

Was he ever at practice?

“Never at practice,” Alford said. “Never at practice; never called me.”

Did he ever try to meddle in your coaching?

“Never,” Alford said.

LaVar has said his other sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo, will play for UCLA. So, Alford has incentive to maintain a productive working relationship with LaVar. The players’ high school coach had a much worse experience dealing with LaVar.

Alford vouching for LaVar means something, but the total picture is more complex.

Still, LaVar would hardly be the first difficult parent of an NBA player. He’s just the most public. Even if he’d try to meddle into the Lakers, they might be willing to handle that to get his talented son.

John Wall: Bench was Wizards’ ‘downfall’

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John Wall left the Wizards’ season-ending loss to the Celtics talking about how badly Washington’s bench got outscored.

Now that he has time to reflect and isn’t just speaking with raw emotion shortly after a devastating loss, how does he feel?

Wall, via CSN Mid-Atlantic

“We need to help our bench,” Wall told CSN’s Chris Miller. “Just to be honest, that was our downfall in each series that we had in the [Eastern Conference] semifinals, our bench got out played.”

It starts from upstairs – just building the right bench guys and building the chemistry. That’s all it is.

I think that’s where they won the game at. I heard Marcus Smart say after the game that I had no legs. He’s basically right. I don’t make excuses. I’m going to play. If I miss shots or make shots, I’ll live with it. I know people will say he finished oh for 11, but I play – I took everything I had in me to keep fighting.

It’s just that their bench guys came in and played well. I think Kelly Oubre could’ve played a little bit more. I wish he would’ve played a little more than Jason. But coach makes the decision, and we stick behind him 100 percent. I feel like those two guys could have really helped us.

Wall – eligible for a designated-veteran-player extension but reportedly unsure about signing one – is clearly telling the Wizards what he wants. Marcin Gortat similarly criticized Washington’s bench earlier in the season, and he apologized. Wall has the leverage not to stand by his assessment.

Both Wall and Gortat were right. The Wizards’ bench was the source of much of their problems.

Washington’s starting lineup outscored opponents by 4.7 points per 100 possessions in the playoffs. Its bench (all other lineups) got outscored 15.5 points per 100 possessions.

Only the Thunder had a similar split in net rating:

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The Wizards knew their flaw and tried to hide it. Washington’s starters played 34.2 minutes per game together in the postseason – second only to the Pacers (34.5). Wall’s heavy workload contributed to him running out of gas late in Game 7 against Boston, which Marcus Smart noted.

What can the Wizards do to upgrade their bench? Spend.

They sound committed to keeping Otto Porter, a restricted free agent this summer. But that would push them near the luxury tax – so they could scrimp on the bench in a variety of ways:

  • Don’t re-sign Bojan Bogdanovic, another restricted free agent. He’s in line for a raise.
  • Trade Marcin Gortat, elevating Ian Mahinmi into the starting lineup and therefore weakening the bench.
  • Trade Jason Smith, who might be expendable at his salary (especially given Wall’s comments about not wanting him to play as much) but at least still provides depth.
  • Don’t use the mid-level exception. That’s Washington’s best mechanism for adding outside help, but it’d be costly.

Will the Wizards take any of those cost-saving measures? Wall is certainly watching.

Don’t like the wait for this year’s Finals? Here’s the top 10 plays from the last two (VIDEO)

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Que the Tom Petty

Nobody is enjoying the week-long break between the end of the Eastern Conference Finals and the start of the NBA Finals (except maybe a few of the older Cavaliers players trying to get healthy). For those of us basketball junkies, we just want to get on to the two best teams in the league battling it out.We need a fix.

Here’s the best we can do today: The top 10 plays from the last two NBA Finals, the last two Cavaliers/Warriors showdowns. Courtesy the folks at NBA.com. There’s plenty of LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and a big shot by Kyrie Irving made the list. Enjoy. And just try to be patient.