Adidas Eurocamp - Day 2

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 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.”

Celtics president Danny Ainge on Brad Stevens: ‘He’s a keeper’

Brad Stevens

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has never finished a season with a winning record. He’s over .500 this year only because Boston came back to beat the lowly 76ers. He has never won a playoff game.

But Stevens – who signed a six-year, $22 million contract in 2013 – has plenty of job security.

Celtics president Danny Ainge, in a Q&A with Chris Forsberg of ESPN:

You’ve joked about it before, but are you ready to give him another six-year contract yet?

Ainge: [Laughs] Yeah.

You have to start thinking about that. Sure, we’re only in Year 3, but you can’t risk letting a good coach get away.

Ainge: No, listen, he’s a keeper. He’s great. He’s great to work with. Like I said, I think he’s going to be — if he stays in this game long enough — he’s going to be one of the great coaches.

I tend to agree with Ainge’s assessment. Stevens has looked like an excellent coach so far – implementing a sound defense, creating space on offense and communicating clearly with his players.

But Stevens has benefited tremendously from low expectations, arriving in Boston after Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen retired. Expectations sunk even lower when the Celtics traded Rajon Rondo last season.

That’s when Stevens appeared to do his best work, guiding a starless team to a 24-12 finish.

Expectations will keep rising, though. Some expected the Celtics to break out this year, but they’re just 8-7. Stevens faces the difficult task of managing a rotation full of pretty good – but no great – players. This might be his hardest NBA assignment yet.

Stevens has done plenty to earn praise from his boss. But to actually get a contract extension, he’ll have to keep meeting higher and higher expectations.

I believe Stevens is up to the challenge, but I’m not completely certain of it. He wouldn’t be the first coach to impress early in his tenure and then fizzle. Just look at how many Coach of the Year winners lost their jobs a short time later.

Again, I think Stevens will meet any reasonable expectations he faces. He just must actually do it to get a longer deal.

League executives, players wince watching this Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant
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Over the last few days, we’ve written in more detail about Kobe Bryant‘s shooting troubles. He’s jacking up threes his fastest pace ever, he can’t create space to get off clean shots, he’s hitting 31.1 percent overall and 19.5 percent from three. There are flashes of vintage Kobe, but they are fleeting (and mostly because poor shot choices are falling). Byron Scott is still in Kobe’s corner, saying they just need to get the veteran better looks.

However, talk to people around the league about Kobe and you hear some variation of the phrase “hard to watch.” After 20 seasons, more than 55,000 minutes on the court, and coming off two major injuries, Kobe clearly is not the same player everyone admired for so long.

Over at the Los Angeles Times Mike Bresnahan and Broderick Turner got a number of sources to wince about Kobe for a story — except nobody wanted their name attached to attacking a legend of the game.

“Man, I don’t want to see Kobe go out like this, looking this bad and not able to do what he once could do,” said a retired guard who faced Bryant. “He doesn’t have anything else to prove to anybody. He was one of the greatest. I know he’s owed that $25 million, but he should just walk away now. He ain’t got it anymore.”

“He’s one of the few players in NBA history to have gotten everything possible out of his body. Now his body has nothing left to give,” (an Eastern Conference executive) said. “But that’s life in the NBA, in professional sports. At some point, the body just can’t do it anymore and Kobe’s body can’t do it anymore.”

One West scout said Bryant looked “disinterested” at times. A current player in the West went a step further.

“Yeah, I’ve seen him play and it’s disgusting,” he said. “He’s one of the best of all time. But he really hasn’t played that much in the last two or three years. He’s got nothing left. It’s sad to watch because he used to be so great, and I mean great.”

Kobe is not going to walk away mid-season, and nobody wants an injury to force him out of the game.

But it’s hard to see how anything is going to dramatically change. Kobe may shoot a little better than his current but it’s not likely going to change in a meaningful way. Which will just make things hard to watch for a full season.

Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver

Manu Ginobili, Harrison Barnes, Tim Duncan
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The Spurs are 12-3 and comfortably in second place in the West, they have the best defense in the NBA allowing just 93.8 points per 100 possessions, and they have a top-10 offense to go with it.

So, time to start making sure guys are rested.

That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.

Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.

What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.

Brandon Armstrong impersonates Ray Allen (video)

2014 NBA Finals - Game Five
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Ray Allen is retired-ish, but he’ll always be running through screens – in our mind and in this video.