2013 adidas Eurocamp: Day 2 recap

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TREVISO, Italy — The camp’s second day was lighter on the competition for the older, draft eligible international prospects, and was focused instead on drills, coaching, and showcasing the younger teams in attendance.

There was only one game featuring the event’s main attractions, and it was used by two Brazilian players to dominate the action.

Point guard Raul Neto and big man Augusto Lima (pictured) each put in 14 points to lead an All-Star team in a blowout of the under-19 Serbian team. Neto did his damage as more of a scorer than a distributor, but it’s easy to see why he is a prospect teams will be keeping an eye on over the next year or two. His ability to create his own shot is to be valued, and he is able to cause havoc on the defensive end of the floor, as well.

Lima was especially dominant on Day 2, after a less than inspired performance the first day.

“I like to compare myself to Anderson Varejao,” Lima told me. “A lot of guys say that about me when we played together on the national team. I think in the future I’ll be able to be even more like him. I try to have more activity than him, but you know. He plays really hard. When I play with him on the international team I try to be like him, but he has much more experience so I’m not there yet.”

Lima, 22, also said this might be his last, best opportunity to show scouts what he can do for them at the NBA level, and he seemed to realize it against the under-developed Serbian team on this second day. He played with that Varejao-like intensity for most of the game, hustling for position inside and dunking the ball four times. He was playing with passion which always is nice to see, and seemed to be enjoying himself out there — even when hacked so hard that he fell awkwardly to the ground without a call from the nearby referee, he sat up with a big smile for a few moments and shared a look with the NBA executives who were sitting courtside along the baseline.

adidas Eurocamp Game #2 adidas ALL-Star vs SERBIA U19 (Day 2)

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Nemanja Nedovic is a strong, athletic point guard from Serbia who was one of the remaining players at Eurocamp that teams were most interested in getting a look at. But after suffering an ankle sprain, he won’t be participating in any more activities. Nedovic looked sharp on the camp’s first day, however, and is projected as a second round pick this year. He will likely work out with teams in the states in the next couple of weeks.

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Timberwolves executive and veteran NBA head coach Flip Saunders was the guest speaker of the day, and put on a detailed clinic that showed players some ball handling and shooting drills, as well as some fundamentals and tricks of playing in the post at the professional level.

Saunders was energetic and engaging, and the players seemed to respond well to his teachings. He got some assistance from both Omri Casspi and Kenneth Faried during his talk, which certainly didn’t hurt his credibility in the eyes of the young international players.

source:

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Serge Ibaka was the third NBA player that adidas had in attendance on Day 2, and discussed the past and the future of his Oklahoma City Thunder team. He said he doesn’t know whether or not the team will retain Kevin Martin in free agency, and discussed how hard it was to end the season shorter than expected after losing Russell Westbrook to injury in the early stages of the playoffs.

“I mean, it was hard,” Ibaka said. “It was tough for us. To lose a player like Russell … he’s your point guard. But it’s no excuse, though. I will not give an excuse for us. It was hard for us, but we tried the best we [could]. It didn’t work, so now the good thing about it is we have all summer to get better and to be ready for next year.”

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It was a rough season for Casspi last year, averaging career lows in all relevant statistical categories, including minutes played. He enters this summer as a restricted free agent, but isn’t yet sure what the Cavaliers are planning to do in terms of making a qualifying offer in order to have the right to match any contract he may receive from another team.

“I just want to be in the right situation, play for the right team, and win — you know, compete for something,” Casspi said. “I’ve been in the league four years now and never competed really in the playoffs, or been part of a winning organization. It’s a big key choosing my next team.”

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A few more notes:

– Kenneth Faried spoke at length about the changes in Denver, and the Nuggets’ earlier than expected first round playoff exit.

– Complete BAM testing results and measurements for all of the camp’s players can be seen here.

– The USA Select team of high school players was once again overmatched, this time getting blown out by the under-20 team from France. Devin Robinson, a 6’8″ forward from Christchurch in Virginia, was the star for the USA team in this one, and did a good job using his length and showcasing his athleticism to make himself a factor on both ends of the floor.

adidas Eurocamp Game #1 FRANCE U-20 vs adidas USA Select (Day 2)

– The camp’s final day features three games in the afternoon session where NBA general managers will get a good last look at the remaining international players in attendance.

Stephen Curry says talk of lack of competitive balance “disrespectful” to Warriors, Cavaliers

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This year’s NBA playoffs have been horribly lopsided and they lacked drama because we all knew where it was headed: Golden State vs. Cleveland. They were so dominant that between them they lost one playoff game so far. This has brought up discussions of competitive balance — we have seen the same Finals three years in a row, and we will almost certainly head into next season expecting a fourth. Then maybe a fifth.

Not surprisingly, Stephen Curry isn’t a fan of the lack of competition argument, saying it disrespects the Warriors and the Cavaliers.

“That almost is kind of disrespectful, because it’s not like it’s easy for us to get here. It wasn’t that at all. Us and Cleveland worked our butts off all year to put ourselves in a position to be playing for a championship. The league is as strong talent-wise across the board as it’s ever been. Every night we get challenged. Obviously, we had that one stat I guess, point differential, all year. We had a pretty solid showing in that respect. But, every night was hard. Every night was challenging. You can’t just sleepwalk through a season and sleep walk through the playoffs and expect to be here. You got to do something. You got to come out every night and prove yourself. Granted, anybody who was betting on who was gonna be in the Finals probably picked those two. It’s easy for them to say that and just wake up in June and see it happen. We had to put that work in all year long to make it happen.”

Curry is right in that nobody should question the work the Warriors and Cavaliers put in to get to this point, and that the other teams did not just roll over for them. Also, both teams did get a little lucky with injuries.

However, that doesn’t change the fact that right now there is a dominant team in each conference, and that sucks the drama out of the postseason. (Maybe a healthy San Antonio team could have pushed the Warriors, we didn’t get to find out.) Golden State has four of the top 15-20 players in the NBA, and that makes them a juggernaut — again, regardless of the work put in. Other teams don’t have much of a chance if the Warriors are healthy and focused, not in a seven game series. The fact that it was flukey circumstances that put a dominant team in each conference — there isn’t another LeBron James returning home, and out West it took a one-time salary cap spike to add Kevin Durant to a 73-win team — doesn’t change the fact this season has felt like a foregone conclusion from the start.

Right now we’ve got what we wanted and expected, the trilogy between the Warriors and Cavaliers. But if we head into next season expecting (and maybe getting) round four of this matchup in the Finals, is that good for the league? Why watch the movie if you know how it ends before it starts?

Bill Laimbeer on LeBron vs. Jordan comparisons: “I’ll take LeBron James, absolutely”

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LeBron James is headed to his seventh straight NBA Finals. He just passed Michael Jordan to take over the top spot on the NBA’s all-time playoff scoring list. Fourteen years into his NBA career, he has put together a resume that few in the game’s history can match — and he’s not done.

You don’t have to think that LeBron James is better than Michael Jordan, however, if you don’t think it’s a valid discussion, you’re blinded by bias.

Former NBA All-Star, champion, and WNBA coach Bill Laimbeer of the “bad boy” Detroit Pistons was asked about the LeBron/Jordan comparison on “The Rematch” podcast, and he said we’ve never seen anyone like LeBron (hat tip the USA Today).

“I’ll take Lebron James, absolutely,” Laimbeer said to host Etan Thomas… “He’s 6-8, 285 (James is listed at 250 pounds). Runs like the wind, jumps out of the gym. Phenomenal leader since he’s been 12 years old. Understood when he came into the league how to involve his teammates from the start. And you can’t guard him. You can’t double-team, he’s too big, he powers through everything. Michael was a guard. Yeah, he was 6-6, but he wasn’t a real thick and strong guard. It took him a lot of years to learn how to involve his teammates in order to win championships. Don’t fault him for that, it’s a learning experience. But we’ve never seen anybody like LeBron James physically. He just bullies you.

It was Laimbeer and the Pistons who taught Jordan to win — they beat the Bulls year after year in the playoffs, until Jordan broadened his game (and got better teammates) and the Pistons started to fade. People point to MJ’s unblemished Finals record, but he was seen for years as a guy who couldn’t get a team to the Finals because of those Pistons (LeBron learned his lessons on a different stage, taking some early Cavs teams that had no business in the Finals to that stage anyway, only to get crushed).

LeBron has a more versatile game than Jordan, which better suits this era: When Jordan was a force in the ’80s and ’90s there was no zone defense, which led to a lot of clear-out sets where eight guys watched a one-on-one battle from the other side of the key, and if the double-team came it was obvious from where. Jordan’s skill as a guy who could get his shot, kill it from the midrange or get to the rim, his ability to physically play through contact, and the legendary killer instinct made him great. But he was aided by timing — the booming popularity of the sport in the 1990s, the rise of Nike as a marketing giant, and the fact he didn’t have a true rival, a Bird to his Magic, that could best him.

LeBron has reached the point in his career that the legacy talk and where he ranks all-time is the only real discussion left — and Jordan sits as the bar to clear. Kareem Abdul-Jabar, Bill Russell, and a few others should be on that tier as well, part of the discussion, but the point is LeBron has moved on to that level of discussion. He’s earned it. The fact some people on Twitter/sports talk radio feel the need to rip him for everything doesn’t change that — if Jordan played the social media era he would have heard the same things from the same people.

Report: Celtics focused on adding All-Star-caliber frontcourt player

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Isaiah Thomas said he he’d happily forgo a renegotiation-and-extension if the Celtics use their cap space to upgrade their roster.

Where are they looking?

A. Sherrod Blakey of CSN New England:

Multiple league sources have told CSNNE.com in recent weeks that the Celtics are focused on landing an All-Star caliber talent in the frontcourt.

In the last three years, 22 frontcourt players have been All-Stars. Boston already has one: Al Horford. Could the Celtics land any of the other 22?

Almost certainly unavailable

Free agency

Trade

Free agency or trade

  • Pau Gasol (Though Gasol said he’d opt in, San Antonio might try pushing him out to pursue Paul. If Gasol opts in, the Spurs could also trade him to clear space for Paul.)
  • Dirk Nowitzki (The Mavericks have a $25 million team option on Nowitzki for next season. Nowitzki going to Boston, via trade or free agency, would probably require a mutual agreement between Dallas and him that pursuing a title elsewhere is the right way for him to end his career.)

Report: Spurs exploring Chris Paul pursuit

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The Clippers are taking the Chris Paul-to-Spurs rumors seriously.

And apparently so are the Spurs.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

The San Antonio Spurs are exploring the feasibility of making a free-agent run at All-Star point guard Chris Paul, league sources told ESPN.

San Antonio must complete three difficult objectives to land Paul:

  • Clear cap space. Even if they trim their roster to Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Danny Green and Tony Parker, the Spurs would still have to dump two of them to clear max room. Can they convince Gasol to reverse course and opt out, maybe re-signing at a major discount? Would they trade Parker, who has meant so much to the franchise? Would they deal Aldridge or Green, players who would make major contributions to a Leonard/Paul-led team?
  • Convince Paul to accept a projected max of $152 million over four years rather than the projected $205 million he could get over five years from the Clippers. Although the annual difference is just $3 million and Paul could sign another deal in four years, it’s unlikely he recoups that at age 36.
  • Convince Paul to leave big-market L.A. for small-market San Antonio. Remember, Paul forced his way from small-market New Orleans then ascended into one of the NBA’s biggest endorsement stars.

The Spurs boast a fantastic basketball culture, and Leonard and Popovich make great partners in a championship chase. There are reasons San Antonio is gaining traction with Paul.

But there’s still a lot for the Spurs to overcome. Will they? At least they’re trying rather than just dismissing the plot as unfeasible.