Michigan v Louisville

Trey Burke ready to compete with new teammate point guards right now


NEW YORK – When Trey Burke committed to Michigan, the Wolverines still had Darius Morris. Though Morris’ NBA success as a Lakers second-round pick has been moderate at best, he was a star at Michigan.

Morris left early for the NBA before Burke arrived in Ann Arbor, but Burke’s preparation for playing with Morris could be helpful now. That’s because, whenever he hears his name called in Thursday’s NBA Draft, Burke will almost certainly join a team with a point guard who’s seen as more NBA-ready and/or possessing of more upside.

When discussing the Kings, Burke even mentioned Isaiah Thomas – “who was the 60th pick and showed that a lot of teams shouldn’t have passed up on him” – before DeMarcus Cousins, or any other Sacramento player for that matter.

But it’s not just the Kings who would present point-guard competition for Burke.

Burke considers his range in tomorrow NBA’s NBA Draft No. 2 to No. 8, and all the teams in that range already have point guards:

  • No. 2 Magic: Jameer Nelson
  • No. 3 Wizards: John Wall
  • No. 4 Bobcats: Kemba Walker
  • No. 5 Suns: Goran Dragic, Kendall Marshall
  • No. 6 Pelicans: Greivis Vasquez, Austin Rivers
  • No. 7 Kings: Isaiah Thomas
  • No. 8 Pistons: Brandon Knight, Rodney Stuckey, Jose Calderon (free agent)

Whichever of those teams draft Burke, those point guards better take notice. When preparing to playing with Morris, Burke developed a plan of attack for dealing with a potentially awkward situation.

“Well, it’s the offseason right now,” Burke said. “I wouldn’t say it’s great to compete with a teammate, but I think that’s the right thing to do right now. It will make not only me better, but him as well. Once the seasons starts, there’s no more competing between us.”

Burke said his ambitions were limited when he thought he’d share a roster with Morris – “compete for some minutes,” as Morris put it – but without the returning starter in the way, Burke soared.

Many Michigan fans questioned why Morris would turn pro just to become a second-round pick. By midway through Burke’s freshman season, they questioned whether Morris would have kept his starting job had he stayed.

Burke undoubtedly learned a lot from his experiences at Michigan that will prepare him for the NBA. But it’s the preparation for the experience he never had that could prove especially important.

“I’m in the same predicament right now,” Burke said. “Like I said, I love challenges. I think it makes me stronger, not only as a player, but as a person, mentally. I’m excited.”

Hawks’ Thabo Sefolosha on not guilty verdict: “Justice was served”

Thabo Sefolosha
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Friday morning, a New York jury found Atlanta Hawks guard Thabo Sefolosha not guilty of misdemeanor obstructing government administration, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest. The charges stemmed from the night in the final weeks of last season when Sefolosha and then teammate Pero Antic went to a New York club after arriving in town, and while there Pacers’ player Chris Copeland was stabbed outside the club. In his clash with police, Sefolosha suffered a broken leg that required surgery and kept him out of the playoffs.

The New York prosecutor tried to make this go away with a plea deal of just day of community service and six months probation. But Sefolosha had the means and mind to fight the charges, got his day in court and won. This is what he said in a statement after the verdict, released by the Atlanta Hawks.

“This morning’s verdict ended a long and emotional period for me.  Justice was served and for that I am eternally grateful to the judge and jury for their quick and deliberate decision….

“It’s troubling to me that with so much evidence in my support that this case would even be brought to trial and that I had to defend myself so hard to get justice. It pains me to think about all of the innocent people who aren’t fortunate enough to have the resources, visibility and access to quality legal counsel that I have had.

“It was important to me as a man, a father to two young girls and as a role model, to stand up for what I believe in and have my name cleared of any wrongdoing.  Today’s verdict will not make up for the pain and trauma my family and I have suffered over the past six months or bring back the opportunity to have played in the Eastern Conference Finals and have a shot at an NBA title, but it does bring me some peace and closes a painful chapter in my life.

“Now I look forward to returning to the team and focusing solely on my rehabilitation for the upcoming season so that I can get back to playing the game I cherish so much.”

While Sefolosha says he is focusing “solely” on his rehab, the win in the criminal case would bode well for a potential civil case if he wanted to sue regarding his treatment and the broken leg.

Hawks’ coach Mike Budenholzer — who testified at the trial and was amused by parts of it — released this statement:

“Thabo is a man of great character and we are proud that he took a principled approach to proving his innocence. We are extremely happy for him and his family, and we are very pleased with today’s verdict in his favor.”

Byron Scott doesn’t care about exhausting Lakers in preseason

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The Warriors use wearable technology to track players and have rested them when the data revealed fatigue. Gregg Popovich is holding relatively healthy Spurs out of practice. Heck, Popovich doesn’t even send himself to every preseason games.

Meanwhile, with the Lakers…

Lakers coach Byron Scott, via Baxter Holmes of ESPN:

“I don’t necessarily care about tired legs in preseason,” Scott said. “I think everything that we’ve done thus far will pay off at the end of the day. You’ve got some guys that might have tired legs and [are] a little worn out, but all the running as far as getting into that physical condition that we need to get into, I think in December and January, it will pay off.

“So I’m not necessarily worried about guys having tired legs in preseason. They’ll just have to kind of fight through that fatigue part of it. And I think mentally it gets them a little stronger anyway.”

Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times:

The Lakers coach has a reputation for demanding a lot of running in the preseason. It’s important in his mind because the Lakers will be better conditioned than other teams down the road.

Players, predictably, aren’t as enthused about it.

Bresnahan quotes just two players, Brandon Bass and D'Angelo Russell, and neither expressed much resistance to Scott’s methods. But I trust Bresnahan to read the team’s pulse.

I also think Scott is right: Fighting through fatigue builds mental toughness. But it also makes players tired, and it’s not the only way to instill toughness. The Warriors are tough. The  Spurs are tough. They didn’t have to run their players into the ground to get that way.

Scott loves to project himself as old-school and anti-analytic. Thankfully for the Lakers, his actual methods aren’t as bad as he conveys. For example, he said the Lakers would take an absurdly low 10-15 3-pointers per game last season. In reality, they hoisted nearly 19 per game, 25th in the league. That might not have been enough for that roster, but at least it wasn’t leaps and bounds below the norm.

So, I’m not convinced Scott is pushing the Lakers as hard as he wants everyone to believe. But he’s  clearly giving them a bigger workload than many teams.

If the Lakers are playing relevant games late in the season, this could come back to bite them. On the bright side, they probably won’t have to worry about that problem.