Derek Anderson talks Gregg Popovich, Pat Riley, “Stamina”

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There are a lot of guys who have come through the NBA and can tell hard knock life stories about growing up poor.

Derek Anderson blows most of those stories out of the water.

He never had a father around, his mother was out of the picture and he was fending for himself by the time he was 12. He was homeless, and by 14 living at different houses of people that would help out (like the janitor at a high school gym that let Anderson sleep there). He was also a father at 14 and by 15 he had full custody raising his son.

If Anderson had never played at Kentucky or went on to an 11-year NBA career, most of us would understand. The circumstances would have been too much to overcome.

But Anderson says he refused to allow that and went on to be an NCAA champion at Kentucky and an NBA champion. Anderson has a book out now called “Stamina” (available pretty much everywhere) that talks about how he broke out of that cycle with incredible perseverance. The book’s point is something he tries to pass along to others — you can’t quit, you just have to take responsibility for yourself and keep moving forward.

You have to earn people’s respect.

Now Anderson looks back with admiration on the NBA people who treated him like an adult — Miami’s Pat Riley and San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich are near the top of that list.

“I think Coach Popovich is one of those coaches that allows his players to be players, he disciplines when they need to be disciplined, and he gives everyone rewards when you need to be rewarded,” Anderson told ProBasketballTalk. “He gives you a fair chance. That is why you see a bunch of guys who are not big names and they become better players because he gives you that.”

The adage other players have used is that Popovich treats grown men like men, not children to be scolded and bribed.

“Exactly, that is the level of respect, you give it and you get it you return,” Anderson continued. “But if you kiss up to these kids and these players eventually you are going to take advantage of it like anyone would. Popovich is one of those great guys that you really respect and you look up to because he treats everyone fair.”

Anderson also was on the 2006 Heat team that won an NBA title and respect was a theme there, too.

“It was different,” Anderson told PBT. “You had a bunch of high level guys with emotions but they all (controlled them), like Gary Payton didn’t get technical, Alonzo Mourning didn’t wild out he just played hard. Dwayne (Wade) was young, Shaq came to play every night and the rest of us were role players. I made two big threes in the Chicago series to help us win and the next series if didn’t get to play but Shandon Anderson did. We all sacrificed fro the betterment of our team and we all won a championship so I think it was different and I think that most of it was because Pat Riley didn’t allow a superstar to dictate the team — he always would dictate the team.”

That Anderson was able to even have those moments speaks to his stamina.

He says he didn’t want to write an autobiography that was just a retelling of his life; he wanted one that showed people how they can understand the consequences of their actions and break out of the cycle of poverty.

“What happens is we are all in a cycle of poverty and that is mental or locations but the only difference what I chose to do is that I chose to be great,” Anderson said. “I didn’t want to be average, I didn’t want to be ordinary where you looked at me and you actually knew everything about me. I wanted everybody to look at me and be like, ‘he is able to do anything.’

“The greatest compliment I ever got was coach told me that someone asked him ‘how do you stop Derek Anderson?” and he said don’t let him get the ball because once he does it he is able to do everything.

“And that is the way I looked at life, I said when I get an opportunity that is all I want and therefore I won’t make excuses. Nowadays you speak and even back then everyone makes excuse for the way you grew up but you have been blessed with a gift so maximize it. I speak to people I’m cordial, I’m nice, and that is how it happens, it always came back, so that is the reason why I always believe that I would be successful.”

Anderson’s message is one a lot of young NBA players could use to hear. Actually, it’s one all of us could use to genuinely listen to.

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue: Celtics’ sets harder to defend than Warriors’

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With the Cavaliers up 3-1 on the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, most basketball observers are focused on Cavs-Warriors III in the NBA Finals.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue is more concerned with Boston, which scored surprisingly well in Games 3 and 4 after losing Isaiah Thomas to injury.

Lue, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

“I don’t even think about them,” Lue said of the Warriors to a small group of traveling Cleveland beat writers following the Cavs’ Game 4 win on Tuesday. “We’re just focused on Boston. The stuff they’re running, it’s harder to defend than Golden State’s [offense] for me, as far as the actions and all the running around and all the guys who are making all the plays, so it’s a totally different thing.”

Wait, the Isaiah Thomas-less 53-win Celtics are harder to defend than the Kevin Durant-supercharged 67-win Warriors? Come again, Coach?

“Like, they hit the post, Golden State runs splits and all that stuff, but these guys are running all kinds of s—,” Lue said of Boston coach Brad Stevens’ schemes. “I’ll be like, ‘F—.’ They’re running all kinds of s—, man. And Brad’s got them moving and cutting and playing with pace, and everybody is a threat. It’s tough, you know, it’s tough.”

I think Lue means in a very specific way – getting his players into proper position. And in that regard he might be right.

I also think the Warriors will take this in the broadest, most offensive way possible. That’s just the nature of this rivalry.

Without Thomas, Stevens has been forced to diversify Boston’s offense. The Cavaliers, who prepared for a very different scheme, were caught off guard and are adjusting on the fly.

That’s a real challenge. But framing it as the central issue sells Golden State short.

Even if it’s harder for Lue to get his players into proper position against the Celtics, the Warriors’ surplus talent – including Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green – more than makes up for it. And it’s not as if Golden State runs a basic scheme.

So why did Lue say this?

He didn’t think the travelling Cleveland beat writers would publish his candid remarks? He didn’t convey his thoughts clearly? He naively didn’t consider how this would motivate the Warriors? All are plausible.

Another theory: Lue is trying to plant a seed that acting Golden State coach Mike Brown, whose known (fairly or not) for his simplistic offensive schemes, is holding back the Warriors. If Steve Kerr doesn’t return, resentment of Brown is one of the few things that could tear apart a dominant Golden State team.

Richard Jefferson: LeBron James was sick during Cavaliers-Celtics Game 3

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LeBron James was inexplicably bad in the Cavaliers’ Game 3 loss to the Celtics on Sunday.

Except maybe it was explicable.

Cleveland forward Richard Jefferson, via Fox Sports Ohio

I know he won’t talk about it, so I’ll give my big guy a shout. Deron Williams missed shootaround this morning, because he had like a little bug, just really lethargic, had no energy. And I think that’s what Bron had. And sometimes these little bugs can go around.

When Deron didn’t show up to shootaround, it kind of started clicking in his head. Because for him it was more of like, “I don’t know why I was so lethargic, why I had no energy, I had nothing.” And so, these little things happen. There was no panic.

Look, he was lethargic. They hit a bunch of tough shots. If Marcus Smart doesn’t go 7-for-10 from 3, then we’re not even talking about it.

I don’t know whether LeBron was truly sick or Jefferson is just trying to help a teammate’s reputation. It can be both.

LeBron was better in Game 4, but not quite right.

If he’s dealing with a minor illness, that could clear up by Game 5 tomorrow. It should especially clear up by the Finals, which begin June 1. That’d be great news for the Cavs, who have no chance against the Warriors if LeBron isn’t at full strength.

The uncertainty of why LeBron hit a slump now of all times loomed over Cleveland’s playoff future. But Jefferson provided reason for the Cavaliers to breathe easy.

Michigan’s D.J. Wilson staying in NBA draft

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Michigan bigs D.J. Wilson and Moe Wagner declared for the NBA draft in similar situations – coming off breakout seasons, particularly excelling down the stretch, and sitting on the first-round bubble for the NBA draft. Neither hired an agent, leaving their options open.

But this is where their paths diverge.

Michigan releases:

University of Michigan junior forward D.J. Wilson announced today (Wednesday, May 24) he will forgo his final two seasons of eligibility and submit the necessary paperwork to remain as an early entrant into the 2017 NBA Draft.

University of Michigan sophomore forward Moritz Wagner announced today (Wednesday, May 24) he will return to the Wolverine basketball program after removing his name from consideration for the 2017 NBA Draft.

Wilson and Wagner both said they’d stay in the draft only if they’d be first-round picks. I wonder whether Wilson got a first-round promise or is just confident enough he’ll get picked there. The latter wouldn’t be a bad bet. Even if the 22-year-old Wilson slips into the second round, this might be the peak of his draft value.

At times, it’s easy to forget Wilson is a 6-foot-11 big man. He shoots 3-pointers, dribbles and moves like a wing. He also too often shies from contact, which particularly hurts his rebounding.

But he’s a big. Those perimeter skills wouldn’t shine quite as brightly if he were matched up with opposing wings. Wilson has a 7-foot-3 wingspan, and he also protect the rim. However, his shot-blocking relies on a bounciness that’s not as effective when pressed into more physical matchups. He needs some space to launch – but when he has it, it also pays off in quality finishing at the rim.

Wilson has the tools to be a good NBA power forward, but he’s still a work in progress. In other words, he still looks like a borderline first-round pick.

Tyronn Lue imitates LeBron James’ criticism of reporter (video)

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After the Cavaliers Game 3 loss to the Celtics, LeBron James accused reporter Kenny Roda of showing up/asking questions only when Cleveland loses.

Questioned by Roda after the Cavs’ Game 4 win, Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue lightheartedly lobbed the same criticism at Roda.

Coaching LeBron can be tricky. Lue must both challenge the greatest player of his generation and handle LeBron’s passive-aggressiveness. Lue can neither let LeBron walk all over him nor bark orders at him.

In this case, it seems Lue is trying to diffuse LeBron’s pettiness before it turns into something bigger. Considering how silly LeBron’s initial comments were, I bet the star is on board.