Baylor’s Isaiah Austin declares for NBA draft

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Early in his time at Baylor, Isaiah Austin was considered a potential top-10 pick.

And so were Perry Jones and Quincy Miller.

Jones was drafted No. 28 and Miller No. 38 in 2012, and it’s unlikely Austin fares much better in 2014, but he’s giving it a shot.

Baylor team release:

Baylor sophomore center Isaiah Austin will declare for the 2014 NBA Draft and forgo his final two years of collegiate eligibility, head coach Scott Drew announced Tuesday.

“Our coaching staff really enjoyed working with Isaiah for his two years at Baylor University, and we want to thank him for his tremendous contributions to Baylor basketball,” head coach Scott Drew said. “His versatility and defensive prowess helped us win an NIT Championship and make a Sweet 16 appearance. He’s a tremendous player and a great role model in the community, and we look forward to watching him as he takes the next step to the NBA.”

Austin is an athletic 7-foot-1 and 225 pounds and has 3-point range. Players like that never completely fall off the NBA radar.

But he fits the stereotype: athletic Baylor player with quality size who never learns how to use his skills. Jones and Miller not proving the critics wrong in the NBA won’t help Austin’s case, either.

Like those two, Austin too often deferred at Baylor. His numbers last season – 11.2 points on 45 percent shooting and 5.5 rebounds – were both pedestrian for his skill level and down from his freshman year. At least he improved defensively, increasing his blocks from 1.7 to 3.1 per game.

If he’s going to sell himself to NBA teams, it should be as a defender with high offensive upside. Think Paul George (at least that’s what he should want you to think, even if that comparison is on the most optimistic side).

Austin won’t persuade anyone to take him in the top 10 anymore, but he could sneak into the back of the first round with all the right breaks. More likely, someone takes a flier on him in the second round, but it’s also possible he doesn’t get drafted. At this point, Austin has lost his college eligibility, so he can’t return to Baylor.

After losing vision in his right eye as a child, Austin has experience overcoming obstacles. It’s impossible to separate those experiences from his next journey, and maybe that helps him in his professional career. Austin is easy to root for, but for NBA teams, a little harder to draft.

Celtics’ Brad Stevens said early September tests will show if Thomas ready for camp

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Isaiah Thomas said he expects to be ready for the Celtics’ training camp next month. The guard’s All-NBA season came to an early end in the playoffs when he aggravated a labral tear in his right hip initially suffered back in March. At least the injury did not require surgery.

Players are also about the worst judges of when they will recover from an injury. They pretty much all think they are invincible and will be healthy faster than doctors predict.

Coaches tend to be more pragmatic. Take Boston’s Brad Stevens, who told Chris Mannix on The Vertical Podcast that tests in a couple of weeks will show if Thomas is ready for camp.

“He has another follow-up and another scan in the early part of September. Obviously, it’s been a lot of appropriate rest, a lot of rehab. There have been some good strides here certainly in the last month or few weeks, but we’re not going to know that until after that early September timeframe.”

The Celtics are understandably going to be cautious with Thomas, while Thomas wants to prove he is healthy and has no ill effects from the injury as he enters a contract year (one where he expects to get PAID). Also, the Celtics could use him in camp as they start to figure out how he and Gordon Hayward can share playmaking duties.

Still, from the outset, the timelines have suggested he should be ready for camp in late September. Coaches are just cautious on these things by nature.

Allen Iverson predicts LeBron James will win MVP

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LeBron James has four NBA MVP trophies in his case. (Does he keep that case in his home in Akron or the one in Los Angeles… that’s a question for another day.) Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six) and Michael Jordan (five) have more.

Could LeBron James add a fifth to his case this season?

Allen Iverson said yes at last weekend’s Big3 playoffs in Seattle.

LeBron was fourth in preseason odds to win the MVP at 15/2, behind Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard.

To me, LeBron could be a good bet. If/when Kyrie Irving is traded, the chances of LeBron getting the MVP go up. If LeBron puts up impressive numbers (again) and leads a depleted Cavaliers team to a top two seed in the East, he is certainly going to be in consideration. And should be.

It’s a long season, and personally, I think you need to get midway through the season before seriously considering the year-end awards. But history says LeBron will be in the mix, and Allen Iverson could be proven prophetic.

Phoenix Suns with quality solar eclipse joke on Twitter

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With the cooler-than-I-expected solar eclipse on Monday came a lot of bad solar eclipse jokes on Twitter. Because that’s what Twitter does. Especially the NBA Twitterverse. We knew a lot of “where on the flat earth will Kyrie Irving watch the eclipse?” jokes were coming.

There were a couple of good ones, however.

Appropriately, the Phoenix Suns won the day.

One personal favorite here, an old meme that never goes out of style.

Report: Other small-market teams championing Pacers’ tampering allegation against Lakers

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The NBA, at the Pacers’ request, is investigating whether the Lakers tampered by making impressible contact with Paul George.

Bob Kravitz of WTHR

In fact, there’s word that other small- and mid-market team officials have reached out to the Pacers and told them, “Good for you. Fight the good fight.”

Small-market teams whine too much about the disadvantages they face, but tampering isn’t really a market-size issue. Remember, under Mitch Kupchak, the Lakers were known as the only team that didn’t tamper.

The Lakers have advantages because George is from the area, and Los Angeles offers immense marketability. That’d be true whether or not they contacted George or his agent before he officially became a free agent.

I understand the desire to take down the big, bad Lakers – especially now that they appear poised to become truly big and bad again. But it’s hard to find a team that can cast a stone at them from anywhere other than a glass house.