Adidas Eurocamp - Day 1

2014 adidas Eurocamp Day One recap

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TREVISO, Italy — This year’s international class in attendance at adidas Eurocamp isn’t as strong as it’s been in the past, with the players here either vying to be second round selections in the upcoming NBA Draft, or trying to impress for a spot at some point in the future.

There are a variety of reasons for this — Australia’s Dante Exum, for example, is the international prospect projected to go the highest in the June 26 draft, but he’s virtually guaranteed to be taken with a top-five selection, and could do nothing here to help improve his stock.

And others projected to go in the first round, like Croatia’s Dario Saric and Bosnia’s Jusuf Nurkic, were still playing for their Euroleague teams in the playoffs. Those two specifically, in fact, went head-to-head later Saturday night in the Croatian League Finals, which some scouts attended by making a drive of a little more than three hours to Zagreb in order to see them in person.

Vasilije Micic was the player most had their eyes on during the first day of action, as he’s been projected as a late first round or (more likely) an early- or mid-second round pick. While he looked impressive from a skill standpoint during the morning drills and scrimmages, the point guard struggled a bit in live game action, and didn’t transcend the competition on the floor the way the camp’s other top prospects have done in years past.

Micic has good size, above average handles and good court vision, and may one day make for a serviceable backup point guard at the NBA level. But he’ll need to increase his overall aggressiveness in order for that to happen, and whether it was the camp format or something else, he didn’t do anything to dramatically change the minds of those who have seen him play previously, in either a positive or a negative direction.

The most talent on display came not from the international players, but from the USA Select team of players under the age of 18 who won’t be draft eligible for at least two more years.

Thon Maker is a seven-footer who extremely polished for his age, and reminds of Kevin Garnett in the way that his arms hang and just how he carries himself physically. He’s extremely thin, as are all players this tall and this young, but can already knock down mid-range jumpers at a high percentage and is active and talkative on the defensive end of the floor. He was pushed around by the bigger, stronger and older members of the French team down low, which was to be expected. But Maker is a player who would likely go directly from high school to the NBA if the age limit wasn’t in place, due to his combination of size and agility, along with his being at a relatively advanced stage in the development process.

Maker, who was born in Sudan and came to Australia at age five before now playing at Carlisle High School in Martinsville, Virginia, is ranked as the top high school prospect in the nation.

Some additional notes:

– Ioannis Papapetrou could be a late second round pick this year, and looked like a legitimate prospect in the first day of action. He’s a 6’8″ wing who can shoot it, and his feel for the game was on display as he showcased an ability to get open, as well as drive with the ball to create his own shot.

– My favorite player of the day was Dmitry Kulagin, a 21-year old 6’6″ combo guard who has been to Eurocamp in the past, but this time was by far his most impressive showing. His activity on both ends of the floor was immediately noticeable, and he was in attack mode from the moment he stepped on the court. Kulagin finished 6-of-10 from the field in his two games combined, and his athleticism and effort was a joy to watch.

– Others who impressed on day one were French big man Mouhammadou Jaiteh (albeit against a younger, less bulky USA Select U-18 team), and Lucas Mariano and Marcus Erikkson both showed an ability to consistently knock down shots from three-point distance.

– Just as the talent level is down a bit this year, so is the number of high-profile NBA personnel in attendance. The general managers here include Toronto’s Masai Ujiri and Indiana’s Kevin Pritchard, but many who normally attend preferred to conduct private team workouts back in the states instead, in preparation for what’s expected to be a deeper draft than usual.

adidas Eurocamp 2014 – Box Score – Team 1 – Team 4

adidas Eurocamp 2014 – Box Score – Team 2 – Team 3

adidas Eurocamp 2014 – Box Score – All-Star Dark vs All-Star Light

adidas Eurocamp 2014 – Box Score – France U20 – U18 adidas USA Select

D’Angelo Russell says it’s not easy being patient, waiting his turn behind Kobe

D'Angelo Russell Kobe Bryant
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TORONTO — For the rest of this season, the Los Angeles Lakers are Kobe Bryant‘s team.

Some Lakers’ fans have questioned why Byron Scott is still the coach despite an 11-44 record, and in part it’s because he gives deference to Kobe other coaches might not. Scott was brought in to help sell the Lakers’ history during the final years of Kobe’s career, he has done that. He lets the veteran Kobe do things he will not allow anyone else on the team to do.

Meanwhile, the next generation of Lakers are trying to wait patiently for their turn.

But when asked All-Star Weekend about playing with Kobe (who often has the ball in his hands), Lakers’ rookie point guard D'Angelo Russell didn’t sound patient.

“Honestly, it’s hard,” Russell said of playing with Kobe. “It’s not easy. He’s a guy that’s earned every shot he’s taken, earned every minute he’s given, so you feel like being a rookie, but you feel like you’ve worked to be in his position so early but you’ve just got to be patient.”

There are a couple ways you can look at this.

You can see it as a rookie hungry for minutes, for touches, for the chance to learn by doing. You should like that he has that drive, that confidence that he wants the rock. Russell has had the ball in his hands probably since fourth grade, being bumped down the pecking order — even for Kobe — is an adjustment.

Or, you can see this as a rookie who is a bit full of himself, a bit overconfident, someone who turns the ball over too much and needs to earn those touches. This is more Scott’s thinking.

I’d say a guy that is overconfident as a rookie and wants the ball in his hands sooner rather than later sounds a lot like Kobe.

 

DeMarcus Cousins has spent All-Star Weekend playing defense on trade, George Karl rumors

TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 13: DeMarcus Cousins #15 of the Sacramento Kings handles the ball during the Taco Bell Skills Challenge as part of NBA All-Star 2016 on February 13, 2016 at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)
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TORONTO — DeMarcus Cousins is an All-Star and he just wants to enjoy it. Hang out with other elite players, take part in the Skills Competition, have dinner at Sotto Sotto, play in the ASG itself, chill with friends. Chill being the operative word considering the weather.

But for parts of the weekend, he has had to play defense, swatting away attempts to get him to slam coach George Karl or talk trade rumors that have him leaving Sacramento. Mention his friend Isaiah Thomas making it to All-Star Game and you get the gregarious Cousins, but when the other topics come up you can feel his frustration, and hear it in his clipped answers.

“First of all, I can’t control the trade (rumors) and I can’t control if I’m traded or not…” Cousins said. “But I do want to be in Sacramento, and I know everybody in Sacramento knows that.”

Cousins isn’t getting traded. Teams may call the Kings, but they get shot down quickly (then those teams leak the rumor they called, making them look good to their fan base for trying). For one, the Kings have a franchise cornerstone piece under a reasonable contract, that’s not someone you trade unless forced to. Second, owner Vivek Ranadive loves him. Third, and this is key, the Kings open a new arena in downtown Sacramento next season — you don’t trade your best and most popular player, the face of your marketing program in the city, while you’re trying to sell luxury boxes and sponsorships in a new arena.

Cousins has also batted down questions attempting to get him to slam George Karl.

“I can go long term with any coach, but that’s not my decision….” Cousins said. “He’s a free, open-minded coach, he lets his players play. I think every player appreciates that.”

He was more direct with deserving new basketball Hall of Fame journalist David Aldridge of NBA.com in a video (and he’s laughing more and in more of a joking mood in the video than how this quote reads):

“I’m tired of it. Stop trying to make a story out of it, we’re fine. Our only goal this season is to make the playoffs. That’s it. All the other stuff, just stop, it’s not necessary.”

Undoubtedly there is some tension in and around the organization with Karl, although he will be around through the end of the season. However, the one thing that was clear with this team going back to Summer League — when the core guys bonded on a plane trip together to Las Vegas (and doing the other things one might do in Vegas) — the locker room is pretty solid.

“Throughout all this, the one thing that’s been good about the whole situation is the guys in the locker room stay together,” Cousins said. “There hasn’t been any separation.”

It seems Karl has never found a way to reach and inspire that group.

Ask Cousins about the rest of the season and you get some variation of “just stay positive.” He admits that’s not been easy after some tough losses of late, but it’s what they need to do to make a run.

“We’ve had a lot of ups and downs over the season, but just find a way to remain positive and get over the hump,” he said. 

That may be easier said than done.

But, at least, Cousins will get the chance to enjoy All-Star weekend.

Can we just relive that epic Dunk Contest one more time? Here’s the mixtape.

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TORONTO — Talking to NBA people, fans, and media around Toronto Sunday it seems every conversation starts with some version of “last night’s Dunk Contest was INSANE!

Because it was.

Andre Drummond threw down an impressive two-hand power slam with an assist from soccer playing Steve Nash. Will Barton‘s first dunk might have won him the contest in some weaker years. And we’re not even talking about them because of the eye-popping show that Aaron Gordon and Zach LaVine put on.

Before we move on and talk trade rumors or actual All-Star Game, or whatever is coming next, can we just bask in the joy of that dunk contest one more time? The fine folks at NBA.com put together this mixtape version of the Dunk Contest, I’m passing it along.

Savor this people, it doesn’t get any better than what we witnessed Saturday night.

Michael Jordan to Klay Thompson: “Go ahead and break” Bulls’ 72-win record

CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 25:  Owner of the Charlotte Hornets, Michael Jordan, watches on during their game against the Washington Wizards at Time Warner Cable Arena on November 25, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  NBA - NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Barring a major injury, it seems almost inevitable at this point that the Warriors will surpass the 1996 Bulls’ record of 72 wins in a season and vault themselves into the conversation of the greatest NBA teams in history. All year, members of that ’96 Bulls team have weighed in comparing the teams, but one guy who hasn’t given his thoughts publicly is Michael Jordan.

Apparently, during All-Star Weekend in Toronto, Jordan gave Klay Thompson his blessing for the Warriors to go for 73. Via CSN’s Rosalyn Gold-Onwude:

Not that the Warriors need anybody’s permission to go after the record, obviously. But it had to be cool for Thompson to hear directly from Jordan that he respects what the Warriors are doing and wants them to break his own record. In all likelihood, they’ll do it.