State Farm Champions Classic - Duke v Kansas

No matter what Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker say, potential exists for intriguing individual rivalry

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BROOKLYN – Andrew Wiggins left the NBA draft interview room and stepped into a Barclays Center hallway occupied by Jabari Parker.

Minutes earlier, Parker followed Wiggins – hearing Adam Silver call his name, standing up, hugging those closest to him, walking onto the draft stage, shaking Silver’s hand, going through an interview circuit – in a clear pecking order. The Cavaliers drafted Wiggins No. 1, and the Bucks took Parker No. 2.

Ever since Joel Embiid’s foot injury, Wiggins and Parker had been the clear favorites to go 1-2. Only the order remained uncertain. Cleveland, Milwaukee and analysts everywhere debated the choice.

Once it was made, there was no ill will between the prospects. Parker said he and Wiggins wished each other well when they crossed paths.

“You always want to wish good on people,” Parker said. “We don’t take a good enough job embracing each other and uplifting each other.”

There’s certainly potential for an individual rivalry between the top two picks, both headed to Midwest cities. They met once in college, when Wiggins (22 points and eight rebounds) led Kansas over Parker (27 points and nine rebounds) and Duke in November.

These are the storylines David Stern wanted to foster when setting the age limit and Adam Silver wants to enhance by increasing it. It’s working, returning the days when players were easily identifiable – and marketable – upon entering the NBA.

Last top-two picks to play against each other in college? Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams in 2011.

Last top-two picks to play the same position? Andrea Bargnani and LaMarcus Aldridge in 2006.

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Last top-two picks to play the same position and play against each other in college? Tim Duncan and Keith Van Horn in 1997.

Wiggins (a 2/3) and Parker (a 3/4) can play multiple positions, but they’re primarily small forwards. Of course, both stressed their versatility and willingness to play wherever desired.

They also agreed that any talk of a personal rivalry was unwarranted, at least from their perspective.

“Good players will always be compared to each other, you know, but I never think of anything as a rivalry,” Wiggins said. “I think that’s what the media portrays it to be.”

“It’s not my job to compare,” Parker said. “I’m going to leave it to y’all. It’s your duty and your job to stir up controversy.”

I’ll give it a shot. Wiggins won his college matchup with Parker. Did Parker believe he lost again by not going No. 1?

“No,” Parker said. “What does the draft really give entitlement to, the best player? You got Doug McDermott scoring 3,000 points. Shoot, you got Julius Randle went to the national championship. Shabazz Napier won two National Championships.”

That’s nice spin, but it’s not reality. College success does not translate directly to the NBA, and according to most evaluators, Wiggins and Parker were the draft’s top prospects.

Wiggins-Parker could evolve into an must-watch rivalry.

Of course, that’s not a given. Williams, Bargnani and Van Horn never held up their ends of the bargain with Irving, Aldridge and Duncan.

This will develop only if Wiggins and Parker become stars.

It would help if the pair expressed more interest in challenging each other, but don’t count on that.

Monty Williams is back coaching with Team USA, ready to get back on NBA sidelines

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 18:  Draymond Green #14 of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team drives against assistant coach Monty Williams of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team during a practice session at the Mendenhall Center on July 18, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Watching Monty Williams back on the court at the USA basketball camp/practices in Las Vegas, you could see he was at home. He’s easily the best 44-year-old defender on the planet — he went toe-to-toe with Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, and the rest, was physical, and made them work for buckets. Then he’d instruct. He’s just a natural.

Back in February, Williams’ wife was killed in an auto accident. It devastated the devout family man, in ways it’s hard for us to understand who have never experienced it. He walked away from coaching the rest of the NBA season with the Thunder, and nobody questioned it for a second.

Now, after getting his feet wet with Team USA (where he is an assistant to Mike Krzyzewski), he told Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman he is ready to get back on the sidelines.

“I wouldn’t even think that if I didn’t know, one, my wife would want me to; my kids talk about it all the time. And there have been some things that have happened in my life lately that have allowed me to get that back. I’m so juiced up and ready to get back into it again.”

He is one of the better respected assistant coaches in the league, and a guy who will get another shot at a top spot someday. Soon. Can’t wait to see him back on the sidelines.

Ben Simmons says he plans to work on shooting, handles, getting stronger before camp

Philadelphia 76ers' Ben Simmons cheers from the bunch during the first half of the team's NBA summer league basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Thursday, July 14, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Associated Press
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The leap from college — even high-level college programs — to the NBA can be hard to describe. Now everybody is bigger, longer, and far more athletic — the guy at the end of the bench barely getting any burn was one of the best players on his college team.

Players get their first taste of that at Summer League. The Sixers’ No. 1 pick Ben Simmons looked pretty good when he got that taste, but you can see the development that needs to go on as well.

He’s spending the time between now and the start of training camp working on his shooting and getting stronger, among other things, he told Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com.

“I think just getting in the gym and making sure I’m getting reps up, shooting-wise, dribbling,” Simmons said earlier this week after an appearance at Sixers Camp in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “The weight room as well, making sure I get my strength back and my weight up.”

All good things. Handles and shooting in particular — he’s about to start seeing much better defenders nightly. It’s going to take time, and we’ll see how far he can go, but Simmons unquestionably brings a lot of skill and potential to the table. That he’s putting in the work is a good sign — that was one of the concerns about him heading into the draft.

New GM Bryan Colangelo is going to benefit from Sam Hinkie’s process. So long as he doesn’t screw it up.

Report: Warriors sign JaVale McGee to make-good training camp contract

JaVale McGee
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JaVale McGee is getting another shot in the NBA.

He played just 34 games off the bench for Dallas last season. He played 23 games the season before that due to injury.

But the Golden State Warriors are thin up front — Zaza Pachulia will get the bulk of the minutes at the five (when the Warriors use a traditional center), and there is the often-injured Anderson Varejao behind him. The Warriors could use another big. So they are giving McGee a look, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

This is a low-risk move by the Warriors, and it’s worth the gamble. Vintage McGee, for all his Shaqtin’ a Fool flaws, is far more athletic and a better rim protector than any of the guys the Warriors now have at the five. If it doesn’t work out — and the odds are it will not — they cut him, if it does they pay him a minimum deal.

I hope he makes it, just because the league is more fun when McGee is in it.

Russell Westbrook laughs off question about Kevin Durant

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 21:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Kevin Durant #35 discuss play during the first half against the Los Angeles ClipperLos Angeles Kingsat Staples Center on December 21, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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At some point, Russell Westbrook will sit down with members of the media and discuss Kevin Durant leaving the Thunder, how he felt about the move, and how it impacted him both personally and professionally.

But not right now. He remains silent.

This Vine making its way around, where Westbrook laughs — probably at the question, although read into that whatever you want — when asked about Durant sums up where we are.

https://platform.vine.co/static/scripts/embed.js

In the full Facebook clip, Westbrook walks away, too. It’s his right. He can talk about it on his schedule.