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Bucks coach Jason Kidd on Giannis Antetokounmpo: ‘I wish I was 7 feet tall. He’s better than I am’

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MILWAUKEE (AP) — While catching his breath during a break along the sideline, the Milwaukee Bucks’ star pupil put his arms on his hips and leaned his 6-foot-11 frame over to listen to coach Jason Kidd.

Giannis Antetokounmpo is learning the nuances of running a team from one of the best point guards and triple-double threats in NBA history.

Give it a little more time, Kidd says. The fun is only just beginning with the 22-year-old Antetokounmpo.

“The big thing is we gave him the ball and his appetite is big,” Kidd said.

It was only in February 2016 that Kidd assigned Antetokounmpo to be a primary ball-handler. His career has taken off, much like one of his soaring dunks.

In his fourth year in the league, Antetokounmpo turned into an All-Star this season after averaging career highs of 22.9 rebounds, 8.7 rebounds and 5.4 assists. He ranked in the top 20 in the league in total points, rebounds, blocks, assists and steals, an NBA first.

“He wants to learn. He wants to be a point guard,” Kidd said. “He wants to have the ball and help make decisions, be involved in the play.”

It’s hard to miss the towering player who can breeze by defenders to the hoop, pass out of double-teams and make stops at the other end . He has been the best player so far for the Bucks, who take a 2-1 lead in their first-round playoff series against Toronto into Game 4 on Saturday.

The 6-foot-4 Kidd had an all-around skill set of his own back when he was playing, though he didn’t have Antetokounmpo’s imposing length and height.

“I wish I was 7 feet tall,” Kidd said. “He’s better than I am.”

Not quite yet.

Kidd averaged 12.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 8.7 assists in a nearly two-decade NBA career that ended in 2013. His 107 career triple-doubles are third in league history behind All-Stars Oscar Robertson (181) and Magic Johnson (138).

Kidd could step back and hit 3s. He created in transition. His court awareness gave him a distinct advantage over opponents.

Now he’s passing that knowledge on to Antetokounmpo, and Kidd isn’t that far removed from his playing days so he can relate to a team with a young core.

“He puts himself in our shoes because he was in our shoes,” Antetokounmpo said. “It helps a lot because taking tips from J-Kidd – he was a player that was one of the best that’s ever done.”

Antetokounmpo has professed to having a lighthearted moment of doubt about Kidd at one point during the coach’s first season in 2014-5 after being pulled from a game. A native of Greece, Antetokounmpo had to look up his coach’s credentials online. They checked out.

“It’s really easy to accept (Kidd’s mentoring) because he’s been in my shoes. He knows how I feel right now,” he said.

Team President Peter Feigin described a close relationship between player and coach bonded in part by what he called a shared “maniacal focus” to be the best. Antetokounmpo has spent long days and nights at the team’s practice facility in a quiet Milwaukee suburb.

“There’s a tremendous amount of mutual respect,” team co-owner Wes Edens said. “You can’t really put a label on Giannis as a basketball player … but you can really see culturally he fits the model of a Jason Kidd player. He plays at both ends.”

He’s already a matchup nightmare for opposing coaches, including Toronto’s Dwane Casey.

“As far as keeping him off the free throw line we have to make sure we give him space. Challenge late. We have to mix that up and start trapping him also because he is getting where he wants to go,” Casey said. “We have to give him different looks.”

Perhaps one of the next steps for the Bucks is regularly taking advantage of the extra attention that Antetokounmpo draws on the court. It happened in the Bucks’ 104-77 rout of Toronto in Game 3, when defenders were drawn by Antetokounmpo’s every move to open up room for teammates.

Antetokounmpo finished with 19 points, eight rebounds and four rebounds, fairly pedestrian numbers for him. But six Bucks scored in double figures.

“He’s still just understanding the point guard position and understanding how to run the team, how to carry a team, and what that means with not scoring … or what the team needs at what time during the game,” Kidd said.

“He’s picked up a lot of those things quickly,” he added, “but he still has a long ways to go.”

 

Lakers meet with Derrick Rose, Ian Clark about backup point guard slot

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At a press conference this week introducing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Magic Johnson said that the Lakers wanted to find a backup point guard in the next week or so.

Thursday the Lakers took a couple of steps down that road, meeting with both Derrick Rose and Ian Clark.

Both men would serve as the backup to, and potential mentor for, Lonzo Ball. The questions come down to which man better fits that role, and of course money.

Rose put up solid numbers last season in New York — 18 points per game, a PER of 17 — and statistically appeared to be an average NBA point guard. However, he’s still a defensive liability, cannot space the floor as a shooter (21.7 percent from three last season), and he’s not versatile offensively.

Rose is thought to be choosing between the Lakers and Cavaliers, both teams offering one-year contracts (Chicago has been mentioned is a highly unlikely reunion). Cleveland can offer the chance to chase a ring and play with LeBron James, but only a veteran minimum contract of $2.1 million. The Lakers can offer the same minimum contract or the room exception of $4.3 million (it’s not known if the Lakers put that larger offer on the table, but it seems plausible to likely). Rose has to choose what he wants, what he prioritizes, in neither case is he going to start or be part of the long-term plans — this is a one-year choice.

Clark played for Luke Walton in Golden State, is younger and more athletic than Rose, shot 37.4 percent from three last season, and is coming off his best season playing almost 15 minutes a game and winning a ring with the Warriors. He’s not as good as running the offense as Rose, but last season he cut down on his turnovers and improved his defense, taking steps forward with both. If things work out, he could stick with the Lakers beyond this season, but they will only offer a one-year contract for now.

Los Angeles has other options out there on the point guard market — Brandon Jennings, Ty Lawson, Deron Williams — but the Lakers seem to have narrowed their choice down to Rose or Clark. Once they land the backup point guard, the roster will

Shaq calls his absurd light-up shoes the real Big Baller Brand

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Because 7’1″, 350-pound Shaquille O’Neal needed an impossible-to-ignore pair of light up shoes to call attention to himself…

Shaq posted a video of himself on Instagram wearing some outrageous light-up shoes — then in the comments decided to take another dig at Big Baller Brand.

Boy was shining wasn't he #whatarethose #shineonem #feetwork #shaqshoestherealbigballerbrand

A post shared by DR. SHAQUILLE O'NEAL Ed.D. (@shaq) on

So how much do those shoes cost? More or less than ZO2?

One of the things I enjoyed about Summer League was that as Lonzo Ball played better and better, the spotlight shifted more to his play and more away from his father. Think what you will of LaVar Ball — marketing genius or loud-mouthed dad — personally I’m just weary of him. I like Lonzo’s play, I don’t need the rest.

However, between Shaq and Charles Barkley, I think there’s going to be a lot of LaVar/Big Baller Brand talk on Inside the NBA next season. Those two can’t help themselves.

After four years out of NBA, Pacers give Damien Wilkins chance to return

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Consider this the most unexpected signing of the summer.

The last time we saw Damien Wilkins in the NBA, the 6’6″ wing out of the University of Georgia was finishing his ninth NBA season, averaging 6.4 points per game and shooting 33.3 percent from three. He looked like a guy who was done at the NBA level. Since then he has played in China, Spain, and the D-League.

The Pacers are giving him another crack to make an NBA roster. They have signed 37-year-old Wilkins to a non-guaranteed deal, reports the Indy Star.

The Indiana Pacers agreed to a one-year, non-guaranteed veteran minimum deal for close to $2 million with small forward and shooting guard Damien Wilkins, a league source confirmed to IndyStar.

The Pacers have 14 guys on the roster already, and they have at the wing Victor Oladipo, Lance Stephenson, Rodney Stuckey, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Glenn Robinson III, it will be tough for Wilkins to crack that rotation.

But he’ll get his chance, and having a desperate veteran pushing guys in camp never hurts. Maybe he can impress enough in camp that if the Pacers don’t want him another team might. It’s a foot in the door, and that’s all Wilkins can ask at this point.

Watch the Top 10 dunks from the NBA Summer League

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Summer League, at its core, is athletic young players in sloppy games.

That leads to massive dunks. Here are the top 10, which John Collins deserving the top spot.