AP Photo/Themba Hadebe

NBA’s 2nd Africa Game comes to Johannesburg

3 Comments

MIAMI (AP) — Erik Spoelstra got on the telephone and apologized for having a raspy voice. He’s had a lot to say in Africa.

The Miami Heat coach has been part of a sizable group of NBA players, coaches, and executives in Johannesburg this week for a Basketball Without Borders camp for kids, all building up to Saturday’s second edition of the NBA Africa Game that will benefit charities like UNICEF and the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

“The first meeting that we had here, it was overflowing,” Spoelstra said from South Africa this week. “There weren’t enough tables and chairs to fit everybody in here. You’re seeing some of the icons in the league that are in this ballroom, here to help, here to help grow the game, but here to help create more opportunities for kids on this continent. It really is just an honor to be part of this and it’s a humbling experience.”

For the game, Team Africa will be players who were either born there or second-generation – a list that includes Luol Deng, Thabo Sefolosha, Bismack Biyombo, Clint Capela, Gorgui Dieng, Joel Embiid, Serge Ibaka, Luc Mbah a Moute, Salah Mejri, Emmanuel Mudiay, Victor Oladipo and Dennis Schroder.

Team World’s lineup includes Dirk Nowitzki, Kemba Walker, Leandro Barbosa, Jaylen Brown, Wilson Chandler, DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Drummond, Courtney Lee, Kyle Lowry, CJ McCollum and Kristaps Porzingis.

“I just think there’s so much potential here on this continent,” Nowitzki said. “You’re getting the best out of it. It’s going to be fun to watch.”

The first NBA Africa Game was in 2015, when Deng played for Miami and was coached by Spoelstra. Deng, a native of South Sudan, came back loaded with stories about his experience and Spoelstra’s interest was more than piqued – so much that he didn’t think twice about flying the 8,000 miles from Miami to Africa for this.

He also said seeing the work that NBA icon Dikembe Mutombo and Toronto executive Masai Ujiri have done in Africa compelled him to be part this time.

“I just want to be able to give and serve,” Spoelstra said. “It’s a great game that we all feel so grateful for. I’ve done a lot of the NBA programs in the Philippines and other places in South Florida, but I’ve always wanted to be a part of BWB in Africa. I’ve always really admired Dikembe and Masai and everybody who’s done so much great work over here. I just wanted to be a part of it and offer my services for the week.”

NBA coaches and players have been working the BWB camp, running games and offering instruction.

“This is, to me, a dream come true as a young African player that grew up here dreaming about the NBA, dreaming about coming to Basketball Without Borders,” said Biyombo, an Orlando Magic player who hails from the Congo. “And when I see all these kids, the look on their face, the excitement on their face, it’s beyond amazing.”

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and National Basketball Players Association head Michele Roberts are also expected to attend Saturday’s game.

Spoelstra has been involved in many NBA events before in his mother’s homeland, the Philippines. He said he continues seeing global growth in the game and understands the value the programs provide.

“The kids that are here at camp, they’re really so grateful that so many different NBA personnel are over here: players, coaches, front office executives, NBA personnel, over here just to help,” Spoelstra said. “I think the NBA’s done a tremendous job creating programs and academies to give kids from over here opportunities they didn’t have before.”

Aging Pelicans’ owner couldn’t remember Anthony Davis’ name in deposition

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Tom Benson, the now 90-year-old owner of the New Orleans Pelicans and the NFL’s Saints, a few years back changed around the succession of control of the team after his passing — his wife Gayle will take control. Rita Benson LeBlanc, Benson’s granddaughter and former handpicked successor, sued saying Benson had been manipulated. After meeting privately with Benson, a judge ruled that while Benson suffered some “cognitive impairment” he was capable of making his own decisions and that Gayle remained the successor.

Benson has been sued multiple times since then, including by former Saints employee Rodney Henry, and the then-89-year-old Benson was deposed in that case last year.

Someone broke the gag order and sent a copy of the deposition to The Advocate of New Orleans, and it shows that Benson’s mental acuity is fading. He couldn’t remember who Anthony Davis was by name.

During another set of questions, apparently aimed at establishing how close Benson and Henry had been, Benson was shown a photo of the two men with Pelicans star Anthony Davis.

“Who is this?” Williams asked.

“It’s Rodney and a basketball player,” Benson said. “Oh, hell, I forget his name. Let me — he’s a great player for us. Tell me his name, and I will tell you yes or no.”

When asked “is it Anthony Davis,” Benson said yes. The man is 90, I’m not sure that we should expect much. He had the foresight to bring in people to run his businesses — including his sports teams — and set up a line of succession for when he does pass. Smart moves.

Would Benson’s mental state impact potential changes coming to the Pelicans? Probably not. New Orleans’ GM Dell Demps bet big on going big in a league trending smaller, pairing Davis and DeMarcus Cousins. If that doesn’t work out, plenty of people around the league expect a house cleaning on the basketball side with the Pelicans. Benson’s mental state, whatever it may be, does not impact that.

The deposition leak came from an anonymous source (and anonymous email account, the paper verified the document before publishing). Who leaked it? It may be nearly impossible to find out, but only one side benefits from all this becoming public. And it’s not Benson.

K.J. McDaniels signs with Raptors for camp, can he make roster?

Getty Images
1 Comment

A few years back in Philadelphia, the athletic K.J. McDaniels was a highlight factory and looked like a guy who could develop into a role player on the wing in the NBA.

Except, he never actually developed. Houston gave him a chance (three years at a total of $10 million), and it didn’t work out, then last season Brooklyn had him for 20 games, but they decided to move on.

Now Toronto is going to give him a chance, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

McDaniels’ agent later confirmed the news. This is a training camp, make-good contract for McDaniels. But unlike a lot of those contracts being handed out around this time, there is space on the Raptors roster for a player or two.

McDaniels will compete with Alfonzo McKinnie, Kennedy Meeks, and Kyle Wiltjer for one of the final roster spots in Toronto. Of that group, I’d most likely want to keep McDaniels because of the shot blocking and his potential — but his outside shot has to improve.

The Raptors can carry 15 on the roster and very possibly will until at least Jan. 10, which is the date these partially guaranteed deals become fully guaranteed for the season. Toronto is flirting with the tax line, and ownership is not going to want to pay the tax for this team, so if they do carry 15 they likely will cut it to 14 by that date.

Watch James Harden do the #DriveByDunkChallenge from a speed boat (VIDEO)

Getty
2 Comments

The #DriveByDunkChallenge has been a fun distraction this summer. If you don’t know what it is, it essentially involves NBA players jumping out of their cars to dunk on regular folks on community basketball hoops.

Players like Boston Celtics wing Jaylen Brown have led the charge in the social media video fad, and now it appears that Houston Rockets guard James Harden is setting a new trend.

That trend? Doing the #DriveByDunkChallenge from dang boat.

Yup, seriously.

Via Twitter:

I can’t think of anything more baller than dunking on somebody from a speed boat, so congrats to Harden for winning the NBA offseason.

Photoshop no more: here’s Gordon Hayward in a Boston Celtics uniform (PHOTO)

Getty
2 Comments

I suppose it will take some time to get used to seeing Gordon Hayward in a Boston Celtics jersey. This photo is the first step on that journey.

In a photo posted to Hayward’s Instagram on Wednesday, many of us got our first look at the former Utah Jazz forward in his new digs.

Specifically, the new Celtics Nike jersey in green with the GE patch on the left shoulder.

Via Instagram:

🍀🔥

A post shared by @gdhayward on

There are still some serious doubts about whether the Celtics will be able to unseat the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference, but perhaps they won’t need to wait for long. Rumors are starting to trickle in about LeBron James leaving Ohio, so maybe by the time we are used to seeing Hayward in Celtics green next season they will have less competition out east.