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LaVar Ball wants to launch paid league for players between high school, NBA

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Lonzo Ball Went No. 2 in the draft in large part because of the skills and potential he showed in his season at UCLA. He handled the pressure there well.

However, what if he had played in a second-tier, low-paying professional league of other 18-19-year-olds, would he still have gone No. 2? No. His stock would have fallen.

The pressure to pay players — above board, elite players and those around them make money under the table, there’s a whole FBI investigation about that — creates an opening and has prompted Mr. Self Promotor LaVar Ball to step in with his own idea for a league. A league sponsored by the Big Baller Brand, not so coincidentally. Darren Rovell of ESPN broke this “news.”

LaVar Ball said Wednesday that he’s launching a basketball league for nationally ranked players who have graduated from high school but don’t want to go to college.

Ball said his Junior Basketball Association — which he said is fully funded by his Big Baller Brand — plans to pay the lowest-ranked player a salary of $3,000 a month and the best player $10,000 a month. Ball is looking for 80 players to fill 10 teams that will seek to play at NBA arenas in Los Angeles, Dallas, Brooklyn and Atlanta.

“Getting these players is going to be easy,” Ball told ESPN. “This is giving guys a chance to get a jump start on their career, to be seen by pro scouts, and we’re going to pay them because someone has to pay these kids.”

I’m beyond skeptical, count me as dismissive. There are more holes in this plan than a whiffle ball. I get what he is trying to do, fill in the gap where the NCAA falls short, and I even applaud the ambition. But much like sending his younger sons to play in Lithuania, I don’t see how this works out well.

To start with, the NBA is moving toward changing its draft eligibility requirements, and just about everybody expects part of that is that players will be able to jump from high school to the NBA again. Which will all but eliminate the need for the league.

Also, I doubt he can get 80 quality players a year. First off, there are far fewer than 80 future NBA players in every high school class. What’s more, a lot of those elite players likely still will head to major colleges — is playing in this league really going to be better for the draft stock of the guys headed to the NBA? No. How NBA-bound players handle college life (and its schoolwork and distractions, plus the pressure of the NCAA tournament) matters to teams in their evaluations, the Big Baller Brand league would lack that. Also, life is good if you’re a basketball player at Duke or Kentucky or UCLA or Michigan State, not to mention a lot of smaller schools with great basketball cultures. These guys get to feel recruited, then or BMOCs. If a player just wants to go to a developmental league rather than college, why not go straight to the D-League (which is allowed)?

Ball is not the first guy to have this idea, but all of them have fallen flat. A couple of years ago, a con-man (literally) tried to launch the “AmeriLeague” with the same idea, but it never got off the ground. Neither did the  Las Vegas Dealers, which was going to pay an 18-19 year old team to scrimmage against European clubs in Las Vegas and do a tour of Europe. If you’ve never heard of those, there’s a reason.

You’re hearing of the Big Baller Brand League because some in the media love talking to LaVar, he gives you quotes and fantastical stories. Fluff, but stories. He’s a draw, in the Kardashian sense, but a draw.

There is certainly room to challenge the NCAA structure. It’s very flawed, and it doesn’t put the interests of players first. Not even close. I just don’t believe LaVar Ball running this plan is what will work.

Report: Kawhi Leonard disconnected from Spurs

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Spurs star Kawhi Leonard missed most of the season with a vexing quad injury, returned, went out with a shoulder injury and is now sidelined indefinitely with the quad injury.

San Antonio (30-18) has played well without Leonard, but apparently this saga has taken a toll behind the scenes.

Adrian Wojnarowski and Michael C. Wright of ESPN:

Months of discord centering on elements of treatment, rehabilitation and timetables for return from a right quadriceps injury have had a chilling impact on San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard’s relationship with the franchise and coaching staff, league sources told ESPN.

Under president and coach Gregg Popovich and general manager RC Buford, the Spurs have a two decades-long history of strong relationships with star players, but multiple sources describe Leonard and his camp as “distant” and “disconnected” from the organization.

Beyond the current rehab for the right quadriceps injury that has caused Leonard, an All-NBA forward, to miss most of the regular season, there is work to be done to repair what has been until now a successful partnership.

In an interview with ESPN, Buford rejected the reporting of turbulence between the franchise and Leonard.

This is extremely vague. Leonard has always looked like a dutiful follower in the Spurs’ strong Popovich-led culture. Is this just frustration from injuries? Frustration from injuries causing other minor issues to boil over? Something else major entirely?

The Spurs spent big on long-term contracts for Pau Gasol and Patty Mills last summer, arguably jeopardizing Leonard’s chances of winning another title in San Antonio. Leonard is an elite two-way player in his prime (at least when healthy), and the Spurs were seemingly locking into a team that will likely top out at very good, not great.

So, what’s going on with Leonard now? Aldridge’s situation might be illustrative. Everyone in San Antonio denied a problem, as the Spurs are doing now. But Popovich revealed a couple weeks ago that Aldridge requested a trade. Popovich didn’t panic, though. He met with Aldridge, communicated and found a workable solution. The same can and probably will happen with Leonard.

But that’s no guarantee, and Leonard can opt out next year. Until this is settled, it’s a huge issue with potential to shake up typically stable San Antonio – and maybe beyond.

Wizards’ players-only meeting doesn’t go well

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The concept of a “team meeting” is sort of silly. At what does players discussing the team – something that happens nearly every day – rise to “meeting” status?

But these team meetings happen ever year, usually when a team is struggling. The Cavaliers, Thunder and Lakers have already had confabs labeled a “team meeting” this season. Teams usually emerge saying they’ve found solutions to their problems. Sometimes, it translates onto the court. Usually, there’s not a significant turnaround.

I’ve never seen a public response to the meeting itself like with the Wizards, though.

John Wall, via Cam Ellis of NBC Sports Washington:

“At our team meeting, I think a couple guys took it in a negative way,” Wall said after the team’s win in Detroit. “It hurt our team. Instead of using it in a positive way like we did in the past and using it to build our team up, it kind of set us back a bit.”

Bradley Beal, via Candace Buckner of The Washington Post:

“It was tough. I try to keep all our stuff as personal as possible but I think in a way not everybody got a chance to speak whenever they wanted to,” Bradley Beal said. “They didn’t want to bring up an issue or something they had a problem with on the team. Regardless of what may be going on, as men we’ve got to be able to accept what the next man says, be respectful about it and move on from it. I think it was one of those situations where we didn’t necessarily get everything that we wanted to get accomplished.

“Honestly, it was probably — I won’t say pointless,” Beal continued, “but we didn’t accomplish what we needed to accomplish in that meeting.”

Yeesh.

Nobody seemed to remember exactly when the meeting occurred, which says something. It sounds as if airing grievances actually hurt team chemistry.

The Wizards (26-20) are good, but not as good as hoped/expected. They too often coast against bad teams, and coach Scott Brooks has openly questioned their effort. So, what’s the solution?

Wall, via Buckner:

“Front office got to figure it out.”

If you’re one of Wall’s teammates who clashed at the meeting, and now you’re hearing him bring it up publicly and imply roster moves might be the solution, how would you feel about your future in Washington?

Rajon Rondo invites Ray Allen to 2008 Celtics reunion

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The 2008 Celtics are finally doing something that isn’t petty.

Rajon Rondo was planning a reunion vacation for that championship team while specifically not inviting Ray Allen. Allen ruffled feathers by leaving Boston for the Heat, and many Celtics held a grudge.

But Paul Pierce eventually said it’s time to move on, and now Rondo is also ready.

Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe:

Rondo said Allen has an open invitation to join his former teammates this summer.

“Everybody [on the team] is invited,” he said.

This is how it should be. Allen was a free agent, free to sign with Miami or wherever he wanted. Not that it should matter here, but the Celtics tried to trade him before he left. And Pierce and Kevin Garnett also left Boston, Pierce talking Garnett into waiving his no-trade clause to facilitate a move to the Nets.

It’s not clear how Garnett, another leader in the charge against Allen, feels about welcoming him. But, presumably, he’ll take a cue from Rondo. Garnett probably won’t be the one calling Allen with the trip details, though.

The big question now: Who gives Scot Pollard the itinerary?

Status woe: Cavaliers not planning lineup changes amid slump

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue isn’t changing his starting lineup or rotations despite Cleveland’s current troubling state.

A day after the Cavs gave up 148 points – tying a franchise record that stood since 1972 – in an embarrassing loss to Oklahoma City, Lue said he’s not making any major moves to snap his team from its mid-season doldrums (and as they head into a tough stretch of the schedule).

The Cavs have lost 10 of 14 and have been blown out three times in the past week.

Lue decided not to show his players video on Sunday as the team practiced in advance of Tuesday’s game in San Antonio. Lue explained his reasoning for not making any changes as the Cavs are the same team that won 13 straight and 18 of 19 earlier this season.

Cavs forward Kyle Korver said the only way to fix things is “to look yourself in the mirror and say how can I help the team? It’s really simple but it really is true.”