Jeremy Lin

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Penny Hardaway: “Kawhi Leonard is not a superstar”

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Update: Hardaway was misquoted.

At his peak, Penny Hardaway’s off-the-court presence may have been bigger than his game — and his game was big. Three-time All-NBA player, four-time All-Star, part of a one-two punch with a young Shaquille O’Neal that had the Magic as title contenders.

Still, talk about Hardaway and you end up talking about the ‘Lil Penny commercials and the shoes — Hardaway was a break-out NBA star known by non-hoops fans because of his off-the-court persona.

It is from that perspective Hardaway comes. He was on the Sirius XM’s NBA Radio show “Bottomline” and was asked about Kawhi Leonard (hat tip Eye on Basketball).

“Superstar? No. Kawhi Leonard is not a superstar because he has no interest in being the face of the league or starring in TV commercials. He’s a good player, but I wouldn’t consider him a superstar player.”

The first reaction of hoops fans will be “are you kidding me?” Leonard is an MVP candidate, franchise cornerstone, best two-way player in the NBA according to Michael Jordan, champion and finals MVP.

However, Hardaway is right in the sense that Leonard limits how big his personal brand can be because he doesn’t promote it. Heck, not sure he even cares that much about it. If you define superstar by off-the-court persona, then maybe Leonard isn’t your guy. Leonard is not Stephen Curry showing up in ads all the time, he’s not LeBron James and his media projects, he’s no Jeremy Lin on social media.

Nor does Leonard want to be — and he doesn’t have to be. Leonard does have some sweet Jordan brand commercials, but not ones where he speaks. He does talk a little in those Spurs HEB ads, but that’s about it. He doesn’t want to be front-and-center that way. That’s just who he is. He’s a quiet leader, sort of like Tim Duncan before him in San Antonio (which is perfect for Gregg Popovich).

Personally, I’d still say he’s a superstar. However, he’s never going to have the Q Rating of Shaq or Curry or LeBron. So if that’s how you choose to define superstar…

 

LeBron, other NBA players react to rally in Charlottesville, are disgusted

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Jake Blues (inhabited by John Belushi) summed up my feelings on not just Illinois Nazis, but all Nazis (and if your protest is chanting the actual Nazi motto “blood and soil” you are Nazis in my book).

The events in Charlottesville this weekend – and the president’s poor reaction to them — has the nation talking. That includes NBA players such as LeBron James and Jeremy Lin.

However, the best Tweets came from a man who is banned from his native Turkey because of his beliefs, because of a genuinely oppressive regime that will not let the Thunder’s Enes Kanter even speak to his parents. This is a Muslim man who appreciates the freedoms our country affords and understands them better than the people pretending to be patriots in Charlottesville.

NBA confirms two Mexico City games; Nets, Heat, Thunder headed south

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The annual NBA regular season games played in London are disruptive — those teams play one game in a week with a lot of rest on either side to deal with travel and jet lag.

The annual games in Mexico City present no such problem — a flight from New York to Mexico City is shorter than one to Los Angeles.

The NBA announced it is returning to Mexico City for two games in December – the Brooklyn Nets will face the Oklahoma City Thunder on Dec. 7, and then will face the Miami Heat, Dec. 9. Both games will be played at the Arena Ciudad de Mexico.

 

The NBA is sending some stars to Mexico this season: Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Hassan Whiteside, Jeremy Lin and D'Angelo Russell. There are currently no players born in Mexico on an NBA roster.

The NBA views itself as a global league that reaches out to Europe, China, and other basketball hotbeds around the globe. However, it also recognizes the power of growing the sport’s popularity both in Mexico and with immigrants — especially second and third generations — in this country. This is a step along those lines.

Five guys not taken in NBA Draft worth watching

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As a rule of thumb, about 15 percent of the NBA at any point is made of up guys who went undrafted and fought their way into the league. They tend not to be stars, but quality role players who have found a role — and are getting paid. Jeremy Lin, Kent Bazemore, Seth Curry, Tyler Johnson, Joe Ingles, Matthew Dellavendova, Langston Galloway and Robert Covington, are just part of the list of undrafted guys currently in the league.

Here are five guys that went undrafted Thursday night worth watching.

1. P.J. Dozier 6’6” shooting guard (South Carolina). He has already signed with the Lakers and will be on their Summer League team. He passes the eye test of “has all the physical tools you want in a quality NBA two guard” but has yet to show much polish or string together consistent play. He shows it in flashes, but he needs to be more consistent, particularly finishing with floaters or from the midrange. If he can become more consistent with his shot and handles, he has potential as a combo one/two guard who can both work off the ball and be a secondary shot creator (he has good court vision).

2. Johnathan Motley, 6’9” power forward/center (Baylor). He plays like a center, and he’s undersized but a 7’4” wingspan covers for a lot. He is an amazing rebounder who can score in post. He’s a good athlete who could fit as a small-ball five off the bench to start. He’s an average rim protector, and he is not going to stretch the floor (although he has shown some improvement in that area). He’s a bit raw, he’s inconsistent, and he’s coming off an injury. All that said, some team will give him a shot, this is one of the bigger surprises of guys not taken.

3. Isaiah Hicks, 6’8” power forward (North Carolina). He’s signed with the Clippers and will be on their Summer League team. He’s got an NBA body, which is part of the draw here, but in college he was a power player who could use his strength to his advantage and overwhelm opponents. In the NBA he will find it much harder to do going against men. He does have a soft touch and can run the floor to get points. He’s got to work on his left hand, and developing a more diversified offensive game.

4. George De Paula, 6’6” point guard (Brazil).
At 21 he was the starting point guard for the team that made the Brazilian League finals. He has all the physical tools teams could hope for, including a 7’0” wingspan. He’s made big strides the past couple of years in the things teams want from a point guard such as decision-making and being a floor general, but he is still very raw. This is a project and may continue to develop in Brazil or Europe, but show up in the NBA at some point.

5. Devin Robinson, 6’8″ forward (Florida).
 Already signed with the Washington Wizards to be on their Summer League team. He’s got the versatility of an NBA forward who can cover multiple positions, plus he shot 39.1 percent from three last year. It’s all a bit raw, especially on defense, but he has the tools to fit into the NBA game. His shooting needs to be a little more consistent, he’s got to get stronger and fight through stuff, and there are just concerns about his decision-making and feel for the game. Still, smart gamble by the Wizards.

Looking back on how Brooklyn surrendered all these picks to Boston

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It ended up being one of the worst trades ever in the NBA, certainly the worst in the last couple of decades.

In the summer of 2013, the Nets — at the behest of an ownership group that wanted to win big heading into a new arena in Brooklyn — put together a trade that netted them Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce (to go with Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, and Brook Lopez), two Hall of Fame players but guys now on the downside of their career. Both guys lasted two seasons with the Nets.

The cost? Brooklyn surrendered a 2014 first rounder (turned out to be No. 17), a 2016 first rounder (No. 3), the rights to swap picks in 2017 (No. 1), and the Nets 2018 pick (likely to be high lottery again).

How did this happen? How did the Nets give up the motherload? Stephan Bondy at the New York Daily News has a great retrospective piece talking to people, and it wasn’t as simple as “GM Billy King screwed up.” If you read one thing today on hoops, it should be this piece.

The downfall started with an ownership group obsessed with having the best toys right now – they wanted big stars to open their new arena (remember they chased Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard, too). The formula included the fact the Nets in 2013 looked like a team on the rise (and LeBron James looked almost vulnerable). There was King not getting enough protections on picks. It led to a level of arrogance in the organization that backfired.

The first deal negotiated with the Celtics was just for Pierce, and the Nets only had to give up one draft pick, Kris Humphries and MarShon Brooks. But then Doc Rivers left the Celtics for the Clippers, and Garnett came into focus because there was nothing left for him in Boston. To match salaries, the Nets had to get rid of Gerald Wallace and his ugly contract paying $30 million over the next three years.

Shedding that cost Brooklyn another first-round draft pick, along with the two they were giving up for Garnett and Pierce. For a year in between, the Celtics negotiated the right to swap first-round picks. That turned into the Celtics landing No. 1 overall in 2017, which they’re reportedly close to trading to Philly for even more lottery picks.

“The arrogance in the room was that we were going to roll, we were going to win these next couple of years,” said a former Nets staff member who was in the draft room. “Maybe not the championship, but we were going to win the next couple of years and have sustainable success. We were going to keep signing free agents. We were always going to draft between 20 and 30. So if we’re going to swap with the Celtics, who gives a f—? That definitely was the thought.”

Also forgot in all this, and brought up by Bondy — the move was praised at the time for the most part. The Nets came in second in the annual GM survey at the start of next season for having had the best off-season (they got 25 percent of the vote). It also worked to boost Nets ticket sales in Brooklyn.

Of course, everything went sideways from the start for the Nets. Williams was injured and missed training camp, and more importantly he never really wanted to be in that spotlight as the leader anyway. Coach Jason Kidd squabbled with assistants and banished Lawrence Frank. Garnett missed 30 games. He and Pierce seemed disengaged from the team. Brook Lopez broke his foot just a couple of months into the season. Andrei Kirilenko was not the same. And Bondy reports “Andray Blatche allegedly showed up drunk to practices, according to multiple sources.”

Eventually, Kidd bolted for Milwaukee (after his bid to gain GM power failed) and ownership decided to close its wallet to the big spending.

It all came undone within a couple of years, but the Nets are still paying the price.

New GM Sean Marks is shrewd and made smart plays — like going hard after restricted free agents Allen Crabbe and Tyler Johnson — even if he came up empty. He made a smart move to bring in Jeremy Lin, who unfortunately was injured much of last season. They are trying to develop Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.

But the Nets are years and years away. Mostly because of this one horrible trade.