Author: Dan Feldman

Adam Silver
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Adam Silver: NBA exploring weekday morning games to appease overseas TV

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NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the NBA is no longer looking at putting a franchise in Europe.

But that doesn’t mean the NBA will ignore foreign markets.

Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today:

That’s certainly interesting. The NBA just better be careful not to solve one problem by creating another.

Overseas fans might enjoy watching games played on weekday mornings locally. But what about American fans? How many of them won’t attend or watch on television?

Perhaps, some cities would support weekday morning games better than others. It could be a chance for people who work nights and weekends to attend games. Teams could also give/sell tickets to schools for fieldtrips.

There’s potential here. I’m just not sure it’s enough for this idea to come to fruition.

Turkey, not Lebanon, keeps its Olympic basketball dream alive

MADRID, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 12:  Semih Erden of Turkey lines up a free throw during the FIBA Eurobasket 2007 qualifying round group F match between France and Turkey at the Telefonica Arena on September 12, 2007 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
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Turkey finished a disappointing 14th at EuroBasket last fall – securing neither a berth in the 2016 Olympics nor even a spot in the Olympic Qualifying Tournaments. Turkey’s only hope of reaching Rio was hosting an Olympic Qualifying Tournament and winning it.

But, as expected, FIBA named Serbia, Italy and Philippines as the three Olympic Qualifying Tournament hosts.

Yet, somehow, Turkey also got a bid.

Teams hosting Olympic Qualifying Tournaments also play in them. But Serbia, Italy and Philippines already qualified by virtue of their finish in their continental tournaments. Per FIBA’s stated rules, the next-highest-finishing those teams from those continents advance. That would be Latvia and Croatia behind Serbia and Italy from Europe, Lebanon behind Philippines from Asia.

Croatia and Serbia got bids. But instead of Lebanon, it was another European team getting the other – Turkey.

This just smells like an international sporting body looking at money ahead of fair competition.

FIBA sent NBC Sports this statement on their decision.

“Lebanon, who came in fifth at the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship, are currently not in good standing with FIBA Asia. Therefore, the Executive Committee of FIBA used of its right to choose a replacement and, in line with the FIBA World Ranking and the final standings of the 2015 continental championships, decided to extend an invitation to Turkey.”

“Not in good standing” means they are behind in payments.

Turkey – with Ersan Ilyasova and Cedi Osman – has an outside chance of winning an Olympic Qualifying Tournament to make the 2016 Games. That’s a much bigger threat than Lebanon would’ve presented. But that’s not the point.

Jae Crowder, one of NBA’s most underrated players, helping Celtics move on

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Jared Sullinger arrived early to the arena and bumped into Vander Blue.

Sullinger’s Ohio State and Blue’s Marquette teams, on opposite sides of the region, were opening the 2011 NCAA tournament in Cleveland.

As the two friends exchanged pleasantries, Blue’s teammate – Jae Crowder – intervened. He apparently didn’t want Blue making nice with a potential later-round foe. Crowder got upset, and as Sullinger put it, “We almost got into a little scuffle.”

“From there on, I knew I could always ride with Jae,” Sullinger said, “because he’s going to fight for you.”

Nearly four years later, Sullinger’s Celtics acquired Crowder in the Rajon Rondo trade.

“I was excited,” Sullinger said. “I knew we got somebody that just knows one way, one way how to play – and that’s play hard every night.”

Crowder has emerged as more than just a hustle player in Boston. His two-way excellence quietly puts him in a special class. He’s one of just nine players with a Real Plus-Minus of at least two on both ends of the floor:

Player Offensive RPM Defensive RPM
LeBron James 6.09 2.78
Kawhi Leonard 4.32 4.36
Draymond Green 3.59 5.09
Kyle Lowry 5.21 2.00
DeMarcus Cousins 2.64 3.51
Paul Millsap 3.59 2.26
Chris Bosh 2.84 2.45
Kevin Love 3.25 2.00
Jae Crowder 2.01 2.18

Those other eight are drawing serious All-Star consideration.

Even Crowder’s traditional stats suggest he warrants a higher profile.

Just four other players so young average as many points (14.5), rebounds (5.3) and assists (1.9) per game as Crowder: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, Will Barton, Nikola Vucevic and DeMarcus Cousins. Also consider Crowder’s 1.8 steals game, and just five other players meet the marks at all: Stephen Curry,

Paul George,Kawhi Leonard,Paul Millsap and Russell Westbrook.

Crowder just finds ways to help Boston win – though that wasn’t always the case.

The Celtics lost their first four games with Crowder and began his tenure 3-12. He could tell the team missed Rondo.

“It was weird,” Crowder said. “Practices was like kind of weird. Guys wasn’t really taking it serious. You could tell he was the leader. The team had no leadership at that time. And we were losing. There was just a lot of down people, a lot of frustration.”

Crowder was frustrated, too. Fed up, he asked Boston coach Brad Stevens, “Are we trying to lose?”

The Celtics appeared to be tanking. Crowder looked like little more than a throw-in in the Rondo deal, which netted a first-round pick and Brandan Wright (who was later flipped for another first-rounder). Boston also traded Jeff Green for yet another first-rounder.

The self-made Crowder had taken too hard a path to the NBA to passively accept losing.

He enrolled at South Georgia Tech out of high school, playing for a school he’d learn was unaccredited. “The coach lied to me to get me to sign there,” Crowder said. Once he realized that – on a tip from Bob Huggins – Crowder transferred to Howard College in Texas. Another transfer landed him at Marquette, where his NBA dream finally felt realistic. He was drafted in the second round in 2012 and immediately cracked the Mavericks’ rotation. But his playing time decreased each of his three seasons in Dallas.

So, while Crowder was excited to play more in Boston, he disliked the team’s direction.

Stevens – who admits he didn’t know much about Crowder at the time of the trade – assured him he’d never coach a team to lose. The coach was also becoming impressed by Crowder, from his workout habits to his surprising versatility.

The Celtics traded for Isaiah Thomas, who sparked a stagnant offense, and surged into the playoffs. Though Thomas’ scoring earns him attention and makes him Boston’s most likely All-Star, Crowder’s value on both sides of the floor is immense. So is his intensity.

“We feed off of him,” Sullinger said.

During the Celtics’ first-round series against the Cavaliers last spring, Crowder – who frequently guarded LeBron James – declared, “Nobody on their team is intimidating.” Cleveland swept the series, but Crowder proved his toughness in the process.

He also showed a skill set that could help Boston bridge eras.

Rondo was the last remaining player from the Celtics’ 2008 championship team. Crowder’s arrival quite literally signaled a changing of the guard.

In recent years, the Celtics have pushed to land a star. Until they get one, and once they do, Crowder is key.

It’s not just that he’s good offensively and defensively. It’s that he’s good inside and out offensively and defensively.

He shoots 65% at the rim and 35% on 3-pointers. The 6-foot-6 Crowder comfortably covers shooting guards, small forwards and power forwards – and switching him onto centers and point guards is hardly problematic.

That’s a versatility built for the playoffs, when opponents will hammer at any deficiency. Crowder can’t be exposed. He just need the 22-20 Celtics, who are eighth in the Eastern Conference, to reach the postseason.

So far, he’s doing his part.

I’m usually first in line to scoff at Draymond Green comparisons. Green’s combination skills is incredibly rare. Not every undersized forward can just be him.

But Crowder shares similarities. He’s strong and tenacious enough to defend bigger players in the post, even if his height lends itself to perimeter defense (where he also performs well). He shoots well enough to spread the floor. Crowder doesn’t pass nearly as well as Green, but he keeps the ball moving.

Looking for a poor man’s Green? It’s Crowder – and that’s a compliment I wouldn’t bestow on anyone else in the league.

Crowder also has the capability to complement a high-usage star should Boston ever nab one.

Crowder is excellent off the ball – cutting, working off screens, spotting up. It’d help if he shot better from the corners, but his defense, rebounding and hustle more than make up for that shortcoming.

Best of all for the Celtics, they have Crowder locked up to a five-year, $35 million contract he signed last offseason. That deal looked like a steal the moment it was signed, and it’ll look even better as the salary cap skyrockets.

Crowder said he received interest from “four other Eastern Conference teams and Boston and one West Coast team.” One team, he said, made a higher-paying offer than the Celtics. He also figures – correctly, I believe – he could’ve gotten even more lucrative offers simply by waiting.

But Crowder agreed to terms with Boston on the second day of free agency. He’s even talking already about signing an extension in three years, though unless the Celtics also renegotiate his deal – why would they? – the maximum possible extension would still leave him a huge bargain.

“I didn’t know if, the saying, the grass is greener on the other side at that time,” Crowder said. “So, I just wanted to stick with what I knew, and what I knew is trying to make Boston my home.”

The Celtics have to be thrilled he chose their green.

If you’re a Comcast subscriber in Boston, you can stream tonight’s Celtics-Raptors game here.

Simpsons writer: 76ers joke originally written at Knicks’ expense

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 02:  Kristaps Porzingis #6 of the New York Knicks heads for the net as JaKarr Sampson #9 of the Philadelphia 76ers defends at Madison Square Garden on December 2, 2015 in New York City.The New York Knicks defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 99-87.NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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The Simpsons took a jab at the 76ers on Sunday, but Philadelphia nearly avoided being the butt of the joke.

Simpsons writer Michael Price (hat tip: Dan Devine of Yahoo Sports):

The Kristaps Porzingis Effect knows no bounds. He’s literally saving the Knicks from public embarrassment.

Pelicans officially announce Eric Gordon out 4-6 weeks

MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 25:  Eric Gordon #10 of the New Orleans Pelicans drives to the basket during the game against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on December 25, 2015 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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Eric Gordon was expected to miss four weeks due to a broken finger.

The official prognosis is a little more grim.

Pelicans release:

The New Orleans Pelicans announced today that guard Eric Gordon underwent successful surgery this morning to repair his fractured right ring finger. Gordon sustained the injury during the third quarter of last night’s 114-99 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. His expected timetable to return is 4-6 weeks.

It’s possible nothing has changed in Gordon’s outlook. Teams commonly give longer timetables in injury releases, allowing players more leeway to avoid public scrutiny and giving them a chance to exceed public expectations.

Whether they expect Gordon to miss four or six weeks or anything between, this is bad news for the Pelicans.

Despite already being hit with a ton of injuries, they’ve climbed to 14-27 – four games out of playoff position in the Western Conference. Now, their still-bleak playoff odds shrink even further.

Gordon provided important wing depth, especially after Quincy Pondexter‘s season-ending injury. New Orleans can do some juggling, starting Jrue Holiday at Norris Cole at point guard and sliding Tyreke Evans to shooting guard.

The Pelicans need a couple teams to stumble while Gordon is hurt. In the likely event that doesn’t happen, their best hope might be Gordon showing he’s healthy before the trade deadline and dealing him.