Kurt Helin

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Suns’ rookie Josh Jackson: “The physicality of the NBA game is crazy”

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You hear the same thing from guys making the jump from college to the NFL — the speed and physicality of the game makes an enormous leap.

NBA Rookies say the same thing every year. They have gone from going against other 19-20-year-olds still trying to fill out their frame in college to grown-ass men who play a physical game, and it’s an adjustment.

Just look at what Suns rookie Josh Jackson told Bleacher Report.

“The physicality of the NBA game is crazy,” he tells Bleacher Report. “Like our [third] game of the season, I’m f–king guarding Blake Griffin. And I’m barely 200 pounds.”

Welcome to the NBA.

The Bleacher Report story also gets into the adjustment challenges by rookies in the NBA. For example, a changing diet. In college they ate in the dining hall and whatever they wanted — burgers, pizzas, fried food and the like — but when they get to the NBA and realize they need to add muscle and that means altering their diet. Healthy, lean proteins are in and everything they ate growing up is out.

“I had my mom in town for like two weeks, and she was just cooking everything,” Jackson says. “I was like, ‘Ma, I can’t eat this!’ That was one of the hardest parts.”

Eric Bledsoe to start in debut with Bucks against Spurs Friday

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Jason Kidd is not going to start slowly and break things in over time.

Newly acquired point guard Eric Bledsoe is going to start in his debut with the Bucks, Kidd said at shootaround on Friday in San Antonio, where the Bucks will take on the Spurs later that night. Via Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“For his first day of shootaround, you could see the dynamic of his speed, something that we don’t have at that position,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. “We’ll find out here quickly (how he fits with the team). It’s going to take some time for him to understand his teammates and understand the defensive and offensive schemes, but he’s a pro, he’s a very smart young man and he can help us, hopefully. He’s going to start tonight. We’re going to start him and start that relationship with the starting group.”

The move bounces reigning Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon to the bench, but he could end up playing more minutes than Bledsoe, who has not played in a game since Oct. 21 and may be on a bit of a minute’s limit.

“They talk about 20 minutes, so we’ll see when that approaches how he feels,” Kidd said. “Again, it’s not like he’s coming off an injury. He hasn’t played and so we don’t want to throw him out there and have him play 35 minutes.”

Bledsoe should be a big boost to the Bucks — he is a secondary shot creator next to Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Bledsoe can play off the ball and knock down shots. The Bucks have the seventh best offense in the NBA, and he could be a boost to it. If he can improve the Bucks’ defense — second worst in the NBA and the reason they are 4-6 — it would be a bigger help.

It’s official: 2020 NBA All-Star Game coming to Chicago

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We knew about it yesterday, but now it is official:

The 2020 NBA All-Star Game will take place in Chicago.

“Chicago is an iconic city with a storied basketball history.  We are thrilled to bring the NBA All-Star Game back,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.  “We thank Mayor Emanuel, Jerry and Michael Reinsdorf and the entire Bulls organization and look forward to an exciting week of activities celebrating the game of basketball.”

“Chicago is looking forward to hosting NBA All-Star 2020 and welcoming players and fans from across the country and around the world to our great city,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.  “Chicago is a global hub for sports, entertainment, and culture.  Bringing the NBA All-Star Game back to the city for the first time in over three decades is a win for our city, our businesses, and fans of all ages who will have the chance to be part of one of basketball’s biggest events.”

We’ll see if the 2020 All-Star weekend can live up to the last time the game was in Chicago, back in 1988. That was the year Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins had one of the (if not THE) greatest All-Star Dunk contest ever.

Then in Sunday’s showcase game, Jordan dropped 40 points, led the East to the win, and was named MVP.

The Bulls’ home, the United Center, will host the All-Star Game, the Rising Stars Challenge, and the All-Star Saturday Night events (which includes the dunk contest).  The new Wintrust Arena, home of the WNBA’s Chicago Sky starting next season, will host the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game and Rising Stars and All-Star Game practices.  There also will be events throughout the city, including Navy Pier.

The NBA received applications from a number of cities wanting to host either the 2020 and 2021 All-Star Games, ranging Indiana through the Golden State  (who will be in a new building by then). The 2021 location has yet to be decided.

The 2018 All-Star Game will be in Los Angeles, then in 2019 the game heads to Charlotte.

Pelicans release veteran forward Josh Smith

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The Pelicans were desperate. They had lost Solomon Hill, Omer Asik, and Alexis Ajinca, Rajon Rondo and Frank Jackson to injury. The league granted New Orleans a hardship waiver to add another body to the roster, and needing help mostly up front the Pelicans signed Josh Smith.

But the plan was never to keep him long term, and on Friday Smith was let go after just 14 days with the team, reported Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Smith, 31, played just 12 minutes total across three games in garbage time for New Orleans (shooting 1-of-4). He was hoping to prove to teams that he still has something left in the tank and he would land another gig. I’m not sure he did that, but other teams may call coach Alvin Gentry and GM Dell Demps and ask as injuries eventually pile up for other teams.

 

After fourth-straight loss, Thunder have long closed-door team meeting

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Team meetings rarely solve problems. They let players and coaches vent, it can help clear the air, but most of the time they don’t translate to much on the court.

We’ll see if the slow-starting Oklahoma City Thunder change that dynamic.

Thursday night, after blowing an 18-point lead and falling to the Denver Nuggets due to another terrible fourth quarter performance, the team held a closed-door meeting, reports Fred Katz of the Norman-Transcript.

“You have to talk about it. You have to look at it. You have to be up front with everybody,” Carmelo Anthony said. “Everybody’s got to be held accountable for what’s going on.”

“Meetings just make sure we all stay together no matter what,” point guard Raymond Felton said. “Everybody said their piece. Coach said his piece…Right now, we going through something, and we got to stick together no matter what.”

In the fourth quarter Thursday night, the Thunder shot 38 percent while allowing the Nuggets to hit 53 percent. Throughout the game (and the season) it felt like the Thunder’s big three — Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony — were just taking turns, not working and playing in an offense or off each other. Then in the fourth it was all Westbrook, he was 1-of-6 in the fourth, while Paul George got just one shot in the final 12 minutes. Westbrook was 6-of-22 on the night, and in the fourth he took some difficult shots.

The Thunder make the fewest passes per game of any team in the league, and they get the more of their offense out of isolation than any team. As noted by Sports Illustrated’s Ben Golliver, OKC now has just three assisted field goals in the final five minutes of a game within five points all season. Meanwhile their defense struggles in the clutch as well.

OKC needs to figure out how to get this together, because it’s highly unlikely this roster is back in this form next season (George is a free agent, and if he stays and ‘Melo opts in the tax bill becomes so ridiculous there is no chance the small market Thunder will pay it, no matter what owner Clay Bennett says publicly). They need to get it together sooner rather than later.