Kurt Helin

Adam Silver on age limit: “My sense is that it’s not something that’s going to change in the short term”

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NBA Commissioner Adam Silver — speaking on behalf of the NBA owners — has made no secret of the fact he wants the NBA’s minimum age raised from 19 to 20. Those same owners see this as risk management, thinking GMs and front offices will make fewer mistakes if they get more info on players (studies show that’s not the case, for example they got three years of watching Michael Olowokandi).

The players’ union and its director Michelle Roberts see it differently, they would prefer there be no age limit.

That has led to the delicate balance of the one-and-done system now in place that nobody likes. And it doesn’t look like it’s changing anytime soon, Silver told Bloomberg News.

It’s still something I care a lot about. I’m also a realist. Given that Michele has said her preference would be for an 18-year-old minimum age, my sense is that it’s not something that’s going to change in the short term. And by the way, I’ve always said I understand the other side of the issue, about a young man’s opportunity to make a living. But my view has always been that we’d be a better league if players came into the draft at 20 instead of 19.

It’s long been thought that the NBA could get the age limit up in the next CBA, but it was going to cost them — the players’ aren’t giving that bargaining chip away. Whatever the cost, it seems to be more than the owners are willing to pay.

By the way, just like Roberts, Silver said he is optimistic a deal will get done and there will be no lockout.

While we and the union have agreed that we’re not going to talk publicly about the substance of our discussions, neither side has made it a secret that we’re talking and that the goal is, of course, to avoid any type of work stoppage whatsoever. I feel fairly confident that, based on the tone of these discussions thus far, based on the sense of trust and the amount of respect among the parties, that we should be able to avoid any kind of public labor issue and that the things we need to get done will get done behind closed doors.

Knicks’ Willy Hernangomez playing in Olympics for Spain, learning from Pau Gasol

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Knicks rookie-to-be backup center Willy Hernangomez (a second round pick of the Sixers in 2015) didn’t play for New York in Summer League, something that was a great learning experience for Kristaps Porzingis the summer before.

Instead, Hernangomez is in Rio playing for Spain in the Olympics.

With Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka out for Spain, it opened up a front court spot for Hernangomez. He’s taking advantage learning all he can going against polished veteran NBA big man Pau Gasol every day in practice. Hernangomez talked about it to Marc Berman of the New York Post.

“Playing in the Olympics games, it’s a big opportunity to improve and play big games and with a player like Pau,” Hernangomez said. “Practicing with him, he teaches me a couple of things, shows me some moves, little things to play better in the NBA. It’s a big opportunity for me to play against him in practice. I learned more with him in one month than in one year [in Spain].”

That’s a two-time NBA champion, six-time All-Star, and high IQ coach Hernangomez has for the summer.

Hernangomez is going to get his chances this season in New York. The Knicks will likely start Joakim Noah at the five and Porzingis at the four, but Noah is going to need nights off in an attempt to keep him healthy. Porzingis will play some five, and Hernangomez could get some run as well (he showed an improved jumper in Spain last season, but he is mostly a back-to-the-basket guy). Otherwise, Hernangomez and Kyle O'Quinn will be battling for backup minutes behind Noah.

Knicks fans will get a little preview of that from Rio.

There are 46 NBA players in the Olympics. Yes, that’s a record.

Associated Press
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If the last NBA Draft didn’t drive the point home, maybe the Olympics will — international basketball is thriving.

There will be a record 46 active NBA players who suit up in Rio for the Olympics, a new record (there were 41 in the London games four years ago). There are another 18 former NBA players who will be taking part in the Rio games as well. That’s 64 current or former NBA players in the games.

Not surprisingly, the San Antonio Spurs have the most with five guys, followed by the Utah Jazz with four. The Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks, Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks, and Toronto Raptors each have three.

Ten of the 12 teams in the Olympic tournament have an NBA player. Outside Team USA, Spain has the most active NBA players with seven. After that it’s Australia, Brazil, and France each with five NBA players.

Here’s the full list, sorted by nation.

Argentina
Nicolas Brussino (Dallas Mavericks)
Patricio Garino (San Antonio Spurs)
Manu Ginobili (San Antonio Spurs)
Luis Scola (Brooklyn Nets)
Australia
Aron Baynes (Detroit Pistons)
Andrew Bogut (Dallas Mavericks)
Matthew Dellavedova (Milwaukee Bucks)
Joe Ingles (Utah Jazz)
Patty Mills (San Antonio Spurs)
Brazil
Leandro Barbosa (Phoenix Suns)
Cristiano Felicio (Chicago Bulls)
Marcelo Huertas (Los Angeles Lakers)
Nene (Houston Rockets)
Raul Neto (Utah Jazz)
Croatia
Bojan Bogdanovic (Brooklyn Nets)
Mario Hezonja (Orlando Magic)
Dario Saric (Philadelphia 76ers)
France
Nicolas Batum (Charlotte Hornets)
Boris Diaw (Utah Jazz)
Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz)
Joffrey Lauvergne (Denver Nuggets)
Tony Parker (San Antonio Spurs)
Lithuania
Mindaugas Kuzminskas (New York Knicks)
Domantas Sabonis (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Jonas Valanciunas (Toronto Raptors)
Nigeria
Michael Gbinije (Detroit Pistons)
Serbia
Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets)
Spain
Alex Abrines (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Jose Calderon (Los Angeles Lakers)
Pau Gasol (San Antonio Spurs)
Guillermo Hernangomez (New York Knicks)
Nikola Mirotic (Chicago Bulls)
Sergio Rodriguez (Philadelphia 76ers)
Ricky Rubio (Minnesota Timberwolves)
United States
Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks)
Harrison Barnes (Dallas Mavericks)
Jimmy Butler (Chicago Bulls)
DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings)
DeMar DeRozan (Toronto Raptors)
Kevin Durant (Golden State Warriors)
Paul George (Indiana Pacers)
Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors)
Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers)
DeAndre Jordan (L.A. Clippers)
Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors)
Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors)

Smooth sailing? US men’s basketball seeks more Olympic gold

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — There were so many questions about their cushy accommodations it seemed the Americans were on vacation.

Yes, the U.S. men’s basketball team is staying on a cruise ship, with gorgeous views of Brazil’s beautiful beaches.

But the Americans didn’t come to Rio de Janeiro for fun and sun.

“We know what’s our task at hand,” veteran Carmelo Anthony said. “This is business for us. We’re going out there to take care of business.”

The U.S. team had its international introduction Thursday with its Olympic news conference, answering plenty of questions about where they’re staying (the luxury yacht) and who’s not playing (LeBron James and Stephen Curry).

It was the usual spectacle for a team that always draws a crowd at the Olympics, no matter who is on the roster. This one features 10 players with no Olympic experience, with only Anthony and Kevin Durant back from the team that won the Americans’ second straight gold medal in 2012.

They’re still considered the team to beat even with their inexperience, which is why Paul George had such trouble with his first attempt at Portuguese.

A local journalist tried to teach him the word for underdog, then asked if there was any chance the U.S. could fill that role.

“Of us being underdog?” he said. “No, I don’t think we’re the underdog.”

Try heavy, heavy favorite.

The Americans open on Saturday against China, a team they beat by 49 and 50 points in exhibition play. So that game shouldn’t be close, and it might be a while before they get one – if they get one – that is. But the U.S. players say they aren’t thinking that way.

“You have to worry about everybody,” forward Draymond Green said. “Every team is here for a reason. They qualified somehow. … We can’t come out here and say, `Oh, we’re the United States and we’re supposed to win,’ or `We have this person and that person and we’re supposed to win.’ We have to be locked in every game. If you don’t, you’ll get beat.”

The Americans arrived in Rio on Wednesday from Houston, where they completed their exhibition tour. They held their first practice at the arena Thursday as they get their sea legs under them.

Anthony stayed on a cruise ship in his first Olympics, when they finished third in 2004 in Athens. They’re on a ship again, along with the U.S. women’s team, in part because of a shortage of hotel space compared to recent hosts Beijing and London, and Anthony doesn’t see why it’s such a big deal.

“It’s no different than us staying in the hotel,” he said. “It’s not like we’re cruising around. We’re docked. We have the same amenities as if we were staying in the hotel.”

He joked that the beds were small for basketball players, but it’s expected to be smooth sailing for this group. The Americans may have seemed vulnerable when James, Curry and a number of other superstars declined to play, but the players who did accept invites have had a few weeks to work on getting better on the court and getting along off it.

“We’re a group of guys that range from age of 24 to, I don’t know how old Carmelo is, 40?” center DeAndre Jordan said. “So we have so much fun together and everybody’s so competitive and we all want to win, and when you got guys like that, it makes it that much more fun.”

Anthony is actually 32, and his first Olympic experience 12 years ago was a mostly miserable one. He plans to leave better than he came in.

“I know what it felt like when kind of the rest of the world was supposedly catching up with the USA as far as from a basketball standpoint. So I know what it felt like to be at the bottom and I know what it feels like to be at the top of the game as well,” Anthony said.

“My goal is to help this team and lead this time to a gold medal.”

AP Sports Writer Tom Withers contributed to this report.

Follow Brian Mahoney on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Briancmahoney

Another report Thunder will target Blake Griffin in free agency

russell westbrook blake griffin
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The Oklahoma City Thunder kept their man in Russell Westbrook — but in practice only for one more year. The new contract extension allows him to opt out in 2018 and become a free agent. Meaning the Thunder have a couple of seasons to prove to Westbrook they can rebuild this team into a contender and to make sure he is happy.

Blake Griffin is expected to exercise his early termination option next summer and become a free agent (financially, he’d be stupid not to). That would be Blake Griffin, Oklahoma native who grew up and went to college in the state.

You see where this is going, and the rumors that the Thunder were eyeing Griffin existed before Kevin Durant went west. They are just will be picking up steam now. Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports talked about it in his analysis of the Westbrook extension.

Now, it’s a superstar solo act – with an eye upon Los Angeles Clippers All-Star forward Blake Griffin in 2017 free agency. Griffin is an Oklahoma kid gone Hollywood, a star who has his own tensions with Chris Paul on the Clippers. For now, this is Westbrook’s chance to become a recruiter, a gatherer, and bringing back Griffin could make these Thunder a legitimate threat to Golden State in the Western Conference.

The easy part here is the fit on the court — Griffin isn’t Durant, but he plugs nicely right into the four spot next to Steven Adams in OKC. He has enough of a jumper to space the floor, attacks the rim with ferocity, is a good passer out of the post, and defends better than he gets credit for. Westbrook and Griffin with a quality core of role players around them — Adams, Victor Oladipo, Andre Roberson, etc. — makes a lot of sense on the court.

The harder question is, does he want to go home?

Griffin has had his friction with the Clippers and the hard-driving competitive nature of Chris Paul, but he’s also a guy who has enjoyed the advantages/trappings of living in Los Angeles year around. He lives near the beach. Heck, he’s out doing stand-up comedy (and doing it well). He likes the lifestyle.

Going home to play is not something every player wants — I’m not talking about Griffin specifically, he’s not talking about his plans yet, but in general. Going home brings added pressure, not to mention added distractions and challenges — that guy that kind of knew Griffin in college and talked to him at a party is now going to be calling asking for four tickets to a game. LeBron James heading back to Cleveland made the idea of going home fashionable with fans, but the reality is a lot of players who love where they grew up don’t want to go back and play there.

Griffin may or may not want to go home, may or may not like the idea of trading in CP3 for Westbrook. But the Thunder are going to try to find out.