Kurt Helin

NBA House - Moynihan Station 2015

Legendary Sixer, backboard-shattering dunker Darryl Dawkins dies at 58

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From the planet Lovetron, 6’11” center Darryl Dawkins…

Dawkins — nicknamed Chocolate Thunder and using that wild introduction for a stretch — was a player you paid to see back in the late 70s and early 1980s, a guy who dunked so hard he shattered backboards all across the land. He was a fan favorite in Philadelphia, New Jersey, and even with visiting fans everywhere else he played.

Dawkins has passed away at the age of 58, something confirmed by CSNPhilly.com and the NBA. His family released this statement.

“It is with great sadness that we share the passing of our beloved husband and father, Darryl Dawkins, who succumbed today to a heart attack. Darryl touched the hearts and spirits of so many with his big smile and personality, ferocious dunks, but more than anything, his huge, loving heart.  His family, wife Janice, children Dara, Tabitha, Nicholas and Alexis, along with countless family, friends, and fans, all mourn his loss. More than anything Darryl accomplished in his basketball career as the inimitable ‘Chocolate Thunder,’ he was most proud of his role and responsibility as a husband and father.  We ask that the public please respect our privacy as we grieve his loss.”

Dawkins made history as the first player drafted directly out of high school to the NBA back in 1975. He went on to play 14 NBA seasons and fit the mold of physical big men of his era (he led the NBA in fouls given three times). Mostly, he was just fun to watch, because of the dunks and a, um, creative personality — for a stretch Dawkins claimed to be from the planet Lovetron where he said he practiced interplanetary funkmanship. But even after his playing days he stayed close to the game, an ambassador of the sport. A lot of today’s players looked up to him.

Rest in peace Chocolate Thunder. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.

Report: Ryan Hollins receiving interest from Kings, Wizards, Clippers

Los Angeles Lakers v Sacramento Kings
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Two seasons ago, Ryan Hollins played a limited role as a backup center for the Clippers, and when Doc Rivers got the chance to upgrade to Glen Davis he jumped at it and gave Big Baby more minutes. Last season, Hollins was an end of the bench center for the Sacramento Kings, a team that went out this summer and added Kosta Koufos and Willie Cauley-Stein to the front line. Hollins didn’t play 500 minutes total for either team the last two years.

He’s an end-of-the-bench big in the NBA, but this is the time of year teams round out the end of the bench. So there is some interest, reports Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports.

As noted, the Kings are now relatively deep up front, especially with new coach George Karl wanting to go smaller at times with Rudy Gay at the four. The Clippers have a pretty stocked front line as well (and 14 guys under contract) but they are apparently still thinking about a big as they have talked to Big Baby’s people as well. The Wizards may be looking for depth after Kevin Seraphin left, but they also will likely play smaller this year with Otto Porter and Jared Dudley getting time at the four behind Nene.

Hollins certainly can work as a backup NBA center, but he has limitations. He has no range outside three feet. He sets a good screen but all he can do is roll, he’s not a threat any other way. There’s not a great post up game, nor is he a good rebounder for a big, and he’s not a great rim protector at the NBA level.

Still, a team will give him a shot. If not one of these three, someone likely will pick him up by early in the season.

Pelicans pull French center Alexis Ajinca out of EuroBasket

New Orleans Pelicans v Minnesota Timberwolves
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New Pelicans’ coach Alvin Gentry has big plans for Alexis Ajinca. In the coach’s up-tempo offense, Ajinca’s athleticism makes a good fit behind and next to Anthony Davis. With that, Ajinca is expected to see an increased role and minutes (even though the team did bring back Omer Asik). That’s why they signed him to a four-year, $20 million deal this offseason.

Ajinca has been playing this summer with the French national team as they prepare to defend their EuroBasket title and earn a berth in the 2016 Rio Olympics. However, a week before the tournament starts, the Pelicans have pulled him out, reports eurohoops.net.

The player felt pain in his Achilles tendon since the start of the preparation period at the 20th of July. His condition remained unchanged, however the New Orleans Pelicans decided to forbid him from playing in the Eurobasket.

This was not a situation that was so bad New Orleans said he couldn’t even consider playing for his country; it was a relatively minor issue. But as it hasn’t improved, the Pelicans decided not to risk anything with a guy they just agreed to lock down for four years.

This is a blow to France, but they remain one of the deepest teams at EuroBasket and one of the favorites. They still have Rudy Gobert at center, Tony Parker at the point, plus guys like Boris Diaw, Nicolas Batum, and Evan Fournier on the roster. They could defend their crown, but that task just got a little harder.

Despite earlier report, Chuck Hayes will not sign with Rockets

Toronto Raptors v New York Knicks
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We told you almost a month ago that Chuck Hayes was going to go back to where his NBA career started and sign with the Houston Rockets. He was going to bring them veteran leadership, good defense in the post, strength on the glass, and hustle everywhere on the court.

Now he’s going to take those talents somewhere else.

The deal never got signed. Houston has a crowded frontcourt and roster, and due to that and salary cap reasons the deal could not be finalized. Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports has the details.

Houston made some moves after the Hayes deal was agreed to — the Ty Lawson trade, the signing of Jason Terry — that changed their cap picture.

Hayes wants to be a coach, eventually, but he thinks he’s got some ball left in his body.

There are teams that could use Hayes — he works hard and does the little things like battle on the boards, set hard screens, and play physical defense. He is a pro’s pro. Teammates love him. But he has battled injuries for a couple of seasons now and, at age 32, we will see what team will want to roll the dice on him staying healthy and taking up one of their final roster spots.

After Rio Olympics next summer, who takes over at Team USA coach?

San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles Clippers - Game Seven
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This is the last go around. He means it this time. After the 2016 Olympics in Rio next August, Mike Krzyzewski is stepping down as the head coach of USA Basketball. He’ll ride off into the sunset at Duke for a while longer, write a book, do some gardening, spend time with his grandkids. Coach K will be just fine.

But who is next in the big chair for Team USA?

Jerry Colangelo, the president of USA Basketball and the guy who will get the final say on that question, has no idea. Or, phrased correctly, he’s not about to discuss it right now. Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago.com asked him and he danced around the question artfully.

“I plan to, right after hopefully winning another gold medal in Rio in ‘16, go to sleep and dream about who that next person might be and what he looks like,” Colangelo told CSNChicago.com. “Until then I have so many things going on in my small brain, I can’t even focus on it.”

Colangelo, in his previous moments of candor with CSNChicago.com at Summer League, also stated he had a coach in mind to replace Kryzyzewski but he didn’t want to reveal who it was.

“That is true and I’m the only one who knows it,” Colangelo said laughing. “It’s a big world and there’s a great coaches. And I don’t want to give any indication who it might be. Heck, you might wake up and find out I called you to ask if you were interested!”

There are three things needed in the next Team USA coach:

1) Players have to want to play for him. The USA has better and deeper talent than any country on earth, and it’s not close — but that only matters if guys show up. Pick someone they don’t respect, try to go too far outside the box, and you could end up with a USA “B” team (which may still win the gold, but is more vulnerable).

2) They have to be good at Xs and Os, and not wed to one system. Coach K has laid a foundation of a system that works for Team USA — pressure defense leading to up-tempo offense — because it exploits that athletic advantage we have in the USA. However, as the players putting on the jersey change, as the game evolves, this coach needs to be adaptable and not just change with it but be a step ahead of it.

3) He has to be above the petty politics of agents and shoe companies. There are a lot of people trying to influence the selection of players for Team USA, all for their own financial gain. (And to suggest Nike has not and does not have influence would be naive.) This coach needs to be able to stand up to and rise above those interests if it is best for the team.

There are two names regularly mentioned in NBA circles:

Gregg Popovich and Doc Rivers. With Popovich the frontrunner.

Other names get speculated about — Brad Stevens, Tom Izzo, Billy Donovan, Doug Collins — and they could work out, but Popovich and Rivers meet the three criteria the best right now.

Popovich was the other coach strongly considered when Krzyzewski was hired back in 2004, and part of the reason Colangelo is rumored to have chosen who he did was he didn’t feel Popovich was as enthusiastic about the job. First, that would be a poor reading of Popovich, who is not a classic “rah-rah” coach but who is undoubtedly passionate. Second, that revelation led to some tension between Colangelo and Popovich that needs to be cleared up — to suggest former Air Force man Popovich was not enthusiastic about representing his country was going to cause a wound.

The rumors that Popovich has been ruled out because of that rift or age are false, according to Goodwill’s sources.

To me, Popovich makes the most sense (and he could keep this job even in a few years when he becomes a “consultant” for the Spurs).

Players love Rivers and is a better tactician than he often gets credit for. He is a damn good fallback position.

But it depends on who Colangelo has in mind. And how everybody feels a year from now, which can be an eternity in basketball circles.