If you want to talk about NBA players who have looked good so far in the run-up then early stages of EuroBasket, Minnesota rookie Nemanja Bjelica‘s better come up.
Against powerhouse Spain in the opener he had 24 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. Against Germany Sunday, he had 12 points, three rebounds, and three assists — plus he hit the floater game winner.
Bjelica was the EuroLeague MVP last season who signed a three-year deal with the Timberwolves. Bjelica is a forward — and the Timberwolves are loaded at the forward spots with Andrew Wiggins, Kevin Garnett, Shabazz Muhammad, Tayshaun Prince, but if Bjelica plays like this he is going to demand minutes.
Along with Karl-Anthony Towns and Ricky Rubio, the Timberwolves have one of the must-watch young teams in the league this season.
The Clippers starting power forward spot is locked up — Blake Griffin is pretty good at his job.
But after a strong summer by Doc Rivers the GM adding needed depth to the roster, Doc Rivers the coach has options. That will include going small at times — play Griffin (or DeAndre Jordan) at the five and put Paul Pierce at the four. When the Wizards’ Randy Wittman finally put Pierce at the four more in the playoffs the Washington thrived, and Doc Rivers says he plans to do the same thing, as reported by Gary Washburn of the Washington Post.
But what he really plans to do is rest Pierce so he can run him out during the playoffs.
“Paul will be great,” Rivers said Wednesday. “I don’t want to overuse him, I know that. I don’t even know how we’re going to use him yet. I’m going to play him at [power forward] a lot, but what I want him to be is healthy in the playoffs. So however we can figure that out, that’s what I’m going to try to do. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Lack of depth did in the Clippers last playoffs. They had to play their starting five — Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Matt Barnes (now gone), Griffin, and Jordan) crazy heavy minutes in the regular season. Then they had a knock-down, drag-out first-round series win against the Spurs. Next the Clippers were up 3-1 (and with a double-digit lead in the third quarter of Game 5) against Houston, but when the Rockets played with a new level of desperation the Clippers didn’t have anything left in the tank to match it. They lost three straight. This season Lance Stephenson, Josh Smith, Cole Aldrich and others have been added to the roster to give the Clippers depth they need for that kind of challenge.
That depth also gives Rivers lineup options — just like having Pierce does. He likely starts at the three for the Clippers, and will see time at the four, but they can use Smith in there too with three guards (CP3, Redick and Jamal Crawford) or a host of other choices. Rivers is a good motivator and an underrated tactician who is in a strong position now.
The Clippers are legit title contenders thanks to Rivers the GM now. It’s just about Rivers the coach keeping his charges fresher than they were a year ago.
Jordan Clarkson‘s mother, Annette Davis, is Filipino. That means that the basketball-crazy Philippines can claim the young Laker guard as their own — legally in the eyes of FIBA. This isn’t like naturalizing Andray Blatche, Clarkson can step right in and play as a son of the Philippines.
Except he’s not expected to for FIBA Asia, the Olympic qualifying event that starts at the end of September. The main problem from the Lakers and Clarkson’s perspective is the tournament overlaps with the start of Lakers’ training camp. Still, officials from the Philippines are trying to convince the Lakers to change their mind, reports Philstar.com.
“It’s still a work in progress but with better clarity,” said SBP vice chairman Ricky Vargas after a meeting with Los Angeles Lakers team president Jeanie Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak in LA….
“They requested some time to talk to the Lakers coaches,” said Vargas.
The Lakers open training camp in Hawaii Sept. 29. The semi-finals of FIBA Asia is Oct. 1, the finals Oct. 3 — and the Philippines made the finals of the last such event. Playing likely means Clarkson misses at least the first three and maybe first five or six days of training camp. Good luck selling Byron Scott on that idea.
One other reason Clarkson may not play — money. The second round pick is set to make “just” $845,059 this season, which is pennies in NBA dollars. However, he will get a new contract extension next summer, one that is going to pay him a whole lot more that what he’s making now. While injuries can happen anywhere at any time, would Clarkson take the risk this fall?
The Philippines has until Sept. 8 (Tuesday) to submit their final roster for the tournament. We’ll know a definitive answer by then. Although, I think we already know it.
If you spent Saturday watching college football and not the opening day of EuroBasket hoops, we understand. EuroBasket will be around all week, for when you’re not watching tennis or the NFL.
Let us bring you the best highlights of Day 1, courtesy FIBA.
I don’t know why the block at No. 4 isn’t higher, but Orlando Magic rookie Mario Hezonja is making some plays. As is our old NBA friend Rudy Fernandez.
Kevin Durant is busy touring Europe and talking to a variety of media to promote the KD8, which launched last July. That means a lot of interviews with interviewers asking some interesting questions
On that list is an interview with Spanish NBA site NBA Maniacs, which asked Durant what his all-time starting five would be. Here’s his answer, via Google translate with a little help (hat tip to Matt Moore at Eye on Basketball).
Well, good question. I would stay with Magic Johnson as a basis for their exceptional height, vision and be a triple-double machine. As guard Kobe Bryant is a legend and five-time champion. It’s been half-life in the NBA! Michael Jordan like three. Sorry for Larry Bird, but I have to let him out for Kobe. As a power forward is difficult, between Karl Malone, Tim Duncan … I stay with Tim Duncan . For longevity, the securities and the impact it has had and still has on the court. And Shaquille O’Neal as a dominant center.
That’s an impressive five.
You could try to argue that to make it mesh you need more of a John Stockton-like pure point guard, but Magic broke the mold at that position and in my mind is the best ever at the slot. I love that he went with Tim Duncan — he is the greatest power forward ever. Center is a position with so many good options — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar would be mine, Bill Russell can be in there — but there was never a physical specimen at the five like Shaq.
Notice that there is no LeBron James. Or Durant, but only MJ would likely choose himself.