Kurt Helin

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Brook Lopez calls Nets’ offseason “abnormal,” but he liked it

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The Brooklyn Nets are so deep in a screwed up rebuild they couldn’t even follow “the process” if they wanted to — the Celtics control the Nets first round picks for years. Throw blame at former GM Billy King, he earned some, but know he was trying to execute the unreasonable and ridiculous wishes of owner Mikhail Prokhorov — he’s the guy who deserves the ultimate blame.

New GM Sean Marks is trying to right the ship — and is doing as good a job as could be expected. He added solid veterans — such as Jeremy Lin, Luis Scola, Greivis Vasquez, Randy Foye — and with that the Nets will suck less. They aren’t going to be good, but they won’t be embarrassing. Which is a step forward.

The thing veteran Brook Lopez sees as different is guys are already in working out at the Nets’ facilities — that hasn’t happened before, he told the New York Post.

“It’s abnormal,” he said. “It’s a good feeling. I know they’ve been harping on the culture and all but it’s a completely unique feel this time, like we’re moving in that right direction. It’s something people actually want to be a part of.”

The 7-foot, 28-year-old center calls the training staff “an international work force” with “guys taking what they’ve learned all around the world, bringing it together in this eclectic fashion so we really have the best of the best.

“It’s hard,” Lopez said. “We’re together and we’re doing it. Before, we’d have guys coming in, wouldn’t really get their treatment [or] their mobilization. And they weren’t necessarily on time. It’s the way it should be now.”

Step one in turning a franchise around ins bringing in a culture of hard work and accountability. Yes, they ultimately need to get a lot more talent on the roster, but the talent without the right culture around that doesn’t lead to success (you can see that around the NBA, and other sports, all the time).

If I’m a Nets fan, what Lopez said makes me happy. The product will be better this year — and with Jeremy Lin running the show, it will be entertaining. The Nets aren’t playoff bound, but they are moving in the right direction.

Klay Thompson, other Team USA hoops stars soak up Rio Opening Ceremony

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The Rio Olympics are officially underway.

Okay, technically they were underway a couple of days ago when soccer got started early (to fit in all the games). However, the official start is always the Opening Ceremony, which took place Friday night.

Team USA’s hoop stars were soaking it in — especially Klay Thompson.

Beyond grateful what a night @olympics

A post shared by Klay Thompson (@klaythompson) on

And the Team USA guys were mixing it up with other athletes from our nation and others.

Stephen Jackson: “I will be back in the NBA this year”

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Stephen Jackson reportedly had a chance to get a much-coveted seat on the Golden State coaching bench, but turned it down because he wants to play.

Let’s just say there was skepticism about his return to the NBA at age 38 — he last played in 2014 when he got in nine games for the Clippers. Who was going to give him a chance?

Some team is, according to a video Jackson himself posted to Instagram.

No teams are mentioned by name. I can’t imagine he would get anything other than a non-guaranteed, make-good training camp contract. If that. But he is suggesting we will find out soon.

Blake Griffin will be executive producer for animated comedy pilot for FOX

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The Simpsons. Family Guy. The Cleveland Show.

And now Blake Griffin‘s “Okies of Bel Air”?

Maybe. Griffin knows comedy and he is now the executive producer of a pilot animated comedy being put together for Fox. Here are the details, via Deadline (hat tip Eye on Basketball).

In the vein of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air andThe Beverly Hillbillies, Okies of Bel Air is the story of a family of humble Oklahoma catfish farmers who, after their basketball prodigy son is chosen first overall in the NBA draft, pack up and move to the tony enclave of Bel Air, where they’ll struggle to preserve their down-home sensibilities amidst a vast cultural wasteland where Kardashian reigns supreme and pressed juice is considered a viable alternative to childhood vaccinations.

Do we really need to talk about where the inspiration for this came from?

That said, the “fish out of water” kind of show has a tried-and-true track record, and if it’s anything like Griffin’s standup it should be funny.

So, tell me again how Griffin wants to leave the opportunities of living in Los Angeles to go back to Oklahoma City.

Leading man: Carmelo Anthony embraces role as US team’s leader

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Carmelo Anthony was the last one to take the practice floor Friday, joining his U.S. teammates after wrapping up interviews where he was asked about everything from the opening ceremony to his diet.

He was in heavy demand.

With two Olympic gold medals and a chance to be the first men’s player to win three, Anthony has become the unlikely face of USA Basketball, a rise that couldn’t have been imagined 12 years ago.

This star-studded American squad, missing some big names but still ferocious, needed someone to show the way. And like Jason Kidd, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James before him, Anthony has emerged as the ring leader inside the five rings.

“Carmelo is the veteran and a super-likable guy,” said Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan. “We got 12 Alphas in here. But he’s the leader of this team and we follow him.”

Probably to the top tier on the medal platform.

The Americans’ journey to a probable gold begins Saturday against China, a team the U.S. drubbed by 49 and 50 points in two recent exhibitions. The matchup will likely dissolve into another lengthy layup drill, but it will give Brazil’s passionate hoop fans inside Barra Carioca Arena the chance to snap selfies and scream for every thunderous dunk and 3-pointer by players they’ve only seen on TV.

Anthony, though, has warned his teammates not to take any opponent lightly. It’s a lesson he learned in his first Olympics at Athens in 2004, when the U.S. was stunned by Puerto Rico in the opener and then fell to Lithuania and Argentina while stumbling to a bronze – and worldwide embarrassment.

“He’s very open about what happened there,” forward Draymond Green said, “and he’s very open about how that pushed them into wanting to get back to the top.”

While close friends James and Chris Paul skipped Rio and a chance at winning their third golds, Anthony, the New York Knicks All-Star often criticized for not winning more and not making his teammates better, embraced the chance to take a leading role in this summer blockbuster.

This is an Anthony those outside his inner circle have rarely seen, a player unafraid to raise his voice on and off the floor, one who demands with compassion. Following the recent police shootings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota and the ambush on officers in Dallas, Anthony was moved to take social action.

During the pre-Olympic tour, he organized a community event in Los Angeles to help curb gun violence, and it’s possible he and his U.S. teammates could use these games to promote causes to a global audience.

The 32-year-old Anthony said he hasn’t changed, but his actions say otherwise. Bryant and James may have been more extroverted as Olympians, but Anthony says he’s always been willing to express his opinion, provide advice or steer a straying teammate back on track.

He’s just doing it more.

“Even with those guys around, I’m still the same and so my role hasn’t changed since 2007 when we first started creating what we wanted to create,” said Anthony, who along with Kevin Durant are the only holdovers from 2012. “Even though guys lead in their own way, that Olympic experience and the type of player that I am and the type of person that I am, it’s been easier and it’s been more genuine.

“I’ve always been a person who has embraced that role and it’s just become more visible now to people. If you’re around us or at our practices, they know that this is who I am and this is not anything new.”

It’s nothing Jim Boeheim hasn’t seen before. He coached Anthony for one year at Syracuse and the U.S. assistant sees his elevated status as an extension of his personality.

“He’s the most vocal,” Boeheim said. “They all look at him as the senior guy and this team has a lot of guys that qualify as leaders because they all play hard, they all do the right things. That’s what leadership does, anyway.”

Although U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski has not officially named a captain, Anthony is the one he meets with to discuss scheduling practices, team meetings and anything else that might pop up.

Krzyzewski, who served as an U.S. Army Captain, believes leadership is earned.

“First of all, a leader has to lead by example,” he said. “A leader always has to have courage and whatever the leader says, he has to back up. And by doing that he’s trustworthy. Those things help a really good player become better because that means you have to be `on’ all the time.

“I’ve always said that if your best player is a leader he’ll be a better best player.”

And, in Anthony’s case, a third-time gold medalist.