Kurt Helin

LV Celtics v Trailblazers

Trail Blazers guarantee Allen Crabbe’s contract for next season

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Allen Crabbe impressed at the Las Vegas Summer League — 15.5 points a game (second best on the Trail Blazers) on 53 percent shooting overall and 43 percent from three. Coach Terry Stotts was going to have to take a long look at Crabbe and how he might fit in the new Portland rotation.

Then he went down with a nasty sprained ankle that would sideline Crabbe at least a month.

But the Blazers saw enough from the games he did play to lock Crabbe down for next season, reports Jabari Young at CSNNW.com.

The Trail Blazers have informed Allen Crabbe his contract will be guaranteed for the 2015-16 season, CSNNW.com has learned….

“It’s always good to know that your [contract] is going to be guaranteed so it just makes you focus on continuing to work hard for the rest of the summer and get prepared for training camp,” Crabbe told CSNNW.com on Friday. “I’ve got a clear mind just knowing that I’m going to be on the roster next year.”

This is a $947,000 contract, so it is certainly a good value move by Portland.

Crabbe got in 51 games last season and looked good on the defensive end (filling in for Nicolas Batum at times). That earned him some trust from Stotts, but Crabbe didn’t show much offensive punch. Which is why the development he showed at Summer League mattered — he is getting better at his weaknesses.

If he keeps showing improvement at both ends, Crabbe can work his way into the guard rotation with Damian Lillard, Gerald Henderson and C.J. McCollum. Even if he’s on the fringes of the rotation, at Crabbe’s cost it’s worth keeping him around to see if he can grow into a solid rotation guy.

Report: Hedo Turkoglu wants to play anther NBA season, Kings possiblity

Washington Wizards v Los Angeles Clippers
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The fact Doc Rivers played Hedo Turkoglu 11 minutes a game last season speaks less to where Turkoglu’s game is and more to how bad the Clipper bench was — Los Angeles was 8.2 points per 100 possessions better when he was on the bench rather than on the court. Yet he was still playing better than Spencer Hawes most of the time, so he got a little run. During the playoffs, Turkoglu got five minutes a game.

Turkoglu is a free agent, and he wants at least one more run at the NBA, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

Divac may be the GM in Sacramento, but he already had 14 guaranteed contracts on the roster. That leaves one spot open, although most teams leave that that last roster slot empty to allow flexibility with trades or to bring in someone due to injury. Is Divac going to give that up for Turkoglu? It’s a little hard to imagine.

I appreciate Turkoglu wanting to get to 1,000 games, and if he is patient he may get a call in season, when a team that has suffered injuries needs to pick up a big body. But right now, the market is pretty dry.

Report: Joe Johnson “pumped” that Deron Williams bought out by Nets

joe johnson nets sleeved alternates
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When Brooklyn bought out Deron Williams and waived him, the primary reason discussed was all the money the Nets would save as they worked to get out of the luxury tax.

But there were other reasons — William’s melancholy demeanor had worn on the Nets locker room, according to people close to the team. Moving him would mean an improved chemistry.

That starts with Joe Johnson. The Nets have tried to move him (no matter they spin now), but with Williams gone the plan has shifted to keep him, and the team expects a bounce back season from Johnson and other Nets returnees, reports Nets Daily.

Moreover, various sources inside the Nets have suggested that the departure of D-Will is likely to help Johnson rebound. It was no secret that Brooklyn’s Backcourt didn’t get along….

One insider, asked after the buyout if the Nets were still pursuing a Johnson trade, firmly said no. He volunteered there was probably no one more pumped about the buyout than Johnson.  “I am sure Joe will have a tremendous season,” he added with a smile.

It’s also the last year of Johnosn’s contract, his play this year will set the tone for what he gets paid next summer — which will be less than the $24.9 million he is owed this year. Johnson was solid last season, averaging 14.4 points per game, hitting 35 percent from three, and with a true shooting percentage pf 52.3 percent right near the league average. In the playoffs, he averaged 16.5 points per game.

His massive salary, by the way, is the other key reason the Nets didn’t move Johnson — that’s a lot of money to move. Teams willing to take it on were going to want to send players and contracts back that were going to last beyond just one season. The Nets didn’t want that.

What they want is to get out of the tax and spend money on a few quality but not max players, not one superstar.

But that’s next summer. First comes a season where we will see what Jarrett Jack can do for them at the point, and if just re-signed Thaddeus Young and Brook Lopez can stay healthy and take a step forward.

 

NBA lands in Africa trying to put down roots, which is all about youth programs, infrastructure

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Under David Stern and now Adam Silver, the NBA has tried to grow its brand across the globe and establish itself as the world’s premier basketball league. That has meant games and outreach to Europe, China, South America, India and the Philippines.

Now the NBA has landed in Africa for the first-ever NBA game on that continent — a Team Africa vs. Team World exhibition featuring some of the biggest names in the league Saturday in Johannesburg, South Africa. Chris Paul, Luol Deng, and Marc Gasol will be there, as will be native Nigerians and NBA players Al-Farouq Aminu and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Twenty NBA players in all are taking part, along with coaches Gregg Popovich of the Spurs and Mike Budenholzer of the Atlanta Hawks.

“It’s incredible to see all these guys here,” said Raptors GM Masai Ujiri on a conference call Thursday.

“It’s an honor to be part of this,” said Bismack Biyombo, the new Raptors center and native of the Congo, on the same call. “Growing up here in Africa you watch an NBA game every now and then, or when someone had one recorded.”

Much of the talk about growing the sport in Africa has seemed to focus on the NBA brand — bringing an NBA preseason or maybe even regular season game to the continent. That’s a long ways away — Saturday’s exhibition will be in a 4,000-seat arena — but it’s a possibility.

“We’ve definitely had discussions, but they are elementary in some ways…” Ujiri said. “(The Raptors) would definitely be a team that would be very, very interested.”

The real test, however, is not bringing another NBA game to Africa, but finding ways to grow the sport at a grassroots level in Africa.

“The reason you see African nations (doing well internationally) in soccer — or football — now is that we played at a young age,” Ujiri noted. “You just had a ball and two rocks to be the goals, as I used to play growing up.”

Growing youth basketball will mean building infrastructure — in the USA we just expect to see even pocket parks in cities with a basketball hoop. They are ubiquitous, as are youth hoops programs. All of that is lacking in Africa, where soccer but not basketball is part of the culture.

“One thing to come out of this will be more camps, more clinics, more games, more youth competition, and from that you get into infrastructure, and building more courts,” Ujiri said, adding that what the NBA needs to help do is “coach the coaches” who will help teach the game.

“We’ve worked with kids the past few years here, and I worked with kids in the Congo the last few weeks, and the potential is here,” Biyombo said. “The problem we all have is we started playing basketball late. That’s why we’ve been trying to build courts around the country.”

The game Saturday is just one step in that direction, but exposing the youth of Africa to the highest levels of the game is a start. Now comes the hard part of building that youth infrastructure.

The words that kept coming up in everyone’s press conferences was the potential of the market and the youth in Africa.

“There is talent there,” Ujiri said of Africa. “It’s how this motivates them and the opportunities it creates for them.”

“I want (African youth) to use basketball as a way to gain an education because all of them are not going to make it to the NBA,” Biyombo said. “I want to show them they can reach their dream with a lot of hard work.”

“Africa is a continent with huge potential and many different levels,” said Pau Gasol, who also will take part in the game and spoke with the media Thursday. “It has a lot of struggles, but it’s worth investing the time and the effort and the energy to give this country and this continent a chance, and I think a lot of players are coming out and obviously have come out already, but there’s potential that a lot more younger players can come out and be ready and become great basketball players and have an opportunity to have a great life for themselves and their families.”

Mark Cuban says trading for Rajon Rondo was tough call, “came down to a coin flip”

Houston Rockets v Dallas Mavericks
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The Rajon Rondo trade didn’t end well for Dallas or Rondo last season.

Rondo averaged 9.3 points and 6.5 assists per game in Dallas, with a true shooting percentage of 46 percent (numbers close to what he had done recently in Boston). But Rondo never meshed well with coach Rick Carlisle and the Dallas offense, which up until his arrival had been one of the NBA’s best. It was a clash of styles. Rondo’s lack of a jump shot had teams sagging off him, he dominated the ball at times, and the result was the Mavericks’ offense lost its spacing. Bottom line, the Dallas offense was 5 points per 100 possessions worse when Rondo was on the court. He improved the Dallas defense by 1.7 points per 100 possessions, but that was not enough to make up for the offensive issues. Everything deteriorated, and midway through their playoff series with Houston, Dallas ended the Rondo experiment.

Getting Rondo may not have worked out, but it was the kind of gamble owner Mark Cuban is known for. That said, he told Zach Lowe of Grantland during a recent Lowe Post Podcast that the decision to get Rondo was not unanimous in the front office, instead it was more of a coin flip (hat tip to Tim MacMahon for the transcription).

“Everybody went back and forth 100 times. There was no 100 percent, yeah, let’s all go do it. Everybody changed their mind 50 times. At the end, it really came down to a coin flip more than anything else. And the coin flip was as much about, is there going to be anything else that we could do? Because we knew we had to do something. But that’s the way it all worked out, and what’s done is done. No hard feelings. He has his approach to basketball. Look, where I give him credit, he came as a 29 percent free throw shooter and left as a 77 percent free throw shooter because he put the work in. I would bet every penny I had to bet against him shooting 3s, and by the end, working with our guys, he ended up shooting 35 percent I think from 3s and actually was somewhat consistent at the end. There were other reasons why it didn’t work, but one of the reasons it almost could have worked is because he was a hard worker. He really did put in the time to make it work.”

Cuban is right, Dallas was strong on offense early in the season but clearly was a team not on the elite tiers of the West with the Warriors, Spurs, Clippers or Rockets. Getting Rondo was a gamble that didn’t pay off, but the end result of a first-round playoff exit was where Dallas was heading without him. Nothing much changed, it was simply the hopes of Mavericks fans that spiked and fell.

However, just because this didn’t work out, don’t expect Cuban and the Mavericks to be gun shy the next time there’s a risk to take.

Both sides have moved on, with Rondo landing in an interesting situation in Sacramento. Cuban and the Mavs will be looking to roll the dice again.