Kurt Helin

Hoop Dreams

Trail Blazers not cool with Pat Connaughton playing pro baseball during offseason

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In 2015, Pat Connaughton was drafted in the second round of the NBA Draft by the Nets , then quickly traded to Portland in the Rondae Hollis-Jefferson deal. Connaughton was selected because he can shoot the rock, hitting 42 percent from three at Notre Dame last season, and because he showed off a 44-inch vertical at the combine.

In 2014, Pat Connaughton was drafted in the fourth round of the Major League Baseball Draft by the Baltimore Orioles (he would have gone higher had he not told teams he was returning to ND to play another year of hoops). The Orioles saw a pitcher with a 96-MPH fastball, one they liked enough to give a $428,100 signing bonus. He pitched a summer of Class-A ball for them and reportedly looked good.

Connaughton’s dream is to go Bo Jackson, playing pro hoops in Portland through the winter, then when that season ended hopping a plane out to Baltimore and pitching for the Orioles.

That’s not how it’s going to go down. Not yet anyway. Here’s Blazers GM Neil Olshey speaking to Ian Thompson of NBA.com.

“That’s not happening,” says Neil Olshey, the general manager of the Blazers. “The conversation we had with Pat prior to all of this was you’re an NBA player now. Being an NBA player is not a part-time job….

“The time when Pat would be going to play baseball is a time when you’re working on your game and getting better,” Olshey says. “You see how valuable July is. During the development phase, when you’re a second-round pick in the NBA and you have a ways to go to have a translatable skill-set in our league, you need Summer League, you need Grg’s camp (run by Bucks assistant Tim Grgurich), you need to spend the offseason in the gym. You can’t do that on a part-time basis.”

Connaughton signed a four-year deal with Portland where the first two years are fully guaranteed — he’s an NBA player for the next couple years. He’ll get the chance to prove he can be one for longer than that if he puts in the work and develops into more than just a shooter (his defense is going to have to improve).

In a few years, if Connaughton has established himself in the NBA and is starting to negotiate a second contract with Portland or wherever, then he may have the leverage to say he wants to try playing some baseball in the summer.

Or, if it doesn’t pan out in the NBA he has an impressive fallback career.

But for now, he’s an NBA player, and Connaughton knows he needed to go the NBA route first because it’s a sport where dynamic athleticism is required, and age will factor into that equation. He admitted as much.

“I couldn’t pursue baseball and come back to basketball,” he says. “It would never work.”

Still, somewhere down the line I would love to see Connaughton be able to do both. America could use another two-sport star.

James Harden vs. Klay Thompson at Drew League (VIDEO)

Golden State Warriors v Houston Rockets - Game Three
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We saw it in the Western Conference Finals: James Harden vs. Klay Thompson.

It happened again this week at the Drew League playoffs out in Los Angeles. The two NBA stars led teams against each other in the pro-am event and put on a little show. Harden dropped 15 points, nine rebounds and nine assists to lead his team to the win.

It doesn’t exactly make up for the playoffs, but Harden will take it.

Hat tip to Eye on Basketball.

Kevin Durant was back on court, swatting kids shots, at youth camp

Miami Heat v Oklahoma City Thunder
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If you’re looking for positives in Oklahoma City, Kevin Durant was back on the court and swatting shots again this week.

Of course, he was blocking the shots of five-year-olds (give or take). Again. It’s his thing (hat tip Dan Devine at Ball Don’t Lie).

He wasn’t done there.

I pity the future for Durant’s own kids in driveway games.

Durant is expected to be cleared for contact in the next month. While you can bet Scott Brooks takes it easy on him during training camp, Durant should be fully ready to go by the start of the Thunder’s season.

Stephen Curry’s mouthguard hanging halfway out of his mouth now in NBA 2K16 (VIDEO)

Golden State Warriors v New Orleans Pelicans
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It is one of Stephen Curry’s signatures — his mouth guard dangling halfway out of his mouth during free throws and other stoppages in play.

That’s now in NBA 2K16, too. They are into the details like that.

We already showed you a few of the screenshots from the game, set to be released in October. Once again 2K Sports is getting the details right and pushing the edge with this game.

Gerald Green talks about embarrassment, getting past losing part of ring finger on right hand

Denver Nuggets v Phoenix Suns
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It’s a story we’ve talked about before at PBT: When Gerald Green was in sixth grade, he was playing hoops on a makeshift rim on top of a doorway, while wearing his mother’s class ring. Green went up to dunk, the ring caught on an exposed nail, and it ripped the flesh off his finger down to the bone. The doctors had to amputate his ring finger on his right hand at the middle knuckle.

It’s as bad as it sounds.

Green was able to overcome that to become a future first-round NBA draft pick out of high school, win the NBA All-Star Dunk Contest, and have an eight-year NBA career (with a couple of seasons playing in Russia in the middle). That will continue this season with the Miami Heat.

Despite all that, it took a long time to get over the embarrassment of losing that finger, something Green talked about with Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel.

…when selected in the first round of the 2005 NBA draft by the Boston Celtics, came a moment of truth. “If you go back and look at the David Stern tape,” he said during a private moment Thursday about meeting the NBA commissioner, “when I go shake his hand I have my right hand in my pocket. He tells me, ‘Take your hand out of your pocket.’

“I always have been a little shy about that. But I think it’s getting better once I get older. I just want to be able to inspire people with that…

“I think what really hurt me were the aftereffects,” he said, “the getting made fun of, scared to talk about it because I was so ashamed of it, or always hiding my hand in my pocket.

“That was the thing that I had to go through. And as a little kid, obviously kids like to make fun of you because you have this or that. It was something I went through. But it taught me to be who I am today.”

The image of an NBA player in high school is he is the cool kid, the BMOC, the guy every other guy wants to be and every girl wants to be with. For some, that is the reality. But for some it is different — NBA players have had their difficult adjustments through their teenage years (they tend to be tall and awkward), just like the rest of us. The Lakers’ Roy Hibbert talked about that and his battles with depression openly recently.

If Green can use his story to help inspire some youth to accept who they are and face their challenges, then all the better.