Kurt Helin

Vin Baker

Former NBA All-Star Vin Baker training to be Starbucks manager

10 Comments

Vin Baker was in Las Vegas for NBA Summer League, working as an assistant coach for the Milwaukee Bucks. He was also there networking — what really goes on in Las Vegas, between scouts, GMs, coaches and the media. In Baker’s case, he was working to find an NBA assistant coaching job.

That didn’t seem to pan out, so he’s going to his fall back — owning a Starbucks.

Which means learning how to run a Starbucks. He is going through training on that now, something he talked about with Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal.

The world’s tallest, and perhaps most famous, barista is stationed behind a busy coffee counter. His smile and easy-going style welcome customers looking for their Starbucks fix as they fastbreak to work or South County’s beaches….

This is Vin Baker’s world these days. This is the same Baker who grew up in Old Saybrook, Conn., and went on to become one of New England’s all-time great collegiate basketball players at the University of Hartford. It’s the same Baker who won Olympic gold in 2000, played in four NBA All-Star Games and spent 13 years in the pros, including parts of two seasons with the Celtics.

It’s also the same Baker who battled alcoholism toward the end of his career. That addiction, plus a series of financial missteps ranging from a failed restaurant to simply too many hands dipping into his gold-plated cookie jar, combined to wipe out nearly $100 million in earnings.

Now 43, newly married and with four children, Baker is training to manage a Starbucks franchise.

Baker has experience and perspective that a lot of young NBA players could benefit from (at least those who would listen). But getting a foot in the door in the NBA is not easy, even for former All-Star players.

Whether owning or managing a Starbucks, what matters is that Baker is sober — four years now — and on a path that works for him. If you choose to view this as another athlete who blew through their money, ask yourself if you were an instant millionaire at 20, with a lot of other perks thrown at you, how mature would your decisions have been?

I’ll see this as a case of redemption, of a guy who got his life back and under control. I’d love to see him back around the NBA, but if not in a Starbucks works, too.

Amir Johnson struggled to pick Boston’ number because “every number 1-34 is basically retired”

Amir Johnson
4 Comments

Celtics fans are going to love Amir Johnson. (Toronto fans and teammates are going to miss him.) He is the definition of a hard-working, blue-collar NBA player who does all the dirty work and does it well. He could have fit in with the Celtics of any era.

But one part of his transition to Boston was difficult — picking a uniform number. Jimmy Toscano at CSNNE.com has Johnson’s quote about his new number in green.

“Number 90. Every number 1-34 is basically retired,” Johnson said. “My first initial number, I picked No. 5, but I know there was going to kind of be some controversy with that because Kevin Garnett won a championship. So I knew that was pretty much out the [window]. My number of course was retired (15, Tommy Heinsohn). And I recently posted a picture on my social network . . . it was a team back in the 90’s, like ’97, ’96, I played for my first organized basketball team which was the Burbank Celtics. It was a Celtics team. So I just kind of put that together. The 90’s were good. I was born in ’87 but the 90’s were good.”

The 90s were good if you can ignore Creed, Fred Durst and the rat-tail hairstyle.

Here are those Burbank Celtics:

#Tbt celtics squad #90s 🍀

A photo posted by @iamamirjohnson on

And his player card from that team:

#tbt been a Celtic #90s 🍀

A photo posted by @iamamirjohnson on

Report: Michael Jordan shot down Boston draft-day effort to get Charlotte No. 9 pick

Michael Jordan
32 Comments

It’s a common practice in the NFL draft: Teams trade down to get multiple picks. The move is almost always seen as smart. For the NFL’s annual war of attrition, having the extra bodies makes a lot of sense.

You don’t see it much in the NBA for a reason — you only have a 15-man roster and only nine of them likely play on a given night. Talent wins out, and the talent drop off going down even five or six picks can be steep. If you can get a potential star with your draft pick, you take it, he will matter far more than two guys who may be guys nine and 12 on the bench. However, there are times trading down makes sense in the NBA, if you don’t think you’re getting that star.

That was the situation facing the Hornets in this past draft. They had the No. 9 pick, and Boston wanted it (for Justise Winslow, reportedly, who fell to Miami at No. 10). Boston came knocking on Charlotte’s door with a bevy of picks, and there was a split in Charlotte about whether this was a good idea, reports Zach Lowe at Grantland. For the first time, we know what was offered, and it’s pretty impressive.

Michael Jordan was the ultimate decision maker.

The Celtics offered four first-round picks for the chance to move up from no. 16 to no. 9: that 16th pick, no. 15 (acquired in a prearranged contingency deal with the Hawks), one unprotected future Brooklyn pick, and a future first-rounder from either the Grizzlies or Timberwolves, per sources familiar with the talks.

Some members of Charlotte’s front office liked the Boston deal, but Michael Jordan, the team’s owner and ultimate decision-maker, preferred Kaminsky to a pile of first-rounders outside the lottery, per several sources.

source: Getty ImagesThe bet Jordan made was that Kaminsky is a star. Except nobody projects him that way. He’s a quality big who can pick-and-pop and be part of the rotations, sure. He’s a solid pick. But is he better than four first round picks for a Charlotte team that needs way more talent on the roster?

This feels like something that has happened in Charlotte before: Jordan watches a lot of the NCAA tournament, falls in love with a player who performs well (Kaminsky) and hijacks the draft process. The Hornets will deny this, but it’s how it looks from the outside.

At the No. 15 and 16 picks in this draft, Kelly Oubre and Terry Rozier were taken, although guys such as Jerian Grant, Bobby Portis, and Sam Dekker were still on the board. Kaminsky is more valuable than one of them, but will he ultimately produce more than two of those guys? Plus two future picks? Not likely. Charlotte is stuck in the rut of mediocrity in the East, picking Kaminsky doesn’t move them out of this lane. Do those four picks? Maybe not, but it’s a path, a chance.

Charlotte’s decision makers defended their choice.

“You have two minutes to decide: ‘Do I want to do this trade?’” says (Curtis) Polk, one of five men atop Charlotte’s decision tree. “You don’t have a day. You don’t have hours. After all the intelligence we’d done, we were comfortable with Frank. But now you have two minutes to decide if you make this trade, who you’re gonna take at no. 16, or maybe no. 20, and we haven’t been focusing on that range. In fantasy basketball, it sounds great: ‘Oh my god, they could have gotten all those picks.’ But in the real world, I’m not sure it makes us better.”

Adds Rich Cho, the team’s GM: “If it was such a no-brainer for us, why would another team want to do it?”

Because Boston saw Winslow as a star, and at a position they need help.

On draft night when this came up and the rumors flew around that four picks were being offered, I said it’s tough to say what to do because we didn’t know what the picks were, how far out and how protected. Now that we do… if I were in the Charlotte decision tree I would have pushed to make the deal.

Now we all wait three years and then can look back to see who might have been right. It would have been a difficult decision in the moment, but I’m not sure Charlotte made the right call.

Karl-Anthony Towns: I want Kevin Garnett to teach me “how to be a champion”

Cleveland Cavaliers v Minnesota Timberwolves
7 Comments

Karl-Anthony Towns was impressive at Summer League. He showed a genuine feel for the game and a high basketball IQ, recognising plays and making fantastic passes. He has work to do on his game (like any rookie) but the potential was there.

More impressive than that was how he handled himself off the court. He came off as mature and a guy who gets it. He didn’t just make it by being drafted No. 1, he came off a s a guy who wanted to work and learn. That desire to improve is what separates players in the NBA.

Towns also wants to learn from Kevin Garnett in Minnesota, Towns told the Boomer & Carton show on CBS Sports Radio (Hat tip Eye on Basketball).

“The biggest thing that I want to really take away from Kevin Garnett, is learn how to be a champion,” Towns said on the Boomer & Carton show. “He has a ring. I want to get a ring also, in my career. Possibly multiple. I want to do that and I want to actually bring that to Minnesota first.”

There were stories from last season how, after Garnett agreed to be traded back to Minnesota (he had a no-trade clause he waived), the rookies would show up before practice only to find 38-year-old KG had already been there a couple of hours putting in the work. More than just discussions of technique or handling situations on the court, that lesson about work ethic will be more valuable than any.

Garnett showed up in Las Vegas during Summer League specifically to work out with Towns. Garnett is a walking encyclopedia of NBA knowledge if Towns is willing to tap into it. And it sounds like that is off to a good start.

Mario Hezonja had a few Summer League highlights (VIDEO)

Orlando Magic Blue v Los Angeles Clippers
6 Comments

Be careful reading much into any rookie at Summer League — what we see is simply a starting point. The real determining factor of success is how they grow from this benchmark.

The Magic’s Mario Hezonja only played a couple games in the Orlando Summer League before he was injured, but he showed the mixed bag you’d expect from a rookie. On the downside, he shot just 37 percent and had plenty of rough edges.

But he made some plays, too. Like the ones in this highlight package, which should give Magic fans good reason for hope.