Kurt Helin

D'Angelo Russell, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

New report says D’Angelo Russell would be just fine playing in Philadelphia

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First came D’Angelo Russell missing a workout with the Sixers because he was “sick.” Clearly this was him trying to avoid going to Philadelphia… until he showed up for a rescheduled workout and killed it.

Then came the report that Russell doesn’t want to play in Philadelphia.

You had to know the counter to that report was coming, and it did from an incredibly reliable source — Jonathan Givony of Draft Express.

I know most fans in Philly want to see the team draft Russell because the impressive point guard out of Ohio State — a guy who can score but also has great court vision and passing skills — fits well on paper with a front line of Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid and, eventually, Dario Saric. I also know that having Sam Hinkie as your GM means a flood of rumors and reports, including reliable ones that Hinkie is seriously considering drafting seven-foot, sweet-shooting Euro Kristaps Porzingis.

As for the Russell rumors…

Two outside forces are at play here. First, the New York Knicks would love Russell to fall to them — if that happens, they keep the pick and take him. (The Knicks also would love Jahlil Okafor to fall to them, that’s not happening.) So if the Knicks can float rumors that make it less likely Philly takes Russell, why wouldn’t they do it? Second, Russell’s agent knows the marketing potential of his client landing in NYC, and he’d be far from the first agent to try and steer his client toward a major market in the draft.

All that said, none of it matters — if Hinkie and the Sixers decide Russell is their man, they can take him, and he basically has to play there. This isn’t the NFL where a top draft pick can Eli Manning his way to New York. If the Sixers draft Russell, he’ll go (unless he wants to sit out all basketball for a year, re-enter the draft, and then again be at the mercy of franchises he may not wish to play for).

The ball is in the Sixers court; they just may take that ball and go play in Europe.

Report: Rockets look to bring back rookies K.J. McDaniels, Kostas Papanikolaou.

Utah Jazz v Houston Rockets
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Kostas Papanikolaou played in just more than half the Rockets’ games this past season, and got 18.5 minutes a night when he did get in. K.J. McDaniels had been a stud rookie in Philadelphia but barely saw the court in Houston as the season wore on (then fractured his elbow in the season finale).

The Rockets were the No. 2 seed and a Western Conference Finals participant, they are not a team flush with minutes to develop rookies like Papanikolaou and McDaniels. Yet, watch the best teams in the NBA and they find ways to replenish their roster and stay young (and athletic) by developing younger players.

Which is why the Rockets want both Papanikolaou and McDaniels back, reports Jonathan Feigen at the Houston Chronicle.

KJ McDaniels will be a free agent, but the Rockets hope to sign him. The Rockets do want to bring back Kostas Papanikolaou, but Rosas said “a decision has not been made” about whether to exercise their option on the second year of his contract or to try to sign him again as a free agent.

They likely will bring both back.

McDaniels is a restricted free agent, and while there will be some interest, a guy coming off an elbow fracture is not going to draw the kind of offer that Houston would hesitate to match. With Papanikolaou, the Rockets likely pick up his option, then have him as a restricted free agent next summer.

The Rockets have other, higher priorities to focus on this summer — what to do at the point guard spot, adding depth up front — so the rookies are not on the front burner. If those two want to see the court more next season, the quickest way to do it is develop a quality three-point shot — the Rockets are looking to add shooters. Start to show that off and minutes will follow.

Jamal Crawford shows up, puts on show at Isaiah Thomas’ basketball tournament

Los Angeles Clippers v Houston Rockets - Game Seven
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The free-flowing, light-defense, street-ball games of the summer pro-am and tournament circuit fits the game of some NBA players more than others.

It fits Jamal Crawford like a tailored suit.

The Clippers’ Crawford showed off his game Memorial Day weekend in Tacoma, Wash., (remember Crawford is from the Seattle area) at Celtics’ guard Isaiah Thomas’ Memorial Day Zeke-End Basketball Tournament. The best part of this video is when Crawfords decides to try and nutmeg (go between the legs) of Boston’s Kelly Olynyk.

Aside this one defender, Crawford is just too much for everyone involved. Watching NBA guys destroy lesser talent is one of the joys of summer.

(Hat tip Eye on Basketball)

Quote of the day: Joey Crawford once gave a technical foul so hard he broke a finger

Joey Crawford
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“One night, I hit Bill Fitch with a technical so hard, I broke my finger. My finger was all swollen. I slammed my whole hand down on it when I gave the signal. That’s why I changed my signal to a little one-finger tap — because I broke it once the old way.”

—Joey Crawford, veteran NBA referee, reminiscing about his career in a fantastic New York Times article.

There are 30 NBA fan bases convinced Joey Crawford has it in for their team. He is distinctive, he has a big personality, and he is fearless — if your team is on the road, you should be happy to see Crawford. No referee is less influenced by fans and more likely to make a tough call against the home team than Crawford.

Go read the New York Times story, it’s filled with a lot of insight into Crawford — who I have always found to be affable and with a great sense of humor off the court — and it’s filled with great stories.

“Moses Malone was one of the funniest. We were in Denver, I think he was playing with Philly at the time, and that day, a reporter had done a top-10 referee list and my name was in there. So my first call of the night is like a loose-ball foul on Moses, and Moses just turns and says, “That is not a top-10 call.” I had to laugh.”

 

His former Spanish teammate Marcus Landry says Kristaps Porzingis should be No. 1 pick

CCajasol-Obradoiro en San Pablo.
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For many NBA fans — and a few front office types — Kristaps Porzingis is a mystery man. He’s a seven-footer out of Latvia and the Spanish league who has a sweet outside shooting stroke and the ability to finish in the lane.

But how good is he?

Good enough that he should be in the mix for the No. 1 pick if you ask the Bucks’ Marcus Landry And why should you ask Landry? Because he andPorzingas were teammates at Cajasol Sevilla in the Spanish ABC league (the second best league in the world right now).

Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times did ask Landry and got a glowing report.

“It sad nobody really knows much about this kid right now because he played in Spain,’’ Landry said. “I think this kid is amazing.’’…

“Honestly, I think Kristaps should be the No. 1 pick if you’re going to base it off potential,’’ Landry said. “I personally think he’s the best kid in the draft. And I’m not saying that because he’s a friend of mine.

“I know basketball. I’ve been in the NBA; I’ve been around NBA players. I’d tell you if he sucks. But he’s really good. If he goes beyond No. 2, that would be a mistake on some team’s part.’’

There are scouts that agree with Landry.

Porzingas is big but what grabs scouts attention is the fluidity of his game — he plays like a three on the wing, but can finish with authority in the paint. He can thrive in an uptempo game, or a league trending small. The biggest plus is a sweet shooting stroke, a quick release that already has NBA three-point range.  His length and athleticism make him strong on the glass, and his length allows him to block shots in the paint. He is the walking definition of a guy with upside.

He has to put on muscle, and he needs time to develop a better feel for the game. The team that drafts him may be three years away from really knowing what they got.

But if you ask Landry, they are getting a franchise player.

Porzingas will be drafted somewhere between the Sixers at No. 3 — GM Sam Hinkie likes him and D’Angelo Russell — and No. 5, no way he falls past the Magic. In between are the Knicks at No. 4, a team willing to trade their pick.