Author: Kurt Helin

Otto Porter Jr., Giannis Antetokounmpo

Giannis Antetokounmpo excited about playing some point guard

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The Milwaukee Bucks have a starting point guard in Brandon Knight, if they want to be traditional.

However, the Bucks have an untraditional talent — Giannis Antetokounmpo. He’s a 6’11” two-guard who runs the floor like a gazelle, plus he has handles, the ability to drive, and good court vision. All that open up a lot of possibilities.

Like Antetokounmpo the point guard (not just a point forward, but playing the one). Jason Kidd tried it out at Summer League (with mixed results, he averaged 17 points a game on 40.2 percent shooting, plus 3.3 assists a game) and now is going to try it out some during the NBA season. The Bucks are so invested in the idea they are bringing in Gary Payton as a consultant to work with him.

Antetokounmpo is pumped about the opportunity he told Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders.

“I’m not going to say I was shocked by it,” Antetokounmpo told Basketball Insiders when asked about the move to point guard. “It’s something that I feel comfortable with and I’ll play wherever Coach wants me to play, especially when it’s Coach Kidd who thinks that I can play point guard. That makes me feel like, ‘I can play it. I can play point guard.’ I’m going to try my best and just listen to Coach. I’ll do whatever Coach says to do and I’ll get more comfortable.”

As for Gary Payton and Kidd working with him.

“Oh man, it’s really important and nice, since they’re some of the best point guards in NBA history,” Antetokounmpo said of Kidd and Payton. “Not only are they great point guards, they’re great basketball players and can help us all basketball wise. Whatever they say, that is what I’m going to do. I’m so happy to have guys like them as I figure out the position and to have them teach me. I’m really excited. I’ve talked with Jason Kidd and he’s a really good coach, but he’s also a really great guy. He treats us really well.”

This is the kind of experiment the Bucks need to try — they cannot think inside the box. Simply put, Milwaukee is not the market elite free agents will flock to unless another star is there (and of course, plenty of money). Think Cleveland with and without LeBron and how Kevin Love viewed it. If the Bucks are going to build an elite team they need some big hits in the draft, which they hope Jabari Parker will be.

But Antetokounmpo can be special because of his talents and because he just does not fit the mold. If he is a 6’11” point guard (or even a two guard with the ball in his hands, ala James Harden) that could be a unique piece.

It’s also a process. They can’t just try it a little in camp and abandon it. They need to give it shots during the season and suffer through the growing pains (this is asking a lot of Antetokounmpo).

Good on Kidd and the Bucks for trying it. Good on Antetokounmpo for buying in. It’s going to be interesting to watch

LeBron James says he’s down to 250 pounds, “that’s not such a good thing for the competition”

LeBron James

LeBron James is back in Cleveland and he is ready to run. Literally. He is thinner and quicker and ready to get up and down the court.

LeBron sat down for an episode of “CNN’s Unguarded with Rachel Nichols” (which airs Friday at 10:30 p.m. ET) and he discussed his weight loss among a variety of other topics with the reporter who owns Roger Goodell (but that’s another topic).

LEBRON: I’m in the 250ish range, you know, a lot lighter than I’ve been playing at in the last few years. But I feel good….

NICHOLS: And what did you eat or not eat?

LEBRON: I’ll tell you what I couldn’t have. No carbs, no sugar, no dairy, no refined sugar– no nothing. Meat. Fish. Veggies. Fruit.

NICHOLS: What was the hardest thing to give up?

LEBRON: It was either pancakes or chocolate chip cookies and ice cream….

NICHOLS: Are you quicker on the court now?

LEBRON: I am. I am. And that’s not such a good thing for the competition.

Basically, LeBron went Paleo.

Don’t think this means a skinny, weak LeBron — as Dave Zirin noted 250 is still heavier than Patrick Ewing was at age 25, and Ewing was taller. LeBron is still going to be strong going to the rim at that weight but for a guy thinking about the future now and longevity (to go with his legacy) being lighter is a good thing for the knees and legs.

LeBron also talked about meeting with Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and getting past the comic sans, ranting letter Gilbert wrote right after LeBron bolted for Cleveland — a letter that seemed a big hurdle to any James return.

LEBRON: Well, you know, it was a straightforward conversation. It was no beating around the bush. He basically said, you know, “No matter what decision you make, we wanted to clear the air. And — you know, to where we can if we see each other in — in public or we see each other wherever, if I’m competing’ against you — we can always shake each other’s hands and look at the fun times that we had — in Cleveland while we were together instead of focus on a one night that kind of, you know– everyone kind of focuses on.”

The two also discussed if LeBron might have stayed in Miami if they won a title, the timing of the move, and how since coming to Cleveland he has tried to tamp down expectations.

Catch the full interview on CNN Friday night.

Kevin Durant plays NBA 2K as LeBron (VIDEO)

NBA 2K15 promo

Kevin Durant is on the cover of NBA 2K15 and he is the NBA’s reigning MVP.

And when he plays NBA 2K, he plays it as LeBron James.

Durant went on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon Wednesday night to pimp NBA 2K15 a little, plus talks a little NBA. Fallon is a gamer and started talking with Durant about it, saying he could beat him, and KD talked about how intense he was at the game.

Then when asked if he played as himself Durant said no, that would be “arrogant.”

So he plays as LeBron.

That’s totally fair.

Notice he doesn’t play as Kendrick Perkins.

Report: Aron Baynes near deal to return to Spurs for next season

Patty Mills Foot Locker In Store Appearance
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The Spurs are getting the band back together.

Which makes sense — that band won the NBA title and played the most beautiful brand of basketball we have seen in the NBA in years. Why break that up?

The final piece from last year was Aron Baynes, the reserve big man from Australia who had recently explored getting more money in China and other options, but is now ready to return to the fold, reports Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express News.

This will be his third NBA season. Baynes played a limited role for the Spurs last season, getting in just 53 games and averaging 9.3 minutes when he did. He’s a decent rebounder and can score right around the rim but has not shown much range. He’s been a development project that the Spurs can afford to take on with Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter up front, plus guys like Matt Bonner there as reserves.

Baynes showed some of that development leading Australia at the World Cup this summer with 16.8 points and 7 rebounds a game. The Aussies made it to the round of 16 where they lost by one point to Turkey.

With the signing of Baynes the Spurs will be at the full 15 guaranteed roster spots. Of those, 14 were members of the title team from last season, the only change is that Damion James is out (now with the Wizards) replaced by rookie Kyle Anderson.

John Salmons in running to start for Pelicans at small forward

John Salmons

Three of the five starting spots for the New Orleans Pelicans are set in stone: Jrue Holiday at the point, Anthony Davis at the four and Omer Asik at center.

Out on the wings there is some talent but there are questions, too. At the two guard spot I expect Eric Gordon to win out and start but Tyreke Evans is in that mix. Either way coach Monty Williams has some solid options.

Then over the three… how about John Salmons? That’s not a good option anymore, but it may be the best one. He turns 35 this season and didn’t impress last season in Sacramento or Toronto (he had a PER of 7.8), although he did shoot 38 percent from three. Bottom line is Salmons is going to get a shot reports John Reid at the Times Picayune.

It’s likely that Salmons, a 12-year veteran, will be in a competitive battle with third-year forward Darius Miller and Luke Babbitt for the starting job. Also, it has not been ruled out that swingman Tyreke Evans could move into the spot as a starter if Pelicans coach Monty Williams decides to stick with Eric Gordon as the starting shooting guard.

That last option (starting Gordon and Evans) seems the most logical, but I get why Williams would want to bring the scoring firepower of Evans off the bench as a sixth man. However, Williams only has that option if he can trust Salmons to find his old form (or for Babbitt or Morris to really step up their games). If you start Evans then frankly none of those backup options are very thrilling.

Salmons used to be a solid wing, but his game has dropped off with age dramatically in recent seasons. He has ball handling skills but used to drive and shoot or create, plus he got to the line, now he really doesn’t draw fouls anymore. If he can give the Pelicans any kind of consistent play starting or off the bench it would be a huge boost for a team that should be dramatically better and maybe even threaten for a playoff spot. But I expect Monty Williams and the Pelicans management will spend a lot of time looking for better options at the three.