Kurt Helin

Why it’s overdue: Spencer Haywood finally enters HOF

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Finally, a wrong has been righted — this weekend Spencer Haywood enters the Hall of Fame.

Why it’s overdue you see in the video above.

Haywood was a phenomenal player. He averaged 20.3 points and 10.3 rebounds a game over his career, was a five-time All-Star, the ABA’s MVP in 1970, and he has both an Olympic gold medal and an NBA ring (1980 Lakers). But that’s not the biggest impact he had on the game.

It was Haywood who sued the NBA to allow players to leave college early to enter the league. The went all the way to the Supreme Court, which sided 7-2 with Haywood. He paved the way for everyone, including Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, to enter early.

Here’s the NBA’s tribute video:

 

Shaq: Went easy in practice to save energy for games

Los Angeles Lakers' center Shaquille O'Neal (L) la
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It was one of Kobe Bryant‘s big beefs with Shaquille O’Neal — Shaq didn’t go hard in practices, didn’t work hard in the offseason to prepare himself. Kobe’s work ethic is legendary (Phil Jackson said better than Jordan’s) while Shaq pretty much just rolled out there and dominated.

That was by design, according to Shaq. He was channeling Allen Iverson.

Shaq did an interview for “In Depth with Graham Bensinger” that gets released this weekend where he talked about his notoriously soft practice habits.

“In the words of Allen Iverson, ‘We talking about practice?’ Did I work hard in practice? No. Never. And let me tell you why. The guy that I’m playing against, they’re under me. So to try and show that they’re worthy of being an NBA player, they would touch me up. So it was my philosophy… I’m not gonna get touched up twice. I’m not gonna get beat up at practice and in the game. So I will chill in practice and I’ll give you all in the game.”

While he was on a roll, Shaq also said he used to tweak Kobe just to motivate him.

“I had to figure out a way to get him to perform at a high level. And I realized that we were the same people – we don’t like criticism and we turn it into motivation… [Kobe] was a guy that I know if I talk smack, he’s going to come out and try and score 50. I think it worked perfectly.”

Well, maybe not perfectly, but the duo did rack up some rings. But I find it hard to believe this was all Shaq going Phil Jackson/master motivator.

Check out the full interview when it comes out, there are other vintage, no-filter Shaq comments as well.

Report: Clippers consider bringing Pierce off bench

Wesley Johnson, Al-Farouq Aminu
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Paul Pierce has come off the bench in 10 of his 1,408 NBA games (including playoffs). He’s no sixth man.

But Doc Rivers knows he needs Pierce in May and, they hope, June — not so much November and December. Pierce will be 38 by the time the season starts and Rivers has talked about keeping his minutes in check. It has been expected Pierce would start in Matt Barnes slot at the three and play some four as well.

But what if he came off the bench? From Dan Woike of the Orange County Register (hat tip Eye on Basketball):

And with Matt Barnes now in Memphis, it would make sense for Pierce to slide into the starting lineup, a place where he’s been for all but 10 of his 1,400-plus career games. But whispers out of the Clippers’ training facility in Playa Vista make it sound like that plan isn’t set in stone.

Wes Johnson, who the Clippers signed in free agency from the Lakers, is still being considered as an option to start, sending Pierce to the bench.

Bringing Pierce off the bench could be a way to limit minutes and preserve his legs for the postseason. It would also allow Rivers to use Pierce at multiple positions, perhaps at power forward in all-bench lineup with Josh Smith, Lance Stephenson, Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers.

You can see the appeal of this. Pierce could play the four off the bench and then, late in games when he’s needed, slide into the three with the starters, but only for limited minutes.

One thing holds me back from thinking this could work: Wesley Johnson.

I bet right now in workouts in Playa Vista Johnson looks good — he passes the eye test of an NBA player. He is athletic, long, he hints at the promise of versatility — then he gets on the court in an NBA game and none of it materializes. He’s just a guy — one who doesn’t really hurt you too much, but relies on his athleticism and doesn’t show any meaningful NBA-level skills beyond that. Johnson has started 121 games for the Lakers the past two seasons, but did you see that roster? He started because he had to beat out Xavier Henry, Manny Harris, and coach-frustrating Nick Young. Johnson barely looked like a guy you want in your regular rotation, especially if you care about efficiency, with his true shooting percentage of 50.9 and a PER of 11 last season (both well below the league average). He has the physical tools to be a good defender, but often he coasts on that end (especially if his offense isn’t going). He’s struck most people as a bubble NBA rotation player on a good team.

And Doc Rivers is going to start him on a contender?

Because the other four starters on the Clippers are so strong, maybe the idea is he could be hidden a little. Just ask Johnson to do specific things — defend, hit the three (which he does pretty well, 35.1 percent last season), and soak up minutes while Pierce rests. But the Clippers have been looking to upgrade at the three and, to be blunt, the Johnson playing for the Lakers the last couple seasons is no upgrade over the solid professional that is Matt Barnes. It’s a step down.

Which is why the Clippers brought in Pierce in the first place.

Real Madrid president wants his team in NBA

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The idea of an NBA European Division continues to fascinate. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has discussed it before. But it fascinates in the way building a colony on the moon does — it’s fun to imagine and talk about, something else entirely to do.

Now Silver is about to get pressed on it a little.

Silver will be spending some time with the Celtics when they face Real Madrid in the preseason, and the president of the prestigious club is going to ask Silver about joining the NBA, he told ABC.es (hat tip r/nba).

“I would love that Real Madrid play in the NBA. Now comes the commissioner and try to talk to him,” said the leader. Real Madrid will face in early October  the Celtics at the Palace of Sports and will then match Florentino Perez David Silver to make a proposal that would be revolutionary for European basketball.

He can go ahead and present his proposal. I’m going to go ahead and present my wife with a proposal about me buying a Ferarri. These two have the same chances of success.

Silver has said there would need to be five (give or take) European teams willing to make the jump for this to work — a European division would be set up. Other powers like FC Barcelona or CSKA Moscow could join. It sounds fun on paper.

There are just the questions of the quality of facilities, are they up to NBA standards? And the travel logistics. And this complicates broadcast rights deals. And how would a playoff series between Real Madrid and the Golden State Warriors (or any other team) work exactly? And these are just the first handful of challenges.

The first thing we might see is the NBA All-Star Game head overseas down the line, to a modern arena like the O2 in London. One step at a time. Get past that and you can start to think other logistics.

Serbia beats Italy 101-82 to win EuroBasket group

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BERLIN (AP) — Serbia finished the toughest group undefeated at the European basketball championship by beating Italy 101-82 and blasted organizers on Thursday.

Guard Milos Teodosic had 26 points and eight assists as Serbia made sure of winning Group A with a perfect 5-0 record, with both teams heading to the knockout stage in Lille, France.

Spain (3-2) edged Germany 77-76 to also advance from the group. Germany (1-4) was eliminated and gave a rousing standing ovation to Dirk Nowitzki, who may have played his last match for his homeland.

Nemanja Bjelica had 19 points and eight rebounds for Serbia, which shut down Italy’s powerful front line for most of the match.

Andrea Bargnani and Danilo Galinari scored a combined 21 points throughout the first three quarters. Bargnani finished with 17 points and Galinari 14, while Alessandro Gentile led Italy with 19.

Italy (3-2) rested high-scoring guard Marco Belinelli, who has a sore groin muscle.

“Defense is our greatest strength and we used our greatest strength,” Serbia coach Sasa Obradovic said.

Obradovic also criticized the schedule – five group games in six days – with teams often getting less than 24 hours to rest.

“It’s incredibly difficult, it’s not human,” he said.

Sergio Llull made four free throws late against Germany to secure Spain’s victory. Dennis Schroeder could have sent the game into overtime but he made only two of three free throws with three seconds remaining.

Spain had what seemed a safe 10-point lead until Germany rallied late.

Nowitzki and Maodo Lo hit consecutive 3s to bring Germany within one with 23 seconds remaining.

Llull then made two free throws, so did Schroeder, and Llull hit two again. Schroeder went for a 3-pointer and got the call, but missed the last shot from the foul line.

Schroeder finished with a game-high 26 points, and had seven assists and six rebounds. Nowitzki finished with 10 points and seven rebounds. Tibor Pleiss had 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Pau Gasol contributed 16 points and 11 rebounds for Spain, and Sergio Rodriguez added 19 points. Llull had 14.

Serbia will take on Finland in the first knockout game on Sunday. Finland (2-3) finished fourth in Group A after losing 78-65 to Poland (3-2).

Belgium (3-2) made sure of advancing from Group D by beating Ukraine 79-71. Latvia (3-2) also went through after beating Estonia 75-64.

In Group C, Slovenia (3-2) defeated Macedonia 62-51 to make the Round of 16. Georgia (2-3) stunned Croatia 71-58, but host Croatia (3-2) will finish second to Greece, which played the Netherlands in the late match. Six Georgia players scored in double digits.

In a Group A game between two already eliminated teams, Russia salvaged some pride by defeating Bosnia-Herzegovina 81-61.