Kurt Helin

2015 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot

D’Angelo Russell says Kobe Bryant is “mentally on another level”

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The big headlines involving Lakers’ rookie D’Angelo Russell and Kobe Bryant this off-season came from an innocuous comment about Tracy McGrady and Kobe’s amusing Twitter reaction.

But the Lakers drafted Russell No. 2 because they saw a little Kobe in him, in the way he approached the game. They saw the mentality that helped make Kobe a star.

Russell threw out the first pitch at Dodger Stadium recently (he threw a strike) and before he went out he talked with Serena Winters of Lakers Nation about his mentality and what he sees in Kobe (hat tip Matt Moore at Eye on Basketball).

“I always preach, I didn’t get here from being the most athletic guy, the fastest guy, the tallest guy, or the strongest, I got here from my mind.”

And, that’s also what he respects so much about Kobe Bryant.

“That’s something when I watch Kobe interviews or listen to Kobe talk, he’s mentally on another level, when I listen to him, I relate to that.”

Russell is saying the right things, although following through with a Kobe-like mentality is different from talking about it. We’ll see where Russell ultimately falls on that scale.

It’s been discussed plenty that Russell didn’t have a great Summer League, that he was trying to do too much, and he struggled to catch up with the speed of the game. It’s also almost meaningless — plenty of players who had rough Summer Leagues had good seasons, while the list of Summer League MVPs who didn’t do much in the league is long. What matters is what Russell learned and how he grows from that experience. Can he apply those lessons when the games get real in late October?

That will be the true test of his mentality, because the learning curve for point guards in the NBA is steep.

Tony Parker talks about playing for legacy with Spurs, France

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When you talk about the greatest European players in NBA history, Tony Parker’s name has to come up. He’s a four-time NBA champion including one where he was Finals MVP (2007), a six-time All-Star, four times All-NBA second team, plus he has a European championship where he was the unquestioned leader of the French team.

At age 33, he is back defending that Euro title starting today (Saturday).

You can bet Gregg Popovich would prefer Parker be back in San Antonio prepping for the season in a lower-risk environment, but Parker told ESPN that playing for this title is about his legacy, and he can’t pass it up.

“My idol was Michael Jordan,” Parker said. “He was always motivated to get better. Lots of people have asked me, ‘Tony, why do you continue to play for the French national team? There’s nothing to prove.’ But I’m motivated, to play as long as possible, to use my talents for as long as possible and to push my limits.

“You look for things to motivate you. There’s history you can look at. There have been many great teams that have come before you: Yugoslavia, the great teams, Spain [now]. They’re a super example for us. … Perhaps in 10, 15, 20 years, we’ll have inspired the basketball players of France.”

Parker is the best player ever to come out of France (a country that had 10 players on NBA rosters at the start of last season). When the discussion turns to the greatest European player ever in the NBA the first answer is usually Dirk Nowitzki, and with good reason. But Parker should be mentioned in that same breath.

Now, he says, “it’s an honor to be in a conversation for the best European player in history. You don’t think of that when you start. You have all the names, guys like [Toni] Kukoc, [Drazen] Petrovic who stood out in European basketball. It’s bizarre to think of someone from France being near No. 1.”

It’s not as bizarre as it used to be, which is part of Parker’s legacy.

Hawks’ Dennis Schroder has a pretty cool shoe ad

Atlanta Hawks v Cleveland Cavaliers - Game Four
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You probably are not familiar with Snipes, the German athletic shoe store.

But the Hawks’ Dennis Schroder is — the German native will be suiting up for his national team next week for EuroBasket. And he took part in a pretty impressive Snipes ad recently.

Hat tip Sportando.

Nuggets’ Jusuf Nurkic will be ready near start of season. Or soon after.

Los Angeles Lakers v Denver Nuggets
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Jusuf Nurkic was thrust into the starting center role for the Nuggets last season when they traded Timofey Mozgov to the Cavaliers — and he showed a lot of promise.

He’s a rookie, he was raw, and his per-game numbers were as well, but his per-minute numbers showed real promise — 15.3 points, 13.6 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per-36 minutes. He showed some real defensive aptitude — the Nuggets were 10.6 points per 100 possessions better when he was on the floor. This is a guy who could develop into a quality NBA center.

But the Nuggets may not have him at 100 percent to start the season. From the Denver Post.

One Nuggets player missing out on (EuroBasket) is center Jusuf Nurkic. The big man was set to play for Bosnia and Herzegovina, but knee surgery in late spring put an end to that. Nurkic has been rehabbing the knee in Denver with hopes of being ready when the season starts or soon thereafter.

Nurkic has work to do this coming season. He needs to reduce his foul rate, he seemed to struggle with the speed of the game at times. He needs to become more efficient when he does shoot, because beyond three feet he doesn’t hit 40 percent of his shots.

But there is promise, which is why if he’s not 100 percent they need to be patient. It’s about the long term, not winning games in November.

Report: Kendall Marshall near deal with Sixers

Milwaukee Bucks v Cleveland Cavaliers
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The Sixers could use a point guard who can effectively get the ball into the post for guys like Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel. They have a few PGs on the roster — Tony Wroten, Isaiah Canaan, Pierre Jackson, Scottie Wilbekin, T.J. McConnell — but none are particularly thrilling.

Enter Kendall Marshall.

He’s not thrilling either — particularly his shooting or the fact he’s coming off an ACL surgery — but Philadelphia sees him as a better option and is  about to sign him to a deal, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

Free-agent guard Kendall Marshall is finalizing a multiyear contract with the Philadelphia 76ers, league sources told Yahoo Sports….

Marshall has been rehabilitating a torn anterior cruciate ligament in Chapel Hill, N.C., over the past few months and worked out this past week for the 76ers in Philadelphia. Marshall is expected to return sometime in the first half of the upcoming season, league sources said.

The Sixers are still in the tanking/rebuilding/however-they-wish-to-define-it mode and so being patient to get a known quantity point guard until the second half of the season is not an issue.

Marshall is just 24 and could develop into a reliable point guard — he can dish the rock but has question marks just about everywhere elseAt least he can be a respectable trade chip for the Sixers, so the deal makes sense for them. Just don’t expect more wins because of it.