Kurt Helin

Myles Turner’s goal next season: Average 15-20 points per game

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Myles Turner looked like the big the Pacers needed in his rookie campaign — he could space the floor on offense, he could protect the paint on defense. He was a 19-year-old rookie learning hard lessons on the fly, but he fit better along the front line in Indiana than C.J. Miles or Lavoy Allen. Pacers front office people thought rookie Turner reminded them of rookie LaMarcus Aldridge.

That’s a lot of development still to do, but Turner doesn’t lack for confidence in getting it done. He averaged 10.3 points per game last season, and this is what he told Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders.

“Individually, I feel like I can put up big numbers for this team and help in any way necessary. I’d like to see myself put up 15 to 20 points per game. That may seem like a long shot, but I feel like I’m very capable.”

Those numbers aren’t wildly unreasonable, especially if he shoots better from three (21.4 percent last season). The question is will he get the touches on a roster that added Jeff Teague (who shoots more than George Hill) and Thaddeus Young (Paul George and Monta Ellis are going to get theirs, too). Turner has to get his shots in the flow of the offense, not overdo it pushing for numbers.

Also, they need him to be a better defender — he blocked shots at a great rate but was often out of position and just looked like a guy who lacked experience on that end. In addition, his size and frame made it difficult for him against more traditional bigs defensively (think DeMarcus Cousins, although he gives everyone trouble).

The Pacers are hoping Turner’s time on the USA Select Team this summer in Las Vegas helps speed along his development.

“I feel like I’ve made huge strides because that pace is so much faster than what people think. I mean, you see them beating up on these foreign teams and now I can definitely see why teams struggle against them. You have to make plays a lot faster and you have to make reads a lot faster, so I feel like that was really good for me.”

Turner is going to have a lot more on his shoulders this season, but he looked like a rookie who could grow into that role.

In Rio, USA Basketball teams will be staying on luxury cruise ship

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NBA players are used to staying in five-star hotels on the road, flying on charter planes, and generally having time away from home be as comfortable as possible.

The Olympic Village rooms in Rio don’t exactly live up to those standards if you ask Andrew Bogut.

Team USA will have no such concerns. Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams are staying on The Silver Cloud luxury cruise ship docked in the renovated harbor in Rio. The US Olympic delegation booked it and the rooms on a larger adjacent ship during the games where the “Olympic family” will stay. All of this will make the place a safe haven for players during the games (the ship has a special security detail to keep people not staying on the ship off it). All of the ships amenities will be at their disposal.

That said, expect to see the USA players at other venues and checking out other sports during the games, among other activities. That’s part of the Olympic experience.

The ship will be docked in the Maua port terminal, one of the areas revitalized in preparation for the games that the Brazilian government sees as part of the legacy of the games.

 

Report: Jimmer Fredette will sign with Yao Ming’s team in China for next season

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Jimmer Fredette, at age 27, was out there on the court at Summer League in Las Vegas last month, sprinting up and down the court with the raw 19- and 20-year-olds, trying one last time to convince an NBA team he deserved another shot. He averaged 15.2 points and 3.2 assists a game, but an experienced NBA level player is expected to dominate a Summer League level game — Trey Lyles averaged 29 points a game, Devin Booker 26 — and Fredette did not. This after a season in New York where Jose Calderon and Sasha Vujacic were more trusted guard options than Fredette.

The message was clear, and now Fredette is heading overseas, according to a report from David Pick.

The deal is not finalized, but Fredette ending up overseas makes sense at this point.

He will make far more money than he would have in the D-League, he will put up numbers (defense is not the Chinese league’s strength), and when the Chinese season ends in March he can try to latch on with an NBA team down the stretch.

Fredette, for a variety of reasons, was never able to adapt his game to the NBA, where he was always going to be a role player and not the star he had been at BYU.

China is a good choice — he will have a green light on the court and put up numbers. There are great marketing opportunities (ask Stephon Marbury). He will get paid (Fredette has made $8.7 million in NBA salary over the years, but overseas he can pad that number quickly). It’s his next step, and a lot of very good players make a very comfortable living overseas. We wish Fredette nothing but the best.

Five other 2013 draft class members who likely join C.J. McCollum with contract extensions

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C.J. McCollum got his — four years, $106 million.

The 2013 NBA draft class can get extensions between now and the Oct. 31 deadline. But this is a class that may not see a lot of them. One reason: Many of the top players — No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett, No. 3 pick Otto Porter, No. 4 pick Cody Zeller, and on down the list— haven’t actually earned the kind of “we have to lock them up now and pay the man” extensions generally given out at this point. The other issue: There will be a different Collective Bargaining Agreement in place next summer, and that leads to uncertainty for teams (and players).

But here are five guys that should join McCollum on the list of guys getting extended and paid.

1) Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks. Considered a roll of the dice at the time, he has turned out to be the best player out of this draft class (that success may have encouraged the Bucks to draft Thon Maker so high in the 2016 draft). He is the point-forward the Bucks will entrust the ball to next season. He is their most gifted player and the cornerstone on which Milwaukee is building its future — a future that includes a new arena in downtown the team needs to fill in a few years. Antetokounmpo will help sell tickets there. The Greek Freak averaged 16.9 points per game on 50.6 percent shooting last season, with 7.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists a night as well. This clearly is a guy that gets locked up with a max extension, and he is going to accept it. The deal will get done.

2) Victor Oladipo, Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder just traded for him, and whether Russell Westbrook stays or goes Oladipo — the No. 2 pick in 2013 — looks like a key part of the Thunder’s future. Which traditionally means they would and should lock him up. Right now, everything in OKC is on hold until Westbrook tells the team his plans, but after that happens the Thunder should try to lock Oladipo down. That said, with all the uncertainty around the team, they may want to wait and let him become a restricted free agent next summer, where other teams would try to poach him.

3) Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz.
Utah is one of the teams on the rise in the West (along with Minnesota) and that bright future is largely built around a defense anchored by Gobert. He is one of the best defensive bigs in the game, a future Defensive Player of the Year, with an improving offensive game. Again, the organization has questions to face heading into next summer — starting with can they keep Gordon Hayward? — and they have to figure out just how much they can win with Gobert and Derrick Favors paired up front (do they have enough floor spacing?). But whatever the answers to those questions, locking up a defensive anchor big with a huge contract seems a no brainer.

4) Dennis Schroder, Atlanta Hawks. When the Hawks traded Jeff Teague they played their hand here — Schroder is now the point guard of the present and future in Atlanta, and they are banking on his continued development to be a key part of their future. Which means they probably lock up the 23-year-old German with an extension. However, if they want to hesitate because they are not sure they can let him go to restricted free agency next summer and let the market set his price.

5) Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Detroit Pistons. Stan Van Gundy has put together a core of young players he likes in Detroit and Caldwell-Pope is part of that. He’s a good defender who needs to become more efficient on offense (although he did average 14.5 points per game last season). This would not be a max extension, but the two sides should be able to find a number they like. That said, Van Gundy may prefer to wait on a deal to keep a little more flexibility next summer.

Others to watch: Steven Adams, Oklahoma City Thunder (they want to keep him, but likely don’t pay to extend him to keep their flexibility); Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers; Alex Len, Phoenix Suns; Andre Roberson, Oklahoma City Thunder (not likely but possible).

Remembering what went wrong in 2000-2004 Olympics for Team USA

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It’s different now.

Not just that Team USA has lost only once since Mike Krzyzewski and Jerry Colangelo took over USA Basketball back in 2006 (and have won gold medals and two world championships), but there is now a real program, a culture where the “you must play for USA Basketball” mentality starts young.

It was a prestige honor before, but once they came in and built up a culture, it totally changed into a different dynamic,” Kyrie Irving told NBCSports.com in Las Vegas. “Every generation that is coming up has to come through USA Basketball if you’re, quote/unquote, a top player in the country….

“I myself played when I was 17 years old going into Duke. I end up going (to college) for one year, then I end up playing on the select team that I’m playing against today (the NBA rookies and young stars that the USA scrimmages against).”

What was different back in 2000 — when the USA almost lost in the semifinals to Lithuania and looked vulnerable — and then in 2004 when the USA won bronze? Bill Leopold and Ben Teitelbaum of NBCOlympics.com put together a rich oral history of that time in a story you should read. Here are a few highlights of the 2004 run, when the USA won bronze.

Russ Granik (USA Basketball President, 1990-2000; NBA Deputy Commissioner 1990-2006): What happened was the fear of terrorism.

Mike Breen (NBC Olympics play-by-play announcer): I brought my family, my wife and children, with me on all the Olympic Games but I did not bring them to Athens. There was real heightened tension there about the possibility of something happening.

Chris Sheridan (ESPN basketball reporter): This was the first Olympics after 9/11. Everybody was hearing that the Greeks don’t have their act together and it was going to be dangerous….

There wasn’t what you have now, a desire to play for the national team that was really overwhelming. There wasn’t a program in which guys had come up through the select team or maybe through the U-16 or the U-18 team, which is what USA Basketball has now. It was more of a “Let’s just pick the 12 best players we can and put them out there. Look we’re Team USA; we are going to be able to beat everybody.”

Craig Miller (USA Basketball Chief Media/Communications Officer, 1990-present): Literally a couple days before training camp we were still adding people. People see LeBron James, Carmelo and D-Wade on the roster and they’re like, “How could you lose?” You’ve got to remember those guys were 19 years old, 18 years old, first time they’d ever played internationally, in most of those cases.

Those young players were being coached by Larry Brown, known in NBA circles as a guy who liked veterans over youth — he didn’t like the team makeup. He publicly criticized the team, which added to the tension.

In Athens, the USA got a wake-up call with an early loss to Puerto Rico in group play. Eventually, they lost in the semi-finals to a much better Argentinian team led by Manu Ginobili and a great class of players.

Andrés Nocioni (2004-16 Olympian, Argentina): In my mind, it was kind of that we controlled the game the whole game. We did it really well. I think USA never had the option to win the game.

Sheridan: Argentina schooled the U.S. with picks and rolls on the back-cuts, and that game wasn’t even competitive. Argentina kind of mopped the floor with them.

Breen: The game is still played at its best when five players are working together, and the United States just didn’t have enough of those moments, where Argentina it was like five guys on a string.

In the wake of that bronze (and the sixth-place finish at the World Championships two years earlier), USA Basketball was overhauled. The oral history gets into all of that, too.

Since then, they have just the one loss. The USA — again with a “second team” due to concerns about the host nation — are still the clear gold medal favorites heading into Rio. But it’s good to look back and remember.