Kurt Helin

Derrick Favors, Quin Snyder, Rudy Gobert, Gordon Hayward

Jazz GM says team will look for veterans to round out roster this summer


The Utah Jazz have one of the better young rosters in the NBA — Rudy Gobert, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Rodney Hood, Trey Lyles, Alec Burks, Trey Burke, and they should get point guard Dante Exum back from injury for next season. Despite a rash of injuries last season this team came within a game of making the playoffs in the West.

What takes them over the top and into the postseason? Veterans.

That’s what GM Dennis Lindsey told Salt Lake talk radio host Spencer Checketts (yes, the son of Dave):

It’s impossible to evaluate a potential trade of Lyles without knowing who the other player is, but this is the kind of move the Jazz are going to have to consider to push this team over the top.

In particular, a veteran at the three (behind Hayward) and some depth at the point would be good (even getting Exum back some ball handling guard depth could matter over the long grind of the season). To get those kinds of players the Jazz may need to surrender and asset or two, but that’s the next step in team building.

Frank Vogel says young Magic roster ready to take the next step

TORONTO, ON - MAY 01:  Head Coach Frank Vogel of the Indiana Pacers looks on in the first half of Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Toronto Raptors during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at the Air Canada Centre on May 01, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

Frank Vogel isn’t the first coach to eye the Orlando roster — Nikola Vucevic, Victor Oladipo, Aaron Gordon, Elfrid Payton, Mario Hezonja, and whoever the team picks at No. 11 this NBA Draft — and think they could win with that.

Vogel just thinks his timing is better — Jaque Vaughn and Scott Skiles laid the foundation, now he just has to build on it.

Vogel was hired this week as the Orlando coach in what looks like a fantastic fit — he can get this group to defend, find a little more creativity on offense, and he’s got a playoff team. As you would expect, he sang the praises of the roster speaking to Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel.

“I believe in the young core that they’ve put together here,” Vogel told the Orlando Sentinel in an interview Friday.

“The young talent, I think, is a really good situation. They’re ready — ready to take that next step. I feel like they’ve gotten some of the growing pains out of their system, as you deal with in any kind of rebuild situation. The team really reminds me of the team I took over here in Indianapolis, with the young Paul George, Lance Stephenson and Roy Hibbert. Those guys hadn’t really seen success at the NBA level, and we were able to just bring a positive energy-and-enthusiasm type of approach to the young talent that they had and we watched them grow. It was really special. I see a lot of similarities with the depth of the young talent that we have on this roster.”

That’s high praise. And lofty expectations — which one of these guys is a Paul Goerge? Aaron Gordon?

Vogel deals in positivity, which will be a change for this team after Scott Skiles more old-school style. Notice he started by saying he believed in the young core — Skiles unexpectedly walked away from this job this summer in part because he didn’t see in this roster what GM Rob Hennigan did (particularly in regards to Payton).

We will see how Vogel uses these players. I would love to see more Gordon at the five spot, and that may happen.

“I think smaller lineups are definitely valuable and needed in today’s NBA. So I think I’ve just grown in flexibility to try to adapt to today’s game really on both ends of the court: having the defensive versatility to do it but also getting involved in the running game. I look forward to having more of an opportunity in Orlando to try to execute more of an analytically based offensive approach where we are shooting more 3s, we are spreading the floor more and sort of breaking the mold the way a lot of teams in this league have done in terms of how the game is played.”

This team is not far from the playoffs in the East, maybe some growth and a positive attitude gets them there.

Report: Rockets to interview Spurs assistant coach James Borrego

MIAMI, FL - APRIL 13:  Head coach James Borrego of the Orlando Magic looks on during a game against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on April 13, 2015 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice:  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

It sounded like the Rockets’ GM Daryl Morey had come to a fork in the road in the search for a new head coach: Houston would either going to hire Mike D’Antoni, or they were going to hire Stephen Silas with Lionel Hollins as his lead assistant.

Or… there’s a third option — Spurs assistant James Borrego. From Marc Stein of ESPN:

I applaud Morey for having such a wide search and talking to so many potential candidates to find the right fit — this is a win now team with James Harden in the fold, so Morey needs to nail this hire.

But stylistically, the coaches he’s talked to recently seem all over the map. What kind of team does Morey envision building?

Larry Bird thinks this may be the greatest era of basketball

MIAMI, FL - MAY 24:  Team President Larry Bird of the Indiana Pacers looks on against the Miami Heat during Game Three of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena on May 24, 2014 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Larry Bird is not down with other players #getoffmylawn movement.

From Gary Payton to Reggie Miller to Scottie Pippen and on and on, we get to hear a lot of former players whose ego remains wrapped up in their exploits from decades ago — they are convinced today’s game is not as good as their era. Fans view the past through rose-colored glasses, too (for example ignoring the fact that most 1990s games were 86-82 slogs with a slow pace, they remember only Jordan).

Larry Bird is not part of this movement.

He spoke to The New Yorker for a short piece about the idea of a four-point line and praised today’s game (via Deadspin).

“It’s funny how the game has changed,” Bird continued. “And my thinking about it. I was really worried—back sixteen, seventeen years ago—that the little guy didn’t have a spot in the N.B.A. anymore: it was just going to be the big guards like Magic Johnson. But then players started shooting more threes and spacing the court, and everyone wants small guards now. Watching these kids play now, I’m like everybody else: Wow, man. They can really shoot! They have more freedom to get to the basket. The ball moves a little better. These kids are shooting from farther, with more accuracy. Now some teams shoot up around thirty threes a game. My era, you always think that’s the greatest era. But I’m not so sure anymore.”

Well said, Larry the Legend.

It’s okay to love the 1980s or ’90s and think today’s basketball are entertaining.

LeBron James and Stephen Curry are all time great players who would be a force in any era. A player from another decade can admit this and not damage his own reputation. So long as said player’s ego isn’t too fragile.

Zhou Qi’s potential could lead to much NBA draft intrigue

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - MAY 29:  Lucas Walker of Australia drives to the basket against against Qi Zhou of China during the 2014 Sino-Australia Challenge match between Australia and China at Challenge Stadium on May 29, 2014 in Perth, Australia.  (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

MIAMI Zhou Qi needs someone to help him communicate at workouts with NBA teams, simply because he does not speak English well enough to understand most instructions.

His game, however, translates just fine.

In an NBA draft class that will likely have LSU’s Ben Simmons and Duke’s Brandon Ingram as the first two picks and then much uncertainty with the remaining 58, Zhou may draw plenty of intrigue. He stands just over 7-foot-2 in sneakers, has a wingspan just shy of 8 feet and can nearly touch the rim while standing flat-footed.

He is a big man with shooting-guard skills, China’s next NBA hope, a 20-year-old who’s already a pro at home and now wants to get on the game’s biggest stage.

“I am ready,” Zhou said at the NBA draft combine earlier this month.

Time will tell if NBA teams agree.

Some draftniks say he could be a late-first-round pick. The Boston Celtics – who have eight draft picks, including three first-rounders and the No. 3 selection – brought him in for a workout this week, as did the Memphis Grizzlies. He’ll audition for more NBA teams in the coming weeks, as everyone figures out their plans for the June 23 draft.

“I think his basketball English was good enough that it didn’t impede us from doing anything on the court,” Grizzlies vice president of basketball operations John Hollinger said after their workout. “I mean, obviously, we weren’t having detailed discussions about politics and economics or anything. … Very skilled for his size, very long frame, knows how to play.”

Executives seem to like what they’re seeing. Miami assistant general manager Adam Simon said Zhou made an impression even going back to last year at the Nike Hoop Summit – which annually brings together the best international players age 19 and under.

“He held his own against the top high school players in the country,” Simon said. “For him, here’s what you base it on: Big guy that can catch, has good hands and can run, especially for someone over 7 feet tall.”

Zhou is one of many intriguing overseas options in this draft class.

Forward Dragan Bender should be a lottery pick from Croatia, and countrymen Ivica Zubac and Ante Zizic are likely to get snagged in the first round by teams looking for centers. There’s also Turkish shooting guard Furkan Korkmaz, Serbian swingman Timothe Luwawu and Spanish forward Juan Hernangomez as strong first-round hopefuls. (And that doesn’t even include Oklahoma star Buddy Hield, a soon-to-be lottery pick who hails from the Bahamas.)

Fairly or not, each of the European and Asian draft entrants will be compared with Kristaps Porzingis, the 7-foot-3 Latvian forward drafted last year by the New York Knicks who was the NBA’s second-best rookie.

“I think the international portion of this draft has got a lot of potentially good players,” ESPN basketball analyst and former college coach Fran Fraschilla said. “But certainly nobody ready to make an impact, let’s say, like Porzingis did a year ago.”

Zhou will face another automatic comparison, that being to 2016 Basketball Hall of Fame enshrinee Yao Ming. Zhou said China’s most successful NBA player is already a resource for him.

“We have been in touch,” Zhou said at the combine, speaking in Mandarin. “He shared a lot of his experience with me, mainly about training. I observed (what he did) when he came here back then, he told me of what he went through when he came, such as things to which to pay attention, and that the competition here can be tough.”

The drawback for Zhou is his build. He’s tall, but not big. At the draft combine Zhou weighed only 218 pounds, which means he would get overpowered in the post by even average-sized NBA forwards.

“I am growing all the time,” Zhou said, pointing out he’s gained 10 pounds in recent weeks.

The list of pluses Zhou brings is far longer. His wingspan and agility help give him a strong defensive presence, and he moves well. But his biggest asset is his shooting ability – 18-footers often seem like layups to him, and he’s working on extending his consistent range out to the NBA 3-point line.

His favorite player is Kevin Durant, but Zhou bristles at any comparison.

“I think I have my own style of play,” Zhou said. “Who am I like? I’m not like anyone. I’m like myself.”