Kurt Helin

USA Basketball Men's National Team Training Camp

LeBron James says he has not made a decision on playing in 2016 Rio Olympics. Yet.

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LeBron James is in Las Vegas for the USA Basketball mini-camp. He’s not just making a token appearance and then heading off to Tao, rather he put on the No. 27 jersey — no headband — and worked on his low-post game. By the way, former Pelicans coach Monty Williams can’t really check him down there. Shocking.

So does that mean LeBron is in for a USA Basketball record fourth Olympics next summer in Rio.

That decision has yet to be made, he told Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated.

The Cavaliers are the clear favorites to come out of the East and make it to the NBA Finals — that would be six straight NBA Finals appearances for LeBron. He is already ninth on the NBA’s all-time minutes list (counting regular season, playoffs and international play) and by the time next summer rolls around he’s likely seventh.

If he wants to beg off next summer, you can’t blame him (it’s not like he hasn’t made a commitment to USA Basketball and won a couple golds already).

But he will get pressure from Nike, plus a third gold (something nobody else has in basketball) would become part of his legacy.

There’s a lot to think about, but no reason to think about it until next spring and summer. You can be sure Coach Mike Krzyzewski is not giving away his roster spot.

LaMarcus Aldridge didn’t meet with Knicks because they asked him to play center

LaMarcus Aldridge
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LaMarcus Aldridge is one of the game’s most skilled power forwards, able to dominate from the left block or knock down fadeaways in the midrange.

Just don’t ask him to play center.

Which is what the Knicks were going to do — they had just drafted Kristaps Porzingis and he is the future at the four spot.

That is why Aldridge cancelled his free agent meeting with the Knicks this summer, he told Frank Isola from the New York Daily News, out in Las Vegas where Aldridge is part of the USA Basketball mini-camp.

“They were saying they wanted me to be more of a center to let their guy develop and I just wasn’t looking to be that,” Aldridge said. “So I was looking to play power forward, and they weren’t really interested…

“Melo and I talked a little bit over text and we have mutual friends that passed messages along. I was interested,” Aldridge said. “I talked to other guys to see if they were interested in going there too. I was interested but when they say they want me to play a position that I don’t want to play, I get it.”

Aldridge ultimately chose the Spurs, and most likely would have done the same after meeting with the Knicks regardless.

I can see the comments now about how this is the Knicks being the Knicks and Phil Jackson screwing up again.

Except he didn’t — this is exactly the right play.

Aldridge, at 30 years old, is a guy looking for a win-now situation, and the Knicks are not that. They should not try to be that — their years of floundering around have been in large part due to quick fix after quick fix trying to make the playoffs rather than following a long-term plan. Aldridge would only have been another in those line of quick-fixes. With him, the Knicks make the playoffs as a middle-of-the-pack team (but no real threat to the Cavaliers) but don’t build for the future. The Knicks need to play Porzingis at the four and the five (playing Carmelo Anthony at the four for stretches as well) and while that learning curve could be painful at times they need to suffer through it.

We can debate whether Jackson is up to the task, or if his triangle system can thrive in a modern NBA, I have my doubts. But at least someone in the organization is focused on the big picture right now. That has not been the case consistently for far too long.

Besides, the pitch from Jackson and coach Derek Fisher impressed DeAndre Jordan, who at the same event told Marc Berman of the post he strongly considered the Knicks.

“I had a great meeting and great presentation,’’ Jordan said after Tuesday’s US Olympic Team mini-camp. “Phil Jackson speaks for himself. Fish [Derek Fisher] did a great job. The whole team had a plan with the organization, a plan for me that was cool. I just decided to stay with the Clippers, but it was great.

“The Knicks were definitely a team I was considering.’’

Maybe Knicks fans should be happy Jordan didn’t first choose them. But at least the pitch — to a true center (they eventually landed another one in Robin Lopez) — was on point.

 

 

 

Russell Westbrook says Derrick Rose is back to his old self

Chicago Bulls v New Orleans Pelicans
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The Derrick Rose pre-injuries was explosive and dynamic — a guy who you could not take your eyes off of, who could carry his teams to wins, and was virtually unguardable. After his injuries Rose relied more on skill than athleticism, and getting there is a process. There’s nothing wrong with that — the great players evolve over the course of their career. The 2010 Kobe Bryant was not the 2002 version, and guys like Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson evolved their games over time. Rose’s evolution was forced by injury and with that was uneven. Choose your advanced stat from last season — VORP, win shares, adjusted +/-, PER — and Rose was pretty blah.

However, there were stretches of quality play from Rose last season, and each time he had a great game we heard the same refrain: “the old Derrick Rose is back.” Which never felt true nor was it sustained, but it makes a great narrative.

So pardon my cynicism as Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago.com passes along this note from the explosive Russell Westbrook about Rose.

I’m going to act like I’m from Missouri on this one — show me.

I’m not alone in my scepticism. Even Goodwill threw this out.

I hope for the sake of the Bulls and fans of the game everywhere Rose proves me wrong. But I need to see it.

Paul George is excused from Team USA mini-camp

Team USA Showcase
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One can understand if Paul George may not want to play in the Team USA intrasquad exhibition game in Las Vegas this week. He’s not exactly had positive experiences with that in the past.

Still, George wants the opportunity to make the Team USA roster for the 2016 Rio Olympics, so he was in Las Vegas Tuesday for the opening of Team USA’s mini-camp (players had to show up in Las Vegas to be considered). But he was one-and-done — one day and he was excused from hanging around for the rest of camp, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

Sources told ESPN.com that George attended both a team meeting Monday night as well as a one-on-one sitdown with Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski, thus satisfying a mandate from USAB managing director Jerry Colangelo that any player who wants to be considered for the 2016 Olympic team must show himself in Vegas.

But sources say George — who was always expected by USAB officials to sit out this week’s two light workouts as well as Thursday night’s intrasquad scrimmage — was spared the chore of being forced to watch Tuesday’s noncontact session from the sideline and then face the media hordes in attendance.

After his horrific leg fracture a year ago at a Team USA exhibition, George missed almost the entire next NBA season.

He’s a bit of a longshot to make the roster for Rio, if he’s going to make it then it all starts with him looking like his old self this coming season. If he’s defending well on the wing and racking up points efficiently (and showing off a sweet outside stroke) then it’s possible he makes the cut.

But he doesn’t need to hang around Vegas a few extra days to prove anything.

Markieff Morris on Phoenix Suns: “I am not going to be there”

Phoenix Suns v Denver Nuggets
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Last summer, twins Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris each took a little less money so they could play as teammates with the Phoenix Suns, as they had done since high school and through college at Kansas. Then this summer the Suns turned around and traded Marcus to Detroit to clear cap space as part of their failed effort entice LaMarcus Aldridge.

That has not set well with Markieff at all — he feels the franchise stabbed them in the back. Suns management hoped he would come around, but reports were Markeiff wanted out.

Now those are not reports — Markeiff said just that to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“One thing for sure, I am not going to be there,” Morris said Tuesday after a morning workout at Competitive Edge Sports in King of Prussia. “If you want to put that out there, you can put that out. ” he added. “I don’t give a [freak]. I am not going to be there at all. That’s just what it is.”

What happens if the Suns don’t trade him before training camp starts?

“I’ve got to show up. No question.” said Markieff Morris, who is scheduled to make $8 million this season. “You can’t do that. I will be a professional. Don’t get me wrong.

“But it won’t get that far. … I’m going to be out before then, should be.”

Morris would get fined by the league for saying “I am demanding a trade.” But this is as close as one can get to that line without crossing it.

Markeiff is not likely landing with his brother in Detroit — just-drafted Stanley Johnson is the future at the three for the Pistons, they are not going to pay two twins at that spot in front of him. But it doesn’t sound like Markeiff cares as much about that — he feels betrayed, and he wants to be somewhere else.

Everyone in the league knows that, good luck getting market value for him in a trade. The Suns have put themselves in a bind.