Kurt Helin

Coach: Defense, rebounding keys for Sixers’ Okafor

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Jahlil Okafor is not going to be the next Tim Duncan. Mostly because there is never going to be another Tim Duncan — he is for my money the greatest power forward ever to play the game. Sorry Karl.

That doesn’t mean Okafor can’t be great in his own right. Sixers coach Brett Brown — a former Spurs’ assistant who worked with Duncan — was asked on Comcast Sportsnet Philly if Okafor could be the next Duncan (you can see the video above).

“I think if we can help him with his rebounding and help him with his defense. Offensively, there are similarities. We’ve got to help grow him in those other areas.”

There were Okafor and Duncan comparisons around the draft, but those were more about the level of polish on the offensive game than anything else. Okafor should have an excellent NBA career, but to throw Duncan out as a benchmark wouldn’t be fair for anyone.

Another question thrown at Brown: Did he think Philly fans see Dario Saric — who has looked good at EuroBasket — anytime soon?

“I do. I think the city is going to see something extraordinarily competitive, very, very skilled and I think his personality, his style of play fits perfectly in this city.”

Saric has said he will come over for the 2016-17 season. However, there are financial motives for him to spend one more season beyond that overseas — if he comes over in 2016 he’s locked into a rookie scale NBA contract, if he comes over three years after he is drafted he can negotiate any deal he can get with the Sixers. It’s what Tiago Splitter and others have done; we’ll see what Saric ultimately chooses.


Doc Rivers: Don’t expect me to trade Jamal Crawford

Los Angeles Clippers v Houston Rockets - Game Seven

Jamal Crawford‘s name has come up in a lot of trade rumors this summer: to Cleveland, to Miami, and to New York, just to name a few. The idea was that he’s not always happy, and if the Clippers were going to add depth this summer he was their most tradable asset.

Except GM Doc Rivers added depth — Lance Stephenson, Josh Smith, Pablo Prigioni, Wesley Johnson, Cole Aldrich — without having to give up Crawford. Rivers told venerable Los Angeles sports talk radio personality Fred Roggin (on the Clippers’ flagship The Beast 980) don’t expect him to trade Rivers’ now (hat tip Eye on Basketball).

“I’ve heard all the rumors about Jamal going other places,” Rivers said. “Jamal’s a Clipper and I would be very surprised if he’s not a Clipper by the season’s end.”

To be clear, Roggin asked him again: “You’re planning on keeping him right now?”

“Yeah,” Rivers responded. “Yeah. Absolutely.”

Consider this the “if you want Crawford you’re going to have to give me something I want in return” message to all the teams calling him.

The Clippers have no strong motive to trade Crawford now — he’s a valuable point-scoring machine, a former Sixth Man of the Year, who can come in for J.J. Redick and keep the offense humming. He can even serve as a backup point guard, or at least be the guy who handles the ball with the second unit. So if Rivers is going to consider a trade for him, he has to see an upgrade in what is coming back. He’s not just moving him to move him.

And while Crawford hasn’t always been happy hearing his name in these rumors, winning has a way of curing those kinds of ills.

Argentina beats Mexico, qualifies for Rio Olympics

Luis Scola,Selem Safar, Andres Nocioni

Maybe Argentina’s golden generation has one more run in them.

Forty-eight hours before, Mexico had beaten Argentina by a dozen points to round out group play at FIBA Americas. But Friday night, with a trip to the Rio Olympics on the line, it was Luis Scola and Argentina that made the plays in Mexico City. Argentina won 78-70 to lock up a trip to Brazil next summer. (Mexico, like Canada, can still qualify via a play-in tournament next summer.)

Scola had 18 points on 11 shots, plus pulled down 10 boards in the game. Andreas Nocioni added 10 points and 13 boards.

Mexico struggled to get any consistent offense going, in part because of Argentina’s defense but more just poor execution under pressure. Jorge Gutierrez led the way with 17 points, while Gustavo Ayon added 13 rebounds.

Argentina played this tournament without Manu Ginobili, but he may suit up for Rio next summer if healthy.



Basketball Hall of Fame welcomes class of 11

John Calipari
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) John Calipari never could have been a Hall of Famer on his own ability.

“I never grabbed a rebound,” he said. “I never scored a point. I never had an assist.”

But he’s had some incredible players.

And when he was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday night, he insisted many of them join him.

From Marcus Camby, who helped him build a program at Massachusetts, to Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, who solidified a powerhouse at Kentucky, Calipari was backed by dozens of the players who have made him one of college basketball’s most successful coaches.

“As you can see, I have been blessed to have all those opportunities,” Calipari said, “but the reason I stand here is more about the players I’ve coached.”

Also enshrined Friday were former NBA stars Spencer Haywood, Jo Jo White and Dikembe Mutombo, women’s basketball great Lisa Leslie and referee Dick Bavetta. Tom Heinsohn was inducted as a coach after already being enshrined as a player, joined by former coaches George Raveling and Australia’s Lindsay Gaze, plus ABA star Louis Dampier and early African-American player John Isaacs.

Calipari was the last of the 11-member class of 2015 to speak in the ceremony inside Symphony Hall, not far from where he got his first head coaching job at 29 at the University of Massachusetts.

There was a brief stint with the NBA’s New Jersey Nets before he went to the University of Memphis and now Kentucky. Final Four appearances at the first two stops were vacated by NCAA penalties, but he got a national title in 2012 with the Wildcats.

He’s done it often with one-and-done players, who stay in college for a season before bolting for the NBA.

Those players owe a debt of gratitude to Haywood.

His battle with the NBA that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1970 knocked down the age requirement that required players to be four years removed from high school. Once in the league, he went on to play 12 seasons, make four All-Star teams and win a championship.

“Remember guys, I had game,” Haywood said. “It was not like I just did this Supreme Court thing. I had some serious game.”

So did Mutombo, a fierce defender and shot blocker for 18 seasons. He said he was proud to have been the third African to play in the NBA, “to come to the U.S. with nothing and now I’m part of the NBA history.”

And he’s giving back, opening a hospital in his homeland of Congo that he said has served 140,000 people. He twice won the NBA’s J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award and now works for the league as a global ambassador.

“Playing basketball allowed me to become a global citizen,” Mutombo said, adding that he may not have won a championship “but I’m a champion to so many people.”

Bavetta never missed an assignment while working 2,635 regular-season games over 39 NBA seasons. He had the crowd inside the building chant “Oh no, bad call, get a job!” before his speech.

“I’m not used to people telling me how great a referee I was, how nice it is to see me,” he said.

It was a big night for the home state. Calipari had plenty of UMass fans screaming for him as he entered the building. Heinsohn won two titles as a coach on a team that included White, who had surgery to remove a brain tumor in 2010 and taped his speech, but drew a huge ovation when he came on stage after.

Though the local fans – and likely everyone in the building – were a little stunned when Heinsohn extended his middle finger during his speech while telling a story of the time one of his own players flipped him off during a game.

It was also a celebration for Kentucky. Dampier played for the Wildcats and went on to nine seasons with the ABA’s Kentucky Colonels, helping them win the 1975 title.

He was followed on stage by Calipari, who acknowledged his own coaches in high school and college, his assistants, and eventually the players – some of whom may end up back in Springfield for their own Hall of Fame inductions someday.

“The journey that I’ve been on, I’ve been so blessed and it’s been an incredible journey,” Calipari said.

Follow Brian Mahoney on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Briancmahoney

Cavaliers working out in Miami. Except Tristan Thompson.

Tristan Thompson

LeBron James sent out the invitation — and from LeBron it is more of a summons. He wanted his Cavaliers teammates to come down to Miami and work out together and bond for a few days, starting on Friday. He wanted to set the tone for the season. And the Cavaliers players have come…

Except Tristan Thompson.

The big man in the midst of a contract dispute with the Cavaliers — he wants a max extension, they have offered five years, $80 million — is not taking his talents to South Beach, reports Chris Haynes of the Plain Dealer.

Restricted free agent Tristan Thompson will not attend the assembly, Northeast Ohio Media Group was informed. With the 24-year-old in the midst of a lengthy contract stalemate with the club, he has elected not to appear….

NEOMG is told that Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Anderson Varejao, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, Joe Harris, Mo Williams, James Jones, Richard Jefferson and Sasha Kaun are expected to be on the scene in Miami.

LeBron and Thompson share an agent and LeBron has said he wants to see Thompson signed long term — but he’s made it clear by his actions he’s not going to jeopardize a run at a ring over it. LeBron wants to win, and if Thompson isn’t going to be on the inside, he will be on the outside.

In the end, if the two sides reach a deal by Oct. 31, none of this matters. If they don’t, Thompson still comes back for one more season with the Cavaliers at the qualifying offer and bet on himself that other teams will offer a max contract next summer.