Kurt Helin

LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love

Kevin Love to be higher profile, get more touches in Cleveland offense


Kevin Love was frustrated at the start of last season. He wasn’t getting as many touches as he was used to, and he was being forced out of his comfort zone on offense (if only Chris Bosh had warned him about all this).

Heading into the second season of the Cavaliers’ big three era, everyone around the team is saying the right things about getting Love more touches in his spots on the floor — LeBron James, coach David Blatt, even Love himself. Which is what you should expect at the start of training camp, the offense hasn’t been put under any stress yet.

It’s just a comfort level thing if you ask LeBron and Love, as Dave McMenamin of ESPN did.

“I just think he’s more comfortable in the situation that he’s in,” James said after practice Wednesday. “He’s got a year under his belt; he knows what he expects out of himself and what his teammates expect out of him. I expect big things from him this year with a year up under his belt.”

That’s two uses of “under his belt” in one paragraph, so you know LeBron is serious.

“I think all of us will be more comfortable with what we’re trying to do out there,” Love said. “I think that, like I said (Monday), it all starts with the big man, No. 23, and it all kind of trickles down from there. I think if all the pieces fit together as we expect, we’ll be a tough team to deal with.”

Coach David Blatt has bothered to watch film and think about this.

“No question, this summer we looked for and identified ways that we can take advantage of Kev’s unique skill set and hopefully we’ll see that on the floor,” Blatt said.

I’d say this is the most important one, the coach saying he has come up with sets that play to Love’s strengths, save for one little detail — Blatt’s offensive designs are not the ones the Cavs often run. Last year’s Cavaliers’ offense looked nothing like what he ran in Europe or tried to install in training camp, LeBron and Kyrie Irving pushed them to a more traditional/predictable offense (which worked for them because of their talent level).

Love is going to get more touches to start this season, in large part because Irving will be sidelined. But when LeBron and Irving — two players who like the ball in their hands and to penetrate — are both back on the court, will things really change for Love? It’s one of the questions the Cavaliers need to answer during the season if they are going to challenge whatever team comes out of the West into the NBA Finals.

Wizards unveil “Baltimore Pride” alternate uniforms for this season

wizards baltimore pride wall beal

For 10 seasons from 1964 to 1973, the team currently known as the Washington Wizards was the Baltimore Bullets.

The current team is going to honor that heritage and teams — which featured stars such as Walt Bellamy, Earl “the Pearl” Monroe, and Wes Unseld — by wearing a “Baltimore Pride” alternate uniform for six games this season.

This is not exactly what the old Bullets wore, in part because the colors needed to be updated to the current Wizards’ red, blue and white. The shorts back then were not this long, either (thank Buddha that style changed).

The reaction on Twitter was basically how you expect Twitter to react to anything, we’ll see if people come around over time. Myself, I don’t mind it, then again I tend to like soccer kits.

Gregg Popovich reiterates he’ll coach past when Tim Duncan retires

Gregg Popovich

As he always seems to do, Tim Duncan is flying under the radar. When you talk about all-time greats, lock future Hall of Famers who may be playing their final season this go around, the conversation focuses out West on Kobe Bryant (who doesn’t know what he is going to do). This could be Duncan’s final season as well, he’s not sure, but it’s not drawing the same spotlight.

Whether Duncan (and Manu Ginobili) go or not, Gregg Popovich is staying.

He’s said that before, and after just recruiting LaMarcus Aldridge into the fold Pop isn’t going to just bolt, he told ESPN’s Sage Steele in an interview (hat tip SI):

“Signing LaMarcus [Aldridge], I had to make a commitment,” Popovich said. “I couldn’t say, ‘LaMarcus, we would love to sign you, see you later.’ So I committed to those guys and I committed to LaMarcus. So, I’ve got to fulfill my promise.”

Popovich has four seasons left on his contract that he said he would coach through the end of the deal — much to the delight of sideline reporters everywhere.

The Spurs have set themselves up beautifully to transition to a post-Duncan world, in part through smart front office work and in part because Duncan took far less money ($10 million this season) than he could have demanded to give his franchise flexibility.

As Duncan fades away, this will be Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard‘s team. Tony Parker will hang around a few more years (although his skills are fading). They will remain a powerhouse, Popovich will be there to make sure of that.

Pau Gasol had nasal surgery this summer, says he’s breathing better

Spain Basketball Team Celebrations

Derrick Rose isn’t the only Bull who had some unexpected surgery.

Pau Gasol had nasal surgery this summer to aid his breathing, he told media after the Bulls training camp practice Monday. From our own Sean Highkin who was at the practice:

If how Gasol played at EuroBasket – where he was the tournament MVP, led Spain to the title, and dropped 40 in the semi-finals on Rudy Gobert and France — the surgery has worked. He was forced to take on a heavy load for Spain and was able to handle it.

Of course, this wouldn’t be the first time Gasol looked fantastic playing for his country and less so when the NBA season started up again. Taking on a heavy load for one tournament is one thing, doing so for an 82-game regular season plus playoffs is another. New coach Fred Hoiberg was hired in part to reduce the physical load on players.

What the Bulls need is that EuroBasket Gasol come the playoffs (and a healthy Derrick Rose, and Gasol and Joakim Noah to blend, and a few other things). Gasol thinks his game ages well.

Derrick Rose’s surgery successful, he may return for opening night

Derrick Rose

Derrick Rose has had his surgery to repair his fractured orbital bone in his face, and like every athletic operation ever it has been declared a success by the team.

More importantly, coach Fred Hoiberg thinks Rose might be able to play opening night.

Hoiberg spoke after Bulls practice Wednesday he’s optimistic despite no official timetable. Here is what he said via our own Sean Highkin, who was on hand, and Bleacher Reports’ Kevin Ding.

Recovery from this kind of surgery has taken anywhere from two to four weeks on players in the past. The determining factor is where the fracture was around the eye socket — if it’s close to the eye and could lead to vision issues, the player is out longer.

Rose will return likely wearing a mask, which is an adjustment for players. The other adjustment is a mental one — being able to drive and risk contact again without hesitation.

Aaron Brooks and Kirk Hinrich are the backup point guards behind Rose, and both are a drop off from what even a 75 percent version of the former MVP brings to the court. The Bulls need Rose to be closer to his old self (and a lot of other things) if they are going to threaten Cleveland in the East.