Kurt Helin

Utah Jazz Summer League

Jahlil Okafor: “Rookie of the Year is one of the goals I set for myself”

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Jahlil Okafor looked in Las Vegas like a guy who could be in the mix for Rookie of the Year — he has an NBA body that he knows how to use to create a little space to operate, and when he does he has an array of moves to score. In Las Vegas he averaged 18.5 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, he shot 43.8 percent, and while he’s still a rookie who is going to have a steep learning curve, you can see the potential.

He wants to win Rookie of the Year, he told Dei Lynam of CSNPhilly.com during the Sixers annual Beach Bash event (video above).

“For myself, before the season I just need to make sure I’m prepared. I don’t know what to expect, I’ve never played in the NBA, but Rookie of the Year is one of my goals I’ve set for myself, my personal achievements. As for the team, I want to get better. We’re a rebuilding team right now, but (we should) go out there every day and compete.”

After seeing guys in Summer League and thinking about touches and opportunities they will get in the season, I would say Okafor and Denver’s Emmanuel Mudiay should be the preseason favorites for the award, with Karl-Anthony Towns and Stanley Johnson lurking in the background. That said, they’re  rookies, which makes them inconsistent and this award very difficult to predict preseason.

What we do know: Okafor is having fun with the fans and making friends in Philly already.

Former NBA All-Star Bob Kauffman dies at age 69

Spaulding NBA basketball
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Before they were the Los Angeles Clippers (or even the San Diego version), that franchise was the Buffalo Braves. And Bub Kauffman was one of their biggest stars — a three-time All-Star.

Kauffman passed away in his home in Suburban Atlanta on a week ago at the age of 69.

He was the No. 3 overall pick of the Seattle Supersonics out of Guilford College in North Carolina (the school also produced M.L. Carr and World B. Free around the same time). He played a season there and a season with the Bulls before being traded to Buffalo before that team’s inaugural season in that city.

It was there that he blossomed into a popular three-time All-Star with the Braves. From Jerry Sullivan of The Buffalo News.

Kauffman, the third overall pick by Seattle in the 1968 draft, spent one season with the Sonics and one with the Bulls before the expansion Braves picked him up in a trade with Philadelphia in May of 1970. In the Braves’ first season of 1970-71, Kauffman averaged 20.4 points, 10.7 rebounds and 4.5 assists. He averaged 18.9 points and 10.2 rebounds in ’71-72 and 17.5 points and 11.1 rebounds in ’72-73. He made the Eastern all-stars in all three seasons for Buffalo teams that lost 60 games.

He had a diminished role for the Braves team that made the playoffs in 1973-74 under coach Jack Ramsay. Kauffman went to the Utah Jazz in the 1974 expansion draft and was shipped the same day to the Atlanta Hawks in a deal that sent Pete Maravich to Utah. Kauffman, hobbled by hip ailments, retired at age 28 after one season with the Hawks. Kauffman coached 58 games in Detroit in 1977-78 after replacing Herb Brown and went 29-29. Later, he served as assistant general manager in Atlanta.

“The Buffalo fans from all over, people who moved to Atlanta or wherever I go, they all remember my dad,” (his daughter) Lara Kauffman said. “What people remembered about my dad was he played very blue-collar. I think he was sort of a reflection of a lot of people in the Buffalo community the way he played. He wouldn’t back down from anybody. He played against Lew Alcindor at the time. He matched up against Wilt Chamberlain. My dad would go head-to-head with those guys. He was undersized. He was 6-8 and played a face-up game. But because he was so physical, oftentimes he would match up against the toughest player. He would go toe-to-toe with them. I think his style of play reflected Buffalo a lot.”

Our thoughts are with the Kauffman family.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was confused when Anthony Davis talked smack, called him “kid”

New Orleans Pelicans v Milwaukee Bucks
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The amount of trash talk thrown around during any given NBA game can be stunning. Nearly everybody is talking. Some of them in a constant stream of consciousness.

Anthony Davis threw a little smack at Giannis Antetokounmpo last season… which left the Greek Freak confused. He recounted the situation in a blog he has at EuroHoops (at tip user sinisterbathala at NBA Reddit).

(Davis) was trying to post me and I was using all of my strength, I didn’t let him. He turns around, shoots off balance and scores. As we were running side-by-side, he says to me: “You can’t guard me young fella!” As we were running together towards the Bucks’ offense, I process it and think about it. Dude, what are you talking about? You’re only a year older than me!

Well, more like 19 months older, but who’s counting? Davis has been in the league one more season than Antetokounmpo.

However, when you have two All-Star appearances and a gold medal in your three NBA seasons — not to mention a PER of 30.8 past season that was more than double Antetokounmpo’s number — you get to talk a little smack. So if Davis wants to call a peer “kid” he can go right ahead.

I’m looking forward to years of Davis and Antetokounmpo battling each other and talking smack back-and-forth. They could be doing that on much bigger stages in a few years.

Raptors’ GM Masai Ujiri sees Bismack Biyombo as key part of roster transformation

Detroit Pistons v Charlotte Hornets
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Raptors GM Masai Ujiri spent this summer transforming the Raptors roster — he went out and got some defense. That starts with adding DeMarre Carroll, who brings a needed lock-down guy on the perimeter to Toronto. But there were other moves, such as adding Corey Joseph, drafting Delon Wright, while letting guys like Lou Williams walk.

Then they added a big man and rim protector Bismack Biyombo to the roster. He will back up Jonas Valanciunas, but Biyombo gives coach Dwane Casey a guy who thinks defense and rebounding first.

Ujiri knew who he wanted and targeted Biyambo early in free agency.

“My agent let me know the teams that would be calling me and right after 12, it was like 12:03, I got a phone call from Masai,” Biyombo recalled on a conference call on Thursday touting the NBA exhibition game in Africa Saturday. “So I was asking myself if he was going to talk to me about the summer camps (in Africa) and stuff, or if it was just going to be about basketball. We talked about how my family was doing more than we talked about basketball.”

But they did get around to hoops and how Biyombo could help Toronto. Ujiri wants energy and for Biyombo to come in and be physical inside.

“He’s trying to figure it out in many ways, what his niche and his specialty can be in the NBA,” Ujiri said on the same conference call. “But what he does well now is offensive rebounding. He’s elite, blocking shots, offensive rebounding he’s elite.

“Defensive rebounding I think he’s going to get better and then as a defensive player, he’s really a solid defender. We needed more physicality with our team, a screen-setter, a roller, somebody that will always challenge, put a body on guys and that’s what Biyombo does.”

He wants Biyombo to be the counterbalance to the offensive-minded Valanciunas.

Biyombo said he agreed pretty quickly to a two-year, $5.8 million deal with the Raptors in part because of his relationship with Ujiri. He also recognized the opportunity. While in Africa Biyombo said he has worked with Hakeem Olajuwon (also over for the exhibition game) on his post moves and his free throw shooting. The more offense he can provide to go with that defense, the more run Biyombo likely gets.

He’s been in the league four years, but Biyombo is just 22 — there is still a lot of room for him to grow his game. But if he can bring some defense in the paint to a Raptors team that fell to bottom 10 in the NBA in defense last season — and was torched by the Wizards in the first round — then he will get time on the court to show that offensive improvement off.

Nets finally taking responsible path to rebuilding, don’t expect another spending spree next summer

Brooklyn Nets Deron Williams Paul Pierce Kevin Garnett
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A few years back, Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov knew he needed a winning team to open the Barclays’ Center, a team that could get New York’s attention. He ordered his GM to spend without concern for the luxury tax, he openly laughed at that demarcation line. Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, trading for Joe Johnson, and the list goes on — Brooklyn bought a pretty good team, one that made the second round of the playoffs, but at a ridiculous price tag.

Now, times have changed — the Nets waived Deron Williams, traded Garnett, let Pierce bolt to the other coast, and made moves to get under (or at least close to) the luxury tax. Prokhorov is sending out letters to season ticket holders touting a younger, more athletic team. They are going to try and build in a more traditional way. Well, except without draft picks for a while.

That means next summer, when they have cap space again, don’t expect the Nets to spend like mad on one big free agent, reports Nets Daily.

One league source told NetsDaily it will be a long time, if ever, before the Nets pay the luxuy tax again. Part of his thinking is that they will go into next summer with $40 million in cap space, enough to pursue a star or more likely, pay two of three good players … some of whom may be their own. The other reason is they think with a longer term strategy and some good fortune, they can win while being fiscally frugal. They’re putting a LOT of stock in continuity, particularly with the coaching staff. (The insider said that he could foresee the Nets maxing out only one of their current playes, Bojan Bogdanovic, two years from now if he breaks out.)

They are going to act like 29 other teams.

The general rule of thumb around the league is not to go into the tax — especially avoid the dreaded repeater tax (for being above the tax line three out of four years) — unless you are in a window of title contention. The Cavaliers are about to do it to keep LeBron James happy, but they should — with him they are contenders for the next five years (at least). But you don’t  see even the big market money machines like the Lakers and Knicks willing to spend way over the line right now, at least until they get somewhere near contender status again. You can’t just buy a team.

What this likely means for the Nets is some short term pain. They certainly still have the talent to make the bottom half of the playoffs in the East — they did spend this summer to retain Brook  Lopez and Thaddeus Young — but the rebuilding is going to take a little time. Especially considering all the draft picks they sent away during the “win now” era (Boston will be picking for the Nets a lot in the coming years).

The Nets have learned how to build patiently, while their owner has learned how to dodge marriage promises. They may be getting things right, but there is still a price to be paid for their win-now era.