Kurt Helin

Los Angeles Lakers Draft Picks Press Conference

Jim Buss heaps praise, hope on young Lakers

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The big Laker story line this season revolves around Kobe Bryant — will he or won’t he?

The more important story line to the future of the Lakers is the development of their three young stars — D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, and Julius Randle.

Lakers co-owner Jim Buss spoke to the Los Angeles Times about all things Lakers — Buss is trying to raise his profile and grow his positive numbers among Lakers fans, but that’s another story — and he heaped praise on their three young stars. That starts with Russell — the Lakers didn’t take big man Jahlil Okafor and instead bet on the point guard out of Ohio State with the highest draft pick the Lakers organization has had since it selected James Worthy.

“We’ve got high aspirations for him,” Buss said. “We normally look to get bigs, but [Russell] was just that impressive, that we just didn’t feel right passing up on him.

“My enthusiasm for D’Angelo Russell, I have to curb it because I’m so excited about it. He could be anything in this league.”

The Lakers are very high on Russell — in a point guard driven league they see him growing into one of the elites. They are high on his potential and chose that over Okafor, who may not have the higher ceiling (that’s up for debate) but certainly has the higher floor. The Lakers rolled the dice that Russell is special.

As for Clarkson and Randle:

“(Randle is) a beast. He’s been working out with some ex-NBA players and handling himself very well. He’s super strong, very fit,” Buss said…

“Watching Jordan Clarkson develop [this summer], he’s followed that same path, how he got better and better every game,” Buss said.

Watching the three Lakers at Summer League, each of them showed moments of promise and lots of room for improvement — like all young players. Clarkson put up big numbers in Las Vegas but dominated the ball and didn’t work as well off it. Randle understandably looked rusty at times, showed that physicality and athleticism at other times, but worked too much in a straight line and needs more moves. Russell had a rough start to the Summer League as the game just seemed to move too fast, and he tried to do too much. But that’s Summer League, it is a place for development, what matters is how they grow as players from these early points.

The question is, do the Lakers have the infrastructure to develop these players? Is Byron Scott the coach to do that?

That is the story line that matters most for the Lakers next season, while we all talk about Kobe.

Clippers’ owner Steve Ballmer rejects $60 million a year local TV deal, may start streaming service

Steve Ballmer
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Right now, over-the-top local and national television deals are fueling the NBA — the league’s salary cap is going to jump $40 million a year per team in the next two years because of a new national television deal. On the local level, oversized deals with regional sports networks that need the programming — or in some cases, such as the Lakers’ $4 billion deal, the local stations are wholly based around the team — pump truckloads of cash into the system.

But the future is streaming, and everybody knows it. Already you can stream any NBA game, some for free, or you can pay for a League Pass broadband subscription, and that market is growing quickly.

Which brings us to the Clippers’ emotional owner Steve Ballmer, who rejected $60 million a year from a local Fox Sports property to consider starting his own streaming service, reports the New York Post.

Steve Ballmer, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, has turned down a $60 million-a-year offer for local TV rights and is forging ahead with a plan to start his own over-the-top streaming network, The Post has learned.

If he follows through on the plan, Ballmer, the former CEO of Microsoft, would be the first owner of a major US sports team to deliver games direct-to-consumer via a Web-based service and not through traditional cable or satellite companies, sources said….

(Fox Sports) Prime Ticket currently pays the team a rights fee of $25 million a year — and offered a 140 percent increase, to $60 million, but the billionaire Ballmer turned it aside… Some observers think the bombastic Ballmer is merely using the threat of forming an over-the-top network as a play to wring more mon­ey from an RSN.

I would bet on that last sentence being true. Streaming may well be the future, and it certainly is now some fans (particularly under 25) watch games, but the money right now is still in television. He’s working to gain leverage and open the door to other competitors, but in the end he’s not going to shun that money all for his startup risk. Plus, he knows Fox Sports needs to keep the Clippers — they have lost the Lakers, Dodgers, Galaxy, Sparks and other properties in recent years — and will overpay to do so.

However, teams controlling their own streaming could well be the next big thing for NBA owners trying to wring every drop of revenue out of their team.

Right now that streaming is part of the rights package that regional sports networks purchase. To use an in-house example here at Comcast/NBC, if you are a Comcast Sportsnet subscriber in cities where we have local NBA rights — Philadelphia, Boston, Portland, the Bay Area, Washington D.C., and so on — you can stream your local team’s games through the local CSN websites (and find links here on NBCSports.com to all of that). This is pretty standard across the RSNs in the league. These regional outlets like streaming because it is another place you can sell advertising where the audience is captive (you can’t just fast forward through the ads like on a DVR).

Eventually paying for those streaming rights will cost the RSNs a lot more money, and if it is profitable enough teams will take them over. Ballmer may just be ahead of the curve on this.

Although, after watching his years guiding Microsoft, he’s swung and missed on more than a few things, too. So we’ll wait and see.

Omri Casspi says Kings going in right direction, can make playoffs in West

Los Angeles Lakers v Sacramento Kings
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On paper, and with a little luck, the Kings look like a pretty good team — Rajon Rondo running the point, Rudy Gay on the wing, and DeMarcus Cousins in the paint anchoring it all. Add a coach who gets teams to rack up wins in George Karl and some solid veteran role players (Kosta K0ufos, Caron Butler, Marco Belinelli, etc.) and there is some potential.

In reality, this is what even Karl called a “combustible” mix. There are players with a lot of different styles and big egos that have to come together on this team — maybe they can bond over a hatred of Karl? — and the organization, to put it kindly, has not been a model of stability. This team can go a lot of different directions next season.

Omri Casspi, who chose to re-sign with the Kings this summer, thinks the Kings are a playoff team. He believes this is a team on the rise with a shot at the playoffs, he told James Herbert of CBSSports.com.

I like Sacramento. I felt like I had a really good connection with the coach last year. I feel like the direction of the team is going, it’s finally moving and getting some speed in the right direction. I feel like we have a good team. I felt I want to be a part of something that’s growing and competing for the playoffs next year and being in the playoffs, putting ourselves in a position to win championships. And I didn’t want to leave. I trust our organization, I trust our coaches. We have the best center in the league. Obviously we’re going in the right direction.

I’m not sure I’d go with the word “obvious,” but people around the Kings believe it. We’ll see if they can prove it once the games start — making the playoffs in the West is a lofty goal for a team that was 16 games out of the eight seed a year ago. It’s a brutal conference where teams like Dallas, Utah, and Phoenix could all be in the mix for one final playoff spot. Sacramento fancies itself in that group.

Casspi also talked about his connection with DeMarcus Cousins (who traveled with Casspi back to Israel this summer for an NBA Cares event and some bonding).

Me and DeMarcus met, it was my second year and it was his first. We had a good connection, you know? It’s like with your family; you can tell them everything. They trust you and you trust them in the same way. If you do something wrong, they’ll tell you and vice versa. He came all the way from the United States to see my family and meet my family. Seeing him having dinner and talking to my mom and dad and my sister … we have a special bond and I love him. So he’s my brother.

 

Klay Thompson tries to cheat at go-karts and… instant karma

Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Sports Awards 2015 - Arrivals
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Come on Klay Thompson, did Mychal raise a cheater? I don’t think so.

The NBA champ was at the go-kart track and decided to cut a corner. To quote John Lennon, “instant Karma’s gonna get you” and it slapped Thompson right in the face.

By the way, in a recent interview Thompson said he had worked on adding a pump fake to his game this summer — that could be a dynamic addition. Last season defenses started to pay attention to him more and more (not easy with Stephen Curry in the same backcourt, plus a loaded roster), and Thompson saw more of his shots contested. That’s only going to get worse. A move that gets a defender in the air and lets Thompson put the ball on the floor and drive, or draw a foul, would be a great addition.

(Hat tip to Mr. Go Kart Matt Moore at CBS’s Eye on Basketball)

Stephanie Ready to become first full-time female local NBA game color analyst

From twitter.com/StephanieReady
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We certainly have heard some superb women working as analysts of NBA games before. ESPN’s Dorris Burke steps in occasionally and is better than most in that chair. Both Ann Meyers and Nancy Lieberman have done some local work as well.

Now Stephanie Ready has been tapped to take the next step — she will be a full-time color analyst on Charlotte Hornets games on Fox Sports Southeast, something the team announced Thursday. Ready will work with play-by-play man Eric Collins and former Hornet standout player Dell Curry in a three-person booth.

Ready is going from sideline reporter to the booth (she also has and will continue with postgame shows on the network).

“I’ve had a love affair with the game of basketball for as long as I can remember, both as a player and a coach. I’m honored and excited to be able to share my passion for this sport with our audience,” Ready said in a statement. “FOX Sports and the Hornets have always taken pride in being innovative and forward-thinking. I’m extremely proud to be a part of history.”

This breaks another barrier around the NBA — young girls watching the games should see role models and know they can grow up to be part of an NBA franchise in a variety of capacities, not only someone who dances during timeouts.

But as an NBA League Pass junkie I’ll tell you why I’m happy — she’s good. She was a fantastic sideline reporter. Combine her with Curry in the booth and a rock-solid veteran play-by-play man in Collins and we should get some quality, insightful commentary and a broadcast worth watching. All local broadcasts have a bit of a homer feel (know your audience), but the best ones have a level-headed sense and a love of the game that shines through above all else. A lot of teams miss that boat. I could be watching a lot more Charlotte broadcasts this season.