Kurt Helin

2013 NBA Draft

Olajuwon credits Moses Malone for teaching him game

Leave a comment

Future Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon was a young student at the University of Houston, and a member of their high-flying basketball team Phi Slamma Jamma (along with Clyde Drexler).

Moses Malone was a member of the Houston Rockets and was racking up NBA MVP trophies.

And they used to go at it on the practice court in some epic battles where the veteran taught the young star the game. On the occasion of Malone’s passing, Olajuwon looked back on how Malone shaped his game, speaking to Fran Blinebury of NBA.com.

“I would never have accomplished what I did if I did not play against Moses at Fonde,” Olajuwon said before his own Hall of Fame induction in 2008. “I knew the rules. I knew the basics of the game and what you were supposed to do. But he is the one that taught me how to do it.

“With Moses there were no rests, no breaks. He was working every time down the court — scoring, rebounding or just making you feel his body. He would laugh when he slammed into you. If you tried to take a breath, he went by you or over you. There was no stop….

“I usually couldn’t go through Moses, because he was just so strong,” Olajuwon said. “So I had to learn to use speed and agility to go around him. That’s how I built my game.”

Olajuwon added a series of moves and counters, and soon enough was going around everyone in the NBA. A decade after those pickup games and lessons in Houston, Olajuwon was winning an NBA title.

And Moses Malone deserves a little credit for all of it.

DeMarcus Cousins hits three near center court logo

Leave a comment

Stephen Curry would be embarrassed to take that shot.

That is Kings’ center DeMarcus Cousins, arguably the best center in the NBA (I’d have him second behind Marc Gasol), playing this weekend in a University of Kentucky alumni vs. University of North Carolina alumni exhibition.

Cousins has been working on his jumper this summer, allowing him to step out and space the floor as George Karl calls for in his system (and as Cousins is going to need to if paired with rookie Willie Cauley-Stein at all). He hit all five threes in this game, which you don’t want to read too much into because your pickup game on the blacktop this weekend had better defense played. Still, leave him alone and he can hurt you. From some pretty ridiculous range.

Hat tip to Eye on Basketball for finding a good video of the shot.

51 Q: Can Brooklyn tread water, make playoffs again?

Brooklyn Nets New Player Portraits

PBT is previewing the 2015-16 NBA season by tackling 51 big questions that we can’t wait to see answered once play tips off. We will answer one a day right up to the start of the season Oct. 27. Today’s question:

Can the Brooklyn Nets tread water and make the playoffs again?

The Brooklyn Nets made the playoffs last season.


They won just 38 games, in the East that — plus coming out on top of a tie-breaker Indiana —earned them the right to face Atlanta in the first round (and lose 4-2). It wasn’t exactly an impressive season, but they got an invite to the dance.

Then this summer the Nets’ bills came due — or rather, bills came due, and they scrambled to avoid paying them.

The repeater luxury tax bill was about to land on the doorstep of Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, the Russian oligarch who had ordered a reckless, crazy spending spree a few years back. He did so in an effort to put together a contender that would open the Barclays Center and grab the attention of New York. (Well, they did open the Barclays Center, so that’s one out of three goals accomplished.)

This summer the goal was to try to avoid the tax, and GM Billy King did it — and in doing so the Nets got worse in the short-term. That doesn’t mean it was the wrong thing to do. They avoided paying the tax for a mediocre team, more importantly they freed up cap space and gave themselves the flexibility to chase free agents next summer (which they need to because of a dearth of draft picks). But make no mistake, this coming year the Nets are going to be worse.

Not quite bad enough for Williamsburg hipsters to think they’re cool, but bad enough to miss the playoffs.

It all comes back to the almighty dollar. Or ruble, if you prefer. Brooklyn dodged the luxury tax this summer by getting Deron Williams to agree to a buyout for just $27.5 million of the $43 million he was owed the next two seasons (he agreed to that just to get out of town). It was a great deal for Brooklyn. Using the stretch provision on the remaining sum, Williams now only hits the Nets cap for $5.5 million (for five years).

That allowed Brooklyn to re-sign Brook Lopez to a max deal (three-years, $60 million), keeping the big man as their anchor while not paying the tax. Keeping Lopez allowed the Nets to trade Mason Plumlee rather than pay him in a couple of years (they got rookie Rondae Hollis-Jefferson). They also re-signed Thaddeus Young (four-years, $50 million). Then the Nets made a lot of interesting gambles looking for rotation players, bringing in Dahntay Jones, Andrea Bargnani, Shane Larkin, and Thomas Robinson.

Why are they going to be worse? Because as much as he dragged the locker room down — fellow Nets players were not sad to see the morose D-Will head to Dallas — Williams was a solid to good NBA point guard who averaged 13 points and 6.6 assists per game, plus could hit the three. He knew how to run a team on the court.

They did not land a replacement. The Nets have one of the worst point guard situations in the NBA (Philly may win that argument right now, however). Jarrett Jack is a streaky, score-first point guard who works well coming off the bench but now will be entrusted with running the entire show. Behind him are the gambles — Shane Larkin and Ryan Boatright. It could be ugly.

While the point guard slot is the most glaring issues, a lot of other things need to go right if the Nets are going to hang around .500 and make the playoffs again. They need to find some defensive stoppers and become committed on that end (they were bottom 10 on defense last season). They need Joe Johnson to stay healthy and return to vintage form (in the last year of his contract). They need Lopez to stay healthy. They need Bojan Bogdanovic to have a breakout season — he didn’t impress at EuroBasket, where he battled a concussion and an ankle injury, and shot just 4-for-24 from three.

The more likely result is the Nets don’t tread water, they sink a little, down to 33 wins or so, and that’s not going to be enough to make the playoffs again. Even in the East.

There are reasons to spin this as the summer the Nets started to do things right. By stretching Williams and knowing Johnson’s $24 million salary comes off the books next summer, the Nets could have around $44 million to chase big name free agents in 2016. They will head into next summer with options.

But if they win in the mid-30s in games (and not controlling their own first round draft pick until 2019), can they sell Brooklyn as a “win now” destination? Will name free agents want to come there? Probably not, it’s going to be a rebuilding process.

That may be the ultimate tax bill from the Barclays Center spending spree. They gave away the assets and flexibility needed to build a contender in this NBA, under this CBA. They are working to get some of that back, but it’s going to be a long road, not a quick fix.

And it’s going to mean missing the playoffs a few times.

The night Moses Malone had 38 pts, 32 boards (VIDEO)

Leave a comment

Moses Malone had a lot of amazing nights on the court in his Hall of Fame career, but none of them may have been as impressive as Feb. 11, 1982.

Malone played for the Houston Rockets at the time, and they were hosting the Seattle Supersonics and their All-Star center Jack Sikma. Malone had a tremendous night: 38 points and 32 rebounds — a record 21 of them offensive boards. Technically those rebounds stats are not official (they did not track those numbers as part of the official box score until 1985) but those numbers come from the Associated Press story on the game. That’s a pretty reliable source, and would be more in one game than any player has grabbed since the NBA started counting.

Malone passed away last weekend at the age of 60. There has been an outpouring of emotion from around the NBA. He will be missed.

New Zealander Corey Webster gets Pelicans camp deal

Australian Boomers v New Zealand Tall Blacks - Game 1
Leave a comment

Corey Webster held his own this summer, playing for New Zealand going up against Australian NBA players Patty Mills and Matthew Dellavedova. It impressed the Pelicans’ GM enough to bring him in and take a look through a few workouts.

That impressed Demps enough to give Webster a non-guaranteed contract that gets him into training camp (it’s a three-year deal but with no guaranteed years). Webster talked about it with New Zealand’s Stuff.

“I am not there yet but this is another positive step towards my dream of playing in the NBA,” Webster said from New Orleans. “The past week has gone well and the coaches have been impressed enough by the workouts to want me to stay for the training camp.

“It is again up to me now to prove my value to the organisation, to put my head down and give it my best shot at training camp. I came here this week with a three-day window to impress, this has bought me more time and a chance to take the jump into the actual NBA roster.”

The reality is he likely misses the cut. The Pelicans have 13 guaranteed contracts on the roster already, and it’s possible they reach a deal to bring back Norris Cole. It’s not a lock the Pelicans fill the 15th roster spot.

If you’re looking for a way Webster makes the cut, remember that Jrue Holiday and Quincy Pondexter are still trying to recover from injuries (neither is 100 percent), and it is possible the Pelicans at least start the season with one more guard on the roster for depth. If Webster blows everyone away in training camp, maybe he sticks (although he has to beat out Sean Kilpatrick and Bryce Dejean-Jones). If the Pelicans want the depth, they would keep the player through least through the start of the season.

Still, it’s a big step forward for a guy who has been a start in New Zealand the past few years.