Author: Kurt Helin

Team USA Practice Session

Must watch video: Durant, Harden, George play “king of the hill” after practice


LAS VEGAS — I was hoping someone would cut and post up this video, because it was flat-out amazing to watch in person. It stopped the room.

After Day 3 of Team USA practice in Las Vegas Kevin Durant, Paul George and James Harden played a little “king of the hill” (a three-way game of one-on-one). These guys are long and a couple of them are good defenders, but when Durant drives or Harden hits a step-back three, there is nothing anyone can do.

Watch this and remember why you love basketball.

Report: Metta World Peace reaches deal to play in China next season

New York Knicks vs Los Angeles Clippers

Does China really know what it’s getting here?

Former NBA All-Star and most recently Laker and Knicks player Metta World Peace has reached a deal to play in China next year, reports the official Chinese news site Sina, via the always on top of it Sportando.

The forward has reached an agreement in principle with Chinese team Sichuan Blue Whales. General Manager for Sichuan confirmed the agreement to Sports Sina. Metta World Peace will earn something close to $1.300.000.

World Peace basically confirmed that.

World Peace, 34, has seen his skill set decline, has some nagging injuries, and couldn’t really get on the floor for a pretty weak Knicks team last season. They agreed to waive him but no other team picked him up (the level of distraction was not worth the production on the court). He didn’t field any good offers this summer either.

In China he will still be a top flight player. On the court he should put up numbers and could get NBA teams to give him a second look (the Chinese season ends in February so he could sign for the rest of the NBA season).

Off the court… that is going to be interesting. Talk to players who go to China and they say the culture shock is the hardest part to deal with — the food is radically different, the entertainment is different, pretty much everything is different. World Peace is headed to the central heartland of the country, an agrarian area (although there are some very large cities as well). There is a high dropout rate of Western players who head to China, can’t deal and get out.

Some guys thrive, with Stephon Marbury being the poster child for that. He has a statue in Beijing now after leading the Ducks to a couple titles.

Gary Payton on becoming an assistant coach: “I’m getting interested now”

Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony - Press Conference

The question isn’t “does Gary Payton have the basketball knowledge to coach in the NBA?” If you’ve ever spoken to the Hall of Famer, you know he does.

The question is the lifestyle — an NBA assistant coach spends a lot of time watching and breaking down film, working with guys late after practice, putting in long hours and dealing with a lot of travel for not a ton of money or glory. It’s a grinding job.

Does Payton want to make that sacrifice?

There is reportedly interest from Jason Kidd in Milwaukee and Byron Scott in Los Angeles as they fill out their coaching staffs, and Payton said on Fox Sports 1 Wednesday that he is 50/50 on the idea.

“This stuff is just rumors right now,” Payton said. “I went to Summer League and I was with Jason (Kidd) for a long period of time and we had a couple of conversations.

“I’m getting interested now. A lot of guys knew I wasn’t interested in coaching, but now I’m getting a little interested. I see these young guys out here that needs some help and some guidance from a guy like me. It’s there, but I like what I’m doing right now, I like Fox Sports 1.

“It’s just talk right now. I got to put my mind to it, I got to think about making sacrifices and doing other things. But you know if I get into basketball I don’t know what will happen. I could be a head coach in three, four, five years I just don’t know.”

Payton lives in Los Angeles much of the year now, that seems a more likely landing spot than Milwaukee, despite the ties to Kidd.

Back when he played, “The Glove” was known as a defensive stopper, but the hand check and contact on the perimeter rules are enforced differently now. Payton has told PBT he’s not sure how well he could defend in today’s game — he had great battles with Michael Jordan but he could get physical with MJ in a way that just can’t be done anymore.

Not that Payton couldn’t help a lot of guys with defensive positioning, fundamentals and knowing the system. Plus, don’t forget Payton was just an all-around great point guard at both ends. The man knows the game.

Does he want to coach it is the question.

Chandler Parsons, James Harden patch things up

Chandler Parsons, James Harden

James Harden said everyone not himself or Dwight Howard on the Rockets were role players. Chandler Parsons, now of the Dallas Mavericks, wasn’t amused by that. Two guys that had been tight in Houston suddenly were having a little back-and-forth in the media.

Then they got together and talked.

Now it’s all good between them, something Chris Haynes of got the pair to talk about.

“We’ve been in the casinos together and everything,” Parsons said to “We talked about it and it’s in the past. We’ve been hanging out, talking. We played on the same team a few times here, which was cool to get back out there with him. There are no hard feelings.”

“There was never really any back and forth,” Harden told “I never said anything about Chandler. Chandler is in Dallas right now. I was just talking about my teammates. No matter what, if the Rockets are playing good, Dwight and James get the praise. If we’re doing bad, Dwight and James gets the bulk of criticism. The media, I guess, took another story and ran with it. Chandler and me are cool. We’re good.”

And like most feuds, once two rational people sit down and talk for a minute, everything dissipates.

Harden is right that he and Dwight Howard will get the lion’s share of blame or credit for how the Rockets do, fair or not, but he basically reiterated that everyone but him and Howard are role players. True or not, guys in the locker room don’t like to hear that.

Once the season starts Harden will get a sense of how much he will miss Parsons, that was a real threat working off him and Dwight Howard and Trevor Ariza may not be able to fill those same shoes.

Anthony Davis steps into spotlight, is Team USA’s lynchpin

2014 USA Basketball Practice

LAS VEGAS — Monday was the first day of scrimmages for Team USA in its preparation for the World Cup and Anthony Davis was in the heart of the action for the white team. He got the ball on a cut to the rim but missed a contested shot in the paint. The other blue team got the ball and as Team USA wants to do was off to the races with an outlet pass and an attempt to score in transition before the defense sets. Davis sprinted back on defense, eating up ground with his long strides, and as a guard rose up for what he thought was an open midrange jumper five seconds into the clock Davis came flying through and swatted it out of bounds with authority. It was the kind of block maybe only a couple players in the world could have made.

It was exactly what Team USA is counting on Davis to do. Every game.

The USA is going small in its run for World Cup gold, playing a lot of Kevin Durant as the four, and that puts Davis in the spotlight — he is the big man who must protect the rim on defense, he must own the glass, and also get points in the paint on offense.

Davis is the lynchpin for Team USA’s plan and for casual fans could be the breakout star of the World Cup.

“We think he’s one of the top players in the league and we need for him to be that five that nobody has,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said praising Davis. “Everyone talks about things we don’t have, well they don’t have him.”

“Kevin’s at the four, so of course we have four guys now who can play on the perimeter, so we need somebody in the paint,” Davis said of his role. “So I’m just trying to make sure I run to the front of the rim, set screens and do everything a five would do for the team. I’m not trying to get outside my lane here, just trying and do what Coach K asks.”

Look for Davis to end up on a lot of highlight reels — the floor is spaced with shooters and slashers such as Durant, Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving, and John Wall among others and when they get in the paint the big watching Davis is going to have to slide over and block that drive. When he does Davis is going to roll to the rim.

“With the shooters the lob to him has got to be used,” Krzyzewski said.

Wednesday Davis got a couple of those alley-oops in a late scrimmage courtesy Wall and you could see how this could be all over SportsCenter when the real games start.

“It’s good to see the ball go up in the air,” Davis said with a smile.

His biggest impact, however, is going to be at the other end of the floor — he has to own the paint. Davis said he has bulked up, adding 15-20 pounds of muscle, and is ready for the more physical brand of basketball played internationally.

“There’s nothing really different except the physicality,” Davis said of playing international ball compared to the NBA (where he primarily is a power forward). “There’s no defensive three seconds which really helps be because I like to block shots.”

Davis’ shot blocking, versatility and athleticism allows Krzyzewski play the aggressive, trapping style he wants on the defensive side of the ball. Team USA has better athletes than any team in the world and the system of pressure and fast breaks is set up to take advantage of it. Davis lets that happen, blocking shots on one end and rim running on the other. Davis has a midrange jumper and the ability to put the ball on the floor that lets him work as a pick-and-pop big or rolling to the rim.

In fact, Krzyzewski wondered aloud how the USA’s offense would change when Davis had to go to the bench and his backup — likely DeMarcus Cousins or Andre Drummond — came on the court. Do they have to tweak what they do because there isn’t another Davis?

Davis was a raw late addition to Team USA for the London Olympics two years ago, where LeBron James and Kobe Bryant took Davis under their wings and tried to teach the rookie to be about the work and mentality needed to be a superstar in the NBA. Davis heard them — Wednesday after practice, when most guys at Team USA camp were icing their knees or taking part in half court shooting contests, Davis and USA assistant coach Monty Williams were working on post positioning and movements in the offense for Davis. There has been a lot of post-game work by Davis.

Davis hasn’t been seen much by casual hoops fans these past couple seasons, playing in the small market of New Orleans for a Pelicans team that didn’t make the playoffs and doesn’t get a lot of national television games. But Davis is poised to break out, with Durant saying he thinks Davis is a future MVP.

That breakout could happen in Spain, on the World Cup stage.

If Team USA is going to defend its gold medal this summer, it will happen because Davis was a big man no other team in the world could match.

That he really was the five nobody else had.