Kurt Helin

Denver Nuggets v Phoenix Suns

Gerald Green talks about embarrassment, getting past losing part of ring finger on right hand

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It’s a story we’ve talked about before at PBT: When Gerald Green was in sixth grade, he was playing hoops on a makeshift rim on top of a doorway, while wearing his mother’s class ring. Green went up to dunk, the ring caught on an exposed nail, and it ripped the flesh off his finger down to the bone. The doctors had to amputate his ring finger on his right hand at the middle knuckle.

It’s as bad as it sounds.

Green was able to overcome that to become a future first-round NBA draft pick out of high school, win the NBA All-Star Dunk Contest, and have an eight-year NBA career (with a couple of seasons playing in Russia in the middle). That will continue this season with the Miami Heat.

Despite all that, it took a long time to get over the embarrassment of losing that finger, something Green talked about with Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel.

…when selected in the first round of the 2005 NBA draft by the Boston Celtics, came a moment of truth. “If you go back and look at the David Stern tape,” he said during a private moment Thursday about meeting the NBA commissioner, “when I go shake his hand I have my right hand in my pocket. He tells me, ‘Take your hand out of your pocket.’

“I always have been a little shy about that. But I think it’s getting better once I get older. I just want to be able to inspire people with that…

“I think what really hurt me were the aftereffects,” he said, “the getting made fun of, scared to talk about it because I was so ashamed of it, or always hiding my hand in my pocket.

“That was the thing that I had to go through. And as a little kid, obviously kids like to make fun of you because you have this or that. It was something I went through. But it taught me to be who I am today.”

The image of an NBA player in high school is he is the cool kid, the BMOC, the guy every other guy wants to be and every girl wants to be with. For some, that is the reality. But for some it is different — NBA players have had their difficult adjustments through their teenage years (they tend to be tall and awkward), just like the rest of us. The Lakers’ Roy Hibbert talked about that and his battles with depression openly recently.

If Green can use his story to help inspire some youth to accept who they are and face their challenges, then all the better.

Boban Marjanovic says he wants to play for Serbia at EuroBasket but it’s in Spurs’ hands

Galatasaray Liv Hospital Istanbul v Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade - Turkish Airlines Euroleague Top 16
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The Spurs were clear in the letter they sent to the Serbian national team about their new signing, 7’3″ center Boban Marjanovic.

“After a physical exam, which included a MRI, San Antonio Spurs center Boban Marjanović has been diagnosed significant bony edema in his left ankle… As a result of these findings and in the best interest of his future health, Spurs officials have informed Marjanović and the Serbian Basketball Federation that, under the agreement between FIBA and the NBA, Marjanović will not be allowed to participate with the Serbian National Team in Eurobasket 2015.”

That doesn’t mean Marjanovic and the Serbians are happy about it. Both Marjanovic’s agent and the Serbian national team tried to get Gregg Popovich to change his mind, saying their pre-camp physical did not show an edema. Good luck with that.

Marjanovic explained the situation in an interview with the Serbian paper Blic, translated by Project Spurs.

“I’m so sorry for everything that happened, I had a great desire and motivation to play for the national team,” Marjanovic told Blic. “With impatience I waited start preparing the national team and work with the screen Djordjevic, but nothing is in my hands. From the first days of preparation there was a great atmosphere in the team, it’s a fantastic group of guys that I am convinced that it will be able to achieve the desired goal and placed on the Olympics.”

EuroBasket takes place this summer with the top two teams getting into the Olympics, and a few more qualifying for the Olympics play-in tournament next summer (in 2016, right before the Olympics). The USA has already qualified for the 12-team Olympic tournament in Rio. Host Brazil will get a spot if they pay FIBA some back dues/money over the next couple days, if not they have to play their way in. Because FIBA.

If Serbia can make it to the games in Rio — they did not qualify for the 2012 games in London — then Marjanovic can play. Maybe. It is Popovich and the Spurs.

 

Jason Thompson happy with stability of Warriors after seven years in Sacramento

Los Angeles Lakers v Sacramento Kings
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Stability and continuity matter in the NBA.

No team is ever static, but there can be continuity of vision and a player core, and that matters. That’s what wins. It has mattered for the San Antonio Spurs for pushing two decades, and that stability has turned them into the model franchise in the league. More recently, Atlanta finally has some stability of system under Mike Budenholzer and they jumped to the top of the East with 60 wins (even while we debate if they can sustain that).

Then there are the Golden State Warriors. Since new ownership came in they have stuck with their vision and it paid off with a ring and a parade.

After seven seasons in Sacramento, Jason Thompson was traded to the Warriors (via Philadelphia) this summer and is excited by the idea of stability, he told the Associated Press.

“I haven’t been around much winning this past seven years,” said Thompson, sitting in the Warriors downtown practice facility Thursday. “A lot of instability with seven coaches in seven years, 180 teammates and things like that. That doesn’t ever lead to winning. To come to an organization that has and coming off a championship, that’s great for myself.”

The other thing stable organizations do is create competition for playing time — Thompson is going to have to earn minutes that could go to Festus Ezeli or Marreese Speights.

The obvious take away from what Thompson said is another insult piled on the Sacramento Kings. And it is that. But he’s also not wrong or alone. DeMarcus Cousins’ frustrations with the Kings have been over this same issue of instability of system (and players).

I don’t know that the Vlade Divac/George Karl combination is the answer in Sacramento — and I’ve got plenty of questions about their lineup, too — but Vivek Ranadive, stick with one combo and style for a while. Give this plan a chance to take root and work before you decide to rip it out and start over. This isn’t fantasy basketball, stability and continuity matter. A lot.

Brandon Bass: Kobe Bryant is “arguably the best player in the game still”

Cleveland Cavaliers v Los Angeles Lakers
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We know what Kobe Bryant still thinks of his skills. Last year, when ESPN ranked him the 40th best player in the NBA right now, because he was 36 years old and coming off an Achilles injury, he said they were idiots. Then Bryant missed more than half of last season due to injury (and Byron Scott wearing him down with heavy minutes early).

So where does Bryant rank now?

If you ask newest Laker Brandon Bass right at the top. Turns out the New Orleans Times-Picayune did ask Bass that question.

“…we have arguably the best player in the game still,” Bass said. “When he is healthy he is a monster still. If he is healthy he’s right up there with the best players in the league, that’s LeBron or whoever the best players in the league are. When Kobe is healthy, 19 years in the game he is still elite.”

What did you expect him to say?

But is Kobe still elite?

All-time, no doubt Kobe is elite. He will go down as one of the game’s all-time greats. He deserves the retired number in the rafters and the statue out in front of Staples — none other than Jerry West called Kobe the greatest Laker. He’s an intense, old-school competitor, a guy with amazing fundamentals and footwork, a high hoops IQ, and back in the day some impressive athleticism. He’s got five rings because few players in league history have gotten as much out of their natural gifts as Kobe. He will be missed when he walks away.

But right now?

To quote Seth and Amy, “Really?”

Last season Kobe wasn’t surrounded by much talent so — as he has done in the past — he took on an incredible load in the offense, putting it on his back. The results were inefficient and physically wore him down (his shooting percentages dropped the deeper into the season he got). Kobe can’t carry that kind the same way as he did a decade ago. He can’t get to the rim the same way (and defenses packed it in on the Lakers) which led to 55 percent of his shots coming from 16 feet or farther out, and those shots were not falling. Kobe shot just 29.3 percent from three last season and had a true shooting percentage of 47.7 percent, well below the league average. Kobe still can pass and play a smart game (if he trusts his teammates), he also still made some plays, and he was certainly above average (which should give Lakers fans hope as Kobe will have better talent around him this season).

But elite? As in LeBron James, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kevin Durant kind of elite?

Sorry, but Bass is just spinning what his new team and its fans want to hear. Just like the idea the Lakers can make the playoffs.

 

 

With help of Yao Ming, China wins bid to host 2019 FIBA World Cup

Yao Ming, Emmanuel Pacquiao
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It came down to Manny Pacquiao vs. Yao Ming.

Both men were in Tokyo for a FIBA vote on where to host the 2019 basketball World Cup, and the finalists were China — led by Yao — and the basketball-crazed Philippines with a bid led by Pacquiao.

Chalk one up for the tall guy. FIBA awarded the event to China.

“I know what it’s like to play a top-level basketball tournament in front of home fans because I played at the 2008 Beijing Olympics,” Yao said in a statement on the FIBA Web site. “Having the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup will inspire a lot of people and particularly more young athletes to participate in basketball.”

If you’re thinking 2019 is an odd year to host — and just one year before the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo — you’d be right. The obvious answer is “welcome to FIBA, we’re trying to give FIFA a run for its money.”

The move is FIBA attempting to address concerns from the NBA (and other professional leagues around the globe) about wear and tear on their players performing in the summer in international tournaments. (Concerns that came up again with the ACL injury to Utah’s Dante Exum, which likely costs him next season.)  By moving the World Cup to 2019 FIBA is putting the qualifying tournaments for the Olympics and World Cup in one event, rather than two. Of course, now their two biggest tournaments are in consecutive years, so… welcome to FIBA.

If you think all of this is going to make the NBA — and Mark Cuban — happy, guess again. The NBA league office and the competition committee is still discussing how to handle all of it (and much of this will need to be negotiated with the players’ union).

As for 2019, China will host the event spread across eight cities — Beijing, Nanjing, Suzhou, Wuhan, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Foshan and Dongguan. In 2019, the format for the tournament will grow to include 32 teams from around the globe. That includes seven from North and South America combined, plus a dozen from Europe.

The USA has won the last two World Cups (it used to be called the FIBA World Championships).