Kurt Helin


Cavaliers officially sign center Sasha Kaun

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CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cavaliers have signed backup center Sasha Kaun, who has spent the past six seasons playing in Russia.

Cleveland acquired Kaun’s contract rights in 2008 in a trade with Seattle (now Oklahoma City). The 6-foot-11 big man played on the bronze-medal winning Russian national team in the London Olympics for Cleveland coach David Blatt in 2012.

Kaun, who played college ball at Kansas, averaged 7.6 points and 3.6 rebounds in 142 career games for CSKA Moscow. Last season, he averaged 9.9 points and 4.5 rebounds in 30 starts and shot 69 percent from the field.

He gives Cleveland more front-line depth behind Timofey Mozgov and Anderson Varejao, who is returning from a season-ending Achilles injury.

Kaun was originally drafted in the second round before his rights were traded to Cleveland.

Hopeful Jeff Hornacek on Markieff Morris: “I think he’ll be OK”

Raymond Felton, Markieff Morris

Markieff Morris has made his wishes clear — he does not want to be a member of the Phoenix Suns anymore. He feels betrayed — he took less than market value to stay with the Suns and play with his brother Marcus, but Phoenix traded Marcus to Detroit this summer. Morris is done and will pay league fines to make it known.

The Suns aren’t going to trade him.

We have us a standoff. With coach Jeff Hornacek right in the middle of it trying to make peace. He’s optimistic, although I’m not sure what other public position he can take. He thinks this will all work out, as he told Paul Coro at the Arizona Republic.

“It’s a case of hopefully he can get here and we can all talk to him,” Hornacek said. “I think, once he gets here with the players, maybe the players can help with that regard and realize that probably, like anything else, it happens when you might not be happy with the organization. But you’re a professional. You go out there and play as hard as you can. Really, when you get out there and start playing games, you’re not playing for the organization. You’re probably not even playing for your coaches. You’re playing for yourself and your teammates because that’s the bond those guys have as players. Once he gets playing with these guys, I think he’ll be OK.”

Hornacek can stand his ground and be patient. Morris doesn’t have much choice, unless he doesn’t want to get paid. He’ll be in camp, he’ll play hard (likely as the team’s starting power forward), and when reporters ask him about it he’ll do a Marshawn Lynch imitation: “I’m only here so I don’t get fined.”

This is not ideal for a Suns team finally looking to jump up into the playoffs in the West after having just missed out for a couple seasons — they need to get off to a fast start.

This also doesn’t help Markieff’s reputation around the league as challenging for coaches and front office people to deal with, something that does not help his trade value.

Jose Calderon promises Knicks will improve: “We’ll win more than 17 games”

Cleveland Cavaliers v New York Knicks

Jose Calderon is trying to keep expectations in check, apparently.

The Spanish point guard was not right last season. Coming back after a ruptured Achilles he played 42 games and his shooting suffered — he shot 41.5 percent overall, down from 45.8 the season before. This three-point shooting (where he takes a lot of shots) was still good at 41.5 percent, but was down from 45 percent the season before. He didn’t move the same way. His efficiency dipped.

This season, Calderon says he is finally healthy and himself again. More than that, he thinks the Knicks are going to be better — although he didn’t exactly set the bar very high. Calderon spoke with Marc Berman of the New York Post about all of it.

“A lot of bad things happened last year,’’ Calderon said. “We’ll win more than 17 games and we’ll try to win every game. I’m real excited we can do great things, but talking about the playoffs, it’s too early. You don’t talk playoffs a few weeks before training camp….

“I never could get 100 percent the way the season is,’’ Calderon said. “It was a very tough season for me and I couldn’t play the way I wanted to. I needed time with the Achilles. I was thinking about myself. I want to play here a few more years.’’

Undoubtedly the Knicks will be better this season, but Derek Fisher should go off on a Jim Mora “playoffs” rant the next time someone brings it up.

Last season, it took 38 wins to make the playoffs in the East. That number likely goes up this season, but for the sake of argument lets say it doesn’t — it would still take a 21-game improvement from the Knicks to make it happen. That kind of jump is very rare. When it does happen it’s for a very good reason: The Spurs got 36 games better the season they drafted Tim Duncan and David Robinson returned from injury; the Celtics got 32 games better the year they drafted Larry Bird; the Bucks got 29 games better the year they drafted Lew Alcindor (later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar); the Nets got 26 games better the year they traded for peak Jason Kidd. You get the idea.

The Knicks had a nice offseason, I like it better than many other pundits, but it wasn’t great. Not 21-wins better great, even with Carmelo Anthony being healthy.

Calderon has the right idea. I feel safe saying the Knicks will win more than 17 games. I’m not going way beyond that, however.


Wizards’ rookie Kelly Oubre trying to bring Kobe Bryant’s mindset

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Kelly Oubre may be a raw rookie, but the man doesn’t lack for confidence.

The Wizards traded up to get Oubre on draft night, knowing he was very athletic but considered a bit of a project. He showed exactly that at Summer League in Las Vegas, where his stat line — 16.8 points per game on 38.4 percent shooting, 25 percent from three, plus 5.7 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game — was boosted by a strong 30-point showing in his final in Sin City. Oubre put up numbers but showed himself to be a guy whose decision making and jumper needed work.

Oubre told CSNMidAtlantic.com that he just needs to channel his inner Kobe Bryant.

“In Vegas, I was rowdy. I was just hyped all the time,” Oubre told CSN’s Chris Miller of his first experience with the Wizards’ summer league team when he was incredibly active but erratic with his shooting. “A hundred miles per hour all the time. I kind of noticed that I need to change my speeds and change my poise, learn the game and make sure I’m relaxed at all times. Make sure the moment doesn’t get too big for me, or I don’t get too hyped….

“I saw Kobe say that. It’s just about staying even-keeled,” Oubre, 19, said during the interview on the Wizards’ practice court at Verizon Center. “He’s a guy that it’s worked for him so I’m going to try to take that same mentality.”

The Lakers brought Kobe along relatively slowly as a rookie (15.5 minutes a game). That’s going to seem lightning fast to how slowly the Wizards bring along Oubre — he is not going to get a lot of run this season. Otto Porter is going to start at the three spot with Jared Dudley and Alan Anderson behind him. While those three are going to play some at the four when the Wizards go small (hopefully far more this regular season than last), the Wizards will likely use John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Gary Neal/Martell Webster at the first three spots in that situation.

As the game slows down for Oubre, he will get his chances. They’re just going to be few and far between this season.

Suns to wear new black alternate uniforms

Suns alternate black booker
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In Phoenix, black is the new black.

At an event Tuesday night, the Suns unveiled a new, alternate black uniform the team will wear at times this season.

I’m no fashion expert, but I like it. The other colors seem kind of muted against the black. The Suns have worn black uniforms before, as recently as 2013, but the look got a redesign and a new name — “Civic Pride.” From the teams website:

The new alternate “Civic Pride” uniform brings that great tradition to the newest generation of Suns by using a similar PHX in white across the chest of the jersey.

The color of the uniform hearkens back to another group of the Valley’s favorite Suns, too. The black jersey and shorts pay homage to the alternate set that debuted during Sir Charles’ reign during the 1994-95 season. The purple and orange piping along the neckline is also a call back to that beloved uniform.

I think the Suns players are going to like these. Well, not Markieff Morris, he’s not going to like anything, but the rest of them.