Author: Kurt Helin

Indiana Pacers v Los Angeles Lakers

PBT Extra: Why Lance Stephenson chose Charlotte and Jordan


I’m sweating it out in Las Vegas for Summer League — I’m only here for the basketball, nothing else to do here, just a quiet little trip — but jumped on the phone for a latest edition of PBT Extra with Matt Stroup to talk about the latest NBA developments.

Our three topics:

Why did Lance Stephenson take less guaranteed money to go to Charlotte?

Is Mike Miller the start of a trend in Cleveland?

Should the Cavaliers trade Andrew Wiggins as part of a deal to get Kevin Love?

Wizards to acquire DeJuan Blair in sign-and-trade from Dallas

DeJuan Blair

The Wizards continue to have a very nice off-season. They lost Trevor Ariza but brought in more versatile scoring with Paul Pierce, they retained Marcin Gortat, they got some quality depth up front with Kris Humphries, Otto Porter has looked much better at Summer League, not to mention Bradley Beal and John Wall are still developing.

Now you can add DeJuan Blair to that list.

The Wizards are going to add a nice bench big to their list with a little help from Dallas. Blair himself confirmed it on twitter:

Marc Stein at ESPN  broke the story and J. Michael at confirmed it.

With Dallas bringing in Tyson Chandler and Greg Smith to the front line, there wouldn’t be minutes for Blair. It is likely a second round pick headed back to Dallas in the deal.

For Washington, they pick up a big man who played 15 minutes of solid ball for the Mavericks each game last year, scoring 6.4 points a game with a good .557 true shooting percentage and grabbing 17.5 percent of the available rebounds when on the court. He is a great role player off the bench.

Washington might be the third best team in the East on paper heading into the season, and one with a year of playoff experience under its belt (plus it added Pierce, who has a ring).

Mid-season NBA Tournament in Vegas? Adam Silver says he’ll consider it. Also talks replay system, more.

Adam Silver

While in a gym on one side of Las Vegas hundreds of young men with an NBA dream try to prove they are worthy, across town the rich guys in suits — the owners — are sitting down to figure out how to make the league more profitable.

Would a mid-season NBA Tournament do that?

The long NBA season is a grind and speaking to the media in Las Vegas Tuesday NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the owners were floating the idea around of a mid-season tournament in Las Vegas. From Steve Aschburner of

The popularity of the summer league in Las Vegas – with attendance up 25 percent, Silver said – has the league open to ideas for a greater role in the nation’s gambling capital. One possibility, mentioned without details as a brainstorm from the competition committee: A midseason tournament of some sort.

The NBA season is already 82 games leading into a two-month playoff format, so an FA Cup style tournament only works if you reduce the number of regular season games, essentially taking a mid-season break to play it. You may say “that’s a good idea” but good luck convincing owners to give up local-revenue — fewer home games lowers season ticket revenue, in-arena sponsor revenue, money generated from parking and concessions, and so on — for some centralized tournament. It’s not really feasible.

But this is another sign that, unlike David Stern at times, Silver is the kind of leader open to ideas and discussing just about anything.

Other things Silver mentioned out of the owner and competition committee meetings in Vegas:

• The NBA will test out a centralized replay system starting with WNBA games in September. However, this will work a little differently than the NHL system where the guys in the league office make the calls (on if it’s a goal or not, for example) and relay the decision to the on-ice officials. In the NBA version the league office will have in-office officials cull the replays so when the on-the-court officials walk over and flip the monitor around to look at it the league can, in theory, quickly give them the best angles to make a decision. Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated had the direct quotes:

“Now, as you know,” Silver said in February, “the game stops, the referees walk courtside, turn the monitor around, talk to the truck, order up the replays. And I think that it’s our belief if we can get it right, that if have you officials, in essence, located at headquarters, at a central site, that that process can begin immediately, they then can communicate with the officials and that will save time.”

We’ll see if that really speeds things up, or leads to the right calls. My guess is Doc Rivers has his doubts. So do I.

• Silver said he was “moved” by LeBron James’ decision to return to Cleveland. Again Golliver of Sports Illustrated with the quotes:

“When I read his first-person account on Sports Illustrated, I really was moved by it. It says a lot about who he is, who he has become over the last four years. His statement about northeast Ohio, about hard work [and] this being about something larger than basketball and the NBA.”

“Maybe I would have had a different feeling if he was just shopping his services to wherever he thought he could have the greatest chance of winning a championship,” Silver said. “Not that that wouldn’t have been his right. But I thought that [his choice] to go back to northeast Ohio was an exciting moment for him personally.”

• Silver said he thought the new CBA, with its emphasis on shorter contracts, has made free agency far more interesting.

• He said negotiations on a new national television deal are ongoing with the league’s existing partners (Disney/ABC/ESPN and Time Warner/TNT). He hinted another partner could be added to the mix.

• A group of minority owners for the Milwaukee Bucks was approved. No, Aaron Rodgers was not one of them, despite the rumors.

Summer League showtime: Between-the-legs alley-oop pass, big finish

Portland Trail Blazers v Atlanta Hawks

LAS VEGAS — The basketball at Summer League gets a little sloppy at times… oh, who are we kidding, it can be an absolute train wreck. It’s hard to watch at points if you love the game.

But it’s also got some playground fun and athleticism.

The Trail Blazers were putting on that show Tuesday when on a breakaway Will Barton threw a between-the-legs alley-oop to Thomas Robinson for the huge finish. Now that is some summertime fun.

Phoenix found itself another scorer in T.J. Warren

Philadelphia 76ers v Phoenix Suns

LAS VEGAS — T.J. Warren was one of the nation’s most prolific scorers in college at North Carolina State, but when it came time for the draft there were doubts. He killed it from the midrange in college, but how exactly would that translate to an NBA that increasingly frowns on midrange jumpers?

Well, he can land on a team that just wants to run then get to the rim.

Warren got drafted by the Suns — a team that played at a top 10 pace last season and wants to play faster, something that carried over to Summer League in Las Vegas where the long and rangy team plays at a real pace.

Warren is thriving in that — he had 28 points on Tuesday night in a win over Philadelphia (another team that wants to run) and all of his buckets save one came right at the rim, most in transition.

“For me it’s just running the floor hard and having that knack to finish in transition…” Warren said, crediting his teammates for finding him. “It’s just finding my sweet spots, really.”

“He’s got (scoring) down, that midrange (jumper),” said Suns Summer League coach Mike Longabardi. “He’s got a good instinct for the ball, he got a couple rebounds. And he really does well in transition, we get the rebound… and advance it to him and he’s great.”

Through three games in Las Vegas Warren is averaging 21 points a game shooting 59 percent.

Not even five stitches over a puffy right eye could slow him. He only played seven minutes in the Suns second game in Las Vegas because of an inadvertent elbow to the eye.

“I think (the Bucks) Johnny O’Bryant came down and elbowed me, I had to get five stitches,” Warren said, still with a bandage over his right eye. “It’s kind of rough… I wanted to come back in (that game) but it wasn’t happening. It got really bad, I iced it all day yesterday, the day we had off, icing it more tonight….

“I got used to it. In the beginning it was a little tough getting used to it, but it became easier.”

His shooting was anything but icy.

“The thing (the Sixers) did was really pressure us and when they did he just attacked and it worked in our favor,” Longabardi said.

“I just got to get used to the offense, keep learning the sets,” Warren added. “The uptempo style really fits my game, just running really hard. Just got to build off this.”

It’s a good Summer League showing from Warren, the kind of thing that will get him some minutes in camp and the preseason. But he’s also got holes in his game.

He’s going to have to develop a three point shot. Right now he avoids it and is 0-of-3 in Summer League.

“I think his three ball will come, he’s just got to practice it,” Longabardi said.

In transition he’s also going to have to finish through contact — he did that in college, but these are men (often really big ones) in his way now.

“It’s kind of harder, I’m trying to figure it out,” Warren said of finishing through contact. “I college you could kind of finish through guys, at the next level it’s different. So you’ve got to be craftier, find ways to put it in the basket. I’m adjusting to it pretty well.”

But the biggest adjustment will be defense — he’s got to play it better to get on the court come the fall.

“(Defensively) That’s going to be an adjustment,” Longabardi said.

“It’s different a little bit,” Warren said of defense. “Just trying to get in position to stop guys. Help side defense is there.”

The bottom line is in the NBA if you can put the ball in the basket you’ll get your chances. Warren is proving in the desert this summer he can do just that. And the Suns can always use another guy who knows how to finish in transition.

“We knew what we were getting when we drafted him — a scorer,” Longabardi said.