Kurt Helin

Memphis Grizzlies v Portland Trail Blazers - Game Three

Dallas’ Wesley Matthews says he’ll be ready to go opening night

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Back on March 5, early in the third quarter in a game against Dallas, Wesley Matthews started a drive and went down without contact. It turned out to be a ruptured Achilles tendon.

By pretty much the next day, Matthews talked about coming back sooner rather than later — and even a standard timeline would have him back around the start of the season. That drive is part of the reason Dallas signed him to a four-year, $70 million contract this summer.

Sunday, Matthews was again talking quick return, speaking to Tim Cato of Mavs Moneyball.

“I’m getting stronger every single day, doing more every single day,” Matthews told Mavs Moneyball, saying that he’s currently shooting and dribbling on the court. He’s also taking pull-up jumpers off the bounce, but the next thing that he will be cleared to do is just “more basketball activity using more force, more explosion….

“I’m gonna say I’ll be ready by opening night,” Matthews said. Later on, when asked if would put that prediction in stone, he said yes.

“Anybody that knows me in this league knows that I’m going to give 150 percent,” Matthews said. “You’re going to have to kill me to stop me from going. Only thing that I can do is how I attack my rehab.”

This is going to set up an interesting push and pull between Matthews and coach Rick Carlisle (and Dallas management). Carlisle has talked about taking it slow with Matthews, not rushing or risking injury for a player they signed for four years. They don’t want him rushing back, not feeling comfortable, compensating with another body part, and suffering an injury. Think Kobe.

By the end of the season, when Dallas is likely fighting for one of the bottom playoff spots in the West, they are going to need Matthews and everyone else on the roster to make the push. But expect Carlisle and company to win the early battle — don’t be shocked if Matthews has limited minutes at the start of the campaign.


Watch Dallas’ Salah Mejri shut down Portland’s Al Farouq Amimu at Afrobasket

Anadolu Efes Istanbul v Real Madrid - Turkish Airlines Euroleague Play Off

Right now, AfroBasket 2015 is taking place in Tunisia, with the best teams on the continent playing for a berth in the Rio Olympics next summer.

Maybe the play of the tournament so far — watch Dallas’ big man Salah Mejri shut down Portland’s Al Farouq Aminu at the rim. That seemed to set the tone for the game as Tunisia went on to win and advance out of group play with an unblemished record.

Aminu is going to be fighting for minutes and a chance to prove himself in Portland.

Mejri (who played last season for powerhouse Real Madrid) has a guaranteed contract and with that almost certainly makes the Dallas roster. However, he will end up battling guys like JaVale McGee and Samuel Dalembert for minutes if they make the roster. If Mejri makes more plays like that, he’ll be just fine.

Hat tip Jeff Taylor.

Who starts at point for Detroit when Brandon Jennings gets healthy?


Brandon Jennings was the starting point guard for Stan Van Gundy’s Detroit Pistons last season for 41 games — until he tore his Achilles.

Reggie Jackson was brought in with a trade and started the last 27 games at the point for the Pistons, showing some chemistry with Andre Drummond. Then this summer the Pistons gave him a five-year, $80 million contract.

That deal implies that Jackson is locked in as the starter for the Pistons, but what happens when Jennings comes back, gets healthy and starts pushing for minutes? While Jackson put up more points per game last season, Jennings shot better from three, and their PERs were almost identical (19.8 and 19.7). It’s not that clear-cut who should be the starting point guard.

The fourth guy in the Pistons’ point guard rotation, Spencer Dinwiddie (remember they have Steve Blake, too) said he doesn’t know what will happen, speaking to MLive.com.

“When you have two starters and you know only one can start, something’s got to give,” Dinwiddie said. “So I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m sure Brandon’s coming back to be the best player on the floor. Reggie, I’m sure he feels like he obviously is our franchise guy right now, until ‘Dre signs his max deal. So we’ll see. We’ll see what happens. I can’t tell you what’s going to happen with Brandon and Reggie but everybody’s waiting to see, I’m sure.”

It’s going to be Jackson, but the fit will be interesting.

One solution is to play them at the same time — Van Gundy has said he thinks Jennings and Jackson can play together. It works in theory because the Pistons could go a little smaller and play faster, Jennings can play more two on offense where he has the shot to space the floor, and Jackson is good enough defensively to guard twos. It’s not something they would use all the time — Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Jodie Meeks should get a lot of run at the two — but the combo could work at times.

That said, the more likely option is for the Pistons to play Jennings at the point and show him off and hope to do it before the trade deadline — they would love to move him. He is in the last year of his contract; he wouldn’t be expensive for a team to take on as a rental, and then said team can try to re-sign him next summer. However, moving him after an Achilles injury is not going to be easy, and the Pistons will not likely get much in return.

Detroit is a fascinating story next season. Can Van Gundy bring his vision to Detroit and get this team to take a step forward? How does the offense look with Ersan Ilyasova at the four rather than Greg Monroe? Can they make the playoffs in the East?

What happens with Jennings is just another interesting storyline.

Alvin Gentry understands great opportunity, challenge coaching Anthony Davis

Golden State Warriors v New Orleans Pelicans - Game Four

At any one time in the NBA, there are at best a handful of guys who will go down as legendary, all-time great NBA players. The men mentioned in the same breath as the best ever to lace them up. Right now there is LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan…

And Anthony Davis.

Davis is just 22, and we are a decade from knowing if he should ultimately be compared to the Duncans and LeBrons of the game — but he is on that trajectory. After just three NBA seasons, he is undoubtedly a top five NBA player and arguably in the top two. His PER of 30.8 last season was 11th best all time in the NBA; the only people ahead of him are named LeBron, Chamberlain, and Jordan. He will wear the crown of best player on the planet in a few years. He has an NCAA title, an Olympic gold medal, two All-Star games and one All-NBA Team to his credit, and he’s still just tapping into how great he can be.

It falls in part to new Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry to help him reach his potential.

No pressure.

Gentry talked with NBA.com’s Ian Thompson about that burden, what he has spoken with Davis about, and what he has to do as a coach to guide Davis to that potential.

“It is up to us to make him as good as he can possibly be, and not settle for him to be less than great in this area or that area. I told him that I have no doubt that he is going to be an MVP in this league. And I said to him, ‘We are going to be really, really good if you also win Defensive Player of the Year….’

“It’s like I said to him: As great as he is right now, I see his game expanding in so many areas,” says Gentry of Davis. “And the thing I like about it is he is still willing to learn. I sent Darren Erman, who is my associate head coach and defensive coordinator, to work with him, and he showed him a couple of little things from last year that he had to improve on. And every day Anthony has been working on them. Every single day. Guys usually don’t work on defensive things when you are having a workout, but he has been great at it.

“He is just a special player, and we can’t set limits on him. We have to try to take him to a level that he didn’t feel he could get to — or that no one thought he could get to. We have got to make the sky the limit for him.”

Gentry picked another great player with a legendary work ethic as a potential role model for Davis — Kevin Garnett.

“I told Anthony this — and I think it’s very important — about Kevin Garnett,” says Gentry. “I never had the opportunity to coach him, but I know guys that coached him, and they say that every day Kevin Garnett came into the gym, he had to know that when he left he was a little bit better than he was yesterday.”

Gentry’s style will help here, too. Gentry wants the game to be fun (something he said Steve Kerr emphasized last year). He wants the Pelicans to play faster, which will help Davis both get some transition buckets and get deep position more often. He has emphasized defense (the Pelicans struggled on that end last season). New Orleans is going to take a step forward this season, the only question is now big (and how far they can go in a loaded West).

But in a lot of ways, Gentry’s job (and GM Dell Demps’ job) is to get everything around Davis right. Davis himself will be amazing, but as we have seen through LeBron’s career the players around him will matter, getting those players to buy into the system will matter. Davis isn’t winning rings — which he will need for his legacy — by himself.

It’s a lot of pressure, but there may be no guy more ready for it than Gentry.

Giannis Antetokounmpo blocks shots, knocks down threes for Greece (VIDEO)

Giannis Antetokounmpo

The Bucks’ future cornerstone Giannis Antetokounmpo is playing for Greece this summer as they gear up for EuroBasket next month (an Olympic qualifying event). While that comes with an injury risk, for a raw young player like Antetokounmpo more time on the court is simply a good thing.

In this video from a friendly against Bosnia, Antetokounmpo is blocking shots and knocking down threes (hat tip Eye on Basketball and BrewHoop).

Blocking shots we expect to see.

However, the 3-of-6 from three in this game for Antetokounmpo is interesting. Last season he took just 44 threes in total (hitting seven) after being instructed to attack the rim by coach Jason Kidd (50.6 of his shot attempts were within 3 feet). As a rookie, he showed potential from the outside (35 percent from three) but he’s going to have to force opponents to respect his jumper to open things up.

Hitting threes in a friendly international against Bosnia and knocking them down against the Cavaliers or Bulls during the season are very different things, but this is a reason to be optimistic.