Author: Scott Schroeder

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Boston Celtics lure rookie big back from Germany for training camp


The Boston Celtics are about to undergo a huge rebuilding project. That’s apparently made them a very alluring option for free agents trying to to break into the NBA, too, as former Wisconsin standout Kammron Taylor announced earlier this week that he’ll be attending their training camp rookie big man Damen Bell-Holter has reportedly decided to join them as well.

Bell-Holter isn’t a household name considering he spent his college career playing at low-major Oral Roberts, but he earned an invite to the Portsmouth Invitational — a springboard for seniors looking to impress NBA scouts — after averaging 15.5 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game en route to First Team All-Southland honors.

That seemed like it might’ve been the last time American basketball fans heard about Bell-Holter because he didn’t show up on a Summer League roster and signed in Germany’s top league with Telekom Baskets Bonn last month. Thing  can change in a hurry in the basketball world, however, as Bell-Holter recently explained to the Alaska Sports Blog.

Just ask Hydaburg’s Damen Bell-Holter, who was in Germany about to begin his professional basketball career when the NBA team called his agent and invited the former Oral Roberts University star to training camp next month.

“My agent said I was on their list of guys they wanted to bring in,” Bell-Holter told me. “It’s really exciting. It’s a huge opportunity that doesn’t come around very often. Just that they knew my name is pretty cool.”

The 6’10, 250-pound big man likely won’t end up on the Celtics’ regular season roster this year, but is a nice development project if he’d decide to sign with the team’s NBA D-League squad.

Knicks will win NBA championship this year, according to J.R. Smith

J.R. Smith

The New York Knicks are guaranteed to win an championship this year, according to a column written by Marc Berman of the New York Post. Berman’s source, however, was none other than Knicks sixth-man extraordinaire J.R. Smith.

Smith made headlines on Saturday after Ian Begley fired off a few tweets regarding the beef between Smith and new Brooklyn Nets wing Paul Pierce, but that wasn’t the end of Earl The Third’s Saturday thoughts. The mercurial sharpshooter also made a few other disparaging comments about the Nets after guaranteeing a championship.

During a question-and-answer session with kid golfers at Chelsea Piers, Smith was asked how sure he was of the Knicks ending their title drought this season.

“I’m 100 percent sure,” the swingman said.

Smith was then asked why he joined the Knicks over the Nets when he came back from China in February 2012.

“The Nets weren’t good,’’ Smith said. “Now they’re still not good.’’

The Nets are substantially better than they were last season at this time, but that’s not the most controversial statement Smith made on Saturday. No, Smith guaranteed a championship for a team that made Andrea Bargnani their big addition this summer and hasn’t been to the NBA Finals since the 1998-99 lockout — and hasn’t won an NBA Finals since the 1972-73 squad that featured Walt Frazier, Dave DeBusschere, Bill Bradley, Earl Monroe, Willis Reed, Jerry Lucas, Phil Jackson, Henry Bibby and the recently deceased Dean Meminger.

The NBA news cycle hasn’t been intense over the holiday weekend, but at least J.R. Smith is doing his part to keep reporters busy.

Mike Malone already bringing the energy as Kings head coach

Cody Zeller, Michael Malone

Mike Malone has been one of the most well-respected assistant coaches for quite awhile, but he’s moving one seat over this year as head coach of the Sacramento Kings. According to an interview he did with the Sacramento Bee’s Ailene Voisin, it sounds like the new head coach will bring a much-needed energetic approach to the Kings.

Malone, the son of longtime NBA coach Brendan Malone and Mark Jackson’s top assistant last season with the Golden State Warriors, has taken a hands on approach since taking over as Sacramento’s head coach. Some of that has happened in the front office — he was in place prior to the hiring of general manager Pete D’Alessandro — but Malone’s also putting in work with the players he’s been hired to coach.

What I mean is that when you want to change culture, you change people. When the players come back in September, they’re going to get a sense that things are different when they’re around our staff. They can see how hard we work, how committed we are. I’m running sprints last week with DeMarcus Cousins and Travis Outlaw, and they said, “Coach, we’ve never had a guy run sprints with us.”

There aren’t a lot of coaches at the upper levels willing to sweat with their players which, in some situations, can lead to some communication issues and a lack of relating to one another. Malone’s team doesn’t sound like it’ll have that problem, though, which is obviously essential for a young and developing team.

This summer, we had Isaiah Thomas, Jason Thompson, Jimmer Fredette, Marcus Thornton working out during the summer league, and we’re all sweating, working. When I went down to Santa Barbara to meet with Patrick Patterson, he said, “Coach, I’ve been hearing things.” This is no knock on Keith Smart or his staff. Keith is a great coach, and the circumstances were far from ideal. But I know for my situation, and my staff, we are going to be a work staff, an energetic staff. Aside from my father, I’ve hired a very young staff. I don’t want any moping around. The other challenge for me, I want our players to embody unity, trust, unselfishness.

The above excerpts are just a small piece of an overall interesting read, but the entire interview shows that Malone has the right attitude heading into his first NBA head coaching opportunity.

Joel Anthony wants to retire with the Miami Heat

Heat pacers Basketball

The FIBA Americas Tournament is currently taking place in Venezuela and, unsurprisingly, the participating NBA players are getting quite a bit of recognition — Even the players that are rarely recognized during the NBA season, like Miami Heat backup big Joel Anthony.

ESPN wrote a 700-word feature on the Canadian Anthony earlier  this weekend, going in-depth with the lefty that averaged just five minutes for the Heat in their latest championship run. Anthony talked a bit about the upcoming golden age of Canada basketball, but also mentioned that he’s hoping to retire with the Heat.

“Of course I want to retire with Miami,” the center pointed out after opening the FIBA Americas 2013 Championship with a win over Jamaica. “It’s the team that gave me the opportunity, the team that I’ve played my six years on in the NBA and there’s no reason for me to leave.”

Anthony has a player option for $3.8 million next season that he’ll likely pick up, but the ESPN story noted that Miami would likely like to move him if they could. That’d make sense, too, considering Chris Bosh, LeBron James, Chris Andersen, Udonis Haslem and Greg Oden are all in the mix at the five-spot as well.

The 31-year-old big has posted averages of 2.4 points and 3.2 rebounds in 370 career NBA games, starting 110 of those contests.

FIBA Americas schedule features Canada vs. Brazil on Sunday

Axier Sucre, Diego Bareiro
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The FIBA Americas tournament enters Day 3 on Sunday after a solid first two days of action. Sunday’s games don’t feature the marquee matchups that littered Friday and Saturday, but the first contest of the day should be worth watching.

Canada and Brazil are both in the conversation for the Final Four next weekend, a spot that would ensure them a spot in next year’s FIBA World Cup and a step closer to a 2016 Olympic bid. Both teams are coming off of a loss, but it’s not due to a lack of talent.

Brazil is missing the majority of its NBA players as Nene, Tiago Splitter, Anderson Varejao and Leandro Barbosa all decided to sit this summer out. That leaves recent Utah Jazz draft pick Raul Neto as the team’s only NBA player, but he didn’t see action in the team’s first game and likely won’t find many minutes for the duration of the tournament. Brazil was led by 16 points and five assists from 30-year-old point Marcelo Huertas in their tournament-opening loss to Brazil, but his teammates will have to shoot better than 4-for-17 from beyond the arc to have a chance against Canada.

This year’s Canada team is missing future NBA All-Star Andrew Wiggins, top NBA Draft pick Anthony Bennett and Summer League star Kelly Olynyk, but they still boast four current NBA players in Cory Joseph, Andrew Nicholson, Tristan Thompson and Joel Anthony. Joseph was great in Canada’s victory over Jamaica, but struggled in Saturday’s loss to Puerto Rico. The bigs played well in Saturday’s loss, too, so it seems Joseph will be the key to Canada’s success this tournament.

Saturday’s other games include Mexico vs. Paraguay,  Michael Martinez’s Dominican Republic squad vs. Venezuela and Puerto Rico vs. Uruguay. All three will likely be blowouts, particularly since Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico have looked dominant early.

The full schedule is listed below in Eastern Time (Venezuelan time is a half-hour between Central and Eastern time, making the conversion a bit difficult for some (me)). All games are available on ESPN3 where available.

11:30 a.m. – Canada (1-1) vs. Brazil (0-1)

2 p.m. – Mexico (1-0) vs. Paraguay (0-2)

5:30 p.m.  – Venezuela (1-1) vs. Dominican Republic (1-0)

8 p.m. – Puerto Rico (2-0) vs. Uruguay (1-0)