Indiana Pacers

Jimmy Butler, Draymond Green among new players invited to play for USA Basketball

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USA Basketball is holding a minicamp in Las Vegas later this summer, and seven new players have received invitations to participate.

Marc Stein of ESPN.com:

Sources told ESPN.com that USAB has extended invitations to Chicago’s Jimmy Butler, Memphis ‘ Mike Conley, Golden State’s Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes, Orlando’s Tobias Harris and Victor Oladipo and Utah’s Trey Burke to its Aug. 11-13 camp on the campus of UNLV.

USA Basketball is run like a college program, and with somewhat of an iron fist. Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski take their responsibilities very seriously, and expect unflinching loyalty and obedience out of the players who want to participate.

More from Stein:

Colangelo stressed that USA Basketball is making attendance at the three-day event mandatory for invited players if they are interested in securing a spot on the Yanks’ 12-man roster for next summer’s Olympics in Brazil, even if the player is rehabilitating from an injury or otherwise not yet cleared to join in on-court activities.

USAB already knows that Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, Indiana’s Paul George and the Cleveland Cavaliers duo of Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving will not be ready to take part in basketball activities at the camp, because they are recovering from their various serious injuries from the past year. But Colangelo’s view is that “it’s important for everyone to be here as a sign of commitment for ’16.”

This seems like a needless power play, but again, it’s how things are done. And with only so many highly-coveted roster spots to go around for the Olympics in 2016, you can bet that a Vegas trip in the middle of August will be in just about everyone’s plans.

Larry Bird on playing Paul George at power forward: ‘He don’t make the decisions around here’

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Paul George had emerged as one of the game’s elite small forwards during his first four NBA seasons, but Pacers president Larry Bird is toying with the idea of switching his position.

Due to a combination of the league going smaller thanks to the success showcased by the Golden State Warriors, along with the fact that George missed almost all of his fifth year in the league due to injury, Bird believes George can be more effective at the four beginning next season — whether George likes it or not.

From the Associated Press:

“I’m not going to get into a battle about where Paul George will play,” Bird said. “He’s a basketball player, and we can put him anywhere out there.” …

On Saturday at a local basketball camp, George said that while he’s willing to play anywhere, he didn’t anticipate playing 30 minutes per game at that spot.

“He don’t make the decisions around here. But I did it, and I loved it after I did it,” Bird said, drawing laughter. He added later: “I know what it did for my career and coming off this injury, I think it would be a good thing because he can still guard some threes, but he doesn’t have to do it all the time.”

This will be matchup dependent, certainly, because while George has made the All-Defensive team twice, there will be players who are simply too big and strong for him to guard for extended stretches.

George has already been preparing for the change, and Bird was obviously just cracking wise. But he made it clear that it’s a strategy we can expect to see the Pacers try very early next season.

Young stars’ struggles reminder to Lakers that rebuilding is long process

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LAS VEGAS — Lakers fans are not exactly renowned for their patience.

Nowhere was that more in evidence than Monday night at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, when after an ugly first quarter — 5 points on 2-of-17 shooting, with seven turnovers — Lakers fans that filled the Thomas & Mack booed their young players.

That may have been the lowlight, but the Lakers’ young stars have had their struggles in Sin City. Through two games Julius Randle is shooting 29.4 percent, and has averaged just 3.5 rebounds a game in 20 minutes a night. D’Angelo Russell is averaging 10 points a night on 33 percent shooting through three games, but the bigger issue he has two turnovers for each assist he has dished out. Jordan Clarkson has looked like a guy who has been through an NBA season and scored 18.3 points a game, but he’s shooting just 40.4 percent overall and 26.7 percent from three. Clarkson and Russell have some work to do on their chemistry.

All these struggles should serve as a reminder to the Lakers organization and their fans:

Rebuilding is a long process. Patience is required.

If that seems hard, just recall how the last quick fix — bringing in Dwight Howard and Steve Nash — went.

Plus, there are things to like from the young Lakers, things they have shown in Vegas. That starts with their attitudes.

“Every game matters to me, and me being competitive I forget that it’s just Summer League,” Russell said. “I’m trying to get better so fast, rather than being patient and letting things come to me.”

“I’ve got to get my teammates going, get myself going,” Randle said, clearly frustrated by the rust in his game. “Everything starts with me; I’ve got to be better. End of story.”

Randle looked better in the second half against the Knicks Monday, but he remains a guy with limited moves. When he gets the ball and faces up he has a great first step and but tries to use that and power to get to the rim, not a variety of moves (he did show one spin that drew a foul). He looks in Vegas like a guy who has been away from the game for a year — which is exactly what he is after he broke his right leg on opening night a year ago and had to have surgery. Rust was to be expected.

For Russell, the game just seems to be moving too fast, and he isn’t letting it slow down yet, which is leading to 6.7 turnovers a game. It will eventually start to slow down for him.

“I’m just trying to force the issue to get big guys involved, and for myself forcing the issue on the offensive end trying to just get something out of nothing when it’s not there,” Russell said. “Realizing it’s Summer League and being patient is my problem right now…

“Summer League is great for the adjustment process. I’m young, I feel like I’m going to get better every game, every practice, once I get under the system and get the hang of it a little more.”

While Lakers Summer League coach Mark Madsen has put in plays, the nature of Summer League — a thrown-together roster that doesn’t get a lot of practice time together and is devoid of veterans — leads to an unstructured game. For much of the time in Vegas the Lakers offense has been “watch Jordan Clarkson create stuff” and that hasn’t helped build cohesion and chemistry.

For the Lakers, hope sells.

The strength of that hope and the Lakers brand has been evident in Vegas — Russell and Randle again packed the house Monday, where fans sat in the upper deck (never before at summer league has the curtains had to be pulled back from the upper deck at the Thomas & Mack). When the Lakers have played there have been attendance records this summer.

But there needs to be patience. This coming season those young players will grow while the fans celebrate Kobe. With roster additions such as Lou Williams, Brandon Bass and Roy Hibbert — plus hopefully a dash of health thrown in the pot — the Lakers will be respectable on the court.

From there, and as Clarkson/Russell/Randle show their potential, then the big free agents the next couple years will give the Lakers a longer look.

It’s all just going to take time.

Paul George on if he wants to play in the Olympics next summer: “Of course”

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You could understand if Paul George were a little bit hesitant about playing for Team USA again. He was wearing the Team USA jersey in Las Vegas just a little less than a year ago when exhibition game he suffered as gruesome a leg injury as you will see. One that cost him most of the last season.

Does he want to put that jersey again next summer and try to earn a roster spot for Rio De Janeiro? David Woods of the Indy Star asked.

“Of course,” he said. “I’ve had a dream of lifting that gold medal. That’s definitely motivation.”

As for the incident, George has moved on.

“It almost seems like it happened ages ago,” he said of the broken leg. “I forget sometimes it was only less than a year. It hasn’t really been in the back of my mind anymore. I’m kind of beyond that phase. That’s the good thing.

“I’m not going to work, having flashbacks or thinking about coming down wrong. I’ve just been out on the court playing, just working out.”

If George is back to his vintage self, he likely makes that Team USA squad.

His versatile style of play, his defense, his ability to hit the three, the fact he can finish in transition all fit perfectly with Coach K’s up-tempo, “overwhelm them with athleticism” style of play.

For the good of the league and NBA fans everywhere, I hope he is back to form next season. Then in the summer of 2016 we can unleash him on the rest of the world.

Paul George: Larry Bird supports me playing in 2016 Rio Olympics

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Paul George, despite his devastating leg injury in a World Cup scrimmage last summer, wants to play in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Team USA has a spot waiting for him, and it seems nothing will stand in his way – especially not Pacers president Larry Bird.

David Woods of IndyStar:

The Indiana Pacers forward affirmed Saturday that he wants to be on the U.S. basketball team playing in next summer’s Olympic Games at Rio de Janeiro.

“Of course,” he said. “I’ve had a dream of lifting that gold medal. That’s definitely motivation.”

George said Pacers President Larry Bird, a member of the original 1992 Dream Team, is supportive.

“Larry, of all people, knows how important it is to play and represent for your country,” George said. “So regardless of the situation, I know he’s got my back on that one. And it’s a personal goal.

“I won’t let injury … injury is a part of the game. The last thing I’ll do is let that keep me from making the dream happen. No hard feelings towards none of the situation.”

George returned more quickly than expected, playing late last season. As long as he’s healthy next summer, he’d probably deserve a spot on the U.S. Olympic team on merit.

After he sacrificed so much to represent his country, there’s no doubt George should make the roster if he wants. Not every NBA team is on board with its players participating in these international competitions, but it’s nice to see Bird support George here.