Tag: Milwaukee Bucks

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Steve Blake trys to carve out role as more than just veteran bench presence in Detroit


In Detroit, newly minted max player Reggie Jackson is going to be the starting point guard for Stan Van Gundy. Behind him there is Brandon Jennings, who is coming off a torn Achilles. Jennings may be ready to go when the season tips off, but even if he is Van Gundy may want to go easy on his minutes.

Then there’s veteran Steve Blake.

Van Gundy wanted insurance in case Jennings wasn’t ready to go when the season tips off, plus Van Gundy likes shooters and Blake is a career 38.5 percent from three (35.2 percent last season). So the Pistons traded Quincy Miller for Blake (the trade was with the Nets, who had gotten Blake in a draft night deal with Portland).

Van Gundy was looking for a veteran presence on the bench, but he’s got a suspicion Blake will find his way onto the court, he told the official Pistons’ website.

“That’s one of the things my brother (Jeff) said when we talked about the trade,” Van Gundy grinned. “He said, ‘If I had to bet, I’d say he finds a way to get on the floor no matter what.’ That’s sort of what he’s always done. He’s found a way to play.”

If Blake is playing a lot at age 35 it’s not ideal, it means Jennings isn’t right. Blake game has started to slip in recent years, but he can be solid. What Van Gundy saw in Blake was a professional, a guy who puts in the work, a smart veteran player —the kind needed in the locker room of a young team. He and Joel Anthony are the veteran voices.

“The last two people we (signed) were Joel and Steve. It’s a young team,” Van Gundy said. “We really didn’t get any older. Our starting lineup will average under 25 years old. I’m not sure having all young guys is the best way to develop all those guys. I think we saw the benefits of Caron (Butler) and Joel and Anthony Tolliver last year. Besides what Steve can do on the floor, I think Steve, Joel and Anthony as our only guys over 30 give us veteran guys who are really, really solid pros and good people for those guys to watch and grow up around.”

There certainly are real questions about them, but I’m higher on Detroit next season than a lot of people. Jackson and Andre Drummond showed some chemistry last season. Ersan Ilyasova is a better fit stylistically at the four in Van Gundy’s system than Greg Monroe. I think players like Marcus Morris and rookie Stanley Johnson can make an impact. They need shooters (expect Jodi Meeks’ role to grow) but there is some potential here.

I think this is a playoff team in the East. So long as Blake can be that veteran voice that helps keep the young players on the right path.

Report: Knicks finalizing partially guaranteed contract with Thanasis Antetokounmpo

Milwaukee Bucks v New York Knicks
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Thanasis Antetokounmpo’s agent said the Knicks would sign his contract this summer.

Then, an anonymous source said they would.

Now, it seems to be finally happening.

David Pick:

After using the room exception on Kevin Seraphin, the Knicks can give Antetokounmpo just a minimum contract. Two years is the maximum length.

Antetokounmpo will be the Knicks’ 15th player. They’ll also likely sign other players for training camp with the expectation they’ll be waived and assigned to the D-League Westchester Knicks. But if those players make it to camp, there’s always a chance they outperform Antetokounmpo and steal an NBA roster spot from him. The size of Antetokounmpo’s guarantee will both influence the likelihood he makes the Knicks and protect him in case he doesn’t.

The No. 51 pick in the 2014 draft, Antetokounmpo spent last season in the D-League. He’s an energetic, athletic and long forward with loads of defensive potential. His offense is much less developed.

Antetokounmpo – brother of the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo – is the leader in the clubhouse to be New York’s 15th man and a favorite to hold that spot. But until we see how the Knicks round out their training-camp roster, it’s tough to say more than that.

Stan Van Gundy second-guesses himself on Pistons’ handling of Greg Monroe

Cleveland Cavaliers v Detroit Pistons

By this summer, it was too late. Greg Monroe was done with the Pistons, and he signed a three-year max contract with the Bucks.

Given the circumstances, Detroit made relatively good use of its freed cap space – trading for Ersan Ilyasova, Marcus Morris and Reggie Bullock.

But could the Pistons have handled Monroe better?

They had opportunities.

Shortly after being hired as president/coach, Stan Van Gundy called Monroe and Andre Drummond “an ideal pairing.” Yet, Van Gundy refused to trade the player who most interfered with a Monroe-Drummond pairing – Josh Smith. Van Gundy even regularly started Smith before waiving him.

Going back, Detroit offered Monroe a lucrative, but not max, contract when he was a restricted free agent last summer. He accepted the qualifying offer, setting up his unrestricted free agency this summer.

The Pistons still could have traded him, but they needed his consent. It seems they aimed too high. Maybe Monroe wouldn’t have approved a deal, but few situations would have been worse for him. Even if he would have lost his Bird Rights, that wouldn’t have mattered if he were leaving Detroit anyway.

Not giving Monroe a max offer last summer, forcing Monroe to play with Smith, not trading Monroe – does Stan Van Gundy regret any of that?

Van Gundy on the Lowe Post:

I’ll be honest. I go back and forth on it. I really do. Because I think Greg is an outstanding player, and I think he’s a high-character guy as well, and I think that those are the guys that you generally want to build around.

But I don’t think that he and Andre Drummond are the best fit. Not saying you couldn’t make it work, but certainly not the best fit. First of all, I think the game is moving smaller and quicker as it is. The teams that have continued to play with two big guys, at least one of them is, at least one, if not both, are guys who can step away and make shots. Indiana played with David West. Memphis plays with Zach Randolph. Those guys can all go 17, 18 feet and make shots.

Basically, what we were trying to do is play with two centers. And if you’re going to max Greg out – which he’s certainly worth the max; there’s not a question with that – then you’re going to try to do it with two centers.

And as much as it was a little bit tough on the offensive end, the real problem was at the defensive end. I mean, it’s just really tough. We put Greg in some tough situations, and he did a good job, as good a job as he could. But you’re asking him to guard stretch fours like Kevin Love and things like that.

You can’t sign him to a max, you can’t sign Drummond to a big contract eventually and then just say they’re going to share the center spot. That doesn’t make any sense. So, I went back and forth with it on Greg, and I still do. Part of me is wondering whether we made the right move, quite honestly, letting him go. Because he’s a talented guy. But the other part of me says we were never going to have the fit that we needed to move forward.

And I think from Greg’s point of view, I don’t think there was much doubt – certainly we didn’t feel much doubt – that Greg was gonna leave.

I generally agree with Van Gundy’s assessment of the situation. I disagree with his handling of it.

First, I think Monroe was worth a max contract last summer. Even if he weren’t an ideal fit with Drummond – Detroit’s franchise player – Monroe still would have had plenty of trade value. Given the number of teams that offered him the max in free agency this year, I think the Pistons could have eventually traded Monroe for a better return than Ilyasova, Morris and Bullock.

That’s especially true if the Pistons had dumped Smith sooner. The 2013-14 season proved Smith, Monroe and Drummond couldn’t effectively play together. But Van Gundy wanted to see for himself, and that further alienated Monroe from the Pistons.

I don’t blame the Pistons for not offering Monroe max in 2014, though. Challenging him to sign an offer sheet they’d match was sensible. No player as good as Monroe had ever accepted the qualifying offer. It wasn’t reasonable to bank on him becoming the first.

For what it’s worth, there’s no guarantee Monroe would have accepted a max offer from the Pistons last summer. There was a report he wouldn’t, and Van Gundy talked to Zach Lowe about it now:

I don’t really know last summer. But Greg had, at that point, a lot of misgivings and, quite honestly, again, we didn’t know our team real well. I’d had six weeks here, and were pretty conservative in what we willing to do money-wise. We did offer him a contract that would have made him our highest-paid guy, but we didn’t go to the max.

At that point is where Van Gundy and I really disagree. Once Monroe accepted the qualifying offer, the Pistons had to trade him. They could have sold him to a contender as a rental. I can’t believe Monroe, after all that losing in Detroit, would have rejected a chance to play for a winner. Whatever the Pistons could have gotten, as long as it didn’t interfere with their 2015 cap space, would have been better than riding out a lost season with Monroe.

The Pistons aren’t in a bad spot now. Their roster better fits Van Gundy’s system. But they lost a major asset in Monroe with only the resulting cap space in return, and it’s easy to find a few points they could have avoided that fate.

No wonder Van Gundy is second-guessing himself.

For what it’s worth, that’s a healthy approach. The Pistons clearly have an introspective leader, which him more likely to handle the next dilemma better.

Report: Magic sign Melvin Ejim to partially guaranteed contract

Melvin Ejim, Rafael Hettsheimeir, Vitor Benite
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Just two players from power-five teams averaged 17 points and eight rebounds per game in the 2013-14 season.

One, Duke’s Jabari Parker, was the No. 2 pick in last year’s draft.

The other, Iowa State’s Melvin Ejim, went undrafted and spent last season overseas.

Now, Ejim is getting his NBA chance.

David Pick:

Chuck Myron of Hoops Rumors:

Pick confirmed to Hoops Rumors that Ejim has accepted the invitation.

The 6-foot-7 Ejim played a lot of power forward in college, where he was much more dynamic than his peers. He might not be big enough to play that position in the pros, though the rise of small ball could help him. He might not have the athleticism or skill to transition to small forward, either.

But Ejim plays hard and smart, and that’s why he deserves this opportunity. His physical concerns are just that – concerns, not deal-breakers.

Ejim gives the Magic 16 players. He figures to compete with Keith Appling (partially guaranteed) and Roy Devyn Marble (unguaranteed) for the final two roster spots, though Orlando still has a little cap room and the room exception to sign others.

If the Magic waive Ejim, they could assign his D-League rights to their affiliate, the Erie BayHawks. Perhaps, that’s Orlando’s intention. But as it stands, the Magic’s roster gives him a chance to make the NBA team.

Evan Turner dishes, Bradley Beal throws it down in Africa exhibition (VIDEO)

Atlanta Hawks v Washington Wizards - Game Six
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The NBA played its first ever game in Africa Saturday and the players put on a show — it felt like an All-Star style exhibition, with little defense and lots of room for guys to show off their skills.

Giannis Antetokounmpo did try to play a little defense, tracking down Evan Turner to look for the block on the fast break, only to see Turner make a sweet dish to the trailing Bradley Beal. And Beal knew how to finish.

Still, the biggest highlight of the game was getting to see Hakeem Olajuwon doing the “dream shake” and Dikembe Mutombo playing again in the game.