Tag: Nicolas Batum

Charlotte Hornets v Los Angeles Lakers

Hornets coach Steve Clifford plans to play Jeremy Lin and Kemba Walker together


Going into the season, the Hornets will be quite different from the disappointing group they put out last year. There are seven new players on the roster, including some key rotation players, and it’s going to be a lot of trial-and-error to see which ones play well together and which ones don’t. Head coach Steve Clifford is going to try out a lot of different combinations, including one he brought up in a new interview: a backcourt of Kemba Walker and new signee Jeremy Lin.

From Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer:

Q: You’ve said you’re intrigued by the potential in playing point guards Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lin together. Can you describe your vision for that combination?

It’s always good to have two pick-and-roll players on the floor. That way you can put pressure on the defense at one side, then switch it to the other. That makes more room to play similar to how Golden State does. You’ve got Steph (Curry) on one side, so defenses have to load up there, and then you’ve got Klay Thompson on the other with room to operate.

That’s what Kemba can do for Jeremy and Jeremy can do for Kemba.

It’s an interesting concept, and could work in small doses. Finding minutes for a two-point guard lineup will be tricky for Clifford, who will also be juggling playing time for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Nicolas Batum and (if he cracks the rotation) Jeremy Lamb. He’ll have plenty of options to mix and match players in the backcourt and on the wing. Truth be told, both Walker and Lin are probably best suited to be sixth men, instant-offense types. Clifford compared the style of a Walker-Lin backcourt to the Warriors, which makes sense conceptually. But Thompson is a much better defender than both Walker and Lin, which makes it easier play two ball-dominant guards together. But it’s certainly worth trying this out. It’s hard to get a read on what the Hornets’ roster will be at this point, or how effective it can be. They have plenty of talented players, and it will be interesting to see how well they fit together.

Pelicans pull French center Alexis Ajinca out of EuroBasket

New Orleans Pelicans v Minnesota Timberwolves

New Pelicans’ coach Alvin Gentry has big plans for Alexis Ajinca. In the coach’s up-tempo offense, Ajinca’s athleticism makes a good fit behind and next to Anthony Davis. With that, Ajinca is expected to see an increased role and minutes (even though the team did bring back Omer Asik). That’s why they signed him to a four-year, $20 million deal this offseason.

Ajinca has been playing this summer with the French national team as they prepare to defend their EuroBasket title and earn a berth in the 2016 Rio Olympics. However, a week before the tournament starts, the Pelicans have pulled him out, reports eurohoops.net.

The player felt pain in his Achilles tendon since the start of the preparation period at the 20th of July. His condition remained unchanged, however the New Orleans Pelicans decided to forbid him from playing in the Eurobasket.

This was not a situation that was so bad New Orleans said he couldn’t even consider playing for his country; it was a relatively minor issue. But as it hasn’t improved, the Pelicans decided not to risk anything with a guy they just agreed to lock down for four years.

This is a blow to France, but they remain one of the deepest teams at EuroBasket and one of the favorites. They still have Rudy Gobert at center, Tony Parker at the point, plus guys like Boris Diaw, Nicolas Batum, and Evan Fournier on the roster. They could defend their crown, but that task just got a little harder.

Hornets make $52 million bet on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with four-year contract extension

Charlotte Hornets v Chicago Bulls

If all you know of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is his broken jumper, you have not been watching closely enough. First off, Mike Price helped improve that jumper, and he shot 50 percent last season between 10 and 16 feet (that’s not to say the jumper is good, just not painful-to-watch wretched anymore). More than that, MKG brings relentless energy, fantastic defense, and his offense is improving leading to him scoring 10.9 points a game last season. There have been real strides of development, signs of leadership, and he is still just 21 years old.

With all that potential, and in this financial market, the Charlotte Hornets made a good bet on him.

The two sides reached terms on four-year, $52 million contract extension, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

The agreement will be finalized this week with a news conference to follow, league sources said…. Kidd-Gilchrist, the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, has developed into a cornerstone player for the Hornets at small forward. With the extension, the Hornets and Kidd-Gilchrist will avoid him becoming a restricted free agent next summer.

He is a cornerstone of what they are building— the Hornets were 6-20 when he was out last season injured because they cannot replace what he brings. If you can get a key starter in this market for $13 million a year, that is a good deal in the current NBA economy. Let alone one who is young and on the rise.

Kidd-Gilchrist is the best Hornet defender, drawing the toughest perimeter assignment nightly. Now with him and just-signed Nicolas Batum, Charlotte should be an improved defensive team for Steve Clifford.

But more than that, it’s the constant motor that makes him both fun to watch and a key to Charlotte’s success — when a guy working that hard is on the court, everyone else steps up around him.

This is a bet by the Hornets on MKG’s offense, which is still a liability because of his jumper. That said, with his improved jumper he was more confident last season, more aggressive and attacking (he drew fouls at a good clip). If he keeps taking strides on that end of the court, the Hornets become far more dangerous.

Consider this is a fair deal for both sides. MKG gets some security and a healthy pay raise (starting in 2017, he has one more season on his rookie deal). The Hornets lock up a guy who can be a cornerstone part of what they are building.


Trail Blazers GM Neil Olshey chose chance of greatness over safer route to being merely good

Nerlens Noel, LaMarcus Aldridge

At face value, the Trail Blazers’ and 76ers’ offseasons took completely different approaches to rebuilding this offseason.

The Blazers traded for Noah Vonleh, Gerald Henderson, Mason Plumlee and Maurice Harkless. They signed Al-Farouq Aminu and Ed Davis. They also signed Enes Kanter to an offer sheet, though the Thunder matched.

Philadelphia, on the other hand, highlighted free agency by… signing Pierre Jackson and Scotty Wilbekin, two players without NBA experience. Sure, the 76ers also traded for Nik Stauskas, Jason Thompson and Carl Landry. But Thompson and Landry were the tax necessary to require positive assets, and Philadelphia already flipped Thompson. Even Stauskas, a nice piece, was an afterthought relative to the draft considerations conveyed by the Kings.

Portland acquired five Stauskases – recent first-round picks still looking to find their place in the NBA.

But, as Trail Blazers general manager Neil Olshey tells it, his team has a similar philosophy to the 76ers. Portland is just taking a different route.

Michael Lee of The Washington Post:

Once Aldridge decided to leave, the Blazers didn’t waste their time trying to chase Matthews (who signed a four-year, $70 million deal with Dallas), Lopez (who took a four-year, $52 million deal with New York) or even reserve Arron Afflalo (who left for a two-year, $16 million deal with New York).

Olshey didn’t feel the need to keep together the same core while simply trying to replace a four-time all-star because, “absent LaMarcus Aldridge, that group was not going to be good enough,” he said. “We judge ourselves by high standards and if we can’t compete at the highest levels, then we had to go in a different direction.”

76ers general manager Sam Hinkie has made clear his lengthy and deep rebuild is designed to culminate in championship contention. There are simpler paths to getting good, and Hinkie clearly isn’t taking those. (Matt Moore of CBSSports.com wrote an excellent article on the difference.)

Being great usually requires a superstar. Getting a superstar usually requires a high first-round pick. A high first-round pick usually requires a terrible record.

There is logic behind Philadelphia’s unprecedented multi-year commitment to tanking.

Olshey definitely indicates he has a similar championship-or-bust attitude, and he concluded retaining Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez, Arron Afflalo and Nicolas Batum after LaMarcus Aldridge joined the Spurs would have taken the Trail Blazers further from a title. They might have been better in the short-term, but those highly paid veterans would have limited Portland’s potential to grow into a great team.

That’s a logical assessment, similar to the one Hinkie made with the Jrue Holiday-led roster he inherited.

At this point, Olshey took a different route than Hinkie.

The Trail Blazers paid a relatively small price for its young veterans, and I like the moves. I wouldn’t be surprised if at least one of Vonleh, Plumlee, Harkless, Aminu and Davis becomes capable of playing a major role on a title contender. It’s a luxury to bet on so many intriguing players.

But the moves come with a cost. Those players are already decent, and they should make Portland better than Philadelphia this season. That means the Trail Blazers effectively moved down in the draft. Maybe the value of these additions offsets that, but Philadelphia has done little to jeopardize its draft position.

Perhaps, Olshey didn’t have a choice. Damian Lillard might have dictated Portland couldn’t fully tank. Just how bad could a team with Lillard really be? The 76ers don’t have anyone near his caliber, so declining to become good now is an easier choice.

Maybe Olshey and Hinkie would have acted differently if they were in the other’s situation. Circumstances matter.

But bottom line: The Trail Blazers and 76ers have the same mindset. They want to be great. They’re not as concerned with being good before that’s possible.

What NBA stars will suit up for EuroBasket? Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker among others

pau gasol spain olympics

EuroBasket matters — it offers both the bragging rights of a European championship and is the 2016 Olympic qualifier for Europe. The top two finishers get their tickets punched for Rio for the 2016 games (the USA and Brazil have already qualified). Finishers three through seven get invited to the 2016 pre-Olympics qualifying tournament, where they can try to play their way into the final field of 12 (likely a couple of them succeed).

Because it matters, some of the NBA’s big names will suit up when play tips off Sept. 5 —  Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker among others. There are 29 players under NBA contract in total expected to participate. Mark Cuban and many NBA GMs will watch clutching their lucky blanket and hoping against injury, but this is the kind of tournament that draws stars.

If you’ve wondered who is going, here’s a list of every NBA player suiting up in EuroBasket, hat tip to Hoopshype.

Bojan Bogdanovic (Brooklyn Nets)
Mario Hezonja (Orlando Magic)
Damjan Rudez (Minnesota Timberwolves)

Alexis Ajinca (New Orleans Pelicans)
Nicolas Batum (Charlotte Hornets)
Boris Diaw (San Antonio Spurs)
Evan Fournier (Orlando Magic)
Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz)
Joffrey Lauvergne (Denver Nuggets)
Tony Parker (San Antonio Spurs)

Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas Mavericks)
Tibor Pleiss (Utah Jazz)
Dennis Schroeder (Atlanta Hawks)

Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks)
Kosta Koufos (Sacramento Kings)
Kostas Papanikolaou (Denver Nuggets)

Andrea Bargnani (Brooklyn Nets)
Marco Belinelli (Sacramento Kings)
Danilo Gallinari (Denver Nuggets)

Omri Casspi (Sacramento Kings)

Jonas Valanciunas (Toronto Raptors)

Marcin Gortat (Washington Wizards)

Zaza Pachulia (Dallas Mavericks)

Nemanja Bjelica (Minnesota Timberwolves)

Pau Gasol (Chicago Bulls)
Nikola Mirotic (Chicago Bulls)

Furkan Aldemir (Philadelphia 76ers)
Ersan Ilyasova (Detroit Pistons)

Alex Len (Phoenix Suns)