Tag: Portland Trail Blazers


NBA lands in Africa trying to put down roots, which is all about youth programs, infrastructure

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Under David Stern and now Adam Silver, the NBA has tried to grow its brand across the globe and establish itself as the world’s premier basketball league. That has meant games and outreach to Europe, China, South America, India and the Philippines.

Now the NBA has landed in Africa for the first-ever NBA game on that continent — a Team Africa vs. Team World exhibition featuring some of the biggest names in the league Saturday in Johannesburg, South Africa. Chris Paul, Luol Deng, and Marc Gasol will be there, as will be native Nigerians and NBA players Al-Farouq Aminu and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Twenty NBA players in all are taking part, along with coaches Gregg Popovich of the Spurs and Mike Budenholzer of the Atlanta Hawks.

“It’s incredible to see all these guys here,” said Raptors GM Masai Ujiri on a conference call Thursday.

“It’s an honor to be part of this,” said Bismack Biyombo, the new Raptors center and native of the Congo, on the same call. “Growing up here in Africa you watch an NBA game every now and then, or when someone had one recorded.”

Much of the talk about growing the sport in Africa has seemed to focus on the NBA brand — bringing an NBA preseason or maybe even regular season game to the continent. That’s a long ways away — Saturday’s exhibition will be in a 4,000-seat arena — but it’s a possibility.

“We’ve definitely had discussions, but they are elementary in some ways…” Ujiri said. “(The Raptors) would definitely be a team that would be very, very interested.”

The real test, however, is not bringing another NBA game to Africa, but finding ways to grow the sport at a grassroots level in Africa.

“The reason you see African nations (doing well internationally) in soccer — or football — now is that we played at a young age,” Ujiri noted. “You just had a ball and two rocks to be the goals, as I used to play growing up.”

Growing youth basketball will mean building infrastructure — in the USA we just expect to see even pocket parks in cities with a basketball hoop. They are ubiquitous, as are youth hoops programs. All of that is lacking in Africa, where soccer but not basketball is part of the culture.

“One thing to come out of this will be more camps, more clinics, more games, more youth competition, and from that you get into infrastructure, and building more courts,” Ujiri said, adding that what the NBA needs to help do is “coach the coaches” who will help teach the game.

“We’ve worked with kids the past few years here, and I worked with kids in the Congo the last few weeks, and the potential is here,” Biyombo said. “The problem we all have is we started playing basketball late. That’s why we’ve been trying to build courts around the country.”

The game Saturday is just one step in that direction, but exposing the youth of Africa to the highest levels of the game is a start. Now comes the hard part of building that youth infrastructure.

The words that kept coming up in everyone’s press conferences was the potential of the market and the youth in Africa.

“There is talent there,” Ujiri said of Africa. “It’s how this motivates them and the opportunities it creates for them.”

“I want (African youth) to use basketball as a way to gain an education because all of them are not going to make it to the NBA,” Biyombo said. “I want to show them they can reach their dream with a lot of hard work.”

“Africa is a continent with huge potential and many different levels,” said Pau Gasol, who also will take part in the game and spoke with the media Thursday. “It has a lot of struggles, but it’s worth investing the time and the effort and the energy to give this country and this continent a chance, and I think a lot of players are coming out and obviously have come out already, but there’s potential that a lot more younger players can come out and be ready and become great basketball players and have an opportunity to have a great life for themselves and their families.”

Report: Team USA uncertain whether Dwight Howard, John Wall will attend minicamp

Dwight Howard, John Wall

Damian Lillard doesn’t sound like someone who will attend Team USA’s minicamp next month.

He might not be the only one.

Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports:

USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said camp attendance – though not necessarily on-court participation – was mandatory for players to make the 2016 Olympic team.

If Dwight Howard and John Wall don’t show up, they’re probably out for the Rio Games. They surely know that, though Colangelo’s rules are only as binding as he wants them to be. Given how he has run the program in the past, though, I wouldn’t test him.

Wall didn’t make the World Cup roster last year, and he wasn’t pleased. There was a report Howard intended to play in the 2014 World Cup and maybe 2016 Olympics, but he wasn’t even in the player pool for the World Cup.

Both Howard and Wall are talented enough to make Olympic roster. But if they don’t attend the minicamp, that’s probably the end of their association with USA Basketball.

Wesley Matthews says Trail Blazers never made him an offer, “I was pissed off”

Memphis Grizzlies v Portland Trail Blazers - Game Three

Wesley Matthews brings his “3&D” game — and his ruptured Achilles still on the mend — to Dallas next season.

Matthews had been a vital part of Portland’s success the past few seasons. So much so that when he injured his Achilles last season the team went from everybody’s favorite dark horse contender in the West to the team that still got the four seed and made Adam Silver and the NBA rethink rewarding division winners. It wasn’t just his on the court play, his leadership in the locker room was huge in Portland.

Which is why he thought they would try to keep him, but they didn’t Matthews told Jason Quick and the Oregonian. And that ticked him off.

He had hoped he could return to the city that had embraced him, to the team with players he considered brothers, to the franchise where he grew into one of the NBA’s most well-rounded and respected shooting guards. But in the end, after five seasons, the feeling was not mutual. He was greeted with silence. No phone call. No text messages. The Blazers never made an offer.

“I was pissed off,” Matthews said. “I felt disrespected….”

The only chance the Blazers would pursue Matthews, top executive Neil Olshey later explained, was if free agent LaMarcus Aldridge chose to return, maintaining Portland as a playoff-caliber team. When Aldridge chose San Antonio, the Blazers decided to rebuild. Paying big money to a 29-year-old shooting guard coming off major surgery didn’t make long-term sense.

For Portland, this makes total sense. Once Aldridge chose to go home to Texas they needed to strip the entire thing down and make Damian Lillard the focus of a rebuild. And if Blazers owner Paul Allen is hesitant about paying big money to injured players, it’s hard to blame him (Greg Oden, Brandon Roy).

That Portland never made a phone call means by July 1 Olshey knew Aldridge was long gone.

Matthews makes sense for Dallas, a team that when it first contacted Matthews thought it might get the pieces this summer to give Dirk Nowitzki one more run at a ring. While that didn’t work out (in dramatic fashion), Cuban pitched Matthews as being a cornerstone of the future in Dallas. That sold Matthews, he told the Oregonian in this fantastic story detailing his summer recruitment.

History of players coming back from an Achilles injury suggests this is going to be a challenging season for Matthews. Even if he can stay healthy — which is not always easy, see Kobe Bryant for example — it’s an adjustment learning what your body can and can’t do the same way. His game will need to adapt.

Where Matthews really may start to pay off for Dallas is next summer — he’s the kind of person and player other guys want on their team. Having him in house is a good recruiting tool when Mark Cuban and the Mavericks knock on the doors of the next big free agents.