As per usual, strange things are afoot in the voting for the All-Defensive teams

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Award voting will never be a perfect process, if only because there are so many different perspectives involved. That said, selections to the All-Defense first and second teams provide particularly unique challenges, as voters are not only asked to weigh certain contributions (scoring, playmaking, etc.) against others (defense, leadership, etc.) as they are in MVP voting for example, but determine whether the contributions are worthy of such an honor at all. It’s tough to dispute things like points and shooting percentages, but there aren’t any simple ways to measure defense, and finding any reliable way to measure defense quantitatively is rather difficult.

It’s so difficult, in fact, that for the most part, head coaches needn’t be bothered by it. The electorate for the All-Defense teams are supposed to be the league’s 30 head coaches, but does anyone honestly believe that Phil Jackson or Gregg Popovich penned the ballots for their respective teams? Such assignments are often handed down the ladder to an assistant, and perhaps even further down from that assistant to someone else on staff.

Want proof? Even the worst coach in the league wouldn’t dare vote for some of the players that end up receiving votes in these things. Here are some of this year’s anomalies:

  •  Luis Scola received the same amount of points (2) as Portland wing stopper Nicolas Batum.
  • Dwight Howard only received 28 votes for the 1st team, when he should have received 29. Stan Van Gundy (or whoever is voting for SVG) can’t vote for Howard as a rule, but is there honestly a coach in this league that thinks there is a better defensive player, much less a better defensive center, than Dwight?
  • Andrew Bogut, who would have been a fine selection for Defensive Player of the Year had Howard not been otherworldly, was only the fourth highest vote-getter among centers. Bogut was second in the league this season in combined steals, blocks, and drawn charges.
  • Shawn Marion held opposing small forward to a 13.3 PER this season (15 qualifies as average) and a league-low .392 from the field (per ESPN Dallas’ Tim MacMahon), but couldn’t score a single vote. Forwards who did receive a vote? The aforementioned Scola, Ersan Ilyasova, and Caron Butler. Speaking of Caron Butler, how did a player get a vote for playing roughly a season of decent defense? Butler wasn’t bad defensively for Dallas after the trade deadline, but with Washington? Yeesh.
  • Nick Collison also couldn’t get a single vote, despite being one of the more effective defenders in the league. Thought Marion holding opposing small forwards to a 13.3 PER was impressive? How about Collison keeping his opponents at power forward to just an 8.7 PER?
  • Jason Kidd receive four first team votes despite his inability to defend his own position on a regular basis, Lamar Odom and Deron Williams each received a first team vote despite being merely competent on D, and George Hill received a first team vote on the strength of some unknown criteria that places him as an elite defender.
  • Finally, something that’s less of an anomaly and more of a general trend. Eight of the ten All-Defense selections were All-Stars. This isn’t because those playing in the All-Star game are selected for their defense necessarily, but that despite the purpose of the All-Defense teams, the voting coaches typically choose more complete players. Guys like Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, who for all of their defensive strengths are rather limited on the offensive end, are routinely left out in the cold. It’s not a coincidence that the first season Gerald Wallace was named an All-Star is also the first year he was selected for either All-Defense team, and it’s also not indicative of some substantial leap in his game.

Raptors hire Spurs video coordinator, who just happens to be Kawhi Leonard friend

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Jeremy Castleberry played his high school ball in Riverside, California, on the same team as Kawhi Leonard. When Leonard went on to San Diego State for college, Castleberry went too and was a walk-on for that team.

When the Spurs drafted Leonard, it was not long before Castleberry was a video coordinator and on the staff in San Antonio. Now Leonard is a Raptor so… you know what’s coming. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN explained it well.

The Toronto Raptors are hiring San Antonio Spurs staffer Jeremy Castleberry — a close friend of Kawhi Leonard — to a position on their coaching staff, league sources told ESPN.

Castleberry has worked with Leonard as a Spurs staffer and played with Leonard in high school and at San Diego State, where he was a walk-on.

Is this alone going to keep Leonard a Raptor next summer when he’s a free agent? No. But this is how the game is played — make the star player you’re recruiting feel comfortable, wanted, a key part of everything. Bringing in a friend to a new city for him fits right into that plan.

The smart money is still on Leonard bolting next summer to go to Los Angeles, but if the Raptors are able to change his mind — ala Paul George — it will not be one big thing but a thousand little ones. And a lot of wins. But hiring Castleberry is a start.

Brandon Jennings signs to play in Russia next season

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Brandon Jennings has just never been the same since his 2015 torn Achilles. He hasn’t shot over 40 percent from the floor for a season since then, he hasn’t moved well defensivly, and he had a PER of 19.3 the season it was torn and it’s never been above 13.7 for a season since then. In the past couple of seasons he has played in the G-League and China, and he played 14 games at the end of the season for the Bucks last campaign.

This summer, there were no offers. He is now headed to Russia, according to multiple reports, including EuroHoops.net. He will play for Zenit St Petersburg.

He’s only 28 years old, there is time for him find a way to make his game fit into the NBA landscape again. He’s just not there yet, and maybe the opportunity in Russia will lead him there. If not, he’s still getting paid to play at a high level.

Some owners reportedly want access to mental health files of players

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If you read one thing NBA related today, it should be the first installment of Jackie MacMullan’s brilliant series at ESPN on the mental health of players and staffs in the NBA, and how the league is handling it. MacMullan not only got Kevin Love and Paul Pierce to open up about their challenges, but she also got into the challenges the league faces in confronting this issue head-on.

One such challenge: Owners wanting access to players mental health “files.”

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, players union executive director Michelle Roberts and their respective teams are reportedly working on a new mental health policy for the league. Privacy is going to be a big part of that. From MacMullan:

Yet there remain many obstacles to confront, chief among them the stigma attached to mental health that prompts many players to suffer in silence. The union also insists that mental health treatment be confidential, but some NBA owners, who in some cases are paying their players hundreds of millions of dollars, want access to the files of their “investments.” That is not, however, the league’s position. “The NBA fully supports protecting the confidentiality of players’ mental health information and, accordingly, committed to the players association that any mental health program we undertake would do so,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass says.

Confidentiality, says Love, has to be non-negotiable. Without it, he says, he never would have become comfortable enough to announce from that All-Star dais that he was seeking treatment.

Those files must be private. This is different from a torn knee ligament or sprained ankle (and on those we have HIPPA laws for good reason). For one, this is something more unpredictable in treating. Second, it comes back to the stigma of mental health issues and how the information about them might be used.

That stigma still exists, both in society and the NBA — McMullan gets into the players and their wives talking behind Love’s back All-Star weekend, and the players currently seeking treatment who do not want it public. The “real men don’t talk about this” mentality is everywhere, but it has fertile ground in professional sports locker rooms where players see themselves as invincible.

That mentality, that stigma will be the hardest thing to change in altering the culture of mental health issues in the NBA. There are no easy answers here. Does anyone think the owners who want access to those files wouldn’t use against the player in negotiations (never underestimate an owner’s effort to gain leverage)?

The players’ union will not allow that in whatever the framework is for the leagues’ new mental health policy. Nor should they.

Love, DeMar DeRozan, Royce White and others broke barriers stepping forward into the spotlight to discuss their challenges. But there are a lot of barriers still up, and a lot of work for both the NBA and society to do on this front. And privacy must be part of that.

Rebuilding Hawks add depth by signing Daniel Hamilton, Alex Poythress.

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ATLANTA (AP) — The rebuilding Atlanta Hawks have added depth by signing guard-forward Daniel Hamilton and forward Alex Poythress.

Poythress was signed to a two-way contract, so the former Kentucky player will split his time with the Hawks’ G League Erie team.

Hamilton is on a fully guaranteed one-year contract after impressing the Hawks playing for the Thunder Summer League team. He averaged 2 points in six games with Oklahoma City last season while on a two-way contract with the Thunder. He spent most of the season with the G League Oklahoma City Blue.

Poythress averaged 1 point in 25 games with Indiana last season. He began the season on a two-way contract.