Jerry Buss likes his Lakers chances against Miami

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Thumbnail image for jbuss.jpgIt’s trendy now to say you didn’t watch “The Decision” because you had better things to do. Wash your hair, read “Ulysses” or whatever. But mature people like Shaq didn’t watch it.

Well, Jerry Buss did, as he told ESPNLosAngeles.com during a Lakers charity poker event.

“[It was] mixed emotions. My feeling was that he let down a lot of people and it seemed kind of sad. On the other hand, suddenly there’s this juggernaut out there that we have a chance to play against and that excites me, that really excites me because, quite honestly, I think we can beat them and I’m looking forward to playing them. Some of it was kind of excitement saying, ‘Oh boy, here’s a team that everybody put together as our next big opponent,’ but still I think Boston is pretty good and I think they’ve strengthened themselves by adding a couple centers. Orlando is still good and excellently coached. So I don’t think it’s automatic that Miami will be our biggest opponent come the end, but on the other hand, I must admit they have the world’s attention and that means we’re going to be on center stage when we get a chance to play them.”

The new superpower in the East would not be there without Buss — remember it was Buss who pulled Pat Riley out of his job as a color analyst on Lakers games and threw him in the coach’s seat. He pushed Riley into the role he has now as the master team architect. There are a whole lot of reasons Buss is in the Hall of Fame now, and Riley is one of them. And now Riley has a really good team.

Another reason Buss is in the Hall of Fame — he likes to win. A lot. So Riley’s summer just got him pumped up:

“Suddenly there’s this juggernaut out there that we have a chance to play against and that excites me, that really excites me because, quite honestly, I think we can beat them and I’m looking forward to playing them,” Buss said. “I don’t think it’s automatic that Miami will be our biggest opponent come the end, but on the other hand, I must admit they have the world’s attention and that means we’re going to be on center stage when we get a chance to play them.”

But Buss is pretty happy with his team too. They’ve won two titles and made some good off-season pickups.

“I’m very happy. I think Matt Barnes was a good addition. He’s a very tough, feisty type of guy and [Ron] Artest helped a lot and Matt Barnes will help some more. I think we needed a steady presence at guard, someone who’s had experience and can play and so [Steve] Blake fills that role quite nicely. The remaining piece was to get a center [in Theo Ratliff] that had some experience, hopefully a shot blocker, someone who could play an undetermined amount of minutes depending on Andrew Bynum’s health.”

One other thing of note, Buss is continuing to step away from the business and is leaving it to his children.

“I still talk to my son, Jimmy, at least twice a day. Some of those phone calls are as long as an hour and those phone calls, largely, the large portion of the content is basketball — what we should do, what we’re doing. So I think I’m pretty active, but I would say in terms of the decision, I would say 80 percent of it goes with Jim and I throw in my two cents here and there. But, pretty much, I’m on the listening end of a lot of things.

“For business purposes, I’m totally out of it. Jeanie operates the whole thing, just 100 percent. I still have my finger in with Jim, but not with Jeanie. Once in a great while I’ll talk business with her.”

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.