While Gilbert Arenas pens his redemption story, Javaris Crittenton is just looking to get by

1 Comment

javaris_crittenton_wizards_bobcats.jpgGilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton will forever be linked by a card game, two unloaded guns, and a note in the Washington Wizards’ locker room, but both players were in fundamentally different positions to deal with the aftermath of their shared experience.

Arenas is a former superstar that once dined with the league’s true elite. He’s also due $80 million over the next four seasons, which makes him both a difficult player to deal and an impossible one to cut. It didn’t make sense for the Wizards to part ways with Arenas even after his various displays of irresponsibility, and now he’s an important part of the roster that will usher in a new era for the Wizards.

Gil is reinventing himself. Or learning from his mistakes. Or showing maturity. Or…something. Regardless, Arenas has a chance to make his narrative whole, and ride out what should be a few more seasons with the Wizards.

Crittenton? He was done in Washington the day he made headlines. Critt has talent, but as an unfocused (in terms of skill), atypical guard without much career production, he wasn’t deemed worth the headache, nor did he have a contract that made him so. So the Wizards waved goodbye after Crittenton served his 38-game suspension, and we sat wondering whether one bizarre incident would destroy Crittenton’s career before it had a chance to truly begin.

It didn’t, at least for now. The Charlotte Bobcats invited Crittenton to training camp with their problematic point guard rotation in mind. D.J. Augustin, who struggled last season, is the starter by default, and his primary backup, Shaun Livingston, is already having trouble staying healthy. Should Crittenton work his way onto Charlotte’s roster, there will be opportunities aplenty for minutes throughout the season, be they with Livingston sidelined or Augustin inconsistent.

Crittenton’s own health is an issue, too. A left ankle injury has hindered Crittenton for some time, in part because of a botched surgery, per Crittenton’s estimation (via the Associated Press):

…Brown also didn’t know if he was healthy, an issue that got little
attention because of his legal problems. Crittenton said he had a bone
spur in his left ankle at the beginning of last season and underwent
surgery. “It didn’t go well,” Crittenton said. “They went in from
the wrong way and it didn’t fix it. I had another surgery to actually
repair it.”

Instead of being sidelined for few weeks, Crittenton was out for the season.

“A
lot of people think I had one surgery and, ‘Oh, it’s taking a long time
to heal,'” Crittenton said. “If the first surgery was successful, I
would have been ready.”

The 38-game suspension at the end of the
season made that moot. It also meant he wasn’t returning to Washington,
and Charlotte marks his fourth team in four years. “I do feel
like I really haven’t gotten my shot yet,” Crittenton said. “I really
wasn’t one of those players who could really learn from watching. But
it’s the NBA. This is the decision I chose. I left college early and I
just have to learn. There’s no more being babied or anything like that.”

The surgery doesn’t even matter at this point. Crittenton needs to be ready now, because isn’t likely to have many other NBA lifelines.

Sadly, this could be it for Crittenton. His involvement in the Arenas gun incident is just the kind of Wikipedia-worthy trivia that could prematurely terminate his NBA career. Crittenton’s future training camp/tryout opportunities could be very limited, which makes it all the more important that his chance with the Bobcats doesn’t go south. With good coaching and the right system, Critt could be a valuable rotation player. Here’s to hoping that happens in the NBA (and in Charlotte, for that matter, where Larry Brown could really help him), rather than overseas. 

Lakers’ Josh Hart wins Summer League MVP

Associated Press
Leave a comment

The Lakers wanted to test Josh Hart this summer: What would happen if they gave him a more substantial role? He was solid as a backup point guard last season (a good showing for a rookie), averaging 7.9 points per game and shooting 39.6 percent from three, but with Lonzo Ball and Rajon Rondo in the fold point guard minutes will be hard to come by next season.

What happened if they put the ball in Hart’s hands and made him the leader of a team on and off the court?

Hart responded by winning the NBA Las Vega Summer League MVP, averaging 24.2 points a game and leading the Lakers to the championship game. He dropped 37 on the Cavaliers and Collin Sexton in the semi-finals.

The award was announced Tuesday, in advance of the title contest between Hart and his Lakers vs. the Portland Trail Blazers.

Hart is the second Laker in a row to win the award, last year Lonzo Ball won it in leading the Lakers to a Summer League crown.

It’s an honor, but don’t assume Summer League MVP means NBA success. Sure, Damian Lillard won the award, but he was co-MVP with Josh Shelby. Glen Rice III won the award. The MVP list includes Kyle Anderson and Tyus Jones and other good but not All-Star players.

Hart also made the All-NBA Summer League first team. (Both the MVP award and All-NBA Summer League teams were voted on by a select media pannel.)

Here are the Las Vegas All Summer League teams:

All-NBA Summer League First Team

Wendell Carter Jr. (Chicago)
Josh Hart (Los Angeles Lakers)
Kevin Knox (New York)
Collin Sexton (Cleveland)
Christian Wood (Milwaukee)

MGM Resorts All-NBA Summer League Second Team

Deandre Ayton (Phoenix)
Wade Baldwin IV (Portland)
Jaren Jackson Jr. (Memphis)
Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (Los Angeles Lakers)
Trae Young (Atlanta)

Report: Jahlil Okafor, still trying to land contract, works out for four teams in Vegas

Getty Images
3 Comments

Jahlil Okafor was never going to find a new home early in free agency. Once the big names — and second tier, and third tier— names shook out, then some team was expected to step forward with a minimum contract and see if the former No. 3 pick could find a role on their team. Something he could not do with the Nets last year.

He’s still waiting.

Okafor did work out for teams in Las Vegas, to show that he is healthy and can contribute, reports Sean Deveny of The Sporting News.

According to sources, Okafor, the No. 3 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, worked out for four teams last Wednesday in Las Vegas, and remains hopeful of signing with a team ahead of training camp next fall.

Okafor averaged 17.5 points per game as a rookie in Philadelphia in 2015-16. He has spent the last few months working out in Miami with trainers David Alexander and Idan Ravin, fueling speculation that he could land with the Heat, especially if Miami finds a trading partner for Hassan Whiteside.

First things first, it’s unlikely the Heat will find someone to take on Whiteside right now, and any team that does is going to want a treasure chest of sweeteners the Heat may not want to surrender.

In addition to the Heat, the Bulls and Pacers have been rumored to have some interest, although both of those should be taken with a serious grain of salt.

How much is any team interested? Enough to even offer a fully guaranteed contract for next season?

Maybe not. Okafor — with his old-school, below the rim, back-to-the-basket offensive game, not to mention a serious lack of defense — does not fit the direction the NBA is trending with bigs. He may need to accept a non-guaranteed invite to training camp somewhere and prove he deserves a roster spot. Humbling, to be sure, but reality.

At some point, some team will give him a shot. Probably. But Okafor has a lot of work to do to find a role in the modern NBA.

Take that for data: NBA preps for expanded betting on games

Mark Makela/Getty Images
1 Comment

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Here’s a scenario: LeBron James is four assists and three rebounds shy of a triple-double after three quarters. A bettor, who is watching at home and utilizing a mobile app, decides to gamble that James will get those assists and rebounds in the final 12 minutes. The wager then gets made before play resumes.

The NBA wants that bettor to see the best possible data.

So the league is seeking to get stats out quicker than ever.

Fast isn’t fast enough for the NBA anymore, not when it comes to stats – especially now that the U.S. Supreme Court has opened the door for states to allow wagering on games. The league has upgraded its stat systems in the past year to try and get its data out as close to real-time as possible, even aiming to beat the typical lag of 7-15 seconds that it takes for television or streaming services to show whatever happened.

It’s about what the NBA calls official data. The league’s stance is that getting accurate stats to bettors is critical so the player knows what they’re betting on and the casinos will know when to pay out or not. But how much value that data has for casinos – and whether they will pay anything for it – remains unclear.

“My view is we should be compensated for our intellectual property, but we can do that directly, again, with commercial relationships with gaming establishments,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, whose league had hoped this matter would be resolved with federal regulation instead of various policies getting worked on state by state by state.

Silver met with betting officials in Las Vegas earlier this month, and how data should be provided was one of the topics on the agenda. The NBA has said it is seeking a 1 percent “integrity fee” on wagers, which the league said would offset their additional security costs and compensate them for the data they can provide.

The casinos, however, are balking at legislative mandates insisting upon the use of official data. Joe Asher, the CEO of bookmaker William Hill USA, told The New York Times that such a mandate “sets up monopoly pricing power. This whole thing of official league data is like a smoke screen.”

It’s a major issue to work through, especially if in-game betting – people betting on various aspects of games after they’ve already started – catches on in the United States the same way that it has in the United Kingdom.

In-game betting, which is huge in Europe, is still relatively small in this country. Most Nevada bookmakers say in-game options make up no more than 5 percent of their sports-wagering business, although William Hill has said it accounted for nearly 25 percent of its sports business in the U.S. during 2017.

Only a handful of states have legalized sports betting since the Supreme Court decision in May, though several more states are expected to get operations up and running in the next year or so. Bettors now have been largely playing the basics – will Team X beat Team Y by more than six points, will the teams combine to score more than 210 points, that sort of thing.

“There’s a couple things about official data that make it advantageous for sports betting,” said Scott Kaufman-Ross, an NBA vice president who oversees fantasy sports and gaming. “Most is the speed. … That’s important for in-game betting.”

The NBA switched last year to software provided by Genius Sports, a London-based company that collects and distributes official data for dozens of sports federations around the globe and even recently completed a deal to work with the NCAA. The NBA data collected by Genius has been distributed globally by Sportradar, which sends it to media outlets, broadcasters and betting outlets outside the U.S.

Sportradar, the NBA said, is now working on obtaining the ability to send the data to U.S.-based betting entities.

NBA stat crews all generally work the same way: a primary caller uses a code to describe a play as it happens, a primary inputter uses a touch-screen tablet to punch in what he or she hears the caller say into the headsets that the crew share, a secondary inputter cleans up any mistakes, and a secondary caller is in contact with league offices in Secaucus, New Jersey, and reviews any plays that need additional study.

Those various crews, many members of which have received training during the summer league in Las Vegas, are the ones who decide who gets an assist or a rebound.

“The NBA has always been front and center on rapidly deploying statistics, first because of our television partners and then the Internet happened and that was good for the Internet,” said Steve Hellmuth, the NBA’s executive vice president for media operations and technology. “So it’s kind of always been in our DNA.”

Report: Stephen Curry also skipping Team USA minicamp

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Leave a comment

In 2015, then-USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo declared a minicamp mandatory for invited players who wanted a chance to join Team USA in the Olympics the following year. (Colangelo didn’t exactly stick with that.)

New USA Basketball chairman Martin Dempsey isn’t bothering to set such a hard line a year before another major competition – the 2019 World Cup.

LeBron James will miss next week’s minicamp, and so will Stephen Curry.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

Golden State Warriors All-Star guard Stephen Curry will not be in attendance for Team USA’s minicamp next week in Las Vegas, league sources tell ESPN.

The two-time NBA MVP, according to sources, will be spending time with his family, including his newborn son.

Curry and James will not be eliminated from consideration moving forward.

Curry and LeBron have both played all the way through the NBA Finals the last four years. I don’t blame them for taking time for themselves. They’re also good enough to still get onto Team USA in 2019 if they want to play. They have leverage other players might not.

If Kawhi Leonard is looking for attention-grabbing cover to attend the camp, he won’t get it from the NBA’s two biggest stars. If Leonard participates, he’ll be – by far – the biggest story there.