UCLA, USC stars among those declaring for NBA Draft

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A number of college underclassmen are lining up to enter the NBA draft, lockout or no. Well, most are really testing the waters — if they don’t sign with an agent they do not lose eligibility and can return to college. But there are some names to watch and here are some of them.

Tyler Honeycutt (6’8” small forward, UCLA, has agent): He is has a smooth, fluid game with a lot of versatility. He can pass (too often at times), defend and shoot. What’s not to like? Well, his motor is the question. He seems to play passive at times and had some very lackluster games for UCLA. But Ben Howland seems to produce guys that are hard to read in college then break out and are better away from him and his system. Honeycutt will get a good look but will have to pull himself out of the second round with workouts.

Nikola Vucevic (6’10” forward/center, USC, has agent): A real big, strong NBA-body who has developed some touch from the outside (think pick-and-pop). He can rebound and plays a pretty smart game. There are questions about how he’ll handle more athletic players at the next level and he is a second round pick — but one with options to play in Europe as well. He could get drafted in the second round, get stashed overseas for a couple years to develop, then come back and contribute.

Malcolm Lee (6’5” shooting guard, UCLA, has not signed with agent): He is the latest in the line of UCLA guards — Russell Westbrook, Jrue Holiday — who bounced between point and two guard for Howland and never seemed comfortable to find a home. He shot 29.5 percent from three last season — his shot has gotten better over the years but it is not NBA ready yet. There is question of his fit in the NBA. He may test waters and return to Bruins, at this point he is a second rounder (if that).

Ashton Gibbs (6’2” point guard, Pittsburgh, has not signed with agent): He shot 49 percent from three this season and he has NBA three shooting range and then some. And that’s about it. He would go undrafted, he needs better ball handling and some penetration to impress scouts. Expect him to return to Jamie Dixon.

Jordan Williams (6’10 center, Maryland, has not signed with agent): He likely is just testing the waters as he has a ways to go to get drafted. Physical presence in the paint, can rebound, but not athletic at the NBA level and his offensive game isn’t there. Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress described him as this year’s Omar Samhan (but better).

Rumor: Ime Udoka frontrunner to become Bulls new coach

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Jim Boylen is the coach of the Chicago Bulls. It’s still his job and he has the backing of the owner and old-guard part of the organization.

That is very likely not enough to keep him in the job much longer, especially with the Bulls now officially not among the 22 teams headed to Orlando to restart the NBA season. Most around the league expect it’s just a matter of time until Boylen is let go (he has a .317 winning percentage across two seasons), with the new management team led by Arturas Karnisovas expected to bring in their own guy. When Karnisovas and GM Marc Eversley met with players, a few key ones ripped Boylen to management, a sign of the discord Karnisovas is trying to change within the organization.

Former player and current 76ers assistant coach Ime Udoka may be the frontrunner, reports Jay Cowley at the Chicago Sun-Times.

Sources have told the Sun-Times that 76ers assistant Ime Udoka is the front-runner to become the Bulls’ new coach, with Raptors assistant — and former Bulls assistant — Adrian Griffin also in the picture.

Udoka had a seven-year NBA playing career, plus he played in Spain, then after his playing days became an assistant coach under Gregg Popovich in San Antonio. Last offseason he jumped to the bench of the Philadelphia 76ers under Brett Brown (who came out of the Spurs coaching tree). Boylen is also a member of the Popovich coaching tree.

Teams not invited to Orlando are looking at conducting “mini-camp” style workouts and maybe having scrimmages/exhibitions against each other in August, so their players don’t go from March to December without playing in games. While the Bulls are not on a tight timeline to make a coaching decision, if they are bringing in someone new they would want that person in place before that summer training camp.

 

Kevin Durant confirms “My season is over. I don’t plan on playing at all.”

Nets star Kevin Durant
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The betting odds on the seven seed Brooklyn Nets to win the NBA title dropped to 60-1, even with the Thunder and better than the Trail Blazers and others, all because some fans thought maybe Kevin Durant would return. That despite report after report that it was not happening.

Now Durant himself has shot down the idea, speaking to Mark Spears of The Undefeated at ESPN.

“It’s just best for me to wait,” Durant said. “I don’t think I’m ready to play that type of intensity right now in the next month. It gives me more time to get ready for next season and the rest of my career.

“My season is over. I don’t plan on playing at all. We decided last summer when it first happened that I was just going to wait until the following season. I had no plans of playing at all this season.”

His Nets teammate Kyrie Irving will not play in Orlando, either. Irving had shoulder surgery back in March and is still recovering from that.

Durant added in the interview he has fully recovered from COVID-19 after testing positive for the coronavirus back in March not long after the season was shut down.

Next season the Nets will enter as one of the favorites in the East. For the restart this season, however, they will be the seven seed in the East with a tough first-round matchup against Toronto, or maybe Boston.

 

Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum commends Jody Allen for no vote

Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum
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The Trail Blazers, owned by Jody Allen, cast the lone dissenting vote on the NBA’s plan to resume with 22 teams.

Why?

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

Portland guard CJ McCollum:

Damian Lillard expressed his concern: He wanted the Trail Blazers to have a real chance at making the playoffs. They got that.

Wojnarowski mentioned how lottery odds are calculated – relevant only if Portland misses the postseason and something current players tend not to dwell on.

This feels incongruous.

Was safety a concern? The risk of coronavirus is higher with 22 teams than 20. However, it’s higher with 20 teams than 16.

The Trail Blazers are 17th in the league. And nobody publicly mentioned health. Having just 20 teams – especially with a group stage – would’ve given Portland an easier path into the top 16. (It’s unclear how many teams would’ve made the playoffs with a group stage).

NBA commissioner Adam Silver wanted everyone to unite behind this plan. Even other owners who disagreed with the plan voted for it. But with the Trail Blazers’ no vote, Allen engendered greater support from her players. If nothing else, that has value.

Report: NBA eying in mid-July 2021 NBA Finals in advance of Olympics

Tokyo Olympics
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The NBA plans to rush through the 2020 offseason and begin the 2020-21 season Dec. 1… just to rush through the 2020-21 season.

Frank Isola of The Athletic:

The NBA Finals normally begin 226 days after the regular-season opener with an 18-day window to play the best-of-seven series. So, based on a typical timeline, a Dec. 1 opener would mean the Finals would be held July 15 – Aug. 1., 2021.

The Tokyo Olympics are slated to begin July 23, 2021.

So, something must give.

It probably won’t be regular-season games. As much as the NBA would like its players to get exposure in the Olympics, owners will be extremely reluctant to surrender direct revenue. Likewise, the many NBA players not headed to the Olympics should share similar financial concerns.

More likely, the league will reduce the number of rest days during the 2020-21 season. That seems risky given the drastic disruptions already affecting conditioning entering the season.

It’s also possible players whose NBA teams advance deep enough in the playoffs just won’t be able to play in the Olympics (or Olympic Qualifying Tournaments, which are scheduled for June and July 2021).

Like with many things affected by coronavirus, there are no good answers – just hard decisions on what to compromise.