Talking Vegas Impact Series with Jared Dudley (and why you should watch)

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The days right after Labor Day is when the great migration of NBA players usually takes place. Like geese heading south for the winter, they board planes and fly to the city where they will get paid to ball — weeks before training camp opens — to start working out and playing pickup with their teammates at team facilities.

Not this year. Players are locked out of team facilities. They can’t even talk to coaches and trainers.

So a number of them — upwards of 50 with others expected to drop in — are headed to Vegas for the Impact Competitive Training Series. This new series is two weeks of organized workouts and pickup games that will be open to the public (and streamed online). The games start next Monday (Sept. 12). Everybody involved has (or recently had) an NBA contract. Big names such as Zach Randolph, Chauncey Billups and John Wall will be there, among many others.

The Suns Jared Dudley said this is the chance for teammates to start building that chemistry that would normally be growing on team facilities right now.

“Like myself, guys are trying to get a couple of their teammates to come out there so they can play with them,” Dudley told ProBasketballTalk. “So myself, I called Channing (Frye), Hakim (Warrick) is coming out, Aaron Brooks is going to be coming out.

“A lot of guys are bringing a couple of their guys in, so then in the morning you’ll train, you’ll work out, then go home and rest. Then at night you come back and play in games that will be open to the public, but you’ll be playing with guys you’ll be playing with in the season. So it helps their chemistry, something you would have potentially lost. It’s not going to make a huge factor, but it’s a factor.”

Fans love watching these types of games — whether it be the official (but cancelled this year) NBA Summer League or pro-ams like the Goodman League — but these games also get knocked for the lack of defense.

Dudley counters that guys will be focused defensively, and while you may not see mid-season defensive rotations, you will see effort.

“It’s just competitive because nobody wants to go out there and get fried, nobody wants to get embarrassed, so people are going to go out there and play defense. People are going to go out there and try to score…” Dudley said. “If Tayshaun Prince is out there killing me, and the game is going to be live and streaming, if SLAM Magazine and NBC Sports can write about it, I’m going to be finding a way to stop him.”

The names of those participating is supposed to come out Thursday, but guys that are in include Wall, Billups, Rudy Gay, Stephen Curry, Stephen Jackson, DeMar DeRozan, Al Harrington, Jermaine O’Neal, DeAndre Jordan, Chase Budinger, Omri Casspi and Eric Maynor, just to name a few.

For fans jonesing for some hoops, this might be the best thing they can get for a while. If it goes well and the lockout drags on, there could be another session in October.

The gym at Impact only holds about 700 fans, so it’s going to be intimate. Games will take place at 3, 5 and 7p.m. daily. Dudley said it’s going to be interesting.

“It’s interesting to see because nobody has done anything like this” Dudley said. “They didn’t have a Vegas Summer League so it kind of makes up for that. It’s a mix of big names to up and coming names.”

For more details, check back to PBT in the coming days or log on after Thursday to the Impact Basketball website.

Chris Paul says players don’t really talk about money in locker room

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Locker room banter flies all over the conversational map: Clubs/restaurants to first cars to rappers to Fortnite to why Player X never has any lotion and always has to borrow someone else’s.

What doesn’t come up? Money.

That according to Chris Paul, who should know after 14 years in the league and now serving as the players’ union president. He was talking about his campaign to help players become more financially aware and said this to Clevis Murray of The Athletic.

“I think the reason why I’m so passionate about this is because I’m finishing up my 14th year in the NBA, and I’ve been around long enough to realize that guys in our league, we talk about everything in the locker room except for finance, except for money,” he said. “Nobody talks about money, because it’s one of those uncomfortable things.”

It’s a strange dynamic in an NBA locker room because everybody knows what everybody else makes, it’s very public, and that provides a certain measuring stick of worth.

Yet how does one player tell another “man, your entourage is too big, you’re blowing your money.” Players finally making money understandably want to take care of family and close friends, but other people come into their life and things can spiral fast. CP3 says he gets it, and he is working with Joe Smith — who made $60 million in NBA earnings and lost all of it — to help prepare rookies.

The stories of NBA players blowing through their money absolutely happen, but they also are not the majority, and the numbers are shrinking. More and more players are learning to be smarter with their money and set themselves up on some level for life after basketball. Not all, but guys who stick in the league a few years tend to learn. If Paul and the union can come up with ways to reach players at an earlier age and prepare them for what is to come, all the better.

Bobby Portis says watch out for underrated Knicks, they could make playoffs

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You don’t want a player on your team that heads into the season thinking, “we suck, I just hope we can get to 20 wins and not be embarrassed every night.” Even if that might be the reality for that roster.

Enter Bobby Portis of the New York Knicks. The Wizards let him walk to save money and he has ended up on a Knicks team with a lot of guys who see themselves as underrated: Elfrid Payton, Marcus Morris, and Julius Randle. Plus New York has young players with a lot to prove — especially after Summer League — in Kevin Knox, R.J. Barrett, and Mitchell Robinson.

Portis likes this underdog team, he told Alex Kennedy of Hoopshype.

I love being underrated, man. I’m an underdog. I say that every day. We’re the team that’s being counted out right now. People are looking past us. They’re talking about stars going to new teams and this and that, and that’s okay. Everybody on this team has a huge chip on their shoulder. We’re the guys who are always picked second. I think that’s going to make us close. Our practices are going to be top-notch; we’re all going to be competing and that’s going to make us better. We have a lot of dogs on this team, which will help us out as well. Collectively, we all have a chip on our shoulder – a log on our shoulder – so we’re going to go out there and play with an edge. I think that’s great for us.

So… playoffs?

Yeah, for sure, for sure. The naysayers, the haters, the people who are doubting us will say that we’re crazy as hell for saying that. But we have a bunch of guys who are coming in each and every day with that log on their shoulder and that’s going to push us to become a great team. We have a lot of pieces who can play. I think we’re loaded at every position; there are two-to-three players who could start at every position. When you have that much talent, that rises the competitiveness and improves the team as a whole.

That is exactly the attitude you want to see heading into the season.

The Knicks are going to struggle this year, talent wins out in the NBA and the Knicks don’t have enough of it. However, if the goal is to build a culture of gritty players who go play all out and are tough to play against — the cultures the Nets and Clippers developed that drew stars to them — the Knicks are on a decent road. New York didn’t pull a classic Knicks this year and overspend on a couple of second-tier stars when they struck out on the big guns, they went out and got decent players on short contracts. Stay flexible, build a culture.

We’ll see if Portis will be part of that going forward, but he has the right attitude.

Report: Lakers claim Kostas Antetokounmpo off waivers

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Giannis Antetokounmpo is a 24-year-old MVP playing in Milwaukee and heading toward a super-max decision that could have him hit 2021 unrestricted free agency.

Big-market teams are licking their chops.

That probably has something to do with the Lakers adding his brother, Kostas Antetokounmpo.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Kostas Antetokounmpo was the last pick in last year’s draft. He spent the season on a two-way contract with the Mavericks, who just waived him. He’ll remain on a two-way deal with the Lakers. The 21-year-old was alright in the NBA’s minor league, but he’s not a tantalizing prospect.

Except for his connection to Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Giannis Antetokounmpo said he could never see himself playing for Los Angeles. But maybe he’d change his mind if someone close to him has a positive experience there. That must be the Lakers’ hope, at least.

It’s worth a shot, and the Lakers aren’t the only team trying this angle. The Bucks also signed Thanasis Antetokounmpo this summer.

Harden on fit with Westbrook: ‘When you have talent like that, it works itself out’

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It was the question everybody asked about 30 seconds after they heard Russell Westbrook had been traded to the Houston Rockets for Chris Paul (after the initial shock of the deal wore off):

Do Westbrook and Harden, two of the most ball-dominant, isolation heavy players in the NBA, actually fit together?

Harden says yes. Of course, what else is he going to say, but he was earnest about it in comments to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle at the Adidas and James Harden ProCamp event last Friday.

“When you have talent like that, it works itself out. You communicate. You go out there and compete possession by possession. You figure things out. Throughout the course of the season, you figure things out. That’s just what it is. When you have talent, you have guys with IQ, you have guys willing to sacrifice, it always works itself out.”…

“It works,” Harden said. “It’s that trust factor. I trust him; he trusts me. And with the group that we already have and the things we already accomplished, it should be an easy transition for him to be incorporated right in and things are going to go.”

That is essentially is what Mike D’Antoni said, and what Rockets GM Daryl Morey is betting on.

Will Westbrook, and to a lesser degree Harden, be willing to make sacrifices and adjust their games? It is the question that will define the Rockets’ season.

My prediction: The duo works it out on offense and becomes one of the hardest teams to stop in the NBA. They will work it out. However, having to play Harden and Westbrook together on defense for extended stretches will cost Houston in the playoffs earlier than they planned.