How New Orleans’ Bo McCalebb became a Macedonian hero

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Macedonia has been the surprise of EuroBasket (the European championship and Olympic qualifying tournament), with a country more known for violent internal strife than hoops finding itself in the semi-finals on Friday. If Macedonia can beat powerhouse Spain they are into the Olympics next summer. Even if they lose they will be in the Olympic last chance qualifying tournament next summer.

And they have a guy from New Orleans to thank for it.

Bo McCalebb has been the key to the Macedonian offense, the leading scorer whose uses quick penetration to break down defenses. He takes over at the end of games. He’s just fun to watch, another underdog on a team of underdogs who just keep on winning (beating traditional power Lithuania in the quarterfinals).

McCalebb was born and raised in the Crescent City, played some college ball at the University of New Orleans and since has been one of the many guys you don’t hear of who make a nice living playing overseas after school.

So how did he end up a Macedonian legend? He explained it to the New York Times.

“I was playing in Serbia last year and I got a call from the Macedonians — they asked me to play for them,” explained McCalebb, who grew up in the Algiers section of New Orleans…. “I didn’t ask any questions about the place,” he said. “I just said, ‘Yes,’ and I got a plane for Skopje the next day.”

Three days later, Bo McCalebb had morphed into Borche McCalebbovski, a newly minted citizen of a country he was previously only vaguely aware of.

“Every team has the right to one naturalized player,” explained Dejan Lekic, the secretary general of Macedonia’s basketball federation. “He came, he liked our country, he liked us and everyone liked him. He is Macedonian in full now.”

Macedonia chose it’s naturalized player well. (McCalebb would want to become naturalized because with a European passport he becomes more marketable to teams on that continent.)

Next season McCalebb — or McCalebbovski if you prefer — will play for Italian club, Montepaschi Siena. But with the buzz he has created at EuroBasket, don’t be shocked if he is at Summer League next year and if an NBA team wants to take a longer look.

Maybe it won’t work out that way. But whatever happens he will always be Borche McCalebbovski, Macedonian hero.

Jeanie Buss: Phil Jackson fired by Knicks because ‘people close to you will take the knife and put it in your back’

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When he hired Phil Jackson as team president, Knicks owner James Dolan infamously said he was ceding control “willingly and gratefully.”

But New York kept Steve Mills, who had been running the front office, on staff as general manager. Mills also replaced Jackson as president after Jackson got fired.

That served as a lesson for Jeanie Buss, Lakers owner and Jackson’s former fiancée.

Sam Amick of The Athletic:

Jeanie had learned from Jackson’s mistakes in New York, where he took that job as the head of the Knicks front office in March of 2014 and was fired three years later after, as she saw it, he fell prey to the internal politics that have plagued that franchise for decades.

“He should’ve made sure (to control) who was surrounding him, because the people close to you will take the knife and put it in your back,” she continued.

Buss doesn’t name Mills or anyone. But it’s hard not to jump to man who was both Jackson’s predecessor and successor. After regaining control, Mills said he tried to steer Jackson in other directions (which, hopefully).

This reflects poorly on Dolan, whose poor leadership has cast a shadow over the organization for years. There is a toxic culture within the Knicks, from the top down.

But it’s not as if Jackson were simply a victim of that culture. With the notable exception of drafting Kristaps Porzingis, Jackson failed miserably in roster-building. He contributed to the malaise with a comedy of incompetence.

Maybe Mills stabbed Jackson in the back. But Jackson was his own problem, anyway.

Report: Knicks, Lakers, Clippers will pursue Kevin Durant in free agency

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The Warriors are reportedly bracing for Kevin Durant to leave in free agency next summer.

Just because of the New York rumors? Maybe. They’re spreading like wildfire.

But the Knicks won’t be the only team chasing Durant.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

The New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers will take a run at the back-to-back Finals MVP, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Of course, every team wants Durant. But not every team will actually pursue him. Many teams believe they have no chance of signing him and won;t waste their time.

It’s probably not coincidental this early list of suitors includes only the very biggest markets. Durant already plays for the best team in a desirable location. How do you differentiate yourself from Golden State? Maybe by being in an even bigger market.

The Clippers are reportedly the frontrunner to sign Kawhi Leonard. Could they get Durant, too? That’d be intriguing.

The Lakers are definitely looking to get LeBron James a star teammate, and Durant’s name has at least come up. But Durant is already dogged by the perception he’s just riding the Warriors’ coattails. He wouldn’t change the narrative by joining LeBron.

The Knicks don’t even project to have max cap space, though they’d rush to move Courtney Lee or someone else to get Durant. But this is already the worst team on the list. New York is going to further deplete its assets while remaining appealing to Durant? Hey, it could happen.

Or maybe Durant will look at these teams and see has it pretty good in Golden State.

It could also go the other way. If Durant gives even the slightest indication he’s interested teams not yet planning to pursue him, they’d jump to get into the race. So, don’t assume Warriors, Knicks, Lakers and Clippers is anything more than the preliminary pool of vying teams.

Report: Jimmy Butler trade talks ‘mostly dormant’

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Timberwolves president Tom Thibodeau reportedly raised his asking price for Jimmy Butler after the star’s explosive return to practice.

Unsurprisingly, potential trade partners – who already weren’t offering enough to satisfy Minnesota – didn’t rush to meet Thibodeau’s new demands. Not even close, apparently.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

For now, Minnesota’s talks with teams around the NBA are mostly dormant, league sources told The Athletic.

Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor and Butler reached an agreement: Minnesota would continue to try to trade Butler, and Butler would be a good teammate and play hard.

But how long will this détente last if the Timberwolves aren’t making progress on a trade?

Watch Kelly Olynyk’s game-winning putback with 0.2 seconds left for Miami

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All game long Miami owned the glass — the Heat grabbed the offensive rebound on 42.9 percent of their missed shots on Thursday night. That led to 16 more shot attempts and nine more free throws by the Heat than the Wizards on the night.

And it led to this, the game-winning putback from Kelly Olynyk with 0.2 seconds left.

 

Wizards fans need to admit it — they missed Dwight Howard inside (he is out with a butt injury, yes seriously). Without his presence (he’s still a quality rebounder), the Heat just outworked the Wizards on the glass and that ended up being the difference.