The biggest skill Derrick Williams needs to develop? Passing.

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There’s a number of reasons why this logic is flawed. I’m aware of that going in. When we’re talking about a coach, for some reason, we automatically want to assign the same roles to his or her new team as his or her old team. So for Phil Jackson, Lamar Odom is Horace Grant. For Larry Brown, his rookie is every other rookie he’s ruined the hopes and dreams of. But this all disregards the fact that coaches adjust to their rosters, and that not every team is successful.

So when we start to talk about Rick Adelman, it’s all about that Kings team. That’s where everyone goes. That Houston team that made playoff appearances but never made it to the WCF mostly due to injuries but also because of a mismatched roster? That isn’t factored into the equation. There was no Mike Bibby in Houston, no Jason Williams. Kyle Lowry and Rafer Alston before him both had strains of that creator-shooter guard, but nothing really tangible. Chris Webber? Vlade Divac you can I guess kind of see the vein to Yao but in reality, Yao was a whole different beast that you built around.

And yet, the comparisons are booming for Adelman’s new team, the Timberwolves, and those early 00’s Kings. From A Wolf Among Wolves:

While it’s not exactly like looking into a mirror when you put this Wolves squad and the 1999 Kings roster side-by-side, there are a lot of similarities between the two. With the obvious Vlade-Darko jokes aside, the impact Rubio will make on this team is pretty identical to what Jason Williams put out there for the Kings. It wasn’t so much production as it was an attitude of having fun. J-Will unleashed an unbridled enthusiasm that is missing with most teams, let alone a team that just brought in veteran cogs. The difference between the two is Rubio is actually a pretty decent defender and he seems to know his shooting limitations.

Looking at the wings of that 1999 Kings team and the wings the Wolves will have out there next season, there are even more similarities. The Wolves’ combination of Derrick Williams, Wes Johnson, Wayne Ellington and Martell Webster reminds me an awful lot of the Tariq Abdul-Wahad-Corliss Williamson-Vernon Maxwell-Peja Stojakovic quartet the Kings had. Williams is like a freak hybrid version of Corliss Williamson in that he doesn’t really have a position, will probably be stronger than most of his matchups and can hurt you from various spots on the floor. The big difference is Williams could be a good 3-point shooter as well. Wes Johnson fits into the mold of Tariq in that he is extremely athletic, should be a constant alley-oop target from the pass-happy point guard and can be a pretty good defender. Webster is a younger, better version of the Vernon Maxwell the Kings enjoyed but should provide the same type of experience and perhaps more leadership than what the Kings received from the two-time champion. And then there’s Wayne Ellington stretching the floor the same way that Peja provided (remember this is pre-awesome Peja, not eventual Peja).

via A Wolf Among Wolves.

Zach Harper there goes on to talk about comparisons and he is eventually lead to Kevin Love being the Chris Webber comparison. Talented big man that can score and hit from range. Makes sense.

But in reality, Love’s closer to Divac with his passing ability, range, size, and rebounding. He won’t play center as much and if he does it will be in small lineups. But the comparison I keep envisioning to Webber’s role is that of their rookie, Derrick Williams. An athletic stud with skill who can play either forward spot. Williams and Webber both entered the league at 20 (assuming we get a season). Webber was listed at 6-9, Williams at 6-8. Webber averaged 19.2 points per game at Michigan his sophomore year, Williams 19.5 at Arizona. Webber was a better rebounder, as near Hall-of-Famers tend to be. But for Adelman’s purposes, Williams needs to develop not dizzying array of face-up or post-up moves, or his perimeter shot, but his passing.

Webber’s assist totals weren’t sky-high. At Michigan his last year there, he averaged just 2.5 assists per game. That’s not crazy high. His career NBA average is 4.2. Good, no doubt, but not extremely so. But with the Kings, Webber averaged between 4.1 and 5.5 assists per year, with a high of 5.4. It was his ability to pass from the high post that replaced Jason Williams as the central playmaker, along with Divac, re-configuring the offense and how it was managed. Williams is considered a small forward, but his bulk and frame suggest that he can work in the high post as effectively.

The question is whether he can pass effectively enough to take that role. Williams averaged just 1.1 assists per game at Arizona last season. Watching passing plays of his in Synergy, there is some potential. He’s got good control of the ball and is able to see the floor and spot his teammates. His decision making is sound for the most part and he’s got a cannon of an arm. But to become the all-around asset Webber was, or even a poor man’s version, he’ll need to be willing. Which might be difficult for him given his No. 2 status and previous role as do it all man-beast scorer.

If Williams can adapt, though, the Wolves could make huge strides, even in their first season under Adelman. With Rubio making Rubio-like plays (assuming they are pre-2010 Rubio plays and not the disappointment he turned last year), Love becoming some sort of wholly new beast with his range and rebounding ability, and Darko Milicic relegated to a bruiser, “just don’t screw up” where he belongs, the Wolves might have something. Throw in Wesley Johnson’s perimeter shooting, and the Wolves might surprise a lot of people.

Maybe Love is the closer comparison. But there has to be a more complete role for Williams than just cleaning up misses (he’s a decent not great rebounder) and filling in spot-up shots. He has the ability and confidence to be a big piece of the puzzle. But to get the success he wants, he needs to learn to give better.

USA’s 78-game international win streak ends at hands of Australia, Patty Mills, 98-94

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Gregg Popovich wanted his USA team to face some adversity. For them to be challenged and see how they’d respond.

He got his wish on a Saturday afternoon in Australia and has to be disturbed by the result.

Australia, behind a red-hot Patty Mills who finished 30 points and drained seemingly every big bucket down the stretch, tore up the USA defense and outplayed the Americans when it mattered most, beating Team USA 98-94 in an exhibition match in front of a raucous 52,000 people in Melbourne.

Team USA had won 78 consecutive games — including both friendlies and in international tournaments — before this loss. The last USA exhibition game loss was in the run-up to the 2004 Olympics (when the Americans took home the bronze).

The USA opens FIBA World Cup play in just more than a week, facing the Czech Republic in their first game on Sept. 1. The Americans enter that tournament as the favorites, but the combination of improved international play and a lot of elite American talent staying home has made the USA’s margin for error very slim. Teams such as Serbia have to see this result and gain confidence.

This loss comes just two days after

“They wanted it more than us tonight,” Kemba Walker said after the game. “Lesson learned for us.”

Those lessons include needing to clean up a defense that still has communication issues, and to find more consistent shot creation outside of pick-and-rolls with Kemba Walker or Donovan Mitchell.

Walker, who came off the bench to score 22, was clearly America’s best player. His ability to penetrate was the only thing all night that either forced the Aussie defense to collapse, or it allowed him to get space for a good shot. Donovan Mitchell, who finished with a dozen points including seven straight late in the game, was able to provide a little shot creation, but the Americans lacked much ball or player movement in this one. Harrison Barnes finished with 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting.

Popovich is clearly still experimenting with lineups and combinations, and that is the silver lining of this USA loss. This was not the American’s best foot forward.

But don’t take anything away from Australia, which played a physical and feisty game all afternoon. They put the ball more in the hands of Utah’s Joe Ingles and he responded with 15 points, seven assists, and he and Andrew Bogut set up the offense and were smart with their passes. Bogut finished with 15 points.

Team USA takes on Canada in a final exhibition game in a couple of days, before heading to China for the World Cup.

Report: Dwight Howard gave back $2.6 million in buyout with Memphis, what he will make in L.A.

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Dwight Howard will get his money, the full $5.6 million he opted into this summer. The man is getting paid.

The checks are just coming from two different teams.

To facilitate a move to the Lakers, Howard is giving back $2.6 million in a buyout with the Grizzlies — exactly how much he makes on a minimum contract with Los Angeles. From Adrian Wojnarowski and Bobby Marks of ESPN:

My guess is the Grizzlies will just take the cap hit this season to get Howard off the books.

This is exactly how this was expected to go down financially if Howard came to Los Angeles. The risk for Howard is he will sign a non-guaranteed contract with the Lakers — they can waive him for whatever reason, pay a small buyout fee, and Howard loses out on the $2.6 million.

That’s motivation for him to follow through on what he promised the team.

 

Former NBA, ABA coach Tom Nissalke dead at 87

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Tom Nissalke, who won coach of the year honors in the NBA and ABA, has died. He was 87.

Nissalke passed away at his home in Salt Lake City on Thursday after facing a “series of health-related problems” in recent years, according to the Deseret News.

He was the first coach of the Utah Jazz after the franchise relocated from New Orleans in 1979.

Nissalke was also an NBA head coach in Seattle, Houston, and Cleveland.

Nissalke got his start in the pro ranks as an assistant with Milwaukee and helped guide a team featuring Hall of Famers Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to an NBA title in 1971. His work with the Bucks landed him a head coaching gig with the ABA’s Dallas Chaparrals. He led them to a 42-42 record in his first season and was named the league’s top coach.

He was hired the next season in Seattle but was fired after a 13-32 start. Nissalke then coached the Utah Stars and San Antonio before returning to the NBA with the Rockets. He won 124 games in three seasons with Houston, twice taking the team to the playoffs and the 1977 Eastern Conference finals.

Nissalke was named the NBA’s Coach of the Year after going 49-33 in 1976-77.

After retiring, he was active with the YMCA and worked as a radio analyst.

Nissalke is survived by a daughter, Holly, son Thomas Jr, and two grandchildren. His wife, Nancy, died in 2006.

 

How Dwight Howard convinced the Lakers to take a chance on him

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Laker fans Friday sounded like your friends after an ugly relationship and breakup, when you suddenly consider taking that person back. Laker nation took to Twitter screaming “ARE YOU SERIOUS? What are you thinking? Are you even thinking?”

The Lakers, however, are entering a second relationship with Dwight Howard with their eyes wide open — he will sign a non-guaranteed contract to be the team’s center (sharing duties with Anthony Davis and JaVale McGee). Howard will have to prove himself, on and off the court. The Lakers have leverage and can waive Howard and move on to Joakim Noah or someone else quickly if things do not pan out.

But how did it even get to this point? How did Howard — who did his annual summer media tour saying “I have changed, I am taking the game and my conditioning seriously, I just want a chance” and league observers shrugged because they have heard the same thing for years — convince the Lakers to roll the dice on him again? Shams Charania of The Athletic laid it all out.

Howard’s message to [Laker assistant coach Jason] Kidd and the Lakers was the same one he delivered to The Athletic in July from NBA summer league: He’s learned from the past several seasons, learned that, at age 33, he is simply one of the guys now. Howard believes he can contribute at a high level for any NBA team, but the eight-time All-Star also understands he has to focus on rebounding, defense, blocking shots, finishing around the rim and simply playing whenever he is asked… Kidd became convinced about Howard’s newfound awakening…

The Lakers then began setting workouts for free agents, and Howard traveled from Atlanta to Los Angeles on Wednesday. His meeting and workout with the Lakers was set for Thursday, but Howard went to the Lakers’ facility in El Segundo, Calif., on Wednesday afternoon for his own training session. The Lakers were surprised to see him, sources said, and many key decision makers were in attendance…

League sources said Howard had a convincing and emotional meeting with the players and Lakers officials, explaining how he had reached rock bottom a season ago and needed to find a new mindset in his life. On and off the floor. He was not the teammate he needed to be in playing for three teams in the past three years. He did not take the game seriously enough, he did not understand what was needed to turn the corner.

Howard has said all that before. Multiple times. To multiple teams and teammates. Maybe this time he has genuinely figured things out, but whatever he did and said was enough to convince the Lakers to buy in…

To a point.

One could argue — and I would make the case — that Noah would be a better fit on the court for the Lakers’ needs in terms of passing and defense, but he comes with plenty of risks as well (health, getting along with LeBron James, and how much he liked the nightlife as a Knick in New York and what that would mean in L.A.). At least with Howard, the Lakers mitigated that risk with the non-guaranteed contract. If Howard will not accept his role and is disruptive (as he has been in recent stops), if he is still eating candy like a bingeing 10-year-old on Halloween night, if he can’t stay healthy, the Lakers can waive Howard and move on. If the Lakers brought in Noah, they would have been smart to have the same non-guaranteed contract (if Noah would have signed that kind of deal).

For now the Lakers have their man, but he’s basically on probation. Howard has to prove in deeds everything he has said in words.