The NBA D-League Showcase Begins Today. Wait, What’s A D-League Showcase?

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The eighth annual NBA Development League Showcase will tip off at 1 p.m. ET on Monday afternoon as executives from all 30 NBA teams (and your’s truly for Pro Basketball Talk) converge on Reno, Nev., to get an in-person look at the top prospects playing in the NBA’s official minor league. The D-League has quite a bit of talent in the league this season, too, meaning at least a couple of call-ups could happen with standout play this week.

Over the next four days, all 16 D-League teams — from everyone’s favorite team, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, to the Cleveland Cavaliers’ own expansion Canton Charge — will play two games as they look to showcase their talents in hopes of moving up to the next level. There’s a pretty good chance of moving up to the next level, too, considering 138 players have already earned their way from the D-League to the big league in the past with the Showcase usually kickstarting that process each season.

The talent at this year’s Showcase is going to be phenomenal. I know what you’re thinking: ‘It’s the freakin’ D-League … How is it possible for you, Mr. New Guy, to come here and say the games are even going to be worth watching, let alone phenomenal?’

Tough crowd.

To answer that question, though, this summer’s NBA lockout forced quite a few players to stay close to home in hopes of making their way into the NBA by way of training camp invites. Not many were able to make it via that route, however, and the majority of overseas jobs were filled by players back in September after the “how u” Tweet ended up being a lot less promising than it sounded on first read.

Training camp cuts aren’t the only well-known names playing in Reno this week, however, as there are quite a few ballers from yesteryear hoping to show scouts and executives in attendance that they’re worth one more contract even if they are past their prime. Some of the more well-known names that will be in action this week include the notorious Ricky Davis, a non-flattopped Greg Ostertag, a still-shimmying Antoine Walker, 12-year journeyman Mikki Moore and (former?) sharpshooter Damon Jones as they look to get called up to the same league they were starters in earlier in their career.

The ‘D’ in D-League does stand for development, however, so there will be a decent number of youngsters in attendance as well. NBA teams have assigned some of their brightest youngsters to get some in-game seasoning this week as three first round picks — Marcus Morris of the Houston Rockets, the Denver Nuggets’ Jordan Hamilton and San Antonio Spurs guard Cory Joseph — join veterans like Yi Jianlian and Sean Williams (yes, the guy who puked all over that can also kiss the rim) as players assigned by NBA teams to get some seasoning until the big club is able to utilize their talents in the rotation.

Along with the aging veterans and players owned by NBA teams that have been sent down on assginment, there are plenty of players available for any NBA team to call-up.

Former NBA Draft picks JamesOn Curry, Gerald Green, Mardy Collins, Terrico White, Orien Greene and Da’Sean Butler litter rosters around the D-League. There are also undrafted players with NBA experience — like Bobby Simmons, Blake Ahearn, Larry Owens, Maurice Baker and Renaldo Major — and guys that aren’t household names quite yet, but could be soon (a la Ivan Johnson last week with the Atlanta Hawks) such as Justin Dentmon, Courtney Fortson, Edwin Ubiles, Charles Garcia and Jeff Foote.

Those players and more will be looking to gain not only the attention of scouts around the NBA this week, but fans of basketball as well as 12 of the 16 Showcase games will be broadcast on NBA TV with veteran play-by-play man Chad Andrus joining Kenyon Murray to call the action from courtside.

A full schedule of this week’s action is available here, but Pro Basketball Talk will provide a preview of each day’s action, interviews featuring the players and scouts in attendance and recaps of the standouts each day — Stay tuned!

Phoenix Suns fire coach Igor Kokoskov

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Following a 19-63 season where the man who hired him — GM Ryan McDonough — was already shown the door, there was a lot of speculation that coach Igor Kokoskov was next on the chopping block.

That happened Monday night, the Suns decided to move on from Kokoskov.

“After extensive evaluation, I determined it is best to move in a different direction with our head coaching position,” said Suns general manager James Jones in a statement. “I want to thank Igor for his work this past season and wish him the best with his future endeavors.”

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN added some detail.

The Suns recently hired Jeff Bower as their senior vice president of basketball operations. Bower gave Monty Williams his first head coaching job, hiring him to coach the Hornets back when Bower was the GM there.

Williams will have his second interview with the Lakers next week. Williams is rumored in some quarters to be the frontrunner for the Los Angeles job (he and Tyronn Lue will have second interviews coming), the Suns are starting this race from behind but do have a relationship there.

Kokoskov was the first European born person to be a head coach in the NBA. He was Luka Doncic‘s national team coach, but the Suns took Deandre Ayton No. 1 (reportedly at the urging of owner Robert Saver).

Kokoskov was handed a young roster that lacked a point guard or solid veteran leader, so it’s no surprise the Suns and Kokoskov got off to a slow start, going 4-18 and looking a mess. However, the team improved, Kelly Oubre Jr. was added, and the Suns went an improved 8-15 after the All-Star break, including wins against the Bucks and Warriors. Devin Booker improved, Deandre Ayton was growing, and the team showed improvement. That said, there were questions about Kokoskov’s rotations and communication with players.

Phoenix, with meddling owner Robert Sarver at the helm, is known for turnover and instability — whoever is hired next will be the team’s seventh head coach in eight years. This move just fits right in with the perception.

 

Bucks win first playoff series in 18 years, give Pistons longest playoff-game losing streak in NBA history

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DETROIT – Between on-court postgame interviews, Giannis Antetokounmpo took a pit stop at the Bucks’ bench for a drink. He appeared to need a few moments to catch his breath, so Fox Sports Wisconsin reporter Katie George asked whether he was ready.

Antetokounmpo nodded as if he didn’t give it a second thought.

Of course he was ready.

Antetokounmpo was ready for everything tonight.

He scored 41 points – the most so far by anyone this postseason – and blocked four shots to lead the Bucks to a 127-104 Game 4 win over the Pistons. By sweeping Detroit, Milwaukee got its first playoff-series victory in 18 years.

“Where we were and where we are right now,” Antetokounmpo said, “it’s been an unbelievable journey.”

The Bucks advance to face the Celtics in the second round, an awaited rematch of last year’s first-round series. But Milwaukee cared far more about its opening round than most 60-win No. 1 seeds do.

Every NBA MVP besides Kevin Garnett, who didn’t advance until his ninth year, won a playoff series in his first five seasons. Antetokounmpo, who’s favored to win MVP this year, just won his first series in his sixth season.

The wait has been even longer for Milwaukee, which ends the fourth-longest playoff-series-victory drought of all-time at 17 seasons:

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The Bucks left no doubt, beating Detroit by 35, 21, 16 and 23. This is just the second four-game sweep with every game won by at least 15 points in NBA history (Celtics over Rockets in 1980).

The sweep gives the Pistons sole possession of the longest playoff-game losing streak of all-time, 14 games:

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Detroit’s streak includes 2009 and 2016 sweeps by the Cavaliers, meaning the Pistons have now gone 11 straight seasons without winning a playoff game. That’s one of the longest such droughts of all-time (record during drought listed):

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Detroit just had no answer for Antetokounmpo, who drew 16 fouls Monday. The most impressive came as he rose to dunk on Andre Drummond, withstood contact and shifted to make a circus shot:

The play left his teammates in awe.

Eric Bledsoe: “I had to tell him, ‘Bro, you don’t understand how athletic you’ve been all season and finessing at the rim.’ That one, it was just unbelievable. It was unbelievable, man.”

Pat Connaughton: “There are sometimes you’ve just got to shake your head at some of the things that he can do. … I think the nickname ‘Freak’ is for a reason.”

Nikola Mirotic: “It was just amazing watching him tonight”

The Bucks will have a little time to lock back in.

Milwaukee-Boston will be the first series between teams coming off sweeps since Lakers-Suns in the 2010 Western Conference finals. It’ll be the first such second-round series since Pistons-Bulls in 2007.

As Antetokounmpo repeatedly said in the locker room after tonight’s game, “I can’t wait.”

Report: Luke Walton sued for sexual assault

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Luke Walton is being sued by a female reporter claiming sexual assault from a hotel room incident that dates back to before he was hired as the Lakers’ head coach (he was recently let go from that position and is currently the coach of the Sacramento Kings).

Kelli Tennant was writing a book and wanted Walton to write the forward, according to a lawsuit obtained by TMZ. The two had a business relationship and she agreed to meet him in a Santa Monica hotel to discuss him writing the forward to the book, according to the report. We’ll let TMZ take it from there:

In the suit, Tennant says when she arrived at Walton’s hotel, he convinced her to come up to his room so they could discuss the book. She claims when they got up to his room, Walton suddenly pinned her to the bed, placing his hips and legs over her body.

In the docs, Tennant claims Walton then began forcing kisses on her neck, face and chest. She claims she screamed for him to stop and tried to free herself, but he held her down, groped her breasts and groin, and rubbed his erection on her leg.

She says he eventually relented and let her get up from the bed, but as she was walking towards the door to leave he grabbed her from behind and again forced his body up against hers.

The lawsuit goes on to say Walton and her would interact after that, because of her job, and he would give her exaggerated hugs, kisses, and would make lewd comments to her.

Walton took over coaching the Lakers for the 2016-17 season. The alleged assault took place while Walton was still an assistant coach with the Warriors, however, some of the comments/actions that made her uncomfortable came later while Walton was with the Lakers.

Walton’s attorney released a statement to Sam Amick of The Athletic.

The Sacramento Kings have made a statement:

“We are aware of the report and are gathering additional information. We have no further comment at this time.”

The Warriors issued this statement:

“We became aware of the alleged incident and story this evening and are in the process of seeking more information. We’ll have no further comment at this time.”

The Lakers issued this statement:

“This alleged incident took place before Luke Walton was the Head Coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. At no time before or during his employment here was this allegation reported to the Lakers. If it had been, we would have immediately commenced an investigation and notified the NBA. Since Luke Walton is now under contract to another team, we will have no further comment.”

NBA fines Brooklyn part-owner Joe Tsai for Tweet backing his GM challenging referees

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I just hope he can afford this.

Brooklyn Nets GM Sean Marks was suspended and fined by the league for breaking a taboo and going into the officials’ locker room after the Nets’ Game 4 loss at home to challenge the referees. Marks — along with pretty much every Nets’ fan — was livid about how Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid has been officiated in the series.

Brooklyn minority owner (for now) and alternate governor Joe Tsai Tweeted this about Marks.

The NBA has fined Tsai $35,000 for “making public statements detrimental to the NBA.”

Tsai is the second-largest shareholder of online shopping powerhouse Alibaba and is worth an estimated $10.2 billion. He owns 49 percent of the Nets.