Brandon Costner Highlights Top Performers In D-League Showcase’s First Day

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The NBA Development League Showcase has 16 games scheduled over the next four days in Reno, Nev., but as the name implies, the entire point of the D-League’s annual affair is for players to showcase themselves in front of the plethora of NBA decision makers in attendance. As Brandon Costner and the Los Angeles D-Fenders showed Monday, however, playing well and winning can happily coincide with each other.

Costner scored 29 points on 12 field goal attempts as his D-Fenders breezed to a 97-82 victory over the Springfield Armor in the second game of the day. The 6-foot-9 forward out of North Carolina State was originally invited to training camp with the Chicago Bulls last month, but was caught in a numbers game before ever being able to report to the team — a frustrating outcome, but one he seemingly took out on the Armor while helping his team post a tally in the win column.

“Coach Musselman had us really prepared for today. We wanted to come to the Showcase and stay hot so we came in focused and got a win,” Costner told Pro Basketball Talk after the game. “It’s always good to win while allowing the whole team to be successful so everybody can be seen in a positive light. It’s not too beneficial when you’re the leading scorer on a sub-.500 team. Nobody wants to see that, but when you’re playing well and playing together, everyone in attendance can see the camaraderie and that helps the whole team out.”

Costner isn’t mentioned in most circles as a call-up candidate, but the sweet-shooting big man — he made four of his seven attempts from beyond the arc on Monday — is certainly going to open some eyes if he’s able to post impressive numbers in the D-Fenders’ games this week. The stocky power forward doesn’t do a lot of his work down low, but there aren’t many players out there with his combination of size and range — something he’s hoping to take advantage of during his second D-League season.

“I came back to try and achieve my dream — The dream of playing in the league,” Costner said.  “Honestly, I feel like this is the second-best level of competition in the world. I’ve played overseas, but there aren’t any other places that are top to bottom as good as the D-League and that competition drives me. This is the best league available and I like try and play well against the best so that’s what keeps me coming back.”

Other notable performances in the first day of D-League Showcase action included:

  • Walker Russell led the Fort Wayne Mad Ants out of a 19-2 deficit to open Monday’s matinee game all the way back to a 100-96 victory over the Bakersfield Jam. Russell, playing in his fifth D-League season, scored 19 points to go with 19 (yes, NINETEEN) assists as he helped teammates Darnell Lazare, Jarrid Famous, Sadiel Rojah and Cameron Jones score in double figures on the way to the comeback win.
  • Mike James, the veteran point guard who’s played for nine different NBA teams, has acclimated himself to the D-League quite well. In just his second game with the New York Knicks owned Erie BayHawks, James led his team to victory with 23 points, five rebounds and five assists while showing he was in game shape by logging over 41 minutes of playing time in the 103-101 victory.
  • In the nightcap, Andre Emmett gave the hometown fans something to cheer about as he scored 15 points in the first quarter on the way to 36 totals points and five steals in a blowout over the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. Emmett’s point guard, Blake Ahearn, was perhaps even more impressive as he scored 26 points and dished 12 assists while turning the ball over just two times in 38 minutes of action.

D-League Showcase coverage will continue on Pro Basketball Talk on Tuesday so be sure to check it out as Greg Ostertag and Ricky Davis make their Reno debuts!

Report: Rockets lure assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik out of retirement with ‘significant raise’

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After a slow start, the Rockets got assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik to come out of retirement.

How?

The usual way employers attract someone to a job.

Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

Fertitta was alarmed enough to personally recruit defensive guru Jeff Bzdelik, who retired just before training camp, to return, offering what sources say was a significant raise that pushed his salary to a range that ranks among the NBA’s highest-paid assistant coaches.

Good for Bzdelik using his leverage. He looked like a defensive whiz last season, and Houston slipped without him. Of course, personnel matters, too. There’s no guarantee these Rockets – minus Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute – reach last year’s defensive level.

Bzdelik has been back around the team, but isn’t working full-time yet. It’ll take a while to assess his impact on Houston.

And good for Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta paying up. Fertitta is still trying to determine the right amount for him to spend, but the team is better off if he’s willing to pay what’s necessary to attract the most desirable coaches.

Charles Barkley addresses Draymond Green-Kevin Durant dynamic (video)

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Want to hear an entertaining guy address an entertaining topic? Here you go.

Trae Young: I’ll be better than Luka Doncic

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Trae Young and Luka Doncic will be forever linked by their draft-night trade.

The Hawks took Doncic No. 3 then traded down with the Mavericks for No. 5 pick Young and a future first-round pick.

Young, via Andrew Sharp of Sports Illustrated:

“The thing with Luka,” Young says, “he’s a great player. I don’t understand why it can’t work out for both situations. I hear [Atlanta made a mistake] all the time. Luka’s a great dude, and I think he’s going to be a really good player. But at the same time, I’m going to be a better player. Just because of my ability to stretch the floor, get others involved, I think I’ll be better.”

Of course, Young was never going to say Doncic would be better than him. But Young didn’t have to address this so directly at all. By going out of his way to make such a bold statement, Young puts more pressure on himself.

So far, both Doncic and Young have impressed. I’ll still stick with Doncic, though. Enough to justify Dallas surrendering that extra first-round pick? That’s a far tougher call and the one the Hawks will be judged by.

Young doesn’t want that leniency, though. He’s aiming to be better than Doncic straight up and unafraid to say so publicly.

Markelle Fultz’s new free throw stroke is… different.

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Philadelphia’s Markelle Fultz is in his own head with his free throw stroke now. (And, likely much more than that, but we’ll stick with the free throws for now.)

Earlier this week Fultz double-clutched a free throw attempt and his stroke was a mess.

Each game that stroke seems to change and the latest one is… different. Very different.

As Vecenie notes, this is actually an improvement in terms of the release, but that doesn’t make it good. Fultz was 1-of-2 in his one trip to the stripe (as of this writing).

Still, I have never seen someone pass the ball back-and-forth between their hands as they go into their shooting motion like that. Very, very odd.