Greg Ostertag On NBA Comeback: I Just Want To Play

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RENO, Nev. — Greg Ostertag was the first big-name veteran to sign with the NBA Development League when he decided to embark on a comeback with the Texas Legends a few weeks ago. The longtime Utah Jazz center wasn’t impressive in his initial appearances, but the consensus was that as long as he was able to show improvement at this week’s NBA Development League Showcase, the 38-year-old has a chance to make it back to the big leagues.

The 7-foot-2 center played less than 11 minutes in Tuesday’s 94-86 victory over the Tulsa 66ers on Tuesday afternoon in front of a bevy of NBA scouts at Reno’s D-League Showcase, but he made them count with eight points and three rebounds while serving as a solid back-up center to Dallas Mavericks’ assisgnee Sean Williams.  The Texas native knows that’s exactly what he needed to do in order to work further toward his goal — a goal that was just re-hatched last month.

“I’d been out for five years and I missed it. The first year I didn’t miss it much, but as retirement went on I started missing it more. I tried to come back a couple times and it didn’t work out so I thought I’d give it one more shot,” Ostertag told Pro Basketball Talk following Tuesday’s game. “I’d been thinking about it while they were working on the NBA lockout so when they got the lockout done I made a call to my agent and asked what he thought the chances were. He said ‘let’s give it a shot, we’ll try to get you on a D-League team’ and here I am.”

Admittedly, the comeback didn’t start off as swimmingly as one could hope as Ostertag struggled in his first game, but it’s understandable that it wasn’t easy for a guy to return to form with two weeks of conditioning following a five-year absence.

“In my first game, I was back for two weeks and then thrown into a game for 17 minutes. I played as hard as I could for 17 minutes, but we didn’t have a whole lot of practice time to get extra conditioning or some practice in,” Ostertag said. “Part of it’s been because I’ve been sore and these knees are aching so when I do get off the court, I want to let my body rest.”

He showed Tuesday that his conditioning is improving, though, while admitting it’s still a process.

“I’m getting there, man. I’ve only had two weeks of being back in basketball,” Ostertag said. “These teams know what I’m capable of doing, it’s just a matter of being in shape enough to get out there and do what I’m capable of doing to get out on the floor and be productive.”

Productivity is relative, of course, but Ostertag believes his knowledge and ability to fill the role he filled during his entire NBA career will benefit him when NBA teams begin looking at back-up big men over the coming weeks.

“I’ll be ready for whatever. I just want to play. Teams know what I can bring to the table – putbacks, clogging the paint, rebounding and that’s it,” Ostertag said. “It’s more just a matter of getting into shape enough to go out and play 10 minutes or 20 minutes or whatever an NBA team wants me to play.”

As long as an NBA team wants him to play, regardless of minutes, he’ll be happy. Which NBA team wouldn’t want to make Greg Ostertag happy?

Hawks’ Lloyd Pierce replaces Pacers’ Nate McMillan as Team USA assistant coach

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is taking over Team USA, and he has assistant coaches for the 2019 World Cup and 2020 Olympics:

  • Warriors coach Steve Kerr
  • Pacers coach Nate McMillan
  • Villanova coach Jay Wright
  • Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce

USA Basketball release:

Atlanta Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce was named to the USA Basketball Men’s National Team coaching staff today. Pierce replaces Indiana Pacers head coach Nate [McMillan] who withdrew because of scheduling conflicts.

This is a pretty big honor for Pierce, who just completed his first season as an NBA head coach. He guided Atlanta to only a 29-53 record.

But the young Hawks, especially Trae Young, improved throughout the season. Atlanta pushed the pace, hoisted 3s and defended aggressively (though not well). An identity is forming.

Though it’s far too early to say much about Pierce’s head-coaching acumen, he acquitted himself well in his first year.

Working with Team USA could even help Pierce ingratiate himself with stars. This could eventually pay off for the Hawks in free agency.

Rumor: Suns prefer drafting Ja Morant over drafting Zion Williamson

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Duke power forward Zion Williamson is overwhelmingly favored to be the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft. Murray State point guard Ja Morant is the leading candidate to be the No. 2 pick.

But what if Phoenix lands the top pick?

Suns general manager James Jones has his own ideas about the draft. The thoroughness of Phoenix’s scouting leaves a lot to be desired. The Suns badly need a point guard.

With all those factors, Phoenix might be the biggest wildcard with the No. 1 pick.

Sam Vecenie of The Athletic:

Sources around the NBA are buzzing that Morant is actually the player the Suns prefer to end up with. Particularly, Jones is thought to be a fan of the dynamic lead guard. It’s not a surprise, given their need at the point guard position. But color me skeptical that the team would actually take him at No. 1.

I see a few possibilities:

  • Phoenix rates Morant ahead of Williamson but would be afraid to pass on Williamson. Not only is Williamson the consensus top pick, he is the biggest star coming out of college basketball in years.
  • The Suns would rather have Morant plus whatever they could get for trading down than Williamson. That might even be reasonable, though we don’t know how potential trade packages would look.
  • People around the league are taking (easy) shots at Phoenix, even if these claims are untrue.

The Suns should draft whichever player they believe will have the brightest future. Period.

Passing on Williamson just because they have Deandre Ayton would be only compounding mistakes. There is not a single player in Phoenix good enough to justify passing on Williamson. Point guards will be available via free agency and trade.

If the Suns truly believe Morant will have a better career than Williamson, they should draft Morant. Making a pick for marketability or fear of backlash is misguided.

Of course, there’s only a 14% chance of Phoenix getting the No. 1 pick and facing this decision. But if it lands that way, it’d cause a ton of intrigue into the selection.

Jared Dudley, Jimmy Butler fined for fight

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When Jared Dudley pushed Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler pushed Dudley right back. After the 76ers’ Game 4 win over the Nets, Butler accompanied his star teammate to the postgame press conference.

“So he don’t do nothing stupid when he’s up here,” Butler said. “We all know he’s a trolling son of a gun. So, I’m just here to protect my big fella.

“If somebody runs up on him, I’m gonna push them again.”

A grateful Embiid said he’d pay Butler’s fine.

Then, later in the press conference, Embiid said: “It feels great to be up 3 to 1. We definitely don’t want to be in a situation like the Warriors.”

Butler got up and left, shouting, “I tried to save you,” on his way out.

Does Embiid’s fine-paying offer still stand? It’s definitely relevant.

NBA release:

Brooklyn Nets forward Jared Dudley and Philadelphia 76ers forward-guard Jimmy Butler have each been fined for their roles in an on-court altercation, it was announced today by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

Dudley has been fined $25,000 for escalating an on-court incident which spilled into the spectator stands by shoving Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid. Butler has been fined $15,000 for escalating it further by then shoving Dudley.

The incident, for which Dudley and Butler each received technical fouls and were ejected, occurred with 7:42 remaining in the third quarter of Philadelphia’s 112-108 victory over Brooklyn on Saturday, April 20

Dudley is doing all he can. The best part of the skirmish: Nets coach Kenny Atkinson trying to restrain and calm Dudley while yelling, “We need you.” Brooklyn was +12 with Dudley and -16 without him in Game 4.

But Dudley can do only so much against more-talented Philadelphia.

With Embiid, Butler and a 3-1 lead, the 76ers are clearly having more fun.

Kentucky’s Keldon Johnson, Tyler Herro remaining in 2019 NBA draft

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Kentucky forward P.J. Washington declared for the NBA draft.

A couple other Wildcats are following his lead.

Kentucky releases:

Kentucky men’s basketball freshman guard Keldon Johnson will remain in the 2019 NBA Draft pool and will not return to Kentucky, he announced

Kentucky men’s basketball freshman guard Tyler Herro has decided to remain in the 2019 NBA Draft, ending his career at UK.

Washington, Johnson and Herro all look like probable first-round picks. Washington and/or Johnson could sneak into the lottery, but there’s a good chance all three go later in the opening round.

Johnson is a 6-foot-6 shooting guard with a 6-foot-9 wingspan. He brings impressive effort and physicality. If his 3-pointer continues to fall, he’ll have a future in the league as a nice role player. But he hasn’t yet proven himself as a strong NBA-level spot-up shooter. He’s not there off the dribble, as a shooter or playmaker.

Herro can flat out shoot. He races around screens, finds ways to get open and sinks shots on the move and from odd angles. The 6-foot-5 guard might be a defensive liability, but at least he competes on that end. He’s also limited offensively, but the league needs shooters.