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?

Jerry West on NBA Draft: “I don’t know how you could pass Zion Williamson”

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A rumor started buzzing around NBA Twitter last week, a second-hand report that NBA legend and Clippers’ consultant Jerry West was praising Murray State guard Ja Morant, saying he would take him in front of the presumptive No. 1 pick Zion Williamson.

The source of that rumor: comedian Jeff Garlin, saying it on the Dan Patrick Show.

Jerry West himself went on the Dan Patrick show Thursday and shot that down saying “it Would Be Like Passing Jordan in the draft.”

Two players were picked in front Jordan in the 1984 Draft. The Houston Rockets took Hakeem Olajuwon, and while Jordan went on to be Jordan nobody can fault the Rockets for how this picked turned out — two titles and a Hall of Fame big man in your organization is an amazing draft.

The one everyone talks about was Portland at No. 2, when executive Stu Inman and coach Jack Ramsey decided they were set on the wing in Clyde Drexler and needed a big man, so they selected Sam Bowie out of Kentucky. Bowie might have had an excellent NBA career if injuries had not plagued him, but he was no Jordan. It’s the ultimate NBA cautionary tale — draft the best player on the board, not according to need.

Williamson is projected by teams as the best player on the board. By far. Even the Morant fans have him a clear second. Plus, Williamson comes in hugely popular and a brand unto himself — he will sell tickets and sponsorships. Not drafting him would be a stupid business decision, not to mention a basketball one.

Whoever lands second in next month’s draft lottery will do well with Morant. Whoever is third will likely get R.J. Barrett out of Duke and… let’s just say that’s where it gets interesting.

Likely top-10 pick Jarrett Culver of Texas Tech makes it official, declares for NBA Draft

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We all knew this was coming, but on Thursday he made it official:

Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver is declaring for the NBA Draft, where he is expected to be a top-10 pick. He made the announcement at a rally on the Tech campus Thursday, then took his message to social media.

Culver, a 6’6” wing player, passes the eye test for an NBA wing, he can shoot from the outside (he only hit 30.4 percent from three this season, but it was 38 percent the season before and his stroke looks good), he can put the ball on the floor and get inside, and he may have the best feel for the game of any wing prospect in this draft. The only question is athleticism — he’s not a classically explosive, and the NBA is loaded with freak athletes on the wing.

Still, Culvert looks like a rotation wing player with the potential to be more, and that should land him comfortably in the top 10 in this draft (likely 5-8).

Nuggets take 13-game losing streak in San Antonio into Game 3

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In 2009, Carlos Boozer had 18 points and 11 rebounds in the Jazz’s win over the Spurs. Paul Millsap backed him up.

A couple months later, Boozer had 31-13 in another Jazz win over the Spurs. Again, Millsap backed him up.

Late in the 2012-13 season, rookie Damian Lillard led the Trail Blazers to a blowout of the Spurs. Will Barton played three minutes in garbage time.

Those are the only three times current Nuggets starters have won in San Antonio.

After splitting the first two games of their first-round series in Denver, the Nuggets must win at least once in San Antonio to advance. The first opportunity comes in Game 3 tonight.

Denver has lost 13 straight road games against the Spurs – a drought longer than the careers of Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Gary Harris. The Nuggets’ other starters didn’t fare much better before joining Denver. Barton went 1-5 in San Antonio with Portland. Millsap went 2-20 in San Antonio with Utah and Atlanta.

Even several notches below their dynasty status, the Spurs remain especially tough at home.

The Spurs went 32-9 at home and 16-25 on the road this season. Maybe that’s an aberration in a limited sample. But they also went 33-8 at home and 14-27 on the road last season.

That’s a 79% win percentage at home and 37% on the road. The last time a team had such a large disparity over a two-year span was the 2008-2009 Jazz.

This might just be San Antonio’s post-Kawhi Leonard identity.

Here are the largest home-road win percentage differences in the last decade:

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There’s another possibility: It’s not that the Spurs are that good at home. It’s that they’re that bad on the road.

But San Antonio trailed only the Nuggets, Bucks and Raptors in home record this season.

The Spurs also won Game 1 in Denver, where the altitude has historically given the Nuggets a strong homecourt advantage. If Denver dropped that game to a lousy road team, that’d be its own problem.

Either way, the Nuggets have a real challenge on their hands.

Kevin Porter Jr. a possible lottery pick heading into 2019 NBA draft

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Kevin Porter Jr. missed more than a quarter of his freshman season at USC due to injury. He missed another couple games due to suspension. When he played, he usually came off the bench. He’s only 18.

But Porter has already shown enough to impress NBA teams.

Porter, via Jonathan Givony of ESPN:

“I will be declaring for the 2019 NBA draft and I will be signing with Roc Nation Sports,” Porter told ESPN.

Porter has a wide possible range in the first round, because there’s a massive gap between his ceiling and floor. But it shouldn’t take too long for a team to bet on his upside.

A 6-foot-6 shooting guard with a 6-foot-9 wingspan, Porter has a special combination of shiftiness and power with the ball in his hands. He can attack the rim and finish above it. He can also pull up for jumpers.

I don’t trust his 41% 3-point shooting at USC. That came on only 68 attempts, and he made just 52% of his free throws (though that was also on an unreliably small sample, just 46 attempts). But his stroke looks compact and smooth.

Porter can be an impressive passer. Right now, that’s more so making quick and correct standstill reads than distributing while driving.

If he improves his handle, that could really tie together all his skills.

Porter forces too many bad shots. He’s not attentive enough defensively. There are questions about his maturity.

But if he pans out at the next level, he could be awesome.