D-League Showcase’s top prospects included Blake Ahearn And Greg Ostertag

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The NBA Development League Showcase wrapped up on Thursday night following 16 teams playing a total of 16 games over the course of four days in lovely Reno, Nev. Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey told Pro Basketball Talk that the talent at the annual event was at an all-time high so it seems to make sense to give everyone that didn’t make the trek — unlike representatives from all 30 NBA teams — a quick glance at the top players in attendance by position.

Guards:

Blake Ahearn of the Reno Bighorns was often overlooked when scouts were asked to name the best prospects in the D-League this week, but that might be because Ahearn’s no longer a prospect … he’s a proven commodity. The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 23.5 points and nine assists while shooting 50 percent from the field as the Bighorns racked up a pair of blowout victories as the hometown team at the Showcase. Ahearn’s spending his fifth season in the D-League this year and has little left to prove considering he can shoot the lights out, get to the foul line (and convert, considering he’s the NCAA’s all-time leader in free-throw percentage and a lifetime 96-percent from the charity stripe in the D-League) and be a positive influence to his teammates on and off the court. NBA teams seem to overlook the positives and instead try to find the negatives, but as soon as their attitude improves on that front, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Ahearn get another look in the Association.

Justin Dentmon was a man on a mission at the Showcase this week as the 6-foot guard for the Austin Toros set out to prove he was a point guard. That mission may not have worked out quite as planned considering he picked up nine turnovers on 13 assists, but the quick guard showed he’s easily able to be a force on the offensive end with his play in Reno. Dentmon averaged 26.5 points while shooting 62 percent from the field. It’s going to be interesting to see what NBA teams think of his performance in Reno, but there’s no doubt he has NBA skills — even if he doesn’t have the prototypical NBA body for a scoring guard.

Forwards:

Gerald Green is a well-known player considering he was a former first round pick and competed in the NBA Slam Dunk contest a few years ago, bu he’s had to toil in the D-League this season as he works toward a comeback at the ripe old age of 25. Green’s first game at the Showcase didn’t go as planned as he scored just four points off the bench in a 15-point victory for the Los Angeles D-Fenders, but his second game was outstanding. Green scored 34 points on 13-of-17 shooting on Wednesday to show that his NBA comeback attempt is all for naught as his skillset tries to catch up with his athleticism.

Marcus Lewis might not look like an NBA prospect and he certainly doesn’t have the pedigree, but the former Oral Roberts standout has consistently improved while playing the past few seasons with the Tulsa 66ers in the NBA Development League. Lewis, a 6-foot-8 power forward listed at 245 pounds, is the D-League’s leading rebounder this season with 13.8 per game, meaning his 23 total boards at the Showcase might have been a bit of a disappointment. He certainly opened eyes this week, though, and could be in line for a good gig down the line.

Center:

Greg Ostertag wasn’t expected to do much in the D-League this season considering he’s been out of basketball for five seasons, but the former starting center for the Utah Jazz looked great this week in limited minutes. Ostertag averaged nine points and 5.5 rebounds in a pair of games while showing that he’s capable of being an NBA back-up big man by playing the same role — minutes included — in the D-League this week. Ostertag talked to Pro Basketball Talk about his comeback earlier this week and, judging by the opinions of those in attendance, it wouldn’t be crazy to see him back on an NBA roster this year.

Honorable mention awards should have also been handed out to Dakota Wizards swingman Edwin Ubiles, former NBA Draft picks JamesOn Curry and Andre Emmett along with Los Angeles D-Fenders big man Brandon Costner. Quite a few players were impressive in one game of the Showcase, but that’s the reason a lot of guys are in the D-League — because they can’t play at an NBA level on a consistent basis.

Kristaps Porzingis after conversation with new coach: “Man im excited!”

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David Fizdale learned a lot of lessons in his first go around as a head coach, spending 101 games with the Memphis Grizzlies. At the top of the list: Build a strong bond with your star player. Or else.

Fizdale is trying to do that, saying he would fly to Latvia this summer to spend time with Kristaps Porzingis. But first came a phone call, and that seemed to go very well.

It’s not just Porzingis. Fizdale was bonding with Frank Ntilikina, Emmanuel Mudiay, and Damyean Dotson on Wednesday night in Boston. A little “this is where we want to be” motivation.

Good on Fizdale for all of this.

The Knicks got the best coach for them on the board in Fizdale, and so far the new front office — general manager Scott Perry and president Steve Mills — are making smart decisions. Knicks fans should be optimistic. Knicks ownership just needs to be patient (not James Dolan’s strong suit), because with no Porzingis for a large portion if not all of next season the team will struggle. Wins will be hard to come by. Fizdale needs a season to develop players and lay the foundation for what he wants to build, while the new front office needs time to clean up the salary cap mess that is New York right now.

With some patience, the Knicks could have something special in a few years. And Fizdale may have found the right home for his talents because he’s already got players buying in.

Report: Police officers involved in Sterling Brown’s arrest suspended 15, 10 and two days

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Bucks guard Sterling Brown was tased and arrested in January despite not being violent or overly combative while being questioned about a parking violation.

Gina Barton, Mary Spicuzza and Ashley Luthern of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

The Milwaukee police officer who first confronted Milwaukee Bucks rookie Sterling Brown outside a Walgreens in January was suspended for two days, the Journal Sentinel has learned.

Two supervisors who later arrived, escalating the situation, were suspended for 10 and 15 days, sources said. Several other officers were reprimanded.

I don’t know whether these suspensions are the appropriate punishment.

But police too often trampling on the rights of people, especially minorities, is a far greater problem than these three officers and this incident.

No, Tom Izzo is not going to coach the Orlando Magic

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The Orlando Magic have been looking for their next head coach — after letting go of Frank Vogel right after season ended — while Mike Budenholzer (Bucks), David Fizdale (Knicks), Lloyd Pierce (Hawks), James Borrego (Hornets), and Igor Kokoskov (Suns) all got jobs (plus J.B. Bickerstaff had the interim title taken away in Memphis).

Not much news had leaked out of Orlando through all of that process, outside of interest in University of Houston coach Kelvin Sampson and an interview this week with former Charlotte coach Steve Clifford.

Then came a report from Michael Scotto of The Athletic that the Magic had interest in Michigan State coach Tom Izzo.

It didn’t take long for people close to Izzo to shoot that down.

A few points of clarification here. First, plenty of NBA front office executives have thought Izzo would make a great NBA coach and have reached out with feelers over the years. I have no doubt the Magic were interested, and may well have reached out (directly or through back channels) to gauge interest. That’s what smart organizations do.

At this point in his career, at age 63, it’s hard to imagine Izzo making the leap to the NBA — and if he does it will be for a Godfather offer (in both money and roster). With all due respect to Aaron Gordon, that’s not Orlando. Never say never, but like Mike Krzyzewski and others who could have made the leap to the NBA, at this point Izzo seems a college lifer. He’s in one of the best jobs in the land, a place where he is revered and respected, and he’s not likely to change that up now.

You can’t really blame him. It’s hard to leave a good job — just ask Jay Wright. But with Izzo, NBA teams will still ask occasionally, just to make sure.

Steve Kerr calls NFL’s new national-anthem policy, which is strikingly similar to the NBA’s, ‘idiotic’

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The NFL released a new national-anthem policy that requires players to stand on the field or remain in the locker room (or similar location) during the song.

That didn’t sit well with Warriors coach Steve Kerr.

Melissa Rohlin of the Bay Area News Group:

Good thing Kerr doesn’t work in a league that mandates players, coaches and trainers “stand and line up in a dignified posture” during the anthem, that suspended a player for sitting during the anthem, that warns players for chewing gum or being in the bathroom during the anthem, that has a team that blocked a black anthem singer who wore a “We matter” jersey.

Oh, wait.

He does.

The NBA, like the NFL, is first and foremost a business seeking profit. When confronted with social issues, from Donald Sterling to “I can’t breathe” shirts, the NBA has always kept an eye on its wallet.

With the threat of anthem protests looming, the NBA proactively met with players to head off any kneeling. That was business strategy, nothing grander.

The result? Players linked arms during the national anthem in the name of same vague unity, co-opting the space and distorting the message of Colin Kaepernick’s more meaningful protest.

Eventually, teams stopped linking arms during the anthem. Nobody really noticed when it fell off.

All the while, no sponsors or fans were aggrieved.

The NFL is just trying to get to the same point with a similar policy.

But the NFL already alienated its players through the heavy-handed implementation of this policy and years of other issues. The NBA has established greater trust from its players, both by finessing them in talks about societal issues and actually standing behind them, like the Bucks did with Sterling Brown.

There are plenty of opportunities to criticize the NFL relative to the NBA. The leagues’ national-anthem policies are not a good one.

And spare me the idea that leaders trying to divide us from on high is What’s Wrong With Our Country. Centuries of racism have already divided us.

Some leaders, like Donald Trump, exploit those divisions. Other leaders talk fancifully of unity without actually reconciling what caused the divisions.

But the actual divisions were already significant.