Marcus Morris injury hampers Day 4 of the NBA D-League Showcase

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The eighth annual NBA Development League Showcase came to an end on Thursday night after 16 teams played a total of 16 games over four days in lovely Reno, Nevada. The final day may have been the least uneventful — at least as far as top prospects were concerned — but an injury to Houston Rockets assignee Marcus Morris had onlookers fearing for the worst.

Morris suffered a left ankle injury early on in the Rio Grande Valley Vipers loss to the Springfield Armor when the fourteenth overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft came down on his defender’s foot less than two minutes into the D-League Showcase’s penultimate game (video here). Morris didn’t return to action after having to be helped off the court, but it sounds as though he shouldn’t miss much more than a week — pending an MRI this weekend.

Morris has shown that he’s above the level of D-League competition he’s facing — the 6-foot-9 forward went into Thursday’s game averaging 29.7 points and 12.3 rebounds over three games  — but Rockets general manager Daryl Morey believes having Morey develop in the D-League while transitioning to the wing is going to hurry up the process. D-League development is something that’s expected to become more frequent, too, Morey told Pro Basketball Talk on Wednesday.

“I think the D-League is going to eventually become like Triple-A baseball where pretty much every rookie spends some time there,” Morey said. “Obviously we’re not there yet, but I think over time that’s going to be how it’s looked at. It guys the ability to work on their game early, it allows them to work on parts of their game the coaching staff is emphasizing and we’re obviously big believers in the whole system.”

Rio Grande Valley ended up losing with Morris out of the lineup, but it came down to the final seconds. The Vipers took a three-point lead with 15.2 seconds left in the game when former New Jersey Nets guard Ben Uzoh sank a pair of free-throws, but a foul before Springfield was able to inbound the ball on the ensuing possession gave JamesOn Curry a free-throw to cut the lead to two before newly-acquired Preston Knowles sank a game-winning three-pointer with 5.6 seconds left on the clock to secure a 100-99 victory.

The three other games didn’t all end in spectacular fashion, but there were a few prospects that certainly stood out.

  • Dakota Wizards swingman Edwin Ubiles looked excellent on offense with 22 points, but his team lost thanks to a group effort from the Austin Toros. All five Toros starters scored in double digits with point guard Justin Dentmon scoring 27 points in a starring role. Both players
  • The Tulsa 66ers picked up a blowout ‘W’ over the Fort Wayne Mad Ants behind excellent play from the D-League’s leading rebounder as power forward Marcus Lewis scored 23 points and grabbed 12 rebounds while making 11 of his 12 shot attempts. Teammate Larry Owens, formerly of the Washington Wizards, scored 19 points while the Mad Ants were led by Walker Russell with 19 points of his own.
  • “Money” Mike Efevberha showed why he earned that nickname at this year’s Drew League by pouring in 20 points in the final game of the Showcase as the Iowa Energy picked up a victory. The Canton Charge had a balanced effort with five players scoring in double figures, but it was former Cleveland Cavaliers guard Manny Harris and his 14 points that made foor the most interesting prospect.

By and large, the Showcase should be considered a success this season. Call-ups in the coming months will largely determine whether it was worth it for scouts from all 30 D-League teams to converge on Reno this week. A full recap of the week will be posted on Pro Basketball Talk on Friday.

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.

Michael Avenatti charged with stealing money Hassan Whiteside intended to pay ex-girlfriend

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Heat center Hassan Whiteside became the first player in NBA history to go from a minimum salary one season to a max salary the next.

Some of that money allegedly got embezzled by Michael Avenatti.

Avenatti – the infamous lawyer who represented Stormy Daniels, who claimed she was paid to keep quiet about having an affair with Donald Trump – has been charged with attempted extortion of Nike and stealing from other clients. One of those other clients: Whiteside’s former girlfriend, Alexis Gardner.

Michael Finnegan of the Los Angeles Times:

An actress and barista, she’d hired him just a few weeks before to negotiate a settlement of a potential lawsuit against Whiteside. It’s unclear what she would have alleged. Avenatti quickly struck a $3-million deal, and the $2.75 million was Whiteside’s first payment.

Avenatti, prosecutors say, was entitled to take just over $1 million in legal fees, leaving the rest for Gardner.

Instead, they allege, Avenatti hid Whiteside’s payment from her and immediately took $2.5 million to buy a share of a private jet.

Report: Lakers have no plans to replace Magic Johnson, who’ll still help team recruit FAs

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Magic Johnson’s stunning resignation as Lakers president caused a commotion.

It didn’t create a power vacuum.

Rob Pelinka is clearly in charge. He’s the highest-ranking member of the front office. His title – general manager – is the one many teams give to the leader of their basketball operations. He’s running the Lakers’ coaching search.

Though they’ve been linked to big-name candidates for president, the Lakers could easily keep the status quo with Pelinka running the show. And it sounds as if that’s what Lakers owner Jeanie Buss will do.

Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times:

Buss has no plans to hire someone to replace Johnson, who is still expected to be part of the Lakers’ free-agent recruiting this summer.

Allowing Pelinka to hire a head coach – which, again, he’s in the process of doing – then supplanting him would be absurd. At least it seems the Lakers aren’t doing that.

But Pelinka was part of the organization while it made a comedy of errors. The former agent also had front-office experience until getting hired with Johnson a couple years ago. It’s hard to believe he’s the right choice to lead the team as it enters this critical stage.

LeBron James is 34. The Lakers will have max cap space this summer. Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart are progressing toward establishing clearer value – one way or the other.

To entrust Pelinka in this situation, Buss ought to have a clear explanation for why Pelinka doesn’t deserve a fair share of blame for all the mistakes that occurred the last couple years. There are plenty of people, inside and outside the Lakers, who question him.

The wildest part about this report: Johnson still helping the Lakers recruit this summer. He’s an all-time great player and charismatic. But he also just said while resigning:

What I didn’t like is the backstabbing, the whispering. I don’t like that. I don’t like a lot of things that went on that didn’t have to go on.

How will he sell that to free agents – especially if Pelinka, suspected to be whom Johnson is referring to, remains in charge?

Russell Westbrook goes from ‘Next question’ to ‘That’s a good question. Not sure’ (video)

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Russell Westbrook can be a pain.

Pain to his opponents. Pain to his teammates. Pain to the media.

Sometimes, it seems Westbrook even takes pride in being a jerk. Which is fine. His cutthroat attitude is part of who he is, and it has gotten him a long way.

Lately, Westbrook has clashed with Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman. For months, Westbrook has answered all Tramel’s questions with, “Next question.” Yet, Tramel keeps asking them – as he should. Westbrook has earned control over a lot of things. Tramel shouldn’t cede control of his job to Westbrook.

The back-and-forth has gotten increased prominence during the playoffs, when postgame press conferences are nationally televised. Both sides have found plenty of support. Westbrook’s fans love that his intensity never relents. Many also respect Tramel’s professionalism.

Four years ago, Westbrook infamously told Tramel, “I just don’t like you.” Westbrook got into it with Tramel again two years ago. But Tramel continues to cover the Thunder the best he can.

Likewise, Westbrook is trying to lead Oklahoma City the best he can. That means picking battles, even small ones like this, and pushing himself to win them all.

But after the Thunder’s Game 4 loss to the Trail Blazers last night, Westbrook finally gave an inch. But just an inch.

Tramel asked how the Thunder’s defense of Damian Lillard changed from the first half to the second half.

“That’s a good question,” Westbrook said. “Not sure.”

Tramel asked about the lessons learned about overcoming a 3-1 deficit to the Grizzlies in the 2014 playoffs. (Oklahoma City trailed 2-1 and 3-2 in that series, but never 3-1).

“Really don’t know,” Westbrook said.

For Westbrook, those answers were a huge breakthrough. They surprised everyone, even Tramel. Just a few days ago, the columnist predicted Westbrook wouldn’t change his two-word answers anytime soon: “He’s not going to give in this playoff series.”

Maybe this means the series is over.