2012 adidas Eurocamp: Day 1 recap

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Day one of adidas Eurocamp is in the books, and while several of the players showed flashes of ability throughout the opening session, the best player on the floor was Tomas Satoransky. The 6’7″ combo guard from the Czech Republic was consistent in his brilliance throughout the day, and showed off his excellent overall court vision and feel for the game in a variety of ways.

Satoransky ran the point and played off the ball equally well, and whipped the ball around the perimeter with confidence, always looking to create the best shot for his teammates. When it was his turn to score, he showcased a smooth stroke from the outside, and was able to put the ball on the floor and finish in traffic, as well. Satoransky is projected as a mid-second round pick, but that could change quickly if he continues to perform as he did on the camp’s first day.

Evan Fournier, who is the only international player projected to go in the first round of this year’s draft, did not participate in drills or any of the scrimmage games. Instead, he held a private workout in the afternoon, and looked great shooting the ball, finishing his session by draining five straight three-pointers from a good five feet beyond the NBA arc. When he was finished, Rockets director of scouting and camp director Arturas Karnisovas said with a smile, “OK, everyone. Show’s over.”

Fournier is expected to participate with the rest of the players in all activities on Monday.

*****

Jet lag may have been a factor for some of the team executives that made it into town from the states less than 24 hours before the start of Sundays morning’s camp opening, but there was no lag at all in the early session from any of the players. By all accounts, the energy level to start things off was better than expected, especially on the defensive end of the floor, where guys were hustling, fighting through screens, and denying the ball at every turn as the first drills of the day took place. Minnesota Timberwolves assistant coach Bill Bayno, who is the camp’s coaching director and the one running the show, was pleased with the effort.

“The defense is ahead of the offense, which is good,” Bayno said, addressing the camp’s players at midcourt after the first workout, before offering some teaching advice. “How do we counteract that? We get that ball moving.”

Bayno then reminded the players that the scouts and front office personnel in attendance are looking not just for offensive or defensive skills, but for the whole package — including coachability, how players interact with their teammates, and most importantly, the ability to pay attention to the little things.

“It’s not just about scoring points,” he said. “Find the open man and play the right way.”

*****

Nihad Djedovic plays aggressively at both ends of the floor, and isn’t afraid to mix it up with the bigs inside. The term “fearless” is a good one to describe his style of play, though he took it to multiple defenders with no real plan on more than one occasion, perhaps trying to draw some contact, but with better options open at the time. His talent is evident, however he’s a little out of control at times, and would benefit by slowing his game down just a bit until things start to click for him more consistently.

Here’s an example of Djedovic’s aggressiveness — On one possession, he tried a veteran hold from behind on a center trying to get up for a rebound, and on another, while defending the ball handler who was trying to drive baseline, he tried a two-handed push when the two were in close to try to keep the point guard from getting to the paint. Neither play went unnoticed by the officials, however, as Djedovic was whistled for fouls on each — perhaps due to the not-so-subtle, extra-fuzzy mohawk that sits atop his head.

Djedovic is currently projected as a possible late-second-round pick.

*****

The last game of Day One featured a Eurocamp All-Star squad facing off against a U20 team from Russia, and it was by far the most competitive brand of basketball of the day. The speed and aggressiveness on both ends of the court from both teams made for an exciting game, and one that was low-scoring to begin. Eventually, however, the All-Star squad began to execute and pulled away for a 70-45 win, in large part thanks to the stellar play of Satoransky.

*****

Some final tidbits from Day One:

– Big man Jonas Bergstedt (Denmark) got off to a slow start in early morning drills, needing some extra coaching on defensive rotations and looking a little out of sorts offensively. Apparently he just needed to warm up, because as the day progressed, he began to look like a legitimate NBA big, who could both hold his own on the low block, as well as get out in transition once a rebound is secured.

– Andrew Albicy (France) displayed excellent speed and quickness from the point guard position, along with a good handle and an above-average basketball IQ. He was able to get into the lane multiple times, and then kick it out to the open man while still in traffic, often while surrounded by multiple defenders. He’s strong, but at a listed height of just 5’10”, he’s going to have to improve his skill set even more to compensate for the lack of size if he wants to play at the NBA level.

– Olek Czyz (Poland) went hard to the rack every time he had the ball, and was able to absorb contact while scoring inside. And when the defenders were nowhere in sight, he took it strong down the lane and dunked the ball with two hands. The 6’7″, 200-pound wing looks to have a physical and promising offensive skill set.

– Overall European style observation: Defenses seem to be told to prevent the fast break at all times, if at all possible, and at any cost. Just about every time a team looked to get out in transition and showed any numbers advantage in the backcourt, a defender would reach in and commit a foul to stop the play. This philosophy seemed to be so ingrained to most players that one even committed a clear path foul in this situation during a game, just for the sake of stopping a three-on-one break before it could get started.

– Danilo Gallinari is scheduled to speak to players at the camp on Day Three, but arrived on Sunday and got in a late afternoon private workout with Nuggets assistant coach Melvin Hunt. It went pretty much as you’d imagine, with Gallo draining threes effortlessly from every spot around the arc.

New Orleans Pelicans fire head coach Alvin Gentry

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No team entered the NBA restart bubble in Orlando with the buzz of the New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson was back, they had an All-Star in Brandon Ingram and solid veterans such as J.J. Redick and Jrue Holiday around them. With all that, no team was as disappointing in the bubble as the Pelicans, who went 2-6. They looked like they were going through the motions, and all season long were less than the sum of their parts.

Saturday New Orleans Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry paid the price for that and was fired, the team announced. The story was broken by Adrian Wojnarowski and Andrew Lopez of ESPN and soon after confirmed by the organization.

It was not a surprise. Gentry was considered on shaky ground before teams flew to Florida and the disappointing play of his team while there led to team VP of basketball operations David Griffin making the change. (A sitting coach is always on shaky ground when the management above him changes, as happened with Gentry.) While Zion was not in the bubble the entire time, this is still a talented roster, one that came out like it was just going through the motions, with Lonzo Ball reportedly having checked out. No one seemed focused on the opportunity to make the postseason. That attitude is why the Pelicans fired their coach.

“I want to thank Alvin for his contributions to the Pelicans and the New Orleans community,” Pelicans Owner Gayle Benson said in a statement. “We believe that making a head coaching change is necessary at this time. I truly appreciate Alvin’s leadership, dedication and perseverance through some challenging circumstances over the past five seasons. He will always be a part of our Pelicans family, and we wish him and his family all the best in the future. Our intention moving forward is to find the right head coach that will guide this Pelicans team to compete for championships. That is what our fans deserve.”

Clippers lead assistant Tyronn Lue and Lakers lead assistant Jason Kidd — two veteran coaches who are considered player-friendly — were mentioned as potential replacements by ESPN and Marc Stein of the New York Times. Lue and Kidd have both been mentioned in connection with the open Brooklyn Nets coaching job. Both also are in the Orlando bubble with their respective teams as the playoffs are about to begin (and both likely will be there for a while). Another name to watch is current Rockets’ coach Mike D’Antoni, who is not expected to be brought back with the Rockets and favors the kind of up-tempo system that would suit Zion. n

The challenge with big-name replacements in New Orleans is money — this is the smallest market in the NBA and ownership has been hit hard by the economic slowdown in the wake of the coronavirus. Lue, Kidd, and D’Antoni will be expensive and demand five-year contracts. The Pelicans could look at seasoned assistant coaches who have not yet held a top spot — Sam Cassell, Ime Udoka, and there are many others — who could do the job and come at a price more within their budget.

The key for whoever gets the head coaching job is to form a strong bond with Zion, the future of the franchise, and figure out how to get the most out of him.

 

 

 

Portland, Memphis where they want to be as play-in series tips-off

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Heroics were needed to get Portland and Memphis on the doorstep of the playoffs.

For the Trail Blazers, Damian Lillard averaged more than 50 points — with a shot from a step inside midcourt in there as one of his many highlights — to lead the way in three consecutive down-to-the-wire, season-on-the-line victories.

For the Grizzlies, Ja Morant and Jonas Valanciunas became the first teammates in Memphis history to post triple-doubles in what turned out to be a must-win game as well.

And now, the mission isn’t done yet for either club. Portland and Memphis meet Saturday at 2:30 p.m. (Eastern) in Game 1 of the Western Conference play-in series. The Trail Blazers have the upper hand by finishing the seeding-game portion of the NBA’s restart ahead of the Grizzlies. Portland needs one win, Memphis needs two to advance to a first-round matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers.

“We’re where we want to be,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “And so, I don’t think anybody’s over the moon right now. We know that we’ve got a tough opponent in Memphis, so there was no time to really celebrate.”

Had the Blazers lost any of their last three games, they could be home already. Lillard has scored 51, 61 and 42 points, respectively, in those three games — and had to sweat out a last-second shot by Brooklyn in a one-point Portland win on Thursday night that determined their play-in fate.

“I think mentally I’ll be fine,” Lillard said. “I think physically, it’ll obviously be some fatigue here. But I think it won’t be as hard as you might think because there’s a lot riding on these games. Every game that we’ve been playing, our last three or four games, has been like our season is on the line.”

The Grizzlies came into the restart at Walt Disney World in control of the play-in race, then sputtered before winning the game they needed to on Thursday against Milwaukee to clinch a spot.

Morant said he remembers when the Grizzlies were ranked 27th coming into the season in a 30-team league. He’s used that slight as fuel ever since.

“Now look at us,” Morant said. “Being that underdog doesn’t matter to us at all. We love being the underdog. It’s just extra motivation, fuel to the fire. It just makes our success even better, coming in and being the underdog.”

Game 2, if necessary, will be Sunday. The series for the play-in winner against the Lakers begins Tuesday.

Clippers’ Montrezl Harrell expected to play Monday against Dallas

Montrezl Harrell play
Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images
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When the Clippers take the court Monday for their first playoff game in the bubble, going against Luka Doncic and a dangerous Mavericks’ team, Montrezl Harrell will be suited up and ready to play.

The Clippers’ Sixth Man of the Year candidate, who excused from the bubble due to the death of his grandmother and missed all eight seeding games, will be out of quarantine and cleared to play, report Adrian Wojnarowski and Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

Doc Rivers said he plans to play Harrell against an active Dallas front line.

“I’m just going to throw him in there, he’s earned that right,” Rivers said. “The challenge will be just how ready he is. I don’t know if I have ever had a guy that hasn’t played in eight games or whatever and hasn’t had any practice and we’re just going to throw him out on the floor in a playoff game. We’re hoping that at this point.”

Harrell came off the bench to average 18.6 points and 7.1 rebounds a game for the Clippers this season. Harrell was often part of the Clippers closing lineup this season because of his improved defense, but he always brought relentless energy off the bench that lifted the Clippers nightly. The Harrell/Lou Williams pick-and-roll remains one of the smoothest and most dangerous in the league.

Harrell also gives Doc Rivers a lot of versatility and options on how to close games — the Clippers can go big, go small, and do either well. They will need that against a Dallas team that rolls out a front line of Kristaps Porzingis, Maxi Kleber, and former Clipper Boban Marjanovic.

Not having Harrell for eight games in the bubble added to that versatility, Rivers said.

“We got to play JaMychal [Green] at the five far more than we ever thought we would. We needed to work on that because he’s such a floor spacer,” Rivers said. “We got way more work on that than we thought, but we actually liked it.”

Expect to see more of that — and some Harrell — against Dallas starting Monday.

Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin denies ex-wife’s abuse accusations

Raptors assistant coach Adrian Griffin
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Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin – filling in for Nick Nurse – served as Toronto’s acting head coach for a win over the 76ers on Wednesday. “For one night, I felt like Cinderella,” Griffin said afterward.

Griffin’s moment in the spotlight drew attention to abuse claims his ex-wife, Audrey Griffin, had been making online for months.

Audrey Griffin:

Raptors release:

The Toronto Raptors and lead assistant coach Adrian Griffin have issued a joint statement addressing accusations of domestic abuse shared in social media posts by Griffin’s ex-wife on Thursday, Aug. 14.

Statement from Adrian Griffin:

“This morning, accusations were made against me on social media by my former wife that I vehemently deny. We are involved in a longstanding legal dispute over alimony and child support arrangements. I am disappointed to have to address false accusations in this way, and I apologize for any distraction this has potentially caused for our team at this important time.”

Statement from the Toronto Raptors:

“When we saw these allegations this morning, we were dismayed – Adrian is a valuable member of our team. Our leadership immediately spoke with him, and he flatly denied the allegations in the posts. We will support the process as he and his former partner settle these matters.”

Griffin was also reportedly a candidate for the Bulls head-coaching job, which opened today.

Hopefully, the truth will emerge and justice will be served.