Tuesday and-1 links: What would a 1968 Dream Team look like?

8 Comments

Here is our regular look around the NBA — links to stories worth reading and notes to check out (stuff that did not get its own post here at PBT) — done in bullet point form. Because bloggers love bullet points like Brazilians love soccer. (Well, not that much.)

• As you can see with the photo to the right, US swimmer Ryan Lochte was hanging out with Ludacris at the USA/Argentina basketball game (via Deadspin). No, this was not photoshopped. Things like this happen. Just not to you and me.

• Forget the weary Dream Team vs. 2012 team debate. Jack McCallum (the Sports Illustrated writer who just finished a book on the Dream Team) and Dan Venedam of Blackboard Analytics asked an interesting question: What if you could pick a dream team from the NBA/College in 1968? And how would that stack up against the Dream Team?

Who would be on a 1968 team: They could have had Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell at center (yes, both on the team), Jerry Lucas, Willis Reed, Oscar Robertson, Elvin Hayes, Elgin Baylor, John Havlicek and maybe Rick Berry. That would be a heck of a team. I’d probably still take the Dream Team in a game, but it’d be a contest with those centers, plus people forget how special Baylor was.

• Kobe Bryant will not play in the 2016 Olympics in Rio, he told Marc Stein of ESPN. His knees just breathed a sigh of relief.

A great look at the top 10 players through group play of the Olympics.

Jalen Rose doesn’t like that the fact the American women’s gymnastic’s team has been nicknamed the “Fab Five.” First, chill Jalen. It’s not a big deal. Second, for the record the girls wanted to be known as the “fierce five” or something else, they didn’t ask for “fab five.”

• Another report that Derrick Rose’s knee recovery is going well. Which means another plea from me not to rush it. Get it right before you go back.

• There are rumors out there that Dirk Nowitzki has gotten married.

• The NBA joined every other major professional sports league in America, as well as the NCAA, in a federal court complaint filed against New Jersey state officials seeking to stop the state from implementing sports betting on pro and college games. The state had table/slot gaming in Atlantic City but added sports betting to generate more tax revenue during these desperate economic times for states. The leagues say the move violates federal law.

• Here is a little lesson in sports story spin: First came a whisper that there was not much of a free agent market for Andray Blatche. A day later comes a story on ESPNNewYork with “sources” saying that a few teams had interest including the Heat. I will tell you now that source was Blatche’s agent, someone close to the agent, or someone close to Blatche — they want a positive spin out in the media. Agents can be valuable sources, and can give you accurate information, but they want to spin things in a positive light for their clients. Now comes more news from the Washington Post that the Blatche market is tepid. That’s probably coming from league executives. Just think through what you read right now as we enter the silly season and ask yourself who benefits from any leaked info.

• Could Derrick Favors start and Paul Millsap come off the bench in Utah next season?

• Free agent Donte Greene said he’s talking with the Bulls, Knicks and Pacers. The Kings could have kept him with a qualifying offer but chose not to, so if you’re a fan of wherever he lands realize what you are getting.

Here is a Q&A with Dr. J — Julius Erving, to you — as he teams up with Converse as an endorser. Seems a good fit.

• Speaking of interesting Q&As, here is one with Kerry Kittles.

PBT favorite Jae Crowder is not guaranteed a roster spot with the Mavericks. But they would be foolish to let him go, let the man have a shot.

• Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak sounds pretty “meh” about keeping second-round picks Darius Johnson-Odom or Robert Sacre on the roster. Neither has guaranteed roster spots. Neither blew you away in Summer League, either.

• Older Clippers fans have been burned before. They are a little more hesitant to get pumped up for this season.

• Joel Meyers and David Wesley will be your New Orleans television broadcast team next year.

Bucks bring in Christian Wood for training camp, give him chance to make roster

Getty Images
2 Comments

For three seasons now, Christian Wood has bounced between the NBA and G-League (he played for the Sixers, who cut him to bring in Elton Brand, and Charlotte). He has been trying to improve and show he has NBA skills — a 6’11” forward who has a face-up game, an improving outside shot, and his defense seems to be coming together. He’s still just 22 years old.

The best he looked was playing for the Bucks at Summer League in Las Vegas this year, where he averaged 20.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.8 blocks a game, shot 55.4 percent, and made the All Summer League First Team.

That got him a training camp invite to Milwaukee this fall.

The Bucks have a final roster spot open, and they have now signed Woods and Shabazz Muhammad for camp, giving them a chance to compete for it and impress new coach Mike Budenholzer. (Tyler Zeller also is on a non-guaranteed and could get that spot.)

Budenholzer likes bigs who can shoot and space the floor, and Woods shot 30.4 percent from three in Las Vegas — not earth shattering, but he’s a more willing shooter from the outside than Muhammad. It’s going to be an interesting battle to watch in Bucks training camp. In Las Vegas, Woods looked like an NBA player, but Vegas can be a desert mirage, he needs to carry that play over to training camp to get a roster spot.

Kyle Kuzma on LeBron James’ Lakers: “a lot of people are underestimating us”

Getty Images
2 Comments

Just how good are the LeBron James led Los Angles Lakers?

Las Vegas’ Westgate Sports Book put their under/over win total at 48.5. I’ve seen predictions that range from the three seed to talk of them missing the playoffs. Nobody really knows because, while LeBron’s greatness isn’t in question, there are plenty of questions about the fit around him: Lance Stephenson? Can Lonzo Ball play well off the ball more considering his shot? Where does Rajon Rondo fit in the PG rotation? What kind of step forward will Brandon Ingram take? Michael Beasley? Is JaVale McGee ready for a larger role? Will the Lakers go small at times with LeBron at the five? (I think that could be their best lineup, if used right.)

Kyle Kuzma thinks you’re selling the Lakers’ short.

Back in his hometown of Flint, Michigan, this week for a YMCA promotion, Kuzma told Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN he has worked out with LeBron and they like this roster.

“We are both definitely excited about the roster and the pieces that we have,” Kuzma told ESPN on Tuesday, after visiting with 20 kids from the Safe Places program at his hometown Flint YMCA as part of the “My Y Story” content series. “And we think that a lot of people are underestimating us. It is definitely going to be fun playing with all these new guys.”

“A lot of people say we got a lot of different people, a lot of new people,” added Kuzma, who also is holding a three-day camp for children in his hometown. “But change can be a good thing. It is not necessarily always a bad thing. There’s a lot of teams in the NBA that need to work on their chemistry; we are just one of them…

“I don’t know why people kind of just rule us out because we are young,” said Kuzma, who was a first-team All-Rookie performer after averaging 16.1 points and 6.3 rebounds last season. “We are hungry. We are competitive. Anybody that watched us play last year, we were in a lot of games.”

The big change the Lakers made this season is good — LeBron makes the Lakers a threat. Kuzma is right on that front.

However, the question has never been “will the Lakers be good?” They have LeBron and some quality talent around him, of course they will be. The questions are more along the lines of “how fast can they come together?” and “where do they slot in the West, where there are a lot of good teams?” Assuming Golden State and Houston finish as the top two seeds in some order, where do the Lakers rank against Oklahoma City, Utah, Portland, New Orleans, Minnesota, Denver, and San Antonio? And that’s without getting into teams such as Memphis or the Los Angeles Clippers who have potential if they can stay healthy. That’s 12 teams I just mentioned battling for eight playoffs slots, 12 teams capable of winning at least 45 games if not more. The margin for error in the West is minuscule.

But are we underestimating the Lakers? Depends on what the standard is. These Lakers are not contenders yet. But do you really think a LeBron James team is going to miss the playoffs?

Change of plans, NBA clears Jordan Clarkson to play in Asian Games

Associated Press
1 Comment

The Philippines national basketball team just got a lot better.

Jordan Clarkson wanted to play for the Philippines in the upcoming Asian Games (his mother is a native of that country, so he is allowed), but the NBA did not clear him to do so saying this tournament was not part of the agreement between FIBA and the NBA that allows the league’s players to take part in major international events (the Olympics, the basketball World Cup, etc.).

However, there has been a change of heart and Clarkson has been granted a special waiver.

The Cavaliers’ guard will miss his country’s first game against Kazakhstan today but will play in the rest of the tournament. As noted in the release, two Chinese players with NBA ties — Houston’s Zhou Qi and Dallas’ Ding Yanhuyang — also were cleared for this tournament.

There is a “club vs. country” tug of war in soccer and other international sports, including basketball. While players want to represent their countries — for both patriotic reasons and the fact the major international events such as the Olympics can help boost a players’ brand — teams see injury risk, coaches not necessarily looking out for the long-term health of the player, and something that can pull them out of off-season training and work on parts of their game. This time, the countries won, but don’t bet on the NBA expanding its list of FIBA events it will clear its players for.

Geeking out on NBA prospects: R.J. Barrett almost dunks from free throw line, Zion Williamson does

Getty Images
4 Comments

Duke is stacked this coming season. STACKED. They should have three lottery picks in next year’s draft. (Does that mean they are the team to beat in the NCAA? That’s not the way basketball works. But that’s another discussion.)

Duke is in Toronto for a series of preseason exhibition games, and at the end of the workout likely No. 1 pick next June, R.J. Barrett tried to show off by almost dunking from the free throw line.

Then freak of nature Zion Williamson showed him how it’s done.

That’s worth more looks.

Damn Zion is a freak of nature. Can we just put him in the next dunk contest now?