Notes from Sunday’s NBA preseason games

5 Comments

It doesn’t matter who won or lost, so while the scores are listed below just consider those just a little headline so you know who we are talking about. What we want to know in preseason is who stood out — like Eric Bledsoe and Ty Lawson did in the Clippers/Nuggets game Saturday in Las Vegas. That was a good show. Here are some notes.

Boston 105, Milan 72: My first thought after watching both Celtics game so far this preseason — if Fenerbahce Ulker plays Milan in EuroLeague this season, bet heavily on the Turkish side. As for things about Boston, Jared Sullinger has looked good so far He gets boards and has a knack for making plays around the basket. Also, Rajon Rondo is shooting well. Don’t want to read too much into that from a couple preseason games but it’s something to watch. If he found a stroke the Celtics just got better.

Warriors 110, Lakers 83: The Lakers starters — plus Robert Sacre — looked good in the first 24, but in the second half Mike Brown rolled out the end of the Lakers bench and they scored just 17 points. Total. In 24 minutes. They had a 9-minute scoring drought starting in the third quarter extending to the fourth. The Lakers bench shot 33 percent overall. Which is only a concern because the Lakers starting 5 are not spring chickens. For Los Angeles, Steve Nash looked good (he always does) and so did a more slender and more active Metta World Peace.

For Golden State, Harrison Barnes was aggressive and when he is points and plays follow. Klay Thompson looked good to and was putting the ball on the floor with confidence. Andrew Bogut and Stephen Curry did not play for Golden State.

Hawks 92, Heat 79: Chris Bosh with 22 points on 14 shots (with a hot streak to start the second half). Ray Allen debuted in a Heat uniform and had 10 points, but was just 0-1 from three. Kyle Korver and DeShawn Stevenson started for the Hawks. The one note, Hawks coach Larry Drew used Lou Williams a lot at the point (when Jeff Teague) was out and it looks like that may be a trend.

Bobcats 100, Wizards 88: For Washington, A.J. Price struggled as the starter with John Wall out. Which is bad news only because he is their best point guard left on the roster by a mile. The good new Bradley Beal looked strong dropping 18 points.

As for the Bobcats, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist looked good in his debut.

Hornets 85, Magic 80: Not a pretty game, with both teams shooting just 37 percent on the night. For Hornets fans, Austin Rivers looked every part the rookie with 10 points (on 2-of-6 shooting) and one assist.

Bright spot out of Mexico, Magic fans, is that Gustavo Ayon played well and finished with 12 points (on 5-of-8 shooting), six boards and three assists in 26 minutes.

Suns’ GM says there is “overwhelming likelihood” team keeps No. 1 pick

Getty Images
Leave a comment

It takes a rare kind of courage, an extraordinary level of organizational backing, and a special kind of draft to do what Danny Ainge did a year ago trading the No. 1 pick. While a consensus had formed around Markelle Fultz as the best player in the draft, Ainge was a Jayson Tatum guy. Doubts about the top pick are common, but that alone is far from enough to trade that pick away — most GMs don’t have the job security to know if they miss on moving the pick and sliding down they will not be let go. Ainge had that, and he had his confidence in his scouting, so he made the move to trade the No. 1 pick to Philadelphia. (While it looks good now for Ainge, it’s too early to judge how that pick plays out — Fultz has barely played, we don’t know what extra pick the Celtics will get out of this, it takes time to fully judge these kinds of moves.)

This year is different. DeAndre Ayton is more of a clear No. 1, a guy with franchise changing potential. Plus Suns’ GM Ryan McDonough may not be standing on the kind of bedrock that allows for the trade of a No. 1 pick.

Recently McDonough said he’d listen to trade offers for the pick. That’s very different from trading it, as Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic had the GM saying Friday.

Because they should do their due diligence, the Suns will look at Luka Doncic (who does have a relationship with new coach Igor Kokoskov) and Marvin Bagley III, among others. Rumors may leak, spun by agents or other teams. However, at the end of the day, good luck finding anyone around the league who thinks Phoenix will not take Ayton — who attended college in Arizona — to be the inside to Devin Booker‘s outside. It’s the smart play.

Kokoskov and the Suns have a lot of work to do to build a foundation for success with this franchise. However, that almost never starts by trading away the top pick in the draft.

Rumor: Paul George’s agent telling people client will re-sign with Thunder

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
3 Comments

That rumor Paul George will leave the Thunder?

How about the exact opposite?

Dean Blevins of News 9:

Allegedly, apparently, Paul George plans to stay with the Thunder. I know. It’s not what people believe. But in separate conversations, I’m told P.G.’s agent has told people associated with the NBA that P.G. believes the injury loss of Andre Roberson was huge and he’s staying. Disclaimer, though: Believing everything that agents allegedly say can be dangerous to your health.

This, by Blevins’ own admission, isn’t the staunchest reporting. Nonetheless, I appreciate him sharing and contextualizing it. We can evaluate it for what it’s worth.

George is known to share his plans – though the previous example was him planning to sign with the Lakers. And he might have really believed it at the time, when he was still with the Pacers.

But throughout the season, George seemingly went out of his way to profess his affection for Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and the Thunder. That only raised expectations in Oklahoma City of George staying, and if he leaves after doing that, he’d be inviting even more backlash. I think he’s smart enough to understand that, which is why I thought he made those especially strong pro-Thunder comments only after deciding he’d likely stay.

On the other hand, even if my assessment was correct, conditions change. The Jazz brutally exposed Oklahoma City’s flaws, and if George re-signs and Anthony opts in, the Thunder will have minimal cap flexibility to upgrade the roster. In fact, they might take a step back with the supporting cast to keep the luxury-tax bill manageable. George could see free agency as his chance to escape that mess.

Roberson was a huge loss, and if George is focused on that, that would bode well for Oklahoma City. Though Roberson was just a role player, he was pivotal to the Thunder’s defense. And his teammates had learned how to play around his offensive shortcomings. Oklahoma City didn’t have any good replacements for him on the roster. Roberson getting healthy is the clearest way for the Thunder to improve next season.

Of course, that’s predicated on George returning, too. Will he?

One last note of caution: People often believe what they want to hear. It’s easy to see someone in Oklahoma City hearing George bemoan the loss of Roberson and elevate that to George planning to re-sign, even George wasn’t going that far.

Draymond Green guarantees Warriors will beat Rockets in Western Conference finals

AP Photo/David J. Phillip
6 Comments

Warriors coach Steve Kerr is confident despite his team trailing the Rockets 3-2 in the Western Conference finals.

Golden State forward Draymond Green goes further.

Green, via Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic:

“We still winning this,” Draymond Green said. “Book it.”

Of course, Green is confident. He’d never say he expects his team to lose.

But he didn’t need to frame it this way. He could’ve said he was just focused on the next game rather than make such a bold proclamation.

He’s taking pressure upon himself and putting his reputation on the line. If Golden State loses, especially in Game 6 at home with Chris Paul out, Green will be widely mocked.

If he and the Warriors pull through, he’ll probably deserve praise for setting a tone that helped them advance.

Danny Green: Kawhi Leonard told me he wants to stay with Spurs

AP Photo/Eric Gay
3 Comments

The Spurs are reportedly worried Kawhi Leonard‘s camp wants to get him to the Lakers, Clippers, Knicks or 76ers.

Leonard hasn’t said much himself – except apparently to San Antonio teammate Danny Green

Get Up on ESPN:

Green:

I talk to him here and there, check up on him, see how he’s doing.

I think he wants to be in San Antonio. He’s let me know that. He’s let me know verbally he wanted to be there. So, we’ll see what happens.

Green has tried playing peacemaker throughout this saga – going as far as denying tension that clearly exists. He’s not the most reliable source.

And even if Leonard explicitly told Green he wants to remain in San Antonio, I’m not sure Leonard is confrontational enough to tell Green he wanted out, even if he did.

Those caveats acknowledged, this could be a huge revelation.

If Leonard wants to stay with the Spurs, the next step is meeting with them, mending their relationship and convincing them he deserves a super-max extension (which projects to be worth $219 million over five years). No matter how Leonard feels about San Antonio right now, if the Spurs don’t trust investing so much in him, that could lead to a fractured relationship and his exit.

So, there’s still a lot to sort out. But Green saying this means something.