Nerlens Noel meets with Wizards and talks draft, hair style

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WASHINGTON — When it comes to Nerlens Noel, the simplest pre-NBA draft storylines involve the following: the distinctive hair, his injured knee and – based on planned team meetings – whether the University of Kentucky center will be selected one, two or three.

Noel’s high-fade flattop, inspired by Will Smith’s iconic 1990’s look, won’t influence any kind of draft stock rise or fall. Actually, the 7-foot shot blocker who ran the court with a guard’s grace before suffering a torn left ACL in February has remained the presumptive front-runner for the first pick even after suffering a torn left ACL in February.

Of course, as anybody that has followed this year’s draft knows, there is little certain about the high-end prospects or how the top selections will unfold on June 27.

Those advising Noel apparently have the sense that the player who led Division I with 4.4 blocks per game won’t have a long wait in the green room. Only the teams owning the first three picks, the Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic and Washington Wizards, have or will meet with Noel before the draft. Though still unable to work out, Noel spent Friday and Saturday in the Nation’s Capital being acquainted with Wizards team officials.

“It’s a possibility,” Noel said of landing in Washington before accurately describing the current overall draft board. “Anything can happen.”

Noel, 19, previously visited with the Magic and he has meeting scheduled for June 20 in Cleveland. The teams obviously want a closer look at his knee, which he favored slightly walking the halls of the Verizon Center.

“I’m feeling great. It’s really coming along,” said Noel, who sported a blue Wizards t-shirt when speaking with a contingent of media members outside the team’s locker room on Saturday morning.

How great any of the top three teams, including the playoff-pushing Wizards, would feel about drafting a player unlikely to contribute much as a rookie is a question. Noel said current medical projections have him sidelined until possibly December.

That timeframe also gives the Boston native opportunity to pack on the pounds, a sincere goal especially after weighing a mere 206 pounds at last month’s combine. Noel, who claims a playing weight of 215 at Kentucky, said he’s now 218 and plans on being in the 225-230 range whenever he makes his debut.

The Wizards, owners of not only the third pick but expectations for a playoff appearance next season after a five-year drought, also met with Anthony Bennett from UNLV and Georgetown’s Otto Porter Jr. this week. They won’t be the last of the possible top-3 selections.

Noel would initially serve as a rim-protecting apprentice to Emeka Okafor, who is entering the final year of his contract, while providing the franchise another building block with the rising backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal.

With limited free agent salary cap available and a roster that tied for last in scoring this past season, the Wizards ideally add more offense through the draft. That’s not Noel’s strength; he shot only 53 percent from the free throw line at Kentucky with most of his offense coming on dunks and offensive rebounds. However, his board work and underrated passing skills can help with the point producing.

Scoring challenged or not, the Wizards might not be able to pass on Noel, assuming he’s available. That’s because his defensive future appears significant, assuming he checks out physically.

As for the flattop, it’s not about to exit as Noel enters the league.

“It’s special to me,” Noel said. “Growing up, I watched Fresh Prince of Bel Air every night before I went to bed, so I’m gonna keep it.”

At least that much is certain.

Stephen Curry explains trash talk with LeBron James at end of 2018 Finals Game 1

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LeBron James had been a dominant force in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, but he was a frustrated man at the end after the legendary J.R. Smith blunder at the end of regulation, and the fact the Cavaliers still had a timeout at that point. Rarely does an NBA Finals feel over after one game, but LeBron had been brilliant and pushed that Cavaliers team as far as he could, and they still lost in overtime. It was crushing.

LeBron showed his frustration at the end of OT (the video is above). With the Warriors up double digits and just :30 seconds left in the extra period, Stephen Curry went in for a layup at the end of the shot clock and LeBron slid over and skied blocked it. Then the trash talk ensued — between Curry and LeBron, then with Klay Thompson stepping in and jawing at LeBron.

What went down? Curry talked about it on The Bill Simmons Podcast (as transcribed by Drew Shiller of NBC Sports Bay Area).

“It was an interesting moment …I was hot because I was trying to finish out a possession, I think it was less than a minute left, I didn’t see him coming over from the weak side so I tried to do a little soft scoop layup and he pinned it. Then he stared me down and he said something to me.

“And I was like, ‘That’s what we’re really on right now? We’re about to win and you’re worried about mean-blocking my shot and talking trash?’ And then the whole Tristan (Thompson) and Draymond (Green) thing happened and I went back up to him and I was like, ‘Yo, what’s up? Is this really what we’re about right now?’

“And he was like, ‘I gotta do that to make sure my teammates know I’m a mentor’ and it’s a part of his leadership and that type of deal. And I was like, ‘I don’t want to be the sacrificial lamb for your leadership.’ (laughter). Come on man, that’s messed up.”

There was nothing wrong with what LeBron did — the clock was running, the game was still on, and he made a play. Doesn’t matter if the game was decided, Curry decided to take a shot and LeBron stopped it. And LeBron was frustrated, so he talked a little.

Now, LeBron’s in the West with the Lakers. Last season Steve Kerr talked more than once about the challenge of keeping the Warriors focused, motivated, and building good habits during the grind of the regular season. You think LeBron in the Warriors’ division might help with that a little this season?

Dwyane Wade warns Jimmy Butler to stop commenting like that on photo of his wife, Gabrielle Union

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
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Jimmy Butler stays having no chill.

Not when his teammates don’t match his level of competitiveness. Not when his coach eases up. Not when a fan gets too demanding.

And not when Gabrielle Union posts this photo to Instagram:

💧

A post shared by Gabrielle Union-Wade (@gabunion) on

Butler commented:

Then Butler posted an unrelated video to his Instagram captioned “The good, the bad, and the ugly,” on which Wade replied:

Wade and Butler – who both played at Marquette then were teammates with the Bulls – are friends.

At least, they were.

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer: ‘We’re moving to Inglewood come hell or high water’

AP Photo/David J. Phillip
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The Lakers and Clippers share an arena in Los Angeles, which – as everyone understands it – means the Clippers play in the Lakers’ arena.

That doesn’t sit well with Clippers owner Steve Ballmer. So, he wants to get a new arena built just for the Clippers in Inglewood.

And cost, legal red tape and lawsuits aren’t going to stop him.

Helene Elliot of The Los Angeles Times:

“We’re moving to Inglewood come hell or high water,” he said of a proposed arena near the site of the stadium being constructed for the Rams and Chargers. “We gotta have a house. So we’re working on a plan to get our own house. We want to get our own house. It turns out the way this works in L.A., which is much beloved to me, that if you start now you might be done in six years.”

Ballmer is probably used to getting what he wants. I doubt he backs down here. It should be noted some of the legal and public relations push back on the plans comes from funding via the Madison Square Garden group (owned by Knicks’ owner James Dolan), which five years ago sank $100 million into the Lakers’ old home the Forum to refurbish it into a major concert venue. The new Clippers building would be just a couple blocks away from the Forum.

This also at least partially explains why the Clippers insist on remaining competitive. Local politicians are less likely to greenlight a new arena for a tanking team.

Juan Carlos Navarro retires

AP Photo/Seth Wenig
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It took Juan Carlos Navarro a long time to try the NBA.

It didn’t take him nearly as long to determine the league wasn’t for him.

The No. 40 pick in the 2002 draft, he finally signed with the Grizzlies in 2007. But after only one season as a backup guard in Memphis, he returned to Europe.

Now, his standout career in Spain is ending.

Barcelona release:

The club hereby announces that Juan Carlos Navarro shall be forming part of its basketball structure from the 2018/19 season, as established in the contract signed in September 2017, now that he has retired from active sporting duty.

Most NBA fans will never realize how talented Navarro was. He was a good score-first point guard at a time many teams still wanted a more-traditional point guard. Unhappy on a losing team in a foreign country, he didn’t try to find a workable solution.

Instead, he starred in Spain, out of sight of American fans – except international competitions, where he reminded everyone how good he was.

We should appreciate Navarro’s impressive career. We can also wonder about the “what if?” surrounding him and the NBA.