Wizards draft Georgetown’s Porter. At least we got that right

5 Comments

WASHINGTON D.C. — In the most unpredictable of NBA Drafts, the Washington Wizards went with a player everyone assumed they were taking all along.

The long-rumored marriage between the John Wall-Bradley Beal fueled Wizards and Georgetown small forward Otto Porter Jr. became official when NBA commissioner David Stern announced the third overall pick. Seemingly every other move before and after on Thursday night elicited wows and whuh huhs, including Cleveland ruining mock drafts by tabbing UNLV’s Anthony Bennett with the first selection..

After Orlando took Indiana guard Victor Oladipo, the Wizards could finally exhale.

“I was worried,” coach Randy Wittman said. “I told the kid when he came here [to workout], ‘Don’t go visit anyplace else.’ You never know. You feel somebody’s going to grab him, and it could have happened. I don’t think anybody really had a great idea the order that it went, with Bennett and Oladipo going 1 and 2.”

Porter at 3 was another story. With the Wizards looking to reach the postseason for the first time since 2008 and find a 3-man for the long haul, selecting the unanimous Big East Player of the Year had a feel of formality for weeks.

“We had our board in order, and when it was our time to pick, he was the highest rated guy on our board,” Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld said. “We’re pleased to have him.”

Porter, who played his college home games on the Wizards’ court, certainly sounds satisfied with the outcome.

“We’re going to do damage next year,” said the 6-foot-8 forward, who left Georgetown after his sophomore season. “I already know what they bring to the table. All I do is plug myself in there, and it’s going to be fun.”

Last season Porter led the Hoyas in scoring (16.2), rebounds (7.5), steals (1.8) and 3-point shooting (42.2). Where the “safe” prospect with strong basketball instincts should help immediately is stopping others from producing points.

“He has the total package,” Grunfeld said. “He has good work ethic. He’s a team player. He can do multiple things out on the floor. He can guard several positions, and he’s a young player who we think could be with us for many, many years to come. And he fits in well with what we’re trying to do as far as Bradley and John are concerned.”

Beal and Wall, Washington’s starting backcourt and the keys to the franchise’s rebuilding plan, helped fuel the team’s 25-25 record over the final 50 games after a 4-28 start.

“I think we have three important positions filled,” Grunfeld said. “Otto has great size for his position at small forward, but he can play some power forward if he has to. If you want to go small, he can guard 2 guards, so he provides a lot of versatility. Otto is 20 years old. Bradley’s going to be 20 (Friday) as a matter of fact, and John is 22. So we have three very solid players we can build with moving forward.”

Porter’s ability to shine without having plays called for him will enhance the guard’s development.

What his presence does to Washington’s frontcourt is more complicated.

Trevor Ariza opted into his contract for the upcoming year, meaning the defensive half of last season’s small forward combo returns. Martell Webster, who averaged a career-high 11.8 points last season, is a free agent. Though Grunfeld said the addition of Porter has no impact on Webster, the depth chart appears to say otherwise.

Per a source, Washington also acquired Glen Rice Jr. in the second round. The Wizards shipped picks 38 and 54 to the 76ers, who selected the former Georgia Tech and D-League swingman with the 35th overall pick. Trevor Booker, Chris Singleton and Jan Vesely also spent time at small forward last season.

The roster fallout, that’s a discussion for later. For now, it’s all about positives.

“From where we’re at and where we think we can be going into next year, it’s a great piece to add to this team,” Wittman said.

Speaking of positives, not having to pack classifies as such.

“Not moving anywhere, and I’m already used to a city, it definitely helps me transition to the NBA,” he said. “Just being comfortable with the city already, it’s just a true blessing.”

After impressive playoff run, Jerami Grant expected to opt for free agency

Jerami Grant
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jerami Grant has a $9.3 million decision to make: opt-in and take that cash in hand, or become a free agent and try to get more on the open market.

After an impressive playoff run where he averaged 11.6 points a game and played strong wing defense for the Nuggets  — guarding Kawhi Leonard and then LeBron James — Grant is expected to choose the open market, reports Mike Singer of the Denver Post.

A league source suggested Grant could command anywhere from $14 million to $16 million annually over several years.

That sounds about right, above-average starter money, in the three years, $50 million range. He’s a quality perimeter defender who shot 39% from three the past two seasons, players like that are in demand around the league.

Denver has some roster decisions to make next season. They have $91.5 million in salary locked up in Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, and Will Barton alone. Assuming the team keeps Monte Morris ($1.7 million non-guaranteed, and they should extend him), the Nuggets will have about $30 million in cap space to play with, but they need to re-sign or replace Paul Millsap, Mason Plumlee, Torrey Craig, and now Grant.

That’s not going to be easy but Denver wants to keep its core together, including Grant.

“I think we have something special brewing,” Nuggets coach Mike Malone said after his team was eliminated from the playoffs. “And I think most importantly, I think people around this country, around the world, who were watching the playoffs, this group of guys, you would be hard pressed to find a better story coming out of this bubble. A bunch of young kids faced elimination, looked it in the face and just kept on surviving and advancing.”

Denver is counting on some internal improvement from their young core, Michael Porter Jr. in particular could make a leap to become the third offensive option for the team (even if he keeps coming off the bench). Beyond that, GM Tim Conley has some decisions to make.

Bringing back Grant shouldn’t be a hard one.

Returning to Finals, LeBron James talked about motivation from doubters

Leave a comment

LeBron James is headed back to the NBA Finals for the 10th time.

The Los Angeles Lakers are headed back to the NBA Finals for the first time in 10 years, the longest the iconic franchise has ever been off of the league’s biggest stage.

When last season ended all of that seemed a long shot.

The Lakers had just missed the playoffs for the sixth straight season (the longest drought in franchise history), LeBron had missed 17 games with a groin injury leading to questions about his durability as he was about to turn 35, and the fit between LeBron and a young core of Lakers players seemed off.

What LeBron heard through all of that was doubters, and that fueled him.

“This is what I came [to the Lakers] for,” LeBron said after the Lakers’ eliminated the Nuggets in a game he took over late. “I heard all the conversations and everything that was said about why did I decide to come to L.A. — the reason I came to L.A., it was not about basketball. All those conversations, just naysayers and things of that nature. I understood that, with the season I had last year and my injury, it just gave them more sticks and more wood to throw in the fire to continue to say the things that they would say about me.

“But it never stopped my journey and never stopped my mindset and never stopped my goal.”

All season long LeBron has said he was fueled by doubters, even when they weren’t really there. He said he was motivated by the people calling him washed even if nobody outside of Twitter trolls did that. Creating strawmen motivations is something Kobe Bryant did for years with the Lakers, LeBron continues on that tradition — and the tragic passing of Kobe was another motivation for LeBron as well.

It took a lot more than LeBron James’ willpower to get the Lakers back to the Finals. The Laker roster underwent an overhaul, with most of the young players going to New Orleans in exchange for Anthony Davis. Then those roster spots were filled in by veterans that other teams were slow to snap up — Rajon Rondo, Dwight Howard, JaVale McGee — and appeared to give the Lakers unpredictable chemistry.

Then there was the coaching change, with Luke Walton out and Frank Vogel — with a veteran staff of assistants led by Jason Kidd — in.

“He’s been great,” LeBron said of Vogel. “He’s been unbelievable. I mean, we’ve faced, it’s been a crazy obstacle course for our franchise this whole year. I’m not going to sit here and give all the details, but you guys, everyone can go back and just see from the start of the season all the way up until now what we’ve gone through as a team. He’s been able to manage it the whole time. Bringing in guys, losing guys. He’s just always been the anchor, and our coaching staff has been right behind him. I can’t say anything more than that.”

LeBron brought it all in line and kept everyone focused on the goal.

That goal was not just to reach the NBA Finals but to win it. LeBron hasn’t lost sight of that. Now his body gets a few days off before that final journey starts.

And he has time to find a few more doubters to motivate him.

 

Minnesota’s Malik Beasley arrested, to be charged with receiving stolen property

Malik Beasley arrested
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Malik Beasley — the Minnesota Timberwolves guard heading into free agency this offseason — has been arrested at his home in Minnesota and taken into custody, facing a couple of charges: receiving and concealing stolen property, and marijuana possession.

Shams Charania and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic broke the story.

Police arrived at Beasley’s home in Plymouth, Minnesota, on Saturday night and took the 23-year-old into custody. Beasley was being held without bail at Hennepin County Jail until he sees a judge, which could be another 24 hours, sources said…

Steve Haney, Beasley’s attorney released the following statement to The Athletic: “At the time of the incident, multiple individuals were present at the residence. The allegations against Malik will be defended vigorously.”

Beasley has been released from jail and the charges will not become official until he goes before a judge this week, reports Charania.

“We’re aware of the situation with Malik and are gathering more information,” Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders said Sunday morning.

He added that Beasley — a restricted free agent this offseason — had worked out at the team facilities in previous weeks but had not been with the franchise this week as they moved into 5-on-5 play and scrimmages. The Timberwolves are in the middle of their off-season, voluntary training camp.

Beasley played the best basketball of his career in the 14 games after being traded to Minnesota (before the coronavirus shut down the league). He was the floor-spacing wing the Timberwolves desperately needed with D'Angelo Russell at the point and Karl-Anthony Towns at center. Beasley averaged 20.7 points a game, and he brought a needed feistiness to the lineup.

Beasley is in line for a big payday as a restricted free agent (he turned down a three-year, $30 million extension offer from Denver before the season and that looked like a smart move). Timberwolves GM Gersson Rosas said he wanted to bring Beasley back next season and he has the right to match any offer.

If or how Beasley’s arrest changes his free agency and the demand for his skills remains to be seen.

Boston focused on Miami three-point shooters heading into Game 6

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — There have been two undeniable truths about the Miami Heat this season.

They must make 3’s to win.

They aren’t invincible with sizable leads.

The Boston Celtics have scouting and analytics teams that undoubtedly know these trends. But, really, so would anyone who simply can read a boxscore.

Take away Miami’s 3’s, and the Heat are easier to beat. The Celtics proved that again in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals when they extended their season with a victory — and will aim to take the same tact Sunday night when they meet the Heat again in another must-win for Boston.

“They’re going to hit some shots, they’re going to make some plays,” Celtics forward Jayson Tatum said. “They’ve got some good players. We’re just trying to make it as tough as we could.”

The Heat have played 87 games this season and shot below 20% from 3-point range in just three of them — one of them being Friday night, when the Celtics prevailed 121-108 to cut Miami’s lead in the series to 3-2.

Miami was 7 for 36 from deep, just 19%.

For whatever reason, 31.1% is the magic number for Heat 3-pointers this season. When the Heat shoot 31.1% or worse from beyond the arc, they’re 2-17 (.105). When they shoot better than that, they’re 53-15 (.779).

“Regardless of whether it’s going in or not, that can’t affect your commitment on the other side of the floor,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “And it felt like it did.”

The Celtics confined most of their Saturday plans to a film session; the Heat were doing the same along with some optional workouts. Heat center Bam Adebayo, who blamed himself for the Game 5 loss despite teammates saying otherwise, said he would spend some of Saturday on the floor looking for answers.

“This team has good resolve,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Saturday. “I thought we showed that last night. We’ll have to continue to show the ability to be able to handle good and bad throughout a game.”

Even though the disappointment was clear Friday night, the Heat still understand where they are: a No. 5 seed, one that didn’t even make the playoffs last season, one win from the NBA Finals. Miami needed two tries before ousting Milwaukee in the second round, saying then it learned at what level a team needs to be to win a closeout game.

The Celtics provided them another reminder of that Friday night, when they outscored Miami 70-50 after halftime and erased a 12-point second-quarter deficit.

“As you go on, the wins get harder and harder,” Heat guard Duncan Robinson said. “And doing what we want to do and advancing from this round is going to be the hardest thing we’ve done all season and our in our athletic careers for many of us. Fortunately, we have coaches and guys that have been there and know what it takes.

“But this is certainly a reminder — to think that we were just going to have a good first half and just kind of coast to a victory in this stage of the playoffs, we’re misguided for thinking that.”

Miami is 55-32 this season, and 18 of those losses have come in games where the Heat held a double-digit lead. Boston has beaten Miami four times this season, rallying from at least 11 points down in three of those games — including a pair of 12-point comebacks in this series.

Miami has lost games this year where it led by 10 points once, 11 (four times), 12 (five times), 13 (once), 14 (twice), 15 (once), 20 (once), 22 (twice) and 23 (once).