Derek Anderson talks Gregg Popovich, Pat Riley, “Stamina”

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There are a lot of guys who have come through the NBA and can tell hard knock life stories about growing up poor.

Derek Anderson blows most of those stories out of the water.

He never had a father around, his mother was out of the picture and he was fending for himself by the time he was 12. He was homeless, and by 14 living at different houses of people that would help out (like the janitor at a high school gym that let Anderson sleep there). He was also a father at 14 and by 15 he had full custody raising his son.

If Anderson had never played at Kentucky or went on to an 11-year NBA career, most of us would understand. The circumstances would have been too much to overcome.

But Anderson says he refused to allow that and went on to be an NCAA champion at Kentucky and an NBA champion. Anderson has a book out now called “Stamina” (available pretty much everywhere) that talks about how he broke out of that cycle with incredible perseverance. The book’s point is something he tries to pass along to others — you can’t quit, you just have to take responsibility for yourself and keep moving forward.

You have to earn people’s respect.

Now Anderson looks back with admiration on the NBA people who treated him like an adult — Miami’s Pat Riley and San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich are near the top of that list.

“I think Coach Popovich is one of those coaches that allows his players to be players, he disciplines when they need to be disciplined, and he gives everyone rewards when you need to be rewarded,” Anderson told ProBasketballTalk. “He gives you a fair chance. That is why you see a bunch of guys who are not big names and they become better players because he gives you that.”

The adage other players have used is that Popovich treats grown men like men, not children to be scolded and bribed.

“Exactly, that is the level of respect, you give it and you get it you return,” Anderson continued. “But if you kiss up to these kids and these players eventually you are going to take advantage of it like anyone would. Popovich is one of those great guys that you really respect and you look up to because he treats everyone fair.”

Anderson also was on the 2006 Heat team that won an NBA title and respect was a theme there, too.

“It was different,” Anderson told PBT. “You had a bunch of high level guys with emotions but they all (controlled them), like Gary Payton didn’t get technical, Alonzo Mourning didn’t wild out he just played hard. Dwayne (Wade) was young, Shaq came to play every night and the rest of us were role players. I made two big threes in the Chicago series to help us win and the next series if didn’t get to play but Shandon Anderson did. We all sacrificed fro the betterment of our team and we all won a championship so I think it was different and I think that most of it was because Pat Riley didn’t allow a superstar to dictate the team — he always would dictate the team.”

That Anderson was able to even have those moments speaks to his stamina.

He says he didn’t want to write an autobiography that was just a retelling of his life; he wanted one that showed people how they can understand the consequences of their actions and break out of the cycle of poverty.

“What happens is we are all in a cycle of poverty and that is mental or locations but the only difference what I chose to do is that I chose to be great,” Anderson said. “I didn’t want to be average, I didn’t want to be ordinary where you looked at me and you actually knew everything about me. I wanted everybody to look at me and be like, ‘he is able to do anything.’

“The greatest compliment I ever got was coach told me that someone asked him ‘how do you stop Derek Anderson?” and he said don’t let him get the ball because once he does it he is able to do everything.

“And that is the way I looked at life, I said when I get an opportunity that is all I want and therefore I won’t make excuses. Nowadays you speak and even back then everyone makes excuse for the way you grew up but you have been blessed with a gift so maximize it. I speak to people I’m cordial, I’m nice, and that is how it happens, it always came back, so that is the reason why I always believe that I would be successful.”

Anderson’s message is one a lot of young NBA players could use to hear. Actually, it’s one all of us could use to genuinely listen to.

Nikola Jokic announces he will play for Serbia in World Cup

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This year’s World Cup is going to be stacked with elite NBA players. It usually is a big draw, but this World Cup brings a couple additional things to the table. First, it’s part of the Olympic qualifying process for the 2020 games in Tokyo.

More importantly for players, the World Cup is in China. That is a fast-growing basketball shoe and apparel market and that will push Nike, Adidas, Reebok and any other shoe brand you can think of to “encourage” their stars to go. For example, the Sixers’ Ben Simmons will be playing for Australia.

Nikola Jokic will be one of those stars. The Denver Nuggets center told the Serbian state news agency, via ESPN.

“I am very pleased with everything I did in the NBA this season. I had a great year in which I performed at the All-Star Game and was selected [to the All-NBA first team]. For me, the cherry on top of this whole season would be a medal with the national team.”

Jokic and Serbia may be the USA’s biggest threat in that tournament, this is the team that picked up the silver medal in the last Olympics. Jokic is a better player than he was a few years ago and the team has a long list of quality players including Bogdan Bogdanovic, Milos Teodosic, and Boban Marjanovic.

The World Cup tips off Aug. 31 in China, right up against the start of NBA training camps.

 

Rumor: Clippers not interested in Jimmy Butler, he would sign with Lakers for max

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Should a team feel comfortable giving Jimmy Butler — who will turn 30 before next season, is a hard-charging personality who plays a hard-charging style that can be hard on his body, and has only once played 70 or more games in the past six seasons — a four-year, $141 million max contract?

If the Lakers strike out with Kyrie Irving and other top targets (Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard are not interested, according to sources), should they give Butler the max and sign him comfortable or not?

LeBron James has already reached out to start recruiting Butler, and if the Lakers offer him the max Butler would love to come, Arash Markazi of the Los Angeles Times said on the Colin Cowherd. Markazi adds that the Clippers are not interested because they are aiming higher on the food chain.

That is what a lot of sources have said about the Clippers, they would need to move Danilo Gallinari (and do a little more) to sign both Leonard and Durant, but would and should in a heartbeat.

Butler is going to have options, starting with the Philadelphia 76ers, who do not want to let him go. As it got near the end of Philly’s playoff run it had seemed Butler had found a home, both on the court as a primary ball handler in the halfcourt, and off the court as a leader and someone who bonded with Joel Embiid. Also, Philadelphia can offer more money, a projected $190 million over five years, and for a guy who has had injury issues that extra year and extra money might matter a lot.

Is Butler going to stay? What should we read into his cryptic Instagram post? If he leaves, does he want to play with LeBron? Is that the Lakers’ best option? (I think the Lakers should prefer Irving, who is younger and coming off an All-NBA regular season, plus he has a track record of winning with LeBron, but if not him…)

It is going to be a wild July in the NBA.

Raptors bench play key reason Toronto on cusp of first trip to NBA Finals

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There are multiple reasons the Toronto Raptors have beaten the Milwaukee Bucks three times in a row and now are one win away from the franchise’s first trip to the NBA Finals.

Kawhi Leonard and his play — particularly his defense on Giannis Antetokounmpo — is a huge one. So is the Raptors incredible halfcourt defense, which has held the Bucks to an 84.3 net rating on halfcourt possessions in this series. When the Raptors have been able to slow the game down (which they have done very well the last two games, with possession totals in the mid-90s) they win.

Just don’t forget about the Raptors bench.

Fred VanVleet, Serge Ibaka, and Norman Powell — the three guys coach Nick Nurse leans on in his regular rotations — have been critical for the Raptors, and if they are again on Saturday night in Toronto it will lift the franchise to a place it has never been before.

Toronto’s starters are -23 in this series. That fivesome — Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Leonard, Pascal Siakam, and Marc Gasol — were -10 in Game 5, struggling against an impressive Milwaukee starting lineup.

In Game 5, it was the Raptors’ bench that led the comeback after the Bucks’ fast start. It has been that way all series. Lineups that have at least one of those core three Raptors bench guys on the floor are +30 this series. Lineups with all three of them on the court together are +12.

Different guys are stepping up each game. In Game 5 it was VanVleet’s turn. After a rough few games in this series, he got to Milwaukee late after being with his wife for the birth of their son, then proceeded to knock down 7-of-9 threes in Toronto’s come-from-behind win.

“He oozes the confidence that spreads to the other guys,” Toronto coach Nick Nurse said of VanVleet. “Again, he just stepped into the shots that were there tonight, and he was probably due to get hot in these playoffs. It’s been probably a long time coming. Great game by him.”

Toronto’s bench — and Leonard — are key reasons that this team responded to adversity, going down 0-2 in the series and bouncing back. It’s the experience of having been there before, having dealt with the pressure before, learning about themselves because they have been tested like this in previous years. Leonard and Green have rings from San Antonio, Gasol has been to conference finals in Memphis, Lowry has been there through all the Raptors struggles in recent playoffs. On the bench, Ibaka has seen plenty, and these guys have not been fazed by the moment.

It’s the test the Bucks are facing now — this group had never been challenged like this. Their athleticism and Antetokounmpo’s MVP-level season propelled this team to the best record in the NBA, then they swept through the first two rounds of the playoffs with an 8-1 record. After that, they beat the Raptors the first two games of this series.

However, now they have lost three in a row for the first time all season and they are learning about their weaknesses. The Bucks entire offense is based around the idea that nobody can slow Antetokounmpo one-on-one, except that Leonard has done just that. The Greek Freak has shot 35.5 percent this series (11-of-31, via Second Spectrum data) when Leonard has been his primary defender. Antetokounmpo also hasn’t found shooters and those guys have not hit the passes he does make, particularly in the halfcourt. Toronto has controlled the tempo the past few games, and when Antetokounmpo isn’t getting easy buckets in transition the Milwaukee offense stumbles. Toronto also has taken care of the ball and hit shots, with Leonard getting to his spots on the floor, which has limited the Bucks transition chances.

The Bucks need to make adjustments — finding ways to get Antetokounmpo the ball with better matchups, not having him attack from the top of the key every time and giving him some picks to force switches — and they need another ball handler, such as Eric Bledsoe or George Hill, to have a monster game. Khris Middleton and Malcolm Brogdon can and should do a little more shot creation.

And Milwaukee has to contain that Raptors bench and not get beat so badly when they are on the floor.

If not, the Bucks will be on vacation in Cabo next week while the Raptors are still playing.

Are Rockets trying to push Mike D’Antoni out the door?

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After a slow start to the season, by the end the Houston Rockets had found their groove and were the second best team in the West. That still wasn’t good enough to get by the Warriors dynasty. That has led to some soul searching in Houston.

And some changes to the assistant coaching staff. First came the news Jeff Bzdelik would not return in his defensive coordinator role. Then on Friday, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle put out a series of Tweets talking about the other coaching changes coming.

Cho had been with the Rockets for a decade. Roland worked closely with James Harden, among others.

This is a near total overhaul of Mike D’Antoni’s staff, which has led to speculation the Rockets are trying to push their coach out the door, reports Marc Stein of the New York Times.

D’Antoni has done an excellent job — and adapted his style — to coach these Rockets into being contenders. He is part of the reason this franchise is a contender. The Rockets have fallen short the last two seasons not because of D’Antoni, but rather because of the Warriors. Golden State is an all-time dynasty level team, they are beating everybody.

This feels like the East in recent years when coaches lost jobs and teams were broken up because they could not get past LeBron James‘ teams when the issue was really LeBron is one of the game’s all-time greats.

There could be other dynamics at play in Houston, but the challenge there is not the coach. If Tilman Fertitta is frustrated his team fell short again, he should start by looking in the mirror at the cost-cutting moves his team made this season to get under the tax line. That put a ceiling on this team more than anything D’Antoni did.