2014 adidas Eurocamp Day One recap

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TREVISO, Italy — This year’s international class in attendance at adidas Eurocamp isn’t as strong as it’s been in the past, with the players here either vying to be second round selections in the upcoming NBA Draft, or trying to impress for a spot at some point in the future.

There are a variety of reasons for this — Australia’s Dante Exum, for example, is the international prospect projected to go the highest in the June 26 draft, but he’s virtually guaranteed to be taken with a top-five selection, and could do nothing here to help improve his stock.

And others projected to go in the first round, like Croatia’s Dario Saric and Bosnia’s Jusuf Nurkic, were still playing for their Euroleague teams in the playoffs. Those two specifically, in fact, went head-to-head later Saturday night in the Croatian League Finals, which some scouts attended by making a drive of a little more than three hours to Zagreb in order to see them in person.

Vasilije Micic was the player most had their eyes on during the first day of action, as he’s been projected as a late first round or (more likely) an early- or mid-second round pick. While he looked impressive from a skill standpoint during the morning drills and scrimmages, the point guard struggled a bit in live game action, and didn’t transcend the competition on the floor the way the camp’s other top prospects have done in years past.

Micic has good size, above average handles and good court vision, and may one day make for a serviceable backup point guard at the NBA level. But he’ll need to increase his overall aggressiveness in order for that to happen, and whether it was the camp format or something else, he didn’t do anything to dramatically change the minds of those who have seen him play previously, in either a positive or a negative direction.

The most talent on display came not from the international players, but from the USA Select team of players under the age of 18 who won’t be draft eligible for at least two more years.

Thon Maker is a seven-footer who extremely polished for his age, and reminds of Kevin Garnett in the way that his arms hang and just how he carries himself physically. He’s extremely thin, as are all players this tall and this young, but can already knock down mid-range jumpers at a high percentage and is active and talkative on the defensive end of the floor. He was pushed around by the bigger, stronger and older members of the French team down low, which was to be expected. But Maker is a player who would likely go directly from high school to the NBA if the age limit wasn’t in place, due to his combination of size and agility, along with his being at a relatively advanced stage in the development process.

Maker, who was born in Sudan and came to Australia at age five before now playing at Carlisle High School in Martinsville, Virginia, is ranked as the top high school prospect in the nation.

Some additional notes:

– Ioannis Papapetrou could be a late second round pick this year, and looked like a legitimate prospect in the first day of action. He’s a 6’8″ wing who can shoot it, and his feel for the game was on display as he showcased an ability to get open, as well as drive with the ball to create his own shot.

– My favorite player of the day was Dmitry Kulagin, a 21-year old 6’6″ combo guard who has been to Eurocamp in the past, but this time was by far his most impressive showing. His activity on both ends of the floor was immediately noticeable, and he was in attack mode from the moment he stepped on the court. Kulagin finished 6-of-10 from the field in his two games combined, and his athleticism and effort was a joy to watch.

– Others who impressed on day one were French big man Mouhammadou Jaiteh (albeit against a younger, less bulky USA Select U-18 team), and Lucas Mariano and Marcus Erikkson both showed an ability to consistently knock down shots from three-point distance.

– Just as the talent level is down a bit this year, so is the number of high-profile NBA personnel in attendance. The general managers here include Toronto’s Masai Ujiri and Indiana’s Kevin Pritchard, but many who normally attend preferred to conduct private team workouts back in the states instead, in preparation for what’s expected to be a deeper draft than usual.

adidas Eurocamp 2014 – Box Score – Team 1 – Team 4

adidas Eurocamp 2014 – Box Score – Team 2 – Team 3

adidas Eurocamp 2014 – Box Score – All-Star Dark vs All-Star Light

adidas Eurocamp 2014 – Box Score – France U20 – U18 adidas USA Select

WNBA team rehearses ring ceremony at practice of team it beat in Finals

AP Photo/Jim Mone
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The NBA does petty very, very, very, very, very, very, very well.

The WNBA is trying to give the NBA a run for its money.

The Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks have met in the last two WNBA Finals, the Lynx winning last year and the Sparks winning the year before. Minnesota hosted Los Angeles in the season opener Sunday, and the Lynx unveiled their banner and presented players with rings.

Before that, while the Sparks were practicing in Minnesota, the Lynx played their video for the event.

Holly Rowe of ESPN:

The Sparks beat the Lynx on Sunday, but I don’t think that’s enough to override Minnesota’s power move.

Kobe Bryant on Kanye West’s comments: “What the hell are you talking about?”

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Kanye West, the President Trump backing hip-hop star, drew a lot of backlash for his comments on TMZ:

“When you hear about slavery for 400 years — for 400 years? That sounds like a choice. You were there for 400 years and it’s all of y’all. It’s like we’re mentally imprisoned.” 

Mentally, maybe in some cases. But more so physically, with guns and whips and attack dogs and a whole lot more weapons that were all on one side. Nobody chooses slavery.

Tuesday, Kobe Bryant surprised a group of about 300 high school students at WE RISE — a 10-day pop-up festival dedicated to sparking a movement for change in the mental health system — in Downtown Los Angeles. One of the students asked him about Kanye’s comments. Kobe is not down.

“I’m sure (I feel) the same way everybody else here in this room feels. What the hell are you talking about? I think that was my reaction as is everybody else’s reaction….

“The thing about our country is that you have the right to say whatever it is that you want to say…that’s the beautiful thing about living in a democracy. I think, for him, he’s one of these entertainers that’s always in a constant state of growth, he’s always challenging … himself, doing a lot of questioning internally himself…so I just take it for what it is and completely disagree.”

If I need to explain to you why Kobe is in the right here, you need to take a basic American history course again.

Good on Kobe for his comments. More importantly, good on Kobe for taking the time to promote mental health awareness.

“It’s easy for us as people to kind of ignore the emotional side of it,  especially when it comes to things that deal with negativity, things that deal with insecurity, things that deal with fear,” Kobe said. “It’s very easy to take the fear and just push it down, try to act like it doesn’t exist. The reason why it starts with imagination is because you first must imagine the life that you want to have. You must first imagine what it is you dream of becoming.”

Kobe did that, and now he’s got an Oscar. Oh, and a few basketball awards, too.

PBT Extra: LeBron, Cavaliers even series but Celtics far from dead

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If you want to make the case that the Cleveland Cavaliers are in the driver’s seat of the Eastern Conference Finals after sweeping two games at home, you’re in a good space. It’s a best-of-three and Cleveland has the best player on the planet on their side.

However, I still like the Celtics to hold on and win in seven.

I get into it in this PBT Extra, but the Celtics looked like a team that figured things out in the final three quarters of Game 4 (they just couldn’t make up for a disastrous first quarter), and they still have two games at home.

Either way, this feels like a series going the distance.

Did the Warriors deal Rockets a knockout blow in Western Conference finals?

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The Warriors beat the Rockets by 41 (!) in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals Sunday.

Biggest playoff win in Golden State franchise history.

Biggest playoff loss in Houston franchise history.

Biggest playoff loss ever handed to any team as good as the 65-17 Rockets.

“At the end of the day, it’s one win,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said. “It doesn’t matter if you win by 40 or if you win by one.”

Maybe it matters more than Green is letting on.

Golden State was the 17th team to -win a playoff game by more than 40 points. Of the previous 16, 15 – including the last 14 – won the series:

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The only exception came in my favorite playoff series of all-time, the best-of-three 1956 Western Division semifinals:

  • Game 1: St. Louis Hawks 116, Minneapolis Lakers 115
  • Game 2: Minneapolis Lakers 133, St. Louis Hawks 75
  • Game 3: St. Louis Hawks 116, Minneapolis Lakers 115

So, teams to win a playoff game by more than 40 are 15-0 in best-of-seven or best-of-five series. Will the Rockets buck the trend?

They can make adjustments. Maybe Houston’s strong regular season – better than any above blown-out team’s – indicates a rare capability to recover from this. Andre Iguodala‘s injury hurts Golden State. Teams sometimes make historic comebacks from blowouts, including against the Warriors.

But that Golden State ran toppled the Rockets so decisively in Game 3 suggests the Warriors are hitting a gear Houston won’t keep up with.