USA Basketball president on Paul George: “The stanchion is not the issue here”; Coach K talks Rose, roster

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USA Basketball had a huge blow Friday night when Paul George went down with a scary, horrific injury that will keep him out next season.

After the game USA Basketball’s president Jerry Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski said they wanted to take a step back and gather themselves. But when they spoke with the media on Wednesday they had to deal with was the remnants of that injury. Both how it happened — was the stanchion being too close to the court the problem? — and how they move forward on the court.

Colangelo reiterated that the USA Basketball’s relationship with Las Vegas and the Thomas & Mack arena are fine, and that this was a fluke situation about big players moving fast, not the arena or stanchion. He said USA basketball plans to be back in Vegas.

“The NBA All-Star Game was played on that court with those stanchions. The NBA Summer League is played there…” Colangelo said in a media conference call. “The stanchion is not the issue here. Some people want to make it an issue, but it’s not.”

Coach Krzyzewski said he had planned to play George heavy minutes — which makes sense because of what he would bring defensively — and what you can expect to see now is Team USA get even smaller.

“We have to look at how we will do the perimeter, and it means that some of the guys who play the two will have to play the three. We will be a little smaller without Paul,” Krzyzewski said.

Team USA is down to 16 players now in the pool that will eventually be whittled down to 12: Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans), Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder), James Harden (Houston Rockets), Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors), Derrick Rose (Chicago Bulls), Mason Plumlee (Brooklyn Nets), DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings), DeMar DeRozan (Toronto Raptors), Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons), Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets), Gordon Hayward (Utah Jazz), Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers), Kyle Korver (Atlanta Hawks), Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers), Chandler Parsons (Dallas Mavericks), and Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors). Bradley Beal, John Wall and Paul Millsap were released from the team. 

• Krzyzewski was effusive with the praise for Derrick Rose: “(Rose) He was sensational all week… fast, strong and decisive… He really created an air of excitement at practices. We were all anxious to see who he was. And who he is is very, very good…

“The first defensive exchange in camp, he was all over the ball-handler. There was a buzz right away. He wasn’t just saying, ‘I’m back.’ He was saying, ‘I’m back at a level that’s elite.’”

• Krzyzewski on whether Gordon Hayward’s chances of making the team just went up with George being out: “We think Gordon is one of the really good young players in the league and is very versatile. With Paul’s injury, losing a guy who is an All-Star who is 6’8”, Gordon is 6’8” also.”

• Krzyzewski on Lillard: “We’re heavy with outstanding talent at the guard spot… Damian had a good week, I think he can play even better. But part of it is growing accustomed to playing with these guys and playing a different role.”

• Krzyzewski on Durant and how he is different than two years before: “I think he’s stronger physically, I think he’s stronger emotionally and wants to assert him in that leadership road.”

• Krzyzewski on DeMarcus Cousins: “Cousins gives us a big that is different than Anthony Davis. We’re looking at the big position, the five, kind of separate from the other four spots. Cousins had a good week…

“His attitude is tremendous in that he wouldn’t come back if this didn’t mean something to him…. He made a huge impact on all of us, during the week but especially at the scrimmage.”

• Krzyzewski on Irving: “Kyrie was one of the better players in the camp, he has one of the unique skill sets at the guard because he can run a team but can also play off the ball because he’s such a good shooter. He’s going to have to do that in Cleveland, too.”

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

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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

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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

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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

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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.