Pau Gasol’s trade tip put his and Marc Gasol’s All-Star futures in motion

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In February 2008, the Grizzlies shook the NBA landscape by trading Pau Gasol to the Lakers for an expiring contract, a 76ers assistant coach, a rookie point guard who had more turnovers than assists, two future first-round picks and the rights to a second-round pick who was playing in Europe had no plans to ever join the NBA.

Outside Los Angeles, many were livid. Rumors swirled former Grizzlies executive Jerry West facilitated the deal to his former team. It seemed the Lakers had stolen the missing piece to a championship, giving up scraps for a star.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was direct:

“What they did in Memphis is beyond comprehension,” he told SI.com “There should be a trade committee that can scratch all trades that make no sense. I just wish I had been on a trade committee that oversees NBA trades. I’d like to elect myself to that committee. I would have voted no to the L.A. trade.”

That European player with no plans to play in the NBA? Marc Gasol.

As the rest of the league struggled to grasp the trade, Marc believed he understood at least one aspect – why he was included.

“I thought that the Grizzlies knew me better because Pau was here, and Pau was talking to the guys how well I was playing that year and so and so,” said Marc, who was then playing with Akasvayu Girona in Spain . “And I don’t think the Lakers knew how I was playing there.”

Did Pau see something the rest of us hadn’t yet?

“Loving my brother, I saw that he had potential to turn into a great player,” Pau said.

As few others in NBA circles shared that optimism, criticism of the trade as one-sided indirectly demeaned Marc’s value. Pau said he was too focused on the Lakers to worry about that perception. Marc wasn’t bothered by it, either.

“I know my rights got traded, but I didn’t see myself as part of the trade,” Marc said. “I thought that the organization, the Lakers, didn’t know much about me – and nobody at that time, even I think the Grizzlies or anybody, even myself, could see it going to where it is today.”

Where it is today: Pau and Marc Gasol have become the first brothers in NBA history to start an All-Star game.

With Pau’s 2006, 2009, 2010 and 2011 selections and Marc’s 2012 berth, the Gasols had already joined Tom and Dick Van Arsdale as the only brothers to make an NBA All-Star game.  But neither Van Arsdale twin started an All-Star game, let alone both in one year. Pau (now with the Bulls) and Marc (still with the Grizzlies) are also each starting for the first time.

The recognition has even the well-spoken pair rambling a bit. Pau said the honor made him “beyond, beyond proud and thrilled and honored and thankful and all of the above.” Said Marc: “It’s hard to understand what it means and how many things we accomplished and where we come from and all the way through up to here and how many people were behind this voting and how many people helped us get to where we’re at.”

Since they were traded for each other, their careers have gone nearly as well as either could have hoped.

Pau won two titles and made three All-Star games with the Lakers. Marc became an All-Star and Defensive Player of the Year with the Grizzlies, helping them reach the 2013 Western Conference Finals.

Their 2015 levels might be even more incredible.

Marc, averaging a career-high 19.1 points with 8.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game, is an MVP candidate and arguably the NBA’s top big man. Not bad for someone who didn’t change his plans about staying in Europe until he saw his Spanish club going bankrupt.

Pau is having a resurgent season in Chicago, averaging 18.3 points (his most in five years), 11.8 rebounds (a career-high) and 2.1 blocks (his most in eight years) per game. At an age and with a résumé that would make many content, Pau is playing with even more passion. If his numbers hold, he’d be the third-oldest player to average 18-11 behind only Robert Parish and Wilt Chamberlain.

This is Pau’s first All-Star berth in four seasons. At 34, he’s hardly the oldest player to become an All-Star. But many of those aging players were legacy All-Stars, players selected year after year. Only Johnny Green, who made it at 37 while playing for the 1971 Cincinnati Royals, played three years without an All-Star appearance and then got one at such an old age.

The brothers are doing it in different ways – Pau is longer and a better scorer, and Marc is more defensive-minded and physical – but they’re both having awesome seasons. If they weren’t voted starters by fans, their conferences’ coaches should have (and likely would have) made them reserves.

Yet, neither made the All-Star game the last two years. So, they discussed getting together for the break this February. Marc figured they’d spend a quiet weekend somewhere, playing board games and cards.

“Even when we’re playing Monopoly or we’re playing Uno or we’re playing charades, we want to win. We’re playing ping pong or pool, whatever we’re doing,” Marc said. “…We both know it’s competitive, even though we might not show it. We might laugh it off, but it’s in our DNA. We can’t do anything about it.”

Instead, they’ll take that same competitive spirit to New York for the All-Star game for a head-to-head meeting on the court.

“We know each other’s games so well that it’s not easy,” Marc said. “We’ve got to come up with new tricks and new counters for us to score, because I know he’s not going let me score easily. And he knows for sure – for damn sure – I’m not going to let him score.”

“We have so much respect for each other and know how much one another care about the game that we barely even talk,” Marc said. “We barely make eye contact.”

Marc figures they’ll have a little more fun with each other during the All-Star game, and he’s particularly looking forward to meeting his brother at center court for the opening tip.

“It’s going to be a hell of a moment, that’s for sure,” Marc said. “And it’s going to be something that’s a picture for the rest of lives, just like many others. But this one kind of symbolizes a lot of things and summarizes two different ways of doing things and getting to the same spot.”

French point guard Theo Maledon declares for NBA draft

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French point guard Theo Maledon has declared for the 2020 NBA Draft:

The six-foot-five Maledon is declaring as an Early Entry candidate from the international ranks. International players who do not turn 22 in the calendar year of the draft can declare as Early Entry players.

At 18 years old, Maledon was a part-time starter for ASVEL Basket in France in the French Pro A League. ASVEL Basket is owned in part by former NBA player Tony Park, who also serves as the club’s president. Maleon started in 23 of the 46 games he played for ASVEL Basket this season.

In 46 games with ASVEL, Maledon averaged 7.3 points per game. He shot 42.1% from the floor, including 33.3% on three-pointers. He also averaged 2.7 assists per game. In mid-January, against former NBA player Shane Larkin and Turkish club Anadolu Efes, Maledon started and dished out 10 assists, while scoring five points and grabbing six rebounds.

In part due to his size for the point guard position, and his excellent play on the youth level, ESPN has Maledon ranked 15th in their top-100 prospects. He’s widely expected to be in the mix to be a lottery pick.

Players have until Sunday, April 26 to declare as Early Entry candidates. The deadline to withdraw as an Early Entry candidate is Monday, June 15. The 2020 NBA Draft is currently scheduled to be held on Thursday, June 25.

Report: Pacers GM Chad Buchanan turns down interview with Bulls

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Indiana Pacers general manager Chad Buchanan has reportedly declined an opportunity to interview for a front office job with the Chicago Bulls.

Buchanan joined the Pacers in 2017 as their general manager under President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard. Prior to moving to Indiana, Buchanan was the assistant general manager with the Charlotte Hornets.

In turning down the Bulls opportunity, Buchanan cited how well he and his family have been treated in Indiana. Buchanan had previously worked with Pritchard when both were members of the Portland Trail Blazers front office.

Chicago is replacing John Paxson and Gar Forman at the top of their front office structure. Paxson and Forman have led the Bulls basketball operations together since 2009. Chicago’s search will now reportedly focus on Arturas Karnisovas of the Denver Nuggets, Adam Simon of the Miami Heat and Bobby Webster of the Toronto Raptors.

This Day in NBA History: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar becomes NBA’s all-time scoring leader

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It was fitting he did it with a skyhook.

On April 5, 1984, in a game against the Utah Jazz (played in a sold-out Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar took a pass from Magic Johnson, swung left, and drained a hook shot that gave him career point No. 31,420, moving him past Wilt Chamberlain to become the NBA’s all-time leading scorer.

The game stopped as the celebration ensued as Kareem’s teammates swarmed the captain. He was taken out of the game at that point, done for the night.

Abdul-Jabbar wasn’t done scoring, however. H retired five seasons later with 38,387 points, a record that stands to this day.

Giannis Antetokounmpo doesn’t have home court, players forced to workout with what they have

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MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo is spending much of his time during the coronavirus-imposed hiatus working out, helping care for his newborn son and playing occasional video games.

What the reigning MVP isn’t doing very often is shooting baskets since the NBA has closed team practice facilities.

“I don’t have access to a hoop,” the Milwaukee Bucks forward said Friday during a conference call. “A lot of NBA players might have a court in their house or something, I don’t know, but now I just get my home workouts, (go) on the bike, treadmill, lift weights, stay sharp that way.”

The hiatus is forcing thousands of athletes, pro and otherwise, to work out from home as they try to keep in shape. Equipment varies from player to player, too.

“It all comes down to what they have and what they’re capable of doing,” Atlanta Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said. “We can do a lot of body weight stuff. That’s how they stay ready. That’s the most I can offer as a coach for them to stay ready. I can’t say ‘Hey, can you find access to a gym?’ That would be bad management on my part.”

For instance, Pierce said Hawks guard Kevin Huerter has access to a gym in New York and guard Jeff Teague owns a gym in Indiana.

Other players face different situations.

“I’ve seen LeBron’s Instagram,” Pierce said of Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James. “LeBron has a house with a full weight room and he has an outdoor court. He’s got a different reality right now that gives him a little more access to continue the normal. (Hawks rookie) Cam Reddish lives in an apartment and it’s probably a two-bedroom apartment. He can’t go in the apartment weight room because it’s a public facility. So he’s limited in all things.”

Bucks coach Mike Budenhlolzer said he wanted his players to focus on keeping their bodies in shape and conceded that logistics surrounding the pandemic would make it tougher for them to do any basketball-specific activities.

The Bucks are still finding ways to stay sharp.

Bucks players said team officials have made sure they all have the necessary exercise equipment. Antetokounmpo noted the Bucks also had a catering company bring food to make sure they maintain a proper diet. Center Brook Lopez said workout plans have been sent to them via a phone app.

“They’ve done a really good job of getting everything taken care of and still having tailored workouts for each individual player despite the situation,” Lopez said.

But it’s difficult for them to work on their shooting without access to a court.

“Since the practice facility is closed down, I don’t have any access to a basketball goal unless I go to one of my neighbors’ houses and shoot outside,” Bucks forward Khris Middleton said. “There’s really no basketball for me. It’s basically like Giannis said. Treadmill, jump rope, some weights and that’s it. I have a couple of basketballs I can dribble in my house or outside, but no actual goal to shoot on.”

Pierce noted that Huerter recently asked him when players would be able to get back into the Hawks’ practice facility.

“I told him, ‘I’ll tell you when we won’t,” Pierce said. “We won’t in April.”