Warriors drafted Draymond Green, other players meant to smash NBA’s conventional mold

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OAKLAND — “He is undersized as a power forward and doesn’t have a game that makes him a three.”

That is a draft night critique of Draymond Green from us at PBT, and while we praised getting Green in the second round that comment fit the thinking when he was drafted — that he was a tweener who might not have a natural fit in the NBA.

“They said that. Who would he guard? Ironic,” Green said Saturday before Game 2 of the Finals, when he will spend some time guarding LeBron James. “Who is he? What does he do? Ironic. That’s what they said, (Charles) Barkley still say that sometimes, other people still writing it sometimes. Maybe they’ll stop writing it one day, maybe they won’t. It is what it is at this point.”

Today we praise the versatility of the Golden State Warriors, a team that starts four guys in the same size range, which allows them to switch nearly every pick. That versatility is key to their offense as well as nearly everyone can shoot threes or put the ball on the floor.

The Warriors didn’t want players who fit into conventional molds, they wanted to shatter the mold.

Remember that when we head into the draft in a few weeks and you read comments questioning where players fit.

Remember when Stephen Curry came into the league and there were a lot of questions about whether he could really be a point guard in the NBA, if he was really just going to be an undersized two guard who couldn’t create his own shot.

To quote Green, ironic.

There were questions about Klay Thompson, is he a two or a three? The concern with him was he was not going to be athletic enough to be a good defender.

Ironic.

“It goes on and on like that down the Warriors roster. There were enough questions about Harrison Barnes he was taken behind Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Thomas Robinson.

“Coming through the draft, GMs and scouts asked me that, ‘What position do you play?’ And I tell them this answer: ‘I’m a basketball player,’” Green said. “Don’t sit here and tell me I’m a three, then you take away the things I can do at the four. Don’t tell me II’m a four and take away the things I do as a three. I’m a basketball player, you put me on the court and I’ll figure out a way to get it done.”

Steve Kerr and Curry will brush off those kinds of comments about the makeup of their team, or the old trope about how a jump shooting team can’t win the NBA title (didn’t the 2011 Dallas Mavericks already dispel that myth?).

“Most people brush it off,” Green said. “I laugh at it, but I always keep it right there in the back of the mind….

“That’s what my whole career has been fueled off of. Somebody saying what you can’t do, what I can’t do. So when I hear stuff like that saying what we can’t dp It just put me right back in that mindset that helped me get here.”

Warriors assistant coach Alvin Gentry said you have to praise Warriors GM Bob Meyers for having the vision to see past positions to put together that kind of versatile team. One that can throw a lot of different looks at you.

That goes all the way down to ball handling where guys like Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston come into play, Green notes.

“I think that’s one of the neat things about our team, you’ve got different ball handlers to change the pace of the game — and on any possession. It’s not like you got to sit Steph to play Shaun, or sit Shawn to play Dre. You can play all of them together. It’s a constant change of pace thing, it gives the defense a different look every time.”

It’s also how the Warriors defend the game’s best player.

“They mixed it up…” LeBron said of the Warriors defense. “Sometimes they didn’t dig in the post. Sometimes they let me play one-on-one. Sometimes (Andrew) Bogut was over on the tilt and brought two defenders. They switched sometimes on pick-and-rolls. Sometimes they went under.

“So they were giving me everything. They’re not just giving me one steady dosage of we’re going to just let him play. No. That’s what they want to get out to you guys, but that’s not what’s happening. Yeah, I see it all throughout the course of the game. They’ve given me different matchups, just trying to keep me off balance.”

Versatility is one of the foundations on which the Warriors are built — they wanted guys who could do a lot of different things on the court. They didn’t want to fit the mold, they wanted to break it.

And it’s on the cusp of getting them an NBA title.

Just remember that when someone pans your team’s draft pick as a “tweener” in a couple weeks.

USA’s 78-game international win streak ends at hands of Australia, Patty Mills, 98-94

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Gregg Popovich wanted his USA team to face some adversity. For them to be challenged and see how they’d respond.

He got his wish on a Saturday afternoon in Australia and has to be disturbed by the result.

Australia, behind a red-hot Patty Mills who finished 30 points and drained seemingly every big bucket down the stretch, tore up the USA defense and outplayed the Americans when it mattered most, beating Team USA 98-94 in an exhibition match in front of a raucous 52,000 people in Melbourne.

Team USA had won 78 consecutive games — including both friendlies and in international tournaments — before this loss. The last USA exhibition game loss was in the run-up to the 2004 Olympics (when the Americans took home the bronze).

The USA opens FIBA World Cup play in just more than a week, facing the Czech Republic in their first game on Sept. 1. The Americans enter that tournament as the favorites, but the combination of improved international play and a lot of elite American talent staying home means the USA’s margin for error very slim. Teams such as Serbia and Spain — not to mention Australia — have to see this result and gain confidence.

This loss comes just two days after the USA had beaten this same team by 15 points, pulling away in the second half.

“They wanted it more than us tonight,” Kemba Walker said after the game. “Lesson learned for us.”

Those lessons include needing to clean up a defense that still has communication issues, and to find more consistent shot creation outside of pick-and-rolls with Kemba Walker or Donovan Mitchell.

Walker, who came off the bench to score 22, was clearly America’s best player. His ability to penetrate was the only thing all night that either forced the Aussie defense to collapse, or it allowed him to get space for a good shot. Donovan Mitchell, who finished with a dozen points including seven straight late in the game, was able to provide a little shot creation, but the Americans lacked much ball or player movement in this one. Harrison Barnes finished with 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting.

Popovich is clearly still experimenting with lineups and combinations, and that is the silver lining of this USA loss. This was not the American’s best foot forward.

But don’t take anything away from Australia, which played a physical and feisty game all afternoon. They put the ball more in the hands of Utah’s Joe Ingles and he responded with 15 points, seven assists, and he and Andrew Bogut set up the offense and were smart with their passes. Bogut finished with 15 points. The Australian team played as a unit and their off-the-ball movement was impressive.

Team USA takes on Canada in a final exhibition game in a couple of days, before heading to China for the World Cup.

Report: Dwight Howard gave back $2.6 million in buyout with Memphis, what he will make in L.A.

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Dwight Howard will get his money, the full $5.6 million he opted into this summer. The man is getting paid.

The checks are just coming from two different teams.

To facilitate a move to the Lakers, Howard is giving back $2.6 million in a buyout with the Grizzlies — exactly how much he makes on a minimum contract with Los Angeles. From Adrian Wojnarowski and Bobby Marks of ESPN:

My guess is the Grizzlies will just take the cap hit this season to get Howard off the books.

This is exactly how this was expected to go down financially if Howard came to Los Angeles. The risk for Howard is he will sign a non-guaranteed contract with the Lakers — they can waive him for whatever reason, pay a small buyout fee, and Howard loses out on the $2.6 million.

That’s motivation for him to follow through on what he promised the team.

 

Former NBA, ABA coach Tom Nissalke dead at 87

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Tom Nissalke, who won coach of the year honors in the NBA and ABA, has died. He was 87.

Nissalke passed away at his home in Salt Lake City on Thursday after facing a “series of health-related problems” in recent years, according to the Deseret News.

He was the first coach of the Utah Jazz after the franchise relocated from New Orleans in 1979.

Nissalke was also an NBA head coach in Seattle, Houston, and Cleveland.

Nissalke got his start in the pro ranks as an assistant with Milwaukee and helped guide a team featuring Hall of Famers Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to an NBA title in 1971. His work with the Bucks landed him a head coaching gig with the ABA’s Dallas Chaparrals. He led them to a 42-42 record in his first season and was named the league’s top coach.

He was hired the next season in Seattle but was fired after a 13-32 start. Nissalke then coached the Utah Stars and San Antonio before returning to the NBA with the Rockets. He won 124 games in three seasons with Houston, twice taking the team to the playoffs and the 1977 Eastern Conference finals.

Nissalke was named the NBA’s Coach of the Year after going 49-33 in 1976-77.

After retiring, he was active with the YMCA and worked as a radio analyst.

Nissalke is survived by a daughter, Holly, son Thomas Jr, and two grandchildren. His wife, Nancy, died in 2006.

 

How Dwight Howard convinced the Lakers to take a chance on him

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Laker fans Friday sounded like your friends after an ugly relationship and breakup, when you suddenly consider taking that person back. Laker nation took to Twitter screaming “ARE YOU SERIOUS? What are you thinking? Are you even thinking?”

The Lakers, however, are entering a second relationship with Dwight Howard with their eyes wide open — he will sign a non-guaranteed contract to be the team’s center (sharing duties with Anthony Davis and JaVale McGee). Howard will have to prove himself, on and off the court. The Lakers have leverage and can waive Howard and move on to Joakim Noah or someone else quickly if things do not pan out.

But how did it even get to this point? How did Howard — who did his annual summer media tour saying “I have changed, I am taking the game and my conditioning seriously, I just want a chance” and league observers shrugged because they have heard the same thing for years — convince the Lakers to roll the dice on him again? Shams Charania of The Athletic laid it all out.

Howard’s message to [Laker assistant coach Jason] Kidd and the Lakers was the same one he delivered to The Athletic in July from NBA summer league: He’s learned from the past several seasons, learned that, at age 33, he is simply one of the guys now. Howard believes he can contribute at a high level for any NBA team, but the eight-time All-Star also understands he has to focus on rebounding, defense, blocking shots, finishing around the rim and simply playing whenever he is asked… Kidd became convinced about Howard’s newfound awakening…

The Lakers then began setting workouts for free agents, and Howard traveled from Atlanta to Los Angeles on Wednesday. His meeting and workout with the Lakers was set for Thursday, but Howard went to the Lakers’ facility in El Segundo, Calif., on Wednesday afternoon for his own training session. The Lakers were surprised to see him, sources said, and many key decision makers were in attendance…

League sources said Howard had a convincing and emotional meeting with the players and Lakers officials, explaining how he had reached rock bottom a season ago and needed to find a new mindset in his life. On and off the floor. He was not the teammate he needed to be in playing for three teams in the past three years. He did not take the game seriously enough, he did not understand what was needed to turn the corner.

Howard has said all that before. Multiple times. To multiple teams and teammates. Maybe this time he has genuinely figured things out, but whatever he did and said was enough to convince the Lakers to buy in…

To a point.

One could argue — and I would make the case — that Noah would be a better fit on the court for the Lakers’ needs in terms of passing and defense, but he comes with plenty of risks as well (health, getting along with LeBron James, and how much he liked the nightlife as a Knick in New York and what that would mean in L.A.). At least with Howard, the Lakers mitigated that risk with the non-guaranteed contract. If Howard will not accept his role and is disruptive (as he has been in recent stops), if he is still eating candy like a bingeing 10-year-old on Halloween night, if he can’t stay healthy, the Lakers can waive Howard and move on. If the Lakers brought in Noah, they would have been smart to have the same non-guaranteed contract (if Noah would have signed that kind of deal).

For now the Lakers have their man, but he’s basically on probation. Howard has to prove in deeds everything he has said in words.