News, Notes from a Summer League Sunday: Kings fans are going to love Willie Cauley-Stein

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LAS VEGAS — The PBT team is in Sin City for NBA Summer League and it is an ever-growing event — two games going on at a time, coaches and GMs chatting, guys nobody really knows making a name for themselves, and plenty of just random sightings and happenings.

Here’s some of what you missed by not being in Las Vegas before the thermometer hit 100. (Notes come from Kurt Helin and Sean Highkin.)

• Kings fans, you should be happy, there’s a lot to like with Willie Cauley-Stein. He’s a bit raw, but you can see real potential. With his length, he’s disruptive in the paint. But he not just long and athletic, he anticipates well on defense, he plays a pretty smart game on that end. Plus he just hustles. On one play he had a block on one end, then sprinted to the other end and kept Nikola Jokic off his spot in the post. He doesn’t have much range on offense (and his post ups are not things of beauty), but he uses that athleticism to finish fairly well at the rim and had 15 points on 13 shots. (KH)

• When DeMarcus Cousins walked in the arena (with GM Vlade Divac) to watch the Kings play, the healthy number of Kings fans in attendance gave him a standing ovation. George Karl should note where the fan allegiances lie. (KH)

• Former No. 2 overall pick Hasheem Thabeet is playing for the D-League Select squad in this year’s Summer League, and he unlocked the ultra-rare “get ejected from a Summer League game” achievement. (SH)

• After his outstanding Bulls Summer League debut on Saturday, Bobby Portis had a letdown in Sunday’s loss to the Raptors. He shot 1-for-10 from the field and generally looked overmatched. “I’m not worried about Bobby,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said afterwards. “He’s 6-foot-10 and has an outstanding motor.” With a loaded frontcourt, the Bulls can afford to bring Portis along slowly, but there have been flashes of his versatility at times in Summer League. (SH)

• Denver’s Emmanuel Mudiay skipped college to play a year in China professionally. Would he recommend that for other players?

“That’s on your parents, man,” Mudiay said. He added it really depends on the guy and what they want to accomplish, where they are as a person and with their family. “It helped me, it benefitted me as a player, but for a big man it’s probably different,” adding that Europe may be better for bigs than China.

Be sure to check out PBT tomorrow for more from Mudiay. (KH)

• Check out the Spurs’ Jonathan Simmons putting on a show.

• Among those looking impressive for Denver was second-round pick Nikola Jokic, who had 10 points, 11 rebounds, two assists, three steals, two blocks in 23 minutes. He showed some shooting range out to the three-point line and he moved well for a big man. He’s someone to keep an eye on, he needs to develop, but he is interesting. (KH)

• Celtics first-round pick and point guard Terry Rozier knows how to attack and he put up an impressive line — 22 points on 9 shots. He got to the line 13 times and knocked down 12. He also dished out five assists. (KH)

 

All Cedric Maxwell got for winning NBA Finals MVP was this janky watch (video)

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Just two NBA Finals MVPs who are eligible for the Basketball Hall of Fame haven’t been selected for induction:

  • Cedric Maxwell (1981 Celtics)
  • Chauncey Billups (2004 Pistons)

Andre Iguodala (2015 Warriors) could join them, but he at least has some Hall of Fame chatter surrounding him. Billups is absolutely a legitimate Hall of Fame candidate, even if not enshrined.

Maxwell, on the other hand, wasn’t on that level. He never even made an All-Star team. He was just a good player who had an excellent six games against the Rockets in the 1981 NBA Finals.

Really, it’s a neat distinction to be the lone NBA Finals MVP who was never a star. Maxwell can cherish that.

And this watch, which he reveals in this entertaining video.

NBPA reaching out to players, getting feedback on return scenarios

Michele Roberts
David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images
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NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has been in information gathering mode since the day he was forced to shut the league down. He’s gathered information from medical experts on how a return would work, talked to owners and GMs about the financial end and what they hope to see, and had conferences with the league’s broadcast partners.

Most of all, Silver wanted to know what the players thought. With the NBA closing in on a return strategy — Friday Silver and team owners will have a conference call that could lead to a decisive plan — players’ union executive director Michele Roberts is taking the return plans to the players for feedback, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

It looks like the NBA will return to play in Orlando, with training camps starting in late June and games in mid-July.

The questions to be answered are:

• Do all 30 teams report to Orlando to play a handful of regular season games, getting teams over the 70 game threshold?
• Do just the top 16 teams report with the league jumping straight to the playoffs?
• If the league does go straight to the playoffs, how will that impact player pay, which is tied to the regular season?
• Will there be a play-in tournament for the final playoff seeds?
Should the NBA do a 1-16 seed playoff format, or keep the traditional Eastern/Western conference format?
• Will each playoff round have seven games, or will the first round (or two) be best-of-five?

Everything option is still on the table (as officials will be quick to say). However, the buzz around the league has grown louder that just the top 16 teams will go to Florida, and there will be seven-game series for every round, as the league tries to squelch any asterisk talk.

We may know a lot more on Friday. And the players will have their say.

Michael Jordan on tape saying he wouldn’t play on Dream Team with Isiah Thomas

Pistons guard Isiah Thomas and Bulls guard Michael Jordan
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
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In “The Last Dance,” Michael Jordan was asked to react to Isiah Thomas’ explanation of the Pistons’ infamous walk-off. Jordan replied immediately:

I know it’s all bulls—. Whatever he says now, you know it wasn’t his true actions then. He’s had time enough to think about it. Or the reaction of the public, that’s kind of changed his perspective of it. You can show me anything you want. There’s no way you can convince me he wasn’t an a—hole.

Maybe there was some projection in that answer.

For years, Jordan has denied any involvement in Thomas not making the Dream Team. Rod Thorn, who was on the selection committee for the 1992 Olympics, has backed Jordan’s version of events.

But Jordan once revealed a different story.

Jordan on Jack McCallum’s “The Dream Team Tapes:”

Rod Thorn called me. I said, “Rod, I won’t play if Isiah Thomas is on the team.” He assured me. He said, “You know what? Chuck doesn’t want Isiah. So, Isiah is not going to be part of the team.”

Yes, the Pistons were being poor sports when they left the floor without shaking the Bulls’ hands in the 1991 playoffs. But that neither began nor ended the story.

The Bulls repeatedly disrespected the Pistons while finally overcoming Detroit. That particularly bothered the Pistons, because, on their way up, they paid deference to to the Celtics and Lakers. So, while the walk-off was – even according to Thomas – regrettable, it happened for a reason.

Jordan carrying his vendetta to the Dream Team only escalated matters. Yet, unlike the Pistons for not shaking hands, Jordan receives minimal scorn for his poor sportsmanship. Threatening not to play if a rival player is also included is the antithesis of what people want the Olympics to stand for.

And Jordan is now on published audio admitting that’s exactly what he did. You can listen to him for yourself.

As the best player and marketing giant, Jordan had the power. Thomas felt the consequences.

In 1992, Thomas was a marginal choice for the Dream Team. He wasn’t clearly better than the players who made it on current ability. He wasn’t as great as the players – Magic Johnson and Larry Bird – who made it on career accomplishments. It would’ve been fine to select Thomas. It would have been fine to omit him.

But it’s a shame he never got proper consideration on merit.

It’s also a shame Dream Team coach Chuck Daly, who coached Thomas in Detroit, is no longer alive to give his account. Did Dally really tell Thorn not to put Thomas on the Olympic team? Did Thorn really tell that to Jordan? Jordan and Thorn are just so untrustworthy on this matter.

Kendrick Perkins: LeBron James-Paul Pierce rift stems from Pierce spitting at Cavaliers bench

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In 2004, Celtics forward Paul Pierce got fined for spitting at the Cavaliers bench during a preseason game.

Why did Pierce do that?

Apparently, LeBron James.

Kendrick Perkins, via ESPN:

When LeBron was coming into the league, he was getting a lot of heat from players. “Oh he’s not going to do that to us. The Chosen One. Wait til he play against grown men.”

So, Paul is talking noise to the bench, right? He’s talking big noise to the Cavs bench. And they’re sitting over there. Bron and them, they’re all sitting over there.

Paul actually spits over there at the bench, right? The ultimate disrespect, OK?

It ended up turning up. After the game, both teams were meeting in the back. Guys was ready to fight. We had to hold people back. It went up from there.

Ever since that moment, LeBron James and Paul Pierce hate each other. They don’t speak to each other.

This was entering LeBron’s second season, not his rookie year. But Pierce was still the established star, LeBron the riser trying to prove himself. As we’ve seen since, Pierce is very protective of his place in the game.

The feud deepened over the years as Pierce’s Celtics battled LeBron’s Cavaliers and Heat in the playoffs. Pierce took other shots at LeBron, even indirectly. Most recently, Pierce named a top-five list that didn’t include LeBron.

But spitting? That’s low.

There’s just something about Boston players from that era.