Report: Emmanuel Mudiay happy to have avoided Knicks triangle in draft

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The triangle offense (at least as Phil Jackson runs it) does not require a strong, traditional, ball-in-his-hands point guard. Guys who are high IQ players and knock-down shooters can thrive in that role — Steve Kerr, Derek Fisher, etc. — but players like Gary Payton chaffed in the system.

Denver’s Emmanuel Mudiay has been one of the breakout stars of Summer League. He’s a pass-first point guard who has shown an ability to get into the lane and then find open players. He’s already got an NBA body and knows how to use that physicality. Most importantly, he plays under control and the game doesn’t move too fast for him — he looks like an NBA veteran out there.

Before the draft there was a lot of talk about Mudiay being Phil Jackson’s choice for the Knicks at the No. 4 pick, then they would plug him into the triangle. Mudiay is happy that is not the case, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post.

Nuggets rookie point guard Emmanuel Mudiay told confidants after the draft he was, in retrospect, happy the Knicks passed on him at No. 4, as he was unsure he would have been a good fit for the triangle. Despite public comments to the contrary that he felt team president Phil Jackson could “make me a star,’’ Mudiay said he felt he was a better match in a more freewheeling Denver offense, according to sources.

This shouldn’t be a huge shock. Point guards like freedom and the ball in their hands and that is what Denver intentionally gave Mudiay at Summer League.

“The first thing you see is he is a true point guard…” Denver Nuggets Summer League coach Micah Nori told PBT. “Guys are going to love to play with him, they are going to continue to run for him because he is a pass-first point guard…. We’ve put the ball in his hands and given him a lot of freedom, and there’s good reason for that.”

What’s more, with the trade of Ty Lawson to Houston, Denver is going to give Mudiay the ball and a lot of freedom come the regular season, too. That will mean some hard lessons (and plenty of losses) in Denver, but Mudiay will grow quickly from it.

Knicks fans should be happy, however, with what Jackson chose to do in the draft.

Big man Kristaps Porzingis impressed — he looked like he can be just as talented and impactful as Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor in a few years. Porzingis is a project and he needs to put on weight to start, but you can see a smooth, high IQ game. He can score or pass to carve up a defense, plus he has shooting range out to the arc but can play inside as well.

Plus, the Knicks drafted Jerian Grant out of Notre Dame, and he has been one of the great surprises out of Summer League, a fantastic passer and floor general. He can step in this season and play some point for the Knicks in the triangle.

“We really enjoy having his playmaking out there, his vision, his comfort level with handling the basketball,” Knicks head coach Derek Fisher said of Grant’s performance in Las Vegas. “That’s one of the things that really excited us when we drafted him at the number we did (No. 19, a trade with the Wizards) because of that ability. To play the guard in our system, both guards need to be able to make plays, and Jerian gives us a little versatility that way, where he and Langston (Galloway) can play together, he can play with Jose (Calderon), a lot of different combinations we can put out there.”

 

Potential No. 1 pick James Wiseman suspended by NCAA 11 more games

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Starting on Jan. 12, James Wiseman can return to playing for the University of Memphis.

The NCAA — the self-appointed arbiters protecting the myth of amateurism — have investigated the fact that then high school coach Penny Hardaway, paid $11,500 to help Wiseman’s family move to Memphis. Hardaway, a graduate of Memphis, has since become the coach of the Tigers, and before that was considered a booster. That made helping Wiseman move an illegal benefit, and the NCAA has made its ruling to punish Wiseman for this.

Memphis reportedly plans to appeal the ruling. Wiseman had this reaction to the decision:

Here’s why fans of certain teams near the bottom of the standings — and the front offices of those teams — care: Wiseman has the potential to be elite.

He could be the top pick in next June’s draft and is a lock top-three selection. He is by far the best big man in a guard-heavy draft class coming up.

Wiseman was ranked 37th by the basketball writers here at NBC in our “50 Best Players in Five Years” project this past summer. Here is what College Basketball Talk’s Rob Dauster wrote about Wiseman for that project:

Wiseman has a chance to be really good. He stands 7-foot. He has the kind of length, mobility and athleticism that should allow him to thrive at the five in the modern NBA. He is a capable defender with the potential to be very, very good with some added strength and a bit of motivation. And he is skilled enough where he has the potential of one day doing all four things modern fives are asked to do – protect the rim, switch ball-screens, space the floor to the three-point line, be a lob target as a roll-man in ball-screens…

If Wiseman embraces the fact that he can be a top five center in the NBA doing the four things I listed above at an elite level, then he’ll make himself a lot of money while making some NBA GM very, very happy.

Wiseman also has worked on a face-up game and wants to add some Greek Freak like skills to his game. We’ll see how that goes, but his floor seems to be a very good NBA big man. A lot of teams could use that.

Rob Gronkowski, Venus Williams dance with Laker Girls (video)

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Former New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski said he doesn’t plan to play football this season.

How is he spending his time?

Dancing with the Laker Girls cheerleaders along with tennis legend Venus Williams. They put on quite a show. I’m sure comedians James Corden and Ian Karmel, mostly off camera, were also great.

But the most-impressive stoppage entertainment in Los Angeles last night? That might be Maxx.

Portland waives Pau Gasol as he tries to recover from foot surgery

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Portland signed Pau Gasol to a one-year contract this summer, hoping the aging Spaniard could help the team stay afloat while Jusuf Nurkic recovers from surgery on his leg.

It didn’t work out that way. Gasol suffered a foot injury that required surgery and he has yet to recover enough to get back on the court. Meanwhile, an injury to Zach Collins left Portland even more shorthanded up front. Wednesday, the Trail Blazers waived Gasol, something the player confirmed.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the news and had more details.

Is this the end of Gasol’s Hall of Fame career? He’s 39 years old, and last season with the Bucks he looked like a shell of the All-NBA big man who joined forces with Kobe Bryant to win the Lakers a couple of titles. Injuries limited him to 30 games last season, he doesn’t move like he once did, and he averaged a career-low 3.9 points per game.

If so, one of the good guys of the NBA will be missed.

If not, if he can get healthy, some teams certainly would be interested in having him for depth and his locker room presence during a playoff run.

Report: Kawhi Leonard, Paul George to play first game together on Wednesday

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The way they tell it, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard wanted to play together on the Spurs in 2017.

They’ll finally share the court as teammates tonight.

The Clippers signed Leonard and traded for George this summer. But alternating injuries have prevented the forwards from playing together. That’ll change against the Celtics tonight.

Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN:

George dominated three games without Leonard, scoring like crazy and hitting a game-winner against the Thunder. Leonard excelled before his knee injury.

It’s scary to imagine how Leonard and George will perform together.

Boston could provide a stiff first test. The Celtics have plenty of wings – Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Semi Ojeleye – to throw at the Clippers stars.

I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s an adjustment period for Leonard and George. They have similar styles, and that can create complications. But Leonard and George are so versatile and talented. I expect them to thrive together in the long run.

There’s certainly excitement surrounding tonight’s game, but it’s only one night in what should be a long season in L.A.