DeMar DeRozan working on three-point shot this summer

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Last season, Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan made his living in the midrange.

Only 8.9 percent of his shots came from three (and he shot just 28.9 percent on them, although that jumped to 34 percent after the All-Star break). Instead, 56.6 percent of DeRozan’s shots came between 10 feet out and the arc, and he shot just below 38 percent on those. While the league-wide pushback on midrange jumpers can get taken too far, if you’re going to take them you better make them. Nobody complains about Dirk Nowitzki’s midrange shots — more than 60 percent of his shots are from 10 feet to the three-point line, but he hits nearly 48 percent of them. DeRozan is dynamic when he can attack the rim, but if there are obstacles in his way he too easily settles for a midrange jumper he does not hit.

This year, DeRozan going to try to become a more reliable threat from three to open things up. New Raptor DeMarre Carroll has been watching DeRozan and talked about stretching out his shot to the Toronto Sun.

“(NBA three-point leader) Kyle Korver told me the three-point shot is just more repetition. The more you shoot it, the better you’ll get at it. I feel like if DeMar will keep working on it, it will eventually come,” Carroll said…

“I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of other things he worked on in his game and he’s a dominant offensive player (already),” Carroll said. “So I think if he adds that three-point to his game it’ll take us over the top.”

The Raptors have overhauled their roster to become more defensive minded — that’s why Carroll was their top free agent target. They wanted a quality wing defender, and they got one of the best.

With this new roster look for even more threes — the Raptors were ninth in the NBA in three-pointers attempted last season and made a respectable 35.2 percent of them (12th in the NBA). If, as expected, Toronto starts Kyle Lowry, DeRozan, Carroll, and Patrick Patterson around Jonas Valanciunas, that’s potentially four three-point shooters on the floor around a big who demands a double in the post. Throw in a quicker pace (the Raptors were bottom 10) and the chance to get a few more threes in transition, and the Raptors could be bombs away from deep this season. Which will be a good thing, especially if DeRozan knocks them down.

The Raptors needed to make changes, their unimpressive first-round playoff exit (and the second half of last season) made that clear. But transitions are rarely smooth, and there are going to be some bumps early on for the Raptors as their focus shifts. Especially if those threes don’t fall for a stretch.

 

Tacko Fall’s agent confident if Celtics don’t keep him on roster another team will

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Tacko Fall was arguably the most popular player at Las Vegas Summer League (especially since Zion Williamson only played nine minutes). Fans chanted for him to get in games and then chanted “M-V-P” once he was in. Fall averaged 7.2 points a game on 77 percent shooting at Summer League and every play he made became a viral highlight.

But that was Summer League.

Now things are getting real and Fall is trying to make the Celtics’ roster. Fall signed an Exhibit 10 contract with the Celtics, which is essentially a training camp invite.

It’s a longshot Fall makes the Celtics’ regular season roster for two reasons. First, Fall needs a lot more development to be NBA ready, both physically and in terms of understanding and reacting to the game and how fast it moves. That was evident in Las Vegas. Second, the Celtics have Enes Kanter starting at center with Daniel Theis and Robert Williams behind him, it’s unlikely they keep a fourth traditional center on the roster. Both of Boston’s two-way contracts are already filled.

If the Celtics cut Fall and he signs with Boston’s G-League affiliate the Maine Red Claws, Fall gets a $50,000 bonus.

However, Fall’s agent Justin Haynes says if Boston cuts Fall he believes another team will sign him, something Haynes told Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe.

“If the Celtics release him, I don’t think he goes unclaimed,” said Haynes, Fall’s agent. “I think somebody will take a shot on him because he’s done enough to show he can find a place in the NBA. I’m really hopeful that it’s Boston. I hope they find a way, and they do have a vision for him.”

I could see another team giving Fall one of their two-way contracts, but he needs a lot more development and time on the court. He needs time in the G-League. Maybe a team gives him a roster spot and develops him there, but that seems unlikely. Fall has the potential to be an NBA player, but it’s going to take a lot of work for him to get there.

Work that this year likely will take place in the G-League.

Gregg Popovich shows off some handles, and a midrange game (VIDEO)

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This is where you insert your “if one more player drops from USA Basketball” joke…

Team USA has flown to Australia for a series of FIBA World Cup tuneup games — two against Australia, one against Canada — and they are practicing there for a few days prior to those games. At one of those practices, USA (and Spurs) coach Gregg Popovich showed off a little behind-the-back dribble and midrange game, and Donovan Mitchell caught it on his camera and posted it.

Just as a reminder, Pop did play. Never in the NBA, but he was one of the last cuts of the 1972 USA Olympic team.

That said, I think the coaching gig worked out pretty well for him.

Team USA will play Australia on Aug. 22 and 24, then face Canada on Aug. 26. From there the USA flies to China where its first game is Sept. 1 against the Czech Republic.

Atlanta Hawks promote, extend contract of GM Travis Schlenk

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Trae Young. John Collins. Kevin Huerter. De’Andre Hunter. Cam Reddish.

The Atlanta Hawks have quietly built one of the more intriguing young teams in the NBA the past couple of years, trading up and down in the draft to compile a young roster with a lot of potential. They moved on from Mike Budenholzer (he landed on his feet just fine, thanks) and brought in player development specialist in Llyod Pierce as coach. All that has yet to translate to a lot of wins, but it will — the trajectory of the Hawks is going to take off like a rocket.

Travis Schlenk, the Hawks general manager and architect of all of it, earned the contract extension and new title he was given, something announced by the team on Monday. Schlenk is now Atlanta’s President of Basketball Operations and General Manager.

“We are extremely pleased with the direction that Travis and our entire basketball operations team has us heading as a franchise. He has used the draft to build an impressive young core, hired one of the NBA’s top young coaches in Lloyd Pierce and positioned us to have the cap space, draft picks and financial flexibility needed to have long-term success in the NBA,” Hawks Principal Owner Tony Ressler said in a statement announcing the move.

Schlenk had been an assistant GM in Golden State before coming to Atlanta, and also had spent time in the Miami and Orlando organizations. He’s been in the NBA front office game for a couple of decades.

This is a smart decision by the Hawks. When things are going well, when you have good people in place, keep them there and get ownership out of the way. Let the basketball people do their jobs. Atlanta has figured that out.

The Hawks won 24 games during Schlenk’s first year and 29 last season, but expect that number to jump as the young talent on this roster continues to mature and get added to.

NBA’s Steph Curry helps Howard U. start Division I golf team

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WASHINGTON (AP) Two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry is helping Howard University launch a Division I golf program.

The Golden State Warriors star guard and the school announced the six-year partnership Monday.

The specifics of his contribution were not disclosed.

Howard officials say they plan to have women’s and men’s golf teams for the 2020-21 academic year.

The school had a Division II golf program in the past, along with intercollegiate and intramural club teams.

The 31-year-old Curry, who has won three NBA championships with the Warriors, says he decided to get involved after meeting a Howard student who had been trying to get the university to have a golf team.

Curry says “it’s tough” to hear about students “who have the talent but don’t have a fair shot at the game.”