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Giannis Antetokounmpo says Jason Kidd helped him grow into dominant player

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MILWAUKEE (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo grew from a reed-thin, inexperienced teenager into one of the NBA’s dominant players under the tutelage of coach Jason Kidd, whom the Milwaukee Bucks fired earlier in the week with the team mired in mediocrity despite high expectations.

Kidd’s abrupt and surprising dismissal Monday has taken an emotional toll on the All-Star forward, affectionately known as the “Greek Freak.”

“He’s a big part of my success in the league,” Antetokounmpo said after Wednesday’s practice in his first public comments since the coaching change. “I’m loyal to the people I work with. I love him as a person. I care about him as a person.”

Informed by Bucks’ management of the planned firing even before Kidd learned his fate, Antetokounmpo called his soon-to-be ex-coach to break the news.

“It was one of the toughest calls I had to make,” he said. “We are going to miss him.”

Joe Prunty, a member of Kidd’s staff, has been named interim coach for the remainder of the season. He directed the team to a 109-105 win over Phoenix on Monday, just hours after taking over the team.

Kidd became Milwaukee’s coach a few months after a group led by co-owners Wes Edens and Mark Lasry bought the team in April 2014. The Bucks traded two future second-round draft picks to the Brooklyn Nets, where Kidd had been coach, as compensation. He inherited a team that won 15 games in 2013-14. Under Kidd, the Bucks had a regular-season record of 139-152.

Milwaukee is 9-12 since going a season-high five games over .500 on Dec. 9.

Asked whether he believed Kidd should have been fired, Antetokounmpo, who reportedly offered to go to the team’s owners to try to save Kidd’s job, said: “It’s in the front office’s hands. Whatever they can do to make this team a championship level team, it can happen. If it’s me being traded, or the coach being fired.”

Kidd is the second coach to be fired since the Bucks selected Antetokounmpo with the 15th overall pick in the 2013 draft. Antetokounpmo played one season under Larry Drew, who was dismissed in June 2014.

“I was only 18,” Antetokoummpo said. “I didn’t even know how the NBA worked. (Kidd’s firing) hurts a little bit more because he was here for 3 1/2 years. He trusted me. He put the ball in my hands. He pushed me to be great.”

Antetokounmpo is expected to return to action when the Bucks take on Brooklyn in Milwaukee on Friday. He sat out the past two games as he continues to manage chronic pain in his right knee.

“I feel great. I’m ready to go,” he said. “I feel energized.”

Prunty said his players “gave good energy” in the first full practice since he took the reins.

“These are a tough few days,” Prunty said. “We need to focus on whether we are getting better.”

The Bucks have said that Prunty will be considered for the permanent job after the season. The hire will be especially crucial as the Bucks prepare to move into a new arena.

“It’s hard to talk about that aspect of it right now,” Prunty said. “This isn’t about me, especially under these circumstances.”

Malcolm Brogdon, last season’s NBA Rookie of the Year, praised Prunty’s positive demeanor.

“In times of struggle, we tend to pout and take our foot off the gas. We can’t do that,” Brogdon said. “He’s a good coach to have when we are going through those struggles.”

Clippers reportedly add Tyronn Lue to coaching staff

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Tyronn Lue will be coaching in Los Angeles this upcoming season, but it won’t be for the Lakers.

News broke on Tuesday that Lue had accepted a job on Doc Rivers’ staff with the Los Angeles Clippers. Lue is yet another big-name addition to a squad that already added players Kawhi Leonard and Paul George this offseason.

Lue was a championship-winning coach with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016, and he has an innate understanding about how to deal with star players in the NBA.

Via Twitter:

It’s also important to understand what kind of culture Rivers, Steve Ballmer, and the rest of the Clippers front office is trying to build in Los Angeles. In addition to their proposed new stadium in Inglewood, the Clippers are trying to take over L.A. one big-name at a time. That includes everyone from players to coaches, even ones who won championships as the head honcho.

There’s no doubt that Los Angeles is striving for the Finals this season, and adding a guy like Lue to the bench is yet another reiteration of that fact.

Rumor: Stephen A. Smith is coming to ESPN’s NBA broadcasts

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National NBA broadcasts are about to get a little bit different this upcoming season.

We already got word that Michelle Beadle would not be on NBA Countdown on ESPN for the 2019-20 NBA calendar year. In her place will be Rachel Nichols, a favorite of most thanks to her work on The Jump, and Maria Taylor. And apparently ESPN’s studio show is about to get an analyst boost as well.

According to the big lead, Stephen A. Smith will be added to the analyst panel for ESPN studio show, likely on Wednesday nights. The bombastic First Take host will give his NBA takes either to the delight or dismay of fans nationwide.

Via The Big Lead:

Stephen A. Smith is in ESPN’s plans for NBA studio coverage this upcoming season, The Big Lead has learned from multiple people with knowledge of the situation. An ESPN spokesperson declined to comment on the news.

Our sources indicate that Wednesday night is the most likely time for him to be involved, but cautioned that plans are not yet set in stone.

People lost their collective minds on Twitter this summer when it was announced that ESPN had given another huge contract to Stephen A. to continue to do… whatever Stephen A. does. Namely, yell and act incredulous in a way so insincere it’s hard to believe anyone is entertained by it, much less could take it at face value.

No doubt Smith will fill the role, aesthetically, that Charles Barkley does for TNT. He’ll talk in big, wild soundbites that get Twitter all riled up, thereby allowing some VP at the network to pitch his superiors about “leverage” and “engagement” from Smith’s appearances.

Good luck to everyone watching the NBA on national TV this year. Maybe locate where the mute button is on your remote now so you know where it is come autumn.

Gordon Hayward says he’s feeling confident in his ankle for next season

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Gordon Hayward still wasn’t particularly good last season. He never really looked all that comfortable playing with the Boston Celtics, and Brad Stevens’ insistence on playing him led to some reported rifts in the Boston locker room.

But Hayward is expected to come back at full strength this year, and it could be just in time for him to shine in light of Kyrie Irving‘s departure to the Brooklyn Nets.

His severely dislocated left ankle is now long behind him, and it appears that Hayward has been putting in the work necessary this summer. Speaking to Mass Live, Hayward said that he is starting to get more confident in his game.

Via Mass Live:

“Reps is what gives you confidence, so being able to do things over and over and over and not worry about how my ankle’s feeling, or having to be cautious with it, has been really good, especially for my confidence,” Hayward said. “I think last year was a lot of hoping and not really knowing what was going to happen just because I didn’t have the reps… going into a summer training as hard as I want to, it’s a lot better for my confidence this year and expectations-wise as well.”

A healthy Hayward would really change the dynamic of the Celtics in the Eastern Conference this year. Losing Irving is huge, but Boston is going to have a real depth of talent on its hands if it can add Hayward to other wing talent Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Marcus Smart.

It seems cliche to point out at this point, but people have slept on how good Hayward was on both sides of the ball during his time with the Utah Jazz. He’s a complete player at the small forward position when healthy, and bringing back his superstar firepower could ease the pain of losing Irving to Brooklyn.

Royce White questions why Lakers have Jared Dudley not ‘Melo; Dudley, others defend move

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There are a lot of people surprised that this deep into the summer, with NBA rosters largely filled out, Carmelo Anthony isn’t playing somewhere. Whether on Team USA or training with new teammates for an upcoming NBA season.

Among those confused, former NBA draft pick Royce White, who was outspoken on the issue — and called out both LeBron James and Jared Dudley — in speaking with Fanatics View.

Dudley responded to this, not directly to White but to a retweet of this rant, and did so in Dudley’s calm, rational way. His Tweet has since been taken down, but it said:

“This isn’t Melo vs myself, That man is a 1st ballot HOFer… We all want to see him back in the league… Royce seems uninformed when he speaks and this situation in calling my name out. This league is not about who’s better then who it’s what’s players make for the best Team.”

Kendrick Perkins and Jameer Nelson had Dudley’s back.

Dudley/Perkins/Nelson are spot on here. The reason Dudley is on an NBA roster and Anthony is not is all about willingness to fit in and play a role. Dudley knows exactly how to do that, accepting limited minutes off the bench, staying ready, and when he comes in playing hard, being a pest, and knocking down threes. Anthony is unquestionably still a better scorer, but he was unwilling to accept a role in both Oklahoma City and Houston (and his game now is that of a role player/sixth man). Anthony says that’s different now, but GMs are risk averse in most situations. Teams that might have interest in ‘Melo are concerned about the possible distraction and disruption, and they wonder if that risk is worth what Anthony brings to the court right now. It was the same with Team USA.

Some team should — and one likely eventually will — give Anthony another shot. He deserves it. However, teams thinking about a deep playoff run tend to like their chemistry and are wary of disruptions, so nothing has come out yet. Even if Royce White and a lot of other people think it should have.