Getty Images

NBA teams paying closer attention to players’ wingspan

1 Comment

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) โ€” Not until Nate McMillan began being fitted for custom-made suits a few years into his NBA career three decades ago did he understand just how far his arms reached.

When Bill Walton dominated at UCLA in the 1970s, no one ever measured his wingspan – from fingertips to fingertips and arms outstretched.

Neither knew their wingspans then, and they still don’t. That is not the case for young players.

“Yeah, I found that out once I bought my first suit,” the 6-foot-5 McMillan, a 12-year pro now coaching the Pacers, said with a chuckle, realizing his arms stretched more than 3 feet each.

Once limited to descriptions of birds, wingspan has become one of the most important measurements for basketball prospects over the past decade. Coaches marvel at players with long arms, figuring they will more easily grab rebounds, block shots, steal passes and shoot over defenders.

The average man has a wingspan about 2 inches more than his height. But several NBA players pop off the chart because of their long arms.

It’s no coincidence that Jazz center Rudy Gobert, who stands 7-1 and led the NBA in blocks last season, has the longest wingspan in the league at 7 feet, 9 inches.

The NBA playoffs begin Saturday, and an extra inch of reach can lead to a blocked shot or steal that might alter a series or a season.

Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo is nicknamed the “Greek Freak” in part because he stands 6-11 with a 7-3 wingspan and giant hands. The explosive Russell Westbrook is 6-3, with a wingspan of 6-8, which helps him be one of the best rebounding guards in history.

“Every asset that a player has might make up for something else. If somebody’s short, hopefully they’re quick. The wingspan sure helps a lot of people,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said . “You look at size of hands, wingspans. Look at John Stockton’s arms or Avery Johnson’s arms and they’re very long, and their hands are very big. They can control the basketball, they can do things with it.

“A wingspan always helps people, whether it’s blocking shots or deflections on defense.”

In recent seasons, Warriors high-scoring All-Star Kevin Durant has become more determined to use his 7-5 wingspan to make more of an impact on defense.

Durant, the reigning NBA Finals MVP , is quick to point out that his length allows him to make up for other areas, including being far leaner than most NBA players.

“You make up a lot of ground. I’m not as fast laterally, I’m not as athletic, I’m not as quick as guys up and down but I think I make up for it with my length,” said Durant, a defensive player of the year candidate. “There’s a lot of guys, Draymond (Green) is the same way, small, undersized power forward but can guard plenty of guys because of his length. His arms are long and he can block shots. We’ve seen him block guys at the rim and also get his hands on some basketballs off the dribble.”

Raised in France, Gobert kept growing from ages 15-19. He didn’t often hear the term wingspan, finally understanding how special his measurement is when he got to the NBA.

“I think it’s something that makes a big difference, especially defensively,” he said. “You’re able to deflect the pass or block shots.”

Warriors 7-foot center JaVale McGee went through only a handful of pre-draft workouts for NBA teams, hardly a prized prospect after a career at Nevada. Yet each visit he made, among the first things measured was his wingspan, 7-6.

One of the benefits is his ability to corral and slam home lob passes that are high and might be off target. Before he got to the NBA, McGee wasn’t even aware of his wingspan.

“I’ve always been tall. I was born tall,” he said. “It’s nothing that I heard about until I got to the league, or right before I got into the league, they’re like, `We’d like to measure your wingspan.’ They don’t really bring it up to us about that in college or high school.”

Walton is in the Hall of Fame, but he never had his arms measured end to end.

“At one time, they were long enough, and I can still put my own shoes and socks on,” he quipped. “It’s not how big you are, it’s how big you play. Any time you think you’re too small to make a difference in the world you’ve never spent the night alone in bed with a mosquito. But when you have the great game of basketball with all the ultimate winners of the genetic lottery … it’s not how high you jump, it’s where you are and when you jump.”

Wingspan is one detail Warriors coach Steve Kerr takes seriously and might consider when deciding on lineups and rotations for the defending champions. He has been going with a center by committee based on matchups.

Some of the best players Kerr faced had incredible reach.

“It’s legit. It’s much more important than your height,” Kerr said. “If your wingspan is more than your height, that’s kind of abnormal. Most of us have the same wingspan as our height. That’s kind of a rule of thumb. A lot of basketball players don’t, though, they have wider wingspans. And they’re able to get their hands on balls or shots or loose balls. … I’m a big believer in that.”

 

Zach LaVine reacts to Chicago hiring Billy Donovan: ‘Wow, that’ll be good’

Zach LaVine Billy Donovan
Elsa/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Zach LaVine learned about the Chicago Bulls hiring Billy Donovan as their head coach while playing Call of Duty.

Which means there is a recording of his real-time reaction to the news.

“Damn, we just got Billy Donovan as our next head coachโ€ฆ wow, that’ll be good.”

LaVine also Tweeted about the hire.

He wasn’t the only Bulls’ player excited about the hire.

Bradley Beal, a former Donovan player at Florida, loved the hire.

Donovan takes over a Chicago team that seems on the cusp of something. How big a something remains up for debate. The roster has young talent: Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Coby White, Wendell Carter, and the No. 4 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Donovan is an upgrade over Boylen, both in terms of player relations and tactics, making the Bulls better.

Even with Donovan, what is the ceiling for these Bulls? Next season they are not going to be better than the Celtics, Bucks, Heat, or Nets, and likely not the 76ers or Raptors either (unless Toronto tears down the roster). That’s six. And a lot of people would put the Indiana Pacers on a level above the Bulls as well. Bottom line: Even with a coaching upgrade and player improvement, the Bulls are likely scrambling for a bottom playoff spot in the East.

The Bulls are looking beyond next year. Expect Chicago head of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas to spend the next season deciding who fits and who doesn’t, and shake up the roster accordingly. By then the Bulls may be in a better place to be a threat in the East.

Whatever happens, the Bulls got better with this hire, and their biggest star likes it.

Vanessa Bryant sues sheriff over Kobe Bryant helicopter-crash photos

Kobe Bryant crash site
Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images
Leave a comment

LOS ANGELES — Vanessa Bryant, the widow of basketball star Kobe Bryant, has filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles County sheriff claiming deputies shared unauthorized photos of the crash that killed her husband, their 13-year-old daughter and seven others.

After the Jan. 26 crash, reports surfaced that graphic photos of the victims were being shared. Vanessa Bryant was “shocked and devastated” by the reports, the lawsuit states.

The suit seeks damages for negligence, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The victims died when the helicopter crashed into a hillside in Calabasas, northwest of Los Angeles, during cloudy weather. They were traveling to a youth basketball tournament at Bryant’s sports facility in Thousand Oaks. The National Transportation Safety Board has not concluded what caused the crash on the outskirts of Los Angeles County but said there was no sign of mechanical failure in the Sikorsky S-76. helicopter.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva previously told news media that eight deputies took or shared graphic photos of the scene and he ordered the images deleted. The sheriff said the department has a policy against taking and sharing crime scene photos, but it does not apply to accident scenes.

“That was my No. 1 priority, was to make sure those photos no longer exist,” Villanueva previously told NBC News. “We identified the deputies involved, they came to the station on their own and had admitted they had taken them and they had deleted them. And we’re content that those involved did that.”

Vanessa Bryant’s lawsuit alleges the sheriff’s actions constituted a “cover-up” of the misconduct. The suit claims the photos could still exist.

“Mrs. Bryant feels ill at the thought of strangers gawking at images of her deceased husband and child and she lives in fear that she or her children will one day confront horrific images of their loved ones online,” the lawsuit states.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has not yet signed a bill that would make it a misdemeanor for first responders to take unauthorized photos of deceased people at the scene of an accident or crime. The legislation was prompted by the crash photos.

A statement from the sheriff’s department Tuesday incorrectly said such actions are now criminal. The bill has not yet been signed into law.

“Shortly following this tragic crash, Sheriff Villanueva sponsored legislation which now makes it a crime for public safety personnel to take and share non-official pictures of this nature,” the statement said. “Due to the pending litigation, we are unable to offer further comment.”

Vanessa Bryant’s attorney, Gary C. Robb, declined to comment.

The Los Angeles Times first reported the allegations that the graphic photos had been taken and disseminated in February.

Bryant previously filed a claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, in May. The suit was filed Thursday.

Separately, Vanessa Bryant has also filed a lawsuit alleging the helicopter’s pilot, Ara Zobayan, was careless and negligent to fly in the fog and should have aborted the flight.

The brother of the pilot has said in a court filing that Bryant knew the risks of helicopter flying and his survivors aren’t entitled to damages from the pilot’s estate, while the helicopter company, Island Express, says it is not responsible for damages, calling the crash, among other things, “an act of God” and “an unavoidable accident” that was beyond its control.

Chicago Bulls hire Billy Donovan as coach

Billy Donovan coaches Thunder-Bulls
Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Billy Donovan left the Thunder despite them offering a new contract. Maybe it wasn’t as much money as he desired to coach a team that could be entering rebuilding. But active head coaches rarely turn down an NBA job unless they know they’ll land on their feet.

Donovan will land on his feet โ€“ with the Bulls.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN first broke the story, the Bulls confirmed it soon after.

โ€œWe are very pleased to welcome Billy and his family to the Chicago Bulls. The success that he has sustained over the course of his coaching career puts him on a different level,โ€ Chicago head of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas said in a statement. โ€œWe feel his ability to help his players reach their potential, both individually and collectively, will mesh well with our roster. Whether as a player or as a coach, he has won everywhere his career has taken him, and we hope that will continue here in Chicago.โ€

This is a major credibility upgrade for Chicago, which fired Jim Boylen. Donovan is a solid NBA head coach who adapts to his players rather than putting them through extreme measures.

Considering they just hired Arturas Karnisovas as president, the Bulls might have the patience for a rebuild. Donovan will be tasked with overseeing the development of Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Coby White, Wendell Carter Jr. and the No. 4 pick in the upcoming draft. Donovan’s time as a college coach at Florida shows he can help players progress.

But Chicago also frequently faces pressure, especially internally, to win sooner than later. Donovan inherits veterans like LaVine, Otto Porter Jr., Thaddeus Young and Tomas Satoransky. Donovan showed at Oklahoma City he could manage a team with immediate expectations.

Is this group’s long-term future inspiring? No. Is this group’s present inspiring? No.

But Donovan provides a little boost in both areas.

Celtics: Romeo Langford out rest of playoffs after wrist surgery

Celtics guard Romeo Langford
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Celtics don’t have quite enough dependable players to fill a playoff rotation. So, beyond its core, Boston has juggled deep-bench minutes throughout the postseason.

One of those options โ€“ Romeo Langford โ€“ will no longer be available.

Celtics release:

Celtics guard Romeo Langford this morning underwent successful surgery to repair the scapholunate ligament in his right wrist. He will miss the remainder of the 2019-20 NBA season.

A rookie, Langford also suffered a right-hand injury last season at Indiana. A pattern? Probably not. But it’s another interruption in the 20-year-old’s development.

For Boston’s playoff hopes, this is a minor setback โ€“ one made even smaller by Gordon Hayward returning (and staying). Though more of a forward, Hayward clears the way for Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart to handle more guard minutes, a few of which could have gone to Langford.