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Giannis Antetokounmpo refuses to take part in friendly summer workouts with other stars

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This alone will have some old-school fans Giannis Antetokounmpo the MVP all by itself.

NBA stars working out together is part of summer. Many of them head to the same handful of gyms, or to the same few pickup runs around the nation. It’s a right of summer for many of them.

Antetokounmpo wants no part of that. He turned down a chance to be at Chris Brickley’s Black Ops runs in New York this summer which featured Carmelo Anthony, James Harden, Kevin Durant, LeBron James and others. From Eric Nehm of The Athletic.

“They wanted me to come, show up, and play and I was like, ‘No. I’m good. Thank you,’ ” Antetokounmpo said…

“I can’t work out with you in the summer and then play you in a few months,” Antetokounmpo told The Athletic. “It feels weird. It doesn’t feel right with me. Like other players, it’s cool for other players, but I don’t. I don’t want to. Other guys do it.”

Antetokounmpo did work out last summer with Kobe Bryant because he is no longer in the NBA or officially part of a team. Aside from that, he works out with Bucks personnel and keeps to his routine. Antetokounmpo doesn’t want to let people in and show them where those players could learn something to go back at him.

I respect Antetokounmpo’s opinion. I also have no problem with other stars — or, NBA players in general — working out together during the summer for two reasons.

First, if you are Durant or LeBron or Harden — an MVP level of play Antetokounmpo is approaching if not already at — how many guys are there walking the planet can really push you and challenge you on the court? How many guys can force you to get better to keep beating them? It’s a handful of players, and if you want to be challenged, you need to be challenged by them. (There’s a sliding scale for that all the way through the NBA, these are some of the world’s best players and they can’t just show up to the local blacktop pickup run and get better.)

Second, those guys still go hard at each other in games. Harder maybe. If you’re like me, you brought your energy and best efforts for pickup games against your brother/family or your best friends. I was not going to let them beat me. We all went hard at each other like that. Then, when it was over, we went and got lunch, shared some beers hung out and went back to being friends. The idea that players won’t play as hard against friends never made sense to me. The opposite tends to be true.

We’ll see if in a few years Antetokounmpo changes his tune. For now, he’s not going to be buddy-buddy with anyone.

 

 

 

Draymond Green on Kevin Durant: “If he go, he go. If he stay, he stay,” focus is on title

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The conventional wisdom among front offices (and league observers) is that this summer Kevin Durant will leave the Warriors. He will go to a team — maybe the Knicks, maybe the Clippers, maybe someone else — where he is the dominant force to help grow his legacy. The Warriors of the last three years, the Everest nobody else in the NBA has been able to climb, will be no more.

Just don’t think that is bothering the Warriors.

Not according to Draymond Green, who told Sam Amick of The Athletic that the incident he had with KD early in the season is long forgotten and the team just wants another ring and parade.

“It’s not important,” he said of the Durant dynamic. “We’re not about to sit around and walk around, or carry something around, that happened in November.”

Free agency questions be damned.

“He’s part of it right now,” Green said about Durant. “Whatever happens this summer happens. Whatever the hell he do, he does. If he go, he go. If he stay, he stay. But while he’s here, we’re going to win another championship. It’s just that simple. Nothing else matters.”

The Warriors have shown that attitude recently when they rolled Denver and Oklahoma City, and beat surging Houston without Kevin Durant. Golden State can still flip the switch. They can also still sleepwalk through games (which is why the Nuggets have caught them in the standings).

Internally, the buzz has been the Warriors expect they may well lose Durant. They will have a strong pitch of (likely) having won three straight titles, they can offer more money and guaranteed years than any other team, and they will be opening a new arena in San Francisco proper (close to Durant’s home in the area). That may not be enough, but it has to be a tempting offer.

The idea this could be the last run of this version of the Warriors is fueling the team. It will make them that much harder to knock off.

If KD leaves, then the Warriors will have to return to a lineup like the one that won a title before Durant arrived. Life is so hard for them. (Read that last sentence in a sarcastic voice.)

Kobe on Kuzma, Ingram, Ball: “Are the three of them better than Anthony Davis? No!”

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There are Lakers fans that balked at the idea the franchise would trade their best three young players — Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, and Lonzo Ball — for Anthony Davis. Those fans thought that (plus first round picks and salary filler) was too steep a price.

Kobe Bryant disagrees.

Kobe is on a global tour (he was just in China to help with the draw for the FIBA World Cup) and there spoke with the Spanish language sports powerhouse AS.com, and when asked about the possible trade for Davis and the impact on the team, Kobe said this (hat tip Reddit user hoodiefern for posting and translating):

“Kuzma, Lonzo, Ingram… are the three of them better than Anthony Davis? No! Ciao! Bye! Anthony Davis is one of the best players in the world. Not currently, in history. What are we talking about? If you can trade for Anthony Davis, you do it. If not, alright. We have three players who are very young and work hard. They’re smart and they have to develop. But if you can trade for Anthony Davis… yes!”

He’s right.

In the NBA, talent wins and Davis is as talented a player as the league has when unleashed (he has been reined in with the Pelicans since the trade deadline). Put Davis next to LeBron James and the Lakers can quickly become a genuine threat in the West. Whether New Orleans is willing to play along is another question, which is why the Lakers also are focused on free agency.

Elite talent alone is not enough — a lesson the Lakers brass did not take to heart this season. Stars such as LeBron and Davis (or Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, James Harden, etc.) can thrive in any system because of their talent, but around them needs to be a system and role players picked to fit said system. Want to run a lot of pick-and-roll and/or isolations? Better get shooters who can knock down kick-out passes. Want to play uptempo? Better get athletes who thrive in that system, and shooters. Back in Kobe’s era, the Lakers were a triangle team but the non-stars fit the system and were good shooters of the era (think Derek Fisher, a guard who fit the triangle well but did not thrive in other systems).

Kobe gets that, but he knows the hardest part of the equation to get is the elite talent because there simply isn’t much of it.

The Lakers should be willing to trade their young players for a talent upgrade, but beyond that they still need an identity and players who fit whatever that identity/system is. Oh, and they need shooters.

 

 

Grizzlies: C.J. Miles likely out rest of season

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Memphis Grizzlies guard/forward C.J. Miles is expected to miss the remainder of the season after injuring his left foot over the weekend.

Miles left a 135-128 loss to the Washington Wizards on Saturday due to left foot soreness. The Grizzlies announced Tuesday that an MRI revealed a stress reaction.

The 6-foot-6 Miles appeared in 53 games this season for the Grizzlies and Toronto Raptors. The Grizzlies acquired him from Toronto in the Marc Gasol trade Feb. 7.

Miles came off the bench in 13 games with the Grizzlies and averaged 9.3 points, 2.1 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 22.6 minutes.

Report: Timberwolves fan called Blake Griffin ‘boy’

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With his recent outburst at hecklers in Utah, Russell Westbrook ignited a long-overdue discussion of how fans interact with players during games. The Jazz even recently banned a fan who repeatedly called Westbrook “boy” last year.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t an isolated case of that racist language being used toward a player.

Pistons Blake Griffin confronted a fan in Minnesota in December.

Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

The fan was seemingly ejected. The Timberwolves didn’t respond to questions whether he faced additional punishment.

I’m all for good-natured heckling. Racist taunts are completely unacceptable – and maybe still more common than we realized. Because Griffin didn’t get as enraged as Westbrook on video, this got swept under the rug.

It shouldn’t be Griffin’s responsibility to fix this. Teams must do a better job holding accountable fans who cross the line.