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Bucks, Kings collaborate to address social injustice

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Nearly a year after police fatally shot an unarmed black man in Sacramento and a series of protests ensued in California’s capital, the Kings and Milwaukee Bucks collaborated on a daylong summit Wednesday to address social injustice and encourage engagement and thoughtful discussions to try to bring about change.

The event held ahead of a Bucks-Kings game came nearly a year after the March 18, 2018, fatal shooting of 22-year-old Stephon Clark. Clark’s death ignited a series of protests that included protesters joining hands and blocking entrances to the Kings’ downtown arena as owner Vivek Ranadive pledged his support and vowed to do his part to address the issue.

“I made a commitment that we would work hard to have an impact and do better and bring people together,” Ranadive said Wednesday.

Ranadive was joined by Milwaukee co-owner Marc Lasry for a panel discussion along with Mark Thomsen, the attorney for Bucks guard Sterling Brown.

The Bucks were rocked last year when Brown, then a rookie, was Tased by police. He later filed a lawsuit saying the officers’ use of a stun gun during his arrest for a parking violation constituted excessive force and that they targeted him because he is black.

Both owners hope further awareness might encourage more teams and communities to get on board to have a dialogue about issues and create positive change.

“I hope this concept goes viral,” Ranadive said.

Brown said he appreciated the efforts by both organizations.

“Whenever the team can do something as big as this for the community, it’s important,” Brown said after the Bucks’ morning shootaround. “It definitely lets some of the community members know that it is a push to make change, especially for myself, I’m pretty big on that where I stand and my situation and the platform I have. I’m looking to make significant changes in the community to help the urban, the black community progress.”

Brown had been talking with officers while waiting for a citation for illegally parking in a disabled spot outside a Walgreens at about 2 a.m. on Jan. 26, 2018, when officers took him down because he didn’t immediately remove his hands from his pockets as ordered. An officer yelled: “Taser! Taser! Taser!”

Brown later received a formal apology from the city’s police chief.

“I knew Sterling and it didn’t sound like him,” Lasry said. “Sterling, in my opinion, was just a great kid. And it didn’t make sense, it didn’t sound like him. … As we got more information we sort of came to a crossroads, which is there’s Sterling’s side and there was the other side. For us an organization we ended up coming down on Sterling’s side simply because we knew him as a person.”

Thomsen credited the Bucks for backing his client from the very start. He said he is pushing for Milwaukee’s police department to use this case as training. “You can’t heal until there is accountability,” Thomsen said.

After Clark’s death in California, Ranadive made an impassioned pledge of support for the protesters and the community at large following the first round of demonstrations on March 22 after first consulting with his players.

Ranadive, the first person of Indian descent to own an NBA franchise, said after a game last year, “We stand here before you, old, young, black, white, brown, and we are all united in our commitment.”

Ranadive said the efforts remain a work in progress and he is striving for every kid in the community “to have a voice.”

“I’ve always felt this is bigger than basketball,” Ranadive reiterated Wednesday. “… At the end of the day we have to take actions, and actions speak louder than words.”

Harden on fit with Westbrook: ‘When you have talent like that, it works itself out’

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It was the question everybody asked about 30 seconds after they heard Russell Westbrook had been traded to the Houston Rockets for Chris Paul (after the initial shock of the deal wore off):

Do Westbrook and Harden, two of the most ball-dominant, isolation heavy players in the NBA, actually fit together?

Harden says yes. Of course, what else is he going to say, but he was earnest about it in comments to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle at the Adidas and James Harden ProCamp event last Friday.

“When you have talent like that, it works itself out. You communicate. You go out there and compete possession by possession. You figure things out. Throughout the course of the season, you figure things out. That’s just what it is. When you have talent, you have guys with IQ, you have guys willing to sacrifice, it always works itself out.”…

“It works,” Harden said. “It’s that trust factor. I trust him; he trusts me. And with the group that we already have and the things we already accomplished, it should be an easy transition for him to be incorporated right in and things are going to go.”

That is essentially is what Mike D’Antoni said, and what Rockets GM Daryl Morey is betting on.

Will Westbrook, and to a lesser degree Harden, be willing to make sacrifices and adjust their games? It is the question that will define the Rockets’ season.

My prediction: The duo works it out on offense and becomes one of the hardest teams to stop in the NBA. They will work it out. However, having to play Harden and Westbrook together on defense for extended stretches will cost Houston in the playoffs earlier than they planned.

George King, Suns two-way player last season, signs to play in Italy

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For players on the fringe of the NBA, there is a choice to be made at some point:

Keep the NBA dream alive and close by making less money (the base salary for most is $35,000 a year) and play in the domestic G-League, where teams have ties to NBA organizations and scouts are watching. Or…

Go overseas, where the money gets better (six figures for most, seven figures for the best) and they will be one of the best players on a team, putting up big numbers and playing a starring role.

George King, who spent last season on a two-way contract with Phoenix — but played just six total minutes with the Suns — has chosen overseas.

George spent most of last season in the G-League with Northern Arizona, where he averaged 15.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 2.6 assists a game. He was on the wrong end of a numbers game on the wing with the Suns at the start of the season, but when injuries hit he had not earned enough trust with the coaches to get a real opportunity.

So he went where there is an opportunity.

Same with former NBA player Tyler Cavanaugh, who spent most of last season with the Salt Lake G-League team and is now headed to Berlin.

Plenty of players spend time overseas then come back and are ready for the NBA — Patrick Beverley was in the Ukraine and Greece before coming to the NBA, for example — while others find a very good career playing overseas.

James Harden broke one of his youth camper’s ankles (VIDEO)

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It’s around the time of summer when NBA players (and coaches, and college coaches, and a whole lot of other people) are holding youth basketball camps.

I went to them as a kid (John Wooden’s was the best) and like me, these youth will have the memories of a lifetime, even if they move away from playing hoops someday. Especially this boy, who will forever be able to look back at this video from camp of James Harden breaking his ankles. (Via Houston Rockets Instagram)

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Meanwhile at @jharden13’s camp…😅

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Meanwhile, over at Dwyane Wade‘s camp, he was reminding some young children he is the best shot blocking guard of all time.

 

Could Anthony Davis someday play for hometown Bulls? ‘I’d definitely consider it’

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Not every player wants to go home.

LeBron James returned to Cleveland (for a while). Kawhi Leonard and Paul George pushed to get back to Southern California. However, plenty of players see the return to their home town as more curse than blessing — it takes a maturity to be the face of the city, to not let hanging with your old buddies get in the way of off-season workouts, to handle everyone you went to high school with asking you for tickets to the game. A player has to be ready for a lot to go home.

Would Anthony Davis consider a return to Chicago to lead the Bulls?

He wouldn’t rule it out. Someday. Here’s what Davis said to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.

“I mean, (this is) definitely hometown,” he said. “If the opportunity ever presents itself and when that time comes, I’d definitely consider it.”

That does not mean next summer. Technically Davis is a free agent next summer, however, he is all but certain to re-sign with the Lakers (it’s possible things go Dwight Howard/Steve Nash bad in Los Angeles and Davis wants out, but it’s highly unlikely). Davis pushed his way to Los Angeles to win and lead the biggest brand in basketball down the line, to have his name in the rafters with legendary big men (Wilt, Kareem, Shaq). He’s not bolting that after one season.

Could he finish his career in Chicago? Maybe. I’d say the same thing about Stephen Curry with Charlotte, but we are too many years from that to make any kind of prediction.

However, Davis didn’t slam the door shut. Maybe someday that will be good news for Bulls fans.