Andre Drummond says Blake Griffin is key in giving him confidence

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The amount of friendship between NBA players is sometimes overstated. When players are necessarily linked to each other, and unlikely to depart from their franchise anytime soon, fans like to impress upon them a closeness that might not actually exist.

Of course the other side of this is when players flat-out dislike each other but aren’t allowed to say as much thanks to the colors on their jersey restricting them from being truthful.

Chemistry is a hard thing to balance in the NBA, and some teams seem to always do it right. The San Antonio Spurs, up until the fiasco with Kawhi Leonard, appeared to have a 100% success rate with integrating players into their system and culture. Other teams always seem to be dysfunctional, like the New York Knicks.

Of course, LeBron James is learning just how hard it is to have a poor team culture while playing in the Western Conference this season. The Los Angeles Lakers are all but eliminated from the playoffs already.

When it comes to the Detroit Pistons, Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin were never guaranteed to be great pals either on or off the court. Griffin was traded by the Los Angeles Clippers to Michigan after signing a major contract, and some instability thereafter with the Pistons never guaranteed any kind of success. Although the Pistons just barely have a winning record, they are currently the sixth seed in the East.

Part of that success is due to the friendship between Drummond and Griffin, which was recently highlighted in a feature published to The Athletic by James L. Edwards III. Griffin, now in his ninth season has provided some crucial veteran leadership provided to Drummond, who is still just 25 years old.

Via The Athletic:

“With that play in Atlanta, to touch on that … I’ve never had someone do that for me before. It was actually a play for him, and he told Reggie to get out and gave it to me,” Drummond told The Athletic. “For him to do that just shows the confidence he has in me to score the ball on somebody and make the right play. And when I didn’t shoot the right shot, you know, he got on me, ‘You’re stronger than him. You need to go through him.’ The next possession I came down and dunked on him. With guys like that, guys that give me confidence, we give each other confidence throughout the game, too.”

This is such an interesting quote because of the reticence of stars in this age to admit that they aren’t the number one option, or the top dog, and that maybe, just maybe, they could occasionally use some help, however it may come. Many guys have such a misplaced alpha attitude, and that Drummond was both grateful for the final shot in one instance and happy to share that Griffin plays a part in pumping him up in another is pretty cool.

Of course the same type of attitude is apparent from Griffin here given that he decided to give Drummond the final shot rather than take a play that was drawn up for him, a stark contrast to a league where 60 players seem like they all think they deserve their own team (whatever that’s supposed to mean).

Drummond is under contract through next season, with a player option for next. We will at least get to see these guys together for another run at the Eastern Conference playoffs. I’m glad they seem to like each other so much.

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.