Trae Young is working with Kobe Bryant on his mid-range game

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The NBA offseason only has 3 storylines. They are as such:

  • Player X has gained a bunch of muscle.
  • Guard Y has worked out with Kobe Bryant.
  • Big Man Z has worked out with Hakeem Olajuwon.

That’s basically it. Sometimes these stories hit two of these pillars at the same time. This, my friends, is one of those stories.

According to The Athletic’s Chris Kirschner, Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young is heading into his sophomore season a bit heavier and with some dictation on how to play the game by the former Los Angeles Lakers guard.

Of course, #MuscleWatch nothing new. Just about every player adds a bunch of weight in the offseason because they are superstar athletes and they are more prone to adding muscle. They have both the time and the top notch training and nutrition to go alongside it.

So Young is getting bigger. That’s good, because he’s small and on defense he’s going to need to find a way to not get absolutely torched.

But about that Kobe talk…

Now that Bryant is retired, he has popped up as one of the players willing to work with young disciples. That didn’t work out great last year for Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum, whose mind appeared to be poisoned by Kobe after working out with him in the summer of 2018. Remember, Tatum said that Kobe told him to, “Shoot every time.”

In 2018-19, Tatum shot an additional four percent of his jumpers as mid-range shots, seeing his FG% slightly decline, per Basketball-Reference.com.

Tatum also, somehow, became less aggressive at the rim as his free-throw rate dropped and his 3-point shooting caved.

Should we be worried about the 3-point shooting Young moving in that same direction?

Via The Athletic:

As with Roland, Young’s maturation is the noticeable change Bazzell has seen, plus Bazzell said Young has gained 12 to 16 pounds this offseason. Just based on the eye test, Young’s muscle mass certainly has improved from where he was at the end of the season.

The plan is for Young, after he’s finished with his Team USA training camp obligations at the start of August, to travel to Newport Beach, Calif., before he has to report back to Atlanta on Aug. 19 and work on his midrange game with Kobe Bryant. Last summer, Bryant worked with Boston’s Jayson Tatum before the start of his sophomore season. Twenty-two percent of Tatum’s shot attempts this past season were considered long 2-point shots, ranking him in the 95th percentile.

Atlanta ranked 28th in midrange attempts because Lloyd Pierce’s offensive philosophy in Year 1 focused on getting as many 3-pointers up and as many shots at the rim. It’s not that Pierce is harshly against midrange jumpers, but he prefers either 3s or shots at the rim.

This is, and I cannot stress this enough, one of the funniest 1-2 punches any two paragraphs of NBA writing has packed this summer.

Kobe, who essentially purchased himself an Oscar last year with a self-congratulating animated short bolstered by former Disney bigwigs, is on a post-career re-writing tear. He’s tried to rebrand himself as a “storyteller” which is how Millennial social media marketers describe themselves when Silicon Valley brandspeak infiltrates their everyday lives.

Bryant is doing a good enough job of this, by the way, right in the vein of his hero Michael Jordan. MJ didn’t need his legacy re-written, naturally. But Kobe wants to keep his shoe brand going until he’s part owner of the Seattle SuperSonics in 12 years, just like the old man, so here we are.

The comedy comes from the fact that everyone seems to be lamenting the idea of Bryant working with their favorite young stars. This is a guy whose Stans flood Twitter (and will undoubtedly angrily comment below until their finger bursae are bruised) praising and over-inflating his position among other NBA hall of famers. These diametrically opposed views — one side seeing him as the best SG ever, the other regarding Bryant as basketball plutonium — will never not be funny.

Love Kobe or hate him, a clear view of his basketball acumen alone and short but obvious track record suggests that Young working with him this offseason might not be the first thing the Hawks would like him to do.

If Young starts shooting 30-dribble contested 17-footers in October, you know who to look toward.

Houston acquires 2025 2nd-round pick in eight-player trade with Thunder

Oklahoma City Thunder v Sacramento Kings
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ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski described this as a “cap-centric deal”, since it helped the Thunder get around $10 million below the luxury tax, while Houston added a 2nd-round pick by taking on $1 million in cap space.

The Rockets acquired Derrick Favors, Ty Jerome, Moe Harkless, Theo Maledon and a protected 2025 2nd-round pick from the Hawks and sent David Nwaba, Sterling Brown, Trey Burke and Marquese Chriss to Oklahoma City.

The 2nd-rounder from Atlanta is protected 31-40, and it will become the second best 2026 2nd-round pick between the Mavericks, Thunder, and 76ers if it doesn’t convey in 2025.

A tweet from Jackson Gatlin of Locked On Rockets indicates that Houston will also receive $6.3 million in cash from the Thunder.

Previous reports indicated that Derrick Favors was unlikely to remain with the Thunder this season, while Ty Jerome wasn’t participating in training camp as his representatives worked with the team to find an exit strategy for him. Kelly Iko of The Athletic reported that Houston plans to waive Jerome. Harkless was traded for the third time this summer. He was dealt from Sacramento to Atlanta in July as part of the Kevin Huerter deal, and then was shipped to OKC for Vit Krejci earlier this week. Hopefully he’ll be able to settle in with Houston this season.

As he enters his seventh season, this will be the sixth team that Nwaba has suited up for. The journeyman has had a few solid seasons, including averaging 9.2 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.0 steals for Houston during the 2020-21 season. Among the players in the deal, he’s the most likely candidate to carve out a role on his new team next season.

Brown, Burke, and Chriss were already traded once this summer as part of the deal that said Christian Wood to Dallas. Now, they’ll be depth pieces in Oklahoma City if the team decides to keep them around.

Daily Thunder’s beat writer Brandon Rahbar pointed out that the trade wouldn’t have been possible without the Disabled Player Exception that the Thunder received because of Chet Holmgren’s injury.

Spurs’ Josh Primo out for preseason with left knee MCL sprain

Golden State Warriors v San Antonio Spurs
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Josh Primo is going to get his chance this season. The Spurs are rebuilding — even Gregg Popovich says not to bet on them to win the title — and Primo, entering his second season (and still 19), is one of the most promising young players on their roster, someone with the chance to be part of whatever will be built in San Antonio the future. He just needs more experience.

Unfortunately, he’s going to start this season half a step behind after missing most of training camp due to a sprained left MCL, the team announced Thursday. He is expected to return in time for the season opener, according to the team.

Promo, the No. 12 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, got into 50 games for the Spurs last season and averaged 5.8 points a game but wasn’t very efficient with his shot yet. He also spent a lot of time in the G-League (but then had to miss this past Summer League due to COVID).

With Dejounte Murray now in Atlanta, there is not only a starting spot open but also opportunities to run the offense — Primo is going to get a chance to show what he can do with that. It’s just not going to be for a little while due to his knee sprain.

Anthony Davis ‘excited’ to be Lakers’ No.1 offensive option, LeBron pushing him to do it

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Is Anthony Davis a No.1 offensive option on a championship team?

The Lakers made a massive bet in trading for Davis — both in good young players and picks — that he could help them win a title now and be the bridge to the future post-LeBron James. Davis was everything the Lakers hoped in the bubble and did win them banner No. 17. However, he has not stayed healthy or consistently played up to that standard.

New Lakers coach Darvin Ham is betting on Davis again and is going to run more of the offense through him this season. LeBron James reportedly backs Ham up. Can Davis stay healthy, find that form again and look like that bridge to the future? If he can’t, the Lakers have to reconsider their post-LeBron plans. That’s why there is pressure on Davis this season.

Davis is excited to prove he is ready for the role, he told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. He added LeBron is pushing him to do it.

“I’m so excited that I’ve got goosebumps just thinking about this year,” Davis told Yahoo Sports this week. “I’m looking forward to a healthy year and doing what I know we can do.”…

Davis said James, 37, has been in his ear about taking over the reins of the team, while the rest of the roster would follow his lead.

The first step in Davis being that No.1 option: Staying healthy. He played 40 games last season and 36 the season before that. While some of that was due to fluke injuries, the history of Davis missing time is long.

When healthy, Davis is an unquestionably elite player — to use the bubble example, Davis was a defensive force in Orlando who knocked down midrange jumpers after facing up, averaging 27.7 points on a 66.5 true shooting percentage, plus grabbed 9.7 rebounds a game. That is the AD the Lakers need this season.

Which can be a lot of pressure, but Davis said he doesn’t feel that.

“But for me, I’m not putting any pressure on myself at all,” Davis said at media day. “I’m gonna go out there and play basketball, work hard, defend and do what the team needs to win basketball games. I’m not going to overthink and, you know, listen to what everybody else is saying and try to be this ‘whatever’ player they want me to be.”

“Whatever” the Lakers want Davis to be is the Top 10 player in the world he has shown for stretches in Los Angeles. If he can be consistent, that Davis helps the Lakers be more of a threat in the West. If Davis can’t be that guy, it could be another long season for Lakers nation.

 

Proud to be an American: 76ers’ Embiid officially becomes U.S. citizen

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Joel Embiid is an American citizen.

A native of Cameroon, Embiid said he was sworn in as a citizen two weeks ago in Philadelphia. The NBA scoring champion and Philadelphia 76ers All-Star center said his family – Embiid and his Brazilian girlfriend Anne de Paula have a young son – played a pivotal role in his decision.

“I’ve been here for a long time,” Embiid told The Associated Press Thursday at training camp at The Citadel. “My son is American. I felt like, I’m living here and it’s a blessing to be an American. So I said, why not?”

Embiid, who played college basketball for one season at Kansas, also has citizenship in France. He said it is way too early to think about which country he could potentially represent in international basketball.

The 28-year-old Embiid averaged a career-best 30.6 points in 68 games last season. The 7-footer also averaged 11.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists in helping Philadelphia reach the Eastern Conference semifinals for the second straight year. Embiid averaged 23.6 points and 10.7 rebounds in the postseason despite playing with hand and facial injuries.

Embiid had been announced as playing out of Kansas during pregame introductions at 76ers’ home games but switched around midseason last year as being introduced from Cameroon. He might try for a mouthful this season.

“We’re going to say Cameroon, American and French,” he said, laughing.