Kemba Walker

Kemba Walker Boston
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Boston ‘going to move very slowly’ with Kemba Walker return to play

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For Boston and Kemba Walker, the target is the playoffs, not the eight seeding games running up to the postseason.

Which is why the Celtics are going to be cautious with Walker and his troublesome left knee, do a little load management early, and target the postseason for him to go all out, coach Brad Stevens told reporters, via A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston.

“We’re going to move very slowly with Kemba Walker and let him strengthen (the left knee),” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens following the team’s first practice in Orlando, Fla. on Friday. “And make sure that he’s all good to go as we enter the seeding games and obviously, the playoffs.”

Stevens suggested a minutes limit for Walker during the seeding games.

Walker missed 14 games this season and lingering left knee soreness was an issue — the team was already looking at getting him time off before the coronavirus put the season on hold. Walker said last week that four-month break gave his knee time to heal up and get healthy. Like a lot of players, Walker is eager to get back at it.

Stevens is smart easing Walker back into action, there is no need to push things. Boston needs Kemba Walker in the playoffs, the seeding games are not as vital (Boston just needs to not give up te 2.5 games to Miami and slide out of the three seed).

The Celtics enter the Orlando restart bubble as maybe the biggest threat in the East to Milwaukee. They bring an athletic and switchable lineup (Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Gordon Hayward, with Marcus Smart off the bench) that was top five in the league defensively and can score. There is a lot to like if the Celtics can get their rhythm back, and if Tatum can keep up the All-NBA level of play he had the last month or so of the season.

Boston also will need a healthy Kemba Walker or that. So he will get eased back into play.

No, Jayson Tatum will not sit out Orlando restart due to injury concerns

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Jayson Tatum is going to get a max contract extension this offseason.

So is Donovan Mitchell in Utah. There are big paydays coming fall for Bam Adebayo in Miami, De'Aaron Fox in Sacramento, and Kyle Kuzma with the Lakers. Which is why the five of them spearheaded a negotiation with the NBA to set up some injury insurance for the restart in Orlando.

This led to a report the Celtics’ Tatum was “reluctant to return” and might sit out the restart. That is not the case, he’s playing reports A. Sherrod Blakely at NBC Sports Boston.

Jayson Tatum is not considering sitting out the restart of the season due to contract concerns, according to two league sources familiar with the Celtics All-Star’s plans…

“Not true,” a source told NBC Sports Boston. “He’s concerned like every other player about returning to play. There’s a lot … going on in the world that players need to be more concerned about. But sitting out because of the contract? Hell no!”

Another league source indicated the concern over the coronavirus and the league’s plans on addressing it within the bubble-like atmosphere of Orlando, Fla. whose positive test results for the COVID-19 virus have been on the rise, were the bigger concerns for the 22-year-old.

Those latter two issues — Black Lives Matter/social justice issues, and the rise in coronavirus cases in Florida and the Orlando area — exist for a lot of players, as well as for the NBA.

Boston may be the team in the East best poised to knock off Milwaukee. With a balanced and switchable 1-4 or Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, and Tatum, plus Daniel Theis and Enes Kanter at the five, the Celtics are a dangerous offensive team that was top five in defense this season before the interruption. Tatum knows that and he will be back to play.

He’s just got concerns. Like a lot of players.

Michael Jordan preaches being uncomfortable, accountability to Hornets

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Michael Jordan helped build the Chicago Bulls into a winner as a player.

He’s desperate to do the same thing in Charlotte as the owner of the Hornets.

Charlotte players say Jordan spoke to them recently via video conference call about what it takes to be a champion, emphasizing the need for accountability — even if it means making teammates uncomfortable.

Those are some of the same qualities that were on display during the 10-part documentary the “Last Dance,” which focused on Jordan’s sixth and final NBA championship run with the Bulls.

In the hour-long conference call that came after the conclusion of the “Last Dance,” Charlotte point guard Devonte Graham said Jordan told players they can’t be uncomfortable “calling out teammates” in practice when things aren’t going as planned or mistakes become repetitive.

“That’s going to make you guys even better,” Graham said reiterating Jordan’s remarks. “You’ll bond better. Your team is stronger. There is more of a respect level, instead of not saying anything and letting guys mess up over and over and over again, and you’re losing and losing.”

Jordan hasn’t come close to matching his success as a player since taking over majority control of the Hornets 10 years ago.

Charlotte has never made it out of the first round of the playoffs and has only won three postseason games in the Jordan era.

In an effort to stop that cycle of mediocrity, Jordan hired Mitch Kuchak as the team’s new general manager in 2018 and the Hornets have since embarked on a rebuilding process which included parting ways with three-time All-Star Kemba Walker last offseason in an effort to focus on developing young players.

Jordan took questions from players and spoke directly about the difference between what it takes to win in the regular season and the playoffs.

Hornets center Cody Zeller said that was an important message for a young team to hear.

“A lot of guys on our team haven’t played in the playoffs and don’t understand the attention to detail you have to play with in the playoffs,” Zeller said. “That was what I enjoyed hearing from MJ, especially as a younger team.”

Jordan’s tenacity and desire to win at all costs were exhibited during the “Last Dance.”

That meant at times emotions boiled over at Bulls’ practices resulting in altercations between teammates, including one notable exchange of blows between Jordan and Steve Kerr.

Hornets guard Terry Rozier joked that after watching the “Last Dance” he probably would have got into a few fistfights with Jordan, too.

“I would have taken the Steve Kerr route,” Rozier said with a laugh. “I’m super-competitive.”

But Rozier is not sure Jordan’s aggressive approach would work with some of this generation’s players.

“I feel like you have to pick your poison,” Rozier said. “One thing with being teammates with guys in this league is you have to learn who they are first. Some people don’t like to be confronted in front of others; some people you have to pull aside. So I feel like it is a mixture of learning your teammates and knowing when to call them out…. so that people don’t have a bad taste in their mouth about one another.”

Zeller said Jordan admitted as much in the meeting.

He said the 57-year-old Jordan talked about his post-Bulls tenure with the Washington Wizards when his feedback and criticism wasn’t as well received.

“He said he wishes that he would have done that a little bit differently” in Washington, Zeller said. “The next generation of players that had come in didn’t really want to hear the same feedback and the harshness that he used his during his days in Chicago. He wishes that he would have taken Jerry Stackhouse under his wing and taught him how to be a better leader as opposed to trying to do it all himself.”

2020 PBT Awards: All-NBA

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The NBA regular season might be finished. Heck, the entire NBA season might be finished. Even if play resumes with regular-season games, there’d likely be an abridged finish before the playoffs (which will also likely be shortened).

So, we’re making our 2019-20 award picks now. If the regular season somehow lasts long enough to reconsider our choices, we’ll do that. But here are our selections on the assumption the regular season is over.

Kurt Helin

First team

G: Luka Doncic, Mavericks

G: James Harden, Rockets

F: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks

F: LeBron James, Lakers

C: Joel Embiid, 76ers

Second team

G: Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers

G: Chris Paul, Thunder

F: Anthony Davis, Lakers

F: Kawhi Leonard, Clippers

C: Nikola Jokic, Nuggets

Third team

G: Donovan Mitchell, Jazz

G: Kemba Walker, Celtics

F: Jayson Tatum, Celtics

F: Jimmy Butler, Heat

C: Rudy Gobert, Jazz

All-NBA — particularly third-team — decisions are always the toughest of the award process. In this case, I felt very comfortable with the first two teams (I don’t think Anthony Davis played enough center to slide into that position, so he gets bumped to the second team). However, with third-team guard, leaving off Bradley Beal, Trae Young, and Ben Simmons was difficult (team success and leaning on Mitchell and Walker factored into my choices). Same at the forward spot, where Khris Middleton and Brandon Ingram deserved serious consideration.

Dan Feldman

First team

G: LeBron James, Lakers

G: James Harden, Rockets

F: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks

F: Kawhi Leonard, Clippers

C: Anthony Davis, Lakers

Second team

G: Luka Doncic, Mavericks

G: Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers

F: Khris Middleton, Bucks

F: Jayson Tatum, Celtics

C: Nikola Jokic, Nuggets

Third team

G: Chris Paul, Thunder

G: Trae Young, Hawks

F: Pascal Siakam, Raptors

F: Jimmy Butler, Heat

C: Rudy Gobert, Jazz

My biggest questions weren’t rating performance. They were determining position. Can I legitimately place Anthony Davis at center? What about LeBron James at guard? Ultimately, I decided yes on both – allowing me to place my entire MVP ballot on the first team, though causing significant disruption on the second and third teams.

Davis made a big deal about not playing center, and the Lakers built their team accordingly. But Davis still played 38% of his minutes at power forward. In the fourth quarter and overtime, it was 55%. That qualified him as bi-positional to me.

LeBron has always dominated the ball while being considered a forward. But the Lakers considered him their point guard, gave him particularly large passing responsibilities and started four other players who couldn’t credibly run point. Though Avery Bradley or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope often defended the opposing point guards, point guard is primarily defined offensively. Plus, LeBron – a versatile defender – often covered guards.

Centers Nikola Jokic (first team to second team), Rudy Gobert (second team to third team) and Joel Embiid (third team to unlisted) all got bumped with Davis at the position. Embiid was better than Gobert when healthy and motivated. But that didn’t happen nearly often to outpace Gobert, and excellent defender and underrated offensive player.

Guards also got pressed, including Luka Doncic (first team to second team) and Chris Paul (second team to third team). That final spot was an especially difficult squeeze with Trae Young narrowly outpacing Devin Booker, Kyle Lowry, Ben Simmons and Bradley Beal. Young just did so much offensively as a scorer and passer.

On the other hand, removing LeBron and Davis from forward meant other-wise marginal forwards – Jayson Tatum, Pascal Siakam and Jimmy Butler – safely made it. Bam Adebayo wasn’t far behind.

Keith Smith

First team

G: James Harden, Rockets

G: Luka Doncic, Mavericks

F: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks

F: LeBron James, Lakers

C: Joel Embiid, 76ers

Second team

G: Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers

G: Ben Simmons, 76ers

F: Kawhi Leonard, Clippers

F: Anthony Davis, Lakers

C: Nikola Jokic, Nuggets

Third team

G: Russell Westbrook, Rockets

G: Donovan Mitchell, Jazz

F: Pascal Siakam, Raptors

F: Jayson Tatum, Celtics

C: Bam Adebayo, Heat

The forward slots on the first and second teams were easy. Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis were 1-4 on my MVP ballot. They all just overlap in position, which pushed Leonard and Davis to the second team. There were still several very good candidates for the third team, but Pascal Siakam and Jayson Tatum were just enough better than the rest that they get those two slots. Jimmy Butler was closest to making that third- team.

The guard line was pretty easy for the first team. James Harden was fifth on my MVP ballot and Luka Doncic would have been sixth. After them it gets tricky. Damian Lillard was a monster this year and really kept an otherwise pretty bad Portland team in the playoff race. Ben Simmons was very good on both ends of the floor, so he gets the other guard spot on the second team. That left a bunch of great candidates for third. Once he stopped taking so many jumpers, Russell Westbrook really took off this season. He gets one slot. Donovan Mitchell gets the other spot because he was also good and so were the Jazz. Chris Paul was easily the toughest omission here.

The center group was a little harder. I think Joel Embiid had the best overall season. He was first on my All-Defense team and in the mix for Defensive Player of the Year. He also turned in another good offensive season. Nikola Jokic rebounded from a slow start to have another dominant offensive year. For the third-team, Bam Adebayo edged out Rudy Gobert. It was Adebayo’s all-around brilliance that got him the nod. Take a look at his numbers. He’s really stuffing the stat-sheet every night for a good Heat team.

Olympics postponement should force USA Basketball to change roster strategy

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USA Basketball named 44 finalists last month for the Tokyo Olympics.

No Zion Williamson. No Ja Morant. Not even Trae Young, who’s already an All-Star starter and on track to get even better.

USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo explained: Though young players would eventually get their turn, the 2020 Olympics would be for players who previously represented the U.S.

Except there will be no 2020 Olympics.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Games have been postponed to 2021. By then, USA Basketball’s plan to build an older roster – already a suspect strategy – will become even less tenable.

The 2019 FIBA World Cup showed the Americans’ vulnerability. They finished seventh – their worst-ever finish in a major tournament. The United States’ advantage is depth of star talent. That has carried Team USA through deficient cohesion and comfort with international rules/style. The 2019 squad lacked the usual star power.

Anything USA Basketball does to lower its talent level – including giving preferential treatment to past-their-peak players based on prior contributions – increases risk of another letdown.

Chris Paul sounded ready for Tokyo. But he’ll turn 35 this spring and would have been one of the oldest players ever on Team USA if competing in an on-time Olympics. LeBron James – who is at least open to another Olympics – is even older than Paul. Several other aging veterans are in the mix.

Already, half the finalists will be in their 30s by the time the Games were originally scheduled to begin.

Though that doesn’t necessarily mean the final roster would have been old, it’s a telling starting point. The average age of the finalists is 28.1.* In 2016, it was 26.4 In 2012, it was 26.8.

*On Feb. 1 of that year

Again, the final roster could have shaken out differently. But imagine this team:

A little backcourt-heavy? Yes. But so is the United States’ top-end talent.  Will Stephen Curry play? His father said yes, though that was before Curry was sidelined even longer than he expected. So, there’s plenty of room to quibble with the selections. But it’s at least a reasonable facsimile of the final roster.

The average age* of that group: 29.5.

That’d be the second-oldest Team USA in the Olympics, shy of only the 1996 squad. It’s even older than the original Dream Team, which – as the first Olympic team to include NBA players – definitely prioritized rewarding career accomplishments.

Here’s the average age* of each Team USA since NBA players began competing in the Olympics:

*Age for Team USA’s first game or, in 2020, first originally scheduled game of the tournament

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see taking that same group to Tokyo in 2021 would make it Team USA’s oldest-ever squad, advancing the average age a full year to 30.5.

Plenty will change in the next year. It’s easy to project growth from players like Trae Young, Zion Williamson and Ja Morant. But whether or not those three in particular meet expectations, other young players will rise. Some of these older players will decline further.

Of course, there will still be room for some veterans in 2021. Chris Paul is flourishing with the Thunder and could continue to play at a high level. LeBron James is so dominant, he has plenty of room to decline while remaining elite.

But USA Basketball should be open-minded about emerging young players. That’s the only way to ensure a maximumly talented roster.

In 2020, it was foolish to pretend it’s 2016 or even 2012.

It’d be even more misguided to do so in 2021.