Thursday, July 17, 2014
First Cup: Thursday
By Nick Borges
- Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: Lionel Hollins talked up his new Brooklyn team's potential in a recent interview, but also talked about his 12 years in Memphis. It wasn't a flattering view of the city. ... Reached Wednesday night, former Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins had this to say: "Any analogy I would have used would have been offensive to somebody. I didn’t stay there for 12 years because I thought Memphis was in the Stone Age. I wasn’t working in the community for 12 years because I thought Memphis was in the Stone Age. I definitely wasn’t trying to slight Memphis. I’m going to keep a house there. Everywhere I go I talk about how far Memphis has grown as a city."
- Stephen Holder of The Indianapolis Star: Ultimately, the most important aspect of this story is what happens next. The Pacers can compete without Stephenson, but quite a few things have to fall into place for them to again contend for the Eastern Conference title. Since it would not appear that considerable help is coming in the form of additional major free-agent signings, most of it will have to come from the existing roster. Someone else will have to courageously step up on those inevitable nights when Paul George doesn't have his fastball. Unless the Pacers can figure out their point guard quandary, they will need help in the ballhandling department, too. And rebounding will have to become a more collective effort, seeing how Stephenson led NBA backcourt players with 7.2 boards per game. It's not a crazy notion that the Pacers can survive this. One of the things we so admired about them during their electric start to last season was their ability to play team basketball. On many nights, they epitomized that very notion.
- Scott Fowler of The Charlotte Observer: I wrote last week that the Charlotte Hornets should not take a chance on Lance. Like my kids, the Hornets didn’t listen to me. Charlotte will sign Lance Stephenson to a three-year contract. And you know what? Although I still don’t agree with the move, I would love to be wrong on this and the Hornets to be right. Stephenson at his best will make the Hornets much more dangerous and more interesting. He will become the third scoring option last season’s team at crunch time never really had. The former Indiana Pacer will stretch the floor for Al Jefferson, help Kemba Walker in numerous ways and irritate opponents defensively. The best-case scenario is Stephenson becomes Charlotte’s version of Dennis Rodman for the Chicago Bulls during the late 1990s – a bizarre personality, but so effective on those Bulls title teams that they kept him around and let Dennis be Dennis in all of his green-haired splendor as long as he grabbed 15 rebounds a game
- Chris Fedor of The Plain Dealer: Andrew Wiggins averaging 13.7 points. There are nearly 40 players with a higher average, and his point totals have decreased each game. He's also shooting around 38 percent from the field, including 2-of-12 on three-point attempts. While fans might find cause for concern, Cavs head coach David Blatt is not discouraged. "Pretty much what I expected," Blatt said. "Great two-way player and a guy that impacts the game on both ends of the floor. Overall I think he's done a great job and I'm really happy with him." Wiggins seemed to agree with Blatt's assessment. "I think I've been pretty good," he said. As the Cavs get ready for their next game on Thursday night, Wiggins knows the analysis will continue. It comes with the territory of being the top pick, something he saw his friend and new teammate Anthony Bennett deal with during a miserable rookie campaign. "If I need advice from him he's got me," Wiggins said.
- Andy Greder of the Pioneer Press: Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor is in Las Vegas. He's been dealt a hand in a game similar to poker, and Kevin Love is the high card. In an NBA TV interview during a Wolves summer league game Wednesday, Taylor said he wants the all-star power forward to play in Minnesota this season despite rampant trade speculation. It was not known if Taylor was bluffing amid reports that some of the trade offers aren't as rich as previously envisioned. "My preference is that Kevin will come to (training) camp -- and I'm sure he will -- and play with the team," Taylor said. Love, who can opt out of his contract next July, repeatedly has said all he wants to do is win. "I say back to Kevin, 'Well, that's all I want, too,' " Taylor said.
- Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: Yet as shots have gone up around him this summer, Motiejunas has continued to pick his spots, as he so often didn't in his first two NBA seasons. In the Rockets' first three games in Las Vegas, he was their leading scorer, averaging 14 points (on 60.7 percent shooting) in 25 minutes per game. He followed that up with 18 points on Wednesday as the Rockets went from a 29-point deficit to a 93-77 victory over the Raptors. More important than the numbers, Motiejunas has showed increasing patience and poise. He said he was playing in the summer league in large part to get ready for his Lithuanian national team workouts heading into this summer's World Cup. "My national team started working out (seven) days ago," Motiejunas said. "I don't want to be the guy that looks the worst when it comes to national team. I don't want be behind when I'm getting back and didn't play basketball. It's good to start feeling the rhythm. I think the national level will give me … a different level of competition. It will be the best players from each country. It's going to be fun. I think that's going to improve me."
- Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: Anthony Morrow could have joined any number of teams. Shooters of his ilk draw a ton of interest, and Morrow reportedly was coveted by 12 clubs when free agency opened on July 1. “It was a lot of teams,” Morrow said. “(Too many) teams to even name.” He ultimately chose the Oklahoma City Thunder, inking his name Wednesday on a contract that could pay him up to $10 million over three seasons. After five stops in his first six NBA seasons, Morrow now views OKC as a place he simply couldn’t pass up. “I just saw an opportunity for myself in Oklahoma City, a void that could be filled,” Morrow said in a telephone interview with The Oklahoman. But there was more. “I needed them,” Morrow added. “Everybody’s been telling me that the team needs me. I’m like, ‘I need them more than they need me. I’ve never been in the playoffs, so it’s just a situation where I’m glad to be able to step in.”
- Matt Velazquez of the Journal Sentinel: Giannis Antetokounmpo hasn't won a basketball game in over three months. The Bucks' last win came on April 11 against the Cavaliers and they followed that up by dropping their final three contest to end the regular season. After the Bucks lost to the Spurs, 100-71, on Wednesday to fall to 0-4 in the Las Vegas Summer League, Antetokounmpo was understandably upset — losing ain't fun. He decided to take his frustrations to Twitter, where he delivered a series of tweets regarding how much he hates to lose. ... Despite the losses, Antetokounmpo has undoubtedly been the star of the Bucks' Summer League team. However, these tweets might be the biggest reason for Bucks fans to get excited for the future.
- Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com: A person close to Aldridge informed CSNNW.com that Aldridge withdrew from consideration for the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain for rest purposes solely. Nothing more. Aldridge, who turns 29 in three days, doesn’t have a good track record when it comes to his involvement with the USA Basketball program. In 2007 he removed himself from the United States Select Team and in 2009 he elected not attend USA Basketball minicamp, a year before the world championship, in which he also retracted himself from the following year. Hip surgery in 2012 kept him from the Olympics in London. Colangelo is never one to mince words. He admits that Aldridge’s in-and-out cycle will be factored in for 2016 Olympic deliberation, assuming Aldridge wants to partake.
- John Reid of The Times-Picayune: Despite going undrafted in last month's NBA Draft, New Orleans Pelicans power forward Patric Young hasn't had much difficulty emerging in the Samsung NBA Summer League. He has been the Pelicans' most effective post player, taking advantage of his enormous size and strength to rebound and score. A league source said Wednesday that Young has shown enough ability after three summer league games the Pelicans are preparing to extend him a contract for this upcoming season. Earlier this week, the Pelicans extended rookie point guard Russ Smith, a two-year guaranteed deal with an option for a third year. "My focus is just on the team," Young said by telephone Wednesday.
- Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: Whoever replaces Gregg Popovich in San Antonio will have an unenviable task. With five championships and three Coach of the Year awards, all he’s has done is etched his face onto the Mount Rushmore of NBA coaching alongside Red Auerbach, Phil Jackson and Pat Riley. His successor is sure to fall short of such lofty standards. But somebody’s going to have to do it at some point, whenever the 65-year-old Popovich — who recently signed an extension — decides he’s had enough of the NBA meatgrinder and retires to a quieter life of oenophilia and scholarship. What better candidate than his European clone, the demanding and successful Ettore Messina, a man the Spurs just so happen to have hired to serve as one of Popovich’s assistants? With the exception of Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, there might not be a more accomplished or respected coach in the world not currently heading up an NBA franchise. The 54-year-old Messina counts four EuroLeague titles and nine domestic league championships (four in his native Italy, five in Russia) among his many achievements during stops at Virtus Bologna, Benetton Treviso, CSKA Moscow and Real Madrid. The catch: No NBA team has ever tabbed a non-American to serve as head coach.