Tuesday, August 26, 2014
First Cup: Tuesday
By Nick Borges
- Marc Berman of the New York Post: The Greek agent for Knicks draft pick Thanasis Antetokounmpo said he’s “amazed’’ his client chose to play in the NBA’s D-League for the $25,000 cap and turn down an offer from an A-Division team in the Italian League, calling it “a big sacrifice." According to agent Tim Lotsos, the Italian club, Varese, offered Antetokounmpo a two-year deal worth $550,000 with an opt-out to join the NBA after one year. Olympiakos in Greece and Sevilla in Spain also offered him deals. “Amazing isn’t it?," Lotsos told The Post in a phone call from Greece. “To my surprise, he passed on it. He’s very ambitious and determined to make the NBA. It’s a big sacrifice. It could’ve really put him ahead of schedule in his career. I didn’t try to force him. I wanted him to make his own decision." ... His agent said Thanasis is still “hopeful’’ a roster spot could open late in the season via trades.
- Matthew Glenesk of The Indianapolis Star: Frank Vogel continued that he was confident George Hill will rise to the challenge, noting the former IUPUI and Broad Ripple star has worked harder this offseason than at any point in his career. So what exactly does that hard work look like? The folks at PEAK Sports USA posted a video of the Pacers point guard working on all facets of his game in the gym and in the weight room. The name of the workout is 'Monster Discipline', which shouldn't be confused with Hill's affinity for Animal Planet's 'River Monsters.' Hill averaged 10.3 points, 3.5 assists and 3.7 rebounds a game last season, starting all 76 games he appeared in. Hill will get some help in the backcourt from Donald Sloan, C.J. Watson and new signings C.J. Miles and Rodney Stuckey.
- Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: Larry Drew said he was "blindsided" by the way he lost his job as head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks. Commenting at length for the first time since he was fired by the Bucks' new ownership June 30, Drew said his firing was "definitely mystifying." The veteran coach lasted just one season in Milwaukee and was replaced by former Brooklyn Nets coach Jason Kidd. Even as Drew was taking part in draft preparations with the Bucks management staff in late June, team owners Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry were starting their talks with Kidd. ... Maybe the most embarrassing snub Drew suffered was having to sit at the introductory news conference with No. 2 overall pick Jabari Parker at the Milwaukee Public Market on the day after the draft, even though the owners already had talked to Kidd by that time. "The whole Jabari thing, putting me in that position, I don't think it was very professional," Drew said. "I wish it wouldn't have happened that way, but it did. If I had been a new coach, I might have reacted differently (to the firing). But because I've been in this so long and I've had friends who have had these type things happen to them, I was OK. This is the life we choose and sometimes you have to expect the unexpected." Last week, Drew was hired as an assistant by Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt. The Bucks will continue to pay Drew for the next two seasons and that compensation will be offset by whatever pay he is receiving from the Cavaliers.
- Chris Fedor of The Plain Dealer: Zydrunas Ilgauskas thinking about a comeback? Ilgauskas is 39 and has been retired for three years. Last season, the Cavs had a touching ceremony, attended by LeBron James, where Ilgauskas had his number raised to the rafters inside Quicken Loans Arena. But now that James is back, Ilgauskas could be ready for a return, according to ESPN Cleveland radio host Tony Rizzo, who first talked about an Ilgauskas return on his TV program, The Rizzo Show, late Sunday night. Rizzo then reiterated it on Monday morning.
- Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: For Suns-starved fans, the sight of Goran Dragic playing basketball again Tuesday would be satisfying if it was not August and a meaningless friendly game between Dragic's Slovenian national team and the U.S. That chance to see him on ESPN2 at 11 a.m. Arizona time might conjure images of Dragic's ankle bending like a green twig last season. Dragic's extensive offseason of national-team work was blamed, in part, for his injuries and fatigue. ... Dragic still might be seen more than Derrick Rose on Tuesday, but the agreement has been for Dragic to be kept to one practice per day and no more than 25 minutes of playing time in exhibition appearances. The Suns and his agents agreed to bump his exhibition appearances from three to five, which still keeps him out of most of Slovenia's 16 exhibitions. "You have to be ready and be fair," said Rade Filipovic, who represents Dragic along with agent Bill Duffy. "We don't want him to be burned out or injured. Everyone is concerned or cautious." ... Suns General Manager Ryan McDonough talked Monday to Dragic, who also said that he is "fresh." McDonough said Filipovic, Duffy, the Slovenians and the Suns have cooperated to execute a mutually beneficial plan.
- John Canzano of The Oregonian: USA Basketball cut Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard and kept Derrick Rose. Tough decisions have to be made. But what I'm most interested in is what happens next. Because if I know Lillard as well as I think I do, I'm thinking USA Basketball just did Portland an interesting favor. Some athletes are motivated by money, marketing and exposure. Some are driven by legacy. But anyone who has followed Lillard's story from Oakland to Weber State to the NBA All-Star team knows that he is a man driven by proving himself. I think Lillard needs to elevate his game, especially on defense. He's a sensational offensive player, with great vision and feel that you just can't teach. He's quick, he has an excellent shot, and he possesses outstanding instinct. But I'm most fascinated by his work ethic, and the fact that he appears most motivated when he's doubted.
- Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: James Harden offered a moment of candor about how he thinks, about how top players have to think. ESPN’s Scoop Jackson asked “In your mind, who is the best basketball player alive right now?” Harden answered “myself.” In his mind, he is supposed to think that way. He might not even be the best basketball player on his team (Howard was a much better offensive player than Harden was a defensive player last season), but he is expected to think of himself as unstoppable. He is expected at times to convince himself that no one can be his equal, no matter what mental gymnastics it takes to come to that conclusion. This was no slip on unintended candor. Later that same day, while doing an interview to promote the NBA 2K15 video game, Harden declared more directly “I’m the best all-around basketball player in the NBA.” This is actually nothing new for the Rockets. There was a segment of fans that believed that the Rockets had the best basketball player alive on the roster last season, too, but he has since been traded to the Lakers. Harden, however, actually said it. And unlike his little talk about the Rockets’ offseason, when he seemed to diminish teammates as “pieces” around the cornerstones, he did not even have the out of his declaration being true. Humility has its place, but the Rockets are better off with Harden seeking greatness on the highest levels of his sport.
- Perry A. Farrell of the Detroit Free Press: Spencer Dinwiddie was “The Mayor" at Colorado. When it came to his college choice, though, the Pistons’ 6-foot-6 rookie point guard had to decide between the Buffaloes and Harvard. Either pick would have been great, but the competition in the Pac-12 was too much for the Los Angeles native to pass up. He recently talked with former Piston Rick Mahorn and discussed his decision on the Pistons’ website. “Both of those schools recruited me in depth, and I loved both programs,” Dinwiddie said. “I wanted to test my talents against the Pac-12. I wanted to stay closer to home, and I wanted to prove to people that didn’t recruit me as hard that I was the player me and my family thought I was. Obviously, growing up on the West Coast, the Pac-12 is the conference you think about going to. When only a couple of them came calling and a lot of them didn’t like me in the same fashion, and when it came down to those two choices, I said: ‘You know what?’ I felt like I was an NBA player, and that was something I wanted to prove." The Pistons took a chance on the big point guard, drafting him but holding him out of the summer league in hopes of having him ready for the start of training camp. With Dinwiddie and 6-5 Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the Pistons could have their backcourt of the future.
- Fred Kerber of the New York Post: Now you can truthfully say the K-Love traded from Minnesota to Cleveland is all arms. Not all arms and legs, mind you, just arms. That’s because “K-Love,” the name for an octopus that was named after forward Kevin Love, has been traded from SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium at the Mall of America to the Greater Cleveland Aquarium, which surrendered rights to the name of its octopus, Ocho. On the surface – and even underwater — this trade looks like Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas all over again. The real Kevin Love went from the Minnesota Timberwolves to the Cleveland Cavs as part of a blockbuster three-team trade also involving Philadelphia over the weekend. So while that Kevin Love gets to play with LeBron James, the all-arms K-Love, a giant Pacific octopus, will sleep with the fishes. The folks at SEA LIFE noted “the name, K-Love, should follow his human counterpart in the trade to Cleveland. The memories Kevin Love has given the Timberwolves will stay in Minnesota, and the octopus will be staying at SEA LIFE Minnesota as well.” So the deal was for the name only, thus avoiding what could have been a very emotional clutch-and-grab farewell. Already there is talk the name “Ocho” will be disbanded by the Minnesota aquarium in favor of something to honor Andrew Wiggins, the biggest return in the trade for Minnesota. Under consideration: Sqwiggins, Iggy and A-W. Not surprisingly, no one proposed “Andrew” or “Andy.”