TrueHoop: Kelvin Sampson
- Many NBA teams divvy up minutes to young players based on which guys have guaranteed contracts. Sometimes this results in more promising and/or productive players getting buried on the depth chart behind someone the front office and coaching staff feels has to play in order to justify that deal. The San Antonio Spurs are not one of those teams.
- A fact, then a question: Allen Iverson missed a ton of shots as an NBA player. In fact, nobody in history racked up more seasons of 1,000 misses (six) than Iverson. Here's the question: Is that stat damning in and of itself? Or does it require a little more context, namely, was the player able to compensate in other areas?
- Aaron McGuire of Gothic Ginobili poses an interesting question for your NBA coffee klatch: "How much better can Kevin Durant really get?" I feel like there's a ton of room for growth on the defensive side of the ball, not just because Durant is tireless in his pursuit of mastery, but that body of his, once he learns how to use it, lends itself to perimeter stoppage.
- My 89-year-old grandfather has, in the words of Howard Beale after his crack-up in "Network," "run out of bull****." You probably have older relatives who fall into this category. You hang around this world long enough and you get to a certain point in life and career where you find that filter between private thoughts and public utterances to be unnecessary. Having observed Rick Adelman up close and in person, Zach Harper senses that's the case with the Timberwolves' veteran coach.
- Some more evidence that Martell Webster could be a useful player for a team that knows how to maximize his good-at-a-lot-of-stuff-but-great-at-nothing skill set. Could Randy Wittman's Wizards be that team?
- Love this Kelvin Sampson quote picked up by Jason Friedman at Rockets' practice: "Basketball is not a game of great plays; it's a game of eliminating mistakes." This isn't scintillating marketing material for the NBA, but when you peruse the list of the NBA's most efficient offenses, you're more likely than not to find teams that contain turnovers at the top. In the same vein, teams that play the best brand of defenses often don't have a lineup of stoppers. They simply rotate well, make smart decisions on pick-and-roll coverages and gamble selectively. And that's why the oldsters prosper in June.
- Phoenix Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby asks what he feels is a rhetorical question of Michael Schwartz of Valley of the Suns, but one that actually has a range of legitimate answers: "What do you want us to do? Do you want us to be bad so we can get good? Are you willing to live through two, three, four seasons?" Is living through two, three and four seasons of 34-win ball a decidedly different experience than enduring two, three or four seasons of 23-win ball? Babby continues: “How do you go to work every day and how do you lead a group of people both in an organization and players playing to make their living when either the conscious message or the subliminal message is ‘We want to lose’? ... I don’t know how to do that. So does that condemn us to purgatory for longer? I hope not. Could you come to work every day if you thought your boss was trying to be bad? How long does that take and how many front offices use it as an excuse?”
- Now throwing his hat in the right for the NBA's 2012-13 Most Improved Player award: Eric Bledsoe. The gritty third-year guard was the talk of Vegas in the Clippers' preseason loss to Denver on Saturday night. He scored 25 points (12-for-17 from the field), gobbled up eight rebounds and tallied five steals. Charlie Widdoes of ClipperBlog: "Simply put, last night marked the continuation of a streak in which he has done anything and everything the team could possibly ask of him. Starting in last year’s playoffs, to his brief stint in summer league and through last night, he has been their best defender, their best wing scorer, and even their best facilitator."
- After emerging as League Pass darlings in 2010-11, the Clippers put on the black hat in 2011-12 as a team many fans -- and a slice of NBA players -- love to hate. Count Rudy Gay among those who find the Clippers insufferable, and Chris Paul in particular.
- Adam Kaufman of No Regard for Human Life offers up another installment in the NBA/Presidential previews: The Atlanta Hawks through the prism of Plains, Georgia native Jimmy Carter.
- Portland rookie big man Meyers Leonard is learning the piano. He's got some of the beginner standards down, but he really wants to master the theme song to "The Office."
- Two great tastes that taste great together: Chris Singleton starts his day with a bowl of Fruit Loops and last night's episode of "Dexter."
- Retired guard T.J. Ford gets set to return to UT-Austin for fall classes.
- Are you a hoops junkie with a vision for new ways NBA basketball -- and, more specifically, the Dallas Mavericks -- can be covered in a blog format? If so, please reach out to Rob Mahoney at Two Man Game. Mahoney will join Ben Golliver as the new two-man game at Sports Illustrated's Point Forward blog.
- Minnesota president of basketball operations David Kahn emphatically vowed that his next head coach will embody "uptempo DNA." Beckley Mason of HoopSpeak notes that last season's Timberwolves squad played at one of the fastest clips in recent NBA history. The problem isn't pace, it's a lack of precision required to translate that speed into success: "Michael Beasley’s speeding arrest ... is a tidy metaphor for the way the Timberwolves played last year: A young person with a history of making bad decisions goes too fast and gets punished in embarrassing, if not monetarily consequential, fashion." In related news, Marc Stein reports that Don Nelson -- he of the uptempo DNA -- has interest in the Wolves.
- J.M. Poulard of WarriorsWorld on what could've been had Chris Webber remained in Oakland for the duration.
- For ACC basketball fans, N.C. State's Julius Hodge was a dazzling sideshow. The Pack never resided at the top of the conference, but Hodge's intensity was infectious. His epic battles with Chris Paul were electrifying and his game-winner against UConn in the 2005 NCAA tourney was a sequence for the ages (call by Gus Johnson). Hodge has never had more than a cup of coffee in the NBA and has spent the past few seasons playing pro ball in Australia. But this week, he's going mano-a-mano with John Wall in the North Carolina Pro-Am Summer League -- and holding his own.
- For those who scratched their head when the Lakers drafted Sudanese prospect Ater Majok in last month's draft, here's some video via Inside Hoops of Majok playing streetball in New York's famed Rucker Park.
- Talk to enough NBA execs and you'll hear Kelvin Sampson mentioned as a natural candidate for a head coaching gig. In the meantime, he'll join Kevin McHale's staff in Houston, along with J.B. Bickerstaff.
- How a one-word answer from an NBA executive induced a threat of a seven-figure fine.
- NBA teams in search of a free agent point guard are going to find that the shelf is pretty bare.
- Sactown Royalty does a nice survey of small forwards on the market. It's a measurably better field than the point guards, but a menu that's still lacking elite impact players.
- Part Three of the Byran Colangelo report card from Raptors Republic.
- After the Pistons declined to extend a qualifying offer to DaJuan Summers, the young forward signed with Siena in Italy. One of his first stops in his new home? The World War II Memorial.
- The American Century Celebrity Gold Tournament tweets that Michael Jordan will not be allowed to play alongside any active NBA players. (Hat tip: Greg Wiley)
- If you see Sean May driving without a grande coffee in the cup holder, it might be best to pull over.
- Al-Farouq Aminu via Twitter: "I don't need a shirt that says making it rain .... I need one that says I pay bills lol"
Where do you go when you are bought out of your head coaching contract at Indiana University because of alleged recruiting violations?
To hang out with your friend Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs.
Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News on the appearance of Kelvin Sampson:
Sampson, a friend of Spurs coach Gregg Popovich's, has been in town observing the Spurs in games and practices this week. He and Popovich have known each other since serving together on George Karl's Team USA staff at the 2002 FIBA World Championships in Indianapolis.
"He's a buddy," Popovich said. "He's here and we're having fun together, and learning from each other. I want him to look at us, and if he's got a good suggestion, then great."
Sampson, who was asked to step down at Indiana after the NCAA alleged five major recruiting violations, has an open-ended invitation to stick around with the Spurs for as long as he wants, Popovich said.
I can hear you thinking something like: but wait, the Spurs are the choirboys of the NBA! They are pristine and pure! They always dominate those "good guy" lists. Why would they be hanging around with a coach who is shrouded in ethical questions?
And here's where you realize that things the NCAA abhors, like lots of phone calls to players, are simply no big deal in the NBA. (Get this: in the NBA, I've heard they even pay players.)
I know, I know we agree to the rules in advance and we are supposed to follow them. But I just can't see NBA people being really upset at having a guy around who was aggressively trying to get the best players. In the college game, that may be a crime. In the NBA, it's a speeding ticket, and it surprises me none to see Sampson joining his friend in San Antonio.
Not to mention: it's just smart for Popovich. He's risking nothing, and gets to be there for a friend in a time of trouble. Kelvin Sampson will never forget that.