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NBA PM: NBA Siblings Becoming Widespread

With a surprise signing on Friday, the Morris twins aren’t the only set of brothers on the Suns anymore.

Joel Brigham

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On Friday, the Phoenix Suns announced the signing of Zoran Dragic, the 25-year-old brother of reigning Most Improved Player Goran Dragic. They are the second pair of brothers Phoenix has reunited over the last few years. The first, obviously, was Markieff and Marcus Morris, the former of which really came into his own as an NBA player last year.

In any event, while Phoenix transforms itself into the real city of brotherly love, the number of siblings in the NBA—particularly on the same team—appears to be on the rise. Tyler and Ben Hansbrough shared time in Indiana, as well, and the recent influx of Zellers and Plumlees—even though they haven’t been NBA teammates—has been a bit overwhelming over the last three or four years.

Even guys like Carlos Boozer, Kevin Durant, Jrue Holiday, J.R. Smith and others have seen their siblings brought on board their team’s Summer League squads. This is, more than it ever has been, a family business.

But a lot of that is because talent runs in families. There’s simply no questioning that. Often in high schools and colleges across the country, siblings excel together at music, theater, academics and of course sports, but only a small handful of those talented siblings will see multiple offspring from the same family make a name for themselves on an elite level. It’s not necessarily a rarity for that to happen, but it’s certainly not common, either.

In the entire history of the NBA, there have been right around 50 examples of brothers who both have played in the league, and when one considers that there are over 400 players in the NBA at any given time, that’s a pretty small sample.

Today’s top five looks at the best of those sibling pairings, though most of them never did play together at the NBA level. Here are the most talented brothers the league has ever seen:

#5 – Tom and Dick Van Arsdale – The Van Arsdale twins dominated at Indiana University back in the ’60s, and in their first professional season in 1966 both were named to the All-Rookie team. Dick was a three-time All-Star and one of the best free-throw shooters in the league, while Tom, who played for six different teams, still holds the NBA record for most regular season games without a playoff appearance.

#4 – Jon, Brent and Drew Barry – Jon was a solid role player throughout his career (and is now a solid analyst for ESPN), but Brent started almost everywhere he played and even won two NBA championships with the Spurs in 2005 and 2007. Adding an extra layer to this is brother Drew, who saw spotty action in the NBA for Golden State, Seattle and Atlanta. The fourth brother, Scooter, also played basketball but was the only one not to make the NBA. All are the sons of Hall of Famer Rick Barry.

#3 – Dominique and Gerald Wilkins – Dominique’s NBA resume is well-documented— nine All-Star selections, seven All-NBA team selections, a scoring title, and of course two dunk contest wins—but younger brother Gerald played 14 full seasons in the NBA. In what is a rarity on this list, these two brothers actually were able to play on the same team, the Orlando Magic, in 1999, putting an exclamation point on two very respectable careers.

#2 – Horace and Harvey Grant – With three championships alongside Michael Jordan and four All-Defensive team honors, Horace clearly had a more memorable career than his twin brother, but both were solid rebounders, and Harvey even had three seasons where he averaged over 18 PPG.

#1 – Pau and Marc Gasol – Pau is a two-time champion and four-time NBA All-Star with the L.A. Lakers, and at one time not too long ago would have been considered the best power forward in the game. He won Rookie of the Year in 2002 and before coming to the NBA was one of the best players in the history of Spain. Younger brother Marc also has come into his own as a member of the Memphis Grizzlies, earning an All-Star selection of his own in 2012 and a Defensive Player of the Year award in 2013. A fun fact about these two: they were traded for each other in the deal that sent Pau from Memphis to L.A. At the time, nobody considered Marc a respectable NBA prospect, but that trade clearly worked out well for both teams.

Honorable Mention

Marcus and Markieff Morris – Drafted back-to-back in the middle of the 2011 Draft’s first round, these twins started off on different Western Conference teams but ultimately landed back together a short time later. Interestingly, the reunion seemed to make both of them better.

Brook and Robin Lopez – Both top-15 picks in the 2008 Draft, the Lopez twins have seen varying degrees of success in their young careers, though both look like they’ll be around for a while as long as they stay healthy. Brook has been the better NBA prospect so far, appearing in an All-Star game and showing loads of talent scoring in the post. Robin has jumped around a little early in his career but could be a starter in the right situation. He also has much cooler hair than his brother.

Jason and Jarron Collins – Stanford just has this thing for attracting talented twin big guys to play for their program, but long before there was Robin and Brook Lopez, there was Jason and Jarron Collins. Neither player really had a difficult time finding work over the course of their careers, but neither was ever anything close to All-Star quality, either.

Stephen and Joey Graham – Coming out of college (both Grahams attended Oklahoma State), Joey was considered the better pro prospect, and consequently he was drafted in the first round (15th overall). Stephen went undrafted, but both players have enjoyed pretty consistent careers in the league. Turns out there really wasn’t a whole lot of difference between these twins’ level of play, after all.

Mark and Brent Price – Both Mark and Brent made their money in the league by shooting from deep, but Mark was the four-time All-Star (including one All-NBA first team selection), and was able to turn his sharpshooting into two three-point contest victories in 1993 and 1994.

Bernard and Albert King – If you do an internet search for “Albert King,” you’re probably going to get more about the famous blues musician than you are the younger brother of former NBA scoring champion Bernard King, but Al wasn’t as bad a player as his relative obscurity may suggest. He even had one season in which he averaged 17 PPG. That’s nothing compared to Bernard’s impressive career scoring numbers, All-Star appearances and All-NBA team inclusions, but as NBA siblings go, they were still a pretty impressive duo.

Brandon and Kareem Rush – Both Brandon and Kareem have had respectable careers as shooting guards in the NBA, with the Brandon sticking around the league much longer than his older brother. The really sad part of this particular story is that it could have been a familial NBA trio had the oldest brother, JaRon, been able to make the Seattle SuperSonics after having signed in 2000 despite not having been drafted. Personal issues resulted in his being cut, however, so Brandon and Kareem were the only ones who got the opportunity to play at the highest level. These guys were no slouches, obviously, but three siblings would have put them in Barry territory.

Jeff and Marquis Teague – Jeff certainly has seen his fair share of success as an Atlanta Hawk. Marquis, though? Not so much. Not yet, at least.

The Plumlees – Miles and Mason already are in the NBA, and both actually have had quite a bit of success early in their careers. One more, Marshall, is coming up through the Duke system just like his big brothers. Is there room for one more?

The Zellers – Cody and Tyler look like they’ll have NBA jobs for a while, but older brother Luke had a harder time sticking. He spent a short time with Phoenix a few years ago but wasn’t quite as gifted as his younger siblings. Seems like in this case the younger they are, the better they are at basketball.

As parents, it would be hard not to feel overwhelming pride as you watched your children grow into talented young men (and, of course, multi-millionaires). Of course, while talent does often run in families, it doesn’t always run right to the NBA, and that’s what makes this list of gentlemen so impressive.

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NBA Sunday: Kristaps Porzingis Sure Looks Ready To Be The Franchise

The Knicks hope Kristaps Porzingis can become their franchise. Thus far, he seems up to the challenge.

Moke Hamilton

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He stood in front of his mentor, isolated, just like they used to do in practice.

He’d seen the jab steps before and the head fakes—they were nothing new. And when Carmelo Anthony mustered the acceleration he still has in his 33-year-old legs to drive around Kristaps Porzingis, Anthony knew he had the 7-foot-3 Latvian big man beat.

Anthony triumphantly rose to the basket and delicately attempted his right-handed layup. Before he knew what hit him, though, Anthony’s shot had been sent to the free throw line.

The message was clear—Kristaps had taken the torch.

“It was fun,” Porzingis said about his confrontation with Anthony. “We went at it in practices a lot and one-on-one after practices.

“It was a lot of fun knowing what he was going to do and try to stop him.”

The Oklahoma City Thunder were much closer to the NBA Finals than the Knicks were last season, and removing Anthony from the Knicks and pairing him with Russell Westbrook and Paul George gives the Thunder a triumvirate that can at least conceivably challenge the Golden State Warriors. They are perhaps the only team in the entire league with enough firepower and defensive pieces.

So no, the Knicks may not be hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy anytime soon, but at the very least, the franchise seems to be in good hands—the big, soft hands of Porzingis.

As young NBA players come into their own and attempt to fulfill the lofty expectations that everyone has of them, the third year is the charm, almost invariably. And in that that year, a young player can’t control the other pieces that are around him—that’s why they shouldn’t be judged by their team’s wins and losses.

In that third year, a young player also can’t really control the frequency of his injuries. The simple truth is that many 21 or 22-year-old players simply lack the hardened bones of a fully grown adult that most men become after the age of 25.

But what the young player can prove is that he is prepared to shoulder the burden and take the fight to anyone who stands before him. Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks epitomizes this ideal better than any other young player in the league. He is absolutely fearless and it’s a pleasure to watch.

So is Porzingis.

Since the influx of European-born players began about 20 years ago, we have seen our fair share of “soft” European players. His talent aside (which is considerable), Porzingis has proven to be anything but, and that by itself can help players go a very long way.

In what must have felt like the longest summer ever, Porzingis saw the franchise that drafted him undergo an overhaul that resulted in a light beaming so brightly on him, you would have thought the third-year forward was starring in a Broadway musical.

Say what you want about Porzingis, but he has already done all that he can to notify everyone that have anything to do with the Knicks that his bony shoulders aren’t indicative of the weight he’s capable of carrying.

And in Oklahoma City, against his mentor, Porzingis did the heavy lifting.

“I saw energy,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said after his team’s opening night loss.

“He was great moving. He played 38 minutes, and maybe last year that would be a struggle. He would maybe get tired, and get some silly fouls, but even toward the end on that 37th or 38th minute, he was still up hollering, moving, blocking shots and getting rebounds, so he had a great game and we expect a lot more of that from him.”

Being a Knicks fan is something that nobody should wish on their worst enemy. The franchise has made scores of maneuvers that lacked wisdom and seemingly gone out of its way to alienate people beloved by the franchise. On top of it all, Knicks tickets are among the highest in the entire league.

Fans as passionate and dedicated as Knicks fans deserve a team they can be proud of and a front office that dedicates itself to putting winning ahead of petty feuds and politics.

The hiring of Scott Perry may signify just that.

So when the Knicks traded Carmelo Anthony and ended up getting back 10 cents on the dollar for his value, everyone should have prepared for a long season in New York City.

Coming in, Knicks fans once again found themselves in the unenviable predicament of having to talk themselves into believing that Ramon Session, Michael Beasley and Tim Hardaway were capable of giving this team feel good moments. And while they certainly are, they will surely pale in comparison to the amount of losses that the club accrues along the way.

If there’s one thing the Philadelphia 76ers have taught everyone, however, it’s that the losses don’t necessarily need to be in vain.

So heading into this season, what Knicks fans should have been looking forward to and hoping for is nothing more than the installation of a culture that’s marked by effort, communication and selfless basketball—the hallmarks of the Golden State Warriors.

Aside from that, yes, they should have also come in with the hope that Kristaps Porzingis would take an appreciable step forward and prove himself to truly be a capable franchise cornerstone.

To this point, from the way he holds his head highly, despite a win or a loss, and the way he competes to the best of his abilities, despite his limitations. For now, it’s really all that could reasonably be asked of him.

When it was all said and done—when Porzingis looked the Knicks’ past in the eyes after the Thunder had soundly defeated his New York Knicks—Carmelo Anthony probably told him that he was proud of him and that he wished him all the luck in the world.

He probably told him to continue to work on his game and hone his craft and to block out the background noise.

And above all else, Carmelo probably told Kristaps that he believes he is capable of being his successor.

With his nodding head and serious demeanor, Porzingis, in all his glory, listened intently. Even more so, he believed every word. 

It doesn’t take all day to figure out whether the sun is shining—it’s an adage that remains as true in basketball as it does on a May Day in New York.

For Porzinigis, the bright sky and the beaming sunlight—he’s basking in it all. Not only has he becomes the Knicks’ franchise by default, he believes he’s capable of shouldering the burden.

In this town, that’s more than half the battle.

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Dejounte Murray: The Spurs’ Latest Steal

The Spurs have a history of drafting talented players late in the draft. Dejounte Murray is emerging as their most recent steal, writes David Yapkowitz.

David Yapkowitz

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It seems like almost every NBA season, the San Antonio Spurs end up selecting a player late in the draft who unexpectedly goes on to become a valuable contributor, sometimes even a star. The entire draft in itself can often be a crapshoot, but the lower the pick, the lower the chances of a team finding a solid rotation player. But with the Spurs, it’s as if they hit far more often than they miss.

Their pick from a year ago is shaping up to be no exception as the injury to starting point guard Tony Parker has opened up a huge opportunity for Dejounte Murray; one that he is taking advantage of.

There is a lot of preparation by analysts leading up to the NBA draft. Several mock drafts are created up until draft night itself. Murray was often projected to be a high first-round pick, possibly even a lottery pick. He had a solid freshman season at the University of Washington where he averaged 16.1 points per game, six rebounds, and 4.4 assists.

Draft night arrived and he ended up slipping to the bottom of the first round (29th overall), far later than he had anticipated. Following his selection, LeBron James himself, who is represented by the same sports agency as Murray, tweeted out some words of encouragement for the young rookie. He let Murray know that he may not have been drafted where he wanted to, but that he was with the best organization in the league.

Murray pretty much rode the bench last season as a rookie, which is not at all uncommon for a first-year player on a veteran team with championship aspirations. He was inactive for most of the final two months of the season. In the first round of the playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies, and most of the second round against the Houston Rockets, he was relegated to garbage time duty. Perhaps if he’d been drafted as high as initially projected, he might have had a bigger opportunity at getting minutes right away.

That all changed, however, against Houston in Game 2 when Parker went down with the injury that he is still recuperating from. Murray was thrust into the starting lineup and he responded as well as an inexperienced rookie under the bright lights of the playoffs could. In Game 4, although the Spurs lost, he had eight points on 50 percent shooting along with three assists. He actually didn’t play in Game 5, but in the Spurs closeout Game 6 win, he poured in 11 points, ten rebounds, five assists and two steals while shooting 50 percent from the field.

Even though the Spurs were ultimately swept in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, Murray continued his steady play with 8.3 points, 3.8 assists, and three steals.

At the start of this season, Murray has taken his momentum from the end of last season and carried it over. He was given the starting point guard spot in place of Parker on opening night against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He responded on national television with 16 points on 7-8 shooting from the field, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.

It’s still too early to tell, but it’s highly possible that the Spurs have found their starting point guard of the future once Parker eventually decides to hang it up. At 6-foot-5, Murray is a tall point guard and his length gives him the potential to develop into an elite defensive player. He can score the basketball and he is improving his court vision and playmaking.

One area he could improve in is his outside shooting. Although he did shoot 39.1 percent from the three-point line last season, he only took 0.6 attempts. In his lone college season, he shot 28.8 percent from downtown. If he can improve his range and really begin to put together his entire package of skills, we’ll be talking yet again about how the Spurs bamboozled the rest of the league and found a draft-day gem.

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NBA Saturday: Jabari Bird Experiences The NBA Whirlwind

Jabari Bird entered a hostile environment Friday night after being on his couch just three days before.

Dennis Chambers

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When Gordon Hayward suffered a season-ending injury six minutes into the Boston Celtics’ season on Wednesday, he wasn’t the only player who saw his season changed in the blink of an eye.

“I was at home in California watching the game as a fan,” Jabari Bird said.

Bird was the 56th overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft. After playing his college ball at the University of California, the Celtics gave the 6-foot-6 swingman a shot to continue his career. After impressing throughout the preseason, Bird was signed to a two-way contract with Boston and returned home to the west coast.

That didn’t last long.

“After the game was over my phone was going off that I had to get on the quickest flight to Boston,” Bird said about opening night. “Got in 7:30 the next morning, suited up against Milwaukee, now I’m here in Philly.”

With the massive hole Hayward left in Boston’s roster due to his injury, the Celtics are going to have to turn to some unlikely performers throughout the season to pick up the slack. Bird didn’t light up the scoreboard or stuff his stat sheet, posting just three points and one rebound in 13 minutes of play. But down the stretch in a close game against the Philadelphia 76ers Friday night, Bird came up big on defense.

As the Celtics trailed the Sixers 61-53 with six minutes remaining in the third quarter, Bird subbed in for Jaylen Brown and was tasked with guarding J.J. Redick, who was in the midst of carrying Philadelphia with his lights out shooting.

After wiping away the Sixers lead and gaining an 86-84 advantage in the fourth quarter, the Celtics still had Bird sticking Redick. The Sixers’ shooting guard — and highest paid player — rose up for another three-point attempt which would’ve given Philadelphia a late lead and a momentum shift at home with a raucous crowd behind them. Only this time, Bird’s hand was in his face and the shot attempt didn’t find the back of the net.

In a big-time moment on the road, for a team facing a potential three-game losing streak to start the season, the unlikely rookie answered the call.

“Like I said before, he’s one of the best shooters in the NBA, really good perimeter scorer,” Bird said of Redick. “For the team to trust me with that responsibility, with us being down on the road needing to get a win, I was hyped up and ready to go. I was ready for the challenge.”

Placing such a responsibility like guarding Redick on a night where it seemed like the Sixers marksman couldn’t miss on a player who was sitting on his couch three nights ago seems like a bold strategy. Head coach Brad Stevens, however, knew what he was doing.

“All the way through preseason and training camp I felt like he was one of our better perimeter defenders,” Stevens said. “I think he has huge upside. His rebounding spoke for itself in preseason practices. His ability to guard off the ball, especially shooters coming off screens is just really good. He’s not afraid, and you knew he’d step up.”

Going from the couch to a red-eye flight from California to Boston, to the bench in Milwaukee, to the court in Philadelphia is nothing short of a whirlwind experience. With such a series of events, it’s hard to be coached into that moment. As a player, sometimes you have to just go out and play.

“I wasn’t prepared at all for tonight. Mentally I just had to lock into the game,” Bird said. “Coach just looked at me and said ‘Bird get Jaylen.’ ‘Alright.’ So that’s what I did.”

After signing Hayward to $127 million contract this summer, the Celtics were expecting the small forward to provide an elite scoring 1-2 scoring punch with Kyrie Irving. Obviously, at least for this season, Boston will need to move forward without that possibility. An opening night loss, followed by another defeat to Milwaukee the following night, had the Celtics 0-2 heading into Philadelphia and searching for answers a lot sooner than they may have anticipated just a week ago.

Bird’s journey during his first week in professional basketball represents how quickly things can change, and how the ripple effects of injuries and other moves have far outreaching waves.

“I was already packed, I was ready to go to the G-League,” Bird said. “We had training camp coming up. My bags were already packed, I was ready to get out the house. Then I got the call to go to Boston and I was like alright I’m ready to go, just gimmie a flight. And that’s what happened.”

All-star point guard, and Bird’s new teammate, Kyrie Irving doesn’t foresee the rookie leaving the clubhouse anytime soon. With the adversity the Boston Celtics have felt in the first week of the 2017-18 season, Bird’s addition and impact are a prime example of being ready when your number is called, and the culture this team is looking to create.

“Jabari is now probably gonna be on every trip with us,” Irving said. “Guys are gonna be called up and called upon to be ready to play. We just have to have that expectation that when we come into the game we’re gonna be able to play, and we trust one another and have each other’s backs.”

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