“The Basketball Tournament” Is Here
In two and a half weeks, “The Basketball Tournament” will get underway. This is a brand new, single-elimination tournament that will feature 32 teams competing for a $500,000 prize at Philadelphia University. Any team can enter, and the tournament has attracted a number of former NBA and NCAA players.
Some of the notable players competing in The Basketball Tournament this June include Josh Selby, Dahntay Jones, Hakim Warrick, Sean Singletary, Rashad McCants, Smush Parker, Josh Boone, Quincy Douby, Shavlik Randolph, Andre Barrett, Chris Wright, Tony Gaffney, Austin Freeman, Ryan Wittman, Aquille Carr, Marshall Henderson, Edgar Sosa and Lenzelle Smith Jr.
Scottie Reynolds, Dante Cunningham and the 2009 Villanova Final Four team will reunite for The Basketball Tournament. The 2010 Cornell Sweet 16 team will also be participating, along with teams from Wisconsin, Temple, Princeton, Maryland and Notre Dame.
There is no entry fee for teams, as the prize money is privately invested by a group in Boston. The squads must decide how the $500,000 prize will be split among the players prior to the start of the tournament. Over 150 teams applied for the tournament, but only 32 made it. Twenty-four teams were voted in by fans on the tournament’s website, and eight additional teams were selected by the organizers.
As of right now, the frontrunner to win the tournament appears to be “Team Barstool” since they have five former NBA players (Jones, Douby, Boone, Randolph and Barrett) as well as former NCAA players Matt Walsh (Florida) and Justin Burrell (St. John’s).
This is a unique idea, since it puts a ton of money on the table and is open to anyone who wants to play or assemble a team. The $500,000 prize is what separates this from other tournaments.
“Guys love to play basketball, and what brings it up another notch is when money is on the line,” Hakim Warrick said. “Yeah, you’ve got bragging rights, but when you throw money out there too it’s just more incentive. That definitely will bring the games to another level. You don’t have to worry about someone not giving their all, since there is money on the line.”
“It’s an opportunity to play and I like to compete in general, so I thought it’d be a cool spot for me to play a couple of games and have some fun,” Dahntay Jones said. “It’s an opportunity to compete, stay sharp and have some fun. The competition level is better than most recreational basketball; the teams that have been slotted have guys that will be able to compete and play some good games.”
The tournament’s founder, Jon Mugar, is hoping to make this an annual tournament and he wants to increase the prize money each year.
“I certainly want this to be an annual event, and I want this to be the smallest amount that we ever pay the winning the team,” Mugar said. “We want to keep growing it, getting more players involved and having higher-stakes games. We want to be able to pay more teams even more money [in the future].
“The original concept was to take March Madness and throw the doors open to any team that wanted to play, and put an exorbitant amount of money out there for the teams to play for. We wanted a completely open format, which I hadn’t really seen before aside from maybe the FA Cup in soccer but I think this is even more open than that. Anybody can play or form a team. In addition to being a player, you can play the role of GM and create your own team. We also wanted a really high-stakes format that puts an emphasis on team basketball and winning. With the single-elimination format and bouncing teams after their first loss, it’s really high stakes.”
“I think it’ll be successful this year, and I think they’ll be able to snowball it and keep doing it every year,” Jones said.
Warrick decided to join the tournament after hearing about it from friends. He’ll be playing on a team assembled by former Temple player Mark Tyndale, and he’s looking forward to participating.
“I just knew it was going to be really good competition,” Warrick said. “There aren’t too many chances to play organized basketball against really good competition, but this is one of them. You’ve got a lot of guys who are going to give it their all. It’s a good opportunity for me to go out there and get some good run.”
Warrick spent last season playing in China, but he’s hoping to return to the NBA this summer. While some players just entered for a shot at the money, Warrick believes playing in this tournament against top competition can help him as he tries to make an NBA comeback. He last played in the league during the 2012-13 season, when he appeared in 27 games with the Charlotte Hornets.
“I definitely think this will help me, since I can get a good run in and play some competitive organized basketball,” Warrick said. “No matter how much you work out and do drills, there’s nothing that can get your prepared like playing real five-on-five games against good competition, especially when guys are playing their hardest. It’s good to play against those guys. I definitely think it’s going to be a really good tournament.
“I can bring experience to an NBA team and I feel that I still have my athleticism. I’ve continued to improve my game and I’ve always been a guy who can come off the bench to score and rebound. I feel like I can still do that for two, three, four, five more years. I had some opportunities [last year], but not good enough opportunities, so I decided to go over to China and play over there. Being able to play a lot of minutes and be the focal point, it was kind of fun. But I definitely still feel like I can play [in the NBA] and I feel like I’ll get back in this summer.”
Warrick has been practicing on his own, going through individual workouts, but he and his Basketball Tournament teammates plan to meet up in about a week and start practicing as a group.
“In about a week, we’ll start working out together, talking, trying to figure out some plays and getting everybody on the same page,” Warrick said. “We need to talk about the lingo that we’re going to use, and make sure everyone is comfortable.”
The championship game will be streamed online on June 28, and tickets to all of the games will go on sale tomorrow, May 22, at noon on TheTournament.com. All of the first-round matchups, which kick off on June 6, will also be announced tomorrow on the website.
Mugar was pleasantly surprised that the tournament was able to draw recent NBA players in year one. He was hopeful that it would take off right away, but this has admittedly blown up quicker than expected.
“When you first launch a concept like this, you really have no idea what to expect,” Mugar said. “We started on March 1 and we knew who we wanted in the tournament – teams like the Cornell 2010 team – but to see those teams apply early on was pretty exhilarating. It definitely validates the concept of the open tournament. As the process progressed, you saw more and more high-profile players and recent NBA players get involved, and that certainly exceeded our expectations for the first year.”
This is an intriguing idea, and it could be the first of many TBT events.
Paul George Injury Update
Last night, Indiana Pacers forward Paul George took a knee to the back of his head during a fourth-quarter collision with Miami HEAT guard Dwyane Wade in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals. After the game, George said he blacked out when he and Wade collided, and he admitted that his vision was blurry for the remainder of the game.
According to a Pacers press release, George “has been diagnosed by the team’s consulting neurologist with a concussion, based on his post-game reporting that he had briefly lost consciousness during the game.” He will begin the NBA-mandated protocol for return-to-participation after a diagnosed concussion.
Initially, George didn’t exhibit symptoms of a concussion and, in response to questions from the Pacers’ medical staff, he denied dizziness, nausea and issues with his vision. He was also active and aware of his surroundings. As a result, the Indiana medical staff did not suspect a concussion.
However, his comments after the game led to further testing and he will now have to go through the NBA’s concussion protocol in order to play in Game 3.
Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher, Director of the NBA Concussion Program, has been in contact with the Pacers’ medical staff since the incident occurred.
“The Indiana Pacers medical team followed the NBA concussion protocol and there was no indication of concussion during the game,” Kutcher said. “This case illustrates that concussion evaluation is an ongoing process and manifestations of the injury may not always present immediately.”
George’s status is up in the air for Game 3. Fortunately for the Pacers, the next game is not until Saturday, giving George several days to rest and try to get through the NBA-mandated concussion protocol.
NBA Daily: Raptors Look To Fine-Tune The Defense
The Toronto Raptors’ defense had a letdown against the Cavaliers, but has been outstanding overall.
The Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors engaged in an offensive shootout on Wednesday that could be a playoff preview. The Cavs protected home court with a single-possession, 132-129 victory. Afterward, the Raptors spoke about the types of defensive adjustments the team needs to make as the postseason rapidly approaches.
“That’s how a playoff game would be,” said DeMar DeRozan, who missed a three at the buzzer that could have forced overtime. “This is a team we’ve been playing against the last two years in the postseason. Understanding how we can tighten up things defensively, how to make things tougher for them [is key].
“[It’s] little small things that go a long way, and not just with them … with every team.”
Raptors coach Dwane Casey concurred with DeRozan that fine-tuning of the defense is needed. He also pointed out that, with young contributors such as center Jakob Poeltl and power forward Pascal Siakam on the roster, defensive experience against the league’s best player, LeBron James, is something they will have to gain on the fly.
“I don’t think Jakob Poeltl played against him that much, and Siakam,” said Casey. “This is their first time seeing it. I thought Jak and Pascal did an excellent job, but there are certain situations where they’ve got to read and understand what the other team is trying to do to them.”
Poeltl was outstanding, leading the bench with 17 points and tying for the team lead in rebounds with eight. Casey praised the diversity of his contributions.
“I thought he did an excellent job of rolling, finishing, finding people,” said Casey. “I thought defensively, he did a good job of protecting the paint, going vertical. So I liked what he was giving us, especially his defense against Kevin Love.”
Basketball Insiders previously noted how the Raptors have performed vastly better as a team this season when starting point guard Kyle Lowry is out of the game. Much of that is due to Fred VanVleet’s emergence as one of the NBA’s best reserve point guards. VanVleet scored 16 points with five assists and no turnovers against Cleveland. It’s also a reflection of how good Toronto’s perimeter defense has been up and down the roster.
According to ESPN’s defensive Real Plus-Minus statistic, three of the NBA’s top 15 defensive point guards play for the Raptors. VanVleet ranks seventh while Lowry is 12th and Delon Wright is 14th. Starting small forward OG Anunoby ranks 16th at his position.
The Raptors also rank in the top five in offensive efficiency (third) and defensive efficiency (fifth). Having established an identity as a defensive team, especially on the perimeter, it’s perhaps understandable that Lowry was the one player in the visiting locker room who took the sub-standard defensive showing personally.
“It was a disgraceful display of defense by us and we’ve got to be better than that,” said Lowry. “We’ve got to be more physical. They picked us apart and made a lot of threes. We’ve got to find a way to be a better defensive team.”
Lowry continued the theme of fine-tuning as the regular season winds down.
“I think we’ve just got to make adjustments on the fly as a team,” said Lowry. “We can score with the best of them, but they outscored us tonight. We got what we wanted offensively. We’re one of the top teams in scoring in the league, but we’re also a good defensive team.”
Lowry was clearly bothered by Toronto’s defensive showing, but Casey downplayed the importance of a single regular-season game.
“We’ve got to take these games and learn from them, and again learn from the situations where we have to be disciplined,” said Casey. “It’s not a huge thing. It’s situations where we are that we’ve got to learn from and be disciplined and not maybe take this step and over-help here. Because a team like that and a passer like James will make you pay.”
While the Raptors continue to gain experience and dial in the fine defensive details, Casey was insistent that his players should not hang their heads over falling short against Cleveland.
“Hopefully our guys understand that we’re right there,” said Casey.
The Raptors host the Brooklyn Nets tonight to open a three-game home stand that includes visits from the Clippers Sunday and the Nuggets Tuesday. After that, Toronto visits the Celtics March 31 followed by a return to Cleveland April 3 and a home game against Boston the next night. With three games in a row against the other two top-three teams in the East, the schedule presents plenty of opportunities for the Raptors to add defensive polish before the playoffs begin.
NBA Daily: Jaylen Brown Set To Return For Celtics
The Celtics finally got some good news on Thursday. Jaylen Brown’s return is imminent.
Finally, some good news for the Boston Celtics.
Jaylen Brown is set to return to action.
Brown has been M.I.A. since sustaining a concussion during the team’s 117-109 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves back on March 8, but has traveled with the team to Portland and is expecting to return to the lineup on Sunday when the Celtics do battle with the Sacramento Kings.
As the Celts gear up for a playoff run, which they hope will result in them ending LeBron James’ reign atop the Eastern Conference, they’ve picked the wrong time to run into injury issues. Along with Brown, both Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart have each been conspicuous by their absences, and the team could certainly use all of their pieces as they attempt to enter the postseason on a high note.
Fortunately for Boston, with the Toronto Raptors leading them by 4.5 games in the standings and the Celts ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers by a comfortable six games, Brad Stevens’ team is enjoying the rare situation of having a playoff seed that appears to be somewhat locked in.
Still, with the team only able to go as far as its young rotation will carry it, Brown addressed the media on Thursday.
“I’m feeling a lot better. I’m just trying to hurry up and get back,” Brown said, as quoted by Celtics.com.
“I’m tired of not playing.”
Stevens is probably tired of him not playing, too.
As we head into the month of April, playoff-bound teams and conference contenders begin to think about playing into June, while the cellar-dwellers and pretenders begin to look toward the draft lottery and free agency.
What’s funny is that in the midst of the Raptors and their rise out East, the Celtics and their dominance has become a bit of a forgotten storyline. When Gordon Hayward went down on opening night, the neophytes from the Northeast were thought to be a decent team in the making whose ceiling probably wasn’t anywhere near that of the Cavs, the Raptors and perhaps even the Washington Wizards.
Yet through it all, with the impressive growth of Jaylen Brown, impressive rookie Jayson Tatum and the rise of Irving as a franchise’s lynchpin, the Celtics stormed out the games to the tune of a a 17-3 record. What made the strong start even more impressive was the fact that the team won 16 straight games after beginning the season 0-2.
Although they weren’t able to keep up that pace, they began the month of February having gone 37-15 and turned a great many into believers. With their spry legs, team-first playing style and capable leader in Irving, the Celtics, it was thought, were a true contender in the Eastern Conference — if not the favorite.
Since then, and after experiencing injuries to some of its key cogs, the team has gone just 11-8.
In the interim, it seems that many have forgotten about the team that tantalized the Eastern Conference in the early goings of the season.
Brown’s return, in one important respect, will signify a return to Boston’s prior self.
With Marcus Smart having recently undergone surgery to repair a torn tendon in his right thumb, he is expected to be out another five weeks or so, meaning that he’ll likely miss the beginning of the postseason.
As for Irving, although reports say that his ailing knee has no structural damage, everything the Celtics hope to accomplish begins and ends with him. FOX Sports 1’s Chris Broussard believes that it’s no slam dunk that Irving returns to action this season, but he’s in the minority. This team has simply come too far to not give themselves every opportunity to compete at the highest level, so long as doing so doesn’t jeopardize the long term health of any of the franchise’s cornerstones.
Make no mistake about it, the Celtics are far from a finished product. With their nucleus intact and flexibility preserved, they will have another offseason with which to tinker with their rotation pieces and plug away at building a champion.
But here and now, with what they’ve got, the Celtics are much closer than any of us thought they would be at this point.
And on Sunday, when Jaylen Brown rejoins his team in the lineup, to the delight of the Boston faithful, the Celtics will be that much closer.
Winslow and the Miami HEAT Are “Believing in Each Other”
Justise Winslow discusses the all-around team effort of the Miami HEAT with Basketball Insiders.
The days of LeBron James in Miami are over. Chris Bosh isn’t there anymore, either. No more Ray Allen or Shane Battier. Dwyane Wade is back, but he’s not “Flash” nowadays.
Actually, check the entire Miami HEAT roster; there’s no superstar. They have an All-Star in Goran Dragic, even if he was the third alternate. But during this most recent playoff push, the HEAT don’t have a worldwide household name to plaster all over billboards as a reason for their success.
With 10 games remaining until the playoffs, Miami doesn’t have a player averaging more than 33 minutes per game. Instead, they have 11 players who average at least 20 minutes a contest. Their approach is that of a deep rotation, and its led them to a 39-33 record and the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference. All while the rest of the league is star-driven.
One of those key cogs to the Miami machine is third-year wing, Justise Winslow. A former top-10 pick out of Duke, Winslow is enjoying most efficient season so far for the HEAT. To him, the fact that his squad isn’t littered with names like LeBron and Steph doesn’t make a difference.
“I think our team is extremely confident in each other,” Winslow said. “I think that’s a big thing is that we all believe in each other. We play to each other’s strengths, and most importantly we’re a defensive-minded team. We hang our hats on the defensive end, and that’s really what gets us going as a team.”
Winslow isn’t exaggerating. The HEAT is seventh in the NBA in defensive rating. Head coach Erik Spoelstra harps on the team’s defensive scheme and preparation. Without a go-to scorer capable of getting the team 30 any given night, Miami needs to do their job as a collective unit on the defensive end of the floor night in and night out.
“Each night the coaching staff preaching to us that we have enough, no matter who is in the lineup,” Winslow said. “So it’s just about going out there and executing and putting together a good game of 48-minute basketball. I think our belief in each other that we have enough to get the job done is key.”
In the current NBA landscape, a lot of the playoff contenders are centered around players with big resumes and bigger names. As a result, the HEAT get lost in the shuffle of the national conversation from time to time. Their culture of togetherness and slight from the media outside of their city could make for the perfect “chip on the shoulder” recipe. Or so you would think. Winslow doesn’t believe the chatter, or lack thereof, matters any to Miami.
“We don’t pay too much attention to that,” Winslow said. ‘We’re so focused, and locked in on our team, and each other, and trying to win each game. For us, it’s about having the respect of your peers, of the other team. I think every night no matter who we have or who’s healthy, I think teams know we’re going to be a tough, physical team. Guys in this league don’t want that, you don’t want to have to play against a Miami HEAT team that’s going to be physical, that’s going to get into your body, that’s going to make you play a hard, 48-minute basketball game.”
Because of the HEAT’s brand of basketball, an 82-game season can be grueling. For Winslow, keeping his body right throughout the grind is important to him. After dealing with a few injuries last season, and ultimately being shut down for the year last January to undergo right shoulder surgery for a torn labrum, Winslow was determined to make sure he kept his body in check throughout his comeback so he would be available for a long playoff run.
While his numbers aren’t flashy, Winslow is showing improvement. His 49.3 true shooting percentage is the highest of his career, along with shooting nearly 43 percent from beyond the arc, Winslow made strides in arguably the biggest knock against his game since coming out of college.
Because NBA players have the freedom to form partnerships with whichever companies they’d like, Winslow made the choice to strike up a partnership that he felt would not only help him off the court but more importantly, on it as well.
“My partnership with MET-Rx has been great,” Winslow said. “They’ve really helped take my game to the next level with all their nutritional supplements, and the Big 100 bar. So, for me, I’m always looking for ways to stay off my feet, but also get in the best shape possible and this was just a great way to help.”
The grind of the NBA season is also eased for playoff teams by a veteran presence. So, when the HEAT brought back franchise legend Wade at the trade deadline, their locker room suddenly had a face and feel of someone who’s been there before. A player who reached the pinnacle, with the very team that traded for him nonetheless.
Getting Wade back to Miami was crucial for the team’s playoff run down the stretch, and more importantly for Winslow, who benefited greatly from his time with the future Hall of Famer when he was fresh out of college.
“First and foremost, it was great to get him back,” Winslow said. “Just the role that he played in my career as a rookie, and everything I learned from him. But then also, just the energy and positivity that he brought to the locker room, and also the community of Miami, the city of Miami as a whole. It was a much-needed energy boost, and good vibes that he brought back for that post All-Star break push for playoffs. So, it’s just been great having him back, and it’s kind of rejuvenated the team and the locker room, and just the city in general.”
Wade is the MVP-caliber player he once was this time around, though. But that’s okay. This version of the Miami HEAT is charging toward the postseason with a team-first mentality.