Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders and Noah Coslov of CineSport discuss which current NBA players could go on to become successful NBA head coaches when they’re done playing, including Derek Fisher, Chauncey Billups and Shane Battier.
Lillard Accomplishes Preseason Goals
Prior to the start of the 2013-14 NBA season, Damian Lillard had three goals.
“First of all, I want to make the playoffs, I want to try and make the All-Star team and I want to be an All-NBA player,” Lillard told Basketball Insiders in Las Vegas. “There’s a lot of stuff I want to do.”
Well, Lillard accomplished all three of his goals during the NBA season, leading the Portland Trail Blazers to the second round of the playoffs, making his first All-Star appearance as a Western Conference reserve and being selected to the All-NBA Third Team this afternoon.
Lillard received 115 points, including two All-NBA first team votes, in order to make the All-NBA Third Team alongside Goran Dragic, Paul George, Al Jefferson and LaMarcus Aldridge.
This was a remarkable season for Lillard, who is only in the second year of his NBA career. Last year’s Rookie of the Year followed up his strong freshman campaign with an even more impressive sophomore year, and he has now solidified himself as one of the top point guards in the NBA.
It’s clear that Lillard is becoming a household name, especially after hitting the series-clinching shot to defeat the Houston Rockets in the first round of the playoffs and inking a new $100 million endorsement deal with adidas that will make the young point guard a focal point for the shoe company moving forward. Lillard will reportedly receive a $250,000 bonus from adidas for making the All-NBA Third Team, so this accomplishment is even sweeter for the 23-year-old.
Lillard, who was playing for Weber State and going unnoticed just a few years ago, still can’t believe how far he has come in the last several seasons. Several months ago, I asked Lillard if his life ever feels surreal these days.
“Always,” Lillard responded. “When I see my school playing on TV, I’ll think, ‘Wow, I was out there.’ That whole time, I hoped that I was going to the NBA, but I had no idea that all of this would happen. My coach that I worked out with there would tell me, ‘Don’t just go to the NBA, go be an All-Star.’ And in my head, I’d be like, ‘Well, I want to be an All-Star, but I don’t know how possible that really is.’ The fact that I’m here and I was able to become an All-Star so soon, it’s a blessing. It was a huge honor. A lot of people don’t get that opportunity at any point in their career and I was blessed enough to get it in my second season. All of the credit goes to the team though. I was able to do that because of how successful the team was. I understand that. It’s been a lot of fun. When you’re winning, these types of things happen because everyone loves winners. More individual things come when your team is successful; I’ve always understood that. It’s been a night and day from two years ago to now. Hopefully we can keep being successful as a team and there’s more to come.
“I just take everything for what it is. I understand where I started and what had to be done for me to get here – working hard and having high character. I still appreciate those things. I appreciate just being here too. I don’t think, ‘Alright, I’m here so now I’m a big shot and nobody can tell me nothing.’ That’s not what made me who I am. I appreciate the things that made me who I am and I’ll never get away from those things. … I still have the same company, the same people around me. I’m sticking to what I’ve always done. I haven’t changed.”
This season, Lillard averaged 20.7 points, 5.6 assists and 3.5 rebounds in the regular season, and then averaged 22.9 points, 6.5 assists and 5.1 rebounds in the postseason.
adidas Eurocamp Set to Get Underway
The 12th annual adidas Eurocamp is set to get underway this Saturday, and Basketball Insiders will be in Treviso, Italy to give you all of the latest news, notes and information from Eurocamp. This is the most prestigious international pre-NBA draft camp, which features top basketball players who will showcase their skills during the three-day event.
In its 12th year, adidas Eurocamp provides a global stage for the top international prospects to practice, compete and interview with NBA teams and other professional leagues leading up to the NBA Draft. Players will also attend clinics and learn from current and former NBA coaches and players including Ricky Rubio (Minnesota Timberwolves), Nicolas Batum (Portland Trail Blazers), Danilo Gallinari (Denver Nuggets), Luigi Datome (Detroit Pistons) Vlade Divac (NBA legend) and Aleksandar Djordjevic (Serbia National Team head coach).
“I’m excited to be a part of adidas Eurocamp this year,” Rubio said. “It’s an incredible way for young players from all over the world to get discovered and develop their skills.”
More than 40 early entries and NBA Draft-eligible participants will participate in adidas Eurocamp, including possible 2014 first-round draft pick Vasilije Micic of Serbia. Former participants include 70 first- and second-round draft picks, including NBA standouts Serge Ibaka (Oklahoma City Thunder), Danilo Gallinari (Denver Nuggets) and Nicolas Batum (Portland Trail Blazers). Thirty former Eurocamp participants currently hold NBA contracts and 75 currently play in Euroleague Basketball.
Oklahoma City Thunder senior advisor and original Eurocamp founder, Maurizio Gherardini will now serve as camp director. Toronto Raptors assistant coach Bill Bayno returns as coaching director for the third year. In addition, several coaches with NBA experience will join the adidas Eurocamp coaching staff including Lionel Hollins, Maurice Cheeks and Kaleb Canales.
Teams participating this year include the under-18 adidas USA Select, the France under-20 men’s national team and Carleton University from Canada. For the second time, adidas Eurocamp Next Generation, an elite program to enhance both on-court and life skills, joins the event and features the top under-16 European players.
adidas Eurocamp will be held at La Ghirada Sports Complex “SportCity” in Treviso, Italy. Basketball Insiders will be in the building, so keep an eye out for our coverage of this event. Here is a look at the rosters for this year’s adidas Eurocamp:
Which Team Has to Get the Draft Right?
Basketball Insiders’ Alex Kennedy, Steve Kyler, Yannis Koutroupis, Jessica Camerato and Lang Greene discuss which NBA has the most pressure on them to get the draft right. Check out the video here:
Is Kyrie Irving’s Second Opinion a Cause for Concern?
Shane Rhodes breaks down the tough situation the Celtics are in with Kyrie Irving.
The Boston Celtics are in one awful predicament.
With a third of the roster out due to injury, Brad Stevens has been forced into the impossible task of maintaining Boston’s championship aspirations with some subpar talent; while they have performed admirably, the likes of Abdel Nader and Semi Ojeleye wouldn’t see the same run they are currently on with most contenders. Gordon Hayward has missed the entire season, save a few minutes on opening night. Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Daniel Theis are all currently out, some for the year and others not. Key contributors Al Horford, Marcus Morris and others have missed time as well.
It couldn’t get worse, could it?
Well, it may just have. Reports surfaced Tuesday that Irving, who had missed time this season — including the last four games — with left knee soreness, is seeking a second opinion after a lack of progress in his recovery.
My understanding is that Kyrie Irving is getting a 2nd opinion on his left knee, perhaps as soon as tomorrow. Bottom line: he needs the screws out. Knee is flaring up. He will either play thru it going forward or … he will get thee screws out and won’t play at all. Stay tuned.
— Tony Massarotti (@TonyMassarotti) March 20, 2018
With lack of progress on his ailing left knee, Celtics All-Star Kyrie Irving plans to travel for a second opinion later this week, league sources tell Yahoo.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) March 20, 2018
In the wake of the Isaiah Thomas fiasco and his ailing hip last Summer, an injury that lingered deep into this season, the Celtics will likely be more than cautious with Irving, whom they gave up a haul (the rights to the 2018 Brooklyn Nets first round pick, most notably), to acquire. But one can only wonder if these persistent issues — Irving’s left knee was surgically repaired after he sustained a fractured kneecap in 2015, and he reportedly threatened the Cleveland Cavaliers with surgery this offseason before his trade to Boston — are a cause for concern for general manager Danny Ainge and the Celtics.
The situation presents the Celtics with a quandary, to say the least.
Knee injuries aren’t exactly a death-knell, but fans need not look far for to see the devastating effect they can have on NBA players (e.g. Derrick Rose). They can snowball and, over time, even the best players will break down. Regardless of the severity, Irving’s knee issue presents problems both now and in the future.
The problems now are obvious: the Celtics, already down Gordon Hayward, cannot afford to lose Irving if they are at all interested in making a Finals run this season. Boston struggles mightily on the offensive end when Irving and his 24.4 points, 3.8 rebounds and 5.1 assists aren’t on the court. In a playoff atmosphere, especially, the team would sorely miss his scoring prowess.
Looking ahead, if Irving is dealing with these problems at the age of 25, what could the future hold for the All-Star guard? Knee issues, most lower body issues in general, are often of the chronic variety, and constant maintenance can wear on people, both mentally and physically.
Just a season separated from a likely super-max payday, will the Celtics want to commit big-money long-term to potentially damaged goods?
If there is a silver lining in it all, it is the fact that 20-year-old rookie Jayson Tatum must now shoulder the scoring load, something that should go a long way in building on the potential that made him the No. 3 overall pick last June. And, should Irving miss the remainder of this season, exposure to the fires of the playoffs should only temper the Celtics’ young roster. In the event that Irving’s absence isn’t prolonged, time like this could only serve to strengthen the roster around him.
Still, Ainge brought Irving to Boston for a reason: he was meant to lead the Celtics into battle, alongside Gordon Hayward and Al Horford, in their quest for a title. Obviously, he can’t do that from the bench. Without Irving at 100 percent, the Celtics are not a championship caliber squad, healthy Gordon Hayward or not. That fact alone will make Irving’s situation one to monitor going forward and for the foreseeable future.
NBA Daily: Houston Has It All
Deciphering whether Houston is a contender or pretender is tough, but they’re making it easy.
It is very easy to get caught up in the NBA regular-season hyperbole. The past is littered with a plethora of NBA teams that looked like world-beaters in the regular season only to pull up lame in the playoffs and emerge as a bunch of pretenders.
So when it comes to the Houston Rockets, it’s no surprise many pundits and fans of the game fall heavily on one side or the other. The 2017-18 Rockets are a polarizing squad in that respect. On one side of the fence, you have the folks that are struggling to get behind Houston until they see how the franchise performs in the playoffs under the brightest of lights and on the biggest of stages. On the other, folks that place a great deal of weight on the 82-game regular season and the ability to sustain consistency throughout the marathon.
As always, the truth is somewhere in the middle.
At the top of Houston’s lineup are two future Hall of Famers in James Harden and Chris Paul. The latter was a perennial star in his heyday and is still a top-tier talent in the league. Harden, on the other hand, is closing in on his first MVP award and had serious cases for winning the honors in prior seasons, as well. Both Harden and Paul are criticized for their past playoff failures.
Paul entered the league during the 2006 season and has been dogged by the ever looming fact that he’s never reached a Conference Finals. Harden has been to the NBA Finals but has been dogged for multiple playoff missteps and shaky performances that remain etched in everyone’s memory. But something about this season’s Rockets team (57-14) seems different as the duo closes in on 60 wins.
One way to measure the true greatness of a NBA team is evaluating how many ways the roster can win playing a variety of styles. From the eyeball test, Houston checks the boxes in this category. The team sustains leads during blowouts. They have an offense built to erase large deficits quickly. The team possesses the talent to employ an array of versatile lineups to withstand top heat from opposing teams. Head coach Mike D’Antoni has shown the ability to adjust on the fly during certain situations. Houston is seemingly comprised of a bunch of guys that are selfless and ready to sacrifice at this stage of their respective careers.
Time will tell on all of those aforementioned aspects, but the Rockets are built to compete and win now. On paper at least, the team fits the criteria.
Paul has a chance to go down as a top five point guard in NBA history .His court vision is unquestioned and his big men always seem to end up being in the top five of field goal percentage each season (i.e. Tyson Chandler, DeAndre Jordan and now Clint Capela). In years past, the Rockets faltered down the stretch of games because the entire system ran through Harden. But this year’s club has the luxury of taking some of the on-ball expectation away from Harden and by giving the rock to Paul who naturally thrives in this role the squad doesn’t take a step back on the floor.
This is going to be big for Houston which has seen Harden gassed late in playoff games from carrying the entire load.
Small Ball Ready
Presumably standing between the Rockets and an appearance in the NBA Finals are the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors turned the NBA upside down with their free-flowing offense, long range accuracy and the successful ability to push the pace while playing small ball.
At the height of Golden State’s success they employed the “death lineup” which places All-Star forward Draymond Green at center. In different variations this gives the Warriors five guys on the court who can dribble, drive, pass and shoot. Versatility is important and if you look at this year’s Rockets team they have the ability to match the death lineup with their own version. Veteran forward P.J. Tucker would be able to guard Green in this scenario at center or Houston could just rely on the athleticism of Capela.
When it comes to defense, the Rockets will never be confused for the bad boy Detroit Pistons of yesteryear, however, the team has an assortment of individually capable defenders on the roster. Paul has all defensive team honors hanging on his mantle during his time in the league. Small forward Trevor Ariza made his bones in the league by placing an emphasis on defense. Before Capela emerged as a double-digit scorer, he was relied on as a defensive spark off the bench. Luc Mbah a Moute has a reputation and consistent track record of being a very willing defender.
Shooting, Versatility and Experience
All of this success, leads to the variation D’Antoni can put out onto the floor. The versatility to go with a small ball lineup or a lineup heavily skewed toward defenders is a luxury amenity. Houston also features five guys with 125 or more three-pointers made this season with Harden, Eric Gordon, Ariza, Paul and Ryan Anderson leading the way. A sixth, Tucker, should join the +100 club before season’s end. Veteran Gerald Green has only played 30 games with the franchise but has already knocked down 76 attempts from distance.
Experience is key as well. This year’s Rockets team features only one player under 25, receiving 25 or more minutes per night in the rotation. Look at NBA history, title winning teams are full of veterans not second or third year players.
Again, the Rockets will never be confused with the late 80s or early 90s Pistons but the team has more than a few guys that don’t shy away from contact or physical play. The collection of Nene, Tucker, Green and Ariza have had more than their share of shoving matches when things get heated on the floor.
With the start of the NBA playoffs (April 14) under a month away, the Rockets continue to build momentum toward a title run. Will Harden and Paul’s playoff demons from the past emerge or is their first true shot at greatness with a complete team? These questions will soon be answered.
PODCAST: Breaking Down The Western Conference Playoff Race
Basketball Insiders Deputy Editor Jesse Blancarte and Writer James Blancarte break down the Western Conference playoff race and check in on the Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers.