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NBA Saturday: Kyle Anderson Feels Fortunate to be a Spur

As he works to adapt his game to the NBA, Kyle Anderson feels fortunate to be a member of the Spurs.

Jesse Blancarte

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Kyle Anderson grew up in New Jersey, where he learned the game of basketball from an early age.  The son of a high school basketball coach, Anderson was groomed to be a point guard.  It didn’t matter that he would grow to be 6’9; his father didn’t want him to be “pigeonholed” as a post player.

Anderson wasn’t born with the leaping ability of a Blake Griffin or the speed of a Ty Lawson.  In fact, Anderson earned the nickname “Slow Mo” in eighth grade while playing AAU ball.  But his combination of height, basketball IQ and point guard skills made him a tough matchup for opposing teams, which would serve him well in high school and college.

In high school, Anderson won two state championships, was named a McDonald’s All-American and was invited to play in the Jordan Brand Classic and Nike Hoop Summit.  Anderson then decided to go across the country to play at UCLA for Ben Howland, a coach who had recently prepped point guards like Darren Collison, Jordan Farmar, Jrue Holiday and Russell Westbrook for the jump into the NBA.

Anderson put together a strong freshman season playing primarily as a power forward, but Howland didn’t give him the freedom to fully utilize his unique skill-set.  However, Steve Alford took over as UCLA’s head coach the next season, and utilized Anderson as more of a point guard.  The results were promising.  As a sophomore, Anderson averaged 14.9 points, 8.7 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game.  He registered UCLA’s first triple-double since 1995, with 13 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists in a win over Morehead State.  He would go on to win Most Outstanding Player of the Pac-12 Tournament, was selected third-team All-American and was also voted to the All-Pac-12 first team.

While Anderson’s “methodical” pace was an asset in high school and college, many scouts and analysts believed it would prevent him from having a significant impact in the NBA.  This is why Anderson, who as a sophomore at UCLA was one of the best players in the nation, dropped to the end of the first round in this year’s NBA draft.  Questions about his athleticism, what his natural position would be in the NBA, whether he could stay in front of quicker players and whether he could become a knock-down shooter were concerns for teams.

On draft night, Adam Silver, in his debut as Commissioner of the NBA, stepped to the podium to announce the final pick of the first round.  “With the 30th pick in the 2014 NBA draft, the San Antonio Spurs select Kyle Anderson from UCLA,” Silver announced.  Camera footage from a documentary of Anderson’s journey to the NBA showed an anxious Anderson overcome by emotion.  He was selected by a championship organization, an organization he once told a group of kids to watch because the way they play the game is “beautiful.”

Anderson was right.  The Spurs play the game in a way that is effective and seemingly effortless.  But the results on the court are anything but effortless.  They are the result of consistency, experience and most importantly hard work.  In his short time with the Spurs, Anderson has seen that this is what it takes to be a championship team.

“Just picked up on a lot of good habits that these guys have,” Anderson told Basketball Insiders.  “One thing I noticed, these guys come in and work.  They get their extra work in.  I really enjoy watching guys like Tim [Duncan], guys like Tony [Parker], work hard on their game, it kind of rubs off on me.  You come in to work with the defending champs, you got to bring it every time; it just inspires you to bring it every day.”

The concerns surrounding Anderson’s game are still present.  But who better to help him find a way to overcome those obstacles than the San Antonio Spurs?  Consider Boris Diaw, who in 2012 was waived by the then-Charlotte Bobcats after falling out of favor with former head coach Paul Silas.  Diaw, who has a unique skill-set similar to Anderson’s, signed with the Spurs and became an integral part of their offensive system and a major contributor to their most recent championship.  The hope with Anderson is that he too can one day be a key piece for the Spurs.  He may not become a key contributor in his rookie season, but the Spurs give him as good of an opportunity to be successful in the NBA as any team in the league.

“It’s gone very well,” Anderson said when asked about transitioning to the NBA.  “This is a world-class organization.  It’s been a lot of hard work, but I’ve enjoyed everything.  The guys [have] been great, the coaches [have] been great and very helpful, it’s made the transition a lot easier.

“Of course I’m happy that I landed with the Spurs.  I think I’m one of the most fortunate guys in the draft to land in San Antonio, especially as a 21-year-old kid.  I think that means a lot and it’s going to help my career down the line.”

Anderson acknowledged that he is fortunate to have played at UCLA as well, a program with a rich tradition and high expectations.

“Both programs are big on tradition, have recent success in the past,” Anderson said.  “So when you put on a UCLA jersey, when you put on a Spurs jersey, you’re actually playing for something, you’re playing for legacy, guys who’ve done it way better than you in the past.”

Anderson was back in Los Angeles this week as the Spurs faced the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday, and the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday.  Anderson only played a collective 18 minutes in the two games, but that is expected for a rookie on a contending team filled with future Hall-of-Famers and veterans.  For now, Anderson is happy to work on improving his overall game and focusing on the things that Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich demands from each player.

“Just with everybody from the top guy all the way down to the rookie, it starts on defense,” said Anderson.  “He can’t stress that enough, that its starts with transition defense.  So when I’m in practice or wherever I can help, I just come in with that focus; getting stops, transition defense, and that will lead to good offense.”

“Just being able to knock down open shots, speed up my game and lose that methodical pace.  Try to speed up my game a little more and be able to knock down open shots really, and make the extra pass.”

When asked why he needed to pick up the pace, Anderson acknowledged the concerns that scouts had and still have about his game.

“Well it’s just a different level up here, the shot clock, guys who are much stronger than you, guys who are faster; it’s a different level,”  Anderson said.  “I may not get away with that [pace], so it’s something I wanted to work on, something they wanted me to work on, and I’ve been working on it so I’m pretty happy with where I am.”

Whether Anderson’s game will ever translate successfully to the NBA remains to be seen.  The questions about his game are legitimate, and an obstacle to overcome. Fortunately for Anderson, there is arguably no better team to help him find success in the NBA than the Spurs.  What we do already know, however, is that he is a perfect fit within the Spurs’ selfless culture.  When asked what his personal goals were for this season, Anderson responded like he had been a member of the Spurs for years.

“No goals for me personally,” he says, “just help my team in whatever way I can.”

Spoken like a true Spur.

Jesse Blancarte is a Deputy Editor for Basketball Insiders. He is also an Attorney and a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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NBA PM: Hornets Rookies May Become Key Contributors

Some key injuries may force Charlotte’s rookies into becoming effective role players earlier than expected, writes James Blancarte.

James Blancarte

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As the NBA finally gets underway tomorrow evening, the 2017 rookie draft class will get their first taste of regular season action. Teams reliant on young rookie talent might produce an exciting brand of basketball but that rarely translates into a winning formula. Having rookies play a key role for a team hoping to make the playoffs can be a risky endeavor.

Out West, the Los Angeles Lakers are relying on both Lonzo Ball as well as Kyle Kuzma, who may have worked his way into the rotation with his surprising preseason play. However, the Lakers are, at this point, not realistic contenders in the competitive Western Conference. In the East, the Philadelphia 76ers have more realistic playoff hopes. The team is relying on this year’s top overall draft pick, Markelle Fultz, and 2016’s top pick, Ben Simmons, for meaningful production. Although Simmons has been in the league for over a year, he is still classified as a rookie for this season since he didn’t play last season.

The Charlotte Hornets are looking to return to the playoffs after narrowly missing the cut this past season. The team will likely feature not one, but two true rookies as a part of their regular rotation. Like the Lakers, the Hornets feature a highly touted rookie with the talent and poise to contribute right away in Malik Monk. The team also features Dwayne Bacon, a rookie that has flashed scoring potential as well as maturity — key attributes that will allow him to quickly contribute to the team.

Both players will be given the opportunity to contribute as a result of the unfortunate and untimely injury to forward Nicolas Batum. Batum tore a ligament in his left elbow in an October 4 preseason game against the Detroit Pistons. Initial speculation was that the injury would require surgery. However, it was announced on October 10 that surgery would not be necessary, and that he is projected to return in six to eight weeks. Assuming that there are no setbacks in Batum’s recovery, the Hornets will be looking to replace his perimeter scoring, playmaking abilities and perimeter defense. Enter Monk and Bacon.

Monk and Bacon have both shown the ability to score the ball, which is not exactly a common trait in Hornets rookies. Bacon, the 40th pick in the 2017 NBA draft, has made it a point to look for his shot from the outside, averaging 7.8 three-point shots per game while knocking down 33.3 percent of his attempts. As Bacon gains more experience, he presumably will learn how to get cleaner looks at the basket within the flow of the team’s offense. Doing so should help him increase his shooting percentage from beyond the arc, which would turn him into an even more effective contributor for Charlotte.

Bacon spoke to reporters after a recent preseason game against the Boston Celtics. Bacon was placed in the starting lineup and went 4-4 from three-point range in 34 minutes of action.

When asked what are some of the things he wanted to work on, Bacon focused on one end of the court in particular.

“Definitely defense. I’m trying to perfect the defensive side, I want to be one of the best two-way players to ever play the game,” Bacon stated. “I feel like I got the offensive side so just keep getting better on defense, I’ll be fine.”

Lack of consistency and defense are key factors that prevent many rookies from playing and being successful on winning teams right away. Based on Bacon’s size (6-foot-6, 221 pounds with a long wingspan) and physicality, he has the physical tools necessary to play passable defense. Combine that with his ability to score (he led the team in scoring in three of its five preseason games) and the unfortunate injury to Batum, it’s apparent that Bacon will get an opportunity to make the rotation and contribute.

Reliable two-way players on the wing are crucially important, but are not always readily available and are even less common on cheap contracts. The Los Angeles Clippers went through the entire Chris Paul/Blake Griffin era swapping small forwards on a nearly annual basis, struggling to find this kind of contribution from the wing. With little cap flexibility, the Clippers were unable to acquire a forward that could effectively and consistently play both end of the court, which caused issues over the years. As a second round pick, Bacon is set to make $815,615 in his first year. If Bacon is able to contribute at even a league average level, that will be a major boost for the shorthanded Hornets. Bacon is smart to focus on improving as a defender as Steve Clifford is a defensive-minded coach who will leave talented players on the bench if they aren’t making a positive impact on the defensive end of the court.

In fact, Clifford offered some strong simultaneous praise and criticism of Monk when it came to his scoring and defense.

“He can score, he can score, he can score [speaking of Monk],” Clifford stated. “I think his defense will come because he’s willing, he’s a good guy. I think that being a good player is very important to him.”

It’s apparent in Clifford’s comment that he values scoring, but that defense is also extremely important and essential to any player that wants to be a “good player.”

“He knows and understands that the way he has played in the past [in college], he can’t play in this league if he wants to be a good player,” Clifford said about Monk. “The big thing is, I told him, when people say, ‘he’s a talented offensive player’ that is a lot different than somebody saying, ‘he’s a talented NBA player.’”

Point guard Michael Carter-Williams also suffered an injury (bone bruise in his left knee), which received less attention than Batum’s injury. While Carter-Williams is not the same caliber of player as Batum, the Hornets are alarmingly thing at backup point guard. Without Carter-Williams, the team was going to lean on Batum to act as a playmaker more than he has in the past, which would have, at least in part, addressed the lack of an established backup point guard. But with Batum sidelined, Coach Clifford has given Monk time at the point guard position. If Monk proves capable of playing both guard positions and playing alongside Walker, that could go a long way towards mitigating the loss of Batum and Carter-Williams. It’s not reasonable to expect Monk (or Bacon) to produce as consistently as a seasoned veteran, but having them contribute at a league average level would constitute a big win for a Charlotte team with serious playoff aspirations.

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Teams Refuse To Back Down To Stacked Warriors

Golden State got better over the summer, but that didn’t stop others from trying to stop them from repeating as champions

Spencer Davies

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Opening week is finally upon us.

Appropriately enough, the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics will kick off the 2017-18 NBA season tomorrow night, as will the defending champion Golden State Warriors when they host the improved Houston Rockets.

The clear-cut favorites to win the league title are the ones who have done so two out of the past three years, and rightfully so. Warriors general manager Bob Myers has done a masterful job of assembling a juggernaut. They’ve kept their insanely talented core intact and—aside from Ian Clark and Matt Barnes—haven’t lost any of their key bench pieces to free agency.

In fact, Golden State has added to that dangerous second unit. Jordan Bell was bought from the Chicago Bulls and will bring another Draymond Green-esque impact almost immediately. Nick Young and Omri Casspi were brought in to fill the void of backup wings, which is an improvement at the position anyway. With the same roster as last year and better reserves to give the starters a breather, there’s no reason Steve Kerr and company can’t repeat if they stay healthy.

Knowing what the Warriors are capable of and how well they are set up to truly be a dynasty, there are some league executives out there who are hesitant to make significant moves that could potentially flop against such a powerhouse.

ESPN’s Zach Lowe reported back in middle June that select teams don’t want to risk a big play because of it. What that basically translates into is: We’re throwing in the white towel until that ball club disbands.

But luckily for fans and for parity’s sake, there was a handful of general managers that refused to take that path. Just looking down the list in the Western Conference, there were organizations that swung for the fences this summer.

The aforementioned Rockets are one of them.Daryl Morey pieced together multiple trades to allow him to land Chris Paul to play next to James Harden and form a dynamic backcourt tandem. Houston also signed a pair of veteran two-way players in Luc Mbah a Moute and P.J. Tucker to provide depth and defense.

What about the Oklahoma City Thunder? Just when we thought Russell Westbrook’s MVP season was enough to maybe build off, the unthinkable happened. Sam Presti unloaded Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to Indiana after just one season with the team to add All-Star forward Paul George, who is in a contract year.

That blockbuster move was followed up with another two months later, as Presti decided to deal fan favorite Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott to the Knicks in exchange for Carmelo Anthony. The creation of a Westbrook-George-Anthony big three forms an elite trio that is determined to prove championship worthiness.

Top tier Eastern Conference counterparts did their due diligence as well. The Cavaliers and Celtics are essentially rivals and became trade partners in an attempt to re-tool their respective rosters, in addition to gaining important pieces outside of that.

Boston inked Gordon Hayward to a maximum contract to create a bolstered starting unit alongside Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, and Al Horford until madness happened.

Firstly, Bradley got moved in a swap with the Detroit Pistons for Marcus Morris to address the hole at power forward. After that—with reports of Kyrie Irving’s unhappiness in Cleveland swirling around the basketball universe—Celtics general manager Danny Ainge acted immediately and swung a deal for the All-Star point guard in exchange for his All-Star point guard, a vital member of his team in Jae Crowder and the coveted Brooklyn Nets first-round pick.

It’s almost a brand new squad, but Brad Stevens has a versatile group to work with to try and finally dethrone the conference champions of the last three years.

As for the East’s cream of the crop, the Cavaliers moves are well known because wherever LeBron James goes the spotlight follows. Thomas and Crowder were huge gets for first-time general manager Koby Altman, especially after the outside growing doubt in the franchise’s front office. The rookie executive was also instrumental in signing Derrick Rose, Jeff Green, and Dwyane Wade to veteran minimum contracts.

Rose and Green have plenty of motivation because their critics think they’re washed up, meaning Tyronn Lue won’t have to give them a reason to play their hearts out. Wade simply made the decision to come to Cleveland because he can play with his best friend and potentially add to his collection of championship rings.

Ante Zizic, Cedi Osman, and Jose Calderon are also now a part of the roster that all-of-a-sudden is now deep at almost every position. It’s a new flavor for a team that may have only one year left to compete for a title with James’ pending free agency next summer.

Those four teams feel great about their chances to get in the way of the Warriors. It doesn’t stop there though. The West in general loaded up.

The Minnesota Timberwolves executed the first big move of the year when they traded for Jimmy Butler. The Denver Nuggets signed Paul Millsap to provide leadership and a veteran voice in a young locker room full of talent. The San Antonio Spurs lost Jonathan Simmons but brought in a very capable Rudy Gay under-the-radar as Kawhi Leonard’s backup.

Nobody expected the league to completely fold and hand Golden State another championship, but it was surprising (and relieving) to see so many teams have the fortitude to pull off the moves that they did. There was definitely risk involved for some of them, however, one thing is for certain.

The Warriors will not have a cakewalk to the NBA Finals. They will have to go through a rigorous set of teams in the West throughout the regular season and the playoffs.

If any team is up to the task, it’s Golden State. But we’ll see how it plays out starting about 24 hours from now.

See you at tip-off.

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NBA League Pass Debuts for 2017-18 Season

NBA League Pass has launched for the 2017-18 season. Basketball Insiders has the details.

Ben Dowsett

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The NBA and Turner Sports have launched NBA League Pass for the 2017-18 season, with several new features and pricing options available. NBA League Pass, a subscription-based service, will be available to users across 19 different platforms, from television and broadband to tablets, mobile and a plethora of connected devices.

In addition, an important note: As of Monday, NBA League Pass subscribers who have already purchased their access through a TV provider (Comcast, DirecTV, Dish, etc.) are now able to link their account to the NBA’s streaming service at no additional charge. The link to do this can be found here.

Basketball Insiders has you covered with a breakdown of all the new details immediately available. We will also be bringing you a detailed breakdown of certain important technological areas later in the week.

Features

New or improved features of NBA League Pass include:

  • Improved video quality for streaming League Pass content developed by iStreamPlanet, a high-level video streaming entity working in partnership with NBA Digital. Included among these improvements are faster delivery time for live feeds, reducing notable lag time present in previous versions. More detail on these video quality improvements will be featured in our breakdown later this week.
  • A new premium package that includes continuous in-arena coverage, even during commercials. This allows fans to view team huddles, live entertainment and other venue features that make them feel closer to the experience.
  • A season-long virtual reality subscription package via NBA Digital and NextVR, available to all premium and traditional NBA League Pass subscribers (also available to international subscribers and single-game purchasers beginning in week two of the NBA season). Access will be available across Samsung Gear VR, Google Daydream and Windows Mixed Reality.
  • Coverage of pre-game warmups and other in-arena events.
  • Spanish-language video coverage for select games, as well as Spanish-language audio continuing for select games.
  • NBA Mobile view will contain a zoomed-in, tighter shot of game action that’s optimized for mobile devices.

Pricing

Pricing for NBA League Pass has not changed for traditional access, and will remain at $199.99 for the full season. New monthly-based subscriptions are now also available, both for the full package and for individual teams. Full pricing will be as follows:

  • Traditional NBA League Pass (full league): $199.99
  • Premium NBA League Pass: $249.99
  • NBA Team Pass: $119.99
  • Single Game Pass: $6.99
  • Virtual Reality package: $49.99
  • Premium monthly subscription: $39.99
  • Traditional League Pass monthly subscription: $28.99
  • NBA Team Pass monthly subscription: $17.99

Notes

As previously reported by Basketball Insiders, upgrades are also expected on the TV side of NBA League Pass, particularly through Comcast, which has had the largest share of customer issues for this product in recent years. While only a single nightly HD channel was available via Comcast XFINITY League Pass previously, sources tell Basketball Insiders that all games will be available in HD through Comcast’s Beta channel package by the end of November (or earlier).

This Beta package does have limitations, however, including users’ inability to record, pause or rewind games. The package that was available in previous season will continue to be available until (and after) the Beta package is active, and subscribers will get access to both for no additional charge.

Check back with Basketball Insiders later in the week for a full rundown of the technological improvements being made to NBA League Pass.

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