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NBA Sunday: Ilyasova Frustrated In Milwaukee?

Ersan Ilyasova says it was frustrating to hear his name in trade rumors and will be watching his team’s moves this summer

Lang Greene

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Bucks’ Ersan Ilyasova Was Frustrated By Trade Deadline Rumors

The Milwaukee Bucks (13-53) are currently on pace to record the worst record in the league this season. Of course with large doses of losing comes frustration and an active front office attempting to reverse the process and build for a better future.

At the trade deadline the Bucks traded guards Luke Ridnour and Gary Neal to the Charlotte Bobcats in exchange for guard Ramon Sessions and forward Jeff Adrien. Roughly a week later the team waived veteran forward Caron Butler.

While the Bucks didn’t make a ton of moves at the deadline there were more than enough trade rumors swirling around the franchise in the month prior. One player who was prominently featured in the trade deadline rumor circuit was forward Ersan Ilyasova.

The sixth year pro says the combination of being included in trade rumors and the mounting losses was a personally frustrating situation to endure. Ilyasova says he’s glad the rumor period has passed and he’s looking forward to general manager John Hammond rebuilding a playoff caliber roster moving forward.

“When you go through a season like this and your name comes up [in rumors] it is a little frustrating,” Ilyasova told Basketball Insiders. “But I still feel myself as part of this franchise. I’m hopeful we can find the right pieces for the team so we can play much better because we really need it. I want to be part of a playoff team and that’s what I’m looking forward to, [the franchise] building a better team – a playoff team.

“It’s disappointing when you go through a season like this. Especially after last year when we made the playoffs and played against last year’s champions (Miami).”

Last season the Bucks made the playoffs but were swept by the Miami HEAT in the opening round. Last summer saw plenty of changes with Monta Ellis, Brandon Jennings, Mike Dunleavy and J.J. Redick all departing  the organization during the offseason. Milwaukee also changed head coaches, hiring Larry Drew into the fold.

Despite the struggles, Ilyasova expects his teammates to play with pride down the stretch as they continue gaining familiarly with each other.

“We have to play for each other,” Ilyasova said. “Forget our record. It is what it is. We have to work on our game right now. Become one team, one piece. We have a lot of new guys. A new coach. If I’m not mistaken we had 11 new players on the roster. Now it is all about building chemistry, playing better down the stretch and getting ready for next season.”

Philadelphia 76ers Taking the Mounting Losses In Stride

Only two games separate the Philadelphia 76ers (15-51) from taking the crown as the league’s worst team from the Milwaukee Bucks this season. On Saturday the Sixers lost their 20th straight game, a 26-point drubbing , at the hands of the Memphis Grizzlies in front of their dwindling home crowd.

While most projected the Sixers to occupy the league’s basement this season, many didn’t expect to see a losing streak of this magnitude to transpire in the process.

Despite the mounting losses and the eroding confidence in the club’s locker room these days, first year head coach Brett Brown fully admits he understood these were some of the lows he expected to encounter when he was hired by the organization last summer.

“This is not slit-your-wrist time. This is not even close to that,” Brown told Del Lynam of Comcast Sports.  “This is about building a program and understanding the short-term pain for a lot of long-term gain. To truly rebuild and grow something is going to take three to five years. That is just the way it goes. It is too talented a league and too well-coached. The experiences we are going through now will be distant memories when these guys start getting older. They will find positives in this season and Michael Carter-Williams will be better for it.

“I’ve been asked by so many people, ‘Why would you take the job and screw up your coaching percentage?’ As if I care about that. I knew what I was getting in to.”

This has been a season of adversity for the Sixers and their fan base, but there have been a few positives for the team this season.

There was the three game winning streak to start the season, which included a victory over the two-time defending champion Miami HEAT, point guard Michael Carter-Williams is on pace to be named Rookie of the Year and veteran forward Thaddeus Young continues to improve in every facet of his game.

With an active 20 game losing streak, the road doesn’t get much easier for Philadelphia over the next six games against Chicago (2), Houston, Indiana, New York and San Antonio.

Bucks Find Diamond In The Rough In Jeff Adrien?

The transition to the NBA is a rude awakening for most young guys. Players routinely go from always being an integral part of their respective teams at the middle school, prep and collegiate levels to being seldom played bench players in their early years as a professional.

For the vast majority of guys entering the league their stardom achieved at the levels leading to the NBA won’t translate into the same success at the next level. It is a harsh, but true reality. Because fitting into the NBA pecking order is all about finding, and maximizing, a niche. Whether it is providing lockdown perimeter defense, rebounding, energy, hustle, efficient scoring, steady ball handling, three-point shooting or even being a solid locker room personality guys have to maximize their role for longevity.

One player who may be finding a niche may be undersized power forward Jeff Adrien.

The 28 year old former University of Connecticut standout was acquired by the Milwaukee Bucks at the trade deadline from the Charlotte Bobcats.

In 12 games with the franchise Adrien has made his mark and earned the respect of head coach Larry Drew averaging 8.8 points and 7.7 rebounds on 53 percent shooting. The coaching staff isn’t the only segment of the Bucks enamored with Adrien’s recent run. Multiple Bucks players have praised Adrien’s aggressiveness and hustle on both sides of the floor.

The question now is does a 28 year old journeyman become a long term part of the team’s ongoing rebuilding project. Adrien is on the books for $916k this season and is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova says Adrien has earned his respect and wouldn’t mind seeing him around with the franchise long term.

“He’s been playing really great,” Ilyasova told Basketball Insiders of Adrien. “He brings a lot of energy and effort to our team. Sometimes you go to a fresher place because of trades. Now we have a new addition, a  new soldier to be involved. Now we have to get our confidence up, but he has fit into our team chemistry fine.”

Adrien was undrafted out of UCONN in 2009 and has since logged action with Golden State, Houston, Charlotte and now Milwaukee.

Lang Greene is a senior NBA writer for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last 10 seasons

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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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Mavs Guard Devin Harris on Personal Leave from Team

Basketball Insiders

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Guard Devin Harris will take an indefinite leave from the Dallas Mavericks after the tragic death of his brother, Bruce.

“I was with him yesterday and just encouraged him that when he’s ready to come on back,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know when that will be. He can take as long as he needs.”

Source: Tim MacMahon of ESPN

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NBA PM: Patrick Beverley Set the Tone for Clippers in Season Opener

Patrick Beverley set the tone for the L.A. Clippers with his aggressive defense in their season opener.

Jesse Blancarte

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“The LA Clippers are going to the Western Conference Finals. Guaranteed.”

That bold statement was made by Charles Barkley during TNT’s coverage of last night’s matchup between the Lakers and Clippers.

While Barkley may have had his hot take canon primed and in mid-season form, that should not overshadow the fact that the Los Angeles Clippers put together a strong showing in their first regular season game since the departure of Chris Paul.

Blake Griffin logged 29 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, two steals and knocked down three of his six three-point attempts. Griffin was aggressive and showed no hesitation on his jumper, which seemed to open up lanes for him to drive to the basket (where he is most effective). DeAndre Jordan was fantastic as well, contributing 14 points, 24 rebounds, one assist and one steal.

While the Clippers lost some significant contributors from last season, including J.J. Redick, Luc Mbah a Moute and Jamal Crawford, the team had some returning and new players show that they are capable of filling the void.

Milos Teodosic was just 2-9 from the field, but knocked down two three-pointers and looked comfortable and effective running the team’s offense. Danilo Gallinarni shot just 3-13 from the field but looked healthy and spry, displaying the kind of mobility that is necessary to play the small forward position. His ability to act as a secondary playmaker wasn’t on full display, but there were moments where it was apparent that he could be a big help in generating open looks for his teammates. Lou Williams also looked good in his Clippers debut, scoring in a variety of ways off the bench and contributing six assists as well. Wesley Johnson continues to look confident and aggressive, a continuation from his preseason performances, and is starting to knock down the open shots his teammates are creating for him (which has been a problem for him in the past).

While the Clippers looked solid in their opening act without Paul, it should be noted that the Lakers are a young team overall and their defense has been a major problem for the last few seasons. While the Lakers have added some promising young talent over the offseason, like most young teams, they are going to struggle to slow down veteran teams with potent offenses. It would be a mistake to think the Clippers can replicate this sort of offensive performance every night, especially against the better defensive teams in the league. However, perhaps the most promising part of the Clippers’ season debut was the fact that they seemed to feed off of and embrace the gritty demeanor and style of play that Patrick Beverley brings to the court each and every night.

Last night’s game was the NBA debut for rookie point guard Lonzo Ball, who many predict will develop into a star player. Unfortunately for Ball, his opening night matchup came against Beverley, who earned a spot on the 2017 All-Defensive First Team. Beverley repeatedly guarded Ball past half court, pushed him around and did everything he could to throw him off of his game. He held Ball to three points, nine rebounds and four assists in 29 minutes of action.

Beverley, like every NBA player, has heard the hype and noise surrounding Ball and his future in the league (most of it from his outspoken father, LaVar).

“I just had to set the tone,” Beverley said. “I told him after the game that due to all the riffraff his dad brings, that he’s going to get a lot of people coming at him. I let him know that after the game. What a better way to start than spending 94 feet guarding him tonight — welcome the young guy to the NBA.”

Beverley is one of the more aggressive defenders in the NBA and is known for trying to get under the skin of his opponents, so Lonzo may not face this level of intensity in every game. But based on Beverley’s comments, it’s clear that he expects other players around the league to defend Lonzo aggressively as well.

Snoop Dogg, the rapper and passionate Lakers fan, summed up the issue for Ball arguably better than anyone else has so far.

“His father put him in the lion’s den with pork chop drawers on,” said Snoop.

For his part, Lonzo complimented Beverley on his aggressive defense.

“[Beverley] plays hard. He knows his job. He does it very well,” said Ball. “He gets under people’s skin and plays defense and does what he can to help his team win.”

Beverley set the tone for the Clippers, who looked crisp and confident throughout the game. Griffin’s three-point shot looks like it could finally be a reliable part of his offensive arsenal. Jordan was very active on the glass, pulling down 24 rebounds (possibly inspired in part by his commitment to donate $100 per rebound this season to help the effort to rebuild his hometown of Houston after the damage inflicted by Hurricane Harvey). The rest of the supporting cast played with the sort of cohesion and confidence that takes at least a few weeks into the season to develop. Again, the Clippers’ performance could have stemmed primarily from the Lakers’ shaky defense, but it was encouraging to see the team play with such force and confidence in the absence of Paul.

The Western Conference is extremely talented and deep, so it’s unlikely that the Clippers will make it to the Western Conference Finals as Barkley predicted. However, challenging for a spot in the playoffs and perhaps even doing some damage once there seems to be in the realm of possibility. This is especially the case considering how much of an impact Beverley had Thursday night, both defensively and in setting the tone for the rest of his new teammates.

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