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NBA AM: NBPA Organizes Offseason Training Camp

The NBPA held their first annual offseason training camp last week and many notable players attended. Details here.

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NBPA Organizes First Annual Offseason Camp

Last week, nearly 30 NBA players traveled to Las Vegas to participate in the National Basketball Players Association’s first annual offseason training camp that was held at Impact Basketball.

The three-day event (Sept. 2-4) was designed to prepare players for their respective team’s training camp, and there was also an NBPA dinner so that players could bond and receive updates on union matters.

RudyImpactEditAmong the NBA players in attendance were Paul Pierce (Clippers), Kyle Lowry (Raptors), Andre Drummond (Pistons), Rudy Gay (Kings), Amir Johnson (Celtics), Stanley Johnson (Pistons), Tayshaun Prince (Timberwolves), Kyle O’Quinn (Knicks), Marreese Speights (Warriors), Brian Roberts (Hornets), Brandon Rush (Warriors), James Anderson (Kings) and Jarrid Famous (Mavericks). Some injured players – like Brandon Jennings (Pistons) and Alan Anderson (Wizards) – showed up but their participation was limited due to their injuries.

Several veteran free agents were also among the players in attendance, including Jason Maxiell, Keith Bogans, Dahntay Jones, Hakim Warrick, Marcus Banks, Greg Smith, Patrick O’Bryant and Scotty Hopson. Team executives weren’t allowed in the gym during the camp so this wasn’t a tryout; it was just a way for these free agents to get in game shape and test themselves against NBA-caliber talent so they’re prepared if they receive a training camp invite or a team brings them in for a workout.

Impact Basketball founder Joe Abunassar worked with the NBPA to organize the camp, and both parties are planning to make it an annual event that continues to grow going forward.

“Roger Mason is now with the Players Association and I’ve known Roger for a very long time, so we had discussed organizing a camp like this,” Abunassar told Basketball Insiders. “The Players Association is always trying to do two things: find ways to help the players and create opportunities for players to come together and [bond]. When we started talking about this, we knew that everyone is getting ready for training camp right now so it made sense for players to come to Vegas for a few days to train. Roger pitched it to everyone at the NBPA and it just came together. This was kind of a getaway for the players where they could all train and get together as a union.

“We definitely hope to do it every year. We’ll probably expand it and make it longer too. This year it was three days just because it all came together so late, but we’ve discussed making it several weeks where guys can come in and out to train with us. We’re looking forward to really expanding it, for sure. The response we’ve gotten from all of the players was extremely positive.”

Each day, the players were split into teams. From 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., each team would go through a schedule that included individual on-court work with coaches, skill development drills and a weightlifting session. Players were also offered Pilates classes, pool workouts and physical therapists among other resources. After all the players completed their scheduled workouts, the teams would play pick-up games.

Impact Basketball’s pick-up games are legendary since they often include star players. Years ago, Impact’s pick-up runs would include stars like Kevin Garnett, Chauncey Billups, Jermaine O’Neal, Rashard Lewis and Gilbert Arenas. Today, those veterans have passed the torch to All-Stars like DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall, Paul George and Kyle Lowry. Paul Pierce is one of the few players who’s been there for it all; Pierce suited up alongside Garnett and Billups back in the day, and he was there at the NBPA camp last week playing on a team with Jason Maxiell, Marcus Banks and Patrick O’Bryant among others.

“The thing the players like most is the five-on-five games,” Abunassar said. “To be able to play pick-up with 95 percent NBA players and five percent high-level guys from Europe who may end up going to an NBA training camp too, that is always great for them.”

LowryImpact“With their mixture of guys – from All-Stars to rookies – Impact has the most competitive five-on-five around,” Kyle O’Quinn told Basketball Insiders.

At the NBPA training camp, all of the rosters were talented and constructed so that the teams would be relatively even matched (for example, each team had big men, a ball-handler, etc.). Even still, one team dominated the rest. The squad featuring Lowry, O’Quinn, Stanley Johnson, Tayshaun Prince and Hakim Warrick emerged as the best group. One reason they thrived is because those guys are Impact Basketball regulars who have been training together for quite some time.

“Kyle Lowry’s team won all three days,” Abunassar said with a laugh. “But if you look at that team with Lowry, O’Quinn, Tayshaun – those guys have been here training together for weeks, so they had chemistry. They were running plays! The first day, they won pretty big. But then, as the other teams got used to playing with each other, it was a little more competitive. The games got better each day.”

Several of the players who attended the camp raved about the experience.

“The NBPA training camp was fun, and I look forward to doing it again next year,” O’Quinn said. “It was great to hang out with different players from different teams. I even got a chance link up with some ex-teammates. Then, to top it off, after the workouts we all grabbed dinner and chatted about the happenings around the league. It was super fun.”

“It was cool to train and compete at a high level before [everyone] gets ready to start training camp,” Dahntay Jones told Basketball Insiders.

Organizing this camp was smart of the NBPA. Recently, the union also held an awards show in Las Vegas – to honor players and give them some say in the award process, but also to get a large group of players in one place for a union meeting (which was held the day after the award ceremony). These creative ways to get players involved in the NBPA could pay off, with players becoming more knowledgeable about the issues at hand, more prepared for a potential lockout in 2017 and more united should they have to fight the NBA owners in the next round of labor talks.

It would have been nice to see more of the NBPA’s leaders participate in these events, but that wasn’t the case. At the offseason camp, NBPA President Chris Paul was missing along with First Vice President LeBron James, Secretary-Treasurer James Jones and all six Vice Presidents (Stephen Curry, Kyle Korver, Willie Green, Anthony Tolliver, Andre Iguodala and Steve Blake). Some of those players did attend the awards show (Paul, Curry and Iguodala, to name a few), but James and many other players were noticeably absent from that as well.

With that said, Abunassar is optimistic that more players will attend the camp next year and says that late notice coupled with poor timing prevented a lot of individuals from attending.

“The idea came up a little bit late this year and it was sort of a weird time since it was right before Labor Day weekend,” Abunassar said. “A lot guys wanted to come, but they had already scheduled trips and made plans. And some players, especially the young guys, were about to report to their team. For example, Emmanuel Mudiay (who did his pre-draft training at Impact) wanted to come but he was already in Denver. Next year, we’ll have a lot more time to plan it. We just wanted to get it off the ground this year and let players know that this is something that’s going to be available moving forward.”

Much like the union’s inaugural award show, the first offseason camp in Las Vegas was a success. Expect it to continue growing over the next few years and, eventually, perhaps even become an event that the majority of NBA players attend as a way to prepare for their team’s training camp.

Basketball Insiders Podcast: Kyle O’Quinn

Speaking of Kyle O’Quinn, he was the latest guest on the Basketball Insiders Podcast.

Basketball Insiders’ publisher Steve Kyler hosted the episode and had a wide-ranging conversation with the New York Knicks big man. The two talked about O’Quinn’s free agency process, the incoming rookie class, some stories from O’Quinn’s NBA career and much more. Listen here:

The next episode of the Basketball Insiders Podcast will drop on Tuesday, with Kristen Ledlow of NBA TV as my guest. To listen to older episodes of the podcast, subscribe on iTunes or go to our SoundCloud page.

Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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NBA Draft: Déjà Vu in Detroit

Tomorrow night the Detroit Pistons will make the first overall selection in the NBA Draft for just the second time in team history. They selected a Hall of Famer with that pick 51 years ago. Chad Smith details why it might happen again, this time with a player that resembles a guy that was once the face of their franchise.

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It has been 18 years since the Detroit Pistons had a top-three pick in the NBA Draft. Unfortunately, it was arguably the worst selection in the history of the event as they took Darko Milicic second overall ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. It was a night that everyone in Detroit would love to forget, and now they might be able to do just that.

Detroit will kick off the 2021 NBA Draft on Thursday night in what has been labeled as a loaded draft class, especially at the top. The last time the Pistons had the top overall pick, they did well by selecting Hall of Fame center Bob Lanier out of St. Bonaventure in the 1970 draft. The organization is hopeful that history will repeat itself.

Cade Cunningham is the consensus number one pick this year, which speaks volumes when considering the other candidates. While Detroit has not publicly hinted that they will take Cunningham, it would be an absolute shocker if he does not end up in the Motor City. It is a place that Cunningham has already grown fond of.

Should things go according to plan on Thursday night, there could be some déjà vu in Detroit. Aside from the Darko debacle, the last top-three selection by the franchise came in 1994 when they took Grant Hill out of Duke. The physical attributes are quite clear. Both players are listed at 6’ 8” tall and around 220 pounds. Just as their build is the same, so too is their demeanor on and off of the court.

Both Cunningham and Hill have similar playing styles and share many of the same strengths and weaknesses. They have incredible vision and passing ability that allows them to create for teammates. They use their size and strength against smaller defenders near the basket and are incredibly versatile with the ball in their hands. They are able to initiate offense from anywhere on the floor and have a complete all-around game that includes defense.

Hill recorded 29 triple-doubles in his career. That is something that Detroit hopes to get out of the 19-year old playmaker. Unlike many situations where the top overall pick finds himself on a team lacking talent, the Pistons have done a marvelous job of transforming their roster under Troy Weaver. Most of their core is already under contract for next season and will be earning less than $6 million.

Cunningham will join Jerami Grant and Mason Plumlee, as well as two All-Rookies in Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart. With Killian Hayes missing much of his rookie season due to injury, the Pistons have plenty of talent surrounding their new floor general. With some more talent and veteran leadership possibly coming onboard during free agency, Detroit should be able to return to the postseason next year.

As gifted as Cunningham is, he is not the most explosive athlete for his size. He won’t blow by defenders on the perimeter or leap over them for a highlight dunk, but that doesn’t stop him from attacking the basket. Like Hill, he has shown the ability to either create for teammates, create for himself, or simply finish at the rim. He makes the right reads against traps and hard hedges, making him even more difficult to defend.

The versatility is on full display whether it be on offense or defense. Cunningham’s seven-foot wingspan adds another element to his game as a physical defender with active hands. His high basketball IQ allows him to capitalize on filling passing lanes and his timing on shot-blocking. His improved jump shot has also elevated him as a true dynamic threat, scoring from all three levels.

As a Freshman at Oklahoma State, Cunningham averaged 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.6 steals per game while shooting 44 percent from the floor. He plays under control and never looks rushed or uncomfortable. It may take him some time to adjust to the NBA game but he has all of the tools and attributes you would want a top prospect to possess.

The fit in Detroit is tailor-made for the versatile guard. Cunningham can do a little bit of everything and elevates the play of his teammates. Whether he is facilitating, scoring, or playing off the ball, his impact on the court is significant. Despite not being an elite athlete, he can initiate the offense and get his own shot when needed.

Detroit clearly lacked guard play last season, with Hayes out of the lineup. They relied upon Grant and Plumlee to fuel their offense, with the rookies filling in at times. With the addition of Cunningham and the return of Hayes, the Pistons will have a sensational young backcourt to go along with their already established frontcourt.

There is also the potential for Detroit to have one of the most improved defenses in the conference. With their length and athleticism, this young core fits right in with the culture of a blue-collar team built around defense. Much of their success will ride on the shoulders of Dwane Casey, as he returns for his fourth season in Detroit.

Both Hill and Cunningham are from Texas and their birth dates are just ten days apart. Hill spent his first six seasons in Detroit, where he enjoyed the prime years of his playing career that included the Rookie of the Year Award. Five of his seven All-Star seasons came as a member of the Pistons and he was often seen as the next great superstar.

While injuries derailed his career, Hill’s journey ended with a trip to the Hall of Fame. While it is too early to put those expectations on a 19-year old, it is safe to say that the Pistons are in good hands for many years to come.

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Draft Kings

Team Argentina vs. Spain – Preview, Prediction, & Betting Picks

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On Thursday, July 29th at 8:00 a.m. (EST), Argentina will take on Spain in this Group C preliminary round matchup. The Spaniards will enter this game as the selected favorites, while the Argentinians embrace their underdog role, as they lost their opening game 118-100 against Mavericks’ guard Luka Doncic and the Slovenian team. The last time Spain won the gold medal for the men’s team was at the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup, where they defeated Argentina 95-75.

Game Details

Date & Time: Thursday, July 29th at 8:00 a.m. (EST)

Location: Saitama Super Arena; Saitama, Japan

Availability: Peacock (live) & NBC Sports Network (delayed)

Spread: Spain -8.5 (+100) (per DraftKings Sportsbook) 

Over/Under: 167

Best Moneyline: Spain -400, Argentina +300

  • Table odds retrieved from DraftKings

Argentina vs. Spain Preview

Team Argentina’s starting lineup in Thursday morning’s game consists of Facundo Campazzo, Luca Vildoza, Patricio Garino, Luis Scola, and Marcos Delia. In the team’s 118-100 defeat versus Slovenia, in 27 minutes played, forward Scola led the team on the stat sheet, accumulating 23 points, four rebounds, one assist, and one block. Guard Campazzo also earned 21 points, six rebounds, four assists, and three steals. According to Bovada’s Olympic futures odds, the Argentinians have the eighth best odds to win the gold medal, with +8000 futures odds. Argentina has the third best odds (+2000) of winning Group C.Argentina vs. Spain Preview

Moreover, the starting lineup for Spain consists of Ricky Rubio, Rudy Fernandez, Juan Hernangomez, Victor Claver, and Marc Gasol. Their bench also includes two-time NBA champion center Pau Gasol. In the Spaniards’ 88-77 victory over Japan, Rubio led the team all across the board, leading the team with 20 points, two rebounds, and nine assists. Forward Claver finished his performance with 13 points, nine rebounds, and one steal. Additionally, with +1000 futures odds, Spain has the fifth best odds of winning the gold. Spain has the second best odds (EVEN) of winning Group C.

Prediction: Spain wins by 8 points

Team Spain are the more trustworthy, superior bet in this matchup. Pau Gasol, the seven-foot-one six-time NBA All-Star, is 41-years-old. Marc, his brother, is also 36. Leading into the Tokyo Olympic Games, basketball experts and bettors were wondering if age would be a significant factor for the Spaniards. However, thus far, it has been quite the contrary. Ricky Rubio has also proven to be an important piece for helping the team to become legitimate title contenders. In the 2020-21 NBA season, Rubio averaged 8.6 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 6.4 assists.

As for Argentina, Scola and Campazzo are carrying the team right now. In their 18-point loss to Slovenia, the Argentinians shot 5-for-31 (16.1 percent) from beyond the arc. To add insult to injury, the team was out-rebounded 59 to 32 overall. This cannot happen against the top contenders, such as versus Slovenia, France, Spain, or the USA. Sooner or later, the wheels on the wagon will eventually fall off. There are bettors giving Spain a -12.5 point spread in this matchup, but it might be best to stick with the -8.5 spread, first provided by DraftKings. In this game, some bettors are anticipating a 20-point blowout repeat of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Final.

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NBA releases schedule for Summer League 2021

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On Wednesday, the NBA announced the broadcast schedule for the MGM Resorts NBA Summer League 2021. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NBA had to cancel the Las Vegas Summer League last year in 2020. Fast forward to today, the 17th annual NBA Summer League will air live this year in Las Vegas, Nevada from August 8-17. During the 10-day tournament, the 75 total games will be broadcasted on these network channels: NBA TV, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, and ESPNews.

Plus, the games can be watched live with the ESPN app. WatchESPN is free, but according to ESPN.com, the user must be a subscriber of a major cable service, such as AT&T U-Verse, BendBroadband, or Xfinity. Anyways, through the NBA.com website, tickets can be bought via the NBA Events section of the site. Each of the 30 NBA teams will play a total of five games over the course of the short, competitive tournament.

The Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion stadiums will host six to eight games per day. According to the 2021 schedule, for games 17-22 on Tuesday, August 10th, only six games will be played this day. The 75th game of the competition, the final matchup, will be the championship game. The 28 teams that fail to qualify for the championship game will play their fifth and final game on either August 16th or 17th. The title game is scheduled for Tuesday, August 17th at 9:00 p.m. (EST) on ESPN.

The Summer League 2021 tips off with a matchup between the Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks at the Cox Pavilion. This game is scheduled for Sunday, August 8th at 1:00 p.m. (EST) on NBA TV. The first four teams selecting in the 2021 NBA Draft will also be playing on this day: Detroit Pistons (No. 1 pick), Houston Rockets (No. 2 pick), Cleveland Cavaliers (No. 3 pick), and the Toronto Raptors (No. 4 pick). At the Thomas & Mack Center, the Raptors vs. Knicks game is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. (EST) on ESPN2. Then, the Trail Blazers will face the Hornet at 6:00 p.m. (EST) on NBA TV.

For the opening game on the second day, the Pelicans will play the Bulls at 3:00 p.m. (EST) on ESPN2, followed by the Mavericks versus 76ers at 4:00 p.m. (EST) on NBA TV. There are several different games viewers can choose to watch over this 10-day span. Brandon Clarke was the most recent player to win the Las Vegas MVP award, in the Summer League of 2019. Clarke was drafted 21st overall by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2019 NBA Draft.

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