Rondo hoping for an opening night return from broken hand

TweetBoston Celtics All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo suffered a broken hand before training camp that is supposed to have him sidelined up to 8 weeks, but Rondo is hopeful he can return in time for the Celtics season opener in about a month. “Hopefully I won’t miss any games this year,” Rondo said in an interview with CSNNE’s Mike Gorman. “Lord willing I heal correctly and I’ll be back in no time. “They’re telling me 6-to-8 [weeks]. But that means nothing to me.” Rondo is one of the toughest players in the NBA. A broken hand isn’t going to keep him on the sidelines for long, especially in a contract year. Rondo will be an unrestricted free agent following the 2014-2015 season. -ALR

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The One Thing Holding Andre Drummond Back from Reaching His Full Potential

Andre Drummond is far from a finished product, but there is one hole in his game that dwarfs all others—free-throw shooting.

Drummond made 41.8 percent of his free throws last season. Only one player in NBA history has posted a worse mark in a season with at least 300 free-throw attempts—Wilt Chamberlain.

Drummond‘s free-throw shooting was similarly bad as a rookie, bad enough to inspire Truehoop’s Ethan Sherwood Strauss to write Drummond a somewhat embarrassing open letter, encouraging him to try shooting free throws underhanded:

We both know your free throw efficiency factors into the intentional fouls. It’s easy to see why defenders would avoid your 60.8 percent field goal shooting in favor of your 37.1 percent free throw shooting. Until the league addresses “hack-a” strategies, you’ll also have to deal with teams fouling you before the play even starts. 

Drummond only averaged four free-throw attempts per game last season. That is a small total and means the difference between his free-throw percentage and a league-average player only cost his team about 1.3 points per game last season.

For a player who does so many things well, and inhabits such a small role on offense, free-throw shooting may seem like a small flaw to be focused on. Drummond was among the best rebounders in the league last season—offensively and defensively. He rarely turned the ball over, was among the best finishers in the league and is well on his way to becoming a defensive force. 

However, this small flaw is an enormous factor in his overall impact.

According to the NBA’s SportVU Player Tracking statistics, Drummond touched the ball 3,266 times last season. He was fouled 259 times over the course of the season, which works out to being fouled on about eight percent of his touches. If we filtered those touches and fouls to only include ones which occurred in the frontcourt, the number would probably be much higher.

Knowing you are going to be fouled regularly, undoubtedly changes the way you play. That fact is especially true when you’ve had experiences like this:

Going back to the SportVU statistics, we see that Drummond touched the ball 40.3 times per game on average last season. But on average, he actually had the ball in his hands for just 0.8 minutes per game. That means his average touch lasted about 1.2 seconds before he passed the ball, shot the ball or—about eight percent of the time—was fouled.

Those short touches are partially a function of how he is used in the offense—primarily as a screener and finisher around the basket. On one hand they are a good thing, as many of those short touches led directly to easy baskets. However, they also show what a small window he has for developing a comfort level with the ball in his hands, a prerequisite for developing new facets to his offensive game.

The fear of being fouled has both Drummond and his team working in concert to make sure that the vast majority of his touches are brief and end with a dunk. It’s a noble goal, but it also lowers his ceiling and solidifies him as the player he is right now. This semi-intentional limiting of Drummond also can be seen in different ways during the course of a game.

The table below shows Drummond‘s offensive involvement throughout the game, measured as possessions used per-36 minutes in each quarter. It also shows what percentage of his offensive possessions ended in trips to the free-throw line in each quarter.

Quarter Poss. per-36 Minutes % of Poss. from FTA
1st 15.0 7.9%
2nd 15.3 13.8%
3rd 13.4 17.7%
4th 12.5 19.3%

You can see that Drummond‘s offensive involvement shrinks as the game goes on. More than twice as many of his offensive possessions in the fourth quarter end in shooting fouls than in the first quarter.

We can’t attribute the entirety of this trend to Drummond‘s poor free-throw shooting, but it’s likely a fairly significant factor. Teams are more prone to foul him quickly down the stretch of games and his teammates, aware of this fact, seem less likely to involve him.

If his poor foul shooting is drawing a noose around both his involvement and his development, then clearly improvement from the line is the key to improvement in other places. However, the statistical track record is not good.

Research by Kevin Pelton at Basketball Prospectus found that, on average, players improve their free-throw shooting by a modest 0.7 percentage points per season up through age 27. At that rate of improvement, Drummond would hit his free-throw percentage peak at 46.7 percent. However, Pelton‘s research is looking at all players not just those who start near the bottom of the barrel.

In the three-point era, 10 players besides Drummond have shot less than 60.0 percent from the line on at least 450 free-throw attempts, across their first two seasons. Of those 10, six eventually pushed their free-throw percentage past 65.0 percent in a season. That group includes some players who actually become respectable from the line—Karl Malone, Rony Seikaly and Blake Griffin.

However, the average rate of improvement for the entire group was about 1.7 percentage points per season. That rate of growth would put Drummond at 53.7 percent by age 27, a huge improvement, but still far from respectability.

Ten players is an extremely small sample, far too small to draw any realistically reliable conclusions about Drummond‘s potential for growth. The small sample size may actually be even more telling here—just 10 other players were as unreliable at the stripe during their first two seasons as Drummond has been, and his numbers are even at the bottom of this group.

It is important to note that despite Drummond‘s poor free-throw shooting, the rest of his game undoubtedly makes him a net positive to have on the floor. His combination of ferocious offensive rebounding and high-efficiency (albeit low-usage) scoring has ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus estimating him as the fourth most effective offensive center in the league last season.

That’s not enough. From the ill-fitting trio of Drummond, Josh Smith and Greg Monroe, Drummond has by far the most potential. He is the center of the Pistons’ present and they would very much like him to be the center of their future as well. Those optimistic visions of the future show a player who is much more dynamic and versatile at the offensive end, one who can elevate the group instead of needing to be compensated for at the end of games. 

Making that dream a reality means making free throws at a respectable percentage. 

 

Statistical support for this story came from NBA.com/stats, unless otherwise stated.

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Kobe Bryant’s Effort to Rediscover Game Moving Forward, but Far from Complete

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Kobe Bryant has always chosen his own context.   

Accordingly, the perspective has mostly tilted in his favor, toward his grandeur, serving in construction of his legend.   

It has not been ineffective marketing.

Bryant came to the Los Angeles Lakers practice facility a week ago, told new coach and longtime friend Byron Scott how much rust felt coated on his bones despite how healed everything was and how much more focus he had been placing on his craft all summer.

Bryant did not want the team’s website or TV network in the gym, as was allowed for other informal scrimmages for Lakers players. He had worked out with teammates such as Jeremy Lin for a week early in the offseason, but this was different.

This would be real five-on-five, a meaningful test.

Did Bryant pass? Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak termed the results “comforting” and was moved a few days later to remind: “He gives you a chance, no matter the circumstances, to be really good.”

Scott saw enough to suggest Monday at Lakers media day that Bryant would average 24 points and play all 82 games. Scott’s doubt about how well Bryant could raise up to get his jumper off was eased to the point that Scott described Kobe’s outlook as “very exciting.”

Bryant executed his footwork in the mid-post. He had the lift also to reach high for much-needed rebounds.

He played three games.

He hit two game-winning shots.

Asked on the eve of training camp about his dramatic scrimmage success, Bryant said, “I hadn’t played, so I spent the whole summer just kind of preparing and training. It was important for me to get a five-on-five game in, so I could see what I can and can’t do.

“And I felt like me.”

Bryant didn’t say it with any bravado, however. He also wasn’t cavalier about it or making it seem like a no-brainer. He didn’t even mention those oh-so-Kobe winning shots that the public was unaware he had hit.

He was pleased, but he was not emboldened.

He chose that context, and he chose not to feed the hype—or even believe it himself.

All he wanted to say about it was that it was a small, personal, positive steppingstone.

And I felt like me.

That’s not to be taken lightly as Bryant, 36, tries to inspire his public all over again with a comeback from the fractured right knee on top of the torn left Achilles and playing just six games last season.

“It’s just trying to see if I can prove to myself,” he said, “that I can be myself.”

Bryant added that the “words of doubt” from the outside—haters, critics or realists, whatever they might be—fan his flame, but only secondarily.

“I’ve always been that way, though,” he said. “I feel that [makes for] a much healthier journey. It’s much more enjoyable to look to the side every now and then and look at who you’re proving wrong in the process. That’s never been the main driver for me.”

Listening to Bryant speak Monday, it was clear that he is confident in his health. What he is uncertain about is the high hurdle of this recovery, which requires him to re-establish his game in the face of the unyielding aging process.

To that end, Bryant placed more focus on the craft, the details, the crux of his game, than anything over the summer. He dropped about 10 pounds but did so without using the track, his usual haven for early morning conditioning, and holed himself up in the gym. He feels potent on offense, as usual, but he wonders whether his lower body can slide defensively the way he knows it must if the Lakers’ defense is to meet Scott’s expectations.

The fundamentals have to be Bryant’s foundation more than ever. His outsized self-confidence was always rooted in faith that his work ethic leads to his game being there when he needs it.

So the only issue now that he is healthy is whether he will meet his own challenge.

Long before anyone else can judge how much this old snake looks like the Black Mamba, either he will feel comfortable in his skin or he won’t.

Bryant admitted he was “anxiously awaiting” the Lakers’ first practice. The first exhibition game is a week after that.

The regular-season opener sits a month away.

A year ago, Bryant was in a similar position, returning to the court from a prolonged absence, but also with facing an uphill struggle against his Achilles.

“Now there are questions, but they don’t center around health,” Bryant said of the difference this year.

As much as the suggestions so far sound good, Bryant’s inflection won’t change back to certainty until he has a different answer, and answer that isn’t: “I felt like me.”

It has to be: “It’s me.”

Anything less, and it’s going to be a long, unsatisfying march into retirement.

 

Kevin Ding is an NBA senior writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @KevinDing.

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The NBA from a-to-Z

The regular season is rapidly approaching, and there are certainly more than 26 reasons to be excited for another year of NBA action. Take a run through the ABC’s of the upcoming NBA season with the original Bleacher Report video above. 

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Andrew Wiggins throws down alley oop from Ricky Rubio (Video/GIF)

On Monday night, the Minnesota Timberwolves gave their fans a glimpse of what to expect for the upcoming season when Ricky Rubio threw the alley oop to Andrew Wiggins, who finished with a slam dunk.The Timberwolves opened their training camp with a “Dunks After Dark” event at Minnesota State University, which featured three 12-minute scrimmages followed by a 10 minutes of freestyle dunks. Similar to Midnight Madness, only on an NBA level. A fun way to start the 2014-15 season.Video via NBA. This post appeared first on Holdout Sports. Check us out on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

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What Boston Celtics Need from James Young This Season

Head coach Brad Stevens’ second season with the Boston Celtics should feature plenty of question marks, and rookie swingman James Young might actually be the biggest.

Young, who ended up in green after falling to No. 17 in the 2014 NBA draft, is a high-upside swingman but is just 19 years old.

On top of that, Young missed the entire Orlando Summer League, so he’ll be heading into his rookie campaign with just the preseason under his belt.

In years past, this would not be that big of a deal. Under Doc Rivers, the Celtics rarely relied on rookies, preferring to let them develop slowly.

However, the mid-rebuild C’s are going to try a variety of lineups and will likely look to get Young and fellow first-year guard Marcus Smart immediate minutes in the rotation.

This means Young will be facing expectations right away. 

He may be raw, but if Young hits the ground running, he could potentially help Boston exceed expectations in what many anticipate to be another lost year.

Let’s take a look at what Stevens and the Celtics need out of the Kentucky sharpshooter and whether it’s possible he delivers.

 

Any Semblance of Outside Shooting

If there is one thing Boston absolutely needs from Young, it is three-point shooting. 

With Rajon Rondo, Evan Turner and Smart all set to see major minutes, the team’s outside shooting could be grizzly. 

Both Jeff Green and Avery Bradley can make open threes, but neither are volume shooters who should be jacking up five or six triples per game.

Young only shot 34.9 percent from three in college, which is troubling, but he’s a threat from anywhere beyond the arc.

He’s equally adept above the break as he is from the corners, which is key.

He can’t necessarily nail tough off-the-dribble shots, but as a rookie, he’ll be doing the vast majority of his work without the ball in his hands. 

Young has the potential to be a legitimate catch-and-shoot threat who can help create driving lanes for players like Bradley and Rondo.

Boston was tied for 27th in overall three-point percentage at 33.3, something that must improve.

The Celtics aren’t suddenly going to become the San Antonio Spurs or Golden State Warriors with Rondo and Turner throwing up bricks, but if this offense hopes to show any sign of life, it will need more perimeter shooting.

Even if the other aspects of Young’s game don’t come together in year one, his season will be a success if he can log 12-14 minutes and hit 35-plus percent of his threes.

 

A Positive Disposition

Let’s be realistic: Young could exceed all expectations, and the Celtics would still wind up losing a lot of games in 2014-15.

Going from the NCAA national championship game to the NBA lottery would be a rough adjustment for any player, especially a teenager like Young who has been a winner his entire career.

On another level, Young will have to go through the same trials and tribulations as any first-year player.

When asked if he would be comfortable going to the D-League to receive heavy minutes, Young told MassLive’s Tom Westerholm, “Definitely not.”

He elaborated, “If it happens, it happens. But I just want to stay here and get better like that.”

Wanting to stay around the Celtics makes sense, but his aversion to the D-League is troubling.

A raw athlete like Young, who needs to work on his strength, defense and playmaking, would be wise to log some time against lesser competition. 

As a 6’6″, 215-pound wing, Young would be eaten alive by some of the league’s bigger 2s and 3s.

Had Young actually been drafted by a playoff team, he likely would see very sporadic playing time and potentially an extended stay in the D-League.

Just because the Celtics could struggle this season doesn’t mean Young deserves to get starting or sixth-man minutes. 

Boston also simply has a logjam in the backcourt, and Young is near the bottom of the food chain.

According to ESPN’s depth chart, Young is the C’s third 2-guard behind Bradley and Marcus Thornton.

If that stays the same, he will likely be seeing sub-double-digit minutes for much of the season.

Obviously, a potential injury could bring Young to a more prominent role, but overall, he needs to stay patient during what could be a rocky rookie year.

 

Consistent Aggression

Even if Young winds up receiving consistent minutes from the beginning of the season, there is still serious potential for him to drift in and out of games.

That simply cannot happen.

While Young is commonly known as a sharpshooter, he is at his best when he’s attacking the basket.

As you can see by his shot chart (below), Young is roughly as effective shooting from mid-range and driving to the hole as he is gunning from distance. 

Obviously, it will be harder for him to get into the paint against NBA defenders, particularly with his scrawny frame, but he needs to attack as much as possible.

Young only got to the line 4.4 times per game at Kentucky, a number he must improve on if he hopes to become a starting-caliber player in the league.

Boston already has players, like Green and Bradley, who have a tendency to settle for tough, long two-point jumpers instead of driving to the hole, a habit Young cannot get into early on.

If he runs the floor hard alongside Rondo, he should find himself with some easy looks, and while he’s not an elite dribbler, he has a decent enough handle to create some of his own offense.

If Young truly wants to avoid a prolonged trip to the D-League, he must be aggressive on offense at all times even if it hurts his field-goal percentage and leads to some questionable decisions.

Boston was 26th in the league in points per game last season (96.2) for a reason, and the biggest thing Young can do to fix that is to just to look for his shots when available.

The Celtics lack a clear first option offensively, and while Young won’t take on that role, he could alleviate some of the pressure faced by Green, Rondo and Jared Sullinger

 

Overall

Young is not going to be the Rookie of the Year or anything close to it, but he’s far from an afterthought.

The Celtics are talent-strapped enough that every player has the potential to play a major role, and Young’s upside makes him highly intriguing.

His skills, in theory, could help Boston’s woeful scoring issues, but only if he can make the most of his limited action and be prepared for trips to the D-League to see some extra burn.

Figure Young plays in roughly 55 games and averages something along the lines of 6.3 points, 1.7 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 17 minutes per night.

In the end, Young will have a turbulent first season but will show enough promise that he becomes a key cog of Boston’s rebuild.

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Marcus Smart in Prime Position to Benefit from Rajon Rondo’s Injury

For Rajon Rondo, the timing of his broken hand stinks. It should force him to miss training camp and some early regular-season action. 

But every injury creates an opportunity, and in this case, it’s going to good use.

Rookie Marcus Smart should now be looking at a major bump in minutes in Rondo’s absence—valuable minutes as the Boston Celtics‘ primary decision-maker. 

Decision-making was Smart’s glaring weakness at Oklahoma State. He put up all sorts of numbers, but his questionable pass-to-shot selection led to frustrating inefficiency.

Extra early-season reps can’t hurt his development—maybe the team’s record, but not Smart’s transition and path into the pros. 

He can certainly hold his own from a physical standpoint. 

While there are rookies who typically need to be eased in, Smart isn’t one of them. Having weighed in at 227 pounds and measured a 6’9″ wingspan at the NBA combine, his fearless, punishing style of play should suit him well as a rookie. 

Chances are Smart even gives this team a defensive boost right away. He’s a guy who can make things happen with ball pressure, anticipation and energy. 

But in terms of his offensive development, it’s important that Smart gets time playing on the ball because that’s where his upside lies. He’s only 6’3.25″, and he struggles as a shooter, which limits his upside at the 2-guard position. 

He’ll still get minutes there, thanks to his dangerous attack game and two-way versatility, but if the Celtics want to get the most out of Smart long term, it’s gotta be at point guard. That’s the position where all his upside lies, given the mismatch he’s got the potential to present once he refines his playmaking and floor game. 

Despite his strong passing instincts, Smart doesn’t have all that much experience running the point. He was a 2-guard in high school, and in college, he was forced into more of a score-first role. 

His assist-to-turnover ratios and pure-point ratings were both subpar in each of his two years in college. He actually spent time all over the floor, from the point to the wing to the post.

Last season, Smart was only used in pick-and-roll sets on 21.5 percent of his possessions at Oklahoma State, per DraftExpress‘ Matt Kamalsky. Most of his assist opportunities as a playmaker were of the drive-and-kick variety. 

And the quicker he realizes how important a pull-up jumper can be for point guards, the better. He only hit 28.8 percent of his pull-ups (via DraftExpressKamalsky) last season. This is a shot he’ll need to capitalize on in the pros, particularly as a ball-handler dribbling over screens. 

As a shooter, Smart is capable—just not consistent or reliable. And part of that has to do with shot selection. Smart ultimately took more contested shots than open ones last season, per DraftExpressKamalsky, a likely factor in his 42.2 percent field-goal clip.

He at least seems to understand the problem. “Take better shots. I took a lot of tough shots in college,” Smart said when asked how he plans on improving as a shooter, via the Boston Celtics’ Twitter

With Phil Pressey and Evan Turner, two guys who can handle the rock while Rondo is out of the lineup, Smart is bound to see minutes off the ball as well, a role that really requires outside shot-making.

Sharing a backcourt with Pressey in Orlando Summer League, Smart’s erratic jumper contributed to his ugly 29.4 percent field-goal clip. Maybe the early reps could give him the chance to ultimately knock down some shots and build his confidence.

Still, if Smart is ever going to evolve into an adequate shooter, it’s probably not going to happen for a few years. 

At the end of the day, this opportunity with Rondo out ultimately allows Smart to start the trial-and-error process early in his career—to see what works versus what doesn’t.

It’s picking up the speed at which defenders hedge or learning when to take a floater over a hard drive. It’s getting down the timing as a pick-and-roll facilitator and figuring out when to push the tempo.

All of these adjustments require on-the-job training, and with Rondo on the shelf, Smart should benefit from the extra touches. 

It’s likely to result in bumps and mistakes while he gets his feet wet, but Rondo won’t be out for long. The opportunity would just be a taste of what it’s like to run an NBA offense against a starting NBA unit. 

When Rondo returns, which could be around two weeks into the season, Smart will be able to retreat back into a secondary role to process and hopefully apply what he’s learned as a featured playmaker. 

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The Good, the Bad and the Interesting from Monday’s Round of NBA Media Days

NBA media day is what you’d get if a trade show, speed dating and a self-actualization seminar mashed themselves together and blasted out every second of the results on Twitter. But it’s also the first chance most fans get to see their favorite teams and players ahead of the upcoming season.

And that’s exciting.

Questions about starting lineups get answered. New uniforms get their first round of praise or criticism. Hairstyles delight and mortify the public.

There’s a lot going on, so try to keep up.

 

The Good

It’s easy to get cynical about media day. At root, it’s largely about pitching a product and selling thirsty fans on optimism they shouldn’t necessarily buy. Not everybody is a playoff contender, and not everybody is in the best shape of his career, but that’s pretty much all you hear on days like Monday.

Still, there was one thing that even the prickliest cynic couldn’t roll his eyes at during media day: Paul George, he of the horrendous offseason injury, showing up and standing up.

That’s fantastic, no matter how you feel about the Indiana Pacers. Don’t expect PG to see the floor this year, but do feel free to give in to the good vibes you’re experiencing right now.

You know what else is good? Physical fitness.

Anthony Bennett and Shabazz Muhammad got after it this summer, and the Minnesota Timberwolves have to be ecstatic about that.

Derrick Rose is supposedly fit, but in yet another “nothing to see here” moment, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau cautioned everyone about judging Rose before he hits the floor regularly:

And the New York Knicks should be similarly enthused that Carmelo Anthony sought out advice on the upcoming season from some of the greats:

If Melo takes a few sips from that bottle, he could reach a new, frightening level of offensive production this season. And while it’s great that Anthony is humble enough to accept input, don’t worry about his overall confidence level.

Turns out it’s still pretty high:

 

The Great

Presented without comment:

OK, presented with brief comment. I wasn’t sure it was possible for Steven Adams to become even more likable. He is already sneakily skilled, immune to elbows and one of the orneriest instigators in the game. Now we have that ‘stache.

This man is a hero.

As is Lance Stephenson, for giving the most Lance Stephenson response imaginable when asked what he’d do in a potential matchup with his new boss:

Born Ready is his authentic self at all times. Strongly approve.

Also unable to hide his true feelings: Rajon Rondo, slinged-up because of his broken hand and failing miserably at selling his happiness in Boston:

This is going to end badly, but it created one of the better media day moments.

Another came from Los Angeles Lakers rookie Julius Randle, whose comment signaled two positives in Los Angeles:

First, Kobe Bryant is raring to go. Second, Randle, just a rookie, has already learned to never say a cross word about the Mamba. He knows where his bread’s buttered.

 

The Bad

We all knew the Indiana Pacers would struggle without George and Stephenson, but there’s just something about seeing their replacements, Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Miles, that drives home the sads.

These two are established NBA players who can help a team in the right (read: very, very limited) situation. As starting wings on a club that has made the Eastern Conference Finals two years running, they’re kind of a bummer.

Buckle up, Indy fans. Or don’t, actually. Get out of the car altogether. It’s headed for a cliff this year.

Dwight Howard is the same:

James Harden says he’ll be different:

We shall see…

 

The Weird

Get a good look at Alexey Shved’s Philadelphia 76ers jersey because you may never see anything like this again.

Not just because you’re unlikely to glimpse another No. 88 in the NBA, but also because you probably won’t see a Sixers game on national TV all season.

You’ll likely see the Memphis Grizzlies in the playoffs, making Vince Carter’s new jersey less of a rarity than Shved’s. But on a day filled with players donning new uniforms, I’m not sure anybody’s felt stranger than Vinsanity’s.

Does not compute.

What also doesn’t compute: billionaires and executives beefing. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey have been sniping at one another’s organizations lately, and media day provided another opportunity for them to take shots.

Cool it, fellas. This is supposed to be about the players.

Closing out the weirdness, we have JJ Redick opining on the miracle of child birth:

This is weird, but it’s not inaccurate. Babies really do look like aliens.

 

The Odds and Ends

Media day isn’t just about hearing everyone’s inflated expectations and/or boasts about being in the best shape of their lives. It’s also about witnessing a few crimes against humanity…or fashion anyway.

I think we’d all like to see Victor Oladipo take a step forward this season. But first, he needs to take a step back. Into the locker room. Where he should set that sleeved abomination on fire.

Oladipo still broke even on the day because of this shot:

Note that this happened before he put on that awful getup. Not a coincidence.

And while it might seem arbitrary to praise Adams’ killer whiskers while calling out Martell Webster for this nonsense, well…it is arbitrary. But I just don’t understand this one:

Disregard the preceding comment. Marcin Gortat cleared everything up:

Makes perfect sense now.

And finally, Mo Williams is awarded 10,000 honesty points:

On a day filled with inflated hopes and a whole lot of over-the-top bluster, this feels like an appropriately ironic place to end.

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Magic’s Victor Oladipo Drains Backward, No-Look, Underhand Shot from Half Court

Orlando Magic guard Victor Oladipo was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft, so it was clear that he was a talented basketball player. However, nobody knew that this shot was in his arsenal.

Before the Magic’s media day, Oladipo drilled a backward, no-look, underhand shot—from half court. That’s a shot most people couldn’t make from the free-throw line. 

This shot by Oladipo may have been inspired by Tony Parker. The San Antonio Spurs star made the same shot last week.

Both shots are impressive, but it’s clear Oladipo had the better celebration.

[Orlando Magic]

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Predicting Biggest Surprises We’ll See from NBA Rookies in 2014 Training Camp

There’s still enough time for the 2014-15 NBA rookie class to throw us a few more curveballs before the regular season.

As training camp and preseason competition unfold, we’ll be treated to some eye-popping surprises.

Certain prospects will flex upgraded skills throughout October, while others will outperform their peers simply by building on their summer success. Sometimes all it takes is an opportunity off the bench.

Who exactly is going to astonish us this fall, and why?

Begin Slideshow

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