Though there are plenty of fantastic basketball players who haven’t played in the NBA and likely won’t for either their entire careers or a significant portion of them—Argentina’s Facundo Campazzo and Brazil’s Marcelo Huertas immediately spring to mind—the Association tends to have the sport’s largest collection of talent.
So, how is that being distributed out among the 24 teams set to play in Spain at the 2014 World Cup, an international competition that begins at the end of August?
As John Schuhmann explains for NBA.com, “With the four free agents and 46 guys under contract, there will be a total of 50 current NBA players, representing 22 different teams and 18 different countries, at the World Cup, unless there’s an unexpected roster change in the next four days.”
Let’s break those players—as well as the dozens who used to play in the sport’s top league—down by country, using some visual aids.
Will any team come close to touching Team USA’s number of NBA talents?
The Argentines would normally have Manu Ginobili on their side, but without the crafty 2-guard who has retired from international competition, they’re left without as much NBA talent.
Though Walter Herrmann and Andres Nocioni both have experience in the Association on their resumes, Pablo Prigioni and Luis Scola are the only current players. Yes, that means there are no projected NBA starters who will suit up for Argentina at the World Cup.
We’re being generous here.
Dante Exum hasn’t played for the Utah Jazz yet, though the lottery pick will likely have a large role with his new team when the NBA season kicks off. Aron Baynes (currently a free agent) and Cameron Bairstow (another rookie, this time with the Chicago Bulls) are also included as current NBA players, joining Matthew Dellavedova to make it four.
In the realm of former players, the Boomers are limited to David Andersen and Nathan Jawai, neither of whom should resonate with anyone but the most hardcore NBA fans.
It’s all about the strength of the frontcourt, as Tiago Splitter, Nene and Anderson Varejao will all be sharing time at center for Brazil throughout the 2014 World Cup. Though all are capable starters for their respective teams—the San Antonio Spurs, Washington Wizards and Cleveland Cavaliers—they aren’t All-Star-caliber players at this stage of their careers.
Leandro Barbosa, though he hasn’t yet found a home for the 2014-15 season, counts as a current NBA player, but Raul Neto does not as there’s been no indication he intends to play in the Association, despite being controlled by the Utah Jazz.
As for former players, that pool is limited to Alex Garcia and Marcus Vinicius, whom you might know better as Marquinhos.
Damjan Rudez and Bojan Bogdanovic both count as current players, as they’re under contract with and expected to play for the Indiana Pacers and Brooklyn Nets, respectively. Though he was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers and is certainly an NBA talent, Dario Saric does not gain eligibility for that classification yet.
Sadly, he doesn’t count as a player with NBA experience either, unlike Roko Ukic, Oliver Lafayette and Damir Markota.
Consider this one of the graphs that’s a bit misleading, given the inability to qualify Saric as anything but a non-NBA player thanks to his decision to remain abroad for at least one more season.
Alphabetically, the Dominican Republic is the first participating nation with only one player who has ever suited up in the NBA.
That would be Francisco Garcia, who spent an injury-plagued 2013-14 campaign with the Houston Rockets. He’s a veteran and has fared well during prior international competitions, but he’s literally the only NBA talent on the roster.
Make it two in a row.
With Drew Gooden failing to gain clearance on his dual citizenship in time for the World Cup, per Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post, the NBA connections are just dwindling.
“As a kid you always dream of winning the gold medal,” Gooden told Castillo prior to his ineligibility ruling. “You think you’re going to be on the Dream Team or one day it be possible that you can do something like that during your career.”
Perhaps he’ll have a chance somewhere down the road, but for now, Erik Murphy (part of the Cleveland Cavaliers) and Hanno Mottola (played two seasons with the Atlanta Hawks over a decade ago) will have to do some heavy lifting for Finland.
Interestingly enough, France doesn’t have any former NBA players other than Mickael Gelabale, who last played for the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2012-13.
But even without Tony Parker suiting up for his country this offseason, choosing to rest and prepare for 2014-15 instead, the French boast a bevy of current members of the Association—Nicolas Batum, Boris Diaw, Evan Fournier, Rudy Gobert and Ian Mahinmi.
That’s not including Joffrey Lauvergne, who was drafted by the Denver Nuggets in 2013 and should eventually make his NBA debut sometime down the road, though it won’t come this next season.
There are no All-Stars who call France home, but Diaw is coming off a sensational run with the Spurs, and Batum is versatile enough that he could sneak onto the team in the future if he continues improving for the Portland Trail Blazers.
It’s three current players and one former for the Greeks.
Andreas Glyniadakis, the 33-year-old 7-footer who played a baker’s dozen games with the Seattle SuperSonics back in 2006-07 (you knew it had to be awhile ago, given that he played for the Sonics) counts as the former, and Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nick Calathes and Kostas Papanikolaou make up the current group.
Antetokounmpo is the most exciting of the bunch, given his rising stock with the Milwaukee Bucks, but the other two can’t be overlooked.
Calathes was a valuable piece for the Memphis Grizzlies before a drug suspension knocked him out of the playoffs, and Papanikolaou—in addition to torturing American spellers—is set to join the Houston Rockets in 2014-15.
The Iranians only boast the services of one former NBA player—Hamed Haddadi.
A 7’2″ center, Haddadi last played for the Memphis Grizzlies and Phoenix Suns during the 2012-13 season, averaging 2.8 points and 3.7 rebounds per game during his split time with the two squads. He’s a big presence in the paint, and at 29 years old, he should have plenty left in the tank for the World Cup.
Arsalan Kazemi should eventually make it to the Association after becoming the first Iranian-born player to be drafted into the NBA when he was selected at No. 54 in 2013 and traded to the Philadelphia 76ers. However, he’s not there quite yet.
Somewhat surprisingly, given Lithuania’s profile in the international world and the enjoyable nature of the team, there are only two NBA players on this squad.
The first is Donatas Motiejunas, a big man on the Houston Rockets who hasn’t really blossomed in the NBA quite yet. Then there’s Jonas Valanciunas, a promising center on the Toronto Raptors who should one day be an All-Star, perhaps as soon as this coming season.
But that’s it.
There aren’t even any former NBA players on the roster. Not a one.
The Mexican team might not be as strong as the Lithuanian squad, but there’s just as much NBA talent on the roster. Well, at least from a quantity perspective.
Motiejunas and Valanciunas win the quality battle in a landslide, of course.
But at least Jorge Guttierez and Gustavo Ayon are players in the Association, though the latter technically remains an unrestricted free agent.
New Zealand is another country with only one NBA player to its credit.
Unfortunately, it’s one of the former variety.
Kirk Penney is the lone representative, as the roster is primarily comprised of NBL talents, NZNBL players and three guys in the NCAA—Isaac Fotu (Hawaii), Rob Loe (St. Louis) and Tai Webster (Nebraska). As for Penney, he played a combined six games during the 2003-04 and 2004-05 seasons.
Believe it or not, the only NBA player on the Philippines roster is…wait for it…Andray Blatche.
The former Brooklyn Nets big man is still working to find a home for the 2014-15 season after an up-and-down 2013-14 campaign, but we’ll consider him an NBA talent for all intents and purposes. After all, he hasn’t played anywhere else between then and now.
Other than Blatche, though, there are no other NBA players, whether current or former.
J.J. Barea may be a bench player in the Association, but he’s a superstar whenever he puts on that Puerto Rico uniform.
He’s consistently averaged impressive figures in international competition. At the 2014 Centrobasket Championship, he put up 17.8 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game. Before that, he averaged 15.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 4.2 dimes at the 2013 FIBA Americas Championship and 18.2 points, 4.0 boards and 7.8 assists per game at the 2013 Tuto Marchand Continental Cup.
Barea is the only current NBA player on the Puerto Rico roster, but Carlos Arroyo and Renaldo Balkman aren’t too far removed from their careers in the Association. The former last played for the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics during the 2010-11 season, while the latter was part of the New York Knicks in 2011-12.
There’s one each for Senegal.
Hamady N’Diaye did play for the Sacramento Kings in 2013-14, but he was waived by the team and ended up with the D-League’s Delaware 87ers. Here, we’re counting him as a former NBA player, but the 27-year-old 7-footer could certainly work his way back onto an NBA roster.
Gorgui Dieng doesn’t have to worry about that, though.
The big Louisville product broke out at the end of his first season with the Minnesota Timberwolves, and he should play far more for Senegal than he did under Rick Adelman, who notoriously avoided playing rookies.
Remember how Bojan Bogdanovic is playing for Croatia?
Well, Bogdan Bogdanovic—who isn’t related to Bojan—will be suiting up for Serbia. And he’s the better player, as the 22-year-old has consistently been one of the better scorers in European basketball for a few years now.
Miroslav Raduljica, whom Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski recently reported was being traded to the Los Angeles Clippers, is the other current NBA player who will be on the Serbian roster.
In terms of former players, though, Nenad Krstic counts. The 6’11″ center has been one of his country’s better players for a while now, and that should continue even though he’s been out of the NBA ever since he played for the Boston Celtics in 2010-11.
Slovenia really should be the first country with a 2013-14 All-Star on the roster.
After all, Goran Dragic played well enough to earn a selection last season, but he was kept off the roster partially because he’s massively underrated and partially because the Western Conference was ridiculously stacked. Nonetheless, he was often a one-man team for the Phoenix Suns and deserves to be considered an All-Star-caliber talent.
Alas, Dragic still has to be listed under current players, and he’s the only one who earns such a designation. Uros Slokar—who played 20 games for the Toronto Raptors in 2006-07—is the former NBA player, and that’s where the Association ties draw to a conclusion.
Now we get to one of the big guns.
Up until now, no team has had more NBA players than non-NBA players, even if you combine the current and former players to create one mega-category. But Spain changes that, as it has as many current NBA players as non-NBA guys, and the former Association members push that group over the top.
Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka are all All-Star talents, though none made the team in 2013-14. Ricky Rubio, Jose Calderon and Victor Claver are lower-tier players, but they’re still on NBA squads heading into the next season.
Even without Alex Abrines (drafted in 2013) and Sergio Llull (2009) counting, that makes six. And once the roster is trimmed to its final format, the current NBA players should take the lead.
As for the former players, we’re looking at Rudy Fernandez, Juan Carlos Navarro and Sergio Rodriguez.
Though Furkan Aldemir could one day join an NBA squad, there’s only one representative, whether talking about the current or former category.
That would be Omer Asik, who sat on the bench for the Houston Rockets last year and will fill a much larger role for the New Orleans Pelicans during the 2014-15 season. The big man is a defensive specialist, and he’ll be quite adept at protecting the rim and pulling down rebounds whenever he’s on the court.
Of course, he’ll be doing so without any other NBA talents alongside him.
Between Pooh Jeter and Viacheslav Kravtsov, the Ukrainians have a pair of former NBA talents, though neither found too much success in the sport’s top league. The former played 62 games for the Sacramento Kings in 2010-11, though he came off the bench and wasn’t exactly a standout, while the latter played 20 games for the Phoenix Suns this past year before he was waived.
Beyond that, there’s no one with NBA experience.
Oleksandr Lypovyy, who last played for BC Donetsk in the Ukranian Superleague, and Sergii Gladyr, who was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks in 2009, are both worth watching, but neither qualifies as anything other than a non-NBA player.
What’s that? A new color?
Every player on the Team USA roster is a current NBA player, so we have to break things down even further. It’s time to separate them into All-Stars and players who weren’t able to earn that designation during the 2013-14 season. Remember, only 2014 All-Stars qualify in that category, so past berths are irrelevant for these purposes.
That’s a pretty impressive figure for the United States, and it bodes well for the country’s chances at a gold medal and a successful defense of the top honors that were earned at the 2012 Olympics.
Note: Angola, Egypt and Korea were not represented here, as none of those countries has a single current or former NBA representative.
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LeBron James says the Miami Heat have “too many excuses.” The two-time defending champions fell to a seventh loss in 11 games after the New Orleans Pelicans defeated the Heat 105-95 Saturday night. “It’s too many excuses. Everything is an excuse. We do something wrong, it’s an excuse,” James said, via ESPN.com. “We don’t get a stop, it’s an excuse. We turn the ball over, it’s an excuse. What we’re doing right now ain’t good enough. “It’s very frustrating. We’re all frustrated,” James continued. “We just got to all get on the same page. I don’t know what we’re going to do, but we’ve got to figure it out.” James twisted his right ankle Saturday, but remained in the game and finished with 25 points, nine assists and eight rebounds. “Put another injury on my list,” James said. “It is what it is. I’m not using it as an excuse.” Chris Bosh, who had 12 points and six rebounds, said the team has no passion. “We suck,” Bosh said. “We need to turn it around
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Pau Gasol had some criticism for his club following a 20-point loss at Indiana on Tuesday night. Gasol scored 13 points and grabbed 9 rebounds in the Lakers’ 118-98 loss to the Pacers, and he was not happy with what he felt was selfish play by his teammates. “There’s just too many individual actions right […]
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Jason Collins seemed disturbed, and a tad embarrassed, by the amount of attention he received as a 35-year-old center on a 10-day contract logging 11 minutes against the Los Angeles Lakers Sunday night.
As soon as Collins, the first publicly acknowledged gay player in a major sport, signed with the Brooklyn Nets, I looked forward to seeing him play—and, yes, it feels odd admitting that. It wasn’t exactly appointment viewing, but a curiosity nagged at me enough that I looked up tip-off time and checked my watch through the course of the day.
I had seen Collins play countless times, both on TV and in person, but I’d never made a specific point to watch him. He’s a 7-footer who communicates well, doesn’t need to touch the ball to feel involved and is content to set screens and do a few minutes of yeoman’s work in hopes it will produce box score numbers under someone else’s name that tilt the outcome in his team’s favor. I’ve always appreciated his intelligence and unselfishness, but let’s face it: Swallowing your pride to draw an NBA paycheck isn’t up there on the scale of extraordinary human achievement.
Walking out onto a theater-lit court before nearly 20,000 as the first of anything, however, is. Or it feels as if it should be, especially when it’s something as socially volatile as being a homosexual in the macho world of men’s professional sports.
I don’t really know the level of courage that requires and neither do you, gay or otherwise. That’s the problem in giving it the appropriate weight; there’s only one person who knows and he’s not interested in putting it on a scale.
But should it be a big deal? Is celebrating Collins’ 11 minutes on the Staples Center floor as an achievement comparable to walking on the moon as wrongheaded as believing his sexuality violates some human law?
I reached out to John Amaechi, a five-year NBA veteran who acknowledged he was gay in 2007, four years after his retirement. Amaechi now works as a broadcaster of NBA games in the United Kingdom and an advocate of gay rights on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. He stayed in touch with Collins as he waited for his shot at returning to the league. What import did he place on the events of Sunday?
“I wasn’t too concerned about the game,” Amaechi said by phone from England. “It was the middle of the night over here. As he said, I was worried about his timing and how he’d play more than anything else. A crowd in L.A., or pretty much any major city in the U.S., wasn’t going to boo him off the floor so I wasn’t worried about that.”
So there it was—validation that this was far too much attention for a 35-year-old center on a 10-day contract. Only Amaechi didn’t stop there.
“The vast majority of people‚and we now know it’s a vast majority because of the Gallup polls—are embarrassed that it’s 2014 and there are still people out there that treat other people’s sexuality as a concern,” Amaechi said. “But I rebuff those who say it shouldn’t be a big deal by simply pointing southwest. To Arizona.”
Amaechi was referring to the proposed law sitting on Arizona governor Jan Brewer’s desk, awaiting her approval. The law, which Brewer is expected to veto, would allow business owners to refuse service to gays and lesbians if they could prove doing so violated their religious principles. If passed, it would mean Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver, should he feel compelled, could go way beyond not signing Collins to a contract because of his sexuality. He could prohibit Collins from buying a ticket to watch the Suns play.
The mindset of the Arizona lawmakers was not evident in the Staples Center on Sunday night.
The response from the crowd and players was so tepid that I couldn’t help but immediately be amused at how much had been written and said in anticipation of the moment, along with my own curiosity. With all the Hollywood types in the building, the chance of an over-exuberant reaction seemed plausible, but while the friendly smattering of applause was certainly more than the typical opposing sub might garner, it was well short of thunderous. Collins took his place next to the Lakers’ center, Chris Kaman, who said, “What’s up, big fella?” and then passed on a hello to Jason’s twin brother Jarron, one of Kaman’s former teammates with the Clippers.
No doubt, as everyone from Kobe Bryant to commissioner Adam Silver has noted, the night represents a watershed event for those who have feared reprisal for acknowledging who they are. Amaechi said he knows of a Division I basketball player who has been thinking of “coming out” to his team who tuned in to see how Collins fared. “He watched with bated breath,” Amaechi said. “It was the most important game of his life.”
What that player failed to see and the highlights didn’t show, however, was the most important place of Collins’ acceptance: in the locker room, among his teammates. “There were a massive number of myths that exploded,” Amaechi said. “One of them was not seeing nine straight men run screaming from the locker room.”
I never expected that to happen, even though I know there are people in the league—players, coaches, executives—who believe homosexuality is immoral. They would play with and against Collins and perhaps even hang out with him socially, but they are convinced his lifestyle is a choice and a vice, the same way someone chooses to smoke or do drugs. I have yet to meet anyone, however, who would take a public stand against him and suffer the potential consequences. The NBA, by and large, is not filled with individuals who value social advocacy above the chance to be a millionaire. Few places are.
I still felt silly seeing Collins look as Collins always has looked and wondering exactly why I expected anything different. I especially had to laugh hearing the breathless description of otherwise mundane contributions. The subliminal message: Look, a gay man can box out! He can foul hard and dive on the floor! Collins’ tip-out of a missed free throw that eventually led to a fourth-quarter three-pointer was described as some master stroke, as if slapping a rebound out toward half-court that a teammate snared and then swung to another teammate for a three-pointer was a rare sort of genius.
Granted, to write about the events surrounding an openly gay athlete when you’re not gay feels akin to writing about racial prejudice when you’re not a minority. There’s the how-would-you-know card ready to be played by anyone in possession of one, along with the fear that saying or writing something perceived as insensitive could cost a writer or analyst his or her job.
So why address the topic? Maybe because a field or court, for me, has long been an egalitarian oasis where how you dressed or talked or looked melted away if you could play. Maybe because I suspect I’m not alone in sorting out how not to pay undue attention to something with a spotlight on it. Or maybe because Collins’ willingness to be who he is reminded me to do the same. I’m someone who loves the game of basketball—and appreciates anyone who can play it well, in whatever nuanced way that might be.
I’d prefer it not be any more complicated than that. Much like Collins, I’ve come to accept that sometimes it is.
Ric Bucher covers the NBA for Bleacher Report.
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The Detroit Pistons need to decide now whether they will keep Greg Monroe in the long term.
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As the plot thickened this summer, fans and media came to the realization that the North Carolina Tar Heels would be without P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald for at least a handful of games. Both parties dissected the thinning roster and found, in their eyes, mediocre talent that would surely be pummeled by the likes of Louisville, Michigan State and the ultra-hyped Kentucky squad.
Players that have been key components to UNC’s 8-3 record, which includes victories over all three aforementioned programs, were regularly picked on for their deficiencies in the offseason. This led to some serious misconceptions that will be squashed today.
The following is a breakdown of the five most common preseason misconceptions about the 2013-14 Tar Heels.
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To recap, those teams were the Washington Wizards, Philadelphia 76ers, the then-New Jersey Nets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Sacramento Kings, Golden State Warriors, Detroit Pistons, Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz.
With the exception of the Warriors and Clippers, these teams are all below .500 and with a combined win-loss record of 63-111 (.362) as of Dec. 18, per NBA.com.
Had any of these squads plucked George from the draft, they would have made some headway at the very least.
That’s just how good the guy is.
A look back at the 2010 NBA draft and its interesting storylines revolving around George should make the Indiana Pacers and their fans feel very fortunate in landing this would-be superstar and franchise player.
The Rundown on Paul George Before the 2010 NBA Draft
Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports wrote an article just two days before the 2010 NBA draft. It cites an emphatic statement from an anonymous Eastern Conference scout who said,”In five years, Paul George will be the best player to come out of this draft. Trust me.”
Spears also spoke with George, who said back then his goal was to become an NBA legend one day:
I feel like I have all the intangibles, all the tools to be one of the best players not only in this draft, but to play in this game.
It’s something I’m really taking to heart. My dream is to not only get drafted—that’s a goal of mine—but my dream is to someday be a legend at this game. I want to work to be that.
Here are some scouting reports on George, who was a 6’9″, 214-pound sophomore of the Fresno State Bulldogs:
- “His athleticism and ability to run the floor make him dynamic in transition…Rebounds well for a small forward.”—NBADraft.net.
- “Much of George’s potential resides in the fact that he has excellent leaping ability and a frame that is reminiscent of a young Tracy McGrady.”—DraftExpress.com
- “Overall, he looks like a very strong defender for the 3.”—EightPointsNineSeconds.com
- “The first thing that pops off the page when looking at George’s numbers is his high turnover percentage.”—DraftExpress.com
- “George’s biggest weakness is his inability to create for himself, and his poor shooting percentage when pulling up off the dribble.”—NBADraft.net
As one can very well see, most of what was included in this section proved to be prophetic.
A Look Back at How the First 9 Teams Fared in the 2010 NBA Draft
Check out some of the post-2010 NBA draft comments of Sports Illustrated‘s Chris Mannix for the first nine picks:
- Washington Wizards, John Wall—”The Wizards scored perhaps the draft’s only franchise player when they nabbed John Wall with the No. 1 pick.”
- Philadelphia 76ers, Evan Turner—”Turner was a no-brainer: He’s polished, mature and a natural two-guard.”
- New Jersey Nets, Derrick Favors—”No one knows what Favors is going to be; he has a great body and tremendous defensive instincts, but he lacks polish and it’s hard to project what kind of post player he’s going to become.”
- Minnesota Timberwolves, Wesley Johnson—”Johnson has star written all over him: He’s efficient, a promising defender.”
- Sacramento Kings, DeMarcus Cousins—”Earned a reputation as a sulker with a questionable attitude at Kentucky.”
- Golden State Warriors, Ekpe Udoh—”..is a 6-foot-10, 240-pound pseudo-center who isn’t especially tough and isn’t especially strong.”
- Detroit Pistons, Greg Monroe—”In time, Monroe could develop into a front-of-the-line starting center.”
- Los Angeles Clippers, Al-Farouq Aminu—”Something about his game — versatile, good rebounder, finishes well at the rim — screams Luol Deng, a player the Clips would be perfectly content with.”
- Utah Jazz, Gordon Hayward—”He’s a 6-foot-9, 207-pound toothpick who parlayed a strong sophomore season and a fantastic NCAA tournament into a lottery selection.”
This brings us now to George.
The previous season’s 2009-10 Indy squad, which finished just 32-50, was a young and raw team replete with misfits such as Brandon Rush, Troy Murphy and Josh McRoberts.
In a season which was small forward Danny Granger’s first as the Pacers’ franchise player, Indiana desperately needed help at point guard and power forward.
According to Mannix, the Pacers initially “dangled Granger and the No. 10 pick to Jersey” for Devin Harris and Favors. He goes on to say the Nets “didn’t bite” and Indiana wound up with George in spite of a potential logjam at small forward with Granger.
The Nets saying “no” turned out to be the Pacers’ biggest blessing in years.
Larry Bird on Drafting Paul George in the 2010 Draft
Mark Montieth of Pacers.com interviewed Indiana Pacers team president Larry Bird on Dec. 14 to talk about several topics, one of which was the drafting of George in 2010.
Bird told Montieth Indy’s pick boiled down to North Carolina’s Ed Davis and George, who scared Bird at first:
The day I walked to the draft room (in 2010), it was between Ed Davis and Paul George. My owner kept asking me who I was taking, and I was still debating. But when it came down to it, you had to take the young, talented guy with a lot of length.
If you watched Paul George in college it was scary, because he shot a lot of air balls, he took a lot of bad shots, he turned the ball over at a high rate. But he’s long, he’s athletic, he shot 90 percent from the foul line and he can guard.
In the interview with Montieth, Bird also emphasized George is still maturing as a player and that the team’s gamble on him ultimately paid off:
Yeah, but basketball-wise, he hadn’t matured yet as a player. He still hasn’t. But he got better. He’s a worker. We did our background checks. He loved to play. He would work. He wants to be good.
The Key Takeaways on Why Several Teams Passed Up On Paul George
Based on the information presented, George had a ton of potential prior to the 2010 NBA draft—he can run the floor, defend and rebound. He was already a versatile player.
However, his main weaknesses, poor shot selection and turnovers, were the ones that turned off opposing scouts and even Pacers president Larry Bird, to an extent.
A deeper look into Mannix‘s analysis of the nine players chosen before George reveals some common denominators. In Mannix‘s opinion, some of them—including Wall, Turner and Johnson—were already polished, efficient and a star.
Thus, it was a no-brainer for the teams who were on the board
On the other hand, players such as Favors, Cousins and Udoh presented some question marks, but their respective teams took a chance with them, anyway.
So did the Indiana Pacers with George.
In spite of his versatility, George was unquestionably raw. It took him three seasons to show real flashes of his full potential. During his first two NBA seasons, he was timid and reluctant.
One key takeaway here is that the Pacers (according to Bird’s interview with Montieth) knew George’s length, upside and ultimately his work ethic will eventually one day prove they made the right choice.
With a little help from the Nets, per Mannix.
In the end, perhaps the biggest takeaway of them all in getting passed up has fired up George, who is now an MVP candidate.
He said so himself when he spoke with The Indianapolis Star’s Candace Buckner on Nov. 30, a day before the Pacers took on the Los Angeles Clippers:
I always want to outdo the person who was drafted higher than me. Whether it’s a best friend or close friend, whoever it is. I take it as a challenge.
I’m happy where I’m at being here but (the Clippers) were one of the teams that did overlook me. So I always have that in the back of my mind when I play them.
From turnover machine to franchise player, Pacers forward Paul George has certainly come a long way.
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Jeremy Lin’s NBA career famously began with the point guard never quite knowing if he had a home. His time with the Rockets, who were supposed to be his place to settle in, is continuing that trend.
The Rockets are working hard to find a deal for big man Omer Asik, and those talks include Houston offering Lin in a trade, according to Ken Berger of CBSSports.com. Houston has made its intentions clear to other clubs, but the problem continues to be what the Rockets faced this summer when looking to move Lin after the acquisition of franchise centerpiece Dwight Howard: Other teams may not want him.
“I’m not sure there are many, if any, takers for him right now,” one executive said, according to Berger.
While Lin was a hot commodity in free agency after his fast rise with the Knicks in 2012, he’s considered no more than a capable — and expensive — point guard now. The Rockets signed Lin for three years and $25 million heading into the 2012-2013 season, with the final year of the contrac…
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The list of legends who have played for the Los Angeles Lakers just goes on and on…and on and on. But that doesn’t stop it from growing as new players earn their way into the pantheon.
Pau Gasol has done exactly that, even if he isn’t a lock for the Hall of Fame and has only spent a little over five seasons with the organization. The Spanish seven-footer has emerged as one of the greats in the illustrious franchise’s history for so many reasons, after all.
His play on the court is terrific, but Gasol has also emerged as one of the game’s leading humanitarians. On the heels of his efforts to help out the Philippines (more on that later), it’s become abundantly clear—again—that he deserves entry into that aforementioned pantheon.
Let’s break down the many reasons.
For an organization like the Lakers, titles are still the ultimate goal.
Winning seasons are nice, especially if they come at the expense of the other teams in the Pacific Division. It’s thrilling to advance a few rounds into the playoffs, sometimes more definitively than in other years. But those accomplishments pale in comparison to the allure of being the last team standing and getting to hold up the Larry O’Brien Trophy at the end of a season.
Throughout NBA history, the Lakers have been in a class of two when it comes to championships.
The Boston Celtics have racked up 17 titles, led by the dominant forces that were Bill Russell and Larry Bird, and that’s one more than Los Angeles has earned.
That said, 16 is still far more than any other team in the league, as the Chicago Bulls are No. 3 on the list, checking in at six championships, all of which were earned by Michael Jordan and Co. Beyond that, only the San Antonio Spurs have more than three.
It can’t be discounted that Gasol has been such a big part of Lakers history.
He was traded from the Memphis Grizzlies to the Lake Show during the middle of the 2007-08 campaign, and it only took him a year before helping the team to a title.
Nope. Gasol and the Lakers were back-to-back champions in 2009 and 2010, and it’s not like he was just along for the ride. During the two playoff runs, the Spaniard averaged 18.9 points, 11.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 0.6 steals and 2.0 blocks while shooting 55.8 percent from the field.
If it wasn’t for the sheer dominance of Kobe Bryant, we may be talking about a big man with two Finals MVPs to his name as well.
The On-Court Prowess
We also can’t overlook just how good Gasol has been since joining the Lakers.
Including this season, he’s averaged 17.7 points, 9.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 0.6 steals and 1.4 blocks per game, shooting 52.5 percent from the field and 78.5 percent at the charity stripe. According to Basketball-Reference, he has a PER of 21.5 since throwing on a purple and gold uniform.
Not too shabby, huh?
But it’s about more than the numbers for Pau. It always has been.
Due to his versatility, he’s been able to adapt to any spot in the lineup and any role he’s asked to play by all of the different coaches that have roamed the sidelines of the Staples Center. He’s consistently switched between power forward and center with nary a complaint (well, maybe one or two subtle ones), and he can capably function as a low-post scorer on the blocks or step out to the elbow and become a facilitating hub for the offense.
Gasol stretches the court with his jumper, but he also shrinks it when he starts going to work with his back to the basket. It’s a major part of the reason he’s been named to three All-Star teams during his five full seasons in L.A.
In the history of the Lakers franchise—a history littered with Hall of Famers and All-Stars—only six players have ever averaged 17 points, 10 rebounds and three assists for an entire season:
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, six times
- Elgin Baylor, 11 times
- Wilt Chamberlain, three times
- George Mikan, twice
- Shaquille O’Neal, four times
- Pau Gasol, three times
How’s that for a nice list to be on? It’s hard to argue with that company, as the other five players are unquestioned Hall of Famers (you’re crazy if you don’t think Shaq will get in on the first ballot as soon as he’s eligible).
Even though Gasol was never the alpha male for the Lakers, he didn’t need to be. His versatility and consistent production still leaves him as one of the all-time greats at his position, and it’s taken him only a handful of seasons to leave his mark on this historic organization.
But with Gasol, a legacy can’t be confined to one’s actions on the court.
This is what helps Pau stand apart. It differentiates him from the crowd of players who have managed to make an on-court impact without fully accepting their potential role in the community.
Professional athletes have the ability to make a monumental impact if they so choose. They have the profile to deliver messages, the money to make things happen and the fanbase to create a shining example.
Gasol realized this. And he acted.
Apologies in advance for the length of this quote from UNICEF’s official website, but it’s the only way to accurately represent just how much work the big man has done with the organization throughout his career:
Iraq is the fifth country Pau Gasol has visited as an ambassador for UNICEF. The first trip was in 2005 to South Africa where he visited an HIV and AIDS project. A similar visit to Angola followed in 2007.
His third trip was in 2010 to Ethiopia, where he decided to become personally involved with the Pau Project through Schools for Africa, an initiative of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, UNICEF and Peter Kramer Foundation for children’s schooling.
Pau Project has been reflected in a documentary produced by laSexta and since its inception has, among other achievements, helped 12,000 children return to school and 160 teachers and 15,000 parents trained. Apart from its direct link with Ethiopia, Pau Project has driven campaigns and initiatives for child survival and development, particularly in support of UNICEF’s nutrition and health programs for the prevention of malnutrition and action in humanitarian crises as the Horn of Africa (2011) and the Sahel (2012).
Pau Gasol collaborates with UNICEF both in Spain and in the United States where he lives.
Doesn’t your heart just grow a couple sizes when you read that? This is a man who lets his actions speak as loud as his words, and he’s at it again during the 2013-14 NBA season.
In the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, the tropical storm that has thrown parts of the Philippines into disarray, Gasol has promised to donate $1,000 for every point he scores Nov. 22 against the Golden State Warriors. He reveals his full plan on Crowdrise.com, asking for others to make donations of varying amounts (h/t Andy Bailey).
Here’s hoping Gasol not only scores at least 30 points for the 45th time in his career but somehow also manages to set a career-high mark by dropping 45 big ones on the Dubs. Regardless of the donation amount, it’s still the thought and willingness to pledge that counts.
Beyond the community service and charity work, Gasol has established himself as a lifelong Laker, even if this is only his sixth full season in Tinseltown.
He’s done so by becoming close with Kobe Bryant, maintaining a constant air of professionalism and never publicly complaining when he’s been thrust into trade rumors or been made into a scapegoat for the failures of the Purple and Gold.
ESPN Los Angeles’ Ramona Shelburne recently wrote about Gasol’s new book, Life/Vida, revealing a few choice quotes to the public, as it won’t be officially released until Nov. 26:
Bryant writes [about Gasol]…’if his organization ever let him down, he would hold his head up high’ and ‘would not lash out or let himself become entangled in the drama.’ That ‘we would both face adversity in our professions, so we would talk about our lives and our careers and the pressures of our celebrity’ and that ‘our bond would be fortified by a trust only brothers share.’
How’s that for a set of choice quotes from the Mamba? It’s hard to imagine Bryant, who was asked to write a foreword for the book, speaking such praiseworthy words about any other teammate he’s played with.
Shelburne also relays a quote from Gasol himself:
What is an injury? What’s a trade rumor or a potential change of teams? What’s it like to play for a coach who doesn’t believe in me or trust my abilities 100 percent?
To me those are little bumps in the road. They are part of my profession and position, but they will pass, and the next day is a new day. When I look at the big picture and put things in perspective, I ask myself, ‘Are they really that hard? I don’t think so.’
Does anything sum up the big man more accurately?
Gasol is the consummate professional, a player who accepts the changes and criticisms that go hand in hand with professional sports without breaking his stride. He plays hard, and, although he’s struggled in 2013-14, he typically plays well in the face of adversity.
It’s hard to imagine Lakers Nation wanting anything more than it’s gotten from this big man if he chooses to leave in free agency at the conclusion of this season. Or if the Lakers choose not to offer him another contract.
Cliche as it may be, Gasol has given it his all.
And in this case, “it” refers to both his job and his ability to serve as an upstanding citizen of the world. If that doesn’t help him earn a place in the L.A. basketball pantheon, nothing will.
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When Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant posts anything to his Instagram account, it’s a pretty big deal but his latest post has confused even me.
About an hour ago, Bryant posted the below image with the comments “#Blackout #BearHunt” and it appears that it is just a blacked out image:
What does this mean Kobe? What does this mean??????
Kobe Bryant image courtesy of Getty Images
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