Nebraska assistant’s sick son gets good news

Avery Harriman will put a smile on your face.

      
 

 

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Lakers News: Byron Scott Is Smart to Make Julius Randle’s Development a Priority

On a team that is not expected to be very good, the Los Angeles Lakers must focus on developing for the future. Fortunately, new head coach Byron Scott seems to understand where the priorities are.

In an interview with Mike Trudell of Lakers.com, the coach had a lot of good things to say about first-round pick Julius Randle:

I see a young man that’s raw, but he has great feet and great quickness for his size, and he’s strong as a bull. You can tell that he wants to get better. Next week we’ll have a better idea, because he’ll be in better shape and be able to work even harder. But I love those attributes, being strong, big and quick for his size. That’s a very good combination to have.

This is not the first time Scott had good things to say about the No. 7 overall pick in the 2014 draft, who he considered a steal:

He also compared him to Zach Randolph during an interview on The Dan Patrick Show:

However, the most important part of his talk with Trudell came when discussing playing time for the rookie, saying, ”Julius will get plenty of chances to play a lot of minutes. We know he’s a rookie and needs to develop, and a lot of that will come in training camp and in practice. I think he’ll do just that.” 

The problem many players have in their first season is simply getting onto the court. Last year’s No. 1 overall pick, Anthony Bennett, came under a lot of scrutiny for his poor numbers, but a lot of that was due to only getting 12.8 minutes per game. With his numbers per 36 minutes, Bennett averaged a respectable 11.8 points and 8.4 rebounds.

Still, young prospects need playing time in order to improve. You can only learn so much in practice, but learning through mistakes can help you speed up your development. Not every rookie has that luxury, especially those on teams looking to contend for titles.

This is what makes Randle’s situation such an encouraging one. While everyone wants to be on a winning team, a squad that finished 27-55 and lost Pau Gasol is likely headed toward another losing season. Even with Carlos Boozer and a healthy Kobe Bryant, this could be a long year in Los Angeles.

Shane Young of Hoops Habit thinks Randle will get extra minutes despite a number of other players capable of playing the position:

Even if he struggles, just getting him on the floor will give him a chance to improve. This is more important for the Lakers’ success in the future than winning a few more games in 2014-15.

On the plus side, Randle appears ready to be productive right away. Will Brinson of CBS Sports agreed with Scott’s assertion that the Lakers got a steal with their draft pick:

The forward showed off his ability in summer league after dominating college basketball as a freshman for Kentucky. He has loads of natural skill and the strength to be a force in the low post. Veterans like Bryant and Boozer will also help him get to where he needs to be.

Scott needs to do whatever it takes to help Randle reach his potential as a perennial All-Star. This should be one of the top priorities of the season, even if it comes at the expense of winning games. The fact the coach is willing to work with the young player and get him on the floor is a great sign for the future.

 

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Miami Heat News: Barbosa, Heat Have Mutual Interest

As the Miami Heat look to fill out the rest of their training camp roster — Miami currently has 16 players heading into training camp, with a league maximum of 20 — it looks as if former Phoenix Suns guard Leandro Barbosa has indicated interest in playing for the Heat.
There’s mutual interest between Leandro Barbosa and the Miami Heat, according to league sources. Don’t be surprised if he signs with them.
— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) August 19, 2014

Although Barbosa is nearing the tail end of his prime, he could really add to the Heat’s second unit with his speed and scoring ability. Barbosa averaged 7.5 points in 18.4 minutes of action on the Suns last season and is currently playing for Brazil in the FIBA World Cup.
Say what you want about Barbosa, but he would fortify the spot behind Dwyane Wade that currently has rookies Tyler Johnson and James Ennis serving as backups.
If Barbosa were to sign with the Heat, he would have to sign on a league minimum, and most probably a non…

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Lakers News: Latest on Coaching Staff, Criticism of Carlos Boozer

There will be few teams in the NBA under more pressure than the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2014-15 campaign. The historic franchise finished last year with a 27-55 record and looked downright lost on the floor at times. 

To make matters worse, the Los Angeles Clippers are filled with talent and could contend with the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs for supremacy in the loaded Western Conference.

How will Kobe Bryant and company respond? To get a better idea, let’s look at some of the latest news out of Los Angeles.

 

Coaching Staff Addition

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com filled fans in on the latest regarding Byron Scott’s coaching staff:

Adding Jim Eyen to the staff isn’t going to move the needle much, but it is a solid addition because of his experience. This Lakers team is going to need to make an immense jump if it wants to make the playoffs, so placing a 22-year NBA veteran on the bench is sure to help.

What’s more is Eyen is familiar with the bright lights of Los Angeles. He began his professional career with the Los Angeles Clippers as an assistant coach in 1988 and moved to the Lakers after that. He served as an assistant under Pat Riley and then Mike Dunleavy for years.

Most recently, Eyen was with the Sacramento Kings, so there is familiarity with the Pacific Division in the Western Conference. 

Eyen may not be able to help the Lakers grab more rebounds or contain Kevin Durant, Tony Parker and the rest of the West, but he provides some valuable experience and could help mentor young players like Julius Randle.

 

Carlos Boozer: Worst Newcomer?

ESPN.com ran an exercise it dubbed as the summer forecast where it predicted things like the 2014-15 standings and the MVP and also ranked certain categories like worst newcomer. Unfortunately for Lakers fans, Carlos Boozer was deemed the worst newcomer of the entire offseason.

Boozer posted nightly averages of 13.7 points and 8.3 rebounds last year for the Chicago Bulls, but he is still a weak link on the defensive end. Tom Thibodeau played Taj Gibson down the stretch of close games in place of Boozer because Gibson was the much better defender and controlled the paint in a way Boozer simply couldn’t with a lack of athleticism.

What’s more, the Lakers drafted Randle as their power forward/center of the future. Boozer’s presence could theoretically cut into the Kentucky product’s minutes and hamper his important development.

Still, calling the proven NBA veteran the worst newcomer of the entire offseason is a bit harsh.

Boozer still has a solid mid-range jumper, which could be particularly effective with newcomer Jeremy Lin. Remember, Scott led the New Orleans Hornets to the playoffs with pick-and-roll plays utilizing Chris Paul and David West. He also led the New Jersey Nets to the NBA Finals with the same strategy with Jason Kidd and Kenyon Martin.

It’s not that far-fetched to imagine a scenario where Boozer averages double-digit points a night popping off picks for Lin.

For his part, Boozer seemed excited to be in Los Angeles. However, he did ironically bring up his failure to get past the Lakers in the playoffs as a member of the Utah Jazz, via Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

I was frustrated, to be quite frank. We wanted to beat them. We felt we had a good team in Utah. We fell short, obviously, but it was frustrating because you want to get to the mountain top and you keep getting stopped by the same team. But like I said, I admired them because you got to respect your opponent and I’ve always respected the Lakers very much. So, it’s good to be on this side of it and hopefully we can have success. 

Boozer probably won’t have to worry about the playoffs in the loaded Western Conference this year, though, unless he and the Lakers greatly surpass expectations.

 

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Doc Rivers Contract: Latest News and Rumors on Negotiations with Clippers

Amid a landmark, positive day for their franchise, the Los Angeles Clippers are the topic of more good news on Tuesday.   

Now that the Clippers have officially been sold to new owner Steve Ballmer for $2 billion, according to a statement on their team website, head coach Doc Rivers is reportedly ready to enter negotiations on a new contract soon.

Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski has the scoop:

Ballmer shared his thoughts on joining forces with Rivers when the sale went through Tuesday.

“The topic of conversation with Doc earlier was to focus in on what does it take and how can I help support him in achieving our mutual mission and in a pretty intense way continue to improve, be tenacious,” said Ballmer, per The Associated Press’ Beth Harris, via The Boston Globe. “If we do all that, good things will come our way.”

Interim Clippers CEO Dick Parsons doubted Rivers would remain in L.A. if Donald Sterling retained control of the team, and emphasized the importance of the coach’s presence, per ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne:

If Doc were to leave, that would be a disaster. Doc is the father figure of the team. Chris [Paul] is the on-court captain of the team. But Doc is really the guy who leads the effort. He’s the coach, the grown-up, he’s a man of character and ability — not just in a basketball sense, but in the ability to connect with people and gain their trust. The team believes in him and admires and loves him. If he were to bail, with all the other circumstances, it would accelerate the death spiral.

Rivers brings a championship pedigree that the Clippers’ heritage has mostly lacked. Now fans can breathe a sigh of relief, because Ballmer’s governorship seems to open the door for Rivers to remain L.A. for the long haul.

Fox Sports’ Jimmy Spencer regards Rivers as one of the premier coaches in the Association:

Earlier this offseason, the Clippers named Rivers their president of basketball operations, increasing not only his responsibility but also his influence in shaping the franchise into an NBA title contender. More sway in personnel decisions gives Rivers a significant amount of autonomous power, but if his vision comes to fruition to the point of lifting a Larry O’Brien Trophy, it will certainly all be justified.

Even before Rivers will have a chance to finish out the last two seasons of his three-year, $21 million deal, it appears L.A.’s front office is ready to invest in him under the presumption he’ll succeed.

While the Clippers’ roster does sport All-Stars in point guard Chris Paul and power forward Blake Griffin as cornerstones, plenty of work remains. Getting over the hump in the loaded Western Conference is a tremendous challenge, one that Rivers likely needs a new contract to surmount.

That’s why this intention to lock Rivers up long term is key. A better working relationship between the team’s new ownership regime under Ballmer and the chief of the organization will benefit Rivers in a big way.

Judging by this swift action to secure Rivers beyond the next two years, it’s clear the Clippers are convinced he can take them to the promised land.

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Lakers News: Latest on Byron Scott’s Expectations and Kobe Bryant

The once-proud Los Angeles Lakers turned in a disappointing 27-55 campaign in 2013-14 and certainly have their work cut out for them if they hope to make the playoffs in the loaded Western Conference this season.

The offseason has been relatively quiet after missing out on the big fish, although the team did add Carlos Boozer and trade for Jeremy Lin. It’s not exactly LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony (or even the departed Pau Gasol for that matter), but August is a time for a glass-half-full approach.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the latest news from Los Angeles.

 

Byron Scott’s Expectations

New coach Byron Scott recently made an appearance on The Dan Patrick Show, and Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times passed along some of the key quotes:

I expect us to compete every night,” said Byron Scott on radio Thursday to “The Dan Patrick Show.”  The Lakers are “going to play a tough, physical brand of basketball and we’re going to play defense.”

“It’s going to be a tough road for us.  We have a lot of work to do,” he said.  “I don’t know how good we’re going to be.  I’ve got a lot of guys that I don’t really know.  I’ve got to get to know these guys and see what makes them tick — but I’ve got one guy that I do know what makes him tick and that’s a great piece to have.

It is worth mentioning that Scott would not go on record saying that his team would make the playoffs, which is probably for the best. There is no reason to put any added pressure on a team that already faces the expectations that come with wearing the Lakers jersey, even in a year when the talent simply doesn’t match up.

Still, Los Angeles will get Kobe Bryant back, which will immediately boost its postseason chances. He is one of the best players of all time and can be an elite scorer, even when he turns 36 later this month.

Just look for more perimeter jumpers and high-post moves in favor of attacking the rim.

Throw in Boozer’s potential for a double-double every night and the development of young Julius Randle, and the Lakers will have something of a post presence. Randle can score down low and outmuscle people for rebounds, while Boozer can stretch the floor with his mid-range jumper.

If Scott’s system leads to improvement on the defensive end, the Lakers may just surprise some people.

 

Kevin Durant Passes Kobe Bryant

Pincus also pointed out in a different report that Bryant is no longer the most popular NBA player among rookies:

After receiving 21.2% of the vote a year ago to the question, “Who is your favorite player in the league?” — Bryant received 19.4% from the 2014 rookie class.

Durant led the field with 25.0% of the votes. Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James trailed Bryant at 12.5%, followed by Carmelo Anthony (8.3%) of the New York Knicks and Paul George (5.6%) of the Indiana Pacers and Kyrie Irving (5.6%) of the Cavaliers.

Bryant may have been passed by Kevin Durant, but it is a testament to his overall popularity and place within the game’s hierarchy that he is still so high on the list. Remember, he only played in six games during the 2013-14 campaign and is still ahead of LeBron James, who has dominated offseason headlines and is generally regarded as the best player in the league.

It will be interesting to watch going forward if this new crop of rookies (along with last year’s) mimics Bryant’s game in the same way that the Laker guard mimicked Michael Jordan’s. For context, there is an incredible video that has made the rounds on YouTube comparing the two greats, and Bryant himself even pointed out the circle of basketball life: 

 

Bryant came into the league when Jordan was on the tail end of his career with the Chicago Bulls, and this year’s crop of rookies joins the NBA right when Bryant is likely entering the twilight of his career. 

The young guys could do much worse than modeling their games after a five-time champion and one of the best players of all time.

 

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NBA Free Agency 2014: Start Date, Rumors, News and More

The 2014 NBA offseason has only just begun.

Tuesday marks the opening of the free-agency period, and due to the immense amount of talent on the open market this year, expect plenty of action right from the start.

As coaches and team executives prepare to make offers to their most coveted targets, fans wait with bated breath to find out where their favorite players will eventually call home.

With the free-agency period just getting underway, let’s take a look at some of the latest rumors and news circulating around the web.

 

Rumors

Plenty of big names are on the market, and Marcin Gortat is near the top of the list. Last season with the Washington Wizards, the center averaged 13.2 points and 9.5 rebounds per game while shooting 54.2 percent from the field.

Needless to say, he’s a hot commodity.

One team reported to have interest in Gortat is the Cleveland Cavaliers, according to Terry Pluto of The Cleveland Plain Dealer:

I’ve heard Marcin Gortat mentioned in connection with the Cavs, but he will be hot item on the market. The 6′ 11″, 240-pounder is a physical center. He averaged 13.2 points and 9.5 rebounds in 33 minutes a game for Washington, and the Wizards really want to keep him. Any contender would love to have Gortat, because he sets serious picks and loves to defend.

We’ll find out soon enough if the Wizards will be able to hang on to their center, or if he’ll be wearing new team colors next season.

Another hot name on the market is Trevor Ariza.

Ariza is also coming off a great season for the Wizards, averaging 14.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game while shooting 45.6 percent from the floor and 40.7 percent from downtown.

According to a tweet from Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports, Ariza is highly coveted:

After his impressive season during the Wizards’ run into the playoffs, expect a bidding war to ensue for the talented small forward.

The Indiana Pacers had a bit of a roller-coaster season, and the team’s inconsistent play carried over into the playoffs. If they are to improve this coming season, keeping Lance Stephenson in the fold should be a top priority.

Apparently Indiana agrees with that notion and will be pulling out all of the stops to keep him around, according to a tweet from Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star:

The Pacers may have to dig deep into their pockets to keep their star around, as Stephenson could be looking for a max contract.

 

News

While free agency could mean a new beginning for some players, it could mark the end for others.

That’s the case for 17-year veteran Chauncey Billups, as Vincent Ellis of the Detroit Free Press tweeted the Detroit Pistons would not be opting to keep him around:

During his NBA career, Billups played in 1,043 games, averaging 15.2 points, 2.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game while shooting 41.5 percent from the field.

While this news may signify the end of Billups’ playing career, it may also be the beginning of his next chapter in life, according to David Mayo of MLive.com:

The Celtics are looking to make big waves in free agency this year. The team floundered terribly in a bad Eastern Conference last season, and president Danny Ainge is looking to prevent that from happening again.

Here’s what Ainge had to say about the Celtics’ role in free agency, via Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe:

The Cavaliers are looking to keep one of their own from heading to another city.

Kyrie Irving may not be a free agent this year, but he’s slated to become a restricted free agent in 2015, and according to early reports that he was disgruntled with the team, things weren’t looking good for his future in Cleveland.

Well, that appears to have changed.

According to Chris Broussard of ESPN, the Cavaliers appear to be offering Irving a max contract:

That alone may not be newsworthy due to the fact Irving may be inclined to reject the offer and leave Cleveland; however, Broussard tweeted otherwise:

Apparently, David Blatt is already making a big impact for the Cavaliers.

These are just a handful of recent happenings around the NBA—there’s plenty more news and rumors circulating at this time of year. With a whirlwind of activity expected within the next few days, expect a wild ride to ensue.

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NBA Free Agent Signings 2014: Tracking the Latest Deals and News

Let the NBA‘s offseason officially commence. Beginning at 12:01 a.m ET on Tuesday, teams and perspective free agent targets could officially begin negotiations on a series of contracts that could reshape the Association’s hierarchy.

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony lead a group of players that ranks among the best free-agent classes in history—though there is speculation on how “free” a certain Big Three actually is. James, Wade and Bosh exercised their early termination options with the Heat over the past week, seemingly calculated moves to allow Pat Riley to retool the roster around them. Not to break up.

Still, as James proved the last time he hit the free agent waters, anything is possible. And even if the Miami threesome is planning a quick reunion, Anthony’s wide-open outlook on free agency promises to mirror James’ and Dwight Howard‘s that came before him.

The Knicks forward, having already made seven All-Star teams and been selected to six All-NBA teams, is ready for championship contention. With New York’s roster undergoing a complete retooling under Phil Jackson, Anthony will have to wait at least one more season before having a winner in the Big Apple. That has him courting offers from the likes of the Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks and a couple other suitors more equipped to win now.

Besides Anthony, Kyle Lowry, Lance Stephenson and Luol Deng highlight a second tier of free agents who could make an impact in new cities. Stephenson might be the most interesting, given his high talent level, young age (23) and proclivity for antics on and off the floor that frustrate teammates.

The restricted free agent pool is also unusually deep and not necessarily guaranteed to return to their current stomping grounds. Eric Bledsoe, Chandler Parsons, Greg Monroe, Isaiah Thomas and Gordon Hayward lead the pack, each possessing a dichotomy of potential and flaws that makes each player’s contract level something to watch.

With roughly half the league boating $10 million or more, the high-salaried offers are going to be flying off the shelves like an auction house. When folks call this the silly season, it’s about these next few days—a never-ending flurry of rumors, innuendo and negotiations that leave even the most strident NBA fan unable to keep up.

Be sure to check back here as we highlight every deal that goes down over the next few weeks and days. (Note: No contract signed is deemed official until July 10, the date the NBA’s moratorium on transactions ends.) 

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NBA Free Agency 2014: Latest Rumors and News Updates Around the League

LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony are clearly the two best free-agent forwards, but it could be argued that Trevor Ariza is next on the list.

The 28-year-old is coming off his best year as a professional. With the Washington Wizards, Ariza averaged 14.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. He shot 45.6 percent from the field and 40.7 percent from three-point range.

Ariza talked about the past season and his future in the video below:

Even with his solid offensive performance this past season, his perimeter defense is his best attribute. He won a championship with the Lakers in 2009, and Los Angeles is reportedly interested in bringing him back. 

ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne tweeted:

The Lakers are also interested in acquiring LeBron James and/or Carmelo Anthony. If they are able to get one but not the other (or neither), Ariza would be an decent consolation prize.

 

Utah Jazz Serious About Keeping Gordon Hayward

Despite the fact that the team didn’t sign Hayward to an extension during the season, the Jazz are apparently serious about keeping the 24-year-old swingman in Utah.

Per Jody Genessy of the Deseret News, the Jazz are willing to match offers for their restricted free agent.

Coming off a season where he averaged 16.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game, Hayward will be coveted by a few teams. The Jazz are daring a team to offer Hayward a max contract.

If they can call Hayward suitors’ bluff, the Jazz could hold on to him for less than market value.

 

Nikola Mirotic Looks to Be Headed to Chicago

The Chicago Bulls and their fanbase have been waiting for the time when Mirotic would arrive from Spain. It seems as though that time is coming sooner than later.

Joel Brigham of Basketball Insiders tweeted:

The 23-year-old sharpshooter is by many accounts the best European prospect. Last season for Real Madrid, the 6’10″ forward averaged 12.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and made 46 percent of his threes.

He’d be an excellent sixth man for the Bulls, especially if the team is able to lure Anthony in free agency. There are high expectations for rookies like Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, but you can bet Mirotic figures in the Rookie of the Year voting if he joins the Bulls this season.

 

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Russ Smith Drafted by 76ers: Latest News, Reaction and Analysis

Russ Smith accomplished his fair share of success in his four years at Louisville, and the First-Team All-American has the hardware to show for it. Now, he’ll be looking to start a new run of success in the pros, after the 76ers selected him with the No. 47 pick in Thursday’s 2014 NBA draft.

According to Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, Smith has been traded to the New Orleans Pelicans:

The former Cardinal averaged 18.2 points, 4.6 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 2.0 steals a night in his final collegiate season behind 46.8 percent shooting from the field and 38.7 percent shooting from behind the three-point line. 

Stuffing the stat sheet is a sure way to be noticed as a draft prospect, and it will also help him make an impact right away in the NBA. If he can take advantage of what may be limited playing time in the early going with some points, assists and solid defense like we saw in college, he will find his way into the rotation quickly.

His performance at the NBA combine, when draft stocks are certainly on the line, was a mixture of good and bad. His size was an issue, but the low body-fat numbers were encouraging considering his game is based on athleticism and speed.

Jeff Goodman of ESPN and azcentral.com’s Paul Coro and Doug Haller shared the details:

There are some concerns about his height and his shot selection, and a Western Conference executive discussed Smith’s draft stock, via Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated: “He’s a very good college player. But when I watch him, I don’t see a guy who makes his teammates better. It’s all about him getting shots and scoring.”

However, Smith averaged 24.8 points and 6.3 assists per 40 minutes as a senior, according to sports-reference.com, which may help answer some of the questions about his willingness to share the ball.

Ultimately, Smith could find himself playing those types of minutes in the NBA if he reaches his ceiling, so that type of production is encouraging.

Smith has the athleticism and explosiveness required to be an effective scorer at the in the NBA, something he emphatically put on display more and more during his time at Louisville.

That type of speed is also a big reason why he is a sound defender, which should be one of his biggest strengths as a rookie.

A First-Team AP All-American and a finalist for National Player of the Year in his final collegiate season, Smith was also a critical component in the Cardinals’ national title run in the 2012-13 campaign. He has experience playing in big games, and that should help him make a smooth transition to the bright lights of the Association.

Smith certainly isn’t lacking for confidence, so it will be interesting to watch how he blends with the rest of New Orleans as a rookie. If nothing else, he can serve as a spark plug off the bench who can provide an immediate scoring punch for the Pelicans and serve as a reliable defender.

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