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#pounditFriday, September 30, 2022

Stories by Aaron Mansfield:

Top 10 NBA Rookie of the Year candidates

Malik Monk

One year ago, who would have guessed the 2016-17 NBA Rookie of the Year would be awarded to Malcolm Brogdon?

The Bucks swingman had a nice career at Virginia, of course, but the odds were stacked against him. He was the 36th pick in the draft, and the award traditionally goes to a top pick. Additionally, Brogdon isn’t a flashy offensive player, and he doesn’t put up jaw-dropping numbers. He’s not a spotlight grabber. He’s more of a “glue guy.”

Brogdon’s charge to Rookie of the Year may have been the most surprising in NBA history — it was certainly the most unexpected in my lifetime.

As we look ahead to the upcoming NBA season, will we have another shocker this year? Or will Rookie of the Year go to a top pick, as it does most years?

Below are my top 10 candidates, as it stands today, to claim 2017-18 NBA Rookie of the Year. Just missing the cut: Josh Jackson, Caleb Swanigan, Bam Adebayo, and Luke Kennard.

10. Kyle Kuzma, Los Angeles Lakers

Kuzma surprised a lot of people in Vegas this summer. The No. 27 overall pick averaged 21.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, and he played with incredible efficiency. He shot 51.4 percent from the field and 48 percent (!) from deep. The 22-year-old forward from Utah was named the Summer League’s Finals MVP and second-team All-Summer League.

Though Kuzma was overshadowed by Lonzo Ball in Summer League and will continue to play in Ball’s shadow throughout this season, he’s looking like an early candidate for “Steal of the Draft.” Additionally, the two look like they may form a dynamic young duo for the Lake Show. Ball and Kuzma ran the floor well together, and Kuzma’s ability to stretch the floor made him a weapon even when he didn’t touch the ball.

The 6-foot-9 Kuzma is also versatile on defense; early indications are that he can switch most positions on the floor. Though the Lakers are a bit log-jammed on the wing (with Brandon Ingram, Luol Deng and Corey Brewer), Kuzma in Summer League looked like a guy who will get minutes for Los Angeles.

9. John Collins, Atlanta Hawks

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Three players have 99 rating in ‘Madden 18’


Madden 18, the newest installment from the popular football video game franchise, has labeled this iteration the “G.O.A.T. Edition.” (GOAT = greatest of all time.) The cover of the new game features an emotional Tom Brady.

It should come as no surprise, then, that the cover athlete is as good as any player in the game. Brady is indeed a 99 overall, the highest mark a player can score. Pretty incredible for a 40-year-old who was drafted in the sixth round.

Brady is not, however, alone near the triple digits. Two other NFL players are rated 99 overall: Denver linebacker Von Miller and Rams defensive end Aaron Donald, according to UPROXX.

Miller has a 98 Pursuit rating and a 97 Finesse Move. Donald has a 96 Power Move and a 91 Block Shedding. Though Brady isn’t ranked the highest when it comes to physical attributes (his speed, acceleration, agility, and strength are all in the 60s), his awareness is a 99.

JJ Watt came close to the rarified air. He is rated a 98 overall.

Jason Taylor shouts out Tom Brady, Peyton Manning in Hall of Fame speech

Jason Taylor, the former Miami Dolphins defensive end, is one of seven men who were inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame Saturday. Taylor was joined by Kurt Warner, Terrell Davis, LaDainian Tomlinson, Jerry Jones, Morten Andersen, and Kenny Easley.

Taylor, a third-round pick, was a six-time Pro Bowler. He won the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year award in 2006. Saturday in Canton, Taylor gave an emotional speech that received acclaim on social media.

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Tebow helps Mets’ minor league team crush attendance record

Tim Tebow Mets

When Tim Tebow announced his intention to pursue a professional baseball career, the thought from some fans quickly followed: well, the team that signs him is only going to do it for the publicity. Whether that thought was fair or unfounded, it was an inevitable conclusion that whatever team picked up Tebow was going to make some money off of it.

We’re seeing it come to fruition now. The St. Lucie Mets, the New York Mets’ Class A Advanced Minor League affiliate, picked up Tebow June 25. Friday, they announced they had set a single-season attendance record.

The reason for the attendance spike, of course?

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Oklahoma senator says Durant ‘would be welcome back in Oklahoma any time’

Kevin Durant Russell Westbrook
The widespread opinion is that everyone in Oklahoma City, and the state of Oklahoma at large, hates Kevin Durant’s guts. Durant did, after all, leave the Thunder for the Warriors immediately after an epic series in the Western Conference Finals between the two teams. People called him a traitor and coward.

It’s been more than a year since Durant made his controversial decision, and though many Thunder fans are still very salty, maybe time has healed the wound for some Oklahomans. In an interview with TMZ, state Senator Jim Inhofe had nothing but good things to say about Durant.

“Kevin Durant would be welcome back in Oklahoma any time he’s willing to come and I want to be the first one he calls,” Inhofe said. “I like him. Kevin Durant, he took care of the victims of our tornadoes. He took care of families. Took care of little kids. So, he has a heart and he’s not a bad ballplayer.”

Well, “not a bad ballplayer” is one way to put it. Asked about the feud between Durant and Westbrook, Inhofe said he’d like to see them make up – but added that he thinks Westbrook is better. The state senator may be obligated to say that about the hometown team’s best player, but the statement was unprovoked.

“I think Russell’s still better, I just happen to like them both,” Inhofe said.

Stan Van Gundy says Pistons have spoken with Cavs about Kyrie Irving

Here’s what we know: Kyrie Irving wants to be traded from Cleveland. The 25-year-old point guard is tired of living in LeBron James’ shadow. Irving reportedly gave the Cavaliers a list of four teams that he’d be willing to be dealt to: San Antonio, Miami, Minnesota, and New York.

Notice that there were 26 NBA teams not included on that list. That will not, however, stop the other teams from trying to make a move for Irving, one of the best young players in the league.

The Pistons are one of those outside teams hoping to jockey into contention for Irving (though their efforts may prove futile). Team president Stan Van Gundy told the team website earlier this week “the Pistons have had some level of conversation with the Cavs.”

So, could this deal happen? Probably not. But hypothetically, what could Detroit put on the table?

The first big piece: Andre Drummond, the 23-year-old big man who’s a rebounding machine but can’t hit free throws. Detroit would likely have to stack some good pieces (maybe even the recently acquired Avery Bradley) on top of that, in addition to draft picks.

ESPN.com’s Adrian Wojnarowski last month reported that “there were approximately 20 teams” that had inquired about Irving.

For now, Cleveland seems content to sit and wait. With a player of Irving’s caliber on the line, new General Manager Koby Altman and the Cavs won’t rush to make a move.

Thinner DeMarcus Cousins feels ‘best I have my whole career’

DeMarcus Cousins has battled with his weight his whole career. The 6-foot-11 big man is listed at 270 pounds.

In the NBA it doesn’t particularly matter how much you weigh, but it does matter if you’re out of shape and can’t get back on defense. As we heard earlier this summer, Cousins may not be facing that struggle this coming year. He had reportedly dropped a ton of weight.

After seeing Cousins compete in the NBA Africa game Saturday, fans saw the reports were confirmed: Cousins is noticeably thinner and lighter on his feet.

Cousins told The Undefeated he isn’t sure how much weight he’s lost.

“I don’t know. I really don’t know,” Cousins said. “I lost a lot of weight. I did my little training program in L.A. and I like the results. I’m good. I feel lighter on my feet. I’m moving a lot better than I have in previous years. It doesn’t hurt to wake up in the morning and the aches and pains have kind of gone away. It’s definitely benefited my body a lot more.”

The Pelicans’ front line may be a problem in the West this year.

Kristaps Porzingis has been studying Conor McGregor’s mental game

Kristaps Porzingis

Regardless of how you feel about Conor McGregor – and, to be sure, people usually only either love or hate him – you can’t deny the man is mentally strong. He believes in himself with unshakeable confidence.

Athletes are human, and they aren’t immune to the self-doubts you and I feel. McGregor’s unwavering self-belief is admirable.

It’s something a lot of athletes could learn from. This offseason, Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis has been studying McGregor’s mentality.

“I’m still 22 and still really young but I’m trying to learn as much as I can on the court, and trying to learn as much as I can off the court as well,” Porzingis told NBA.com. “I want to improve the mental side. I’m actually amazed by Conor McGregor. I’ve been watching so many of his videos, trash talking, how mentally strong he is. I’ve been really interested in that kind of stuff.”

Though McGregor is known for his vicious trash-talking, it’s unlikely Porzingis is dying to become a motor mouth on the court. The Latvian unicorn was probably referring more so to McGregor’s self-assurance and belief in his ability to achieve his goals.

Porzingis may be watching videos like the one below.

Jay Williams shares story that perfect illustrates Kobe Bryant’s work ethic

Kobe Bryant

Jay Williams, the 35-year-old ESPN commentator, has turned into one of the best basketball analysts out there. At one time, he was viewed as an heir apparent to the greats. Williams was the No. 2 pick in the 2002 draft.

Though his playing career ended abruptly after a motorcycle accident in 2003, Williams has a tremendous redemption story. And, to be sure, he left the NBA with plenty of stories from his brief stint in the league.

Williams shared one of those stories – a message to Kobe Bryant – on his Twitter Saturday.

Williams arrived for the Bulls’ game at the Staples Center well before tip to “make sure I get 400 made shots.” Kobe was already there, putting in hard work.

“It’s not like his moves are nonchalant, he’s doing, like, game moves,” Williams said. “I sit there, I unlace my shoes, I go ‘want to see how long this goes.’ I sit there and watch, it goes another 25 minutes and he got done.”

The best part of this story, however, unfolds after the game – after Kobe had dropped 40.

“So I ask, ‘Hey Kobe, why were you at the gym for so long?’” Williams said. “He’s like ‘because I saw you come in. And I wanted you to know it doesn’t matter how hard you work, that I’m willing to work harder than you.’”

That’s the Mamba Mentality.

Cuban, Van Gundy believe Kaepernick’s activism would be embraced in NBA

Colin Kaepernick is still without a job in the NFL. Despite the league’s widespread need for serviceable quarterbacks, not one team has taken a flyer on the 29-year-old former 49er.

At this point, it’d be hard to argue that his unemployment is completely unrelated to his protests of the National Anthem earlier this year. Even Doug Baldwin now believes that’s why Kaepernick is unsigned. But would Kaepernick be treated differently if he played in another league?

The NBA is known as a progressive sport entity. How would things be going right now if Kaepernick were a basketball player and he had taken his knee before an NBA game?

The Washington Post sought to answer that question and asked a couple of the more outspoken NBA figures.

“I don’t know what his status is in the NFL, but I’m glad the NBA doesn’t have a politician litmus test for our players,” Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told the Post. “I’d like to think we encourage our players to exercise their constitutional rights. The NBA is such a global game, I think our players exposure to different political systems among their teammates may help them appreciate our country even more and encourage their participation.”

ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy praised league commissioner Adam Silver.

“Commissioner Silver embraces all kinds of different ways of thinking,” Van Gundy said. “I think he encourages activism. And because of that, I believe, some of our players in the NBA feel very empowered to speak their mind. That’s healthy that we embrace different thoughts. You can agree with Kaepernick, you can disagree with Kaepernick, but what I don’t think you should believe is that he doesn’t have the right or he should be muzzled in any way.”

Regardless of Kaepernick’s age, statistical record, and availability (at what’s probably a reasonable price), teams continue to look elsewhere for help – like at Jay Cutler.