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#pounditSaturday, October 1, 2022

Basketball

Orlando Magic considering unusual lineup experiment for this season?

Paolo Banchero at a press conference

Jun 24, 2022; Orlando, Florida, USA; Orlando Magic first overall draft pick Paolo Banchero speaks during a press conference at the Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The Orlando Magic could be cooking up something unusual for the coming season.

Magic center Wendell Carter Jr. revealed to reporters at training camp on Friday that the team has experimented with a frontcourt trio of him, Bol Bol, and No. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero. Carter added that head coach Jamahl Mosley envisions the trio playing positionless basketball and sees Bol as the best shooter of them.

The idea may just be crazy enough to work. Carter plays significant minutes at center but is undersized at 6-foot-10. But he is light enough on his feet to defend the perimeter, which is a skillset that would pair nicely with that of Bol. Standing 7-foot-2, Bol is a bit less nimble outside of the paint but hits his three-pointers at 37.8 percent career rate.

The Cleveland Cavaliers already found success last season with their Lauri Markkanen-Evan Mobley-Jarrett Allen frontline. If Orlando can fit the 19-year-old Banchero into the puzzle as well, they could create something similar. That should not be too hard either considering what we heard recently about Banchero’s insane measurements.

Luka Doncic having hard time pronouncing name of 1 new teammate

Luka Doncic smiles

May 15, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) reacts against the Phoenix Suns in game seven of the second round for the 2022 NBA playoffs at Footprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Luka Doncic does not have very many weaknesses, but pronunication appears to be one of them.

Video went viral on Friday of the Dallas Mavericks star Doncic struggling mightily to pronounce the name of new teammate JaVale McGee. Doncic was referring to McGee as “Joel” during training camp before being corrected by a team staffer. Check out the funny video.

Mavs reporter Callie Caplan confirmed that Doncic was calling the veteran center McGee “Joel” throughout practice.

For McGee, a 14-year NBA veteran and three-time champion, that has to be adding insult to injury that Doncic does not even know his name. You might recall that McGee was on the Phoenix Suns team that Doncic stuffed into a suitcase last postseason.

Of course, the two players are Mavs teammates now, so they will probably just laugh Doncic’s goof right off. But perhaps Doncic can get some advice from this NBA figure who clearly knows how to pronounce McGee’s name.

Darvin Ham dropping big hint about Lakers’ starting lineup this season?

Darvin Ham in a suit

Apr. 7, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach Darvin Ham against the Phoenix Suns at the US Airways Center. The Suns defeated the Lakers 125-105. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

New Los Angeles Lakers coach Darvin Ham may be tipping his hand early.

Ham told reporters on Friday that there has been one particular starting lineup that he has used in training camp the most often thus far — Russell Westbrook, Kendrick Nunn, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Damian Jones. Ham did add however that he has not yet decided on a five-man group, per Jovan Buha of The Athletic.

Most notably, that early training camp lineup features Westbrook (around whom there has been some doubt as to if he will start again this season) and Nunn, who missed all of 2021-22 with a bone bruise in his knee. Though the Lakers would likely be far better defensively with Patrick Beverley starting instead of Nunn, Ham did speak highly of Nunn’s defensive work in camp.

The Lakers have plenty of options at their disposal as that training-camp five does not even feature new additions like Dennis Schroder (whom the team recently reunited with), Lonnie Walker IV, and Troy Brown Jr. There are even two additional summer standouts who did not make that cut either.

Report: Ime Udoka used ‘crude language’ with Celtics worker

Ime Udoka looking on

Dec 25, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka looks on during the second quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at Fiserv Forum. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

A new report published on Friday shared information about the big rule Ime Udoka violated that led to his suspension from the Boston Celtics.

Last week, we learned that Udoka was having an “improper intimate but consensual relationship” with a female staff member of the Celtics. The team suspended Udoka for the entire 2022-2023 season and named Joe Mazzulla as their interim head coach.

The Celtics hired an independent law firm to investigate the matter. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the firm’s investigation found that Udoka “used crude language in his dialogue with a female subordinate prior to the start of an improper workplace relationship with the woman.”

The use of crude language with the woman prior to their relationship apparently was a significant factor in the length of his suspension.

The power dynamic for the improper relationship was the big rule violation cited by the law firm in their report, which apparently was completed last week.

Udoka, 45, is set to receive a pay cut while he is suspended. He reportedly is unlikely to get his job as head coach of the Celtics back when his suspension ends.

A former NBA player, Udoka led the Celtics to the NBA Finals last season in his first year on the job.

Ex-Blazers coach Terry Stotts could land on staff of top contender?

Terry Stotts coaching

Jan 20, 2020; Portland, Oregon, USA; Portland Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts watches from the sideline during the first half at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Terry Stotts took a gap year in 2021-22, but it may be time for him to return.

Veteran NBA reporter Marc Stein said this week in a post to Substack that the Boston Celtics have shown interest in the former Portland Trail Blazers coach Stotts to be the top assistant under new interim coach Joe Mazzulla. Stein does note though that the Celtics are ultimately “pessimistic” about their chances of landing Stotts.

Additionally, Stein reiterates the Celtics’ interest in another former NBA coach that they had been previously linked to.

Boston continues to search for a new assistant after Mazzulla was abruptly elevated to interim coach amid the scandal and subsequent suspension for the entire 2022-23 season of head coach Ime Udoka. At 34, Mazzulla is set to be one of the NBA’s youngest coaches and could use a veteran coach’s voice to guide him.

Stotts, meanwhile, sat out last season after spending the previous nine as head coach of Portland (leading them to two division titles and a conference finals berth in 2019). He did interview for a prominent NBA head coaching job this offseason but did not get it. With bigger-name candidates like Quin Snyder and Frank Vogel as well as an ascendant new generation of younger assistant coaches to contend with, perhaps it makes the most sense for the 64-year-old Stotts to take a job as a top assistant at this point of his career.

Kevin Durant criticizes media for trade demand questions

Kevin Durant looks up

Apr 23, 2022; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant (7) looks up at the scoreboard in the third quarter against the Boston Celtics at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Durant continues to face questions about his offseason trade drama, and the Brooklyn Nets forward clearly is not enjoying addressing it.

Durant was asked Friday about inaccuracies in reporting around his offseason trade demand, and he tried to cut off the questioning then and there. Durant conceded that it was an “interesting story,” but that he did not miss any games or practices, and that it was time to “move on past that.”

Durant cannot really have it both ways here. After all, there was some belief around the league that one of his strategies to try and force a trade was to cause as much drama as possible. Part of that would have certainly involved using the media to draw attention to certain things. It’s tough for him to try and quiet this down now after he arguably spent most of the offseason trying to fuel it.

Durant blinked first in his standoff with the Nets and withdrew his trade request. Eventually, everyone will move on to a certain degree, but without clear answers from Durant, the chatter will never go away completely.

Rachel Nichols lands new sports media gig

Rachel Nichols holding a microphone

Mar 19, 2015; Portland, OR, USA; truTV broadcaster Rachel Nichols (center) interviews Arizona Wildcats head coach Sean Miller (left) against the Texas Southern Tigers during the first half in the second round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Rachel Nichols has laid low for most of 2022, but now she is officially back.

Showtime Basketball announced on Friday their hiring of the former ESPN host Nichols. The network said in a release that Nichols will serve as both a host and a producer for them, contributing to multiple programs and projects across multiple platforms (per Awful Announcing).

SI’s Chris Mannix further reports that the plan is for Nichols to eventually host a monthly basketball program for Showtime Basketball.

Showtime’s basketball wing, best known for the popular podcast “All The Smoke” hosted by former NBA players Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson, is rapidly growing. Retired Basketball Hall of Famers like Kevin Garnett, Allen Iverson, and Paul Pierce have also done projects with the network.

As for Nichols, this is the first that we have heard from her since she officially parted ways with ESPN in January. Though she had spent over a decade with ESPN and become one of their most prominent personalities, the network removed her from their programming following controversial leaked comments Nichols made about former colleague Maria Taylor.

After a roughly nine-month absence though, Nichols has returned and looks poised for a major role with Showtime Basketball.

Blake Griffin signs with Eastern Conference contender

Blake Griffin warms up before a game

Apr 25, 2022; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Brooklyn Nets forward Blake Griffin (2) warms up before game four of the first round of the 2022 NBA playoffs against the Boston Celtics at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Celtics have been exploring ways to bolster their frontcourt depth in the wake of injuries to Robert Williams and Danilo Gallinari, and they are hoping a six-time NBA All-Star can help address that need.

Blake Griffin has agreed to a one-year contract with the Celtics, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports. The deal is fully guaranteed and worth the veteran minimum.

Griffin, 33, was most recently with the Brooklyn Nets. Nowhere near the player he was in his prime, the former first overall pick averaged 6.4 points and 4.1 rebounds per game while appearing in 56 contests. He played 17.1 minutes per game.

Gallinari, whom the Celtics signed this offseason, tore his ACL last month while playing for Italy in the FIBA World Cup qualifying. He will miss the entire 2022-23 season. Williams underwent knee surgery last week and is expected to miss 8-12 weeks.

Though he had the worst statistical season of his career in Brooklyn last year, Griffin’s lack of production may have had something to do with reported issues between him and Nets head coach Steve Nash. The Celtics are hoping he still has more to offer than what he showed last season.

Shaq had great comments on Ime Udoka

Shaq looking on

Mar 10, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; NBA former player Shaquille O’Neal watches a game between the Atlanta Hawks and Toronto Raptors in the third quarter at Philips Arena. The Hawks won 105-99. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Shaquille O’Neal offered some great comments on the Ime Udoka situation.

Shaq on his “The Big Podcast with Shaq” discussed two situations where famous people were publicly caught cheating on their significant other. The Basketball Hall of Fame center discussed the situations for Udoka and Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine.

Shaq termed himself a “serial cheater,” and said he wouldn’t criticize someone else for doing what he’s been guilty of in the past.

“I was a serial cheater. It would be crazy and blasphemous to sit up here and do that … I’m never the guy that’s going to get up here because of my platform and fake it. I did it. I was the best at it and I’m not proud of it. I lost my family doing it. I lost valuable, important years of my children from doing it,” O’Neal admitted.

O’Neal then answered whether all the extramarital affairs were worth it. He gave a definitive answer.

“No, it is not worth it. Let me tell you why. The happiest days of my life were coming home and hearing six different people say ‘daddy.’ Happiest days of my life. Forget the money. Forget the cars. Even forget the championships. Especially when they were little … those were the best days of my life. When I lost those … I was all the way down, especially when I was in my house in Orlando which is 70,000 square feet … in there by myself. When I lost that by being stupid, they killed me. No, it’s not worth it. I wish these two fellows the best … I hope they do not lose their families over what was done.”

It’s hard not to feel badly for O’Neal as he makes his admission. He knows he screwed up and he is hoping others don’t make the same mistake. And unlike other hypocrites with big platforms, he’s not trying to pretend like he’s perfect.

O’Neal is also serving as a good cautionary tale to others. There is no amount of hookups or flings that are worth costing someone their family. Family is priceless and irreplaceable.

H/T OutKick

1 top NBA team entering mix for Jae Crowder?

Jae Crowder covering his mouth

Feb 22, 2020; Miami, Florida, USA; Miami Heat forward Jae Crowder (99) works out before a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Opportunity could be awaiting Jae Crowder by his old stomping grounds.

ESPN’s Zach Lowe said during a recent episode of his self-titled podcast that the Milwaukee Bucks may possibly take a look at trading for the disgruntled Phoenix Suns forward Crowder.

“The Milwaukee Bucks have kind of been searching for P.J. Tucker 2.0 since they let P.J. Tucker go,” said Lowe, per SI. “[Crowder] is the closest thing. The Bucks were sneakily kind of sniffing around Jerami Grant in Detroit before Portland swooped in. I think they kind of like the idea of the switchable, switchable, switchable guys.”

Crowder, who is in the final year of his contract and on the outs in Phoenix, attended college at Marquette University (located in Milwaukee). Grayson Allen is currently projected to start for the Bucks on the wing. But bringing in Crowder would allow them to jumbo-size with Crowder, Khris Middleton, and Giannis Antetokounmpo (without sacrificing any versatility either).

Granted, the Bucks would have to make a competitive offer to the Suns for the 32-year-old Crowder. There are several other top teams who have also been mentioned as possible Crowder suitors.