New York Knicks teammates Kristaps Porzingis and Mindaugas Kuzminskas will be lining up on opposite sides at EuroBasket this summer, and Porzingis, for one, is relishing the moment.
Ahead of a meeting Saturday between Porzingis’ Latvia and Kuzminskas’ Lithuania in a pre-tournament prep game, KP posted this funny trash talk for King Kuz on his Instagram Story, per Tommy Beer of Basketball Insiders.
Latvia (and KP) are playing Lithuania (and Kuz) tonight in a prep game for the Eurobasket tournament.
Porzingis letting Kuz know he's ready pic.twitter.com/qRTfV77XOF
— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) August 19, 2017
Of course, Porzingis has been known to fancy a friendly jab or two every now and then. But then again, maybe this is all part of the mental training regimen he has apparently been undergoing this offseason.
Los Angeles Lakers president Jeanie Buss believes in the Lonzo Ball hype just as much as the rest of us do.
In an appearance Thursday on AM 570 LA’s “The Petros and Money Show,” Buss compared Ball to all-time Laker greats Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson.
“No other draft pick, except maybe Kobe Bryant, has had this kind of excitement about him,” she said of Ball, per Corey Hansford of Lakers Nation.
“There’s something special about Lonzo,” she continued. “I think because he just wants to play basketball, he’s selfless. He has a certain charisma and I think the fact that his teammates at UCLA loved playing with him and all the nice things that they have to say about him, I think he’s going to bring an element that’s very similar to Magic Johnson.”
It’s obviously a lofty comparison to say the least, as Bryant and Johnson are arguably the two greatest Lakers ever. But even Johnson himself appears to be buying into the hype, so Ball will have much to deliver on in his rookie season.
Giannis Antetokounmpo won’t be playing for his native Greece at EuroBasket this summer, and the Greek Basketball Federation smells something fishy.
Antetokounmpo announced on Saturday that he will not be suiting up for the tournament due to a knee injury. Shortly afterwards, the federation released a statement of their own, accusing the Milwaukee Bucks, Antetokounmpo’s NBA team, of orchestrating “an organized and well-prepared plan” to hold him out of the competition, per Eric Nehm of ESPN.
The Greek Basketball Federation has released a strongly worded statement regarding Antetokounmpo. Here is the English translation: pic.twitter.com/TPhQGFcNrz
— Eric Nehm (@eric_nehm) August 19, 2017
It’s a fairly serious and largely unprecedented accusation for an international basketball body to levy against a professional team. For what it’s worth, the 22-year-old Antetokounmpo is fairly durable, appearing in 80 games for the Bucks last season, his third straight campaign of suiting up for 80 or more. But in any case, it’s a situation that’s worth keeping a close eye on, especially since Greece and the NBA have historically enjoyed strong relations.
- Giannis Antetokounmpo
James Harden’s intervention was vital in bringing Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets.
Harden was more than happy to bring Paul in to join him in the Rockets backcourt — in fact, he reached out, sensing that the point guard was not entirely happy with his situation in Los Angeles.
“I just knew that in the summertime obviously (Paul) was a free agent, and I wanted to see where his head was,” Harden said, via Sam Amick of USA Today. “He didn’t seem happy, so after that we just took it from there.
“Obviously Golden State has been in the Finals and won two out of three, so that’s what everybody is trying to build up against. But we’re right there. We’re right there. Obviously, we have a lot of work to do, but it definitely puts us in a better chance.”
It’s a good start that there was clear motivation on both sides to get Harden and Paul together, and there may yet be more help on the way. Paul’s unhappiness was apparently pretty blatant. Houston may solve that.
Though there was no single Kevin-Durant-to-Golden-State-sized splash in the NBA this offseason, teams made move after move to jockey with the Warriors in an attempt to interrupt their reign of terror.
The Rockets took a leap of faith and traded the farm for an aging Chris Paul. The Celtics used their cap space to reunite Gordon Hayward with Brad Stevens, then got rid of an asset in Avery Bradley to balance their checkbook. The Timberwolves suddenly became a legitimate Western Conference contender by ripping off the Bulls.
There were so many moves, in fact — so many trades and so many signings — that, now that the league’s transaction churn and burn has finally calmed, it’s hard to believe all that actually happened. To sum it up:
We’re going to see a lot of familiar faces in new jerseys come this fall (the preseason begins Sept. 30). But which of those players will make the biggest impact, and which teams will look the most improved? Which 2017-18 NBA squad will make the biggest leap?
It’s too early to know, of course, but below is my take on the 10 NBA teams that improved the most this offseason.
10. Denver Nuggets
Michael Beasley has heard every last one of your bust jokes and your marijuana punchlines over the years, and he is one hundred percent over it.
In an interview with Marc Berman of the New York Post on Friday, the former No. 2 overall pick said he is sick of not getting the respect he feels he deserves.
“Look at my nine-year career, I’ve always been close to a point a minute,” he said. “I’ve always been a walking bucket. Nobody can stop me, hasn’t stopped me my last nine years. Every time I’ve touched the ball, the defender’s scared … I’m just tired of not getting the acknowledgement of being who I am.
“I’ve always been the quiet, not-stand-up-for-myself-kind-of-guy,” continued Beasley. “Not being disrespectful. But I want my respect. For the last nine years, I’ve been a walking bucket, man. Anytime you want a point, I’ll give you a point, no matter what the circumstances, who the player is defending me.”
The 28-year-old Beasley, who turned down more money to sign with the Knicks this summer, has always been able to, as he says, get dem buckets. But his off-court incidents, various legal troubles, and overall failure to live up to his draft position have come to define Beasley in the eyes of many. Now it’ll be on him to prove in The Big Apple why he deserves some respeck on his name.
- Michael Beasley
Big Baller Brand apparently has at least one notable celebrity backer.
In an appearance Friday on TIDAL’s “The Rap Radar Podcast,” rap mogul Jay-Z said he bought three pairs of Big Baller Brand shoes. Jay-Z gave credit to and expressed his support for LaVar Ball, as transcribed by JMKTV.
"He may go about things wrong, he may have a big mouth….but I bought three pairs…..That man has a vision of his own."
— Jessie (@JMKTV) August 18, 2017
"Why wouldn't I support him? He feels like he can move culture and his son got a big enough name and a big enough brand that they can do it"
— Jessie (@JMKTV) August 18, 2017
For his part, Hov obviously knows a thing or two about sports business and starting your own company from the ground up. While LaVar, son Lonzo, and the Big Baller Brand are often the butt of jokes, they are at least embarking on an admirable venture, and Jay-Z, for one, respects it.