This morning’s headlines:
Durant: Irving better ‘skill for skill’ than Iverson — Former MVP and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer Allen Iverson was perhaps the best “little man” to ever play in the NBA. Iverson was listed as 6 feet tall during his playing days and perhaps has no parallel, but to newly minted Finals MVP, Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving is perhaps ahead of Iverson in the pure skills department. ESPN.com has more:
Kevin Durant has no problem displaying his pride in being from the Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia area, but he said he thinks Kyrie Irving is greater than one DMV legend and NBA Hall of Famer.
“Kyrie is better than [Allen Iverson] to me,” Durant said of the Cleveland Cavaliers point guard while appearing on “The Bill Simmons Podcast.”
“I’m going from like skill for skill. His handle is better,” Durant continued in praising Irving. “We might have to cut that out — I don’t want no problems with A.I. Y’all might have to cut that one. I don’t want that to get out. I’m just saying I feel like Kyrie got more skill.”
“I was telling some of my friends after Game 2, I was like, Kyrie, he just makes you happy when you watch him play,” Durant said on the podcast. “You just smile when you watch him play, because for somebody to be that skilled, you know he had to work tirelessly at it. The stuff he has in his package is next-level stuff that you can try to teach your kids to do it, but you’ll never be able to do it.”
At 6-foot-2, Irving is listed as being two inches taller than Iverson. What Irving can do to defenders despite his slighter frame continues to impress Durant.
“I’ve never seen nobody block [Irving’s] layup, and he’s 6-2. I’ve never seen one person pin his layup on the glass, not one. Because the spin he got on it and he don’t got to look at it,” Durant said. “I’ve got so much respect for him because I know how much work he has to put in to be that good.”
Report: Ball to have second workout with Lakers on Friday — With less than a week to go until the NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Lakers are preparing their player wish list for the June 22 event. Whom they select with the No. 2 overall pick seems unknown and the Lakers plan to bring in top prospect Lonzo Ball for one last (lengthy) look tomorrow. Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times has more:
For his first workout with the Lakers, Lonzo Ball came to the team’s practice facility in El Segundo. The second one won’t be there. Ball’s second workout has been scheduled for Friday at an undisclosed location, said a source who was not authorized to speak publicly.
The Lakers brass is planning to spend several hours with Ball on Friday.
The Lakers have also conducted two workouts with Kansas forward Josh Jackson — one in Sacramento, where he has been training, and one at the Lakers’ facility on Tuesday.
Jackson and Ball have emerged as the two most likely candidates for the Lakers’ second overall pick.
Team officials will use the information they gather for next Thursday’s draft. The Lakers have the second overall pick in the draft and the 28th pick. For the 28th pick, they’ve been conducting group workouts for the last several weeks.
Celtics’ Stevens talks with Fultz’s high school counselor — Whether a team has the No. 1 pick in the Draft or just a few second rounders, no stone is left unturned in getting to know a prospect on and off the court. That adage is true in the case of the Boston Celtics (who have the No. 1 overall pick in 2017) and Washington star Markelle Fultz. Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe has more on the extra step coach Brad Stevens took to get to know Fultz better:
But before making a substantial investment in a prospect, teams will often comb through information that is unrelated to basketball, too.
And that is why Joan Phalen, the assistant director of academic support at Fultz’s alma mater, DeMatha Catholic High School, recently received a surprising phone call from the head coach of the Boston Celtics.
“I had a wonderful conversation with Brad Stevens,” said Phalen, who worked with Fultz almost daily during his time at the private high school in Hyattsville, Md. “He was so interested in how Markelle learns, and I just thought that was an amazing concept for a coach to be interested in and concerned about. We had a great conversation.”
Phalen said the Phoenix Suns were the only other NBA team to reach out to her about Fultz.
“[Stevens] was interested in how [Fultz] learns,” Phalen said. “How he handles disappointment when he confronts weakness in some part of his development, specifically in academics. We talked about his personality.”
Phalen said she told Stevens that Fultz, who graduated from DeMatha in 2016, displayed an unusual dedication to learning. Fultz would often ask her to meet with him at 6 a.m. on school days — nearly two hours before class started — and also on weekends.
“It is unbelievably rare,” Phalen said. “Often people would say to me, ‘Are you kidding me?’ And I’d say, ‘Listen, when a student shows that much interest in getting better and becoming an academic achiever, if I ever say no to that, that’s ridiculous.’ ”
Phalen said she and Stevens made a connection based on the work of Carol Dweck, a psychologist and author who focuses on the “growth mind-set,” or the idea that the brain’s capacity to learn and solve problems can continue to grow.
“We base a lot of what we do in academic support at DeMatha off of her,” Phalen said.
Phalen appreciated Stevens’s phone call because it showed a true interest in Fultz beyond basketball, and she also appreciated it because she is a Celtics fan.
She grew up in Norwood, and her entire family still lives in the Boston area, including her five siblings and her 92-year-old mother, Veronica, who is perhaps the biggest Celtics supporter of all of them.
Phalen said Fultz and the other athletes at DeMatha used to joke with her about cheering for Boston. But the possibility that one of the school’s brightest stars might become a Celtic has shifted the narrative.
“It’s so funny now, because it’s gone completely 180 degrees like, ‘Ms. Phalen, the Celtics,’ ” she said. “And I laugh and say, ‘Yeah, I know.’ ”
“It was so nice,” she said. “He just seemed like a wonderful mentor and teacher.”
Report: Nuggets promote Karnisovas to GM — The Denver Nuggets were one of the surprise success stories of 2016-17, coming within a win of making the playoffs. As they continue to build toward playoff contention and beyond, securing their front office situation was a top priority this summer. The Nuggets have checked that off their to-do list by promoting Arturas Karnisovas to GM, writes Nick Kosminder of The Denver Post:
In an aggressive move to secure the future of the Nuggets front office, owner Josh Kroenke has promoted assistant general manager Arturas Karnisovas to general manager, according to a league source.
Tim Connelly will move from general manager to a new role as Denver’s president of basketball operations. The move keeps Karnisovas, who was a finalist for the GM job in Milwaukee, in Denver for the foreseeable future and provides a clear signal that Kroenke is encouraged by the trajectory of the franchise.
Karnisovas joined the Nuggets front office alongside Connelly in 2013, and the pair has worked together to draft and build a young group of players that includes Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Gary Harris and Juancho Hernangomez. Before becoming a finalist for the Milwaukee job this month, Karnisovas became a finalist last summer in Brooklyn’s search for a general manager.
Clearly, Karnisovas, whose strong ties to European basketball scene helped the Nuggets evaluate and draft Jokic and other promising talents over the past four years, was viewed as an executive ready for a general manager’s seat. Now he has the title in Denver with a Nuggets team intent on moving forward with a roster full of players under the age of 23.
Prior to joining the Nuggets, Karnisovas spent five years with the Houston Rockets, the last as the team’s director of scouting.
* * *
Report: Inglewood, Clippers working on deal for new arena — The LA Clippers have served as co-tenants with the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center since it opened in 1999. Going forward, though, it seems the Clippers want a home of their own and are in talks with the city of Inglewood about a piece of land on which they could build a new arena. Arash Markazi of ESPN.com has more:
The Los Angeles Clippers want a new arena of their own and have focused in on Inglewood, California, as their future home.
The Inglewood City Council is scheduled to vote Thursday on an exclusive negotiating agreement with the Clippers to build a state-of-the-art arena on city-owned land. The 18,000- to 20,000-seat arena would be fully financed by Clippers owner Steve Ballmer, sources said. Ballmer, who is worth an estimated $31.8 billion, bought the Clippers for $2 billion in 2014.
The arena would sit on 22 acres just south of where a $2.6 billion football stadium is being built to house the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers. The football stadium, which is set to open in 2020, is the centerpiece of a 298-acre sports and entertainment district being built by Rams owner and real estate developer Stan Kroenke.
While Kroenke and the Rams aren’t directly involved in the Clippers’ plans, the addition of 41 regular-season NBA games as well as other events the arena would attract every year would come as welcome news to Kroenke, as he plans to open restaurants, stores and a hotel on his site.
The proposed agreement with the Inglewood City Council, which is expected to be approved Thursday, would give the Clippers a three-year window to complete an environmental review and other inspections before moving forward with the project. The Clippers aren’t expected to break ground on a new arena anytime soon. The team’s lease to play at Staples Center runs through June 2024.
* * *
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Kyrie Irving gave his dad a pretty awesome Father’s Day gift … Jamie Foxx did a little LeBron James impersonation the “Jimmy Kimmel Show” last night … Draymond Green reveals his secrets to being a great trash talker …