Charles Oakley to Play in Sunday’s BIG3 Games for Killer 3s

Charles Oakley is returning to the hardwood. 

According to an announcement from the BIG3 on Friday, Oakley will make his playing debut in the three-on-three league Sunday at Staples Center for the Killer 3s. 

Oakley’s been with the Killer 3s as a player-coach all season, but he’s yet to suit up for a 2-5 team that’s in need of an energy boost with the playoffs looming next weekend. 

With Oakley suiting up, Chauncey Billups—Killer 3s’ third-leading scorerwill move to the bench and operate as the team’s coach. 

Renowned as one of the most prolific enforcers in NBA history, the 53-year-old Oakley should team up with fellow big man Reggie Evans and leading scorer Stephen Jackson to give the Killer 3s a physically imposing attack that aims to beat opponents in bruising fashion. 

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Ice Cube Says He’d Welcome Lamar Odom to BIG3

If Lamar Odom wants to make a basketball comeback, the BIG3 would be happy to bring the two-time NBA champion into the fold.         

BIG3 co-founder Ice Cube told TMZ Sports he loves Odom and would “love to see him play” basketball again:

Since his playing career ended, Odom has had problems in his personal life, including being arrested in August 2013 on DUI charges. He was also hospitalized in October 2015 after being found unconscious at a brothel in Nevada. 

Odom played 14 NBA seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks from 1999 to 2013. He won back-to-back NBA titles with the Lakers in 2009 and 2010 and was named the 2010-11 Sixth Man of the Year. 

The New York Knicks signed Odom in April 2014, but he never appeared in a game for the team and was waived three months later. Prior to signing with the Knicks, he had a two-game stint with Euroleague team Laboral Kutxa Baskonia. 

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LaVar Ball Accepts Ice Cube’s Challenge to Play in BIG3

LaVar Ball accepted Ice Cube’s four-point challenge Friday and said he will be at Staples Center on Sunday to participate in the three-on-three league’s festivities. 

“I will be there for the four-point challenge,” Ball said in a video posted to Twitter. “Me and my crew gonna show you what we do. ‘Cause I ain’t scared of you, man. You know I hit them shots with my eyes closed.” 

Ice Cube initially invited Ball to come participate in the four-point challenge in May, at which point the outspoken father of Los Angeles Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball posted a video on Instagram addressing the former N.W.A. frontman: 

Cube responded Thursday in an Instagram post of his own. 

“LaVar, this your boy Ice Cube. I ain’t forgot about that four-point challenge. Now check this out. You bring your sons, bring your AAU team. Y’all come on down to the Staples Center, to the BIG3, this Sunday. Me and you can hit the court and do that four-point shot in front of everybody if you wanna do this. Then I’ll buy the Big Baller Brands for your whole team,” he said.

Sunday’s festivities will be broadcast Monday evening on FS1 at 8 p.m. ET. 

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Bledsoe for Kyrie: How Does It Get Done, and What Does It Mean for Cavaliers?

As the NBA unveils new jersey after new jersey during the summer of 2017, imagine if Kyrie Irving and LeBron James were looking at redesigns not for the Cleveland Cavaliers—but the Cleveland Towers.

That’s not what’s driving the talented point guard away from the organization with which he’s spent his entire professional career, but the spirit of the nickname’s history is part of what allows for the possibility of swapping him and the Phoenix Suns‘ Eric Bledsoe.

Back in 1970, the founder of Cleveland’s basketball franchise, Nick Mileti, was attempting to decide between the leading candidates—the Jays, Towers, Presidents, Foresters and Cavaliers—in his name-the-team contest for the NBA’s newest organization. Obviously, the last one won out, and thank goodness.

Jerry Tomko had the foresight to suggest the current moniker, and it stood out among the 11,000 applications. As reported by Bill Lubinger of the Plain Dealer in 2010, Tomko claimed the name “represents a group of daring, fearless men, whose life’s pact was never surrender, no matter what the odds.”

For the first dozen years of its existence, Cleveland’s NBA franchise featured a piratical logo, seemingly inspired by the original Big Three of Athos, Porthos and Aramis. The current iteration still hearkens back to its predecessor with a sword impaling the empty space contained within the featured “C.” But a key part of the identity is now missing.

So long as Irving remains on the roster, hoping for a trade that frees him from his position next to James, allows him to talk to his teammates during playoff appearances and gives him a spot as a franchise’s leading star, the Cavaliers can’t truly be “a group of daring, fearless men.”

The “group” element is missing, and it won’t be regained until a certain ball-handling wizard is playing in a different location.

     

The Deal That Gets It Done

Though each of the Association’s 29 other franchises likely covets a player with Irving’s skill set, few are in position to actually make a move for the four-time All-Star. Cleveland may need to fix its burgeoning chemistry issues, but that doesn’t mean it’ll simply sell the 25-year-old floor general to the highest bidder. It needs a substantial return, ideally coming in the form of prospects and picks who can lift the future ceiling, as well as a current star to fit in alongside James and Kevin Love.

As Ric Bucher recently reported for Bleacher Report, the Suns may be able to provide exactly that:

“While Irving may take exception to that [being viewed by James as a little brother], Suns guard Eric Bledsoe apparently does not. James took part in his wedding this summer, they share James’ boyhood friend Rich Paul as an agent and Bledsoe picked up the nickname ‘Mini LeBron’ early in his career. One league source predicted that Bledsoe and a future first-round pick will be the deal that inspires Cleveland to move Irving. The Suns have their own first-round picks for the foreseeable future as well as first-round picks from the Miami Heat in 2018 (top-seven protected) and 2021.”

This isn’t the first time the desert-based organization has popped up as a possible landing spot. In late July, an anonymous league source told Cleveland.com’s Joe Vardon, “If that deal (Bledsoe, Miami first-rounder and [Josh] Jackson) for Irving was there, it’d be done by now.”

That offer was apparently never on the table, and for good reason. Phoenix is operating with leverage here since the Cavs may still feel like they have to move Irving so they don’t run the risk of creating a chemistry disaster. That’s why the trade that appeases both parties is ultimately a compromise: 

  • Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: Dragan Bender, Eric Bledsoe, 2018 first-round pick (via Miami Heat, top-seven protected)
  • Phoenix Suns Receive: Kyrie Irving

The Suns, who have consistently failed to turn their young commodities into legitimate stars throughout the persistent post-Steve Nash rebuild, finally get a celestial contributor and can replace Bender’s work by increasing Marquese Chriss‘ responsibilities.

Cleveland should be even happier.

    

The Fit in Cleveland

Bledsoe isn’t Irving.

That much needs to be made clear. Few players throughout the league can operate on offense in the same manner, and the latter’s isolation proclivities have made him both an impossible cover and a strong fit next to James. He’s tortured countless defenders with his yo-yo handles, and his shot seems to get more accurate in the situations that matter most.

But in terms of all-around ability, Bledsoe is just about his equal, however blasphemous that may sound to those who have fallen in love with Irving’s offensive acumen while his fellow floor general toils away in relative obscurity. I ranked them only three spots apart at the end of the 2016-17 campaign, as the Duke product (No. 32) barely outpaced his Kentucky counterpart (No. 35).

Irving’s scoring superiority should be indisputable, but it’s not like Bledsoe is a slouch on the point-producing side. NBA Math’s Play-Type Profiles should help make it clear that while he’s slightly inferior across the board, he’s also a talent worth celebrating:

Bledsoe isn’t the league’s best isolation threat, as the man he’d be replacing was in 2016-17. But he’s still above-average. He’s also a dominant scorer in the pick-and-roll game, as well as a capable spot-up shooter (37.9 percent on catch-and-shoot triples) and devastating cutter.

His game sounds a lot like something you’d want next to James. Not only can Bledsoe create offense for himself while offering promise of a sterling pick-and-pop game alongside the floor-spacing Love, but he’s quite adept operating without possession of the rock and often willing to defer to talented teammates.

And then there’s defense—the main reason Irving’s placement in the aforementioned rankings may have surprised you. Here’s where turning to ESPN.com’s real plus/minus (RPM) is instructive, because while the current Cleveland 1-guard sat only three slots higher than the Phoenix phloor floor general, the way they arrived at their respective ranks (Nos. 12 and 15 among point guards) is rather telling.

Bledose isn’t a true defensive stalwart. Few point guards are thanks to their physical limitations. But unlike Irving, who’s a legitimate sieve on the less glamorous end, he holds his own without exerting too much energy. He does have the physical tools to play high-quality defense; he’s just been tasked with too many offensive responsibilities to go full-throttle on both ends.

Zach Lowe touched on this for ESPN.com back in February:

“He should be the best point guard defender in the league, but he isn’t. … A Bledsoe who pounds the ball and takes possessions off on defense is of limited interest. A Bledsoe who thrives as the second- or third-best player in a motion-style offense and smothers opposing point guards—that’s the guy people want to see. Great defense and passing is how the eighth-best version of Chris Paul becomes a championship-level player on a better team.”

Doesn’t that sound an awful lot like a role he could fill in Cleveland, maximizing his two-way play by deferring to James and Love, thriving as a spot-up shooter and locking down on defense? Doesn’t that sound important for a team that has offensive players capable of assuming larger burdens but few stopping studs upon whom it can rely?

Even without their current lead guard, the Cavaliers may well be able to maintain last year’s top-three finish in offensive rating by increasing the responsibilities of their incumbent stars. But they also placed No. 22 in defensive rating by allowing a whopping 108 points per 100 possessions, and that mark won’t see substantial strides without a personnel shift.

Irving has been a great fit next to the four-time MVP thanks to his takeover ability. Bledsoe, however, is an ideal running mate for an entirely different reason. It doesn’t hurt that he would seemingly embrace playing alonside James and would likely shepherd a top-tier prospect (Bender) and a first-round pick out of the desert along with him.

       

Adam Fromal covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @fromal09.

Unless otherwise indicated, all stats from Basketball Reference, NBA.com, NBA Math or ESPN.com.

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Kevin Durant Says Comments on India Were ‘Taken out of Context,’ Apologizes

Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant has issued an apology for comments he made about India after traveling to the country in July to lead a basketball training academy. 

In an interview with the Athletic (via The Indian Express), Durant said India is “20 years behind in terms of knowledge and experience,” and it’s “just a bunch of underprivileged people there and they want to learn how to play basketball.”

Durant said his comments were “taken out of context” and issued an apology on Twitter (some NSFW language):

Durant did note in his interview with the Athletic what he saw in India with “cows in the street, monkeys running around everywhere, hundreds of people on the side of the road, a million cars and no traffic violations” was “really, really dope to me.”

The 2017 NBA Finals MVP served as a coach at the NBA Academy India and traveled to the country on July 27 to donate two basketball courts to Ramjas School, according to an official release from the NBA. He also visited The NBA Academy India in Noida during his visit. 

“I’m excited to travel to India to help promote the game of basketball and meet the prospects at The NBA Academy India,” he said in the NBA’s press release.  “I’ve wanted to visit India for a long time, and I can’t wait to experience the country’s unique culture and share my knowledge with the kids there.”

While in India, Durant was part of setting a new Guinness World Record for the world’s largest basketball lesson with 3,459 participants not including the NBA superstar. 

 

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Kristaps Porzingis Trade for Lonzo Ball Reportedly Wanted by Phil Jackson

Longtime hoops scribe Peter Vecsey told HoopsHype’s Alex Kennedy (h/t Slam) that former New York Knicks president Phil Jackson toyed with the idea of trading Kristaps Porzingis for the No. 1 pick in June’s draft in an effort to land point guard Lonzo Ball. 

“People knew, they probably wouldn’t have accepted, but Phil was angling to try to trade Porzingis for the No. 1 pick to Boston and he would have taken [Lonzo] Ball,” Vecsey said. “That’s who he was after. In the end, people might really like that.”

The conversation can be heard below starting around the 1:19:50 mark: 

Jackson, of course, didn’t shy away from making Porzingis available before he parted ways with the Knicks. 

In an interview with MSG Network prior to the draft, the 11-time champion admitted he had thought about trading the ascendant star. 

“As much as we love this guy, we have to do what’s best for the club,” he said at the time, according to ESPN.com’s Ian Begley

The Knicks and Boston Celtics reportedly engaged in trade discussions on the heels of those comments, but talks didn’t advance particularly far. At the time, Begley reported the Celtics offered the No. 3 overall pick, acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers, an unnamed player and another lottery pick they believed they could acquire on draft night. 

New York ultimately stood pat at No. 8 and selected Frank Ntilikina, while the Celtics opted for Jayson Tatum at No. 3. Ball landed with the Los Angeles Lakers at No. 2. 

The Knicks’ new regime, led by general manager Scott Perry and team president Steve Mills, have attempted to smooth things over with Porzingis since Jackson was jettisoned. 

And while Porzingis admitted his tenure in New York hasn’t been without speed bumps, he sounded committed to the franchise when he spoke to reporters at the NBA Africa Game earlier this month. 

“So far it’s been tough in New York, but my journey is only beginning and I hope to stay there my whole career, so as a city we can have some fun and win some games and do something big,” Porzingis told NBA.com’s Shaun Powell

“For me, it’s now home.”

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Carmelo Anthony Trade Rumors: Trail Blazers Reportedly Dark Horse to Land Star

As the smoke continues to build for a potential Carmelo Anthony trade, the Portland Trail Blazers remain in the mix as a dark horse to land the 10-time All-Star.

During an appearance on ESPN Radio’s The Russillo Show, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said Blazers stars CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard “have done a good job of recruiting” Anthony.

Reports that McCollum and Lillard are working to get Anthony to waive his no-trade clause for a deal to Portland have been coming out for weeks.

McCollum told Joe Freeman of the Oregonian about his efforts to recruit Anthony to the Blazers on July 19.

“I think he’s interested,” McCollum said. “Obviously, I feel like he wants to play with friends, with Banana Boat friends. I know he wants to play with [Chris Paul] and LeBron [James]. Those are very good teams, very good options. But I feel like we’re also a very good option.”

Wojnarowski reported Thursday the New York Knicks and Houston Rockets have reopened discussions about a deal for Anthony, who “remains steadfast” in only accepting a trade to Houston.

It’s not known how far along the Knicks and Rockets are in talks for Anthony, according to Wojnarowski, because Knicks general manager Scott Perry is “far more particular about the package” that would come back to New York than former team president Phil Jackson.

The Trail Blazers have made the playoffs in each of the last four seasons, but their win total has gone down every year, from 54 in 2013-14 to 41 last season.

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