SH Blog: The tale of Antetokounmpo, Noah wants Melo to join Bulls

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Milwaukee BucksGiannis Antetokounmpo has truly come a long way to be where he is right now: a wide-eyed, just-turned 19-year-old kid who is learning the ropes of being an NBA player in his first season.

He came from a poor background – so poor that he actually shared a pair of sneakers with his brother whenever he had to play basketball. He is a fun character and has shown flashes of brilliance so far, so when you read about the road taken to be the person he is today, it makes him that much more likable. Amos Barshad of Grantland has a very, very detailed story on how he picked up on the game of basketball and what made him nearly give it up:

It starts in the early 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when Greece was transformed by a wave of immigrants — including Giannis’s parents, who left their native Nigeria and had four sons in their adopted country. Velliniatis had played pro ball in Germany before he began pinging around Europe as a “have clipboard, will travel” type of coach. He saw Greece’s changing demographics as a way to help others (and perhaps boost his own career). He began scouring Athens’s new immigrant communities, seeking transformative basketball talent. And for a decade, he failed.“My personal life was going to nothing, my basketball career was not successful, and I said to myself, ‘I will not have big goals in life anymore,’” he tells me over the phone from Greece. He hadn’t played in the NBA; he hadn’t become a big-time coach. Then, a week after he had decided to give up: “I see Giannis.”It wasn’t one of his regular scouting trips; he was just walking through the neighborhood of Sepolia to visit a friend. This is not happening to me! This is not possible!, he said he thought when he spotted the 13-year-old Giannis. “You are chasing for 10 years immigrant kids to play basketball for a mediocre level, and suddenly you have in front of you Julius Erving! Magic Johnson! Michael Jordan!” Never mind that Giannis wasn’t actually playing basketball when Velliniatis first saw him. He was just running around with his brothers. But Velliniatis knew.

“It was mostly like a blackmail,” Velliniatis says, explaining how he convinced Giannis to hoop. “I told him, if I find work for your parents” — their work papers had long expired — “will you play basketball for me?” Then he took Giannis and his brothers to Filathlitikos, a smaller club where he hoped they would get more personal attention. He talked the club into providing a 500-euro monthly stipend — without Giannis ever touching a ball.

For the first few years, it was tenuous. “Many times the kid stopped,” Velliniatis says. “He was going and working, selling little things in marketplaces. I had to go back to the family and drag Giannis back to basketball.” The family had no money; at times, Giannis could go two or three days without eating. The fear of hunger was always a concern, Velliniatis says. “You could see it in the hardness of the kid.” Meanwhile, as Antetokounmpo recalls, “I get taller and taller and taller.”

It’s a long article (fine Grantland articles usually are), but it’s an intriguing story worth reading.

JOAKIM NOAH TELLS MELO TO JOIN CHICAGO:

JoakimNoahSH1Can you imagine Carmelo Anthony playing alongside the kind of gritty defense the Chicago Bulls have? Joakim Noah can, and according to Chris Broussard of ESPN, the two All Stars had a meaningful conversation about teaming up next season in Chicago during All-Star weekend last month:

All-Star Convo btwn @carmeloanthony & @JoakimNoah began as discussion on what it’s like to play for Tom Thibodeau. With rumors about Bulls going 4 Melo as well as Thibs coaching NYK, Melo wanted to know about Thibs. From there, convo turned to Noah telling Melo he should join Bulls if he wants to win ring & secure winning legacy. Melo responded to Noah that he admires how hard Bulls play & how hungry they are. Also told him his son’s favorite player is D-Rose. I’m told D-Rose would love for Melo to join Bulls as well. If Bulls ask Rose to help recruit, he will. Sources add tho that it’ll be hard for Melo to turn down the $ and leave NYK.

Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Anthony, Taj Gibson and Noah. That sounds scary for the rest of the league and ideal for Anthony if all he wants to do is win. The upcoming summer should be a very intriguing one.

CLIP OF THE DAY: 

Paul George is widely recognized as a great two-way player around the league, but sometimes, even the simplest move can throw off a great defender. Case in point:

OTHER NEWS FROM AROUND THE LEAGUE:

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Five Things To Watch: Houston Rockets

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James Harden

Times flies. And things change. The Houston Rockets are Exhibit A.

One year ago, the Houston Rockets headed into training camp seemingly empty-handed after a summer spent chasing Dwight Howard via a trade with Orlando.

Gone were Luis Scola, Goran Dragic, Kyle Lowry, Samuel Dalembert, Courtney Lee and countless others, and in were the unproven Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik. It was a seemingly disappointing offseason, but just before the season was set to start, GM Daryl Morey changed all of that, trading Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and multiple draft picks for Oklahoma City sixth man James Harden.

Now, Harden has transformed into one of the league’s premier scorers, and the young cast around him has attracted Howard, the mercurial superstar who spurned the Rockets a year earlier.

There is finally a lot of excitement in the air, and it’s perfectly justified. After losing Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady to injury just a few years ago, Morey has quickly rebuilt the Rockets into a contender.

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Bernucca: Will Work For Food: The NBA’s All-Six-Figure Teams

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100000billThere are a scant few career tracks where an annual salary of at least $1 million does not mean you have reached the pinnacle of your profession.

Only the best doctors and lawyers pull down more than a million a year. Before bonuses, most of the world’s top bankers draw salaries in the low seven figures. Some veteran TV news anchors have climbed above $10 million annually, but most operate in the seven-figure statosphere. And no one in politics comes close to $1 million a year until they leave public office and become a lobbyist, which can pay seven figures.

But if you are an NBA player, it’s almost impossible not to make a million dollars a year.

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Evening News: Bulls to start Butler; Thunder favorites for Mike Miller; Rockets add shooters

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Hello and welcome to the Evening News.

As free agency continues, we’ll keep you updated every night.

What’s happening today?

StatBox Free Agency Breakdown: Winners & Losers July 11 Update

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Most of the star players in free agency are now off the board, but there are still plenty of impact players to discuss in this updated version of the Free Agency Breakdown with unique analytic angles. We here at Sheridan Hoops will break everything down for you into bite sized Winners & Losers style pieces.

HowardThe Houston Rockets, GM Daryl Morey and Dwight Howard were WINNERS after agreeing to a four-year deal worth $88 million to finally, mercifully, ending the Dwight Howard sweepstakes. Morey set out a year ago to acquire two stars to legitimately compete in this SuperTeam Era that currently rules the NBA and got them in Howard and Harden.

Houston also signed Francisco Garcia to a team-friendly contract worth $1.3 million over two years. Garcia could probably replace Carlos Delfino in a spacer-type role for Houston after shooting 37.4 percent from three last season. Houston then picked up another spacer in Reggie Williams, who needs to greatly improve from his 30.6 shooting percentage from three last season with Charlotte.

Of course, the Howard deal makes the Los Angeles Lakers the big losers of the offseason for getting nothing out of Howard and looking ridiculous in doing so. They will now try to delude themselves into thinking players like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony will come next offseason. Good. Freaking. Luck.

But if there is any consolation for Laker fans, I do like their signing of Chris Kaman a lot. Despite a sharp decrease in minutes with the Mavericks last season, from 29.2 to 20.7 per game, Kaman shot 50.7 percent from the field (his best percentage in a season in which he played over 40 games since the 2005-2006 season) and averaged 10.5 points with 5.6 rebounds. His Win Shares per 48 minutes was his best mark since the 2007-2008 campaign. Expect better production in LA with a slightly increased workload. And Jordan Farmar won’t be a bad player either for the veteran’s minimum.

Josh SmithDwight Howard’s good friend, Josh Smith, ended up with Detroit for four-years and $56 million and Al Jefferson cashed in for three years and $41 million with Charlotte. This brings us a really interesting philosophical question: Can these players be the highest paid, and best, players for playoff teams? The answer is likely no. But does that mean the teams shouldn’t try?

Despite a subpar year by his standards Smith is still a really good player, so the jury is still out on this signing for the Pistons. Smith will make a really good frontcourt with Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, but do the Pistons have the backcourt to compete? Not right now, even with the Chauncey Billups signing (two years, $5 million).

LAC_Billups_ChaunceyBillups will add veteran leadership and a fan favorite to the Detroit roster, but he’s only played 42 total games over the last two seasons. But when he’s played he’s been good, shooting 36.7 percent from three last season with a Win Share/48 number that’s well above average. It’s just hard to envision Billups being healthy all season. Billups will join Will Bynum, who Detroit re-signed to an affordable two-year deal worth $5.75 million. Bynum shot a career best 46.9 percent from the field and averaged nearly 10 points per game for the Pistons in 2012-2013.

It’ll also be interesting to see how the team uses reigning Italian League MVP Gigi Datome, who inked a two-year deal worth $3.5 million. Our resident Euro expert A.J. Mitnick told me that he’ll need to adjust to the NBA game, but the potential is there for Datome to become a nice NBA player. I’ll take his word for it…

On the Charlotte side of things, there’s no doubt that Jefferson is a really, really good player. Anyone who shoots nearly 50 percent from the field and averages nearly 18 points and over nine boards per game is really good. His defense will certainly help an inept Bobcats team in that department, but his offensive rating of 109 last season leaves something to be desired.

Can Jefferson, Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo coexist in the frontcourt? Can Jefferson be the best player on a playoff team? Jefferson has made the playoffs just twice in his nine-season career, losing in the first round on both occasions. Golden State signed David Lee to an enormous contract, and Golden State ended up okay by hitting it big by drafting Stephen Curry, Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson. Charlotte will have to do that in order to not look foolish with this Jefferson signing, so, again, the jury is still out.