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Cats in the NBA

Former Kentucky Players in the NBA

Karl-Anthony Towns on cover of new video game

Karl-Anthony Towns on cover of new video game

When the new NBA2K: Playgrounds 2 video game is released next month, Kentucky fans will see a familiar face on the game’s cover art.

It was announced Tuesday that Karl-Anthony Towns is among the four cover athletes, alongside Kevin Garnett, Julius Erving and Jayson Tatum. Towns is the most prominent of the four in the artwork:

NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 is an arcade-style, two-on-two basketball game by the popular NBA 2K franchise. It will be released October 16 on the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and Windows PC.

See the latest trailer below:


In part 2, we take a deeper look at De'Aaron Fox's defense during his rookie season. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

How De’Aaron Fox Can Improve in Year Two: Part 2

In part 2, we take a deeper look at De’Aaron Fox’s defense during his rookie season. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

This is part 2 of a two-part series. Part 1, which focuses on De’Aaron Fox’s offense, can be found here

De’Aaron Fox has shown us why he can be a lead guard on a productive offense, but his defense has been suspect since his very first NBA game.

In this piece, I’ll discuss what I saw from Fox on the defensive end during his rookie season and how he can improve in that area going forward. He has the tools to be a capable defender, here’s how he can put them into proper action.

Fox’s defense, for all intents and purposes, is a major work-in-progress. While he shows a clear ability to run an offense and create shots for not only himself but also his teammates, his defense does not provide nearly as many optimistic qualities.

To start, Fox is small for a guard, even at six-foot-three. He clocks in at 175 pounds, according to NBA.com, which is well below the average weight for a point guard (For comparison, NBA.com has Tyler Ulis weighing in at 160 pounds and standing at five-foot-11).

Fox is a bit scrawny and it deters his ability to attack the rim, but more importantly, it hinders any height advantage he might have on smaller guards because he can easily be pushed around.

When it comes to defending the pick-and-roll, a staple in any offense of the modern NBA, Fox struggles. He was targeted out of the pick-and-roll more than any player among his Sacramento Kings teammates at 4.5 possessions per game (next highest was Garrett Temple with 3.4). Fox finished in the 34th percentile last season when defending the pick-and-roll among all qualified players and allowed his opponents to shoot at an effective field goal percentage clip of 50.9.

A lot of this has to do with lack of size and strength. He struggles to work around pick-and-rolls when the screener is a big man. Sometimes it looks like he’s running straight into a brick wall and he crumbles with little possibility of willing his way back into the play.

When Fox anticipates the screen, he is mobile enough that he can work around it but it usually puts him at a disadvantage as he preferred to go over screens (particularly on shooters, for some reason) and consequentially gave the other team a 4-on-3 situation heading downhill towards the rim.

When Fox did go under on screens – as he does with Ricky Rubio in the clip below, who finished last season a strong shooter but has never been a consistent threat – he simply lacked the awareness to get himself back into the play.

(more…)


Dakari Johnson Signs Deal to Play in China

Dakari Johnson is heading to China. (Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Kentucky center Dakari Johnson has signed a deal to play for the Qingdao Eagles in China, according to the Jinan Times.

Johnson has spent the previous three season as a project prospect with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Following the signing of Nerlens Noel made by the Thunder in early July, the team traded Johnson to the Orlando Magic on July 20. Three days later, Johnson would once again be traded, this time to the Memphis Grizzlies. Little over a week after that, the big man’s contract would be stretched and he was subsequently waived by the Grizzlies

Instead of trying to force his way back onto an NBA roster as training camp waits around the corner, Johnson will head overseas to play in China (these overseas contracts are typically more lucrative than the minimum contract he would have likely received if another NBA team did decide to sign him).

The Qingdao Eagles finished the 2017-18 season with a record of 11-27, fifth worst out of 20 possible teams, and they did not make the CBA (Chinese Basketball Association) playoffs.

An interesting note about the Eagles: they happen to be the team that Hall-of-Fame player Tracy McGrady played one season for during the 2012-13 season. McGrady, who averaged 25 points for the Eagles in that lone season, is the only player whose number has been retired by the team.

Johnson spent the majority of his first two seasons in the G League but found his way onto the court 31 times last year for the Thunder, including six starts. He averaged 1.8 points and 1.1 rebounds in 5.2 minutes of action per game. His best performance was a nine-point outing in 23 minutes against the Los Angeles Clippers (which did also include five personal fouls).

Johnson, 22, was the 48th overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.


Devin Booker to Undergo Hand Surgery

Booker will undergo surgery on Monday. (AZCentral.com)

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker will undergo surgery on his right hand and will be out indefinitely, according to 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s John Gambadoro.

The 21-year old’s surgery will take place in Los Angeles and he is expected to be out for the beginning of training camp.

This is the same right hand the caused Booker to miss the final 12 games of the 2017-18 season after he jammed it during a practice in March.

Booker’s availability could be known as soon as Monday.

Booker recently signed a five-year, $158 million contract extension with the Suns back in July.

The Suns opening game is Oct. 17 against the Dallas Mavericks in Phoenix.


Anthony Davis Parts Ways With Longtime Agent

Anthony Davis has parted ways with his longtime agent. (Via Getty Images)

New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis has parted ways with his longtime agent Thad Foucher, according to ESPN.

Foucher currently represents Russell Westbrook along with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Skal Labissiere. Interestingly enough, Foucher also represents SGA’s 17-year old baby brother, Thomasi.

Davis, who still has two years worth $52 million remaining on his current contract with a player option in 2020, is reportedly leaning towards signing with agent Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, who famously represents LeBron James, John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, and Ben Simmons, among several other NBA players.

What does this mean for Davis and his future with the Pelicans? Well, that’s the hundred-million dollar question.

Rich Paul has been a notorious contract bargainer. He’s the one who successfully inked big money deals for Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith of the Cleveland Cavaliers along with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope of the Los Angeles Lakers. Deals that tend to favor the player years after they’ve been completed.

Does this mean that if Davis does sign with Paul that he’s going to look for a big contract if he becomes a free agent in 2020? Yes, but Davis is going to be earning the supermax contract if he remains in New Orleans regardless of who his agent is.

Does this mean that if Davis does sign with Paul that he’s going to the leave the Big Easy for the spotlight of LA in 2020? Not necessarily, but it does make for an interesting possibility. Although the idea of an extension next summer is going to be alluring…


The Pelicans can pay Davis the most money of any team, which is a hell of an advantage to have from a team perspective and a huge incentive for Davis to stay put. New Orleans has expressed little – if any – interest in trading away their five-time All-Star. Boston – not Los Angeles – is the team that would have enough assets to pull off a blockbuster trade worth the Pelicans time, anyways.

The Lakers understand they can’t wait until 2020 to bring in their second superstar. It needs to happen either before the end of this season or in free agency next summer. Wasting prime years of LeBron James in hopes of luring away Davis two years from now would be foolish. They could try to trade for Davis and pry him away from NOLA, but that’s going to be a tall order and would cost nearly every asset they have (probably three out of these four players; Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, Lonzo Ball, along with multiple draft picks).

The Pelicans tweaked their roster following the departure of DeMarcus Cousins, bringing in Julius Randle and Elfrid Payton to spice up their successful playoff rotation. They have aspirations to be a top-four team in the West and will every opportunity to get there, but if things go sour quick, it wouldn’t be hard to believe that Davis might have second guesses about his future in New Orleans.

Davis doesn’t have much leverage, as he’s under contract for two more seasons, but he’s still the superstar that the organization wants to keep happy. The front office will do whatever they can to keep Davis a happy camper and barring a mega offer from the Celtics (which shouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility) they should be able to successfully do so.

Davis potentially teaming up with Rich Paul could mean that he’s in cahoots with LeBron James and linking up in LA might be a discussion in the works, if it isn’t something that hasn’t already happened. But, this could also just mean that Davis is trying to switch things up and go with a higher-profile agent who can help spread his name to a wider audience. After all, Davis is expected to be a top-three MVP candidate once again this season and is still only 25 years old. He has the skill. He has the unibrow. He can be easily marketed. A change in representation can lead to that and most importantly, more money.

To sum it up, while Davis leaving his agent doesn’t mean too much at this very moment, it could have ramifications in the future that might ultimately land him on a new team. It could also just be a marketing tactic. Either way, it’s definitely something to keep an eye on and whoever Davis does decide to let represent him in the long term will have the future face of the NBA at their disposal.


NBA legend Jerry West: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is “going to be a tremendous player” in the league

@LAClippers

The man behind the official NBA logo is a huge fan of former Kentucky guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

Jerry West, former NBA legend and current consultant for the Los Angeles Clippers, played a significant part in drafting the 6-foot-6 point guard and couldn’t be more excited about the former Wildcat’s growth in the NBA.

In an interview with Clutch Points, West said Gilgeous-Alexander is going to be a “tremendous” NBA player.

“Shai’s just going to be a tremendous player in this league,” West said. “He’s so young, he’s got instincts that set him apart from other players. he’s going to be a really good player. Obviously, Shai is going to attract a lot of attention the way he plays. He’s a terrific young player for a kid so young.”

Gilgeous-Alexander talked about his admiration of ‘The Logo,’ saying he tries to pick his brain every chance he gets.

“It’s pretty cool [to have West there],” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “He’s obviously ‘The Logo.’ He’s giving me some pointers and stuff like that. Him obviously being a legend is pretty cool, [and I’m] just trying to pick his brain, learn from him as much as possible.”

The newest Nike signee averaged 19 points and four assists per game in the NBA Summer League back in July. Every time he stepped on the court he was the best guard out there, and a lot of it had to do with his elite size, combined with his silky-smooth finishes at the rim. We saw quite a bit of that at Kentucky.

In an interview with The Athletic, Gilgeous-Alexander said he plans on using that size to his advantage when he starts playing in real games, something that will separate himself from his peers.

“Because I’m so tall for a point guard, I obviously understand how to use the size,” he said. “But the next thing is still playing low. Guards at this level are obviously faster and stronger and will get underneath me to make it difficult. So playing low and playing at their level will help me.”

As far as defense goes, another aspect of his game that scouts drooled over at Kentucky, SGA says he can guard three positions in the league, and he’s working on defending the four-spot, as well.

Right now I can guard a 2. Most 2s. Some 2s are really strong. 3s? Eh. Really in the NBA it’s a lot of switching, so I feel like I can guard them. 4s is where it gets a little tough because guys are stronger and taller. I feel like 1 through 3 I can definitely guard right now pretty well. But I still need to put on weight,” he said.

(Clutch Points)

(The Athletic)


Kevin Knox is so Bullitt County

Kevin Knox is so Bullitt County

You can add another endorsement deal to Kevin Knox’s list.

Days after learning the former Kentucky Wildcat signed a shoe contract with Puma, Knox took to Instagram to show off a new photoshoot with Mountain Dew, which I assume he is being paid to do and not just because he really likes Mountain Dew. Or maybe he really likes Mountain Dew. What do I know?

Whatever the case, Knox is down with Dew and that will make the people of Bullitt County very, very happy.


Kevin Knox has signed a multi-year deal with Puma. (Photo via Instagram-  @kknox_23)

Kevin Knox Signs Deal With Puma

(Photo: Instagram | @kknox_23)

Puma continues to take the basketball scene by storm, this time in the form of signing former Kentucky forward and current New York Knicks rookie Kevin Knox.

Knox was the ninth overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft and has reportedly signed a multi-year deal with the brand most famously known for producing soccer apparel.


2018 has seen a marketing revival for Puma, whose recent signees include the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft DeAndre Ayton, No. 2 overall pick Marvin Bagley III, No. 14 overall pick Michael Porter Jr., and No. 16 overall pick Zhaire Smith, along with veteran Rudy Gay and former Louisville guard Terry Rozier.

This signing comes shortly after Los Angeles Clippers rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander signed a deal with Nike.

Puma had apparently been recruiting Knox over the past week, even going as far to straight up tweet at him that they wanted to sign him to their brand. Then, Tuesday morning, Knox was invited as a guest on the ESPN program First Take where he was sporting a white Puma t-shirt and shortly after, the deal had officially been announced.


Puma also recently brought in rapper and businessman Jay-Z to help rebrand their basketball division as a “Creative Director”. Puma has been out of the basketball game for the better part of close to two decades now, but they’ve done an excellent job in securing the high-profile names and young talent necessary to build a respectable brand. Knox being drafted to play in New York definitely makes him an easier player to market, no matter how bad the Knicks will be this season. All Puma needs is for one of these rookie signees to sprout into an All-Star and then they can truly begin to make their mark on the sneaker world.

Hopefully, that player will be Kevin Knox.

 

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A new beginning to something GREAT?

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