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Cavs’ new coach Beilein ready to turn things around

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 INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — John Beilein has coached at every level in college but says the Cleveland Cavaliers are his dream job.

The 66-year-old Beilein, who turned Michigan into a perennial power during a 12-year run, was introduced Tuesday by the Cavaliers. Even before taking the podium, Beilein got to work with one of his new players, peeling off his suit jacket to rebound shots for forward Larry Nance Jr.

Beilein doesn’t view Cleveland’s situation as a rebuild but rather a renaissance. At one point during his remarks, Beilein pointed to the 2016 NBA championship banner and others hanging along one wall at the Cavs’ facility and said, “it’s been done before, it can be done again.”

Beilein drew a large laugh when he was reminded he has never been fired by saying, “That’s right.”

Beilein knows he has work to do with the Cavaliers, who went 19-63 last season.



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LeBron James reacts to Anthony Davis trade: ‘Just the beginning’

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LeBron James’ streak of teaming up with superstar talent will reportedly continue in Los Angeles. This time, that talent is joining him, as the New Orleans Pelicans have agreed to trade Anthony Davis to the Lakers in exchange for Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and a war chest of draft picks.

James, however, could not be more excited at the prospect of joining forces with Davis. The 34-year-old superstar took to Instagram to voice his approval of the deal, exclaiming, “AD on da way!! Let’s get it bro! Just the beginning…” The post was accompanied by a photo of James and Davis, with the latter edited into a Lakers No. 21 jersey (a number that hasn’t been worn by a Laker for more than one season since Josh Powell in 2010)

James is surely optimistic that the arrival of Davis — combined with whatever the Lakers do with their remaining and ample cap space this offseason — will launch the Lakers into title contention. The Lakers spiraled to a 37-45 record after James missed 17 consecutive games due to injury in the middle of the season. Los Angeles has not made the playoffs since 2012-13, when the team was swept in the first round by the Spurs.

This season marked James’ first absence from the postseason since 2005, when he was a second-year player with Cleveland. The Lakers’ midseason struggles fueled reports that James and the Lakers were eager to acquire Davis, who had made it known to New Orleans that he preferred to be traded to Los Angeles. That union became possible after the Lakers jumped from 11th to fourth in last months Draft Lottery.

The Lakers ultimately decided that pick, two future first-rounders, two future pick swaps and most of their young core were worth acquiring Davis, a six-time All-Star and three-time All-NBA First Team honoree. It would appear James feels the same way.



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Instincts, ‘it factor’ see Ty Jerome to first-round potential

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A few years back, Virginia basketball coach Tony Bennett was watching a player at a camp in Pennsylvania when his attention got diverted.

“All of a sudden, I saw this skinny kid who wasn’t super athletic, but there was just something about him,” Bennett says. “I came back and told my staff about him because I really liked him. But I didn’t follow up on it.”

Flash forward a couple more summers, and Bennett is in Atlanta to see a certain player when that skinny kid showed up again. Bennett’s memory of the camp in Pennsylvania was quickly jogged, and he locked in on Ty Jerome.

At that moment, Bennett took a key step toward winning the 2019 NCAA championship.

“I didn’t know Ty’s team was going to be there,” Bennett says. “But I’m watching him, and I said to myself, ‘Wait a second. This is that guy I watched in Pennsylvania.’ He was the best player on the floor. He managed the game. He made great plays.”

Thinking Jerome might be too good to be true, Bennett paid extra attention to the gangly 6-foot-5 point guard, making sure he could defend elite athleticism. Eventually convinced Jerome could, Bennett offered a scholarship. Soon after, several more power conference schools tried to become involved with Jerome, but it was too late. Bennett and his new point guard had already formed a special bond because, as the sons of basketball coaches, they were part of an exclusive club.

Bennett’s father is the legendary Dick Bennett, who won titles coaching in college, including at the University of Wisconsin and later at Washington State. Tony Bennett played for his father at Green Bay before going onto an NBA career (Charlotte Hornets) that was cut short by a foot injury. The younger Bennett eventually followed his dad into coaching, first at Washington State and for the last decade at Virginia, where his teams have dominated the rugged Atlantic Coast Conference, winning four of the last six regular-season championships. 

Jerome’s father Mark was raised in Harlem and learned the game on asphalt, playing pickup games and street tournaments against unrelenting opponents, trash talking and heckling from fans. Mark Jerome thought that was the perfect environment to teach his son the game.

Ty Jerome could have had no better college coach than Tony Bennett.

“We talked about that a lot,” Bennett says. “There’s something built in when you play for your father. The one thing you know is that this is my dad. I know he loves me, and I know I can trust him. Even though at the time you might not feel like it. Sometimes, it gets emotional, and things become exaggerated.”

Jerome, forecast by many to be a first-round pick in this week’s NBA Draft, knows that all too well.

“Playing for my dad was the toughest thing I’ve ever had to do,” Jerome says. “That made me extremely mentally tough. When you play in New York City, if you’re not ready to play or you’re not mentally tough, you get exposed. It just builds a level of toughness you have to have to play out there.”

When he was younger, Jerome didn’t appreciate his father’s tough love approach as much as he would later.

“We went for extended periods of time without talking—sometimes two or three months,” Jerome says. “My parents had split up, and after games, I went right to my mom. I didn’t understand the bigger picture at six or seven years old.”

Jerome didn’t have a choice but to play basketball. His father was a high school coach, so Jerome’s second home was the gym. Father and son watched countless hours of live games or film. Mark Jerome even took his son to the same playgrounds where he had learned the game, the hard way. Was it excessive? Did Mark Jerome risk burning out his son at an early age? As it turned out, he knew exactly what he was doing.

So did Tony Bennett, the second he laid eyes on Ty Jerome.

Jerome endured his highs and lows during his freshman season at Virginia, but Bennett remembers him coming into his own in games against Notre Dame and then-No. 1-ranked Villanova. “We all thought we had something, if Ty just continued to develop,” Bennett says.

Jerome did. And along with De’Andre Hunter (a certain lottery pick) and Kyle Guy — both of whom were recruited in Jerome’s class — they helped the Cavaliers own the ACC the last two seasons. In 2017-18, Virginia finished 31-3, and an astounding 17-1 in a league with Duke, North Carolina, Louisville, Syracuse and NC State. In 2018-19, the Cavs were 16-2 in the ACC and 35-3 overall, capping an incredible season—and one of the great comebacks in history—by beating Texas Tech in an epic national championship game.

But it’s what happened in between those two seasons that defines Virginia basketball, its extraordinary coach, its resilient players, and perhaps Jerome in particular. In the 2018 NCAA tournament, the Cavaliers made history by becoming the first No. 1 seed to be ousted by a No. 16 seed. That stunning loss to UMBC evoked criticism and questions about whether Bennett’s deliberate pace and pack line defense, so effective in the crucible of the ACC season, was ripe for such upsets in postseason play, where every opponent, with nothing to lose and everything to gain, can fire away with abandon from 3-point range and hope for the best.

After the UMBC debacle, Bennett and his players pretended the outside world didn’t exist.

“We started the next day,” Jerome says. “It was awesome the way everyone responded [to the loss]. We all grew closer. We knew what our goal was, and we weren’t afraid to say it. We wanted to win the national championship. We knew how hard that would be, but our coaching staff did a great job of preparing us for what it was going to take, every single day.”

Virginia’s run through the tournament has become the stuff of legend. There were heroes aplenty—Guy was chosen Final Four Most Outstanding Player and Hunter scored 27 points in the title game, including a critical 3 to send it to overtime. But Jerome was always there, running the show, making key plays, pretty much playing the way he did when Bennett discovered him. In two Final Four games, Jerome averaged 18.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.0 assists.

“You hear this saying a lot, but it’s as true of Ty as anybody,” Bennett says. “He has the ‘it’ factor. He’s got the ability to do things. He’s fearless and he’s so competitive. He’s got a mind for the game that’s as good as it gets.”

Jerome has been hard at work since declaring for the Draft. “Always shooting and ball handling,” he says. “I want to be a great shooter [he was a career 39 percent 3-point shooter at Virginia]. Not a good shooter. A great shooter.”

Jerome has also added mid-range floaters to his arsenal and has worked on playing through contact. His instincts to make plays for others are already ingrained. Jerome’s goal is to be able to contribute right away, just like he did at Virginia.

“I want to get into the right fit,” Jerome says. “I’d love to go to a good culture and hopefully a winning culture, learn from veterans and have the opportunity to contribute to win.”

Bennett has no doubt Jerome will be successful in the NBA.

“He’s such a winner,” Bennett says. “I’d never bet against Ty; not a chance. He’s so smart, he always figures ways out. Wherever he goes, he’s going to figure out a way to contribute.”

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Chris Dortch is the editor of the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. You can email him here, follow him on Twitter and listen to the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Hour.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.



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Seven takeaways from Lakers’ reported trade for Anthony Davis

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Here are seven takeaways on the reported (but not official until July 1) blockbuster trade sending New Orleans star forward Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers for a package of three players, three first-round Draft selections and two first-round swaps of Draft picks:

1. Davis gets what he wanted all along

Davis and his camp, fronted by agent Rich Paul, first made noise about getting out of New Orleans in January, when he still had a year and a half to go before he even reached the player-option year in his Pelicans contract extension. New Orleans management, notably GM Dell Demps, resisted the power play then. Of course, Demps lost his job after resisting the trade demand and seeing the ripple effects undermine his own team’s season.

Demps’ replacement, David Griffin, took over on a more traditional timeline — one year out from the dreaded possibility of having a star free agent walk without compensation. After apparently trying to change Davis’ mind, Griffin did what he felt he had to do. So the six-time All-Star doesn’t have to wait until the summer of 2020, or even the trade deadline in February, to swap a less glamorous market for the bright lights and a franchise that has never won for the Lakers’ legacy of champions built around elite big men.
 

2. This emboldens future franchise players to do the same 

What cost did Davis pay for his trade demand? Not much. His playing time plummeted from about 37 minutes in the first four months of 2018-19 to 22 in the 16 games he actually played after Jan. 18. He did not participate at all in 21 games as New Orleans tried to protect its asset, which derailed any ambitions with which the Pelicans began the season. They went 12-24 in those 36 games to fall into the lottery – and land the No. 1 pick.

But that didn’t concern Davis. He got what he wanted. The Pelicans got what they could.
 

 

Anthony Davis has reportedly been dealt for three players and three first-round picks.

3. Right package at right time for Pelicans 

There’s a time-value to money and there’s a time-value in trades, too. The best time for Griffin to deal was now, with the No. 4 pick in this year’s Draft in play to team with the No. 1 pick that presumably will be on Duke’s Zion Williamson. Landing that, along with two more first-round picks from the Lakers, two Draft pick swaps and players Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart (per ESPN’s report), shifts New Orleans into full rebuild mode with an exciting core of current and maybe future young players.

Could Griffin have gotten more had he waited deeper into the offseason or heading toward the in-season trade deadline? Perhaps. But Boston, the other oft-purported suitor for Davis, no longer could count on teaming Davis with Kyrie Irving, who will explore free agency (and likely leave). Besides, the Celtics never did want to part with Jayson Tatum, so what they could offer the Pelicans was limited.

Didn’t matter, anyway. Griffin didn’t want to drag this into a new season. In fact, he might work the phones to find point guard Jrue Holiday’s market value. As strong as Holiday is as a leader and two-way player, at 29 with 10 seasons in, he’s out of sync with the new era in N’Awlins. 

4. Griffin should have held out for Kyle Kuzma

OK, the Lakers had committed publicly to keeping Kuzma, the overachieving forward and No. 27 pick in 2017, out of the deal. And as noted above, the Pelicans were on the clock to make a clean break with Davis pre-Draft.

But would the Lakers really have scuttled the deal if Griffin had held out for Kuzma? Some say yes, as the time factor gave them leverage. I’m not so sure. I’m reminded of the blockbuster deal that sent Kevin Garnett from Minnesota to Boston in 2008. Word eventually got out that Kevin McHale, the Wolves’ president of basketball operations, had wanted a raw point guard named Rajon Rondo in the package of players Minnesota received. His Celtics’ counterpart and buddy, Danny Ainge, pushed Sebastian Telfair instead. But with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen on board, and Garnett so close to his wearing o’ the green, would Ainge have blown up the trade over young Rondo?

Same applies here. So the positive spin on Kuzma staying put is, the Lakers did well to keep him.

 

Anthony Davis’ days in New Orleans have come to an end.

5. LeBron gets his greatest sidekick yet

That statement might offend a few folks. Dwyane Wade for one. Maybe Irving, Chris Bosh or Kevin Love, too. Heck, Davis might bristle at the idea of being anyone’s “sidekick” after being the man in Mardi Gras to this point in his career. But the truth can’t be controversial, and the success of this deal will be measured in the short-term by how well Davis meshes with James in the superstar’s quest for a fourth ring and beyond.

Some believed that agent Rich Paul, who represents both James and Davis, was more concerned with helping the former than the latter, which Paul refuted a few days before news came out on this blockbuster trade. Who’s to say AD wouldn’t have thrived and won sooner in Boston had the Celtics and Pelicans worked out a Kawhi-like rent-a-player price? What if James not only is past his best years, but his most durable ones, and injuries intervene as he heads to age 35 and beyond to stymie title hopes?

For James, though, there’s no downside to this. Ingram, because of the blood clot issue that cut short his 2018-19 season, is an unknown for now. Ball isn’t essential with James as a ball dominator. Hart actually backslid in his second season. And James has little or no use for draft picks at this stage of his career.

Davis is good enough to carry the bigger load relative to James, more than any of his past Super Friends who all caught him in his extended prime. But it’s still to be determined how they’ll work that out – the two previous elite big men that he played alongside, Bosh and Love, wound up as No. 3 options once they teamed with James.

 

With Anthony Davis on board, what else should the Lakers do this summer?

6. Kemba Walker might be next in Lakers’ sights

Walker is a free agent who has served his time in Charlotte, a team that might not want to be locked into a super-max deal for their lone star anyway. He would be a nice backcourt complement to James and Davis, another scorer if not the pure shooter L.A. would seem to need. Speaking of which, that suggests other free-agent implications as the Lakers search for shooters. Say, if not J.J. Redick himself, then the next Redick perhaps.

7. So long Warriors, hello Lakers in 2020 Finals?

You’ve got to admit, it would be something to see LeBron James pop up on the Western Conference’s finalist vying for a championship, in what lately has been Golden State’s accustomed spot. That’s what some anticipated for this June, until the Lakers went sideways with injuries and dysfunction. But with ESPN’s report of the Davis trade, a team that already was ranked atop the NBA’s contenders for 2020 saw its odds improve.

Caesars Sportsbook put the Lakers as 7-2 favorites, ahead of the Bucks (6-1), the L.A. Clippers (6-1), the newly crowned Raptors (8-1), the Rockets (8-1) and what would be a distinctly different Warriors team (11-1).

* * *

Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.



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