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Media Week roundup: Wall eager to team up with Harden

Keep up with the latest news from around the NBA as players and teams close in on the start of training camp.

From NBA.com Staff

John Wall said he ‘for sure’ expects James Harden to be in Houston this season.

The first preseason camps of the 2020-21 season opened Tuesday, with teams limited for the first few days to individual sessions with one coach and one player at one basket. Individual player workouts run from Dec. 1-5 with Media Week taking place during the same time frame. The following week, group player workouts begin (Dec. 6-10) in the lead-up to the start of the NBA preseason on Dec. 11.

> Media Week interviews

Below is the latest news and notable quotes from players and coaches as Media Week rolls on.

Sunday


Wall eager to team up with Harden in Houston

Point guard John Wall said on Sunday he had a “great talk” with James Harden and the pair are eager to play together in Houston. However, according to coach Stephen Silas, Harden and P.J. Tucker missed the team’s first group workout due to coronavirus protocols and would work out individually Sunday evening.

Wall, who spent the last 10 years in D.C., said it “feels surreal” not being with Washington, the team that drafted him with the No. 1 pick in 2010. But Wall said he’s been 100% healthy since March and is eager to regain his All-Star status with the Rockets.

As for Wall’s parting words to former Wizards teammate Bradley Beal? “This is your franchise. Go be that franchise guy.”

— 3:58 p.m.

 


Bucks have perfect birthday gift for Giannis Antetokounmpo

What do you get the two-time Kia MVP on his 26th birthday? If your teammate is Giannis Antetokounmpo and he’s yet to sign a maximum extension that would keep him in Milwaukee, the answer is easy — a pen.

“Me and [Pat Connaughton] thought the perfect gift to him from his teammates would be to give him a pen,” Khris Middleton said on Sunday. “So, 19 pens in his locker for a birthday present. I told him those should be some of the best birthday gifts he’s ever gotten. So, hopefully he enjoys it and uses it.”

— 3:45 p.m.


Saturday


Porter Jr. ready for bigger role with Nuggets

Michael Porter Jr. was a revelation in the Orlando bubble where he emerged as a key contributor for the Denver Nuggets during their playoff run.

Now Porter Jr. is poised to take the next step as a full-time starter and the No. 3 scoring option behind Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic.

“I would love to start,” said Porter, who averaged 22.0 points and 8.6 rebounds in the Nuggets’ seeding games in Orlando. “Obviously, nothing is given to you, you’ve got to earn it. But yes, I’d love to be the starter.”

With key wing players like Jerami Grant and Torrey Craig no longer on the team, opportunity knocks for Porter Jr., who does not lack confidence or desire.

“I want to be one of the best players,” Porter said. “And I want to guard the best players and I want the best players on the other team to guard me.”

— 6:50 p.m.

 


Thompson to miss most of Celtics training camp

Tristan Thompson is expected to play a significant role for the Boston Celtics this season, but it might not happen right away.

Brad Stevens says Thompson will miss most of camp because of a hamstring injury.

“He had a hamstring strain from before he got here when he was working out in the last couple weeks. He’s getting better,” Stevens told reporters in a video conference. “He’s done very light individual work with some strength and conditioning work but is not participating in any of our stuff other than that right now.”

The Celtics have begun full team workouts at the Auerbach Center in preparation for their Dec. 23 season opener against the Milwaukee Bucks. The goal for Thompson is to be ready in time for that game, though he might be a bit behind.

“We hope to have him ramped up as we get closer to the start of the regular season,” Stevens said. “But he’s going to miss a significant portion of this training camp.”

— 5:44 p.m.

 


Friday


Carmelo Anthony: ‘Only thing left is legacy’

Carmelo Anthony struggled through stops in Oklahoma City and Houston before an unexpected late-career hiatus that kept him off the NBA courts for a calendar year. He found footing in Portland, providing a steadying and occasionally clutch presence during their thrilling bubble run to the through the Play-In Tournament.

Anthony slotted into the starting lineup for the Trail Blazers, averaging 15.4 points and 6.3 rebounds in 58 games. Portland then played an active hand during the offseason, and coach Terry Stotts informed Anthony he’d be coming off the bench in 2020-21, with new additions Robert Covington and Derrick Jones Jr. slotting in at the forward spots.

“I had to swallow that pill,” said Anthony. “If I sit here and say that the thought of that wasn’t hard or difficult to hear and take, does that play with your pride and your ego? Yes it does, especially coming for someone like myself. But I had to take a deep breath and we’ll figure it out. We’ll make it work.”

The 17-year veteran continued on to describe how the comfort and trust built up with the Blazers organization helped cushion a wholesale re-envisioning of his role:

“I’m 18 years into this game. The only thing left is legacy. When you have people in the organizaiton that want to go side-by side with you through this journey and be a part of your legacy, it gives you a different type of confidence.It eases a lot of thoughts ahd questions.”

— 8:21 p.m.

 


Kawhi and the convincing case

Clippers star Kawhi Leonard is known for his dry humor and efficient successes, and both were on display in his recruiting pitch to former Raptors teammate Serge Ibaka, a free agent alongside whom Leonard won the 2019 NBA championship.

“I talk to Serge here and there … Once free agency came, I sent him a text and told him clear as day: ‘You coming here or not?'”

— 7:11 p.m.

 


Josh Hart, just having some fun?

With the season starting up in New Orleans, guard JJ Redick is searching for a place to stay — his family remained at their home in New York. He’s  temporarily posted up with teammate Josh Hart, who’s apparently been quite the gracious host:

Redick, for his part, quote tweeted that ‘None of this is actually factual.’

He also revealed a new ’stache, in part a homage to new Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy, who was Redick’s first NBA boss when he was drafted to the Orlando Magic in 2006.

“There are a few factors going on here,” Redick said, per Jim Eichenhofer of Pelicans.com. “First and foremost, I’m here (in New Orleans) solo, (because) my family stayed in New York. My wife doesn’t let me grow a mustache, so this seems like the perfect time to have a mustache. Two, I wanted to provide some emotional support for Stan in his first couple weeks on the job. So this is an homage to him.”

— 6:47 p.m.

 


Bradley Beal: ‘It’s been an emotional week’

Wizards star Bradley Beal has been battling his emotions this week after his backcourt teammate John Wall was traded to the Houston Rockets for Russell Westbrook.

“It’s been an emotional week,” Beal said, via Fred Katz of The Athletic. “Definitely been some tough 24, 48, 72 hours here, just kind of letting it all seep in and realizing that your brother is no longer here with you no more. He’s off to something better.”

The duo played together for nearly a decade and even developed a relationship off the court. Wall has stated that when his mother died earlier this year, it was Beal who was the first person to visit him and provide support. “You are my brother 4L and that bond is way bigger than this game we play! We had amazing memories that’ll always be cherished and never forgotten,” Beal said on Instagram.

On the court, the duo ranked high among the best backcourts in the NBA when healthy. Wall will return to D.C. when the Rockets play the Wizards on Feb. 15.

— 5:38 p.m.

 


Thursday


Middleton acknowledges Bucks’ sense of urgency this season

Despite having the best record in the NBA last season, the Bucks came up short to the Heat in the Eastern semifinals. That disappointment may serve as fuel this season for Khris Middleton and Milwaukee.

“We fell way short of our goal,” Middleton said Thursday on a conference call. “There’s a lot of motivation this offseason to come back and be better.”

With Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo still in their primes, the time may be now for the Bucks to take that next step.

“There’s always a sense of urgency to win,” Middleton said. “We gotta take advantage of this time while we can because that window is not as big or open as it used to be.”

— 10:15 p.m.

 


Cousins ‘feels incredible’, not complaining about difficult stretch

DeMarcus Cousins held his first interview as a member of the Houston Rockets on Thursday and discussed why he won’t complain about the adversity he has faced battling injuries over the past three years.

“I watched my mom work two jobs with six kids her entire life. So who am I to complain about some adversity? Life is full of adversity. Me going through the things I’ve gone through, I will be prepared.”

Cousins also touched on his excitement to play with former collegiate teammate John Wall, who was acquired by the Rockets in a trade on Wednesday, and his overall excitement to get back on the floor, saying he “feels incredible.”

— 4:16 p.m.

 


Jokic eager to build off playoff experience

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic is excited to get back on the floor after his young squad made noise during the 2020 NBA Playoffs and reached the Western Conference finals.

“Experience is going to be the most important key,” Jokic said when explaining how he plans to improve during the 2020-21 season.

— 3:57 p.m.

 


Spoelstra on quick turnaround: ‘That’s the price of chasing something great’

The defending Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat will have a quick turnaround between their NBA Finals series against the Lakers and the start of the 2020-21 season. But that doesn’t bother coach Erik Spoelstra, who addressed the situation during Heat media availability on Thursday.

“Historically this is different,” Spoelstra said. “It’s a quicker turnaround for those kind of teams, but if you consistently go to the Finals, guys like Golden State, all of LeBron’s teams, our former teams, those were quick turnarounds. Finishing in late June and starting up in September. Regardless, those were quick turnarounds, but that’s the price of chasing something great. It’s much easier to be a lottery team, to be a losing team, to be a team that doesn’t make the playoffs, be a team that just gets knocked out in the first round, that doesn’t take a great deal of emotional expense or physical expense.

“Our season last year in many ways felt like three seasons,” Spoelstra continued. “The training camp, and preseason, regular season. Then the quarantine and then gearing up for the bubble — then the bubble. We saw a lot of players really grow from that experience, particularly our young players. So we’re excited that we have an opportunity to start another season.

‘Yes, for some of our guys, particularly our veteran players, I will have to be mindful to keep them fresh, particularly mentally. They also have some experience enough to know how to manage themselves … you have to take some time building [a rhythm], and you don’t want to skip steps, but you don’t want to be mindful of the long haul as well.”

— 11:58 a.m.

 


Wednesday


Curry ready to lead young Warriors

After losing Klay Thompson to season-ending Achilles injury, the Warriors’ championship hopes are likely on hold for another year. Even making the playoffs this season would be a surprise to some.

Stephen Curry is ready for the challenge.

“I hear it, but it doesn’t sink home at all,” Curry said Wednesday on a conference call. “I didn’t get big-headed when they picked us first in the league. I won’t get overwhelmed with wherever they have us coming into this season.”

Curry, who hasn’t played a meaningful game in over a year, is excited about the young talent on the Warriors’ roster and is eager to prove the doubters wrong.

“I would hope that maybe some of the young guys, and our new guys who have a lot to prove in this league take it as the slight and chip on their shoulder, and we all kind of rally around that.”

— 6:18 p.m.

 


Rockets’ House apologizes for mishap in Orlando bubble

Houston Rockets reserve forward Danuel House Jr. addressed the media Wednesday for the first time since the NBA announced in September that he’d be forced to vacate the Orlando bubble for violating league protocols by inviting an unauthorized guest to his hotel room.

“First of all, I’d like to start out by apologizing to my team, the organization and the owner for the mishap that happened in the bubble,” House said. “I’m focused, it’s behind me, it’s in the past. New year, new season, learning and looking forward to growing and expanding. I’d like to deeply apologize to the fans also if you felt I let you down. Sincere apologies from me, Danuel House Jr. to everyone.”

House played just the first two games of Houston’s 4-1 series loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference semifinals, after the league concluded through an investigation the forward had hosted an unauthorized guest in his hotel room at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. The NBA announced in a statement that House would “not participate with the Rockets team in additional games this season.”

House started in 52 games for the Rockets last season, averaging 10.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.3 assists.

A native of Houston, House said on Wednesday that he had “already talked to the team” about his transgressions in Orlando and expressed he’s eager to move forward as the Rockets prepare to start the season with a new head coach in Stephen Silas and a new general manager in Rafael Stone.

— 4:48 p.m.

 


Paul shares story of working out with Booker as teenager

Chris Paul saw the talent in Devin Booker before either of them played for the Phoenix Suns.

As Booker prepared for the NBA Draft in 2015, Paul got the chance to workout with the future All-Star in Los Angeles. The veteran point guard was a member of the Clippers at the time.

“We had lost in the playoffs, but I had still wanted to hoop and train. So I went down and worked out with him. He was like 15,” Paul said, laughing. (Booker was actually 18 at the time.)

The workout left Paul impressed. Booker has since established himself as one of the best scorers in the league, with he and Paul playing together on Team LeBron in the 2020 All-Star Game.

The duo is expected to be a formidable backcourt in Phoenix.

 Chris Paul discusses getting to know Devin Booker.

–4:41 p.m.

 


Zion ready to work with Van Gundy

The Zion Williamson show is set for season two.

The 20-year-old told reporters that he feels healthy and is looking forward to the season under new head coach Stan Van Gundy. He praised the coach for his old-school approach, a style that reminds him of his step-father and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.

“I can see his love and passion for the game,” Williamson said. “I love stuff like that. I’m very excited to work with him.”

— 1:39 p.m.

 


Hawks’ Bogdanovic: Teams are going to be in trouble

Atlanta surrounded Trae Young with several new pieces this offseason, including a talented backcourt member in Bogdan Bogdanovic. The Serbian shooting guard, who averaged 15.1 points and shot 37% from deep last season, envisions a duo that will be hard to defend.

“I think teams are going to be really in trouble, guarding both of us together,” Bogdanovic said, per Sarah K. Spencer of the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Bogdanovic said joining Atlanta as a restricted free agent was the perfect situation.

The Hawks also added veterans Rajon Rondo and Kris Dunn to a backcourt consisting of Young, Bogdanovic and former first-round pick Kevin Huerter. 

— 11:15 a.m.


Tuesday


Lillard has high expectations for 2020-21 season

Speaking with reporters ahead of training camp, Damian Lillard discussed life in the bubble, the Blazers’ offseason changes and his desire to bring a championship back to Portland.

Asked about his conversations with Neil Olshey, the team’s president of basketball operations, Lillard related a sense of urgency as he enters his ninth season.

“Let’s put ourselves out there to do whatever we can do to give ourselves a real shot, you know,” Lillard said. “Let’s try to bring that glory back to Portland … It has been a long time and I want to be a part of that.”

So that’s what the conversation has been. It’s been transparent, you know, it’s that simple.”

The Blazers added Robert Covington, Harry Giles III, Derrick Jones Jr. and Enes Kanter during the offseason.

— 8:42 p.m.

 


Tatum says extension with Celtics is ‘dream come true’

Speaking for the first time since signing a five-year rookie extension with the Celtics, said he’s thankful for the opportunity to stay in Boston long term.

“It’s a dream come true,” Tatum said Tuesday as the Celtics tipped off training camp. “I’m extremely grateful and thankful; I don’t take it for granted or lightly.”

Tatum, who set career-highs in points (23.4) and rebounds (7.0) last season, sees room for improvement entering his fourth NBA season.

Tatum believes every part of his game can get better when it comes to efficiency, noting that he can continue to get stronger, extend his range, create off the dribble and finish through contact at a higher level.

— 7:25 p.m.

 


Doncic enters 3rd season with championship aspirations

Sitting down for a Zoom conference call after his first individual workout, Dallas Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic tried to tame his long, disheveled hair.

“I’m ready,” Doncic said. “My hair’s not ready.”

Quarantine coif aside, Doncic made it clear that he has one goal this season: to win the NBA Finals a year after getting his first NBA playoff experience.

“Every year I want to be better,” Doncic said. “That’s the goal for me. I also want to win the championship. That’s the goal we entered last year. And that’s the goal we’re going to enter this year.”

After shooting only 31.6% from 3-point range last season, Doncic said he spent a good chunk of the offseason completing various shooting drills.

“Until you’re the best at something,” Doncic said, “you always got to work on it.”

— 6:28 p.m.

 


Warriors’ camp delayed by 2 positive COVID-19 tests

The Golden State Warriors will delay the start of individual workouts after two players tested positive for COVID-19, general manager Bob Myers announced on Tuesday.

The team’s individual player workouts will instead begin on Wednesday, with group player workouts beginning next week.

The league stated in a health-and-safety protocol guide that was distributed to teams last week that any player who tests positive, even if asymptomatic, must wait 10 days and then be monitored in individual workouts for an additional two days.

To return to work, both players must go 10 days or more after the first positive test or onset of symptoms or test negative twice at least 24 hours apart via PCR testing.

— 4:55 p.m.

 


Durant feeling ‘good’, ramps up toward season

The Brooklyn Nets had high hopes for 2019-20 after they reeled in free agents Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in the summer of 2019. However, Durant never played a game for Brooklyn as he recovered from the Achilles injury he suffered in the 2019 Finals. Irving, meanwhile, appeared in just 20 games before an injured right shoulder ended his first season.

The Nets have a new coach (and coaching staff, for that matter) in Steve Nash and he said in Tuesday’s video news conference with the media that both Irving and Durant are looking sharp. Durant spoke with reporters as well on Tuesday and said he has been through a grueling process in recovering from his Achilles injury. But he added he is working out often with Irving and looking forward to being on the court again.

Nash said he is still figuring out how the duo will be used in Brooklyn’s two preseason games next week. In addition, he said there are no specific plans to sit either player during the 2020-21 campaign. However, Nash also said he believed it was unlikely the duo would play in all 72 games this season.

— 3:04 p.m.

 


Rubio channels an old favorite …

The Minnesota Timberwolves no doubt delighted a large sect of their fan base by trading for former fan favorite and veteran point guard Ricky Rubio in the offseason. Rubio spent the first six seasons of his career with the Timberwolves and gave fans countless memorable moments.

One of the standout moments associated with Rubio’s tenure with the Wolves came back in the 2012-13 season in a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on TNT. During the course of that game, Rubio was mic’d up and a conversation he had with then-rookie guard Alexey Shved was caught on camera. In it, Rubio said to a disappointed Shved: “Change this face. Be Happy. Enjoy.”

At Rubio’s  introductory video news conference Tuesday, he uttered his now-famous quote again — except he said “Change that face. Be Happy. Enjoy.”

— 1:11 p.m.

 


Oladipo refutes talk he sought a trade

Earlier this month, a report surfaced that Indiana Pacers star Victor Oladipo was seeking a trade from the team during the offseason. However, Oladipo was quick at the time to say he remains committed to the Pacers (per Shams Charania of The Athletic) and doubled-down on that during Tuesday’s interview session with reporters.

Oladipo, a two-time All-Star and former Kia Most Improved Player Award winner, will be an unrestricted free agent in 2021. When pressed about his future with the Pacers, Oladipo was only concerning himself with the present.

Pacers big man Domantas Sabonis did not participate in the NBA restart in Orlando because of plantar fasciitis in his left foot. However, he said he has no limitations from the injury and is ready to go for the 2020-21 season.

— 11:48 a.m.

 


Brooks says Wall is ‘ready to go’

The Washington Wizards lived through a 25-47 season in 2019-20 without the services of star guard John Wall. He has been out the last 1 1/2 years because of two operations (to his left heel and left Achilles tendon) but said in May he is “110%” and itching to return.

Wizards coach Scott Brooks spoke with reporters via Zoom about the status of Wall and he watched him workout in Los Angeles last month. Per Brooks, Wall is looking “as good and as strong as he’s ever been,” and told reporters he is “ready to go” for the 2020-21 season.

Provided Wall is fully healthy, the Wizards have a promising core of talent that includes him as well as All-Star guard Bradley Beal and forwards Davis Bertans and Rui Hachimura. While the Wizards were a part of the season restart in Orlando, they ultimately missed the playoffs in 2020.

Hachimura told reporters Tuesday, though, that he envisions Washington in the playoffs when the 2021 postseason gets going.

— 11:40 a.m.

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