Shootaround (Aug. 10) -- David Blatt wants to coach again in NBA

This morning’s headlines:

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Blatt’s ‘end game’ includes return to NBA — The last time we saw David Blatt coaching in the NBA, it was in a Cavs’ win on Jan. 21, 2016. A day later, he was fired by the Cavs and replaced by his assistant, Tyronn Lue, who went on to lead Cleveland to its first NBA title. Since that ouster, Blatt has become coach of Darussafaka in Turkey, but he hasn’t forgotten about the NBA or a return there someday. Allon Sinai of The Jerusalem Post has more:

It won’t happen this summer. But Blatt is determined to give himself another chance to return to the NBA.

“I have an end game and that end game is that I would really like to go back to the NBA,” Blatt told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.

“There were no changes in the NBA this year from a coaching standpoint and my real goal is to try next year to get back into the league as a head coach. It may happen and it may not happen. But I wanted to leave that door open for myself if the opportunity arises.”

Blatt’s first NBA experience ended disappointingly and abruptly when he was fired by the Cleveland Cavaliers midway through the 2015/16 season. He guided the Cavs to the NBA Finals the previous year and the team owned the best record in the East at the time of his sacking.

Blatt insists he doesn’t look back and said he remains in touch with several people in the organization, including new general manager Koby Altman, whom he will meet next week in Israel during the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders Europe camp.

Blatt almost landed another NBA job last summer, being among the final candidates for the openings in New York, Houston and Sacramento.

“Sometimes you can be right there and at the last moment you don’t get it and that’s life,” said Blatt. “That is the realistic and competitive environment of trying to get a job of that nature. There is no guarantee.”

Blatt will return to Turkey next week to begin Darussafaka’s preparations for 2017/18. He is fully focused on guiding the team to a successful campaign, all the while hoping that it will be his last in Europe for the time being before he makes a return to the NBA.

“There are only 30 NBA jobs in the whole world and I have had one before and in many ways it was pretty good,” said Blatt.

“There have been a lot of very good coaches that have sat out more than a year and have made their way back to the NBA and have been very successful. I can’t say that I have a 100 percent chance, but on the other hand I have on what to stand. If it is in the cards then it will happen and if it’s not then I’ll do other things.”

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Cousins sees potential for ‘special’ season in New Orleans — From serving as talent recruiter to getting himself in his best shape possible, Pelicans center DeMarcus Cousins isn’t taking 2017-18 lightly. He is nothing if not consistent in that point as he recently told Jim Eichenhofer of Pelicans.com he and his teammates have high hopes for this season:

From participating in a Basketball Without Borders trip halfway around the world, to hosting a free basketball camp much closer to home, it’s been a busy summer for DeMarcus Cousins, who also found time to get into what he recently told New Orleans teammate Anthony Davis is “the best shape of my life.” During a break at his camp Tuesday in his home state of Alabama, Cousins sounded energized about the upcoming Pelicans season, echoing Davis’ enthusiastic commentsabout the team’s 2017-18 upside.

“We’ve got an opportunity to do something special. I just wanted to take full advantage of it,” Cousins said of his focus on getting ready for next season. “Part of transforming my body was to be able to come in and fit the system and be the best DeMarcus I can be in this system. It’s been a long, hard process, but I definitely think it’s worth it. I feel great. I’m excited for this season. A lot my teammates are (also). A lot of guys are working harder than they’ve ever done in their career. I think everybody is feeling that same energy. It can be a special season.”

New Orleans’ biggest free-agent splash was the signing of point guard Rajon Rondo, a teammate of Cousins in Sacramento during the 2015-16 season. After getting an up-close view of the difference Rondo’s pass-first, savvy approach can make for a club, Cousins is thrilled to be reunited with the now 11-year NBA veteran.

“His impact on the team is going to be incredible. I think he’s going to bring out the best in everybody on our team,” Cousins said. “That’s one thing I appreciated about him on my former team. He helped me grow so much as a player, just in a single season. I think he can take (Davis) to another level, which is even scarier. Scary to think about.

“(Rondo’s) IQ, his understanding of the game, he’s a coach on the floor at all times. He takes a lot of slack off the coaches, because he’s a coach on the floor. He’ll probably know the playbook just as much as the guys that are teaching us. He’s a great addition and he’s going to really help us get to the level we want to be.”

In addition to becoming a Rondo teammate again, Cousins is rejoining fellow Kentucky product Darius Miller, who signed with the Pelicans after three stellar seasons in Germany. Cousins praised Miller and recent free-agent pickup Ian Clark, who won a championship ring with Golden State this spring and appeared in two straight NBA Finals.

“He’s oozing with talent,” Cousins said of Miller. “I think he’s a perfect signing for our team and is going to come in ready to play whenever his name is called. He’s going to bring it every night. It could be a back-to-back-to-back and I know he’s going to bring it. I’m excited to have him on our team.

“Bringing in a guy like Ian, a champion who has played at the highest level, he has youth on his side, but he also has experience. He can come in and impact a game in the smallest way, but in the biggest way at the same time. I think he’s also a perfect piece to this puzzle. We’ve got a chance to do something special.”

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Starting job no gimme for Mavs’ Smith Jr. — Rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. had a more than solid Summer League in Las Vegas and is garnering some dark horse backing for Rookie of the Year among some NBA analysts. But the idea that he’ll just automatically be the starting point guard for the Dallas Mavericks come opening night of 2017-18 is far from a given, writes Earl K. Snead of Mavs.com:

Selecting rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. with the No. 9 overall pick in June’s NBA Draft, the Mavericks believe they filled a need at point guard after using a revolving door at the position last season. The Mavs also have second-year standout Yogi Ferrell returning for another season in coach Rick Carlisle’s system after coming on strong to close the ’16-17 campaign and earning All-Rookie Second Team honors. Veterans Seth Curry, J.J. Barea and Devin Harris are also signed for next season to supply the Mavs with depth in the backcourt. And according to Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson, Smith will have to prove he’s ready to take the reins during training camp in order to win the starting job.

“Those keys are earned. You know, it’s going to be an interesting training camp,” Nelson explained during Smith’s introductory press conference with the Dallas media. “I think Dennis is going to play for one of the best coaches in the NBA. That being said, I think internally you can’t help but be excited by the potential, but he wouldn’t want it any other way. Just knowing the character of Dennis and knowing his family and surrounding structure, he’s going to want to earn those minutes. He’s truly a winner in every sense of the word.”

Smith showed that winning nature during the MGM Resorts Summer League in Las Vegas last month, averaging 17.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.2 steals in six games as the Mavericks advanced to the semifinals of the tournament with a 5-1 record. Meanwhile, Ferrell picked up where he left off at last season, posting averages of 13.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.2 steals alongside Smith in the backcourt.

The two cat-quick guards are now expected to emerge as the frontrunners for the starting job. That said, Mavs owner Mark Cuban believes Ferrell’s competitive nature will make it a position battle to watch in training camp.

“I think Yogi and Dennis are going to push each other,” Cuban explained. “You know, Yogi is super competitive. He started a lot of games as a D-League call-up and basically a 10-day (signee), and I know that he’s just as competitive as Dennis is. They’re going to push each other. And I think that young core is what we want to continue to build on and grow with, and hopefully surprise a lot of people.”

The Mavs ranked 30th in league in scoring last season, posting just 97.9 points per game as a team. Dallas also dished out just 20.8 assists an outing, ranking 27th in that department. The Mavericks’ 103.7 offensive rating also ranked 23rd in the league. That said, Carlisle will ask for much more production to come from his floor generals this upcoming season.

“Well, having a dynamic point guard that can get places, that can attack space, create help and kick to guys like Dirk, like Wes (Matthews) and like (Harrison) Barnes, guys that can shoot the ball, and be able to hit guys like Nerlens (Noel) on rolls can really be a game-changer,” Carlisle explained.

“Look, we’ve had good point guards here for a long time,” he added. “Jason Kidd is one of the best in franchise history, but he’s a different kind of player than Dennis. You know, Dennis has got some gears that we just haven’t seen in a point guard in this organization since I’ve been here and maybe ever, so that’s exciting. I believe he has the ability to make the game easier for others. You know, people are going to be coming at him hard as a rookie and as a guy that’s coming in with some accolades, some hype and things like that, and I think he understands it. I think he’s looking forward to that.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Thunder big man Steven Adams has shaved off his mustache … Are the NBA’s small-market teams heded for a disaster scenario? … The Sixers and Celtics will square off in the 2018 NBA London Game … Mexico City will play host to a pair of regular-season games in 2017-18 … Anthony Davis says he and the Pelicans are ‘tired of losing’ … Some potential bad news for the Rockets on prospect Sergio Llull