This morning’s headlines:
- Wall wants to stay in Washington long-term
- Nowitzki might play beyond this season
- Rubio hopes to put things together in Utah
- Curry misses the cut
Wall wants to stay in Washington long-term: When free agency began on July 1, John Wall didn’t immediately sign a contract extension with the Washington Wizards, which raised a few eyebrows. But Wall eventually did sign that long-term extension, and as he explained yesterday to the Associated Press, he wants to play for Washington for the rest of his career.
After signing a $170 million, four-year extension with the Washington Wizards that keeps him under contract through 2022-23, Wall said he wants to watch two banners rise to the rafters in Washington: one for a title and another with his No. 2 jersey.
“There’s no point in testing free agency if I know where I want to be,” Wall said Friday. “I have the ultimate goal what I want to do here. I know what team I want to play for my whole career.”
Wall turns 27 in September, so he’ll only be 32 when this contract expires or 31 if he opts out in 2022. Backcourt mate Bradley Beal and swingman Otto Porter Jr. are signed to max contracts through 2021, giving the Wizards several seasons to try to win with this core.
In an era of players like LeBron James and Kevin Durant taking their talents elsewhere, Wall put his money where his mouth is by agreeing to another contract.
“It’s critical that your star players want to stay and play for the team. That’s not always the case,” said Scott Brooks, who previously coached Durant in Oklahoma City. “We have our three players that we drafted all want to stay here and stay long term. It’s good because if you don’t have your best players want to stay here, nobody wants to stay here.”
Owner Ted Leonsis said he didn’t think Wall would “have a wandering eye” about free agency when his contract was up in 2019. Wall said loyalty played a role, though it doesn’t hurt that it has come with three playoff appearances in the past four years.
The Wizards missed the playoffs the previous five seasons and are now among the top teams in the East along with the Cavaliers, Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors. Amid all the roster fluctuation with Kyrie Irving wanting out of Cleveland, Boston signing Gordon Hayward and Paul George being traded from Indiana to Oklahoma City, Washington continues to value continuity.
“We want to have consistent, sustainable success,” Brooks said. “We don’t want to ride the roller-coaster of an NBA team going up and down up and down each and every other year.”
Wall said he wants to stay Washington, but acknowledged he’ll see what happens after this contract. He wants to control where he plays but doesn’t have wanderlust about what else is out there after seven seasons in Washington.
“You have a lot of guys teaming up, which you wouldn’t see in the past,” Wall said. “Sometimes the grass is not always greener on the other side.”
Nowitzki might play beyond this season: As Dirk Nowitzki heads into his 20th NBA season, all with the Dallas Mavericks, he signed a two-year contract, with a team option for the 2018-19 season. As Dirk explained to Eddie Sefko from the Dallas Morning News, he’s not ready to say that this will be his last season.
In his first comments about the new contract he signed last month, Nowitzki made it clear that it’s a close, give-and-take relationship with owner Mark Cuban that led him to sign a two-year deal worth $5 million this season with a team option for next year.
To say the least, it’s a team-friendly deal — chump change by today’s NBA standards.
“Mark and I obviously have a close, close relationship,” Nowitzki said from Johannesburg, South Africa, where he is participating in the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders program and will play in NBA Africa Game 2017 on Saturday. “Last year, he really, really took care of me as we all know. That was well-documented.
“And it was my time to show again that I love being here. I gave him a little bit of a deal, maybe.”
It’s true that if you combine last season and the coming season, Nowitzki will have earned $30 million. That’s certainly a competitive NBA salary.
But dropping from $25 million to $5 million turned some heads this summer. And, with the team owning the option for 2018-19, Nowitzki said this coming season, his 20th, still might not be his last.
“Really it’s signed for two years,” he said. “We’ll see how the next year goes and obviously we all know I wanted to end my career there and I’m glad we got to that position now.”
Nowitzki, 39, has been traveling in Europe and Africa for most of the past month, visiting his family in Germany and his wife’s family in Sweden and Kenya. He arrived in South Africa earlier this week and has been taking part in camps and workouts with other NBA players such as Kristaps Porzingis and C.J. McCollum.
He has not gotten a chance to meet new Mavericks point guard Dennis Smith Jr. But he did hear the reports and see the highlights from the Las Vegas summer league and is excited about the prospects for the team’s future, both short- and long-term.
“What an unbelievable athlete he is just playing above the rim, getting in the paint, and finishing,” he said. “I think we’re going to have a lot of fun with this kid, a lot of fun. It’s going to definitely be a piece for us to build with.”
Nowitzki said pairing Smith with Harrison Barnes and, he hopes, Nerlens Noel, should give the Mavericks an athletic core that can compete with anybody. The only hitch in that outlook is getting Noel signed to a new contract, which doesn’t look like it’s going to happen soon.
“We’re looking forward to the future and the whole Noel situation is a little unfortunate I think,” Nowitzki said. “We traded for him to keep him for the long run. I’m not sure what the latest is there, but I’m hoping that things will work out and he’s coming back to the Mavs and we’d have a crew that at times can be very athletic — when I’m out of the game.”
Rubio hopes to put things together in Utah: The Utah Jazz may have lost Gordon Hayward in free agency, but they did pick up 26-year-old point guard Ricky Rubio in a trade. And after a tumultuous last few years in Minnesota, Rubio says he’s looking forward to everything hopefully coming together this year in Salt Lake City, as he explained to Andy Larsen…
Rubio did really benefit from the spacing that Karl-Anthony Towns’ shooting ability provided in Minnesota, and their pick-and-pop play was maybe Minnesota’s most reliable scoring weapon. He won’t be able to do that with Rudy Gobert, but Rubio is confident that he’ll fit well with the rolling big man.
“I think I can really help him play at an All-Star level,” Rubio said of Gobert. “It’s going to be great having a teammate that good that fits my game a lot.”
Because Rubio is such a good passer, and Gobert is freakishly long, Rubio is going to find opportunities when the big man takes just one step toward Rubio, even where they wouldn’t exist for most pick and roll combinations.
Rubio’s offensive problems are real, but they’re in two areas: his catch-and-shoot ability and his weirdly awful layup game. To be sure, Rubio is one of the worst players in the league in both categories. Teams help off of him when he’s spotting up anywhere, and he’s most effective when he attacks closeouts in other ways besides shooting. Part of Rubio’s renaissance over the second part of last season was hitting catch-and-shoot jumpers at 60 percent effective field goal percentage, which was even higher than Hill’s season mark of 59 percent. It is reasonable to be skeptical that that improvement can last for a whole season.
That being said, the Jazz are impressively confident they can change Rubio’s finishing around the rim in a meaningful way. Two seasons ago, Rubio shot just 33 percent on layups, which is crazy, but he’s improved all the way to 50 percent over the last two campaigns. That’s still bad, but better. The Jazz’s coaching staff believes that with drills and technique he can improve on that to become somewhere near league average — 55 or 60 percent or so.
But Rubio’s huge strengths and glaring weaknesses mean that Quin Snyder is going to have to change his offense in big ways. Unselfishness will still be key, but the Jazz will be relying on their point guard to do more of the creation for the team than at any time in the Snyder or Ty Corbin eras.
Snyder and Rubio, by all accounts, are working together on creating their plan.
“Since I was traded, I’ve talked to coach every week,” Rubio said. “He wants me involved in a lot of the decisions he’s making.
“I’ve never been with a coach that talks and gets involved that much and asks for opinion from a player that much. He listens a lot,” Rubio said. “He wants me to work with him for a different type of plays, and that’s great for a player like me that likes to think, likes to know, and get involved with the different sets, and to see what some of the sets are because it has worked for me.”
Curry misses cut: After shooting a 4-over 74 on Thursday in the first round of a professional golf tournament, two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry followed that up by posting another 74 on Friday. Curry missed the cut, but did well enough that the pros who were watching came away impressed, as the Associated Press writes…
Curry bogeyed two of the first three holes on Friday and shot a 39 on a 3-hour front nine. He made five straight pars and birdied No. 14 but he played the final three holes at plus-1 with two bogeys and a birdie on 17.
“That was awesome what he did yesterday,” British Open champion Jordan Spieth said Friday at the Bridgestone Invitational. “I think he certainly beat most everybody’s expectations, but I don’t think that really surprised him. It was pretty cool — really cool — to see. You see him fist-pumping out there, and just him talking about how nervous he was when he heard his name called, it just makes us feel a little better when sometimes some of the stuff he does looks like a robot.”
Stanford alum Andrew Yun shot a 62 on Friday and finished two rounds at 8-under 127. Fellow American Brandon Harkins is two shots back after rounds of 64 and 65.
One of the highlights for Curry in the opening round was a long birdie putt and telling his caddie to “Go get that” from the cup. That was the famous line Spieth said to his caddie at Royal Birkdale two weeks ago after a 50-foot eagle putt to take the lead.
“To be honest, I think it’s pretty special for a two-time MVP to be able to shoot 74 at a pro event and beat other pros,” former PGA champion Jason Day said.
No one expected very much out of Curry, who last year played in the pro-am at the PGA Tour’s season opener in Napa. The field included players who have competed in majors this year, and seven players who have won on the PGA Tour.
The question in some corners was how high his score would be.
“I was asked if I thought he was going to break 80, and that’s the hand grenade question,” Paul Casey said. “But 4 over is really good. It’s a lot of pressure, and he exceeded my expectations.”
Zach Johnson, a two-time major champion, said he has a friend who knows Curry and said he was a good player. The score in the first round was enough to make a believer out of Johnson.
“Clearly, he is,” Johnson said. “I don’t know that golf course. Someone said they shoot pretty low there often, but it doesn’t matter. You’ve still got to put the ball in the hole. First round as an amateur in a professional tournament? That’s pretty good.”
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