Morning Shootaround

Shootaround (Oct. 8): Thabo Sefolosha rescues woman from Provo River

Plus, the Nuggets agree to an extension with Gary Harris, David Robinson gives back, and more

NBA.com Staff

This morning’s headlines:

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From guard to lifeguard for Sefolosha — Veteran wing Thabo Sefolosha and his family were simply seeking a day outside in their new surroundings in Utah, where he landed after signing a two-year deal with the Jazz this offseason. But the leisurely day turned into something harrowing, with at least one renewed and soggy Jazz fan grateful that Sefolosha was around, as Kyle Goon writes for the Salt Lake Tribune:

[What] the Jazz forward may view as a small encounter last month on the Provo River was a life-saving moment — and Lori Clark wants him, and fans of the Jazz, to know how much it meant to her.

“He didn’t realize I was really in dire straits,” she said in an interview with the Tribune. “He really did save my life that day.”

The 33-year-old Sefolosha has made it a point to go outdoors with his wife, Bertille, and two daughters, Lesedi and Naledi, to adapt to their new home. The day after they flew in from Europe, they decided to go rafting on a warm Sunday.

“We didn’t know exactly what to expect,” he said. “It was a little more challenging than we thought.”

It was rougher for some than others: Clark had decided to float on the river with several of her friends and her children, on what she called a “bucket list” adventure. But the river was faster and harder to handle than anticipated — many weekend tubers can relate.

With about 20 minutes left on the trip, Clark hit a boulder in the stream and flipped over. Her tube and oars quickly floated downstream. Her life vest rode up past her head, and she was struggling for air.

“I always wondered how people drowned in small water before this happened,” she said. “The water was so swift, I couldn’t catch my breath. It was really terrifying.”

One of her friends, Heidi Bishop, grabbed her shirt and tried to take her along with her, but she was worried that Clark might capsize her as well. As she thrashed along in the water, Clark was hitting rocks in the stream, gathering cuts and bruises.

They asked for help from at least one other person as they struggled: He advised them to keep along as they were and then went on his way.

It was at this moment of peril that the Sefoloshas came up the river. Thabo asked if he could help, then helped lift her into his raft.

“It’s really nice to watch the Jazz now because they have a nice player on who will help anybody,” Clark said. “I just think Utah’s really lucky to have him. I thank God every day he showed up when he did.”

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Nuggets secure Harris as building block — Players traded on draft night provide an extra layer of hindsight potential for second-guessers both professional and amateur. Not only can teams that opted out of selecting him entirely be scrutinized for the decision, but the organization that “had” that player in its grasp, only to send him elsewhere immediately faces even more criticism. Given how things are working out for Denver guard Gary Harris – landing an extension to stick around as part of the Nuggets’ overall vision, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski – his modest roots as part of a Doug McDermott deal in June 2014 with Chicago figure to generate some cranky conversation in the Windy City:

Denver Nuggets guard Gary Harris has reached agreement on a four-year, $84 million contract extension, league sources told ESPN.

The deal includes $74 million in guaranteed money, and team and individual bonus clauses worth the remaining $10 million, league sources said.

[…]

Harris, 23, is eligible for his rookie extension as part of the NBA’s 2014 draft class. There’s an Oct. 16 deadline for players to agree to a deal, or proceed into restricted free agency in July.

Harris and center Nikola Jokic have developed into the cornerstone talents of the Nuggets’ talented young core.

Harris’ extension, which begins with the 2018-19 season, represents a dramatic rise for a 19th overall draft pick who overcame a poor rookie season in the NBA.

Last season, Harris averaged 14.9 points on 50 percent field goal shooting and 42 percent on 3-pointers.

Harris’ progression this preseason, including a 25-point, 21-minute performance against the Los Angeles Lakers, has further solidified his standing as one of the NBA’s elite young shooting guards.

He will rank in the top 10 in salary for shooting guards in 2018-19, joining James Harden, DeMar DeRozan, CJ McCollum, Bradley Beal, Nicolas Batum, Victor Oladipo, Jimmy Butler, Klay Thompson and Wesley Matthews in the top 10.

Harris’ deal eliminates one more possible restricted free agent from the market in the summer of 2018. With limited salary-cap space on the market, restricted free agency promises to be an uncertain proposition for players. Next summer’s market of unrestricted free-agent shooting guards could include Philadelphia’s JJ Redick, Detroit’s Avery Bradley, the Lakers’ Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, San Antonio’s Danny Green and Indiana’s Glenn Robinson III.

And here’s some context on Harris’ worth among his peers:

https://twitter.com/HPbasketball/status/916862645675868160

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‘The Admiral’ leads real social change — Speaking out or kneeling or scrawling a message in black marker on footwear all are ways professional athletes have taken stands and shared their views of societal needs and ills in recent years. But there’s a difference between talking about making a difference and actually making a difference, the latter of which former San Antonio center David Robinson is doing with his Carver Academy and College Prep school. Michael Fletcher of TheUndefeated.com learned about the Hall of Famer’s commitment and heavy lifting in walking the walk, not just talking the talk:

Robinson launched what was then called Carver Academy 16 years ago with $10 million of his own money. It began as a small parochial school serving elementary students, but it is now a publicly funded charter school that enrolls more than 1,100 pupils. Most of the students are Hispanic or black, and most of them are from low-income families. Nearly all of them are on track for college, school officials say.

… And while Robinson is careful not to criticize any protesting players, he says it remains to be seen whether their strong words will be matched by meaningful deeds — or make the kind of difference that is happening at Carver.

“There is certainly more awareness now. Guys understand their influence and opportunity,” Robinson said. “I’ve talked to a lot of young athletes. They care. They want to do something significant. The question is, how? How do they do it?”

It is something Robinson knows firsthand. It took him years to turn his dream of a school into reality. He says the athletes eager to make change should be prepared for a similar struggle.

“Guys in the NBA visit Carver all the time. Some of them say, ‘This is great. I want to start a school too,’ ” Robinson said. “My reaction is usually, ‘Wait. Slow down.’ You’ve got to be sure this is what you want to do. There is so much to learn. It is daunting. When a lot of guys come into the league, they are not prepared to write a check, much less run a school or build something.”

Robinson’s patient brand of activism led him to not only open a school but to also co-found Admiral Capital Group, a private equity firm that helps pay for his good deeds. Admiral controls more than $1 billion in office space, hotels and apartment developments. The company also has invested alongside several NBA and NFL team owners in an online platform that helps coaches at all levels break down game film as well as a separate online platform that automates management of youth athletic leagues. The firm sets aside 10 percent of its profits for donations aimed at making social change.

“The business is a sustainable way of making a long-term impact,” said Daniel Bassichis, a former Goldman Sachs banker and the firm’s co-founder, who once served on Carver’s board. “It has a constant income, which is key. Most [athletes’] foundations do not have this kind of income.”

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Hawkins at his best largely unseen by NBA — Connie Hawkins, the New York playground legend who palmed the basketball the way most of us can palm a grapefruit, logged parts of seven seasons in the NBA with the Suns and the Lakers. He produced, in that time, a bushel of highlights before he was done at age 33 – he even snagged a memorable role opposite vertically challenged singer/songwriter Paul Simon in a game of 1-on-1 in a short film for “Saturday Night Live.” But Hawkins’ career ran into multiple barricades and speed bumps that didn’t block him from the Hall of Fame but did largely keep his remarkable skills away from basketball’s brightest stage. “The Hawk” died Friday and the New York Times had his obit:

Connie Hawkins, a high-flying basketball sensation who was molded on the playgrounds of New York and inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, but whose career was unjustly derailed when the N.B.A. banned him until his prime years had passed on suspicions of involvement in a college point-shaving scandal, died on Friday. He was 75.

The Phoenix Suns confirmed the death but did not say where he died. Hawkins, who lived in the Phoenix area, joined the team when he was 27 after starring with two lesser leagues and the Harlem Globetrotters. The Associated Press said he had been in frail health and was found to have colon cancer in 2007.

Even as a playground legend, Hawkins had the jaw-dropping flash that superstars like Elgin Baylor, Julius Erving and Michael Jordan would display, turning pro basketball into a national sports spectacular.

“He was Julius before Julius, he was Elgin before Elgin, he was Michael before Michael,” the longtime college and pro coach Larry Brown once said in an ESPN documentary on Hawkins. “He was simply the greatest individual player I have ever seen.”

Hawkins, who played seven seasons in the National Basketball Association with three teams, was a four-time All-Star with the Suns and averaged more than 16 points a game. But his pro career was haunted by what ifs.

The former playground phenom could dunk the ball at age 11, when he was 6 feet 2 inches. He became one of the finest players in New York City high school basketball history, starring in Brooklyn and being named a first-team all-American. Growing into a 6-foot-8-inch frame, he possessed unusually large hands and a talent for bursting through defenses before slamming down a dunk.

But by the time he reached the grandest stage in basketball, the N.B.A., he was at an advanced age for a rookie and recovering from knee surgery.

By then, a basketball career that had held so much potential for greatness had been damaged by the suspicions — unsubstantiated — that he had been involved in a collegiate point-shaving scandal in the early 1960s.

Recovering from the setback proved to be an enormous emotional challenge.

“It was totally devastating,” Hawkins told NBA.com in 2009. “I was innocent, but no one would listen to me. Plus, coming from a poor family, no one even thought about trying to get a lawyer to fight it. We just weren’t that sophisticated.”

Other players in the league shared the view that he had been mistreated. When Hawkins was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1992, Bob Lanier, the former Detroit Pistons center, who was part of that class, said Hawkins had “never got his just due,” adding, “because obviously the media wasn’t big then.”

Lanier marveled at Hawkins’s skills. Referring to Erving, he remarked how Hawkins “was doing these wild, swooping kind of moves before anyone knew about Dr. J.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Naturally Celtics great Bill Russell had his jersey number retired and hoisted into the rafters. But why was Boston Garden quiet and nearly empty on the day that “ceremony” was held in 1972? … It’s looking like Markelle Fultz and Jayson Tatum might be forever linked by their status in the draft in June, as well as by their pasts and their futures. … Quick, quicker, quickest! The Orlando Magic intend to run this season. … Miami’s Justice Winslow is ready mentally and physically for a personally pivotal season. … Pacers rookie T.J. Leaf might swipe some playing time from veteran big Al Jefferson. … Malcolm Delaney, Atlanta’s “veteran rookie” last season, talks about his unusual path to the NBA and more.

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