Morning Shootaround

Shootaround (Sept. 10) -- Charlotte Hornets still committed to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Staff

This morning’s headlines:

Hornets still committed to Kidd-Gilchrist — The Charlotte Hornets drafted Malik Monk in the lottery and another wing (Dwayne Bacon) in the second round, with four years and $99 million left on Nicolas Batum’s contract. Shooting is the most important (measurable) skill in the game today and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has made a grand total of seven 3-pointers in his five-year career. But the Hornets are still committed to the former No. 2 pick, who is set to start again this season, as Rick Bonnell writes in the Charlotte Observer

Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford didn’t wait around for a question Friday. What he said about small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist amounted to a proclamation:

MKG is again his starter two weeks out from training camp, and Clifford states that with conviction.

“MKG – everybody wants to know – he’ll start and I think he’ll have a great year,” Clifford said at a luncheon with media regularly covering the Hornets.

“Spacing is the basic tenant of offensive basketball,” Clifford said, acknowledging Kidd-Gilchrist’s limited shooting range. “But it’s not as important as competitiveness, it’s not as important as character, and it’s not as important as natural talent.

“He is a natural athlete. He has a feel for the game, he’s a tough guy who cares about the team, and I think he can be one of the top 10 defenders in the league this year.”

Not coincidentally, Clifford wants his team to get back in the top 10 in defensive efficiency after falling to 14th last season.

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Ainge made tough call on trade — In The Players’ Tribune this week, Isaiah Thomas wrote about the emotions of being traded. The deal was also difficult for the man who traded him. The Boston Globe‘s Gary Washburn spoke with Celtics president Danny Ainge about the emotions of the deal and having to call Thomas to tell him that he was going to Cleveland.

“It was definitely the toughest call I ever had to make,” Ainge said. “It’s in everybody’s best interest that I don’t share all the reasons [for the trade]. But the bottom line is obviously I felt like it was the right thing for our franchise to do. But it’s a deep and complicated process. It’s not as simple as people think it is.

“And again, being a player in professional sports for 18 years and being traded twice and signing as a free agent once and playing on championship teams and being a coach in this league and being an executive for as long as I have, I think I’ve got a pretty good grasp on all of the emotions and I have a pretty good understanding how real this all is involving players and their lives and their families and the disruptions and the emotions. I get all that and that’s not easy for players and for coaches and for executives that invest a lot into these players.

“It’s not easy for these office people that become great friends with the players. There’s a reality that I see and that’s what makes any sort of trade challenging. But it’s just part of the world that we live in, but it’s got to be done. You’ve got to do what’s best for the franchise. The franchise is bigger than all of us. Bigger than one individual.”

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Curry hoping to inspire — Gerald Flores of Complex caught up with Stephen Curry on a tour of China and talked about his ability to inspire the next generation of hoopers . . .

“A lot of the younger generation who are watching the game now don’t remember seeing Michael play. Even the younger, younger generation don’t even know who Kobe is on the court,” Curry said.

“This is my time to do me and get the most out of the game that I can. It goes with that off-the-court impression of being able to inspire kids to want to be like me when they grow up … That’s the goal for sure and there’s a huge opportunity to make that happen.”

I was talking in the car with one of the locals and he told me that it’s only like this for three basketball players: Jordan, Kobe, and you. What do you think it is about you that resonates with the people here?

I don’t know. I’ve been asked that question a lot and it’s kind of hard to answer because I really can’t speak for the fans. But I think most of it is because the way I play is something that most people can try to emulate. I’m not a high-flyer going above the rim or anything. For the average basketball player, no matter what level you are or what age you are, everybody loves to shoot, and they love to shoot from way out. I’m pretty sure that has a little bit to do with it. How much fun I have on the court when I’m playing is some of it too. I like to play the game with a smile and that’s genuinely how much I appreciate the game.

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Is Dennis Smith Jr. the Mavs’ foundation? — In our annual Rookie Survey, this year’s class of first-year players picked Dennis Smith Jr. to win Rookie of the Year. But Eddie Sefko of the Dallas News wonders if Smith can be more than that for the Mavs in the years to come…

How do they temper through-the-roof expectations for rookie guard Dennis Smith Jr., knowing with certainty that this young player — still a teenager — holds the keys to the future for the organization?

And how do they keep media and fans from jumping to the easy conclusion that, if Smith can play well and show that he’s a star of the future, it bodes very well for the franchise when it comes to fortifying the roster with upgraded talent next summer?

It’s clear that the rookie’s play will be pivotal in how the Mavericks ease into the post-Nowitzki years — whenever they begin.

However, no matter how good he is, it doesn’t mean the franchise will fast-track its way back into relevance in the NBA.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Ben Simmons is impressing Sixers vets in voluntary workouts … A Q&A with Russell Westbrook about fashion … A Q&A with Avery Bradley about being traded and playing for Stan Van Gundy … and Paul Pierce looks ready to squash his beef with Ray Allen…


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