Khris Middleton

Olympics Notes: Middleton, Booker, Gasol, Team USA

It’s been an unusual week for the Bucks’ Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton and the Suns’ Devin Booker, who have gone from being Finals opponents to Olympic teammates in the span of a few days, writes Mark Medina of USA Today. Milwaukee wrapped the series Tuesday night, leaving the players with a tight schedule to get to Tokyo in time for Sunday morning’s opener against France.

Middleton admits he and Booker “haven’t said a word to each other” since the Finals ended, but he believes they’ll have a normal relationship during the Olympics.

“I think we’ll be fine,” Middleton said. “I’m sure we won’t be best buddies during Team USA, but we’ll be teammates, for sure. We’ll be on the same path, talking basketball X’s and O’s, trying to get the job done.”

Booker, who has called it “a life goal” to play in the Olympics, also doesn’t expect any hard feelings to linger from the Finals matchup.

“It’s never personal between who you’re going with, unless lines are crossed,” he said. “Those guys aren’t that type and I would never go that way with them, because there’s a high respect level for each other. I think that’s why we’re in the position that we’re in right now. Representing your country is a whole different dynamic than competing against each other in the NBA Finals, but I can always respect somebody that competes at the highest level.”

There’s more on the Olympic Games:

  • Spain’s Pau Gasol credits the memory of former Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant with inspiring him to recover from a foot injury that could have ended his basketball career, Medina adds in a separate story.
  • France upset the U.S. at the FIBA World Cup in 2019, and the Americans see Sunday’s opener as a chance to re-establish their dominance, per Joe Vardon of The Athletic. The players feel like they have something to prove after two years of listening to talk that Team USA might not be the best in the world anymore. “If anything, maybe you lost a little bit of the fear that we’ve had in people’s hearts for years — which you go out and do what you’ve got to do and you can get that right back,” said Draymond Green.
  • With the last-minute addition of three players, plus the late replacements of Keldon Johnson and JaVale McGee, who joined the team July 16, the coaching staff plans to keep things simple, according to Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times. Head coach Gregg Popovich said he will employ a “less is more” strategy, while assistant Steve Kerr adds, “We’re not going to have a ton of plays. That would be impossible.”

Olympic Notes: LaVine, NBA Participants, Hernangomez, Finals Trio

Zach LaVine was placed in protocols due to contact tracing before he was allowed to go to Tokyo. That development came as a big surprise to the Team USA wing. LaVine was sidelined for 11 Bulls games in April when he tested positive for COVID-19, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun Times writes. “Well I was a little shocked,’’ LaVine said. “Obviously, I didn’t think I could get [the virus]. Obviously, I didn’t. I’m going to have to be careful with everybody including the team and everybody coming over here, so it made sense, and I pretty much had to do my time, jump through a couple hoops to get here.’’

We have more Olympic-related notes:

  • If there are a lot of familiar faces in the Olympic tournament, it’s because there are a record number of current and former NBA participants. According to an NBA press release, there are 49 current players and 16 former players dotting Olympic rosters. The Heat lead the way with four players in the competition.
  • Spain’s basketball federation president claims that Juan Hernangomez won’t play in the Olympics because Timberwolves president Gersson Rosas nixed it, according to a Eurohoops story relayed by Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Hernangomez dislocated his left shoulder this summer but Jorge Garbajosa says the big man has been cleared by Spain’s medical staff. “Juancho wants to play in the Olympic Games, but Juancho won’t be able to play,” Garbajosa said. “We’ve had countless medical meetings and we’ve never received a ‘no.’ We have a received a ‘yes’. … It’s a problem of people – not medical personnel – who have personally decided that Juancho couldn’t play. I’m talking about their president of basketball operations.”
  • Devin Booker, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday arrived in Tokyo on Saturday and their Team USA teammates are impressed by the commitment of the three players who participated in the Finals, Brian Windhorst of ESPN writes. “I have a lot of respect for those guys for not only committing to do this but actually keeping their word,” Draymond Green said. “You’re talking about three true professionals, three extremely competitive guys that wouldn’t be on their way here if this didn’t mean something.”

Olympic Notes: Booker, Middleton, Holiday, McGee, Robinson, Top Players

Devin Booker, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday are expected to be available to play in Team USA’s Sunday morning opener, Brian Windhorst of ESPN writes. The Bucks duo joined Booker in Seattle on Friday to take a private plane to Tokyo. The Finals trio won’t get a chance to practice with the team but coach Gregg Popovich would like to play them right away against France.

We have more Olympic-related news and tidbits:

  • JaVale McGee is a much different player than the man he replaced, Kevin Love, on Team USA. That forces Popovich to alter his frontcourt strategy and McGee may be nothing more than an insurance policy against France, Joe Vardon of The Athletic writes.
  • Heat wing Duncan Robinson claimed on The Long Shot Podcast that he nearly replaced Bradley Beal on Team USA’s roster, as Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald relays. “It basically got to the point where like it started to pick up some momentum and it looked like it was going to happen,” Robinson said. Keldon Johnson was eventually chosen as Beal’s replacement.
  • Many of the other teams in the Olympics could threaten Team USA in its quest for gold and Vardon takes a closer look at the other 11 squads and their chances of knocking off the American contingent.
  • Luka Doncic, Kevin Durant and Damian Lillard head HoopsHype’s Frank Urbina’s Olympic player rankings. Doncic edged out Durant due to the fact he’ll likely put up big numbers for Slovenia. Urbina lists his top 30 players in Tokyo.

Olympic Notes: Holiday, Middleton, Booker, Hill

The U.S. Olympic team is about to get some reinforcements now that the NBA Finals are over, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic. With the Bucks finishing off the Suns Tuesday night, Jrue Holiday, Khris Middleton and Devin Booker are all headed to Tokyo and are expected to be ready when the Americans open Olympic play on Sunday against France.

All three players will bring some welcome firepower to a team that went 2-2 in exhibition play. While they didn’t have the benefit of training with their new teammates, coach Gregg Popovich is confident that it won’t take long for everyone to adjust.

“Chemistry is something that we hope forms quickly,” Popovich said. “These guys get along very well. They haven’t played together but they know each other and they’re very happy to be here. They’ve sacrificed a lot under the circumstances to do this. The chemistry builds day by day, you can’t force that issue. It just happens organically. The three guys that are coming in will blend in as best they can and we’ll try to do a good job coaching-wise to put them in situations where they feel comfortable together.”

There’s more on the Olympics:

  • Despite the difficulty of going from one high-level competition to another, none of the three players in the Finals have any regrets about their Olympic decisions, according to Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic“Yes, there is a component of playing for your country, playing for your family,” Holiday said. “My wife (former soccer star Lauren Cheney) being a two-time Olympian, was is also a factor, but I think not having a break and just feeling like, well, we’re in the Finals, why not just continue playing basketball.”
  • A busy schedule awaits Grant Hill after the Olympics, notes Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. Hill will replace Jerry Colangelo as managing director of USA Basketball and will have just a few months before qualifying begins for the 2023 Basketball World Cup. Hill won’t be at the Olympics because of limits on personnel that can travel with a team, but he has worked closely with Colangelo to prepare for the new role. “No question, these are big shoes to fill,” Hill said. “Jerry has been incredible. His vision, strategic thinking, his will to make this successful. … I’m amazed at many things I didn’t know about his various contributions to the game of basketball.”
  • Kevin Durant, Luka Doncic, Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol and Rudy Gobert are the top players to watch in this year’s Games, The Athletic states in its guide to men’s Olympic basketball.

Olympic Notes: Grant, Johnson, Finals Trio, Randle, McGee

Bradley Beal won’t be able to participate in the Olympics due to health and safety protocols, but Team USA has Jerami Grant back on the roster, Joe Vardon of The Athletic tweets. The Pistons forward exited protocols and played 12 minutes in the team’s final tuneup, an 83-76 win over Spain on Sunday. Team USA will begin its quest for gold this Sunday against France.

We have more Olympic news and observations:

  • Gregg Popovich and managing director Jerry Colangelo raised some eyebrows when Keldon Johnson was promoted from the Select Team as an injury replacement. The Spurs wing is justifying that decision, as ESPN’s Brian Windhorst notes. Johnson supplied 15 points in 17 minutes against Spain. “Keldon Johnson just played a solid basketball game,” Popovich said. “He shot it when he was open and when he did go to the bucket he was very physical.”
  • For the Olympic team’s sake, it would best for the Finals to end with a Milwaukee victory on Tuesday, Vardon writes. Devin BookerKhris Middleton and Jrue Holiday will join Team USA after the Finals are completed and it’s fair to wonder how much they’ll have left in the tank both physically and emotionally. Popovich hopes he can ease them into the Group play. “In some ways, it might depend on if everybody else is healthy, and if they’re not then they got to play,” he said. “We’ve gone over lots of scenarios, but we haven’t figured it out yet.”
  • Knicks All-Star Julius Randle was never offered the chance to join the U.S. team as an injury replacement, Marc Berman of the New York Post reports. Instead, Team USA opted for role players in Johnson and center JaVale McGee, who gives the team a much-needed shot blocker. “We decided that was the most logical and appropriate choice,’’ Popovich said. “Given the choices we had, (McGee) fit the best.”

Central Notes: Doumbouya, Middleton, Antetokoumpo, Simonovic

While fielding a number of questions about the Pistons’ No. 1 pick, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com also addressed the future of 2019 draft pick Sekou Doumbouya. Langlois anticipates Doumbouya, who wasn’t drafted by current general manager Troy Weaver, will play in the summer league where he can show greater consistency and effectiveness. The Pistons must decide this offseason whether to pick up the forward’s fourth-year option at $5.5MM for the 2022/23 season.

We have more on the Central Division:

  • Bucks forward Khris Middleton is focused on the Finals but he’s also a minority owner with the Brisbane Bullets in Australia’s NBL. Middleton told Marc Spears of The Undefeated many players are looking into similar ventures. “Being a part of an ownership group is something I wanted to do, for sure,” Middleton said. “As a player it could be tough. But I realize the responsibilities I had wasn’t going to really affect my basketball career right now. But it’s something I think a lot of players are starting to trend towards is finding ways to invest their money, finding things to do with their money that can grow, and it’s something I’m interested in.”
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo and Middleton are the two main building blocks that made the Bucks a championship-level team. Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today examines the lengthy partnership between the two teammates. Middleton was acquired in 2013 from Detroit in the same year the two-time MVP was drafted. “At first, friendly competition, a guy like him from Detroit and I just got drafted,” Antetokounmpo said. “We just tried to get on the floor, going at one another in practices. But throughout the time, there was a lot of times that he proved that he’s going to do whatever it takes to help the team win. That’s the type of guy that you want next to you.”
  • Draft-and-stash prospect Marko Simonovic is expected to sign with the Bulls this summer and from what K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago hears, he can be a rotation player at least. Simonovic was a second-round pick so the team’s fans should set their expectations for the 6’11” big man accordingly, Johnson adds.

Bucks Notes: Middleton, Giannis, Team Building, Portis

The Bucks may be in a difficult situation, trailing Phoenix 2-0 in the NBA Finals, but the mood was relaxed at today’s media session, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Giannis Antetokounmpo joked with reporters as he answered questions, explaining that the team has chosen this approach rather than being dragged down by the must-win game Sunday night.

Khris Middleton noted that Milwaukee was in the same predicament in the second round against the Nets. The Bucks were able to regroup and take that series after two lopsided losses in Brooklyn.

“A lot of people thought our season was done,” he said. “We still believed in ourselves. We came back and had an ugly grind-it-out game that we found a way to win. Sometimes it’s not going to be pretty. Sometimes it’s going to be ugly. We just got to find a way to win one game at a time from here on out.”

There’s more from Milwaukee:

  • An impassioned speech that Antetokounmpo delivered late in the first half of Game 2 shows how much he has grown in a leadership role, observes Sam Amick of The Athletic. Although he prefers to avoid the spotlight, Giannis has become the team’s on-court leader, a status he cemented when he agreed to a contract extension in December. “He’s grown as a leader vocally. He always had that, you know, workman-type attitude and he always put as much time in the gym as anybody,” Pat Connaughton said. “But even when he got hurt (in the East finals), he was vocal. He was with us. He was present. He was in the locker room. He was on the bench during games. He was pulling people aside individually. He was pulling the team aside collectively and I think he’s done a phenomenal job in his growth as a leader vocally.”
  • It took eight years for the Bucks to build a Finals team around Antetokounmpo and Middleton, who have been with the team since 2013, and Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN looks back at nine significant events in that process.
  • In an article for The Players’ Tribune, Bobby Portis talks about the challenge facing the Bucks and how it relates to his own journey to become an NBA player.

Olympic Notes: Johnson, Garland, Bey, Durant, Satoransky

The Spurs’ Keldon Johnson, Cavaliers’ Darius Garland and Pistons’ Saddiq Bey will move up from the U.S. Select Team and play for Team USA in exhibition games, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.

The trio will fill in for Devin Booker, Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton, who will join Team USA after the Finals. Johnson, Garland and Bey would be candidates to join Team USA for the Olympics if any players have to bow out.

Exhibition games in Las Vegas will begin on Saturday with a matchup against Nigeria.

We have more on the Olympics:

  • Select Team members Cameron Reynolds, Josh Magette, John Jenkins and Dakota Mathias will remain in Las Vegas and will be available for exhibition games, Brian Windhorst of ESPN writes. The pool of Select Team players has been reduced by injuries and COVID-19 protocols. Timberwolves big man Naz Reid suffered a minor injury in Thursday’s practice, Windhorst adds.
  • Nets superstar Kevin Durant will look to collect his third gold medal in Tokyo and he’s energized by that possibility, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. “I committed to USA Basketball when I was coming out of college,” Durant said. “And every chance that I can get that I’m healthy and my mind is in the right place to play basketball, I’m going to go out there and play. Finished the year off healthy, the regular season and the playoffs, so I felt it’d be cool to get a kickstart on next season by getting in shape a little earlier in the summer with Team USA.”
  • Bulls guard Zach LaVine will be facing backcourt partner Tomas Satoransky in Group A play and he’s looking forward to the matchup, Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago relays. Satoransky will play for the Czech Republic, which is in Team USA’s Group along with Iran and France. “I’m looking forward to playing them and having some bragging rights,” LaVine said good-naturedly. “Hopefully, we really kick their butt.”

Central Notes: Sexton, Cavs Expectations, Cavs Offseason, Middleton

With the third pick in the 2021 draft now headed their way, the Cavaliers are set to consider a litany of offseason moves, including the possibility of trading 22-year-old combo guard Collin Sexton. However, sources close to Sexton anticipate that he will be part of the club’s long-term outlook, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com.

“Our guys are hungry. I think they understand that there’s talent here and that has to now translate into wins at some point,” team general manager Koby Altman said at the conclusion of the Cavaliers’ season, when the team finished with a disappointing 22-50 record. “It’s on me to help supplement that young talent and it’s on (head coach J.B. Bickerstaff) to keep growing the culture here.”

The 6’1″ Sexton shares an undersized starting backcourt with fellow 6’1″ recent lottery selection Darius Garland. Sexton had a standout season statistically, averaging career highs of 24.3 PPG and 4.4 APG, while tying his career highs of 3.1 RPG and 1.0 SPG.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • Given that they’re now armed with the No. 3 overall pick, it’s fair to expect growth from the Cavaliers next season, writes Jason Lloyd of The Athletic“I don’t want to put the pressure and the burden on the young core that it’s playoffs or bust, although that’s sort of what they’re talking about,” GM Koby Altman told Lloyd on Bally Sports Great Lakes’ “Drennan Live.” “If it’s the play-in tournament, if it’s playoffs, that’s where their mindset is and what they’re thinking about every day.” Lloyd notes that his preference would be to trade leading scorer Sexton, eligible for a lucrative contract extension this summer, in exchange for a proven veteran.
  • The Cavaliers will have a lot of optionality during the 2021 offseason, as Bobby Marks of ESPN details in a detailed look at Cleveland’s summer. Marks contends that, with a high draft pick in a loaded, top-heavy 2021 draft, the Cavaliers will be able to build on their intriguing young core of guards Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, wing Isaac Okoro, and center Jarrett Allen, should the team opt to retain everyone. Marks notes that, because the Cavaliers’ salary cap is clogged with veteran contracts, the team needs to maximize the on-court value of those pricey veterans, including former All-Star Kevin Love.
  • Though Bucks All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo didn’t get along with swingman Khris Middleton during their first season together in 2013/14 as they battled one another for playing time, Antetokounmpo says he trusts his sharp-shooting sidekick “to death” now, as Eric Nehm of The Athletic writes. With the Bucks just two wins away from their first NBA Finals appearance in 47 years (not a typo), Middleton put on an offensive clinic in a triumphant Game 3 victory over the Hawks, pouring in 38 points to go along with 12 rebounds and seven assists. “It’s great seeing this guy, man, the way we started, the way we are, the way he started and the way that he is right now, just closing games,” Antetokounmpo said. “That’s what we need from Khris. We need him to be aggressive. We need him to be taking over games, make good decisions, and play off him.”

Central Notes: Kuminga, Antetokounmpo, Bucks, Pistons

Members of the Cavaliers‘ front office attended the pro day for Jonathan Kuminga on Saturday, and the G League standout will receive consideration with the No. 3 pick, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. The team plans to bring Kuminga to Cleveland for a private workout sometime in July, Fedor adds.

As a 6’8″ forward who offers both athleticism and skill, Kuminga is expected to be taken in the first half of the lottery. Conventional wisdom has Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley, Jalen Green and Jalen Suggs going in the top four, but Kuminga may be a better fit for Cleveland.

“He showed up and shot it well,” a scout told Fedor after Kuminga’s workout. “He really helped himself today. He won’t fall past No. 5.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • The Bucks are focused on reaching the NBA Finals for the first time in 50 years and they could do without the controversy that happens every time Giannis Antetokounmpo steps to the foul line, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic. The two-time MVP has a lengthy free-throw routine that seems to exceed the 10-second limit for taking a shot, and fans have started counting to 10 every time he gets the ball. “Usually I take eight to nine seconds,” Antetokounmpo claims. “Borderline 10 seconds. When my coaching staff tells me to like, speed it up, I know that maybe I’m around 10. Or sometimes the referee talks to me and tells me, ‘You’ve got to speed it up.’ Then I make an effort to maybe take it a second or two seconds faster. But my mindset going into this game was go through my routine, get as many dribbles as I can, get my breath and just shoot my shot.”
  • Bucks guards Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday have committed to play for Team USA in the Olympics, but they insist it won’t be a distraction, per Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. Along with the Suns’ Devin Booker, they are they the only Team USA members still active in the playoffs. “I think I’m always focused on the immediate, what’s happening right now. That’s been my main focus, and it’s going to continue to be that,” Holiday said. “If we go the finals or whatever happens, up until that point, this is what matters.”
  • The Pistons should make the obvious choice and take Cunningham with the No. 1 pick, argues Rod Beard of The Detroit News (subscriber only).