Team USA falters in FIBA World Cup

Already seen as one of the weakest international rosters in almost 20 years, team USA will be playing in the 7th place game of the FIBA World Cup.

Dropping an exhibition game to Spain was not shocking for the men of Team USA ahead of the FIBA World Cup. What the United States is certainly not used to, was losing in the tournament, which it did against France… and then Serbia as well.

Even including Jayson Tatum, who has missed the last four contests with an ankle sprain, Team USA’s roster was much lighter on star-power than usual for international showings. It is still a potent team, featuring explosive guards and solid young talent. However, their lack of cohesion and stagnant offensive stretches caught up with them as they fell in the first non-exhibition match in years against France. USA had a 58 game win-streak prior to the loss.

Two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, Rudy Gobert put on a clinic against the USA in the quarterfinals with 21 points, 16 boards, and three blocks, which came in clutch moments. The world has certainly caught up with USA, especially when they don’t show up with their “A” team.

France features just two other NBA players in addition to Gobert in Evan Fournier and Nicolas Batum. Then, adding insult to injury, Team USA turned around and lost again, this time to Nikola Jokic and Serbia. They fell far behind early and never recovered. They are now set to play Poland in the 7th place game. Team USA will be heavy favorites in that one, but that apparently doesn’t mean much. This will be the worst-ever finish for Team USA in the FIBA World Cup, win or lose.

France lost their following game, surprised by Argentina, which is doing well to remain relevant despite the retirement of star, Manu Ginobili. Argentina will face perennial contender Spain in the Final.

One interesting note is how the Utah Jazz have been represented in this tournament. Donovan Mitchell has been the scoring leader for Team USA, Rudy Gobert France’s driving force, Joe Ingles for a surprising Australia squad, and Ricky Rubio for Spain, though Ricky is now off to the Phoenix Suns.

It should be a good Final, but most fans are accustomed to seeing Team USA in contention. Perhaps Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics will produce a more competitive USA Men’s squad. We will see!

USA Men's Basketball Team rounding into shape

The watered-down USA Basketball Men's FIBA World Cup Team is trimmed to 13 players vying for the 12-man squad.

About to head to Australia for continued training, Team USA nearly has its final roster, though it may not be as impressive as usual. The men’s teams for the FIBA World Cup are typically not as stacked as the teams that represent the USA at the Olympics. Still, this squad boasts few All-Stars and is considerably thinner than many we have seen.

With the recent withdrawal of D’Aaron Fox, the 13 players striving to make this final cut are (per NBA.com): Harrison Barnes (Sacramento Kings); Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics); Joe Harris (Brooklyn Nets); Kyle Kuzma (Los Angeles Lakers); Brook Lopez (Milwaukee Bucks); Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks); Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz); Mason Plumlee (Denver Nuggets), Marcus Smart (Boston Celtics); Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics); Myles Turner (Indiana Pacers); Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics); and Derrick White (San Antonio Spurs).

The only All-Star names on the roster are Walker, Lopez, and Middleton, which may be considered by many to be “lesser” All-Stars at that. They even dropped a scrimmage to a squad made up primarily of G-League players.

Don’t get us wrong, this squad (minus one player TBD) is likely still going to enter the tournament in China as the favorites to win. Much of the team is made up of the Boston Celtics young core. Wing athleticism alone will give this group an edge over their competition in the form of Tatum, Kuzma, Mitchell, and Brown. Floor-stretchers Lopez, Harris, Walker, and Middleton will keep plenty of open lanes for them.

A few dedicated defenders will also help make up for weak points in the form of Smart outside and Turner inside. It will be a fun team to watch, if not who you may have been hoping for.

Some big names were thrown in the hat for this squad early such as James Harden, Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard and quite a few more. Why more household-name players have opted out is a bit perplexing. Fatigue from a long NBA season is likely a big cause - especially since many of the top player also experience lengthy playoff runs.

This will be a tremendous opportunity for the players involved (especially for the Celtics, since their starting lineup is essentially on the squad). They will get to practice against great caliber talent, travel, and have many unique and memorable experiences in China.

The 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup will begin on Saturday, August 31

We will be tracking this team through the FIBA World Cup, so keep checking back here as always for updates!

One-on-One: Indiana Pacers Alize Johnson

Having Alize Johnson in the building for his camp, we got the chance to sit down and chat with the rising NBA talent.

Originally from Williamsport, PA, we are fortunate that Alize Johnson has multiple communities that feel like home. One of the most decorated players in school history, Johnson was a force playing basketball at Missouri State during his college career. Springfield, MO must have made a positive impression on Alize as well, as he said it is very nice to be back for his camp.

“There was so much support while I was here” says Johnson. “I love coming back here because this is a place where I feel so much support and I can surround myself with people that truly want to see me succeed.”

The Basketball Movement-hosted basketball camp put on by Alize was a big success. Johnson put on a similar camp in his hometown in Pennsylvania just a few days prior. When asked about his favorite part about putting on these camps, he had plenty to say.

These camps elate me. I like to see the kids grow - see them smile. In return, it pushes me to go harder because I feel like I have them looking up to me. It gives me a voice. NBA players love doing things like this because it is building off of what we have been able to accomplish.
— Alize Johnson

Not a stranger to The Basketball Movement or working with its Founder, Rob Yanders, we were honored to play host to Alize’s camp this summer. The facility and coaches are designed around the high-intensity style that is needed for the older kids as well as fundamental and fun-oriented feel for the younger ones.

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Johnson commented on how far the facility had come since he first started coming here and how proud he is of his friend and mentor, Rob Yanders. “Pretty much the only thing left he could add is like, hotel rooms for the players that come out here,” Alize joked. “To see where this place is right now - it’s amazing.” (Note/Plug: The Basketball Movement does offer shuttle service for those interested in extended pro workouts!! End plug)

Rob’s a great guy. He genuinely knows what he’s doing and exactly what he’s talking about. He has been a great mentor for me because of his experience and that he doesn’t sugar coat anything; he tells it like it is. I’m really proud of what he’s doing with these kids too.
— Alize on Robert Yanders

While putting on the camp here, Alize seemed to form a bond also with Rob’s nephew and The Basketball Movement and Yanders Law standout, Anton Brookshire. Anton isn’t one to boast, so Johnson lent a hand in giving the young player some props on social media. Alize said how humble he was is part of why he was so impressed by Brookshire.

“He’s humble - not trying to be big time. He already knows who he is and operates within himself. Honestly he reminds me of myself in some ways… He has what it takes to be a pro,” Alize said of Brookshire.

Upcoming season

With a newly guarnteed contract, Alize Johnson is primed for another exciting pro season. The contract is now guaranteed because of what he was able to show the Indiana Pacers organization recently at the NBA Summer League. His scoring, and possibly more importantly, tenacious rebounding made him one of the Pacers most valuable summer players.

“(Rebounding) comes naturally to me - I love to do it. I still have the will for it too of course, it helps me keep playing and making a living,” said Johnson.

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Whether he spends the majority of his time with the Pacers or their G-League affiliate this season is still naturally a bit up in the air, though his summer showing is a great start. He says that all he can do is keep preparing as much as possible and be ready when his number is called. “I’ll just handle all the little things and everything should fall into place,” he said.

Now with these camps under his belt, Johnson will just be working out and hanging with friends until it’s time to get back at it. He says that he will report back August 8th. We of course wish him the very best this upcoming season and want to thank him once again for teaming up with The Basketball Movement this summer to stay involved with the community in Southwest Missouri.

Good luck, Alize and see you soon!

Around the NBA: Where is everybody?

It seems the dust has finally settled on another wild NBA free agency season, so let’s make sure you know where everyone is.

The happenings around the NBA have been coming in hot since the Finals ended - the draft, trades, free agency, and so on. If we posted an “Around the NBA” article every time something happened, this would essentially just turn into an NBA page and nothing else. Now that the biggest pieces are in place, we are going to catch you up on where players will be suiting up next season.

We’ll start with NBA All-Stars; there have been a bunch on the move this summer. Kyrie Irving left the Boston Celtics to go to the Brooklyn Nets via free agency. The Celtics did not have a point guard vacancy for long though, because they signed another All-Star, Kemba Walker, formerly of the Charlotte Hornets.

Irving will be joined in Brooklyn by Kevin Durant. KD will likely miss at least the majority of the upcoming season with his achilles injury from the Finals. Making the opposite move of Durant, DeAngelo Russell is departing the Nets to join the Golden State Warriors. Russell will be a nice way to fill the scoring void left by the departed Durant and injured Klay Thompson.

The OKC Thunder loaded up on future draft picks this summer by trading Paul George to the LA Clippers and Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets. Oklahoma City received former All-Star Chris Paul in the deal as well, though they are officially in rebuilding mode. Joining George on the Clippers is reigning Finals MVP, free agent, Kawhi Leonard.

Anthony Davis is finally moving on from the Pelicans by joining LeBron James on the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers did have to trade away much of their young core to New Orleans, making an interesting crew around their prized number one draft pick, Zion Williamson.

A few former All-Stars: Jimmy Butler was traded by the 76ers to the Miami Heat. Free agent, Al Horford left the Boston Celtics to go to Philly, where he will likely take Butler’s old starting role. DeMarcus Cousins didn’t get his ring in Golden State, so he is headed to the Lakers on his quest; he will look to have a bounce-back season after an injury-plagued year. Goran Dragic is leaving the Heat to join fellow Slovenian, Luka Doncic in Dallas.

There are many free agents still out there waiting, but the big names are off the board. Many of these moves bring parity to the league, loosening Golden State’s previous stranglehold on the odds of winning it all. It will be an exciting season with many old faces in new places.

To continue keeping up with what is happening around the NBA, make sure you are following us on Twitter and keep checking back here!

Rob Yanders Better Vibin Session - Alize Johnson

The Basketball Movement’s second Rob Yanders Better Vibin Session is in the books, featuring Alize Johnson.

The Founder of The Basketball, but also its lead Trainer, Coach, and driving force, Robert Yanders is on a mission to not only step up the games of those around him, but his own as well. To help him do that, he created the Rob Yanders Better Vibin Sessions.

Already with one session under his belt, Rob recently sat with Yanders Law, Kickapoo, and The Basketball Movement gym rat, Anton Brookshire. Aside from being his uncle, Rob coaches Anton as well. That session was all about connecting not only as a player and coach, but as family. The second vibin session is all about reconnecting with a longtime friend in more of a mentor-style relationship.

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Alize Johnson is best known around Southwest, Missouri as one of the most decorated Missouri State Basketball players of all-time. The basketball world now knows him best as a second round NBA draft pick, playing with both the Indiana Pacers and their G-League affiliate.

Johnson flashed his upside in the G-League last season, averaging a double-double as a small forward. His tenacious rebounding and efficient scoring during this recent NBA Summer League earned him a guaranteed contract with the Pacers.

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Yanders got to know Johnson during his time at MSU, working him out here at The Basketball Movement and giving him advice as he approached his pro career. In this Better Vibin Session, Alize and Rob reminisce about those times and talk about loyalty to those that aid you in your journey.

The Basketball Movement was proud to host the Alize Johnson Camp recently, which was the reason he was back in town. Giving back is big for both Alize and Rob, so they hold a mutual respect and admiration for each other, which shines through in this session.

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In the Vibin Session, they discuss where Alize comes from and where he’s going, loyalty, family, and more. This is two professionals at opposite ends of their careers - Alize is starting out and learning the ropes and Rob is done playing for a paycheck, but now using basketball as a tool to fuel the passions of others.

You have to check out this Rob Yanders Better Vibin Session! Below is the full video, but make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel to make sure you catch the next one too!

Around the NBA: Wild free agency weekend

Yesterday marked the beginning of official NBA free agency, and it didn’t take long until madness ensued.

Player movement in the NBA has become increasingly common over the past decade or so. Players are taking their careers in their own hands and deciding where they want to play. Conversely, owners see this and have no qualms about shipping players suddenly and often with little explanation. The result is what we experienced yesterday - madness on day one of NBA free agency with players moving around like wild.

The below tweet by SLAM Newswire is about as condensed a way for us to show you all player movement as is possible. The information is solid as of midnight or so, though there are now rumblings that something is holding up the Jimmy Butler sign-and-trade with Miami, though that will likely be cleared up soon.

To highlight some moves from the already long list - Kevin Durant has made a decision and Kawhi Leonard has not. Those are undeniably the top names on the list, though Durant’s achilles injury in game 5 of the Finals means he will miss next season and may not be 100% the same when he does return. Kawhi is showing interest in the two LA teams, though a return to Toronto is still a strong possibility.

Kevin Durant is heading to the Brooklyn Nets with another big free agent as his running mate. Kyrie Irving was expected to leave the Boston Celtics, but that became abundantly clear when it came out Saturday that Boston intended to sign Hornets All-Star Kemba Walker to a lucrative 4-year deal. The Irving-to-Brooklyn news was fairly simultaneous with the KD news this past weekend. We also learned later that both took less money so that DeAndre Jordan could come across town from the Knicks for a cool $10M/year for four seasons.

Jimmy Butler is another big one in the aforementioned sign-and-trade with the Heat that would send the less talented, but more versatile, Josh Richardson to Philly. The move is an interesting one for Butler, who came to the Sixers because he “only care(d) about winning.” He was fed up with a lackadaisical Karl Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, but now is heading to the so-so Heat and known lazy center Hassan Whiteside. Alright, Jimmy.

Though the Celtics found a nice shoot-first point guard replacement for Irving in Kemba Walker, they will be hard-pressed to replace big man, Al Horford, who is now a Philadelphia 76er.

Perhaps the most underrated move this free agency is the Utah Jazz signing Bojan Bogdanovic, formerly an Indian Pacer. After a trade the prior week to acquire Mike Conely, the Utah Jazz are looking like a legitimate contender in the Western Conference.

A few other noteworthy deals: First-time All-Star, DeAngelo Russel is headed from Brooklyn to Golden State as the Warriors seek post-Durant scoring while Klay Thompson heals up. The Bucks had to watch Malcolm Brogdon depart, but retained Kris Middleton, Brook Lopez, and George Hill - they have also signed Brook’s twin brother, Robin Lopez. Harrison Barnes resigned for plenty of money with Sacremento. Kristaps Porzingis is locked in with the Mavericks long-term, who also acquired Goran Dragic to create a full Slovenian backcourt with ROY, Luke Doncic. Nik Vucevic and Terrance Ross resigned with Orlando. Rudy Gay is staying in San Antonio and Ricky Rubio is going from Utah to Phoenix.

Player movement is not over, especially with Finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard still yet to make a decision. Follow us on Twitter and keep checking in on this blog as we strive to continue to bring you the top news from the NBA as well as the rest of the basketball world!

So you didn't get drafted

The 2019 NBA Draft has come and gone with only 60 names being called. What now?

Only a limited number of individuals in the world can be a part of the NBA or WNBA. There are professional teams all over the globe, but the top of the basketball world is known to be here in the good ol’ U.S.A. With spots at the top being so limited, what are you to do if you don’t make it in?

If being in the NBA or WNBA is your dream, if basketball is your passion, and if you are willing to work, nothing should stop you.

Here is what you do: Get in the gym. Come to The Basketball Movement. Meet with a trainer that is dedicated to helping take your game as far as it can possibly go. We saw the snippets of the NBA Draft’s top pick, Zion Williamson - when he was four, he wanted to be the top player in the nation. By nine, he was getting up hundreds of jumpers every day.

Being at the top of the basketball world doesn’t just happen; not even for freak athletes like Zion. It takes WORK. Hundreds of hours in the gym, peak physical condition and then some, and being married to the game.

If you don’t love basketball, the NBA and WNBA aren’t for you. These leagues are not for the faint of heart. The unseen hours that are required to make it to, and stay in these leagues is a barrier to entry that not many can hurdle.

So you didn’t get drafted? You aren’t working hard enough. You must have a fire to make it to the Association and there is nothing The Basketball Movement does better than stoke that fire. If you have the work ethic, we have the work. Strength and conditioning, skill development/maintenance, film study and more await you within the doors of the basketball mecca of the Midwest.

Our own Rob Yanders’ first-hand experience at multiple levels of the pro circuit mixed with the passion all our staff possesses is a recipe for elevating you to reach your potential. Reach out to us and we will make sure you won’t regret it. You may find out this road is too hard for you, or you may just let us help you all the way down the road to your ultimate destination. We’re excited to find out with you.

Tonight begins the 2019 NBA Draft

The millionth-ish annual NBA Draft begins tonight - Here is what you need to know about the 2019 edition.

Even with the recent conclusion of the 2019 NBA Finals, the Association has remained abuzz with trades, rumors, and talk of the upcoming NBA Draft. For many of us, basketball has been a 365 day-per-year focus for a while now. More and more, the NBA alone is a year-round event.

With trades continuing to roll in, (recently Mike Conely Jr. from Memphis to Utah for Kyle Korver, Grayson Allen, Jae Crowder, this year’s 23rd pick, and another future first-rounder) focus is firmly on the draft. The biggest trade after the season ended sent superstar Anthony Davis to the Lakers for Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, and three first round picks, including number four overall tonight. This trade is noteworthy as it greatly affects tonight’s draft.

Lakerland is focused on winning now, as any team boasting LeBron James should be. The New Orleans Pelicans now have young talent to build around, which they will be able to do right away.

New Orleans will likely select consensus top-talent, Zion Williamson of Duke first overall. Now, they get to select another impressive talent to pair with him since they appear to have control of the number four pick technically still owned by the Lakers. The pick is expected to be Jarrett Culver or De’Andre Hunter to pair with Williamson. Darius Garland will be in the mix as well.

The Grizzlies and Knicks pick number two and three, respectively. Those picks are expected to be Ja Morant of Murray State or RJ Barrett out of Duke.

Below is a mock draft example taken directly from ESPN (that was before the AD to LA deal):

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These player rankings are speculation and it is wild how close to the moment these teams often change their minds. There is plenty of reason to believe there will be picks traded throughout the night as well, starting with that new number four overall pick.

It will be interesting to see how everything shakes out as so many young men see their dreams come true. 60 players will be selected - not all will go straight to the association, as many will wind up in the G-League, etc. Either way, they are all moving one step closer to the ultimate basketball dream and we wish them the best!

Around the NBA: 2019 NBA Finals in the books

The deep, talented Toronto Raptors overcame a shorthanded Golden State Warriors squad to seize their first-ever NBA title.

Congratulations to the 2019 NBA Champion Toronto Raptors! This is the first championship for the Raptors since originating in 1995. That also makes them the first team from another country to win the NBA Finals, which sounds neat.

Powered by Serge Ibaka and Fred VanVleet, the Raptors bench outclassed the Warriors reserved by a large margin. Toronto’s depth was pivotal all these 2019 NBA Playoffs. Former Defensive Player of the Year and first-time champion, Marc Gasol had a shaky Finals, but played a large role for the team since being traded from Memphis in February.

Likely the NBA’s Most Improved Player award recipient, Pascal Siakam showed us that his stellar season was not a flash in the pan. Siakam handled the pressure like a grizzled veteran and continued using his length to score over defenders until the very end. When you think Raptors though, you have likely thought Kyle Lowry for the last multiple years.

Lowry was passive at times all season, but remained an All-Star with his steadying leadership. He was bummed about losing his running-mate DeMar DeRozan this offseason, but the trade seems to have worked out in the end.

With the departure of DeMar DeRozan came the acquisition of now two-time Finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard. “The Klaw” was a monster all postseason on both ends of the floor. His demeanor remained unassuming, but his scoring, rebounding, and all-around game would not be ignored.

Does this title come with an asterisk?

The Golden State Warriors could not complete the ever-difficult three-peat. It was a valiant effort on their part, with the most shallow lineup they’ve had in years. DeMarcus Cousins seemed a step slow from his injuries and he never was succussfully integrated in the first place anyway. Fellow center, Kevon Looney was playing hurt as well.

Steph Curry did his thing all series, though his shot appeared to have a mysterious hitch at times. Klay Thompson missed a game, but came back firing like a madman. Unfortunately, after dropping 30 early points last night, he suffered an ACL tear in his knee, ending his Finals.

Durant had an even more brief appearance, playing just a few minutes of game five before suffering an achilles injury. He has undergone successful surgery, but will likely miss next season - a huge blow to NBA basketball.

The Warriors had tough luck, but this championship should not have an asterisk by it for the Toronto Raptors.

Toronto has one of the deepest rosters in the NBA. They also have one of the best players in Kawhi Leonard. To even get to face the reigning champs, they had to defeat the talented Philidelphia 76ers (by a game seven buzzer-beater courtesy of Kawhi) and the Milwukee Bucks, who had the best record in the NBA and MVP candidate, Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Every season and especially every postseason has ample player injuries. It happens to several teams each year and it was just that year for Golden State.

To be down to three perennial All-Stars available for most of the series was the situation the Warriors found themselves in, so they were more equipped than most to deal with big injuries. Toronto can feel proud in defeating this squad to win the championship.

There is still WNBA hoops, USA basketball, the draft, awards, and more to come, so the pro basketball goodness is still far from over! Keep it locked to The Basketball Movement as we keep up with what is happening Around the NBA and beyond.

Around the NBA: Finals update

The 2019 NBA Finals is four games in but does not look the way it was expected to.

A game four victory for the Toronto Raptors last night gave them a 3 to 1 series lead over the defending champion Golden State Warriors. The Warriors are looking to three-peat, but injuries and poor defense have them teetering on the brink of elimination in the association’s 2019 Finals.

DeMarcus Cousins is back, but with no Kevin Durant so far in these Finals, the Warriors appear more vulnerable than they have been in years. Klay Thompson even missed game three, though he was able to return for four.

In game one, Golden State showed the world that they were mortal, losing and falling behind in the series off the bat. The defense was porous, with Toronto’s shooters firing at will. The Warriors did bounce back in game two, maintaining a steady lead to even the series after two games in Toronto.

Game three brought the series to the Bay Area, where the Warriors were even more shorthanded, holding Klay Thompson out due to injury. The Raps took full advantage, continuing to light up the poor defense of Golden State. Despite a herculean effort by Steph Curry, Toronto stole the road game to retake the series lead.

Now following game four, Toronto has a commanding 3 to 1 lead in the series as it heads back up north of the border. The Raptors are seeking their first championship in franchise history.

Should the series end in game five, it would certainly be Kawhi Leonard who would claim the Finals MVP award. It wouldn’t be his first time, as he raised the trophy once before in his time as a San Antonio Spur. Leonard’s scoring and rebounding have been phenomenal. The defense that got him to the league in the first place looks just as elite.

Steph Curry has looked like the scorer and sniper he is famous for being, but he needs help. Klay Thompson has been good and Draymond Green has been distributing away, but the Warriors depth has been a defensive issue.

The true hinge of the remainder of these Finals is the health of Kevin Durant. If Durant could come return next game and help them steal one in Toronto, then they would get to come back home. If they win that home game, we are already at a game 7 loaded with Finals-experienced Warriors vs. the depth of the Raptors.

Sounds exciting, but we will have to see what unfolds one game at a time. Game five is Monday (6/10) at 8:00PM (CST) on ABC. Tune in to see what happens!

Around the NBA: 2019 NBA Finals preview

With a valiant comeback last night, the Toronto Raptors upset the Bucks to advance to the NBA Finals to face the Golden State Warriors.

With a few days to catch our breath before the NBA Finals, let’s take a step back to see how the Raptors and Warriors arrived here. Well, I suppose we all know how the Warriors arrived here for a fifth consecutive Finals appearance: they’re stupid good.

Golden State dropped a couple games to the Los Angeles Clippers in the first-round, but the biggest loss was DeMarcus Cousins to injury. We did not get to see much of Cousins in the regular season anyway, so any scares about ball-movement and flow were non-existent. They did suffer a second-round injury though that had greater implications.

Losing Kevin Durant to a leg injury seemed to leave a window of opportunity wide open for the Houston Rockets. Anytime one of the best basketball players on the planet goes down, the team should suffer, right?

Wrong.

The Warriors reverted seamlessly to the team that was so dominant before the Durant days, with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson whipping the ball around and splashing threes at a dazzling clip. Draymond Green looked the best he’s looked all season, stepping up his distribution and hitting timely triples. They swept the Trail Blazers in the Western Conference Finals and have been resting ever since. KD’s health will be a big story in these Finals, though he expected to be available.

Toronto’s path the the Finals

After losing the first game of the Playoffs to the Magic, the Raptors rattled off four wins in a row to advance to face the talented 76ers. That wound up being a seven game series, with the Raptors riding the capable shoulders of Kawhi Leonard to victory.

Next up they faced the Milwaukee Bucks, that boasted an NBA regular season-best 60 wins. The Bucks took the first two games at home, but then Toronto turned around and did the same, taking their home games. With the momentum (and some poor shooting by Milwaukee), the Raptors turned their two-game streak into four, and now get a meeting with the reigning champs for their trouble.

This is the first Finals appearance in Toronto Raptors history.

2019 NBA Finals preview

The Golden State Warriors will be heavily favorited to win this series, especially if two-time Finals MVP Kevin Durant is back to full strength. If he isn’t, they will still have three All-Stars in Curry, Thompson, and Green as well as Finals MVP Andre Iguodala coming off the bench to help defend Kawhi Leonard.

Leonard is a Finals MVP himself from his days playing for Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs. Kyle Lowry is an All-Star, but will have his hands full trying to keep up with a quicker player in Steph Curry. Perhaps the biggest advantage the Raptors hold is a more talented bench, led by Wichita State alum, Fred VanVleet, who shot lights out to close the series against the Bucks.

Toronto owns homecourt advantage too, but it will still be tough sledding with the difference in experience playing against a squad that routinely plays this deep into the Playoffs.

Below is the Finals schedule, taken directly from NBA.com:

Game 1: Thur, May 30, Golden State at Toronto | 9 ET (ABC)
Game 2: Sun, June 2, Golden State at Toronto | 8  ET (ABC) 
Game 3: Wed, June 5, Toronto at Golden State | 9 ET (ABC)
Game 4: Fri, June 7, Toronto at Golden State | 9 ET (ABC)
*Game 5: Mon, June 10, Golden State at Toronto | 9 ET (ABC)
*Game 6: Thur, June 13, Toronto at Golden State | 9 ET (ABC)
*Game 7: Sun, June 16, Golden State at Toronto | 8 ET (ABC)  

* – If Necessary

Golden State has a knack for making the spectacular appear routine, so all expectations are for them to hoist the Larry O’Brian trophy once again. Hopefully the Raptors can provide some magic and steal some momentum again in this series. The closer to a full seven games, the better for basketball fans, so that is the goal! For continued coverage of the NBA Playoffs and these 2019 NBA Finals, keep it locked to The Basketball Movement!

Around the NBA: Draft lottery, Conference Championships, and Beilein

Tonight is the NBA Draft Lottery, meaning the future of several franchises hang in the balance.

Two Around the NBA articles back-to-back? It must be your lucky day. Or, it could just be a busy time around the association. The Eastern and Western Conference Championships have been highly anticipated and the draft lottery has been on the calendar for a long time. We did however receive some interesting news from one of the organizations vying for a top pick.

The Cleveland Cavaliers made a surprising announcement yesterday. They have hired former Michigan coach, John Beilein. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported via Twitter that Beilein and the Cavs have agreed to a five-year deal.

At 65 years old, the contract could very well take Beilein right into retirement once his obligation is complete. The Cavs cited character as a large reason for the decision and referred to Beilein as a “culture driver.” In his 39 seasons as a coach at the collegiate level, he has had much success, especially leading the Michigan Wolverines over the last five years.

NBA Draft Lottery

Tonight is the night that teams around the NBA will learn where they will be picking in the 2019 Draft. The lottery will be televised on ESPN starting at 7:30pm (CST).

With a strong consensus for the number one selection in Zion Williamson, the order will have a big impact on the landscape of the NBA for years to come. The second selection will likely be Ja Morant or RJ Barrett, depending on team needs. The third of the Duke freshman trio, Cam Reddish is projected at seven. Darius Garland and NCAA Champion De’Andre Hunter are currently projected as the fourth and fifth picks, respectively.

A few picks have already been traded some time ago and could shift depending on tonight’s lottery. For example, if the Dallas Maverick’s pick is outside the top five, they owe it to the Hawks. Per ESPN: “If not conveyed, the pick remains top-five protected in 2020, falls to top-three protected until 2022 and becomes unprotected in 2023.”

ESPN lists the odds for each team as shown below:

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Conference Championships

In addition to the draft lottery, tonight also marks the start of the NBA Conference Championships. Beginning at 8:00pm (CST) on ESPN, the Portland Trail Blazers travel to take on the Golden State Warriors. The Western Conference Championship is still Golden State’s to lose, though they will be without Kevin Durant due to injury, at least for the first game or two.

In Portland’s game 7 win over Denver on Sunday, they proved that on the rare occasion that Damian Lillard is not scoring in loads, they can still stay afloat. CJ McCollum carried the Blazers in that game 7, but will have his hands full with Klay Thompson this round.

The Eastern Conference Championship begins tomorrow with the Toronto Raptors coming to the United States to take on the Bucks in Milwaukee. The draw to this series should be self-explanatory. Giannis Antetokounmpo vs. Kawhi Leonard. The Greek Freak vs. The Klaw. This game is a true test of superiority for the Eastern Conference and should be thrilling throughout.

That should have you pretty caught-up on what’s happening Around the NBA. Keep checking back with us and follow along on Twitter as we continue to break down the action!

Around the NBA: Brink of elimination

The Milwaukee Bucks are headed to the Eastern Conference Championship, but we still have three other series coming down to the wire.

After having an NBA regular-season-best 60 wins, the Milwaukee Bucks may have had the easiest road to the Finals. They first got a Detroit Pistons team that did not have their best player, Blake Griffin at full health. Up next they were to get the winner of an overachieving Pacers squad or under achieving Celtics squad. Boston looked for a while like they had flipped the switch, but lost four straight to the Bucks after taking game 1.

Thus begins a new, interesting story line in the NBA: Kyrie Irving the seemingly disgruntled free agent. That is an article for another day though, as the Playoffs are still in full swing.

Bucks vs. Celtics is the only Conference Semifinal matchup that has concluded. All other series are heading into game 6, meaning a team is up three games to two in all of them. The higher seeds have the advantage in all of the matchups to this point. It is also interesting to note that all of the first round matches went to the higher seeds. Will we see an upset in these Playoffs?

Potential elimination games are always fun. It will be interesting to see what Houston, Portland, and the 76ers do with their backs against the wall, facing elimination. All three of these teams certainly pack the firepower to climb back into their series. Hopefully we will see at least one or two game 7 situations.

When, where, and who

ESPN has tonight’s games: Raptors @ 76ers at 7:00pm (CST) and Nuggets @ Trail Blazers at 9:30pm (CST). The Sixers seem to have as much talent as anyone in the league, though their starters have all played less than 20 games together including the Playoffs. The Raptors have an edge in experience, but also Kawhi Leonard, who has been playing at an MVP level.

Nuggets vs. Trail Blazers has had interesting ups and downs, with the series seeming to hinge on Damian Lillard’s ability to go full Steph Curry when possible.

Perhaps the most intriguing matchup, Warriors @ Rockets is at 8:00pm (CST) tomorrow, also on ESPN. This has been a good series in its own right to this point, but it now has an interesting wrinkle. The Warriors lost DeMarcus Cousins to an injury in the first round, but last night, they lost Kevin Durant to a “calf strain.”

Exactly how long Durant will be out is unknown, but he will at least miss tomorrow’s tilt. It certainly not only changes the landscape of this series, but the entire playoff picture. Sure, it seems like being down to three All-Stars isn’t that bad, but Golden State isn’t as deep this year as they have been in the past.

On TNT’s Inside the NBA, Charles Barkley went as far as to say the remaining Warriors cannot win this series against Houston. The Warriors will still be an extremely tough out, but it appears that a window may be open for the Rockets to knock off the defending champs.

Plenty of exciting basketball to watch and we aren’t even to the Conference Championships yet. Keep an eye on these games over the next few days and follow along with us as we keep you up-to-date on the action.

Alize Johnson gives back to his community

Ally of The Basketball Movement, Missouri State Alum, and NBA forward, Alize Johnson is using his platform to improve his community and change lives.

At The Basketball Movement, we talk about using basketball to give back to the community quite a bit and we are thrilled to see that our friend, Alize Johnson is doing just that. When he was coming into our facility to get work while he was attending Missouri State, Alize was a bad man on the floor and a good one off of it. Things don’t appear to have changed, which is awesome to see.

The Indiana Pacers signed Johnson to a two-way contract in his rookie season, which means that he played plenty of G-League ball, but was also available to play minutes with the Pacers. Never the biggest player on the court, he still did an excellent job of crashing the glass all season and turned in a nice rookie campaign.

Despite staying plenty busy all season, Alize has still found time to do big things through the Alize Johnson Foundation.

Originally from WIlliamsport, Pennsylvania, Johnson is clearly remembering his roots, as this will be the site of his foundation’s big project. He will be putting in three NBA regulation outdoor courts. The project includes adjustable hoops, lights, fencing, and new bleachers. The courts will have a security guard stationed from 4-8pm to aid in making this a safe space for the youth of Williamsport.

The project is titled WtaWtaW (Where there’s a Will, there’s a Way). The project is also sponsored by PRN Home Health Services and the Pepsi Bottling Group in Williamsport. Their donation page can be found here: https://fundrazr.com/41ShQ7?ref=sh_c7ssh2_ab_319MbZF7yHP319MbZF7yHP

We are proud of Alize for supporting his community in this way. Basketball is obviously his bread and butter, so finding a way to channel that into something bigger is incredible to see.

The Basketball Movement is focused daily on helping players on the court. However, there is nothing better than seeing athletes (especially one’s we’ve had the pleasure of working with) use basketball for an even greater purpose.

Props to Alize for making big moves that will positively affect lives in his community. No doubt he continues the good work through his career and beyond.

Around the NBA: Dame time

Now seems like a pretty good time to talk about Damian Lillard, don’t you think?

Many of the NBA Playoffs first round matchups are coming to a close, but none have slammed shut quite like the one between Damian Lillard’s Portland Trailblazers and the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Trailblazers completed a “gentleman’s sweep” last night, besting the OKC Thunder with a 4 to 1 series victory. This one had an exclamation point on it though.

After plenty of jawing between OKC’s Russell Westbrook, and Portland’s Damian Lillard, “Dame D.O.L.L.A.” put his money where his mouth was and scored his 50th point on the night by burying a 37 foot, game winning step-back triple over Paul George. That’s Defensive Player of the Year candidate Paul George, mind you.

The fanfare that followed helped to make this one of the iciest moments in recent NBA Playoff history. After sinking the impossible shot, Lillard’s expression never changed as he politely waved goodbye to the OKC bench before being mauled by his teammates, his brother and sister, and the Blazers’ staff.

He even slipped in a stare-down into one of the cameras during the dogpile. This was some Iverson stepping over Lue-esque bad-assery.

This has been a big season for Damian Lillard - his seventh in the NBA and with Portland. He has led his team to a three seed in the West again, but may actually finally have the brass to take the team to the Western Conference Finals this time.

Lillard was already in the discussion for top-5 point guards in the game, but this series feels like it’s pushed him past Westbrook. We may be talking top-3 now. Kobe Bryant noted back in 2013 that Lillard had that #MambaMentality that made him a killer on the court. He has continued to improve and now owns two amazing game-winners in the Playoffs.

The Blazers get the winner of San Antonio vs. Denver next. The Nuggets won last night to put them up 3 to 2 in the series. The matchups that are in the books so far are: Bucks over Pistons, Celtics over Pacers, Raptors over Magic, 76ers over Nets, and these Blazers over the Thunder. The Rockets and Warriors will look to clinch tonight.

Whatever happens as the playoffs continue, appreciate the moments like these that will be replayed for years to come. The depth of talent in the NBA (and on down) is possibly stronger than it has ever been. We will continue to see titans clash again and again as the NBA Playoffs continue and we can’t wait.

Catch tonight’s games on TNT and keep checking back here for tips and news from prep-to-pro.

Zion Williamson is headed to the NBA

Zion Williamson has officially declared for the 2019 NBA Draft; he isn’t the only Duke Blue Devil either.

A couple weeks ago, we highlighted the early names that had declared for the NBA Draft or were at least testing the waters. That list was headlined by Murray State’s Ja Morant, who figures to be picked in or around the top three. Now, we are starting to see those other names at the top fill in as well.

The list of names of players that have declared has gotten long, so it may not be worth listing here. What you mostly need to know is that Zion Williamson has officially entered the fray.

Duke freshman Zion Williamson has been on this path for years. We started hearing about him from high school dunk highlights, but he really exploded on the national scene while playing for a stacked, but young team for Coach Mike Krzyzewski. Being built like a tank while maintaining athleticism has helped set him apart. We at The Basketball Movement also know that this has taken years of incredibly hard work, so, congrats to Williamson for making his dreams a reality.

As great as Zion is, he not the only Duke freshman looking to explode onto the NBA scene. RJ Barrett has also declared for the draft now and will likely be picked at two or three alongside the aforementioned, Ja Morant. Cam Reddish has also officially declared. While he had a comparatively quiet season with Duke, he is still an undeniable, elite talent.

A standout from the NCAA championship game, De’Andre Hunter of Virginia has declared along with teammate, Kyle Guy. Other big names like Darius Garland, Bol Bol, Devon Dotson, Quentin Grimes, Tyler Herro, Keldon Johnson, Romeo Langford, Nassir Little, EJ Montgomery, Kevin Porter Jr., Semisola Shittu, and Coby White, have also declared in addition to some overseas talent.

We will be bringing you draft reports and are as excited as you are to see these guys in action. Until then, the NBA Playoffs are underway, so keep an eye out for more news from all levels of the game of basketball!

Thriving in the underdog role

With the NBA Playoffs underway, we have had the opportunity to see multiple teams embrace the underdog role and surprise the big dogs.

No-matter your record, seeding, reputation, anything, you can still beat the odds and be the best team for a game. Once you start rolling, you may gain momentum that can help you sustain that success. We have seen it many times before, especially in the NCAA Tournament as we did again recently. In the first round of the NBA playoffs, we have already gotten to see it multiple times.

Despite long odds, the Nets, Clippers, Magic, and Spurs have already pulled off upsets on the road. The biggest one came last night, as the Los Angeles Clippers deafeated the Golden State Warriors in game two of the series.

The Clippers were down by 31 in the third quarter before storming back to defeat the back-to-back NBA champs. Rookie Landry Shamet (formerly of Witchita State) hit a go-ahead three to seal it. Patrick Beverly continued to lock-down Kevin Durant and Lou Williams went on one of his scoring tears to climb back into it. The 31 point comeback marked the biggest comeback in NBA Playoff history.

This seems like a good time to remind you that no team is invincible. There are still plenty of games left in each of the NBA series’ involved in these upsets. That said, the landscape has significantly shifted, stealing confidence from one side and feeding it to the other. Confidence is big in the sport of basketball.

Everything negative - pressure, challenges - are all an opportunity for me to rise.
— Kobe Bryant

For that reason, it is important to approach every game and every moment with confidence. Believe that your shot will go in. Believe that your team can win the game. Believing is clearly not everything, but if you have put in the work, there is no reason that you can’t give it your all and compete. If you do that, then you can shift the odds at any time.

Being the underdog in a game or being overlooked as a player or team often means that you may be underestimated. Use that as fuel. Harness the chip on your shoulder. No one knows what you can do better than yourself. There isn’t much that is more satisfying than defying odds and proving nay-sayers wrong.

So be that team! Be that player! Don’t sweat rankings or records, just control what you can by working as hard as possible, being confident, and not backing down from a challenge.

Remember, to help you work as hard as possible, stay at the peak of your game, and keep raising that peak, contact The Basketball Movement. We believe in you and we can help you be ready for the big moments.

Around the NBA: Playoff time

Much of the madness of the basketball world has subsided, but around the NBA, things are just heating up.

Many of the stories around the NBA recently have been about Magic Johnson stepping down as the President of Basketball Operations for the Los Angeles Lakers. There has also been a lot made (deservedly so) about Dwyane Wade’s career reaching its conclusion as well as Dirk Nowitzki, who recently made his retirement official.

As interesting or nostalgic as these happenings are, they are still footnotes to the main story that is unfolding; the 2018-19 NBA regular season has ended and it is time to fight it out to see who is crowned champion.

For several years now, the NBA Playoffs and even the Finals have been predictable. LeBron James would rise out of the East to meet one of the greatest teams in history in the Golden State Warriors. This year is certainly different. No LeBron James means plenty of new faces will be duking it out for a Finals appearance. At least on one side of the bracket.

In the West, it is still the Warriors race to lose. They have appeared vulnerable at times this season with a less enthused bench and more hit-or-miss performances from Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Still, they boast a starting five that consists of five current or recent All-Stars. Big offseason signing, DeMarcus Cousins has looked good considering the achilles injury that sidelined him for so long. Still, he has been a liability at times, unable to mesh with the Warriors offensive and defensive flow.

Teams that could upset the Warriors in the West? See for yourselves what they are up against below:

The Jazz and Nuggets play a different brand of basketball that could potentially mess with the Warriors tempo. The Rockets, Thunder, or Trailblazers have the firepower to hang with anyone, but would need to bring it every single night to have a shot. The Spurs are just inexplicably consistent and therefore tough to get a read on…

In the East, the Milwaukee Bucks appear to have the most clear path to at least the Eastern Conference Finals, unless the Celtics flip a switch that they were unable to find most games this season. The 76ers may be the biggest wildcard, as they likely have the most talented starting five in the NBA, Warriors aside. They will have tough sledding facing the experience of the Raptors, assuming both teams take their first round matchups, which is never a given.

LeBron James fans may be a bit down in the dumps right now, but his playoff absence at least means fresh blood will rise in the East. As usual, the NBA Playoffs are primed to be exciting and engaging. We can’t wait for tipoff.

Stay tuned for coverage, learn how to pronounce Antetokounmpo, and let the games begin!

Ja Morant headlines list of players declared for the 2019 NBA Draft

NCAA underclassmen must declare before April 22nd to be eligible for the 2019 NBA Draft.

If these NCAA players opt to withdraw their declaration and return to college, they have until May 29th to do so. The NBA Draft Combine runs from May 16-20. So, we are still early in the window of declaration, but things are getting real with NCAA March Madness standout, Ja Morant throwing his hat into the ring.

As it stands today, Murray State’s Ja Morant would be projected at or around the second overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. The consensus number one pick is still Duke’s Zion Williamson by a decent margin. Williamson has yet to declare, and his fellow Duke teammates have not either. Don’t worry; they will. Fellow freshman, RJ Barrett is projected to be picked in the top three with Zion and Ja.

Those players that have declared have likely signed with agents. How college students can afford professional agents is an article for another day.

Below is the list of declared players as it stands right now (per Yahoo! Sports):

Tyus Battle, Syracuse

Bol Bol, Oregon

Ky Bowman, Boston College

Daniel Gafford, Arkansas

Darius Garland, Vanderbilt

Dewan Henandez, Miami

Nassir Little, UNC

Jalen McDaniels, San Diego State

Ja Morant, Murray State

Shamorie Ponds, St. John’s

Naz Reid, LSU

Simi Shittu, Vanderbilt

Coby White, UNC

Kris Wilks, UCLA

The same Yahoo! Sports page names the following players as still “Testing the water.” This means that the players have declared to gauge interest, but have likely not gone so far as to hire agents and or go all-in.

Jordan Bone, Tennessee

Oshae Brissett, Syracuse

Charlie Brown, Saint Joseph’s

Amir Coffey, Minnesota

Steve Enoch, Louisville

Talen Horton-Tucker, Iowa State

Nathan Knight, William & Mary

Sagaba Konate, West Virginia

Jalen LeQue, N.C. State

Jaden Nwora, Louisville

Miye Oni, Yale

Reggie Perry, Mississippi State

Isaiah Reese, Canisius

Derrik Smits, Valparaiso

Jimmy Whitt, SMU

With the likes of ZIon absent from this list, you know that there are many names still on their way. It is still exciting to see players such as Ja Morant, Nassir Little, and Bol Bol already on here. As we near the April 22nd deadline, many of the names you are hearing amidst the March Madness will start to pop up.

You know we will keep you up-to-date if anything big happens leading up to the combine and the 2019 NBA Draft. Remember to follow us on Twitter @BBall_Movement, Instagram, and like us on Facebook to stay in the know!

Around the NBA: Who will be named 2018-19 MVP?

Tonight’s slate of games features the NBA MVP front-runners squaring off. Will James Harden repeat as MVP, or will we see a new face?

For the last half of the 2018-19 NBA season, the MVP race has been James Harden’s to lose. He rebounds, he assists, and he scores… a lot. Possibly most importantly, he has lead his team to contention in the Western Conference, where they started the season as a non-factor. Chris Paul was hurt, the team was lame, and other stars were shining brighter.

Around December-January, things changed. James Harden has been on one of the most ludicrous heaters in NBA history. He is averaging 36 points per game on the season and is on pace to blow away all other players in that category. He is also finding his way to the line like no other guard has, attempting 11 free throws per contest.

Already acknowledged as one of the most dangerous iso players in history, he has also stepped up on defense, averaging a career high 2.2 steals per game so far. In the state of today’s game though, his competition is still fierce.

Rounding, Giannis Antetokounmpo is averaging 27/13/6 with 1.3 steals and 1.5 blocks per game. The Greek Freak has arguably eclipsed LeBron James to become the most terrifying open-court threat in the game. Where LeBron is a freight train, Giannis is a jumbo jet, soaring over defenders with just a few giant steps. Still lacking a consistent perimeter jumper, he is still able to score at will and has become as imposing on offense as he has always been on defense.

Antetokounmpo’s numbers don’t scare James Harden’s MVP chances, but his team does. The Bucks have the best record in the NBA, clearly led by Giannis’ brilliance. His Milwaukee teammate, Kris Middleton was named an All-Star, but the massive success of one of the NBA’s recently dormant franchises is all due to the Greek Freak.

Any other contenders?

Until the last month or so of action, Paul George of the OKC Thunder had a place in this conversation. He is still having a career year, averaging multiple personal best stats with 28.2 points per game (previous best was 23.7), 6.8 boards, 4.2 assists, and 2.2 steals.

George has been a bit inconsistent of late, which has been an unfortunate pairing with an also inconsistent Russell Westbrook. The Thunder are still a playoff team, but only just barely, hurting and possibly extinguishing PG13’s MVP chances.

We may be jaded by their sustained greatness, but Kevin Durant and especially Stephen Curry have had their usual spectacular individual seasons. The Warriors have been good, but not as dominant as we have become accustomed to seeing.

A few more players worth mentioning are: Kawhi Leonard, Joel Embiid, and Damian Lillard. There are more successful teams and spectacular players, but this late in the season, we are realistically coming down to just two men: Harden and Antetokounmpo.

Houston travels to Milwaukee tonight, so we will get a good long look at a clash between these two titans. The MVP race is a marathon, not a sprint, but games like these may still stand out to selectors of the award. The game will be on TNT at 7:00PM central time. Tune in to see two of the best in the world go toe-to-toe and weigh in on the debate over on Twitter. Follow us @Bball_Movement

All stats from Basketball Reference