Transcript: ESPN 2015 NBA Draft Combine Media Call with Fran Fraschilla

Yesterday, ESPN College Hoops and International Draft expert Fran Fraschilla, who is also a former men’s basketball coach, discussed the 2015 NBA Draft Combine prospects and next month’s NBA Draft on a media conference call. This is the first year that ESPN has conducted an NBA Draft Combine call.

ESPN2 will televise the Draft Combine coverage from Chicago, both today and tomorrow, that’s May 14 and May 15 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET each day.  Mark Jones will host coverage with reporter Andy Katz along with Fraschilla and social media correspondent Brook Weisbrod.

Click here for the replay of today’s conference call.

Q.  When you look at this draft class and all the needs surrounding the Lakers, if they end up with the number one pick, who would you select?

FRAN FRASCHILLA:  The best player available.  If you’re talking about the overall No. 1 pick, the healthy discussion will likely be between Jahlil Okafor and Karl‑Anthony Towns.  But if they end up somewhere in the top 5, then I think that given their needs at virtually every position, maybe discounting the fact that Julius Randle will be healthy next year, that’s where I would start

To me, there will be some disagreement about this, but to me the first tier is six players, and it starts with Towns and Okafor, the two point guards D’Angelo Russell and Emmanuel Mudiay, Kristaps Porzingis, the 7’1″ Latvian who is 19 years old, and Mario Hezonja, the 6’8″ Croatian, who is the only player in this draft that I think eventually could win both the NBA dunk and three‑point contest.

But certainly if you’re picking as early as 1 or 2, you’re focusing on the two big kids.

Q.  Give me your thoughts on D’Angelo Russell, because there are a lot of people here in Philly who think he could land with the Sixers, and how do you feel about that and his abilities and where he fits in with the Sixers?

FRASCHILLA:  Yeah, I’m a huge D’Angelo Russell fan.  I think D’Angelo Russell has a chance in time to be an NBA star.  He is a combo guard who is more of a point guard, in my opinion, than he is a two‑guard.  He is the best passer, I think I can remember in recent years this high in the draft.  He has incredible court vision.  He throws passes to teammates that don’t even realize they’re open.  That is the mark of a great passer.  He’s got size, he’s got a terrific IQ.  He shoots over 40% from three.

As with many of these kids in this draft, the fact that he’s 19 years old means that he’s going to have a steep learning curve early in his career.  But I just happen to be a huge fan of his.  Just to throw some more stuff out there, don’t worry about some of his numbers going down late in the year because teams ganged up on him.  He played basically 1-on-3, 1-on-4, much of the latter part of the season, because this was not a vintage Ohio State team.  But I think D’Angelo Russell has a chance to be an outstanding NBA player once he physically matures.  He’s very deserving, I think, being in that first group of five or six players.

Q.  As you know, Kentucky has several guys in this draft, and three or four of them are not seen or not projected as first‑round picks. How can they move themselves into a position of getting in the first round? 

FRASCHILLA:  Oh, I think, Jerry, if you’re talking about Dakari Johnson and the two twins come to mind.  I think that the other four are clearly in the first 20 picks, I believe.  But I think that it’s going to come down to workouts and interviews with regard to the Harrison twins and Dakari Johnson.

All of them have, I think by NBA standards, limitations that keep them from being drafted high.  In Dakari’s case it’s that he’s a big kid who is not a great athlete.  He’s kind of a plodder.  But he’s very young still, and size, as my friend Tom Penn often says, size rises in this draft.  Dakari is not 20 years old yet, so it’s possible that somewhere in the late 20’s a team would see his value in developing him in the long‑term.

As far as the twins are concerned, I think you’re talking about while they have prototype NBA size, you’re talking about they’re not elite athletes.  Neither one of them is an elite athlete.  They’re both big, physical kids.  Andrew I have rated higher.  I think he plays the point guard position better than Aaron plays the two‑guard spot right now.  Both of them will have to prove that they can shoot the ball well from the perimeter, because right now shooting is at a premium in the league.  Because if you’re a perimeter guy and you cannot shoot the ball, your team becomes easier to defend.  We’re watching that in the playoffs right now.  So the twins have work to do.

But I think that both of them will end up on rosters when it’s all said and done.

Q.  Do you think prototypical big men in the NBA now have to float on the floor or does it seem that way because there are so few low‑post scorers produced anymore?

FRASCHILLA:  No, I think the reason that by necessity the league has gone smaller and more spread.  You’re seeing more, what I would call, small lineups.  What we call the stretch four‑man.  In part, this is because there are just a handful of low‑post scorers.  But I don’t know.

I watch Mark Gasol play or guys like that, I think there is still room for a guy like Jahlil Okafor.  I think if Minnesota ends up with the first pick, there is going to be a long, healthy debate about both Towns and Okafor, and it’s going to take a few weeks to sort itself out.

In Okafor, you have a kid whose limitations, right now, may be on the defensive end, but you’re talking about a very skilled young offensive player at 6’11”, who I think in his early 20s is going to be un-guardable.  Whereas Towns is not as ready‑made as Okafor may be offensively, but he’s got tantalizing shot blocking potential.  He’s developing into a low‑post scorer.  And something that was not seen this year, that many of us have watched him since he was about 16 know that he can do, is that he can step away from the basket and shoot threes.

So Towns probably has the edge to me right now because he’s the grand slam, and Okafor is just the home run.  But I think if you can find a low‑post scorer at 6’11” who I think scores eventually as effortlessly as Okafor can, that’s hard to pass up.

I’ll say one more thing about Okafor watching him on tape.  If you watch all of the NCAA Tournament games with which Duke played after the Robert Morris game, the low post is more crowded than Grand Central Station.  He’s going to have more space in the league to operate, and you’ll see the kind of effectiveness that we’ve come to expect from the kid.  And he’s still had a great year by anybody’s measures.

Q.  Given the Timberwolves needs in the post, is it imperative that they get No. 1 or 2? Is their depth given their roster to go to 4 if it falls that far? 

FRASCHILLA:  Well, they want to have the ability to make their own decision, certainly.  But I look at the T‑Wolves, quite frankly, as a team that basically, I think right now they need everything.  They need everything except maybe the wing position that Andrew Wiggins is going to occupy.  So they’ve got to shore up a couple of different areas:  size, point guard, and they’ve got to improve their defense.  I don’t know if that can happen with one pick, obviously, if they get a guard.

I think Minnesota, if they don’t pick one or two, then I think the likelihood is they’re going to be staring at a really good point guard in either Mudiay or D’Angelo Russell.  Emmanuel Mudiay, or they’re going to see what I call the tantalizing, long‑term potential of Kristaps Porzingis, who is a 19‑year‑old, almost 7’2″ power forward who can shoot threes, and defend the rim.  But he’s a couple of years away strength‑wise.  But I’m telling you, he’s in the same long‑term potential range as both Towns and Okafor.  I just don’t think anybody’s going to have the guts to take him one or two.

So they’re going to have a lot of options presented to themselves if they have anywhere in the top three or four picks.

Q.  With the Thunder not making the playoffs, it looks like they’ll have a late lottery pick. Who do you think they’ll be looking at? 

FRASCHILLA:  Oh, gosh, they’re going to have their choices there, really.  They’ve got some good, young bigs, obviously with the kids that are growing, Kanter, and McGary, Ibaka is still there, and he’s young, relatively.  I think what Sam usually does it is take the best player available.  So if you’re asking me who is going to be there, I can tell you that if you’re talking about late lottery, you’re talking about it could be a Cameron Payne from Murray State who is a terrific talent.  A shooter like Devin Booker may fit in with them, who is the youngest player in this draft at 6’6″, a young man from Kentucky that can really shoot it.  It could be a Kaminsky type, though I’m not sure they need another big man like that.

I think that they’re going to have a myriad of options in that particular ‑‑ if they’re picking late lottery.

Q.  There were some questions with regards to Chris Walker and Michael Frazier both declaring early, but I read on Chad Ford’s most recent projections he had them as second round picks. So I’m curious of your thoughts on their likelihood and possibility of getting drafted and what they need to do between now and June to put themselves in a position to get drafted? 

FRASCHILLA:  Yeah, I think that they both have a chance to go in the second round.  I mean, you saw Chris more than I did.  I did watch him a number of times this year.  I saw him at Kansas, I saw him on tape.  I still think that he’ll get drafted because of his size and athleticism.  There are a lot of guys in this draft because of their age and, let’s say the fact that they’re not polished players that are going to be drafted and red‑shirted.  Many of these guys right now are not ready to play meaningful NBA games.  There will be a team in the second round that sees the 6’10” and athleticism and may take a chance.

I actually saw glimmers of hope from him this year in the tape I watched and when I saw him in person.  So I could see him easily going anywhere from 40 to 60.

Then Frazier, I peg him as second round to undrafted, actually.  He’s a small shooting guard in terms of prototype and NBA size.  He’s shown at times, obviously, that he’s a street shooter.  He probably had a better sophomore year than he did this year.  So I think he’s going to get an opportunity whether he gets drafted or not.  Whether you go to Las Vegas or Orlando, you’re going to see Michael Frazier on somebody’s Summer League team.

Like anything else it won’t matter where he got drafted or if he got drafted.  It will just be able to prove to people in the league that he can play in the league.

Q.  Just your thoughts on Towns and Okafor not going to Chicago, and also Emmanuel, that’s sort of a separate thing because he had a different background also not going to Chicago.

FRASCHILLA:  Let me discuss Winslow first.  I think I have him 7th.  I realize that there are people that have him higher.  What Justise Winslow has going for him is tremendous athleticism, even by NBA standards.  Because when we cover college basketball season, we say a guy’s a great athlete, and you get him in the league and you realize he’s an average athlete.  But I can tell you that I think Justise Winslow is a tremendous athlete with size, speed and power.  He really benefited from playing power forward the last 12 games of the season where he became un-guardable because bigger guys were trying to stay in front of him, and that was not working.

In the NBA he’ll see guys that are more his like size and athleticism.  But I like him.  I don’t like him ‑‑ I like him 7th on my board.

The other three guys not coming to Chicago just makes perfect sense.  They’re all going in in the top 5, they’re all going to have private workouts for the teams that have those selections.  And since we don’t know the order of the draft lottery until next week, it really doesn’t mean anything that they’re not here, because, first of all, all three guys that you mentioned are high‑character guys.  There are not going to be a whole lot of red flags with their background checks.  They all seem to be healthy.  So the medicals will take care of themselves when they visit the teams.  And strategically there doesn’t seem to be any benefit from being here in Chicago in what essentially is a cattle call.

Q.  Assuming the Warriors match whatever offer Draymond Green gets, they’re not going to have a ton of needs in this draft, but they’re always looking for shooting. Can you tell me who might be there at the end of the first round for them? 

FRASCHILLA:  Sure.  That’s a big concern.  What I’ve noticed in talking to my NBA friends is the league has gone smaller, and obviously the Warriors is a perfect example of this.  And obviously, shooting is at a premium because it stretches the floor.  But by the time they are picking, and it’s safe to say that Booker, Russell and Hezonja, the Croatian, will all be off the board but guys that I look that have good value towards the end of the first round.

And I think I’m not as high on R.J. Hunter from Georgia State going in the first 15, so he could be ‑‑ you’re talking about R.J. Hunter, you’re talking about Rashad Vaughn from UNLV, Joe Young from Oregon, who is kind of a tweener, but a great shooter, and has proven to be able to help out at the point a little bit.  So I would say those three guys are guys that I have pegged as late first‑round type guys that should be there.

Pat Connaughton is a kid that’s played at Notre Dame and will be there in the early second, mid‑second that can really shoot it.  So if they go shooters, those are some guys that jump out at me.

Rashad Vaughn is very interesting, because he’ll be one of the younger players in this draft and at 6’5″, and coming off what seemed to be a successful first season at UNLV until he hurt his knee, is a kid the Warriors could draft, and, again, bring him along slowly because he’s not going to be really ready to help them win for a couple of years.

But most of these guys right now who are getting drafted by and large are not ready to play meaningful minutes.

The final thing I’ll say about that is anywhere between 15 and 20 of these kids who go in the first round will be teenagers, so keep that in mind when you draft late in a round.  You’re getting prospects and not ready‑made guys.

Q.  We already touched on D’Angelo Russell, obviously. But one knock on him is some of the teams aren’t considering him to be an elite athlete.  How concerned do you think teams at the top of the draft will be about that and can he assuage those concerns at the combine? 

FRASCHILLA:  There was a guy that was drafted a handful of years ago who had the same rap.  His name was Steph Curry.  He wasn’t an elite athlete, supposedly.  I don’t think it’s a big deal.

There is no question that D’Angelo has to physically mature.  When I saw him in person this year, and I watched him practice, actually, the one thing I thought to myself is as much as I loved him, he was still 15 pounds away and a couple of years from physically maturing.  But let me just tell you something ‑‑ I’m just going to mention some names and I have it on a list here.  These are guys that were very fast starters in the NBA as point guards:  Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving, Steph Curry, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul.  They all got off to great starts to their careers.  Some weren’t one‑and‑done guys.  But the point here is while he’s not an elite athlete, he’s a good enough athlete, and he may be the most skilled player in this draft.  I didn’t say the best player, but maybe the most skilled from the standpoint of shooting, passing IQ, and then the requisite size to play guard in the NBA.  So I don’t think he’s going to have much of a problem once he starts to physically mature.

Q.  As far as position or types of players in the draft, where do you think the strength of depth lies for like a team late in the lottery?

FRASCHILLA:  Yeah, I think two positions, Paul:  point guard and the bigs.  If you take the bigs right off the bat, you’re talking about after Okafor and Towns and Porzingis, and that’s three right there.  Then you’re talking about guys like Kaminsky, and Willie Cauly‑Stein, different types of centers from each other, but needless to say, both big guys.

Then point guard.  You talk about Russell, Mudiay, and then you’ve got Cameron Payne, you’ve got Jerian Grant, you’ve got DeLon Wright, Tyus Jones comes into play, you know, later on in the first round.

So I think point guard is the other position where you could see six point guards go in the first round, in the first 30 picks.  So bigs particularly at center and point guards in the two deep spots.

Q.  Is there anybody who you still feel like has to prove themselves as a playmaker?

FRASCHILLA:  No, I don’t.  I think each of the guys I’ve mentioned, they’re all very capable of distributing the basketball.  I think Cameron Payne, late lottery slightly after that has a chance to be a tremendous NBA player.  Then when you talk about DeLon Wright and Jerian Grant, neither one will have the upside that teams like, because they’re both going to be 22 or 23 playing in the league next year.  But both of them really know how to play.  Both of them have been in the family business.  Jerian’s dad played in the league.  His older brother is in the league.  And of course DeLon Wright’s older brother, Dorell is in the league.

And Tyus Jones, it’s kind of like I hate to say it, but it’s true, he’s kind of like Tyler Ennis a year ago.  You’ll probably relate to this, but he’s a very good, solid, cerebral player.  I don’t see stardom for him, but I see him being in the league and going towards the back end of the first round, 20 to 30.

Q.  You’ve seen Aaron White over the years here at Iowa, how does his game translate to the next level and what does he have to show scouts and GMs this week to get into that conversation to get into the draft?

FRASCHILLA:  Well, he’s going to get drafted.  There is no question.  There is a possibility that a team ‑‑ it only takes one team to like you, and there is an outside possibility that he could sneak into the late first round, if my opinion.  The one thing about Aaron, right off the bat, he’s athletic, and he’s versatile, and the proof is in the pudding based on his career.

The thing that I think ‑‑ let’s take the bad first.  The bad is he’s going of it to prove that he can defend one of the two positions that he’s going to play at in the league, that is, is he mobile and athletic enough to guard NBA small forwards?  And at this point in time, he’s not strong enough to guard the elite power forwards.  But that’s okay because if you’re a second unit power forward in the league, there are a lot of guys that he matches up with.

The best thing about Aaron White’s opportunity right now is the way he ended his career at Iowa.  The last eight games he averaged almost 23 points a game.  He shot it well from deep, and he made his free throws, which is what he’s always done.  I think he’s a terrific jack‑of‑all‑trades type guy, and I see him somewhere between 25 and 40.  But he’s got to defend better, because there were times this year that he was a conscientious objector on that side of the floor.  But I’m a fan.

Q.  I have a question about Michigan State’s guy there at the combine this week, Branden Dawson. What do you see him needing to do to kind of solidify himself as a second-round guy?

FRASCHILLA:  Well, he’s the classic tweener.  He’s built like a small forward, but he really was a better power forward at Michigan State.  I don’t have it right in front of me, but I don’t think he made a three in his career at Michigan State, and that doesn’t bode well for him with regard to him playing away from the basket, and particularly stretching the floor like former Spartan, Draymond Green can do.

With Branden, it’s going to have to be try to carve out a role as an energy guy, anyway he possibly can, defensively in particularly.  But he’s a tweener, and at this point in time, I don’t have him in my top 50, even though he was a good college player.  Doesn’t mean that he can’t prove people like me wrong, but at this point I think his skill level is such that he’s going to have to do something remarkable at the combine and in private workouts.

Q.  You spoke about Porzingis earlier. How about talk about Hezonja’s NBA rating? 

FRASCHILLA:  Hezonja is 6’8″, and maybe I didn’t mention it on this call, but maybe I did, but he’s the only guy in this draft that someday potentially could win either the Dunk Contest or the three‑point contest or both because he’s a phenomenal athlete.  He’s mercurial in that maturity has been an issue as a young player.

Do not go by his statistics at Barcelona.  In some years Barcelona is as good as some of the bottom five to seven NBA teams.  They’re very deep.  They do things differently over there.  Coaches in Europe are like college coaches, they kind of rule with an iron hammer.  And once they knew that he was leaving for the NBA, his minutes started to shrink.  So statistics mean very little with these European kids because of how the coaches are.

He has a chance to be an NBA star if everything comes together for him because he has that unique ability and got the unique package, I should say, of ridiculous athleticism, and he is a streaky but above‑average shooter.  He made eight straight threes in a Spanish ACD game this year, which is, as I would point out, is the farther three‑point line in the college line, its closer to the NBA line.

So he’s going to be staring the Pistons in the face if the Pistons are picking where they’re projected to pick right now.

Q.  I was just wondering with Arizona, and like a lot of high‑profile programs they make a point to say that NBA scouts are at virtually every practice and they’re heavily scouted in games. They’ve got four guys going this week, with McConnell being at it.  Can any of them gain anything this week in particular that they haven’t maybe shown already? 

FRASCHILLA:  No, depending on who works out and who does the drills and obviously who plays, I think they can all help themselves.

Let’s take Stanley who is likely to be a lottery pick.  That’s fairly evident.  But based on his workouts now and over the next month and a half, he certainly can help himself.

Rondae’s situation, there are teams that really love a lot about Rondae, but it gets back to the old story.  If you’re not making perimeter shots and you happen to be a perimeter player, then teams basically are going to play defensively 5 on 4.  So Rondae’s got a chance to prove that.

Brandon Ashley has to prove that he has the athleticism to play in the league.  He’s not in anybody’s first round, and there are teams I’ve talked to that don’t have him in the second round.  So he certainly has room to help himself.

And finally, T.J.’s one of those guys that may be one of the older guys in this draft, but T.J.’s one of those guys like a Matthew Dellavedova, and others as I think about, could stick because every NBA team usually carries three point guards.  And in T.J.’s case, he’s got the toughness, he’s a great quarterback, great leader, and so he certainly has some more things to prove this week.

I think Arizona’s guys can all help themselves over the next six weeks because each one of them can move up based on where they’re perceived to be by NBA teams right now, and that varies with each, obviously.

Q.  Do you think it makes a big difference if they’re playing in these games? If they’re playing Johnson and Hollis‑Jefferson are not, but Ashley and McConnell will. 

FRASCHILLA:  I think it helps them.  I think it helps them.  Because I don’t think they have anything to lose.  Neither one of them is projected to go in the first round, nor could both find themselves out of the second round.  So I say go for it.  Swing for the fences.

As I might have mentioned earlier, Jamal Crawford, George Hill, Devean George, Beno Udrih, all played at the combine and helped themselves, so I think in this case it can’t hurt.

The Kings have been looking for shooters the last three, four, five years. They lost their drafted shooters the last couple of years.  Are there guys in that range that they could look at that can help them with shooting, particularly at the power forward spot because they’ve been trying to find a stretch forward for a while too? 

FRASCHILLA:  Well, I think they’ve got to be careful.  They’re in that range where they don’t want to reach and take a guy who may be top 15 talent just because it’s a need.  My suggestion to the Kings would be take the best player available and hope that guy is a shooter, you know?  And as I look at the Kings right now, I think they’d be fortunate if a guy like D’Angelo Russell slid to six, and let’s say Winslow goes early, earlier than I have him projected.

The other guy, if they really are looking for shooting, you might look at a guy like Hezonja.  Nobody thinks Towns will be there, so let’s forget about him.  But Hezonja, and Porzingis, one is a three, one is a four, but both of them could shoot the ball well enough in time to take a little heat off of DeMarcus inside.

But to me, point guard is shooting are the two areas that they must shore up, and if D’Angelo Russell slid to six, they would find themselves in a very, very fortuitous position.  I would not reach up and take somebody that is not in the top six, say like a Kaminsky or Cameron Payne or Devin Booker, if they’re 9 through 15 talent.  I would take the best player available and find shooting somewhere else.

Q.  Let’s say the Knicks had their pick of any draft‑eligible player, which player do you think could make the biggest impact for them given their system and personnel immediately? And which player do you think can make the biggest impact for them given their system and personnel in the next five years when he’s a fully developed player? 

FRASCHILLA:  Well, it’s a good question.  I think my answer is assuming they pick number one, that the likelihood is the league ‑‑ it seems to me and the people I talk to in the league, and I’m the college guy here, but I think I study the league, size really matters, as does shooting, but size first.  So if the Knicks pick one, they’re going to be scratching their heads for about a month figuring out whether they want to go with Okafor or Towns in my opinion.

I think Okafor may be more ready to average 18 and 9 as a rookie, and Towns has a chance to be the better player over the next decade.  And that’s going to be something that they’re going to have to really study that process closely.  Towns has more versatility because he has the ability to play away from the basket.  And in the triangle that doesn’t hurt, especially in that elbow area, but the triangle has also been made for low‑post players in the past, like Shaq.

So I think the dilemma is going to be do you want maybe the sure thing early in Okafor versus rolling the dice a little bit and maybe Towns becomes the better player over time.  That’s the way I would go.

Porzingis is not going to be in the mix because the Knicks are just not going to take a chance on an international guy that they don’t know as well as these other two guys.

Although I think D’Angelo Russell has a chance to be the best player in this draft someday, I doubt that they’ll roll the dice with the number one pick on either Russell or Mudiay.

Q.  What is your overall evaluation of Justin Anderson from Virginia? What does he have to do to solidify himself in the first round or possibly move up a little bit?

FRASCHILLA:  I’m hearing good stuff about his workouts.  People tell me he’s been impressive.  I think he’s out in LA, if I’m not mistaken.  But be that as it may, Justin is your prototypical three‑and‑D guy, which is becoming important in the league, a guy that can make threes.  Again, if this last year was not fool’s gold.  He had an incredible first part of the year before he got hurt.  Did not shoot the ball as well in the second part.

But he’s an explosive athlete.  If he becomes a really consistent three‑point shooter and defends his position, he’s going to have a chance of developing into a good NBA player.

Two things ‑‑ and I coached Justin at the high school All‑Star camps, so I think I know his game pretty well.  Two things that he has to improve on is his ability to beat people off the dribble.  I thought even in Tony Bennett’s system this year, he gave up at times defensively, let’s say, in pick‑and‑roll situations where I thought he needed to be a little more hungry fighting through screens.  But overall the combination potentially now of athleticism, positional size, defensive ability, and ability to make threes, I think is going to keep him in the first round or in fact help him move up.

Q.  With Cameron Payne, what do you think is his best case scenario, and also his worst‑case scenario as far as the first round? Is there one system that you see him fitting in more than any other? 

FRASCHILLA:  No, because he’s had the benefit in Steve Prohm’s system of playing in an NBA style offense, where it was heavily pick‑and‑roll basketball, which is going to help him tremendously.  Cameron’s range is anywhere as high as nine, and anywhere as low as 20.  Here’s a guy that didn’t even start on his AAU team and high school in Memphis, as you know.  But you love his size, his ability to shoot the ball and his ability to play pick‑and‑roll basketball.  He’s a very good athlete.  He’s going to end up being one of the best defenders in this draft.  He’s got a lot of promise.

He also, as I would say, the other thing that helps him is guards from mid‑major schools in recent years, Steph Curry, Damian Lillard, George Hill, C.J. McCollum for the Blazers have all been able to adjust to the NBA game relatively quickly.  I would expect the same thing from Cameron.

If I nitpicked a little bit, I would say he has to improve on his ball handling and his ability to attack going to his right, because he’s very left‑hand dominant.  He goes right to pull up for the jumper, he goes left to drive.  But he’s got great court vision, and I think he’s got a chance to be an instant, help somebody instantly next year if they stick him in as a starting point guard.

Q.  What about the other three guys from Kentucky, Cauley‑Stein, Lyles and Booker? What is the question mark for each one of them, and what is the biggest upside for all three of them? 

FRASCHILLA:  Well, I think Willie Cauley‑Stein’s upside is Tyson Chandler.  No one’s throwing Willie the ball in the low post and asking him to score when he gets to the league.  The league is about length and rim protection.  So his upside is Tyson Chandler.

The other thing about Willie that is as good in this draft as anybody is just his ability to defend everywhere on the floor.  The NBA, as I mentioned, is a rim protection league, and it’s also a pick‑and‑roll league and Willie can not only be effective in pick‑and‑roll defense, he can switch on to good NBA guards and stay in front of them, and we saw that this year.

Devin Booker is an interesting case, because as I mentioned earlier, he’s the youngest guy in this draft.  He’s another guy that comes, he’s in the family business because his father was a tremendous European player for upwards of a decade.  He’s mature.  He gets it.  He’s going to be low‑maintenance off the court.  He’s an elite shooter.  He’s a deceptive athlete, and he’s young.  So all these things come into play with his being drafted probably in the first 15 picks.

And Trey Lyles is a very interesting case, because he spent the majority of his year playing out of position by necessity.  Trey is, again, a young player who is a teenager at 6’10”, 235, I think he can develop into a good, solid, low‑post player who can pick‑and‑pop a little bit on the perimeter.  I like his long‑term potential.  Not a great athlete at this point, maybe never will be, but I could see him being a solid NBA player fair decade.  Whether he becomes a star or not remains to be seen.  But he’ll add great value to a team wanting to add a good, young, quality big guy.


Media contact: Gianina Thompson at (@Gianina_ESPN)


Notes from NBA on TNT Playoff Coverage – Wednesday, May 13, 2015

nba-on-tntNotes from TNT’s NBA Playoffs Coverage – Wednesday, May 13, 2015

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Washington Wizards (81) @ Atlanta Hawks (82); Hawks lead series 3-2

Ian Eagle (play-by-play), Brent Barry (analyst) and Lewis Johnson (reporter)

Barry on Hawks guard Kyle Korver’s shooting struggles during the Wizards series: “He hasn’t been able to get anything going. Korver is only making three-point attempts [in the series], and he has no free throws. We’ve got to see some offense inside the paint from Kyle if he can get there.”

Charles Barkley (at halftime) on the point guard matchup between Atlanta’s Jeff Teague and Washington’s John Wall: “Jeff Teague does not play the same way when John Wall is playing because he has to think about Wall coming back at him. Teague frustrates me at times because he is not aggressive. You can screw up, but you cannot be passive. The Hawks are only going to go as far as Jeff Teague takes them, and the Wizards will only go as far as John Wall takes them.”

Shaquille O’Neal (at halftime) on Hawks forward Paul Millsap: “Jeff Teague is the main factor for the Hawks, but part two of that factor is Paul Millsap. He really knows how to post up, read the defense and use his body.”

Barry on Wizards point guard John Wall playing through injury: “It magnifies what John Wall is going to mean to this franchise moving forward. They have been waiting for a player like this to lead them. Wall has already been that guy over the past couple of years, but this kind of performance with this type of toughness speaks volumes.”

Barry on Wall’s Game 5 performance: “John Wall touches the ball more than any player in the NBA in the front court. More than MVP Stephen Curry, more than LeBron James, more than James Harden. The fact that the Wizards were able to survive a couple of games without him and then he comes back in with a broken hand to do what he did in Game 5 on the road…just a remarkable performance.”

Barry on Wall: “Once he gets into the half court, he does what John Wall does…distribute the ball. He is finding cutters, weaving around, creating angles with his speed and understanding where their defense is going. There is a ton of confidence for this Wizards team behind his play.”

Barry on Wizards guard Bradley Beal: “He’s never scored less than 13 points in a playoff game. This guy’s future is incredibly bright, and he continues to grow.”

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Memphis Grizzlies (78) @ Golden State Warriors (98); Warriors lead series 3-2
Brian Anderson (play-by-play), Steve Smith (analyst) and Lewis Johnson (reporter)

Smith on Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley: “In the last couple of games he has been fatigued, but also the Warriors started KlayThompson against him. Conley has done a nice job of getting uncontested shots, but he’s had trouble with contested shots. That’s because of the length of Klay Thompson.”

Smith on Warriors forward Harrison Barnes: “I love Harrison Barnes. He is a young guy who understands his role. That is hard, when you are young and that talented, to come out and be the fourth option on a team that wins basketball games. He is the type of young guy who understands winning is more important than his numbers.”

Smith on Warriors sharpshooter Stephen Curry: “He is letting the Memphis Grizzlies have it from the three-point line. He is just in one of those zones.”

Smith on the Golden State Warriors defense: “The MVP Stephen Curry is doing more than just scoring. You have to talk about the Warriors defensively just as much as you talk about their offense.”

Smith on the Warriors’ style of play in Game 5: “We talk about the threes, but I’m impressed by how they are turning defense and fast breaks into easy buckets. They are committed to getting out and running.”

Anderson on the Warriors’ Game 5 dominance: “This is the kind of basketball we saw all year long from Golden State.”

Smith on Klay Thompson’s play in the Warriors/Grizzlies series: “He’s not shooting badly, he just hasn’t had those explosive nights shooting the basketball in this series…but we all know he’s capable. With no Tony Allen, he is getting some breathing room.”

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Inside the NBA presented by Kia

Johnson, Barkley, Smith and O’Neal

Barkley on Hawks center Al Horford: “He was clearly the MVP tonight. He was not just the game-winner…he was fantastic.”

O’Neal on whether the Hawks have what it takes: “The jury is still out on Atlanta. I don’t know if they have the killer instinct, the playoff experience or the know-how to go in and close it out. I still think they can win the series, but I don’t know if they have what it takes to win it all.”

Barkley on the contrasting styles of play in the Warriors/Grizzlies series: “Memphis wants to walk it up and down the court and bully you to death; Golden State wants to get it out and play with pace. [The series will go to] whoever imposes their will on the opposing team.”

Smith on the absence of guard Tony Allen due to hamstring injury: “The ‘Tony Allen Effect’ is going to be big. He is that gnat that you have to keep waving off. Even if the Warriors are shooting the ball well, you don’t see the smiles from Golden State that you saw tonight [when Tony Allen plays]. Allen just makes you uncomfortable, which makes [head coach] Steve Kerr try different lineups. Today Kerr could be conventional and didn’t have to search for things. Tony Allen makes you search.”

Barkley on what Memphis needs to do in order to win the series: “At some point they are going to have to explode on offense. If they are going to win this series, I think they have to score 100. Jeff Green, Vince Carter, Courtney Lee…someone is going to have to play out of their mind. Somebody is going to have to go crazy one night, a role player.”

Barkley on the Warriors limiting Memphis’ points in the paint: “They are doing a fantastic job of doubling the big guys and scrambling on defense.”

O’Neal on Golden State’s chances to win Game 6 in Memphis: “If Golden State continues to shoot the ball like they are, the series is over.”

Smith on John Wall: “His ability to create off the dribble was impressive.”


ESPN to Televise Four NBA Conference Semifinals Game 6’s

ABC to Exclusively Broadcast a Western Conference Semifinals Game 7 or Western Conference Finals Game 1 Sunday

ESPN will televise four NBA Conference Semifinals Game 6’s, with prime-time doubleheaders both tonight, Thursday, May 14 and Friday, May 15. Tonight at 8 p.m. ET, the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James will visit the Chicago Bulls and Derrick Rose. Mike Breen, analysts Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson and reporter Lisa Salters will provide commentary. ESPN Radio will also broadcast the game with Marc Kestecher describing the action alongside analyst P.J. Carlesimo.

At 10:30 p.m., the Los Angeles Clippers and Chris Paul will host the Houston Rockets and James Harden on ESPN. Mike Tirico will call the action with analyst Jon Barry and reporter J.A. Adande. Kia NBA Countdown will precede the doubleheader at 7:30 p.m. with host Sage Steele and analysts Doug Collins and Jalen Rose.

On Friday, May 15, the Washington Wizards and John Wall will host the Atlanta Hawks and Paul Millsap at 7 p.m. on ESPN. Dave Pasch will be joined by analyst P.J.Carlesimo and reporter Chris Broussard to call the game. At 9:30 p.m. on ESPN, the Golden State Warriors and NBA MVP Stephen Curry will visit the Memphis Grizzlies and Marc Gasol. Mike Tirico will handle play-by-play with Basketball Hall of Famer and analyst Hubie Brown and reporter Heather Cox. ESPN Radio will have the game with Kevin Calabro and analyst Jon Barry.

 All ESPN games are also available via WatchESPN.

 NBA Playoffs on ABC

On Sunday, May 17, ABC’s coverage tips off at 3 p.m. with NBA Countdown, hosted by Sage Steele and featuring analysts Jalen Rose and Doug Collins. At 3:30 p.m., ABC will exclusively broadcast either Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals or a Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals. More details on Sunday’s coverage will be available on ESPN Media Zone this weekend.



Media contacts: Ben Cafardo at 860-766-3496 or (@Ben_ESPN);

Gianina Thompson at 860-766-7022 or (@Gianina_ESPN).


Legendary Hip-Hop Group Mobb Deep to Remix Classic ‘Survival Of The Fittest’ for ESPN’s ‘NBA Countdown’

Legendary hip-hop group Mobb Deep and ESPN have teamed up to create a special production open for NBA CountdownESPN’s NBA pre-game studio show – to debut during pre-game coverage of the 2015 NBA Western Conference Finals, exclusively on ESPN. Mobb Deep will lend a customized NBA remix of their classic track Survival Of The Fittest (1995) to NBA Countdown.

 Mobb Deep:

“It is absolutely incredible that, on the 20th Anniversary of the recording of Survival Of The Fittest, the meaning of the song is as relevant as ever” says Prodigy. “We would like to thank ESPN for choosing our record and for making it the anthem of one of the most important U.S. sports events of the year” adds Havoc. “We were absolutely excited to deliver a remix version of this classic and a visual to accompany the opening of NBA Countdown.”

 NBA Countdown is hosted by Sage Steele, who is joined by former head coach Doug Collins and former NBA star Jalen Rose.

 Note: the 2015 NBA Western Conference Finals are scheduled to begin Tuesday, May 19, with a potential move-up date of Sunday, May 17, if both Western Conference Semifinals series’ end this Friday.


Turner Sports Announces Multi-Year Extensions for Inside the NBA’s Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal

nba-on-tntTNT’s iconic and critically-acclaimed Inside the NBA studio show – the recipient of 13 Sports Emmy Awards – will continue to offer fans its dynamic combination of basketball insight and analysis, entertainment and social commentary with its unduplicated studio team of host Ernie Johnson and analysts Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal.  Turner Sports today announced multi-year extensions for each member of the studio team.

“We truly believe Inside the NBA is among the best studio shows of all time and a large part of its success is due to the unrivaled chemistry between Ernie, Charles, Kenny and Shaquille,” said Lenny Daniels, president of Turner Sports. “We’re looking forward to continuing the creativity and pioneering spirit behind the show for a very long time.”

TNT’s Inside the NBA has continued to increase in popularity through the years, becoming appointment viewing for both the hardcore basketball fan and casual sports fans alike, while also pulling in the casual television viewer.  The content of the show – including popular re-occurring segments such as “EJ’s Neat-O Stat of the Night,” “Gone Fishin’” and “Shaqtin’ a Fool,” among others – often transcends sport, mixing into the pop culture domain.  In doing so, the show’s passionate fan base regularly cause Inside the NBA to “go viral” through the sharing of its top moments across a growing number of social media platforms.

Inside the NBA is the most-watched NBA studio show on cable television, based on Nielsen Research, and frequently generates the second most-watched program on cable throughout the NBA Playoffs (trailing only live game coverage).  Additionally, Inside the NBA consistently delivers the lowest median age of any late night program during the NBA Playoffs.

Johnson, a three-time Sports Emmy Award winner, is currently in his 26th year as a studio host for Turner’s NBA telecasts. In addition to hosting Inside the NBA, Johnson is also the host of NBA TV’s popular NBA Fan Night series airing Tuesdays throughout the regular season.  He also hosts studio coverage for the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship airing across TBS, CBS, TNT and truTV – including the Final Four and National Championship – and the PGA Championship on TNT, and provides play-by-play commentary for the MLB Postseason on TBS.

Barkley, a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and two-time Sports Emmy Award winner, is in his 16th year as studio analyst for TNT’s Inside the NBA.  He also provides analysis for select NBA regular season games on TNT and makes appearance on NBA TV, including on-site studio analysis during The Finals.  Additionally, Barkley is a studio analysis for the networks’ presentation of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship.

Smith, a two-time NBA champion, is in his 18th year as studio analyst for TNT’s Inside the NBA.  He also makes regular appearances as a studio analyst for NBA TV, including on site at The Finals for select games.  Smith is also an analyst for the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship on TBS, CBS, TNT and truTV.  He and his family was also the subject of a reality show – Meet the Smiths – airing on TBS.

O’Neal, a four-time NBA Champion and 15-time NBA All-Star, joined TNT’s Inside the NBA studio team in 2011 following a 19-year NBA career. In addition to his TNT responsibilities, O’Neal provides studio analysis for NBA TV including on site appearances during The Finals. He also hosts his own show on the network (with a weekly segment running during TNT’s Inside the NBA as well) – Shaqtin’ a Fool – featuring humorous and uncommon basketball plays that take place throughout the NBA season.


Notes from NBA on TNT Playoff Coverage ­ Monday, May 11, 2015

nba-on-tntNotes from NBA on TNT Playoff Coverage – Monday, May 11, 2015

TNT’s NBA Playoffs coverage continues Tuesday, May 12, with the Chicago Bulls vs. Cleveland Cavaliers at 7 p.m. ET, Game 5, followed by Los Angeles Clippers vs. Houston Rockets at 9:30 p.m., Game 5

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Atlanta Hawks (106) @ Washington Wizards (101); Series tied, 2-2
Ian Eagle (play-by-play) Brent Barry (analyst) with David Aldridge (reporter)

Barry on Atlanta improving on the offensive end: “It’s just been crazy in the series to think that as a team, collectively, they’ve shot 30% in uncontested jumpers… Tonight they’ve been much better because the penetration has opened up opportunities for them, but this is a team that shoots the ball much better. You’ve got to think, at some point, they’ll get back in a rhythm on that side of the floor.”

Barry on Dennis Schroder’s offensive approach: “In the same way [Rajon] Rondo is disrespected with regards to his jump shot, people play off of him, and he takes up that three or four feet of space with a tremendous amount of momentum. For him, the way he can shift his body and catch those angles, that’s what makes him devastating once he gets by a primary defender.”

Barry on Atlanta evening the series: “In the process [of getting a road win], they may have found out a little more about themselves than they had coming into this game for the rest of this series. [With] two games remaining at home, a great opportunity.”

Barry on finding offense in the playoffs: “Paul Pierce and Drew Gooden are two of the top three remaining three-point shooters in the playoffs… the Wizards are really finding offense from new resources.”

Barry on Bradley Beal taking on a greater role: “Bradley Beal is doing a great job of heading up some responsibilities that you didn’t see much during the regular season. Handling the ball on pick and roll, directing traffic on offense.”

Barry on Beal’s performance: “He’s been awesome, awesome tonight. Mixing up his game, from attack, to midrange to three point shooting and decision making.”

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Golden State Warriors (101) @ Memphis Grizzlies (84); Series tied, 2-2
Brian Anderson (play-by-play) Steve Smith (analyst) with Lewis Johnson (reporter)

Smith on Stephen Curry finding ways to get his teammates involved: “We know he is able to score the basketball, but I think being able to create some offense off the bounce, getting into the teeth of the defense and kicking out, just getting some other guys some easy looks, is going to be the way for him to go.”

Smith on Golden State needing to involve Harrison Barnes more: “Harrison Barnes, who I’ve been raving about for the Golden State Warriors, I think he needs more touches on the offensive end. He’s been very productive for the Golden State Warriors.”

Smith on Harrison Barnes and Stephen Curry having to switch up on defense: “When you’re watching Harrison Barnes, and also Stephen Curry, they’re not guarding their original guy. It puts a lot of pressure on Harrison Barnes and Stephen Curry, not to defend, but to box out against those bigger guys.”

Smith on Golden State’s defense stepping up: “Give the Warriors’ defense a lot of credit. They’ve been aggressive, they’ve been active, and they’ve come up with some turnovers.”

Smith on Draymond Green’s improved game: “He’s been their leader on the defensive end, and also a guy who can move the basketball and play that stretch four position, and make plays off the bounce.”

Smith on the Grizzlies’ physicality: “This style of play wears you down… I think if you’re [head coach] Dave Joerger and those guys, you go back and make your adjustments. Mike Conley, you can see didn’t have a great game but it’s nice to have him back… You would figure they’ll shoot better. Jeff Green was a little more aggressive. They need him. And Vince Carter made some buckets. It came down to, you have Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, 17 and 12 [points], they got touches but the double team made them force it.”

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Inside the NBA presented by Kia

Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith

Smith on the Hawks playing as a team: “No one player, to me, when I watch the Atlanta Hawks, is more valuable than the other…but no one player can be missing.”

Barkley on the importance of Jeff Teague to the Hawks’ success: “I judge the Atlanta Hawks by Jeff Teague. When he’s aggressive, they play with a totally different energy because there’s really no one player you can just give the ball to except him. He can get his own shot every single time… Jeff Teague is the guy that makes everybody on this team go.”

Barkley on the Hawks playing Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder together: “I’ve got to give Coach Budenholzer credit. He switched his team up tonight. He played two point guards together to speed up the tempo.”

O’Neal on the Hawks getting easy baskets: “Huge win for the Hawks. A lot of people were questioning them, [asking] did they have enough fight… They really did a great job of getting the ball inside. When I mean get the ball inside, I don’t mean post presence, but just layups…easy, easy baskets… They really wanted this game.”

Barkley on Jeff Teague being similar to Tony Parker: “He kind of reminds me of Tony Parker. It’s almost impossible to keep him in front of you. We actually thought there was something wrong with him because he hasn’t played like the All-Star… He was fantastic tonight.”

Smith on the Hawks stars as a team: “The NBA made a statement at All-Star Weekend when they put the four Atlanta Hawks there. They wanted it to be more about team instead of an individual… The reward they got at All-Star Game showed tonight, that all of them together, collectively, make a great team, and not individually.”

O’Neal on Stephen Curry leading the Warriors: “When you’re the MVP, when you’re the best player on the team, when you come out and play aggressive, the others will follow. The others for Golden State are playing pretty good, [Harrison] Barnes and [Draymond] Green.”

O’Neal on Curry among the best shooters: “He’s a spectacular shooter. Throughout the history of the game, spectacular shooters can be off every now and then, but you can never hold them down for long periods of time. Ray Allen, Reggie Miller, and now Steph Curry… If you have the right mindset, and you stay confident, like he’s been doing, he’ll get it back. Tonight he just showed he’s a spectacular shooter. You have to put him in that category, Larry Bird, Glen Rice, guys like that.”

Barkley on the Grizzlies learning something in the second half with a smaller lineup: “If I’m Memphis, you can learn something in losses. I thought they outplayed Golden State in the second half with the small lineup… Memphis changed up in the second half… They went small. They took one of their big guys out of the game because you can’t just walk the ball up and down the court when you’re down 20 points at halftime… To play them even in the second half with a small lineup, they can use that going forward if they get down.”


ESPN2 to Televise 2015 NBA Draft Combine May 14-15

ESPN2 will cover the 2015 NBA Draft Combine on Thursday, May 14 and Friday, May 15 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET, from the Quest Multisport Complex in Chicago, Ill. This will mark the first time ESPN2 will be home to all eight hours of ESPN’s coverage. Coverage is also available via WatchESPN.

Mark Jones will serve as ESPN2’s NBA Draft Combine host. He’ll be joined on the set by NBA analyst P.J. Carlesimo, college basketball analysts Fran Fraschilla and Miles Simon, reporter Andy Katz and social media correspondent Brooke Weisbrod.

This year’s coverage will include two five-on-five scrimmages on both Thursday and Friday, in addition to the regular drills: max vertical leap, no-step vertical leap, court sprint, shuttle drill, bench press and shooting drills.

For more on ESPN’s 2015 NBA Draft coverage, visit the 2015 NBA Draft section at


Media contacts: Ben Cafardo at 860-766-3496 or (@Ben_ESPN);

Gianina Thompson at 860-766-7022 or (@Gianina_ESPN).

NBA Playoffs: Five Games Across ABC & ESPN This Weekend

  • Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Jackson & Lisa Salters to Call Cavaliers-Bulls Games 3 & 4
  • Doris Burke to Pull Double-Duty with Studio & Game Assignments
  • Mike Tirico Calling Two Games in 24 Hours

 Friday, May 8

The 2015 NBA Playoffs will continue this weekend with five Conference Semifinals games across ABC and ESPN. The action begins tonight (Friday), May 8, with an ESPN doubleheader. At 8 p.m. ET the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James will visit the Chicago Bulls and Derrick Rose in Game 3. Mike Breen, analysts Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson and reporter Lisa Salters will provide commentary.

In the nightcap, the Houston Rockets and James Harden will visit the Los Angeles Clippers and Blake Griffin in Game 3 at 10:30 p.m. Mike Tirico, Hall of Famer and analyst Hubie Brown and reporter Doris Burke will call the action. Kia NBA Countdown will open ESPN’s coverage at 7:30 p.m. with host Sage Steele and analysts Jalen Rose and Doug Collins.

 Saturday, May 9

On Saturday, the Atlanta Hawks and Paul Millsap will visit the Washington Wizards and Paul Pierce in Game 3 at 5 p.m. on ESPN. Dave Pasch will provide play-by-play with analyst P.J. Carlesimo and reporter Chris Broussard. Then, at 8:15 p.m. on ABC, Tirico, Jon Barry and reporter Heather Cox will call Game 3 between the Golden State Warriors with Stephen Curry and the Memphis Grizzlies with Marc Gasol. A 15-minute edition of NBA Countdown will lead into the game, hosted by Doris Burke with Rose and Collins. ESPN Radio will also broadcast the Warriors-Grizzlies game with Kevin Calabro calling the action with analyst Kara Lawson.

Sunday, May 10

This Mother’s Day, ABC will broadcast Game 4 of the Cleveland Cavaliers-Chicago Bulls series at 3:30 p.m. Breen, Van Gundy, Jackson and Salters will once again provide commentary. NBA Countdown will precede the game at 3 p.m. with Steele, Rose and Collins. Cavaliers-Bulls Game 4 will also be broadcast on ESPN Radio with Marc Kestecher and Carlesimo describing the action.

Additional coverage

  • SportsCenter will have reporters on site at several locations this weekend, including Mark Schwarz and Sarah Spain in Chicago, Stephen A. Smith in Los Angeles and Marc Stein in Memphis.
  • NBA Tonight on ESPN2 will air Friday at 1 a.m. and Saturday at 12 a.m. (midnight) with host Cassidy Hubbarth and will recap the action of the day.
  • ESPN Deportes will also televise all five ABC/ESPN games this weekend.

NBA Playoffs on ESPN are also available on WatchESPN. ABC games are available on ESPN3.


Media contacts: Ben Cafardo at 860-766-3496 or (@Ben_ESPN);

Gianina Thompson at 860-766-7022 or (@Gianina_ESPN).


NBA TV Spotlights 20th Anniversary of Houston Rockets’ Back-To-Back Championships with Clutch City Documentary

NBA-TV-LogoNBA TV Spotlights 20th Anniversary of Houston Rockets’

Back-To-Back Championships with Clutch City Documentary

NBA TV Originals Film to Feature Interviews with Former Rockets Including

Hakeem Olajuwon, Rudy Tomjanovich, Clyde Drexler and Kenny Smith                                                                                                                                                                                

NBA TV will commemorate the 20-year anniversary of the Houston Rockets’ back-to-back championship seasons with Clutch City, a documentary to be televised during The Finals on Monday, June 8, at 9 p.m. ET.  Produced by the Sports Emmy Award-winning NBA TV Originals, Clutch City examines the Rockets’ 1993-94 and 1994-95 teams as Houston greats such as Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, Kenny Smith, Robert Horry, Sam Cassell and Vernon Maxwell reflect on their experiences and how their unusual team chemistry helped them succeed.

Featuring more than 30 interviews with Hall of Famers, NBA legends and national broadcasters, Clutch City assesses the Rockets’ place in the NBA pantheon of great teams. In addition to Houston greats, the film offers insights on the Rockets from the men who challenged them, including NBA Legends Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal, Patrick Ewing, Horace Grant and A.C. Green.

Clutch City will provide an all-access look at the Houston Rockets’ back-to-back championships, combining the best of the league’s archival footage with current interviews from those most closely connected to the team,” said “Scooter” Vertino, general manager of NBA Digital and SVP of programming, Turner Sports.  “There couldn’t be a more fitting time than The Finals to celebrate what it takes to be an NBA champion and the unique path these often overlooked Rockets teams took to get there.”

Inspired by Head Coach Rudy Tomjanovich and his motto, “Don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion,” the Rockets, often overlooked after being bookended by the Chicago Bulls’ two ‘‘three-peats,” survived eight postseason elimination games during these championship years.  From overtaking the New York Knicks in a dramatic seven-game 1994 NBA Finals to punctuating a historic run as the only sixth-seed to win an NBA championship when it defeated the Orlando Magic in the 1995 NBA Finals, Houston was the definition of perseverance.

During the 90-minute film, Tomjanovich opens up about his life as he returns to his hometown of Hamtramck, Mich.  Bringing to the bench the difficult lessons learned during his early years, he instilled in his players the resilience that drove Houston to consecutive titles.

A few outtakes from the Clutch City documentary:

Rudy Tomjanovich on what it takes to become a champion:

“Being a champion just doesn’t happen.  You’ve got to go through a war.  I don’t know any team that doesn’t ‑‑ just like any family that doesn’t have to go through some adversity, some difference of opinion, some hard feelings, some tears.  But the team that doesn’t let that stuff bother them and they go through the storms, they tie things down when things get tough and they get through it, to me that’s what a champion is.” 

Kenny Smith on what it takes to win an NBA championship

“Winning an NBA championship is like there’s a brick wall and you’re just tapping.  It’s years and you’re just tapping.  And it’s dark in that room and you’re just tapping.  There’s no light and you’re just tapping, tapping.  And you do it for years.  Then all of a sudden, you tap and light comes in.  You go, ‘Oh, shoot, there’s light at the end of that tunnel.’  That’s what winning an NBA championship feels like.” 

Hakeem Olajuwon on whether or not the Rockets would have beaten the Chicago Bulls with Michael Jordan in The Finals

“It’s something that you will never know, but if you just go by the record, we never had a problem with Chicago…We loved that because we wouldn’t just play against Chicago, we would dominate Chicago.”

Clutch City is the latest in a long line of NBA TV Originals’ critically acclaimed films and specials that include the Sports Emmy Award-winning The Doctor; the Emmy-nominated The Dream Team; and THE84DRAFT; as well as the network’s popular Open Court series.

About NBA TV

NBA TV is a part of NBA Digital, the NBA’s extensive cross-platform portfolio of digital assets jointly-managed by the NBA and Turner Sports including NBA TV,, NBA LEAGUE PASS, NBA LEAGUE PASS Broadband, NBA Mobile, and


Notes from NBA on TNT Playoff Coverage ­ Wednesday, May 6, 2015

nba-on-tntNotes from NBA on TNT Playoff Coverage – Wednesday, May 6, 2015

TNT’s NBA Playoffs coverage will continue Sunday, May 10, with the Houston Rockets vs. Los Angeles Clippers (Game 4) at 8 p.m. ET

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Chicago Bulls (91) @ Cleveland Cavaliers (106); Series tied 1-1
Marv Albert (play-by-play) Chris Webber (analyst) with Rachel Nichols (reporter)

Webber on the combination of Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler: “You hope this tandem of Butler and Rose stay together for a long time. They’re like [similar] size, they can switch, they’re both athletic. They look for each other, they encourage each other. Just a great backcourt duo.”

Webber on Chicago’s approach: “The Bulls love playing ugly basketball. The Bulls love slowing it down. They can play fast, however you want it, as long as they can continue their defensive strategy.”

Webber on Nikola Mirotic: “He’s a scorer. You do not want him feeling it going back home with those crazy Chicago fans and that loud stadium. You want to try and keep that foot on the neck, especially on his confidence.”

Webber on Iman Shumpert: “[Iman] Shumpert actually started this season for this team, and we all know the J.R. Smith situation, but it seems like he’s been ready to come in and be their Mr. 911.”

Webber on what Kendrick Perkins brings to the Cavaliers as a veteran presence: “Having the opportunity to play with so many wonderful veterans, they add so much, the intangibles. And that’s what a guy like Perkins does. He can do a lot of things for you, especially defensively, on the court. But, his messages in the locker room are invaluable to this young Cavs team.”

Webber on LeBron James knowing the importance of Game 2: “He was here four hours early, put the headband back on. He’s down 1-0. He understands what this game means. And he understands to win a championship he’s going to have to play his best basketball of his life. Pat Riley, one of the greatest basketball minds, isn’t here right now. Dwyane Wade, his partner [in Miami] is not here right now. He knows it’s up on him.”

Webber on Tristan Thompson’s foul troubles: “Tristan not being a starter, is a high volume fouler…he puts his team in a bad position when he does this [gets in foul trouble]. You’ve already won one battle when you have [James] Jones and [Kendrick] Perkins on the court. You don’t want to keep putting your team in a situation to have to win a tough battle.”

Webber on how Cleveland’s frontcourt outplayed Chicago in Game 2: “The story of the night is definitely LeBron and him being aggressive going to the hole. But when you think about the matchup of the big fellas, [Joakim] Noah and [Pau] Gasol versus [Timofey] Mozkov and [Tristan] Thompson… I’d say having a guy off the bench coming in with the starters and outdueling the starting lineup, the frontcourt of Chicago, that’s a pretty good job.”

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Los Angeles Clippers (109) @ Houston Rockets (115); Series tied 1-1
Kevin Harlan (play-by-play) Reggie Miller (analyst) with Tracy Wolfson (reporter)

Miller on Matt Barnes: “Every team, you go back through all the champions, you got to have players like Matt Barnes on your team. Guys that do the dirty work, take those hard plays. It’s those plays after the foul is called, which I love.”

Miller on the Clippers’ clutch performances: “Going into the Spurs series, everyone talked about were the Clippers going to be mentally tough enough beat the defending champs? They showed that in Game 4 when they were down 2-1 to the champs winning a huge game in San Antonio. Game 6, down 3-2, close out game, they find a way to win… So, we know they are mentally strong enough.”

Miller on Chris Paul on the bench: “The reason why he’s so nervous over there, as a player you can’t control or dictate the action when you’re sitting on the bench. And when you are the best player on this Clipper team and you’re used to barking out all the calls and the orders and you sit back and reflect, sometimes your voice on the bench doesn’t carry as much weight. I love how animated he was in Game 1 supporting his teammates.”

Miller on whether anyone is playing better than Blake Griffin in the playoffs: “I would say no. Think about it, you know what he’s doing on the offensive end. But to me, his defense has been just as good, just as stellar.”

Miller on Jason Terry’s experience: “All his championship experience, that’s what this team needs right now, a shot in the arm. Terry has always been that type of player, to get the crowd involved here, he’s made some big shots, some hustle plays.”

Miller on James Harden’s success in Game 2: A statement, put a stamp on this Game 2 here. I thought he was too passive in Game 1… He [has] not shot the ball particularly well, 5-of-13 from the field, but 13-of-13 from the free throw line.”

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Inside the NBA presented by Kia

Johnson, O’Neal, Barkley, Smith

O’Neal on the Rockets lack of intensity: “They’ve played eight quarters versus the Clippers but they played two quarters hard. First game was a wash, lackadaisical. First half of the game [same thing]; third [quarter] started to pick it up, fourth [quarter] got hot. They will not win if they go into L.A. playing like that.”

Barkley on how well Blake Griffin is playing: “First of all, Blake is playing at a whole different level right now. He’s playing fantastic, you have to give him his props. He’s playing fantastic.”

Smith on what to expect when Chris Paul returns: “He’s going to be effective coming back now… I think he’ll be fine…his ability to penetrate and play the pick-and-roll they haven’t seen.”