By Ben Golliver
• Ken Bensinger of the Los Angeles Times reports that UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad, a top prospect in the 2013 draft, and his father, Ron Holmes, have been misrepresenting his age.
According to the UCLA men's basketball media guide, he was born in Los Angeles on Nov. 13, 1993. But a copy of Shabazz Nagee Muhammad's birth certificate on file with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health shows that he was born at Long Beach Memorial Hospital exactly one year earlier, making him 20 years old — not 19 as widely reported.
How and when he lost a year of his life are unclear. But competing against younger, smaller athletes, particularly in the fast-growing years of early adolescence, can be "a huge edge," said Eddie Bonine, executive director of the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Assn. "People naturally look at the big, strong kids."
Asked about the discrepancy, Holmes insisted his son was 19 and born in Nevada. "It must be a mistake," he said. Several minutes later, he changed his account, saying that his son is, in fact, 20 and was born in Long Beach.
• The Los Angeles Times noted speculation that Muhammad's age change could impact his draft standing.
That revelation, first reported by the Los Angeles Times in a front page article today, has led to speculation that his NBA draft prospects could be negatively impacted. Muhammad, UCLA’s leading scorer, is expected to leave the school and enter the June draft after the NCAA tournament.
Social media including Twitter have been ablaze with questions about whether Muhammad, the Pac-12’s freshman of the year, will still be selected in the top five, as had been projected. Many NBA teams bet on a player’s potential to keep developing and for that reason, prefer younger players.
• Anthony Davis has such a promising future that even his eyebrow is getting endorsement opportunities. Above, a Boost Mobile commercial starring Davis's eyebrow (and Davis too). Via Royce Young at Eye On Basketball.
Vivek Ranadive, founder of the $4 billion software company, Tibco, and a minority owner of the Golden State Warriors, has agreed to take a lead role in the group that was previously led by 24-Hour Fitness founder, Mark Mastrov, according to a person with knowledge of the move. The person spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because the agreement had not yet been announced.
Ranadive, an India native, built Tibco into a $4 billion business in the San Francisco Bay Area and was behind the "Bollywood" night at Warriors games in recent years that led to NBA games being televised in his home country for the first time.
Oh, and it’s also working in crunch time, Denver’s alleged bugaboo among the “you need a franchise cornerstone to win a title” crowd. Denver has been among the league’s two or three best crunch-time offenses all season, regardless of how you define “crunch time.” It's fifth in points per possession in the last five minutes of games in which the scoring margin is at five points or fewer, per NBA.com. Cut that to three minutes/three points, and it's no. 2. Two and two? No. 3. One minute and one point, the clutchiest of all clutch situations? Denver is no. 1 in a landslide (and also in a tiny sample size).
And if you watch the tape, you’ll see the Nuggets are getting some very good looks in these situations, along with the usual low-percentage step-backs out of isolations. They’ve leaned a lot on the Lawson–Danilo Gallinari pick-and-pop, which has gotten some good shots for both players, created some switches, and drawn enough attention for Prof. Miller to creep unnoticed along the baseline for quick-hitting layups.
• Tom Ziller of SB Nation argues that the D-League should start recruiting, cutting out the NCAA in the process.
First, each team needs its own D-League squad, or it needs to opt out of the effort. No more squads with multiple NBA teams as affiliates. Then, you give the teams a modest salary cap, abolish the D-League Draft and set them free. Let the D-League clubs recruit high school prospects. The pay isn't going to be a whole lot more. But you give the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, run by the Houston Rockets, the ability to recruit, and they'll make the economic case to someone like Isaiah Austin that the financial benefits of playing for Baylor are far smaller than believed. They can make the case for the D-League if it means the difference between landing a star and not.
Of course, the Rockets wouldn't be guaranteed Austin once he meets NBA eligibility requirements -- he'd have to enter the NBA draft. But the Rockets will have seen him closer than anyone else, and may be motivated to find a way to land him, in which case he'd come to Houston ahead of the curve, which is good for the NBA as a whole. In addition, Rio Grande Valley might sell a few more tickets, and a stacked D-League team -- an L.A. D-Fenders squad with Shabazz Muhammed and Anthony Bennett? -- might command some TV attention, even if just on the Lakers' regional sports network.
Over the course of the full season, the Thunder have gone 13-10 against Western Conference playoff teams, but the bulk of those victories have come against the lower half of the prospective postseason bracket — as Mayberry notes, OKC "is just 3-7 against San Antonio, Denver and Memphis, the three teams that join the Thunder with the top four records in the Western Conference," and has dropped both its games against the East-leading Miami Heat. That relative lack of success against elite competition, even in the midst of what could well be a 60-win season, does seem like cause for concern.
Buford can't pinpoint the moment he decided to grow his family. His parents had adopted a student from Kenya, so he knew what the experience could mean for a family. After his time spent at the Basketball Without Borders camp, he believed that the right kid, with a love of basketball and a desire to grow, could benefit from the opportunity. R.C. and his wife, Beth, debated the idea, but she didn't take much convincing. The Bufords had the room to accommodate another person in their house, and they figured that their son, Chase, could use another basketball player around to improve his game. So R.C. and Beth brought the idea to Chase and their daughter, C.C. — getting their approval was the last step. Chase, 15, wondered whether he'd be babysitting for the foreseeable future. All 12-year-old C.C. knew about older brothers she'd learned from Chase. She worried another would only mean ganging up on her. Needless to say, they took some convincing.
• Chad Ford of ESPN.com on Kentucky's embarrassment of 2014 draft riches.
Here's the question I've been asking NBA scouts: "Is Kentucky poised to have the greatest draft class of any school in the history of the NBA draft next June?" I believe it is.
Julius Randle's announcement on Wednesday that he was committing to Kentucky gave the Wildcats the Nos. 3, 5, 6, 7, 11 and 18 players in the ESPN 100. Randle, a power forward, is joined by point guard Andrew Harrison, shooting guard Aaron Harrison, small forward James Young, center Dakari Johnson and power forward Marcus Lee.
If Kentucky somehow lands Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 player on ESPN's 100, it won't even be close.
Wall's injury history is a double whammy: We don't know too much about him and he's wagering his future on it. What we do know is that Wall is projected to have a 14.3 WARP (wins above replacement player) over his first three seasons. According to extension research by fellow Per Diem maven Kevin Pelton, 14.3 WARP translates to a first-year extension salary of about $9.6 million, about $1.2 million lower than Lawson's starting salary and about in the middle between Holiday's $9.2 million sum and Curry's $9.9 million. Most importantly, $9.6 million is well short of the max.• The Nuggets pulled off a miracle over the Sixers on Thursday night and Pro Basketball Talk notes that Philly's CEO wasn't a happy man, going off on his team on Twitter.