• The pairing of Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan is a fascinating one, marked by redundant strengths and compound limitations. Both -- as standout athletes in a league of standout athletes -- are capable of more. They could get to the free throw line more frequently, settle for jump shots less often or contribute in ways beyond scoring. Yet for the moment both are mild variations of one another, and fast friends banding together to beat back what they perceive as sweeping criticism. From James Herbert of SB Nation:
"Honestly, I want [DeRozan] to experience [the playoffs] because it's bigger than what he may think it is," Gay says. "You can go to a game and be a part of the crowd, but actually being a part of preparation and playing the same team seven times and being in the games and every game being televised and people picking apart what happened in each and every game, it's a lot of pressure."
Gay and DeRozan were friends before the trade. Now, they're familiar with one another's families. Laying the groundwork for the upcoming season with workouts in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, they talked about where they wanted to take Toronto's team.
"People are going to criticize us or say we can't play together, whatever, ever since he came," DeRozan says. "We use that negativity as motivation."
The Raptors' wings are focused. They know they're doubted and they're anxious to get the season started and answer questions with their play.
"Me and Rudy are like the same person with the same type of attitude, same everything," DeRozan says. "I kind of look at him like an older brother."
• What we're really evaluating when we rank Kobe Bryant.
• Could Anthony Davis lead the Pelicans in points, rebounds, blocks, steals and field-goal percentage?
• An apt characterization of James Harden's defense, from Ben Collins of Slam Online:
We’ll get this out of the way: He has to work on his defense. It’s not optional at this point. He was asked by the Rockets’ coaching staff this summer if he’s up to the challenge of doing that. He gave a three-quarter-hearted yes. He’s not Monta Ellis. He’s pretty good right now already. It’s not a lateral quickness thing. It’s an energy conservation thing for a guy who was sixth in the NBA in minutes last year. But it’s a real thing, and it needs to get fixed.
• In a special contribution to ESPN.com, Steve Nash credits Vince Carter as a primary factor in the rise of Canadian basketball:
For six-and-a-half years, much of Canada's young talent watched and fell in love with a flamboyant, human highlight film named Vince Carter. He inspired them nightly while playing for the home team Raptors. I think Vince's presence in our country shouldn't be underestimated. His charisma was incredibly powerful in attracting a Canadian audience to the game of basketball for a memorable period of time. More and more kids play basketball every year in Canada, and I think the NBA's arrival played a pivotal role in the game's growth.
• Some fascinating data on the on-court origin points of turnovers in Euroleague. Here's hoping for an NBA follow-up, if only to contrast the results.
• I always enjoy Ian Levy's Anti-Awards over at Hickory High. For a taste, here's his prediction on the winner of the Jason Kidd Award -- doled out to the player who registers the most turnovers in a single game:
If you were going to design an ideal candidate for this award it would have to be someone who carries a huge offensive load for their team. It would have to be someone whose team is right on the edge of competitiveness, where just making the playoffs turns every game into a must-win and necessitates forceful overreaching. It would have to be someone who appears to believe that their own offensive talents are nearly infallible and they’re their team’s best option on every possession. If that someone also happened to have a catastrophic injury to recover from, forcing himself to confront his own NBA mortality, well that would be a hard combination to beat.
• The time Dirk Nowitzki notified Mark Cuban that his team's roster was not very good, followed by "Sorry, bro." (via PBT) • A good discussion here between Bucks GM John Hammond and ESPN.com's Kevin Arnovitz regarding Giannis Antetokoumpo -- arguably the most riveting player to watch this preseason.