Trae Young

Kenny Smith launches virtual basketball camp featuring NBA and WNBA stars

Kenny Smith launches virtual basketball camp featuring NBA and WNBA stars

Two-time NBA champion and TNT analyst Kenny Smith is launching Jet Academy, a virtual basketball camp staffed by the highest-level hoopers in the world to help boys and girls train their game while maintaining social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I was sitting at home and social distancing and quarantine, and my kids typically go to basketball camps,” Smith told Jason Goff on the latest Bulls Talk Podcast. “They can’t go to camps anymore, I can’t do my basketball camp in North Carolina, I had 700 kids. And I just noticed it was a need in the world that was going on, and I said I’m going to create — and I created — the first virtual basketball camp for kids and adults and anybody who plays the game, virtually. And you can do it from anywhere, any time, on any device, with anyone.”

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As for the instructors? Kemba Walker, Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner, Victor Oladipo, Breanna Stewart, Sue Bird and Trae Young will all lead or co-lead training sessions. Those seven players account for 35 All-Star appearances and two MVP awards. 

Smith was clear that his intention isn’t to replace traditional trainers, but he believes those that have achieved greatness at the highest level will have special perspective to offer.

“I was talking to Kemba, I was like, ‘OK, Kemba, so this is what we need to do in the camp’ and he’s like, ‘OK, what are the drills you want to do?’” Smith said on the podcast. “I said, ‘No, no, no. Trae, Kemba, I want you to do the drills that you do to get ready. I want to see how you got your jumper like that. That’s what I would want to see. ‘Kemba, show me the pullback.’ He said, ‘Alright, I’ll show you the pullback.’ I said, ‘No, but then you gotta tell us why you use it and when you use it.’ That’s what a trainer at times can’t give you.”

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The camp tips off July 20 and will feature live, daily, two-hour video sessions with instructors that campers can follow along with remotely. Campers will also be able to text questions to instructors, upload video of them training for response within 48 hours, and view sessions on-demand. Smith stressed the importance of that interaction towards developing one’s game. 

Listen to the rest of Smith and Goff’s conversation, which touches on the litany of considerations facing the NBA as it embarks on its bubble experiment in Orlando, here or via the embedded player above.

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NBA: Trae Young, Bobby Portis, Larry Nance react to idea of ‘Delete 8’ bubble

NBA: Trae Young, Bobby Portis, Larry Nance react to idea of ‘Delete 8’ bubble

The NBA is moving forward with its long-awaited, 22-team season restart in Orlando. But the eight squads excluded from the action are not going quietly into that good offseason.

In addition to the Disney campus, the league is considering a second bubble — and in Chicago, no less — for those eight teams that missed the Orlando cut: the Charlotte Hornets, New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons, Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, Minnesota Timberwolves, Golden State Warriors and, of course, the Bulls.

What would the second bubble entail? It’s not exactly clear yet, but presumably, some activity plan consisting of training camps and scrimmages would be the goal. But hurdles remain. NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum and NBPA executive director Michele Roberts were both clear in a conference call on June 27 that any bubble environment supplementary to the Orlando one would need to meet the same stringent safety protocols. The NBPA will need to agree to any plan the league formulates.

And then there’s the question of who exactly would participate in the second bubble — one that, at this point, seems as if it would be played mostly for training purposes, without competitive stakes and with the COVID-19 pandemic still swirling. Our K.C. Johnson reported that players would be allowed to opt out of the second bubble, which makes sense considering players have been afforded that right for the Orlando restart. 

RELATED: Sources: NBA considering Chicago, Wintrust Arena for 'Delete 8' bubble 

So, it will be interesting to track how members of the “Delete 8” teams digest and react to this news. Trae Young, who enjoyed a breakout second season with the 20-47 Hawks, made clear he’s just itching to hoop:

Former Bull and current Knick Bobby Portis reacted, in emoji form, with what we can only assume is skepticism. Portis has a roughly $15.8 million club option for 2020-21:

 

And Larry Nance Jr. of the Cavaliers provided some levity for the situation. A Cavs-Warriors rematch in the current climate would certainly be a long way off from the four consecutive NBA Finals matchups between the two from 2015-2019.

 

Now, back to the waiting game.

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Hawks could be facing big changes after rebuild hit a snag last season

Hawks could be facing big changes after rebuild hit a snag last season

Much like the Bulls, the Atlanta Hawks were considered a team capable of contending for a playoff spot in the East in 2019-20 if everything broke their way.

In the summer of 2019, the Hawks added a pair of top 10 lottery picks in DeAndre Hunter and Cam Reddish to their young stars, Trae Young and John Collins, and many analysts predicted a double-digit increase over their win total from 2018-19.

But just five games into the season, Collins was hit with a 25 game suspension for violating the terms of the league’s drug policy, and the Hawks sank to the bottom of the conference standings. Atlanta did show some improvement after Collins returned, but they still owned the fourth-worst record in the NBA at 20-47 when the regular season was suspended. 

Player Development

Collins’ suspension was the biggest factor in the Hawks’ disappointing season, but the coaching staff didn’t get anywhere near the production they expected from Hunter and Reddish in their rookie seasons. Hunter started 62 of the 63 games he played in, averaging 12.3 points and 4.5 rebounds. But after leading Virginia to the national title in 2019, the rook didn’t shoot the ball as well as the Hawks expected, converting just 41% of his attempts from the field and 35.5% from 3 point range.

Reddish was even worse, falling out of the rotation at times because of his erratic play. The former Duke star shot just 38.4% from the field and 33.2% from long distance, though he did play better later in the season, averaging 16.4 points over his last 10 games and shooting 50% from the field (40% on 3s).

Young was an All-Star starter in his second NBA season, ranking among the league leaders in points and assists with averages of 29.6 and 9.3 respectively. Even while being forced to take so many difficult shots against double-teaming defenses, Young’s shooting percentages of 43.7 from the field and 36.1 on 3s were respectable.

The Hawks were also hoping second year guard Kevin Huerter would make a jump, but his development was slowed by injuries. Huerter started 48 of the 56 games he played, averaging 12.2 points per game, but he only shot 41.3% from the field. 

Offseason Decisions

The Hawks made a couple of trades before the deadline to try and shake up their underachieving roster. The biggest one netted shot-blocking, rim-running center Clint Capela from the Houston Rockets in a multi-team deal, and even though he never got a chance to play a game this season with the Hawks because of a foot injury, Capela should be a good fit with their young perimeter players. 

The Hawks also re-acquired veteran center Dewayne Dedmon, who left the team in free agency the previous summer, and he fits the team’s style of play with his ability to knock down open 3s. The two big men should help stabilize a defense that was one of the NBA’s worst, giving up an average of 119.7 points per game. Atlanta is also excited about the potential of former Maryland big man Bruno Fernando, who played well in limited minutes during his rookie season.

The Hawks could go in a number of directions with their high lottery pick. They could pursue a new backcourt partner for Young with Anthony Edwards and LaMelo Ball potentially available. Or they might go for the best player on their draft board with forwards Isaac Okoro and Deni Avdija, and big men James Wiseman, Obi Toppin and Onyeka Okongwu among the players considered possible top five picks. 

Atlanta is also projected to have approximately $49 million in cap space, giving them the ability to chase some of the bigger names available in a down year for free agents. Second-year coach Lloyd Pierce has made it clear he would like to add more veterans to the locker room to lessen the burden on Young to carry the load in just about every area. 

Outlook

Pierce made it clear he’s tired of losing, telling a selected group of reporters, including The Athletic’s Chris Kirschner, in a recent Zoom interview session, “There’s going to be a major shift for our team going forward, and the focus starts with our core five and the evaluation is about each guy’s growth individually,” Pierce said. “I put it out there, and I stand behind my comments of we need to make a major jump next year.”

With Capela signed for the next three seasons, the Hawks should be a better defensive team going forward. The key will be be in the development of Hunter and Reddish, and finding a veteran or two to stabilize a young roster. Vince Carter is expected to retire, plus the Hawks aren’t likely to bring back veteran point guard Jeff Teague, so general manager Travis Schlenk will have to shop wisely with his cap space this off-season. Reserves DeAndre Bembry, Skal Labissiere and Damian Jones will all be restricted free agents. 

Having two young stars like Young and Collins to build around is a huge plus, but player development and free agent success will be the key to the Hawks possibly making a playoff run next season.

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