Capitals

Why were a bunch of NBA stars in Africa?

Why were a bunch of NBA stars in Africa?

From Comcast SportsNetOKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- For Nick Collison, taking a trip to Africa changed the world he lives in.The Oklahoma City Thunder forward was only in Kenya for three days, but it felt like three weeks. He witnessed people who walked 30 miles just to get two drops of polio vaccine, then turned around and walked home. He mingled among 100,000 people seeking refuge from wars and famine.He'll come back to the United States a changed person."To see things like that, it makes it real because you always hear about what's going on in different places of the world. To see it firsthand, for me, made it real," Collison said by phone Thursday from South Africa, where he's participating in the NBA's 10th Basketball Without Borders clinic."It's just an incredible trip."Before heading to Johannesburg, Collison stopped in Nairobi then headed out to the refugee camp with UNICEF."I'd say it's probably a life-changing experience. It's something that will give me a different perspective on my life and just how I see the world," Collison said."I think the goal of bringing the NBA as a partner of UNICEF is to get guys to talk about it and just kind of get the word out to a different audience, to let people know what groups are doing and people can get involved with what's going on."Collison is part of a hefty Thunder presence in Africa this week. Four of the seven NBA players participating in Basketball Without Borders this year are from the Oklahoma City roster. Serge Ibaka, a native of the Republic of Congo, joins Collison, Thabo Sefolosha and Cole Aldrich as camp coaches.Chicago's Luol Deng, Milwaukee's Luc Mbah a Moute and Brooklyn's C.J. Watson are also participating in the basketball clinic for 60 African boys and girls, and helping life skills seminars and education on HIV and AIDS."We're out here to not only change other people's lives but also to change ours, to give us a different perspective on other how other people live," Aldrich said. "Serge grew up in a totally different lifestyle than any of us did, and we're learning a little bit of that through this trip."It's been so much fun, there's a lot of things we've got to continue to do and we're just trying to spread the word of basketball and just help people that need help."Ibaka made a stop in his hometown, Brazzaville, for about a week and offered a basketball clinic there before linking up with his teammates in Johannesburg. Ibaka is the son of two Congolese basketball players, and is trying to do his part to spread the sport further now that he's developed into one of the NBA's top defenders."I'm trying to do my best I can to come back there and give something and show them that I'm still thinking about them," said Ibaka, who led the league in blocks last season and finished second in the voting for Defensive Player of the Year.Sefolosha's father is from South Africa, and he, Ibaka and Collison all had participated in Basketball Without Borders before. Aldrich is a first-timer and took in a safari before the camp began."The goal is to try to improve the basketball development program for kids over here, to get more coaching, to get the national teams more involved, so that they can learn the game better," said Collison, who last participated in 2008. "I've seen a difference from four years ago. The coaching is better, the kids are more skilled, they have a better feel for the game. It's really great for the NBA to do."While passing along some tips on life and how to play hoops, the players also learn more about themselves and the people around them. Just as importantly, they'll live out unforgettable experiences that they can share with others through the platform of professional sports."You kind of look eye-to-eye with people and you start to actually relate to them because they're mothers, fathers and they're trying to do what's best for their children," Collison said. "They just have so many obstacles and difficulties."

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What's next for Barry Trotz?

What's next for Barry Trotz?

Barry Trotz is no longer the head coach of the Washington Capitals and, after resigning Monday afternoon, he is officially free to pursue other opportunities.

So what's next for the now former Capitals head coach?

For those who believe Trotz will simply retire, that seems unlikely. Trotz is only 55 years old.

General manager Brian MacLellan indicated the main issue in the contract negotiations between him and Trotz was term. If Trotz was, in fact, seeking a five-year contract, that doesn't sound like someone who is ready to walk away from the game.

There is only one head coaching vacancy left in the NHL, that of the New York Islanders. New President of Hockey Operations Lou Lamoriello cleaned house after getting hired and fired both general manager Garth Snow and head coach Doug Weight earlier in June.

Now, suddenly, there is a Stanley Cup-winning coach on the market.

While it certainly makes sense for the Islanders to pursue Trotz, there's one big reason why Trotz, or anyone, would likely be hesitant to accept the job on Long Island and that is John Tavares.

New York's franchise player is a pending free agent and, until his contract situation is resolved, convincing anyone to take the head coaching job with the Islanders is a tough sell. If the Islanders re-sign Tavares, improve the defense and bring in a dependable starting goalie, then there is no reason to think they cannot be a playoff team.

But those are a lot of "ifs" and Tavares is a big one. If he goes, suddenly the situation on Long Island is much different. Tavares' decision could be the difference between the Islanders being a playoff team or getting a high lottery pick.

For Trotz to walk away from a team that just won the Stanley Cup to go to a New York team that may or may not have its best player back next season does not make a lot of sense.

But just because there may be only one head coaching vacancy open doesn't mean Trotz does not have any options.

The 2017-18 season saw no head coaching changes made during the season for the first time since the league expanded in 1967. Chances are jobs will begin to open up during the season especially if those teams believe they can land a Cup-winning coach as a replacement.

If you're Trotz, you just won a Stanley Cup. There is no reason to rush into another opportunity. Trotz will instantly be near or at the top of every wish list for teams in need of a head coach.

Don't just assume that Trotz will be on Long Island to start the 2018-19 season just because it is the only opportunity currently available. He can wait for the perfect opportunity to come to him.

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Cavaliers are gunning for Kawhi Leonard, though it's doubtful they have enough to interest Spurs

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Cavaliers are gunning for Kawhi Leonard, though it's doubtful they have enough to interest Spurs

With word out that Kawhi Leonard wants a trade from the Spurs, teams are lining up with offers to San Antonio and one of the NBA’s best teams has reportedly already made a call.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have contacted the Spurs about a potential Leonard trade, according to Cleveland.com. Terry Pluto wrote on Sunday that multiple teams have done the same. That is to expected, of course, as Leonard is one of the best players in the NBA. He's a two-time defensive player of the year and he's only 26.

Let's look at Cleveland as a potential destination. It should first be noted that it's questionable whether they have enough to land a player of Leonard's caliber. They have the eighth overall pick in Thursday's draft, but it may take a lot more than that to get Leonard.

They also have Kevin Love, who is an All-Star still in his prime. But if they gave him up, they would then need to seek more help to surround Leonard and LeBron James, if James decides to stay. Though James and Leonard are both top-five players in the NBA, they still likely wouldn't be able to beat the Warriors unless they had another running mate. Those two plus Love and then you're talking.

Whether the Cavs have the goods to land Leonard or not, it's no wonder why they are trying for him. Getting Leonard, a two-time All-NBA selection, would likely be enough to retain James, the best player in the game. If James were to look around the league for a top-shelf running mate, he would be hard-pressed to find one better than Leonard.

That is assuming Leonard is healthy, of course. He did miss all but nine games this past season with a quadriceps injury. That injury was central in a saga of discord between him and the team. Until he hits the court again, Leonard offers no guarantees. Still, he may be worth the risk for Cleveland, as the alternative is potentially seeing James walk. 

If the Cavs got Leonard, that would probably solidify their standing as the best team in the Eastern Conference, even if they lost Love in the process. Leonard is better than Love and they would arguably have the two best players in the East. They may not have enough to beat the Warriors, but that would likely give them the edge over the young teams like Boston and Philly that have been nipping at their heels.

Sending Leonard to the Cavs would get him out of the Western Conference and that might be enticing to the Spurs. If they send him to the Lakers, his reported preferred destination, that could come back to bite them much more often than it would if he was traded to the East. Though putting him in Cleveland would form another very good team, they wouldn't affect the Spurs directly but for two regular season games, unless they were to meet in the NBA Finals.

The Spurs haven't indicated they will actually trade Leonard, but it does seem to be heading in that direction. It sounds like Cleveland will at the very least give it a shot. 

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