Dante Exum is draft combine's biggest mystery

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Dante Exum is draft combine's biggest mystery

CHICAGO -- Dante Exum walked to his assigned table at the NBA draft combine Thursday and was immediately swamped by reporters.

There is plenty of mystery surrounding the 18-year-old from Australia and those in attendance were eager to learn more about the prospect.

Exum did not play college ball like the majority of his peers. He has also spent the past three months in seclusion, working out with personal trainers in Los Angeles.

Yet, the 6-foot-6 point guard is still projected by numerous mocks to go as high as the fourth pick in the NBA draft and no lower than seventh.

“They all have an idea of what I am about, but the college players they have seen play 40-game seasons and they haven’t seen me play a lot,” Exum said. “When they try to look at tape, they can’t see a lot of tape of me.”

In Exum’s opinion, even the game footage that does exist of him is no longer an accurate depiction of his game.

“My game has changed a whole lot from those clips,” Exum said. “I am a take-it-to-the-rim type of player and I beat my man off the dribble and try to draw help to find other players.

“I guess that is what puts me in a good position to be a point guard. Also, I can be that vocal leader. I have that voice that can be used to say what needs to be done on the court in that moment.”

While Exum’s size (6-6, 188) makes it enticing to play him as a shooting guard, he was emphatic about where he views his best chance to succeed in the NBA.

“I see myself as a point guard. I have always played the point guard position and I am comfortable at that position,” he said. “That is what I am entering myself into the draft as and that is what I want to play.”

Exum is talked about as lottery pick mainly because of his showing during last summer’s FIBA U-19 World Championships. He averaged 18.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists. Exum’s scoring spiked in the last nine games of the tournament as he averaged 25.5 points.

That performance boosted the Melbourne native’s draft stock, so he decided to forego collegiate hoops and focus on turning pro.

Upon arriving in Chicago on Wednesday, Exum met with the Sixers, Phoenix Suns and Detroit Pistons.

While the process is new to the young PG, he saw a familiar face in head coach Brett Brown when he sat down with the Sixers.

“I have had a good relationship with him,” Exum said of Brown, who coached his father Cecil in the Australian National Basketball League. “He brought me into my first Australian national team camp a couple years ago and it was good to catch up with him and see where we have gone in these years.”

The Sixers have their own 6-foot-6 point guard who also happens to be the newly-minted Rookie of the Year in Michael Carter-Williams. Exum explained that the two could co-exist if the cards fell that way.

“Most teams that are looking at me are trying to look at a two point guard setup,” Exum said. “The way that system works is where you can get it to either point guard and they can kind of run the show.”

The Sixers experimented with that scenario at times last season when playing Carter-Williams and the 6-foot-6 Tony Wroten together.

The comparisons of Exum to Carter-Williams because of body size are understandable. However, unlike MCW, Exum is said to have an incredibly quick first step, a characteristic he thinks will help him make the adjustment at the next level.

“My game defensively is pretty good. I have great foot speed and that is definitely something we have been working on the last two months,” Exum said. “I want to be a point guard, so I am going into a league where there are a lot of fast point guards. Working on my foot speed is something I am going to have to keep working on but also my strength. We have been in the weight room working on getting a strong core base so that I am doing the hitting and not getting hit.”

Charles Barkley: Sixers can be 'really good, really quickly'

Charles Barkley: Sixers can be 'really good, really quickly'

Charles Barkley is jumping on the Sixers bandwagon.

"I think the Sixers gonna get really good, really quickly, but it all depends on (Joel) Embiid," Barkley said. "They're not gonna win a championship the next couple years, but I think they can really become a perrenial playoff team in the next three years."

Sounds good, right? Not so fast. There are a lot of "ifs" according to Barkley. 

Most of those "ifs" ride on the health of center Joel Embiid. If the big man gets healthy, and the Sixers can resolve the "glutton of big guys," Barkley likes the Sixers chances.

"I think the most important thing they need to figure out is if Joel Embiid is going to be healthy. ... I like (Jahlil) Okafor and I like (Nerlens) Noel, but they gotta figure out if Joel Embiid is going to be healthy. 

"I like Ben Simmons, but that team's got a long way to go," Barkley said.

To hear more of Barkley's thoughts on the Sixers' future, watch the full video above. 

 

 

Team USA overpowers Argentina in 1st Olympic exhibition

Team USA overpowers Argentina in 1st Olympic exhibition

LAS VEGAS -- New team. Same old result.

Full of new star power -- and dominant on the inside -- the U.S. men's basketball team opened its bid for a third straight Olympic gold medal Friday night with a 111-74 exhibition romp over Argentina.

A game that was over almost before it began showed the U.S. has to improve its shooting and conditioning. It also showed that there is plenty of talent among a group of players that seem to want to play well for each other and their country despite the absence of Olympic stalwarts Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.

"There's a willingness from these guys to work on anything we need and to work hard," coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "These are very good guys."

A U.S. team that hasn't lost a game in 10 years had little trouble with Argentina, which some consider a medal contender in Rio. Paul George scored 14 first-half points, Kevin Durant added 12, and the U.S. blew open the game early before an appreciative crowd on the Las Vegas Strip.

Even with Bryant retired and James taking this Olympics off, there was no real talent drop off on a team heavily favored to win gold once again. The depth of the U.S. showed as coach Mike Krzyzewski rotated players in and out, searching for the right combinations on a team with 10 new players from 2012.

"Nothing is for sure," Durant said. "We want to get this gold and right now we have a job to do. We have to prepare the right way."

Count the Argentines among those who were impressed at the first real game for the Olympic team.

"Obviously, they have the best talent and the best size in the world," Argentina's Luis Scola said. "That's a big difference in their favor."

The game was the first of five exhibitions the U.S. will play before traveling to Rio to defend the gold medal. The U.S. team has spent the last week practicing in Las Vegas in preparation for the tour and the games.

There weren't any opening night jitters, though the U.S. shot only 45 percent and missed all but 14 of 41 3-pointers. With DeMarcus Cousins pulling down 15 rebounds in just 16 minutes, the U.S. dominated inside, outrebounding Argentina 53-30.

"The big thing is getting in shape and they are not there where they will be," Krzyzewski said. "But we really have an inside presence on the boards."

For Durant the game was a chance to play with a pair of his new Golden State teammates, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. It was also a chance for Durant and Carmelo Anthony -- the only two players from the 2012 team -- to demonstrate that this will be their team in Rio.

Both players cheered from the bench as the minutes were spread around, jumping up to clap for teammates. Every U.S. player got quality time, with Green's 12 minutes the least played by any American.

"We're going to have fun and we're going to enjoy ourselves," Anthony said. "If it's not fun it's not worth it. We're going to enjoy ourselves but at the same time we're going to be focused in trying to get that gold medal."

Durant finished as the game's high scorer with 23 points, while George had 18 and Carmelo Anthony 17. Andres Nocioni had 15 for Argentina, while Manu Ginobili added 11 for Argentina, which lost to the U.S. in the semifinals of the 2012 Olympics.

Though at times little defense was played, there was plenty of offense to keep the crowd at the new T-Mobile Arena happy. The teams combined to put up 70 3-point attempts, 41 of them from the U.S.

Oddsmakers had made the U.S. a prohibitive 29.5-point favorite in what at times looked a lot like an NBA All-Star game. But while the U.S. team is loaded with 12 NBA players, the Argentines had only three on their roster and the talent difference showed.

While the team is full of new players, the gold medal run will be the last for Krzyzewski, the national coach for the last decade. His teams have lost only one game during his reign, which will end after the Olympics with San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich taking over.

Manu Ginobili intrigued by coach Brett Brown, Sixers before re-signing with Spurs

Manu Ginobili intrigued by coach Brett Brown, Sixers before re-signing with Spurs

The Spurs have been one of the most consistent NBA teams for nearly 20 years. They have made 19 consecutive postseason trips and won five championships during that span. 

The Sixers, on the other hand, are entering a phase of building a new foundation with a group of young players. They are working to improve upon a 10-win season, let alone making the playoffs.

Yet four-time NBA champion Manu Ginobili saw more than records when weighing his options in free agency. The veteran point guard looked to the Sixers sidelines and was intrigued.

Head coach Brett Brown previously worked in the Spurs basketball operations department and on the coaching staff under Gregg Popovich. He was part of four championship teams in San Antonio. When the Sixers approached Ginobili this offseason, he gave them consideration before returning to the Spurs, where he has spent his entire 14-year career.

“The fact that Philadelphia had a great coach and a person I appreciate so much as Brett Brown, made it more appealing in the case the Spurs didn’t happen,” Ginobili told The Vertical on Thursday. “But the Spurs happened and they always had the priority.”

The Sixers reportedly offered Ginobili, 38, a two-year, partially-guaranteed deal worth around $30 million. The Spurs first offered him a one-year, $3 million contract. Ginobili ended up re-signing with the Spurs for one-year, $14 million. 

“It was not my main option. I never wanted to leave San Antonio,” Ginobili said. “But I had to listen to all the options that are there.”

Ginobili averaged 9.6 points, 3.1 assists and 2.5 rebounds in 19.6 minutes coming off the bench last season. The Sixers are adding veteran leadership, and Ginobili is one of the most experienced in the game. In addition to his reliability at the position, he could have been a mentor to the entire team and worked with Ben Simmons to help hone his point guard skills as the rookie big man plays point-forward. His years of international competition would have gelled with incoming players such as Dario Saric, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Sergio Rodriguez. 

The Sixers signed point guards Jerryd Bayless (three years, $27 million) and Rodriguez (one year, $8 million) this summer. T.J. McConnell and Kendall Marshall still are under contract. Last season's starting point guard Ish Smith signed with the Pistons at the start of free agency.