“When I got [the news] I was in tears — tears of joy,” Emanuel “Book” Richardson, who coached Kemba Walker from the eighth grade through the end of high school with the Gauchos and served as a mentor, told The Post in a phone interview. “It’s kind of like your baby coming home. You watch him become a man, you watch him grow up and you watch him mature. Next thing you know, you watch him come back home. Hopefully, this is it [for his career].”
“I’ve been on him about things I need from him,” Billups said. “I said, ‘Nurk, I know you are going to be a free agent, and I understand you have to have a great year. You need me for you to have a great year, and I need you for us to have a good year. We need each other, right?’ “I’m going to give him every opportunity to have a great year. Because if he has a great year, that means we are a pretty damn good team. Because he is a good player. But that means he has to be focused and be in shape. Because you are only going to play as many minutes as you are physically able. If you are out there tired, uh-uh, come on, gotta get you out. There are good players behind you.”
It is unclear exactly what Nurkic and his role will look like under Billups, but to hear Nurkic talk, Billups has given him a vision of being more involved on both ends. Billups has been careful not to publicly define roles, but in general, he has preached that the offense will include more ball movement. “I just want to feel wanted, and I think I just need more support, and what I mean by that is different playing style, more inside-out game, more chance,” Nurkic said. “More chance to be successful and the position where they put you in. It’s all about the coach and where they put you, and I think Chauncey has figured out that certain people are going to have one to three points less, but the team is going to be way more successful with ball movement and playing together and be more fun. Even at the defensive end.”
Virtus Bologna’s win over LBA newcomer Tortona in SuperCup Quarterfinal game yesterday night was overshadowed by a serious injury occurred to Nigerian center Ekpe Udoh, who appears to have injured his patellar tendon in a no-contact situation. Former Fenerbahce center was taken out of the court in a stretcher and after the game coach Sergio Scariolo confirmed the seriousness of the injury, adding that the team will look for a replacement in the market: “He’s our cornerstone, both on attack and on defense. It’s dramatic, I hope that it serves to understand that you need to respect the players. Here there are stickers on the court everywhere, in the NBA it’s not the case. We will look for a replacement”.
“We are in shock and worried,” Scariolo said after the game on Udoh’s injury. The Italian coach spoke against the use of slippery stickers on basketball floors which have often caused players to hurt themselves.
However, if you ask former Suns forward Matt Barnes, the Suns aren’t favored to make it back to the Finals. In an episode of “The Jump”, Barnes had this to say. (via Fadeaway World, NBA on ESPN YouTube): “Love CP! Love Book! Experience is the best teacher and they have that now. But if the West is healthy, it’s going to be loaded, and it’s going to be tough [for the Suns] to get out. I wouldn’t bet on them, with all due respect. Like I said, great young team, one of the best floor generals we’ve ever seen in the history of this game. But again, a lot of things lined up perfect for them to do what they did last year.”
During his appearance on the Big Shot Bob podcast of Robert Horry, Shaq took a shot at the superteams created in the modern NBA and how he lost respect to the players who avoided the grind of winning a championship the hard way and instead getting together for an easier road to the NBA Finals and eventually the Larry O’Brien trophy. “The words I hate is this new era. We watched the era before us… and we all competed. Guys are getting real lazy and real cute and then they want guys like me and Big Shot Bob to show them some respect,” the NBA legend shared.
“Trust me, if I knew it was okay to team up after Houston busting my ass in 94, I would have went and played next to Hakeem … I would have went to go play with Tim Duncan and Dave Robinson … But I was like nope. I’m checking my leaks, licking my wounds, and I want to beat these dudes and we did. “Rob got seven, I got four but whenever we saw something, we hate.”