Sheridan Hoops Mon, 01 Sep 2014 20:48:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Gonzalez: Manimal, Uncle Mo Are Keys for Team USA Mon, 01 Sep 2014 18:51:33 +0000

bobbygonzalezI hate to say I told you so, but after the first day of Team USA training camp in Las Vegas, I wrote that Kenny “The Manimal” Faried must be the first guy selected for the roster and everyone else should come thereafter.

My reasoning was Faried’s motor, toughness and energy level with intangibles such as putbacks and garbage points would be invaluable to this team. In Sunday’s come-from-behind victory against Turkey, Faried led Team USA team with 22 points and eight rebounds, all through his boundless energy. He did not have a single play run for him. And once Anthony Davis came alive in the second half with all 19 of his points, the Americans were home free.

Now, let’s talk about my old friend Uncle Mo.

Anyone who has coached understands the importance and the elusiveness of getting, controlling and gaining momentum in a game. When you talk about the tale of two halves, all you have to do is look at Sunday’s numbers to understand who controlled the tempo, pace and momentum.

In the first half, Turkey outrebounded Team USA, 21-12. The Americans had 10 turnovers, struggling mightily against Turkey’s matchup zone. The U.S. was flat, sluggish and – worst of all – impatient, taking to many quick and ill-advised jump shots and not attacking the basket or getting to the paint.

Turkey did a masterful job of slowing down the game and really spreading out Team USA team by being very deliberate and using its high pick-and-roll offense to drive and kick for 3-pointers, carving up the American defense like a porterhouse steak.

After beating Finland by 59 points on Saturday, there was some human nature to treat the next game as if it were a Sunday stroll in the park.Mike Krzyzewski, Team USA Another coaching lesson I have learned along the way that I am sure coach Mike Krzyzewski and his staff will agree with is that the best way to teach and improve your team is when you have their undivided attention following a scare, a war of a game or fighting back from behind to pull out a victory. Every coach I have ever known would rather teach their team after a win than a loss. These are truly the best kinds of tests.

In the second half, Team USA imposed its will upon on the game by turning up the intensity level and defensive pressure. The Americans were much more disciplined and intelligent with their pressure, which was a huge factor. Intensity is good, but it has to be coupled with smarts.

In the spring, Mike Hopkins – the top lieutenant to Syracuse coach and Team USA assistant Jim Boeheim – came to me because he wanted to learn the nuances of pressure defense. He felt I was one of the game’s savants on pressure defense, and since his background has been learning the famed Syracuse 2-3 zone, he wanted to expand his knowledge so he could be more versatile when he becomes a head coach.

(By the way, for whatever it is worth, when my legendary Jewish godfather Howard Garfinkel of Five-Star Camp fame first saw me as an up-and-coming young coach, he said I was a “can’t-miss” coaching prospect. I would say if there is up-and-coming coach that “can’t miss,” it is Mike Hopkins. But I digress.)

The primary point I tried to emphasize to Hopkins is that it is always easier to slow a game down than to speed it up. What Turkey did in the first half was slow the game down by controlling it with its offense. Team USA turned the tables by not running around and being undisciplined defensively and giving up open 3-pointers. Many young players and coaches think pressure defense means just extending to full court and running around wild when the truth is that being a very good pressure defense team takes an extreme amount of discipline, positioning and intelligence.

The Americans ultimately had 17 steals, and although the conventional wisdom on older veteran European teams is that they are not going to get rattled, the key to Team USA’s success is its superior depth, athleticism, quickness and length. It was on full display in the second half and especially in the fourth quarter, when the Americans went on a 10-0 run to create separation and ultimately break open the game.

DavisDunkThe key to this team winning the gold medal and defending its world title will come down to its intensity level, activity level and how much energy it plays with on every defensive possession. If the Americans can continue to push the pace with their defense, causing turnovers, deflections and steals to help them get into the open court and score transition points and constantly keep the game at breakneck speed, they will win the gold.

The top takeaway for Team USA assistant and Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, Krzyzewski’s defensive guru, is that he must find a way to improve the schemes for pick-and-roll coverage, which is what they are going to see going forward. The European teams want to spread the floor and have the guard come off the screen. From there, he often drives and kicks to the weak side for a 3-pointer. Sometimes he will hit the roll man if you don’t do a good job picking him up. Occasionally, he will kick back to a pick-and-pop big man prevalent in the European game.

Against Turkey, Team USA made every mistake imaginable in its pick-and-roll defense, from the guard going under the screen and getting wiped out by the roll man, to the help defense getting sucked in too deep and giving up open threes on the weak side, to simply not putting enough pressure on the ballhandler. If Coach K’s group can continue to make strides with its pressure defense, solve the different pick-and-roll looks and continue to attack offensively like it did in Sunday’s second half, the 55-game international winning streak and overall dominance will continue.

Bobby Gonzalez is a former Division I coach at Manhattan College and Seton Hall University. He has been writing columns for SheridanHoops since March 2014.

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Levi: How will Kyrie Irving adjust to superstar-laden Cavs? Mon, 01 Sep 2014 15:01:37 +0000

OrenLeviKyrieIrvingUSABThere he goes again, the ball miraculously still in his hands, blowing past a player that up until that very moment was a hero in his home country, and now has to settle for second place in the heart of his nation’s fans.

Only the replay will tell just how in the world he found the angle to flick that layup in, with dizzy, confused defenders only finding the ball as it drops to them after falling through the net. Kyrie Irving’s artistry can be ego-crashing to the opposition. He will pull the rug out from under you with the world watching, and he will do so with the most charming of smiles.

As we enjoy Irving doing his thing on the international stage with Team USA in the World-Cup, we can’t wait to see how he will do as a part of new and improved Cleveland Cavaliers. The three-headed monster will be unleashed in the supposedly ‘up-for-grabs’ Eastern Conference, led by the rookie coach David Blatt.

Kyrie’s career

Kyrie IrvingKyrie Irving does not believe in karma. At least he shouldn’t. Kyrie’s career path seems to have no correlation with his actions whatsoever.

First he’s ditching the NBA draft combine (starting a trend for top picks), then he’s rewarded with being the No. 1 overall pick at the 2011 Draft. He’s being criticized for his lack of development as a player and a leader, and then gets a $90 million contract in return. This summer, Kyrie went from being the most questioned max-player in the most dysfunctional organization in the NBA, to suddenly holding the keys to the East’s shiniest contender. Even now, with Team USA, due to the uncertainty around Derrick Rose, Irving became a lock as a starter instead of having to fight for a roster spot. Basic cause-affect rules did not apply to Kyrie up until now, but he can’t ask for any more freebies with this Cleveland Cavaliers team.

Kyrie spent his first three years in the league being a one-man band for an awful team, doing as he pleased in the wasteland of Cleveland. Right now, Irving is the outlier to just how far natural talent can get you. What he does next is all about the intangibles defining that talent.

How does he fit with his new super-teammates? What will Coach Blatt will be asking of Irving, and how will he go about doing it?

Kyrie, The Player

Kyrie maskIt’s probably time to say this out loud: Kyrie Irving’s style of play is extremely inefficient to just about every player not named Kyrie Irving. He is a Harlem Globetrotter disguising as an NBA pro. For every “Kyrie” (and there aren’t too many of them) there are countless numbers of ‘wannabees’ that try and copy his flashy style, giving up playing the game right in the process.

But talent is talent. You don’t tell Magic Johnson, Lionel Messi or Diana Taurasi what to do – you move out their way and enjoy the show.

Kyrie doesn’t dribble the ball – he tangos with it. He doesn’t ‘use the backboard’ – he kisses it off the glass. I don’t know if he’s actually faster with the ball in hands than he is without it, but it sure feels that way when you watch him. Kyrie is why kids pick basketball over other sports. He’s also why coaches whine about the state of the game. No matter what side you are on in this endless old-school-new-school debate, you are not taking your eyes off of him when the ball is in his hands.

Getting a little deeper into Irving’s transition game, this can serve as a micro-cosmos to the Kyrie question. While still in the Cavs half-court, you will often see him dribble around and through defenders instead of passing ahead, or slowing it down. That’s considered a big no-no – coaches will tell you it is too risky to try and “show-up” this close to your own basket, they’ll insist that a pass ahead is faster than any dribble.  My take on this is a bit different. Kyrie is not your typical ballhandler, the ball is drawn to his palms like a magnet, and when he splits two defenders he gets his team numbers in transition. It doesn’t matter what’s faster – a pass or a dribble, what matters is the advantage you can get over the defense in a full court set. It feels like Kyrie gets a kick out of it just much as the crowd, as that was the single most exciting thing in Cleveland games last year. So let Kevin Love feed LeBron with his full-court touch-down passes, I want Kyrie leading the break when the opportunity presents itself, with the King feeling the lanes.

While his game will have to adapt to the new roster situation and coaching (we’ll touch on both), he will be the point guard LeBron never had, and will get a lot of the responsibility of initiating the game-plan. It’s all about the balance they find between them, but don’t confuse him with Mario Chalmers.

The fit with new Cavs

With all the scrutiny Kyrie’s game is going through right now (whether negative or positive), he does possess one superpower that no one is talking about – Kyrie makes every game and every play worth watching. That counts for something when a team is new and expected to contend right from the get-go. The Cavs will be marked on every team’s calendar, and they will face everyone’s best punch. Kyrie will be the spark when legs are heavy on the end of yet another back-to-back. He keeps the opposing crowds on the edge of their seats, he makes the Cavs home crowd stand. Kyrie’s showmanship will no longer go to waste on a lottery team, and I can’t hide my excitement.

KyrieKyrie is going to have to learn how to play without the ball, it’s clear he has a long way to go given that he never really had to do that. But I must say, for all the people doubting about his ability to adjust, that I’m very skeptical of their skepticism. By now, it’s seems that everyone knows by heart Kyrie’s below-average “spot-up” and “catch and shoot” numbers (shooting 38% and 35.6% respectively). What no one knows, is how tightly guarded he is on those shots compared to the rest of the players, being his team’s main (and sometimes only) real threat on the court. His teammates last year are also not known for their passing ability, to say the least.

Kyrie is one of those unique players that seem to be more focused and automatic when there’s a guy in their face, but his talent as a shooter should start to surface. He’s natural ability and flawless mechanics suggest that he will relish all the new wide-open looks coming his way, and he will eventually knock them down at more than decent rate. With that said, there’s no denying he has his work cut out for him, playing off the ball.

Kyrie is an amazing shot-creator, mostly for Kyrie, but he does have all the ingredients needed for being an adept passer. He has decent floor sense, he’s craftiness with the ball translates when feeding open teammates, and he intuitively understands timing and spacing at the highest levels.

Hopefully Kyrie can pick his spots when having the ball, he cannot pound it as much as he did until now. I think he gets it. When joined to same roster, really good players usually find a way to be really good together. The time it takes All-Stars to gel varies throughout the different situations, but it’s more often than not just a matter of time.

Kevin Love CavaliersLeBron will use Kyrie to relive the pressure and vice versa. Only seven minutes away from reaching 40,000 minutes in his career, King James will be more than happy to see someone else handle the ball to initiate fast breaks and half-court sets. You could see him physically worn down by this burden in his last year in Miami.

Kevin Love is the big guy you dream of playing with in pick-up games. He’s an absolute force on the glass, he shooting ability provides chances for both driving lanes and easy assists, and when he screens for you, it’s like a brick-wall having your back.

An offense featuring those three is almost too good to worry about defense. However, I’m sure Coach Blatt we’ll disagree with this assumption…

The relationship with Coach Blatt

Blatt1David Blatt knows he’s the luckiest man alive right now, but if you think he’s going to be the bobblehead “yes-man” to the three superstars’ every whim – you haven’t done enough thinking.

Blatt, with his impressive non-NBA resume, is not known for being an easy guy to get along with. His broad rotations are also used as a weapon to keep players sharp – one mistake and you’re out. He’s extremely demanding on defense, and he knows what he wants on offense as well. “The ball has energy” he will tell them over and over in practice, preaching ball movement until they are all allergic to isolation plays. If there’s anything to learn about how his career has gave him this amazing opportunity, it is that he is not going to be awestruck by his new big three.

Kyrie and Blatt’s relationship is a huge key for the Cavs succeeding sooner rather than later. One thing is certain – Blatt was hired as coach, and coach he will.

Kyrie’s mental approach will be tested in-house, possibly for the first time. As a point guard, getting into Blatt’s circle of trust is not easy, but once you’re in – you get the freedom needed to maximize your abilities. Kyrie needs Blatt to let him make a few errors here and there, and Blatt needs Kyrie to be his voice on the court. The length and looseness of Blatt’s leash will directly be affected by how Kyrie defends his man and communicates the coach’s plan on the floor. Only once that’s established, Kyrie could take his man out dancing, with his thrilling ability to create from scratch.

Now, as a part of the USA team, Kyrie is proving that he’s a good defender when he chooses to be – at 6-3 he is strong and big enough to deal with most PGs, he also uses his feel for the game and quickness to generate steals and deflections, allowing for open-court opportunities, where there’s no stopping him. As far as taking on the very top tier of point guards, or in other words – could Kyrie Irving defend Kyrie Irving? The answer is no. but that is why he’s in that top tier, no one defender can check those guys.

Irving finds himself in the midst of a perfect storm. Playing with the world’s best player, alongside another top-10 guy, a new intriguing coach and the all expectations and excitement a twitter-feed can handle.

The Cleveland Cavaliers can do special things this upcoming season, and they have just the point guard to do it.

Oren Levi is an amateur scout, a professional writer and a diehard NBA fan. Follow him on Twitter.



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SH Blog: Rajon Rondo Wants Out Of Boston?; Kevin Durant To Re-sign with Nike Mon, 01 Sep 2014 06:18:42 +0000

rondoEsauRajon Rondo and the Boston Celtics are no strangers to the occasional trade rumors that surround the NBA, and it appears that their latest situation is no different. According to ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan, Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo will not re-sign with the team.

This certainly isn’t the first time a story such as this has been made about the All-Star point guard, but Macmullan claims that Rondo has told the Celtics that he wants out. In a behind-the-scenes clip of ESPN’s Around The Horn, she shares that information with Frank Isola of the New York Daily News.

This video was brought to the spotlight by Jay King of, who first broke the story. It should be noted that while the above link has since been taken down by, the transcript of the exchange has already been circulated from the video. Certain highlights include what Rondo has allegedly informed the Celtics, as well as the long rumored tension between current Clippers coach Doc Rivers and Rondo.

Frank Isola: Hey Jackie, now that Kevin Love’s traded, you know who’s next up? Your boy.

Jackie MacMullan: Oh, I hope so. Just get it done.

Isola: Now it’s gonna be the Fall of Rondo.

MacMullan: I know it. And it will happen ‘cause he’s told him he wants out. And no one believes me, but that’s the truth. And I don’t see how you get 80 cents on the dollar for him. Tell me where. Tell me where. I mean, you know, the Knicks? People keep saying the Knicks. Yeah, well, who are they going to give you? The Kings want him, and the Kings will give you Isaiah Thomas and the big kid, McLemore.

J.A. Adande: They lost Isaiah, the Kings. Isiaah’s down in Phoenix now.

MacMullan: Oh yeah, that’s right. Yeah, you’re right. God, that’s right.

Isola: They do want him, though.

MacMullan: Yeah, and they’ll give up McLemore. But the thing is, Rondo’s already told ‘em flat-out, I will never re-sign with you. So that’s no good. Where do you go?

Isola: I wonder, you know — maybe something with Houston and the Brooklyn Nets. Maybe some kind of three-way?

MacMullan: Houston has interest in everybody, right? They always do. But the piece there was supposed to be Asik, and he’s gone now. So, I don’t know.

Isola: And so is Jeremy Lin. There was talk about Jeremy Lin and Asik. What about a team like Dallas?

MacMullan: I don’t know. Does Dallas want him? Who do they give you back?

Isola: We know the coach of the Clippers — I mean, they have Chris Paul, but I don’t think he’d ever take him.

MacMullan: He doesn’t like Rondo, remember that. I mean, he’s done with Rondo. They went a good, long way together, but that guy, Rondo drives him nuts. And they have Chris Paul anyway. They don’t need him. I thought maybe Phoenix might be interested because Ryan McDonough knows him, and they’ve got Bledsoe so maybe that works. Maybe that works, I don’t know. But then the Celtics have the same problem, unless they think Bledsoe’s worth a max.

Obviously this is one of those situations where we will all have to wait and see what develops from this, but if Macmullan is right then the coming months shall be very interesting. The Celtics have already gone on record recently to say that trading Rondo was not a high priority at this time, but if a unique deal were to come their way who is to say Danny Ainge wouldn’t bite?

Either way until Rondo is actually dealt in a trade, there will continue to be speculation on where the point guard winds up.

Kevin Durant Set To Resign With Nike

KevinDurantSH1Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant will be keeping his partnership with Nike intact. Despite missing out on the World Cup action taking  place in Spain, Durant has had quite the offseason.  The reigning NBA MVP was offered a deal from Under Armour worth between $265-$285 million. Nike countered the offer according to ESPN’s Marc Stein and Darren Rovell:

With Durant on the verge of a move to Under Armour, sources told ESPN on Sunday that Nike exercised its right to match any rival shoe company’s offer to the Oklahoma City Thunder star. A source with knowledge of the deal later told ESPN that Durant has indeed signed with the Oregon-based company.

Nike countered Under Armour’s offer of between $265 million and $285 million and believes it will keep Kevin Durant for the next 10 years, sources told ESPN.

Nike, whose seven-year deal that guaranteed Durant $60 million is expiring, made an initial offer of about $20 million a year that was far from what Durant was looking for. Under Armour’s huge play for Durant had many believing that Nike would even let him go at that price.

The overall value of Durant’s deal with Nike could hit $300 million or more if his business continues to rise. That number is flexible as he will get a royalty on all sales in his line.

Under Armour has been trying to strengthen its hold in the basketball apparel world, and as a Maryland based company there was reason to believe that would sway Durant into signing with them. While the complete details of Durant’s deal with Nike are unknown, he took to Twitter himself to announce his return to the brand.

Other News Around The League:

  • In the aftermath of the Kevin Love- Andrew Wiggins trade, it appears that Timberwolves fans are excited for the new direction of the team. According to a report by Nick Halter of the Minneapolis/ St. Paul Business Journal, ticket sales have increased since the arrival of Wiggins: In the five days following the official announcement of the Kevin Love-Andrew Wiggins trade, the Timberwolves said they have sold 300 new full-season-ticket packages. That’s on top of 200 new packages in the 30 days leading up to the trade, when most fans knew Wiggins would be the centerpiece of the deal. The last week was the busiest for season ticket sales for the Wolves in three years. “It’s been re-energizing for our staff and our fans,” said Wolves Chief Revenue Officer Ryan Tanke. “It’s been fun to be a part of this week.”
  • The Los Angeles Clippers are close to signing veteran free agent Hedo Turkoglu to a one-year deal. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo SportsFree-agent forward Hedo Turkoglu is nearing agreement on a one-year, $1.4 million deal to return to the Los Angeles Clippers, league sources told Yahoo Sports. After working out a contract buyout with the Orlando Magic and signing with the Clippers in January, Turkoglu, 35, averaged three points in 38 games. Once a tremendously versatile and productive offensive player, Turkoglu’s talent has declined significantly but he remains a serviceable veteran in limited minutes.
  • BOS_Terry_Jason (1)Adrian Wojnarowski also reported that the Sacramento Kings reached an agreement to trade Jason Terry to the Houston Rockets. The deal also includes Alonzo Gee and another non-guaranteed contract. Per Yahoo Sports: The 36-year-old Terry started last season with Brooklyn and averaged only 4.5 points in 35 games. He was traded to Sacramento at the trade deadline and didn’t play the rest of the season as he recovered from a left knee injury. Terry played in Boston in 2012-13 after eight seasons in Dallas, where he was named the league’s Sixth Man of the Year in 2009 and 2011. Gee came to Houston as part of a three-team trade in July that also brought Trevor Ariza to the Rockets.


Esau Howard is a regular contributor to Sheridan Hoops. Follow him on Twitter.

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World Cup Day 2: Team USA looks awful in first half of win over Turkey Sun, 31 Aug 2014 22:56:58 +0000

durantUSABbernuccaheYou probably know by now that Kevin Durant isn’t playing for Team USA.

They could have used him Sunday, when his absence exposed virtually all of the warts of this American squad.

On the same day ESPN reported that Nike will match Under Armour’s offer of nearly $300 million to Durant, Team USA showed how much it really missed its true alpha dog in an unconvincing 98-77 win over Turkey, which gave every medal contender a blueprint for beating the Americans.

In a rematch of the gold medal game of the 2010 World Cup, Team USA looked its worst since training camp opened in July, when Durant was still part of the team. They trailed 40-35 at halftime and for nearly nine minutes overall as they were completely befuddled by Turkey’s basic 2-3 matchup zone and showed remarkable impatience unbecoming of a supposed prohibitive favorite.

The primary culprits were Stephen Curry and Derrick Rose, who repeatedly hoisted – and missed – the shorter international 3-pointer early in the shot clock, and Kyrie Irving, who overdribbled trying to break down the zone. What had to make Team USA’s play even more infuriating to coach Mike Krzyzewski and his staff was that on the few occasions when they did move the ball from side to side or enter it into the high post, they got a great look.

From there, it was a snowball effect. Turkey wasn’t taking the ball out from under the basket, which meant the U.S. couldn’t set its defense and pressure the ballhandler above the arc. The Americans were lulled to sleep as Turkey remained deliberate on offense, shooting 8-of-12 from the field and repeatedly getting to the line in the second quarter. Team USA started gambling on defense, drawing whistles and complaining to officials.

Here’s all you need to know about Team USA’s showing. On Saturday, they outscored Finland 29-2 in the second quarter. On Sunday, they were outscored by Turkey, 24-19.

Faried-USAB“We were buying into what they want us to do,” Team USA forward Kenneth Faried admitted in a halftime interview. Faried was perhaps the only American whose play was entirely above reproach with a team-best 22 points and eight rebounds.

Durant would have fixed a lot of these problems. At 6-10, his perimeter shot cannot be contested. Used as a power forward, he could have been stationed at the elbow to initiate the offense with jumpers, dribble drives and dishes to the bigs in the short corner, which would have shredded Turkey’s zone.

A problem Durant would not have been able to fix was the non-existent defense of Curry, who repeatedly was beaten off the dribble, allowed himself to be screened way too easily and rotates too much in help situations, leaving open shooters. His lack of commitment on that end also created scramble rotations that contributed to the foul trouble encountered by Irving and James Harden.

Anthony Davis was scoreless in the first half, not exactly the sort of performance you want to withstand from your newly anointed alpha dog. He did come alive in the second half, as did Harden. The defense picked up a bit but was nowhere near the level that overwhelmed Finland. Team USA entered the final period with just a 66-60 advantage before running off 10 straight points to finally take control.

The Turks have one NBA player – Pelicans center Omer Asik – and simply don’t have the talent level to sustain their play over 40 minutes against Team USA. They committed 28 turnovers and ultimately caved in to Team USA’s desire to press the tempo. But they did provide a legitimate game plan for the four or five teams that do have the talent to hang with the Americans.

Monday is an off day for the Americans, who have plenty to work on — though they are not practicing.

Here’s a look at the rest of Sunday’s action, starting with Team USA’s group. And if you missed Day 1, you can catch up here.

Group C

Recent Rockets re-signee Cisco Garcia scored nine of his 29 points in the fourth quarter, helping the Dominican Republic (1-1) break open a close game garciaand defeat New Zealand, 76-63, in Group C. The coach of the DR is All-Geography Team member Orlando Antigua, whose nickname as a New York prep star was “Bullet Head.” As a teenager, he caught a stray near the left eye that miraculously caused no serious damage but could not be removed. The Tall Blacks are 0-2.

What a difference a day made for Finland, which shook off its 59-point loss to Team USA and got past Ukraine, 81-76, leaving both teams at 1-1. The Finns got 23 points from Shawn Huff, who played college ball at Valparaiso. Former NBA guard Pooh Jeter scored 24 for war-torn Ukraine, which is coached by Mike Fratello.

Group A

Spain crushed overmatched Egypt, 91-54, and looks like the class of the tournament thus far. The hosts got 18 points from Serge Ibaka, 14 from Rudy Fernandez (remember him?) and 12 from Pau Gasol. No one played more than 21 minutes for Spain, which has won its first two games by a combined 67 points, albeit against two of the tournament’s worst teams.

It’s going to be hard to match Team USA’s defensive second quarter against Finland, but Brazil gave it a shot in a 79-50 trampling of Iran. Trailing 18-17 after one period, Brazil held Iran to 2-of-13 shooting while forcing eight turnovers in the second period, opening a 40-24 halftime lead. On Monday, Brazil plays Spain in what should be the juiciest group matchup thus far. Hamed Haddadi, the only player on Iran anyone in America knows, had four points and six turnovers.

France averted a potential sticky situation by edging Serbia, 74-73, in Group A. Spurs forward Boris Diaw tied it with a bucket with 18 seconds left, Suns draft pick Bogdan Bogdanovic committed a turnover, and Joffrey Lauvergne (19 points) drew a highly questionable foul with 1.1 seconds to play, making the first free throw and missing the second. Miroslav Raduljica, recently waived by the Clippers, led the Serbs (1-1) with 21 points.

France lost its opener to Brazil and still must play Spain, so a loss to Serbia would have thrown it into the mix with bottom feeders Iran and Egypt for the group’s final berth in the knockout stage. Now the French can finish 3-2 and possibly avert fourth place – and the ensuing matchup with the Group B winner.

Group B

One day after clobbering Puerto Rico, Argentina appeared to be caught off guard in a 90-85 loss to Croatia, which moved atop the group alongside 220px-Luis_Scola_ArgentinaGreece. Pacers forward Luis Scola, who lives for this international stuff, had 30 points, nine rebounds and very little help from his Argentine teammates. The Croats (2-0) got a nice lift from Eurostash Dario Saric of the Sixers (16 and 9) and Paul Pierce replacement Bojan Bogdanovic of the Nets (16 and 7).

Saric also reportedly took a shot to the mouth that cost him six teeth. No word as to whether Sixers GM Sam Hinkie will have him sit out the season.

Greece handled the Philippines, 82-70, as Georgios Printezis scored 25 points. You gotta love FIBA, which allows Nick Calathes to play for the Greens even though he is in the midst of a 20-game NBA suspension for performance-enhancing drugs (Ok, it was Rogaine. But it is a banned substance nonetheless). Andray Blatche, still available as a free agent, is a one-man team for the Philippines (0-2), averaging 24.5 points and 13.0 boards.

In a game that certainly had the attention of Timberwolves coach and GM Flip Saunders, Senegal knocked off Puerto Rico, 82-75. Center Gorgui Dieng, one of six Minnesota players on a rookie contract, had 18 points and 13 boards for Senegal (1-1). Guard J.J. Barea, one of six Minnesota players with potential expiring contracts, had 15 points and four assists for Los Boricuas (0-2).

Group D

The Dragic brothers put on a show in unbeaten Slovenia’s 89-68 dismantling of Mexico, shooting a combined 14-of-16 from the field. Suns star Goran Dragic – perhaps the best player in the tournament not playing for Team USA – had 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting and added six assists. Younger sibling Zoran was even better, going 4-of-4 from 2-point range, 3-point range and the line for 22 points. Gustavo Ayon, still looking for a team either stateside or abroad for next season, scored 23 on 9-of-9 shooting for Mexico (0-2).

Lithuania had seven players score between nine and 12 points in its 75-62 win over Angola (1-1). One of them was Rockets forward Donatas Motiejunas, Jonas_Valanciunas who scored 12 points. Another was Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas, who had 11 and 13 boards. Lithuania plays Slovenia on Thursday in what should be another intriguing group match.

Australia (1-1) evened its record with an 89-55 thumping of Korea (0-2). Spurs center Aron Baynes, still looking for a contract for next season, helped his cause with 13 points and 10 boards. Jazz rookie teenager Dante Exum again was a bit better than his scoreless opener with four points and three assists. Right now, it doesn’t look like Quin Snyder can expect much from the kid this season. The best thing that can be said about Korea is that no one has a boxscore name longer than four letters.

Chris Bernucca is the managing editor of His column appears every Monday during the season. You can follow him on Twitter.

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SH Blog: New Zealand drops heartbreaker to Turkey; T’Wolves break season ticket record Sun, 31 Aug 2014 03:47:36 +0000

DanMaloneNobody warned me that the first day of the World Cup coincided with the first day of college football. Instead of watching my Maryland Terrapins thump James Madison by 45 in a total mismatch, I could have watched Team USA demolish Finland by 59 in a total mismatch. Okay, maybe I made the right choice.

Tomorrow, though, the US has Turkey, who weren’t gifted a tournament spot because the guy who made Angry Birds said he wanted them to be in (a slight exaggeration, but only a slight one). Though the Turks did struggle against New Zealand, who didn’t even have Steven Adams, so expecting them to put up much of a fight against James Harden, Anthony Davis, and co. might be a bridge too far.

Chris Sheridan rounded up the day’s play here, and before we get to some more strictly NBA news, let’s look at what other media outlets had to say about the day’s international action.

penneyThe best roundup you’re going to find of the non-USA Group C action is from Zorgon of Welcome to Loud City. Here’s a bit of his recap of New Zealand-Turkey:

For about 80% of the time, I thought New Zealand was going to win this game. But great outside shooting and a miracle run from Corey Webster can only carry you so far. New Zealand had the cards stacked against them tonight, as they only feature one player over 6’8″ and were going up against one of the biggest teams in the tournament in Turkey.

Despite that fact, the Tall Blacks led the rebounding battle at the half, 28-19. They did it by giving heavy minutes to the 6’11″ Rob Loe and packing the paint whenever necessary. But the rebounding numbers slowly turned in Turkey’s favor, and by the end of the game Oguz Savas was waltzing to the basket with ease.

After the game, coach Nenad Vucnic didn’t have a grand explanation for the loss. “Basically, we just froze and made bad decisions.” He was referring specifically to the couple of offensive foul calls in the late fourth that killed New Zealand’s momentum. First, during a helter-skelter part of the mid fourth that saw two changes of possession, Corey Webster was called for a questionable offensive foul. This caused Coach Vucnic to commit a technical, giving Turkey two straight free throws and posession, which they used to barrel inside. Corey Webster’s brother, Tai Webster, immediately entered the game looking to brighten things up. But he quickly lost the ball, lost his head, and was called for an unsportsmanlike foul. This, again, gave Turkey two free throws and possession. Together, both fouls accounted for a 9-0 swing, and can’t be underestimated when considering the final result.

It was tough going for New Zealand’s offense late in the game, as Corey Webster’s ability to create was the only positive momentum they had. Kirk Penney was doing the little things but struggling from the field, and nobody else was able to step up into a significant second half role. By the time Webster ran out of gas, New Zealand was reduced to bad jumpers.

The biggest game of the day, though, was in Group A (which will probably have the biggest game of the day throughout the entire group stage). John Schuhmann of recaps that one:

HuertasGroup A of the FIBA Basketball World Cup not only has the most NBA players, but also four of the best teams in the tournament. So every day of pool play in Granada will bring at least one big game. Four teams from the group will advance to the knockout rounds, but a higher placement will likely get you an easier opponent in the round of 16.

So Brazil was the big winner on Saturday, holding on for a 65-63 victory over France in the second game of the day in Granada. It was an ugly game throughout, with the two teams combining for 19 turnovers in the first half and shooting just 11-for-35 from 3-point range for the game.

But point guard Marcelo Huertas had enough in his bag of tricks to get the job done in the fourth quarter.

France actually led by nine late in the first, but scored just 10 points on its final 20 possessions of the first half, as Brazil took a two-point lead into the break. The Brazilians led by as many as eight early in the fourth, but couldn’t put France away, because they couldn’t put together more than two straight scores.

“The zone was back all the time,” said Tiago Splitter, who scored just six points on 2-for-5 shooting. “Nobody was getting easy shots. And our shooters didn’t have a good game outside. “

Huertas was basically the only guy who could get anything going offensively. He scored 11 of Brazil’s 19 points in the period, hitting a three off a Nene post-up, finding space around the foul line for a couple of runners against the sagging French defense, and sealed the game at the free-throw line in the final minute.

While some of the aging international stars, including France’s Tony Parker and Argentina’s Manu Ginobili, and every American over 30, are sitting the tournament out, some of the game’s brightest young players are showing up and flat-out balling.

Speaking of that, here’s what Giannis Antetokounmpo did in an easy win for Greece:

It’s called the Eurostep for a reason.

Of course, the World Cup is also basically the best place to do some international scouting. And it always helps if you’re the brother of an NBA star. Via Orazio Cauchi of Sportando:

According to Marc Stein, a couple of NBA teams have interest in Zoran Dragic, younger brother of Goran. He recently signed a two-year extension with Unicaja Malaga in Spain and he has a buyout around 800.000$.

Pacers are one of the teams that have interest in Zoran Dragic, sources told Sportando.

Now here’s the rest of the latest from around the NBA:


wigginsBlattSomehow, some way, the Timberwolves managed to deal away their best player by far and come away with a team that looks, if not better, certainly more fun to watch. Getting Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, and Thaddeus Young for Kevin Love is not only a pretty nice haul, it’s effectively an instant rebuild as there’s no waiting around for the primary pieces to show up. If Wiggins lives up to his potential and Bennett becomes even a complementary piece, it’s going to be a fun time to be a Minnesota fan.

Which explains this news, from the Associated Press:

Kevin Love is gone now, and yet somehow the Timberwolves have parlayed that into a record-setting week at the box office.

After completing the long-rumored trade that sent Love to the Cavaliers and brought Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and Thaddeus Young to Minnesota, the Timberwolves have sold more than 300 full season-ticket packages in the last week.

That beats the previous record in 2011 that was set when Ricky Rubio announced that he was coming over from Spain to play for the team.

“The organization, from president-level on down has just been re-energized,” Timberwolves senior vice president and chief revenue officer Ryan Tanke said. “Part of it is hope, and you have this great new hope.

“But then there’s also the reality, which is it was a long, tough summer. For it to come to the head that it came to and have it be the outcome that we had, I think it creates this perfect storm environment for us.”


RayAllenSH1The Clippers news is especially interesting because of the whole situation in Boston a couple summers ago. My money’s still on him ending up in Cleveland (maybe I’m biased because I want to see him play), but the Clippers, after their recent trade of Jared Dudley/salary dump, have both cap space and room for a shooter, whereas the Cavs don’t have the former and only kind of have the latter.



saricSHOne of the newest Sixers, the incredibly talented young Croatian forward, has an unclear relationship with a businessman whose interests are best describe as “diverse”.

Here’s an excerpt from a piece by Joseph Swide of Vice Sports on the subject:

A powerful figure in Croatia, Klemm served in the Croatian war for independence in the 1990s and later became president of the Special Police Association. In 2003, he started Klemm Security, a private security firm that saw its annual revenue skyrocket from €2.9 million in 2008 to €10.5 million in 2012. Armed with new financial power, Klemm became widely known in Croatia in November of 2012 when he organized support for the homecoming of Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac, two Croatian generals who won their appeals of war crimes convictions and were released from the Hague just two weeks before Saric’s signing with Cibona. (It’s worth noting that there was widespread support for the generals throughout Croatia due to their role in winning a brutal war for independence. So much so that the two biggest Croatian soccer clubs even played an exhibition to raise money for their cause.).

Since then, Klemm’s business portfolio has spread into other areas, including investment in a large-scale thermal energy project and, apparently, basketball speculation.

Klemm has no background in basketball or any sport of any kind. He’s not even a fan of Cibona, saying his loyalty is “only Croatian.” As for his involvement with Saric and the club, he told press, “I saw that there was a problem with the payment of Saric’s fee and I wanted the jewel of Croatian sports to stay in Croatia if at all possible.”

A cynic might see Klemm’s entry into the situation at this time as less an act of some deep-pocketed benevolent patriot, and more that of a cold opportunist looking to exploit a moment of desperation for financial gain. Whatever the case, the money lent to Cibona to pay the fee came with what Klemm openly said was the understanding that he would be repaid when Saric either went to the NBA or was sold to another club in Europe. However, the exact agreement between Klemm and Cibona remains unclear, and very few details of Saric’s contract with the club have ever been released.

However, on April 1, 2014, it was reported that the Croatian state attorney was investigating the loan from Klemm to Cibona. Specifically, the investigation seemed to focus on a strange series of events in 2013 in which Cibona threw out the management of a longtime nightclub in Zagreb, claiming they didn’t pay rent. Cibona put a new company in the space and posted Klemm Security out front during the “transition.” It was suspected that the new company received discounted rent to somehow help repay Klemm for the Saric loan. When Saric then withdrew his name from the 2013 NBA Draft, it renewed speculation on who was actually behind his decision making.

Dan Malone is a reporter at a newspaper in northwest Ohio. He blogs, edits and learns things on the fly for Sheridan Hoops. Follow him on Twitter.
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World Cup Day One: Team USA thumps Finland by 59 Sat, 30 Aug 2014 22:57:00 +0000

SheridanheMissFinlandWe will spare you too many of the gory details of Team USA’s massacre of Finland. Here’s all you need to know: The Finns were 0-for-17 from the field in the second quarter.

If you watched the entire game, congratulations.

You have proven yourself worthy of throwing away two perfectly good summertime hours from your Labor Day weekend that could have been spent doing something more enjoyable, like watching paint dry.

Day One of the 2014 FIBA World Cup is in the books, and the only people who are disappointed are those who thought taking Finland and the 35 points was a worthy gamble.

At least one American did, and he is $1 poorer because of it. Hint: He was at the game in Bilbao, and he had the funniest tweet of the game. It concerned Tom Thibodeau.

Making $1 bets on basketball games is permissible even among the most puritan of journalists. I have been betting $1 on Knicks games for about 15 years with a longtime beat writer who is not named Frank Isola, and we carry over the balance from season to season without ever squaring up.

Myself, I am still down $1, net, on this year’s Team USA games after getting beaten up in two straight friendlies (we alternate on who gets to make the pick.) I will go ahead and make a prediction: The Americans will be favored by 39 1/2 over Turkey when the line is posted, and the spread will move into the 40s from there.

But back to Saturday’s US-Finland game, and noteworthy items from other games, because you came here for details:

Murphy-Finland_ Finland was one of the wild card entries into the tournament after defeating Greece, Turkey, Russia and Slovenia last year at Eurobasket. You can poke fun at them all you want, but Murphy, Peteri Kaponen and the unfortunate Gerald Lee (three fouls in the first 2 minutes, 8 seconds) can at least boast that they are playing. So take that, Timofey Mozgov, Danilo Galinari and Yi Jianlian. There is no joy in losing by 59, but it is better than watching on TV because you let down your entire country by failing to qualify — as was the case for the Italians, the Russians and the Chinese. Oh, and another thing. Murphy gets to play with LeBron James next season if he makes the Cavs in training camp. They got him in a trade with the Jazz.

_ Who played great for Team USA? Heck, who didn’t? OK, there actually was one guy who didn’t: Stephen Curry (should we start a debate over whether Klay Thompson should be starting ahead of him? Hey, we’ve all grown tired of the Kyrie Irving v. Derrick Rose debate). Curry was 0-for-5 on 3s and 1-for-6 overall, though he did have five assists — matching the number of turnovers committed by Rose. DeMar DeRozan also merited dishonorable mention for going 1-for-5.

Drummond-USAB_ Klay Thompson was high scorer with 18 points and Anthony Davis had 17. Take away the, ahem, shooting of DeRozan and Curry, and the remainder of the U.S. team shot 41-for-62 (66 percent). Rose was a plus-45 in 23 minutes. James Harden had four steals. Andre Drummond make his only foul shot — though it hung on the rim long enough that someone could have knocked it out of the basket cylinder, which is allowed in FIBA games, if the players weren’t as disinterested as the folks watching back at home, whether in Helsinki or Hyannis.

_ The game was so boring that it offered viewers the opportunity to Google Miss Finland. Her name is Bea Toivonen, and she apparently doesn’t miss many meals. And you now have an explanation for the photo posted above. They should name a panda after her: “Chin-chin.”

Thankfully, the USA-Finland game wasn’t the only one being played. Some fast facts from the other games:

_ Best match of the day was Brazil-France, won by the old men from South America 65-63. The Brazilians have 10 guys on their roster 29 or older. (The Americans have none.) Brazil coach Ruben Magnano went 12 deep, using every player on his roster. Marcelinho Huertas, who is not playing in the NBA only because his buyout with FC Barcelona is 8 million Euros (not a typo), led Brazil with 16 points and five assists. France is playing without Tony Parker and Joakim Noah.

PuertoRico2014_ Some consolation news to fans of the Indiana Pacers, who just learned that Ian Mahinmi (Roy Hibbert’s backup) is out 2-3 months with a dislocated shoulder. Indiana reserve Luis Scola, who did quite the Houdini impression during the NBA playoffs, had 20 points and nine rebounds in Argentina’s 98-75 victory over Puerto Rico. Also in this game, the market for trade bait J.J. Barea of the Timberwolves may have heated up as he went for 24 points and shot 5-for-8 from downtown. Why on Earth did Sam Hinkie not get him in the Thaddeus Young deal? The Sixers confuse us.

_ In the Yo Brooklyn! department, incoming Net Bogan Bogdanovic had 26 points in Croatia’s 81-78 overtime victory over the Philippines. Former Net and unsigned free agent Andray Blatche had 28 points and 12 boards for his adopted homeland in a losing cause. Sixers property Dario Saric had 10 points, nine rebounds and four assists for Croatia.

Gasol-Spain_ Spain defeated Iran 90-60, making the 30 point spread a push (the 23-point Greece-Senegal line was a push, too). Hamed Haddadi had 16 points, 15 rebounds and seven turnovers. He is one of 30 former NBA players in the tournament, along with 45 active NBA players and 17 players whose rights are held by NBA teams. For Spain, Pau Gasol had 33 points in 29 minutes and Marc Gasol had 15 points in 31 minutes. Serge Ibaka was a DNP.  (hamstring).

_ Dante Exum might have been a poor pick for All-Tournament team. He had no points, one assist and one turnover in 11 minutes of Australia’s 90-80 loss to Slovenia.

_ Jonas Valanciunas was 8-for-8 from the field in Lithuania’s 87-74 victory over Mexico. Lithuania shot 55 percent from 3-point range. They are the only team, in my opinion, that has even the slightest chance of defeating Team USA in the knockout stage. The teams would likely meet in the semifinals.

_ Aron Baynes (New Zealand, UFA-Spurs) and Gorgui Dieng (Senegal, Timberwolves) each scored 21 points as their teams lost.

Chris Sheridan is publisher and editor-in-chief of He has covered every senior U.S. national team since the 1996 Olympics (and will be reporting on the 2014 World Cup on-site from Barcelona and Madrid from Sept. 5-16). Follow him on Twitter.





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Three-Man Weave: Burning Questions for Team USA Sat, 30 Aug 2014 19:30:54 +0000

fibaThe 2014 Basketball World Cup is finally here. And you need to take it seriously, because everyone else does.

Thanks to NBC and the other fall-in-line media outlets, most Americans believe the Olympics is the premier international basketball event. Globally, nothing could be further from the truth.

With 24 teams and no automatic bid for the host, the World Cup is twice the size of the Olympics. It doesn’t share the spotlight with track or swimming. And most of the players will never play in the NBA, so this is the attainable pinnacle of their profession.

And last season, nearly 1 in 5 players in the NBA were born outside the United States. So, yeah, it’s not exactly the basketball turnip truck spending the next fortnight in Spain. The tournament features 75 current or former NBA players.

With that in mind, we bring you another edition of the Three-Man Weave, with burning questions about the World Cup.

1. Damian Lillard was reported to be on call for Team USA had Derrick Rose’s injury issues continued. Should Rose have made the final 12-man roster for Team USA?

CHRIS SHERIDAN, PUBLISHER: Once Team USA decided to take 12 players overseas instead of 13, it would have been a huge deal to remove Rose and fly in Lillard in at the last second. If they had gone abroad with 13, USA Basketball could have finessed Rose’s exit. The proof will come over the course of the tournament, but right now Rose looks too rusty. Team USA has an 11 1/2-man roster.

Lillard-USABCHRIS BERNUCCA, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: No. It has been obvious throughout training camp and exhibitions that Rose either is (a) not fully recovered from his ACL and MCL tears over the last two years or (b) fully recovered and now a shell of his former self. His breakneck speed and impossible body control now appear in short bursts and are not sustained. The truth is that right now, Lillard is the better player, with a Rookie of the Year, an All-Star berth and a cold-blooded nature.

COACH BOBBY GONZALEZ, COLUMNIST: Yes, because Rose gives this United States team great star power with his presence. Even if he is only able to contribute in spurts, Rose gives Team USA supreme athleticism and confidence. You can throw in some swagger, too, which any team can use, especially this team, which will be doing a lot by committee.

2. In a two-possession game with three minutes to go, who should get the ball for Team USA?

SHERIDAN: My first choice is James Harden, because he is good at getting to the line. But then I remind myself, “Harden isn’t getting any calls from FIBA refs in the final three minutes, nor is any other American.” So I am changing my choice to Stephen Curry, who get create his own shot as well as anyone on this team and also is Team USA’s best 3-point shooter.

BERNUCCA: Much has been made of Anthony Davis’ alpha dog status on this team, but an alpha dog demands the ball and scores late in games. I shudder thinking about Davis firing an 18-footer off the pick-and-pop or trying to back down a defender from the low post in a close game. Sheridan’s point about the silent whistle is well-taken, but I still will go with James Harden in a slight edge over Kyrie Irving, because I believe Harden is a more willing drive-and-kick player than Irving.

GONZALEZ: I will say James Harden, because he gets buckets like most people breathe. At the end of the day, his uncanny HardenUSABability to make tough shots and get himself to the free throw line and create his own shot late in possessions. Harden gives the Americans their best chance in a must-score situation.

3. Which five players will make the 2014 World Cup All-Tournament Team?

SHERIDAN: This is the “Bo McCalebb Question.” Few remember that the American point guard playing for Macedonia made the All-Tournament Team at Istanbul four years ago. This tournament might have three players from the C-D side of the bracket, where competition is easier and a new Macedonia could emerge (Australia?). I’ll go with Australian guard Dante Exum, Lithuanian center Jonas Valanciunas, Spanish center Marc Gasol, French forward Nicolas Batum and American forward Anthony Davis.

BERNUCCA: Just because Davis doesn’t get the ball at the end of a close game or two doesn’t mean he won’t own the tournament. His athleticism at both ends will allow him to dominate and make him a shoo-in for the All-Tournament Team. I agree with Sheridan’s theory, but my McCalebb is Finnish forward Petteri Koponen. They will be joined by Batum and guards Juan Carlos Navarro of Spain and Goran Dragic of Slovenia.

GONZALEZ: From Team USA, Davis and Harden, From Spain, Bulls forward-center Pau Gasol. From Lithuania, Valanciunas. And from Slovenia, Dragic.

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SH Blog: Clippers Complete Surprising Salary Dump Sat, 30 Aug 2014 07:51:58 +0000

Mere days after trading Jared Dudley to the Milwaukee Bucks, the Los Angeles Clippers have struck again. This time around, the Clippers sent two players packing.

Surprisingly, it was the two players whom they’d just acquired for Dudley and a draft pick.

According to Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports, the Clippers waived Carlos Delfino and Miroslav Raduljica. Delfino had two years and $6.5 million remaining on his contract. Raduljica had three years for roughly $4.57 million.

Both were traded for Dudley, who had two years and $8.5 million left.

This is something of a head-scratcher considering the Clippers gave up a protected 2017 first-round draft pick to get this deal done.

Strictly from a basketball perspective, the move is somewhat understandable, but still strange. Delfino is a floor-spacing playmaker who would’ve offered high-quality play off of the bench for a Clippers team that fell victim to numerous perimeter injuries in 2013-14.

Raduljica, meanwhile, isn’t much to write home about. The positives are that he’s a 7’0″ center who didn’t cost very much and offered the Clippers something it lacked in the past: interior depth.

Spencer Hawes’ presence makes him expendable, which lessens the blow to a somewhat meaningless level.

The real question mark here is why the Clippers would give up a first-round draft choice just to cut financial ties. A team this young and talented may not need a draft pick right now, but much could change in the course of three long seasons.

The only dot left to connect is that this coincides with Doc Rivers’ five-year, $50 million contract extension. Despite being an incredibly wealthy man, Steve Ballmer is likely looking to avoid financial penalties and general overpayment.

With a massive contract headed Rivers’ way, that means cutting ties with what L.A. labels as dead weight.

Thus, the Clippers cut ties with two players who had nothing to do with the team’s future. Another dramatic day in Tinseltown.

Spurs Monitoring FIBA World Cup

No team in NBA history has mastered the art of international scouting quite as well as the San Antonio Spurs. They’ve turned foreign-born players into American league stars, and even when stardom is unattainable, have maximized abilities and hidden flaws.

It’s to be expected that San Antonio will have a close eye on the FIBA World Cup.

According to Marc Stein of ESPN, it will.

The Spurs have yet to make a decision on the future of reserve center Aron Baynes. The Australian big man didn’t do much in 2013-14, but his teammates and coaching staff have taken a liking to him.

If that fails, and even if it doesn’t, San Antonio has another target: Gustavo Ayon of Mexico.

Why wouldn’t they be?

Ayon has played three NBA seasons with four teams. Since performing well for the New Orleans Pelicans as a rookie, he’s spent time with the Atlanta Hawks, Milwaukee Bucks and Orlando Magic.

The Spurs appear to see untapped potential that only they can discover.

Again, why wouldn’t they?

Ayon has struggled with injuries, but he’s effective when healthy. He was the MVP of both the 2013 FIBA Americas Tournament and 2014 Centrobasket Championship.

Paired with the ACB Best Young Player award, he’s done more than enough on the international stage to show that he could be a high-quality player in San Antonio. Gregg Popovich orchestrates a system that caters to Ayon’s abilities and welcomes interior playmakers.

The likelihood of the deal is unknown, but Ayon to San Antonio would be the best thing for his career.

Around The League

  • Sam Amick of USA TODAY Sports reports that the Los Angeles Lakers worked out forward Michael Beasley. The No. 2 overall selection in 2008 was joined by the likes of Bobby Brown, Toney Douglas and Greg Stiemsma. It’s unclear at this time if the Lakers will pursue signing Beasley.
  • According to Marc Stein of ESPN, Team USA’s squad for the FIBA World Cup of Basketball is its youngest since NBA players became the norm to lead the roster in 1992.
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Tweet of the Day: Raptors Lucas Nogueira Training With Hall of Famer Fri, 29 Aug 2014 23:23:09 +0000

After spending last year in Spain, Lucas Nogueira is preparing for his first NBA season.

Lucas Nogueira, the Brazilian center that the undersized Atlanta Hawks shipped to the Toronto Raptors with Lou Williams for John Salmons and a second-round draft pick, is training with Hall of Fame center and two-time NBA Champion Hakeem Olajuwon.

Olajuwon, otherwise known as “Hakeem the Dream” — widely known for his indefensible “Dream Shake” in the low post, has helped many NBA athletes improve their post play. Some of the most notable players to train with the Houston Rockets two-time NBA Finals MVP include LeBron James, Dwight Howard and Amar’e Stoudemire.

Nogueira officially became the newest addition to the Raptors roster after signing a contract August 3, 2014. He recently expressed his enthusiasm for his training with a simple tweet and a photo.

Considering that Stoudemire paid Olajuwon $100,000 for two weeks of training in 2012, one could surmise that the week of training might cost Nogueira a cool 50-grand. However, considering that The Dream spent the last few seasons of his illustrious career with the Raptors, perhaps he’s giving him a discount.

While we can only speculate the cost and specifics of his training, that he is even going to such an extent prior to his first season in the NBA demonstrates the young center’s commitment to becoming the best possible athlete that he can be. More young athletes should do the same.



Previous Tweet Posts:

Tweet of the Night: Jared Dudley Demonstrates How To Deal With A Troll

Tweet of the Day: Ben McLemore Is Bothered By Hello Kitty News


Michael Brumagin writes the Tweet of the Day for and is also a correspondent for

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2014 Basketball World Cup: 24 Players To Keep An Eye On Fri, 29 Aug 2014 11:47:24 +0000

fibaMitnickIn years past, Americans have considered the Olympics to be the only relevant international basketball competition.

Stateside, the other quadrennial tournament formerly known as the FIBA World Championship went largely unnoticed until Team USA embarrassed themselves in 2002, losing three times in Indianapolis and finishing sixth after never having lost with NBA players.

The rest of the world sees things differently. Other basketball federations have been viewing the World Championship as the more important international competition. Also, because the very best Americans play in the Olympics but not the WC, it is a better opportunity to knock the Americans off their high horse, as happened in 2002 (Indianapolis) and 2006 (Saitama, Japan).

With the competition changing its name to the FIBA Basketball World Cup, it remains to be seen if the new moniker gets the American populace to pay significantly more attention to this tournament. Team USA will be playing without any megastars, although they do have some of the NBA’s best rising stars in former Olympians James Harden, Anthony Davis and Stephen Curry and a former MVP in Derrick Rose, who will be making his long-awaited comeback.

Here is a rundown of who to look for when watching this year’s inaugural FIBA World Cup. There are 24 teams, and we have highlighted one key player from each team.

Group A

Juan Carlos Navarro, Spainspain flag1. Juan Carlos Navarro, G, Spain

On a loaded team with good NBA players, it will be interesting to see if “La Bomba” will have the same impact on this team that he has had in years past. With the 34-year-old Spanish star seemingly taking a step back this season with Barcelona, this could be the last time we see his sweet floater in a national team competition. As imposing as Spain’s front line is with the Gasol brothers and Serge Ibaka, Navarro has always been the national team’s offensive motor.

150px-Nicolas_batum_tournoi_douai_2007_06_10 (1)Flag_of_France.svg2. Nicolas Batum, F, France

With Tony Parker getting some rest after an intense two years, playing in two NBA Finals and winning the European championship, it will be up to Batum to lead this team. (Joakim Noah also is sitting out, costing France its two most accomplished NBA players). One of the NBA’s most versatile players, Batum has a tendency to disappear when playing for the NT, which could prove to be a major stumbling block for France as they look to build off last summer’s incredible run, defeating Spain in the semifinals and Lithuania in the finals of Eurobasket 2013.

Barbosa-BrazilBrazil flag3. Leandro Barbosa, G, Brazil

Lightning fast with the ball, Barbosa just agreed to sign with the Golden State Warriors, where he can be a sparkplug off the bench behind Team USA members Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. The Brazilians have a very strong frontcourt with Anderson Varejao, Tiago Splitter and Nene, but Barbosa will be the X-factor who can put up big scoring numbers in important games. When they played a friendly against Team USA in Chicago, they had no answer for Anthony Davis.

Flag_of_Serbia.svg220px-Bogdan_Bogdanović4. Bogdan Bogdanovic, G, Serbia

After being selected by the Suns with the 27th pick of last June’s draft, Bogdan (not to be confused with the Nets new wing Bojan Bogdanovic) will be counted on to give steady play for Serbia to get out of the group stage, where one upset loss in this group could become monumental to overcome. After a breakout year with Partizan Belgrade, Bogdan ironically will be replacing Bojan in Fenerbahce Ulker of Turkey and will need to prove he can fill the super scoring wing’s shoes.


haddadiiranflag5. Hamed Haddadi, C, Iran

After a brief stint as Iran’s first NBA player, Haddadi has taken his talents to Asia. While not an NBA level talent, his presence, along with Arslan Kazemi, is the only hope of Iran being a relevant team in this tournament. In general, the inclusion of Iran and Egypt in this tournament because they are in a region where basketball is not relevant waters down this competition over legitimate basketball countries like Italy.

blank avataregypt flag6. Egypt

It was a big accomplishment for Egypt to qualify for this tournament (they finished second in FIBA Africa), but they will struggle to compete in this setting, and it should be tough for them to come within single digits against any team other than Iran. If you actually sit through one of their games, it is a clear cut sign that it’s time to sign up for Netflix. Or take a walk around the block. Or take up knitting.

Group B

220px-Luis_Scola_&_Paulius_JankūnasArgentina flag1. Luis Scola, F Argentina

Manu Ginobili will be sitting this one out, and it will be up to Luis Scola, who has proven in the past that he can be an MVP contender in this setting. While Scola looked like he took a step back with the Pacers at times this past season, this may be his last rumble on the international stage, and very few players have the level of pride for their country as Scola. Expect Argentina to be a very tough team in this tournament, and Scola to be among the top performers. He always is.



Giannis AdetokunboGreece flag2. Giannis Antetokounmpo, F, Greece

I may not have been too kind to the “Greek Freak” before the draft, but there is no doubt he showed incredible potential this past season. While last year all he did was put highlights and numbers on a terrible team, he now will have a chance to show that he can play on a team built to win. This is his chance to show the world that all the salivating over him the last 16 months is worthwhile.


bogdanovicFlag_of_Croatia.svg3. Bojan Bogdanovic, F, Croatia

One of the top scorers in the Euroleague, Bojan will be “replacing” Paul Pierce this season for the Nets. He may not be able to fill the shoes of  “The Truth” but he is a heck of a scorer who plays with a lot of moxie. Along with Dario Saric, Bojan can set the stage for a big splash his rookie year with a strong showing in the World Cup.



220px-José_Juan_Barea-MN_v_DETPuerto Rico flag4. J.J. Barea, G, Puerto Rico

Along with Carlos Arroyo, Barea will be part of one of the most dynamic backcourts in this tournament. With trade rumors floating around, Barea can significantly raise his value if he can remind people that he is still the same player who put in solid work for Dallas on their title run. Against Team USA in New York, Puerto Rico trailed by just 2 points with 5 seconds left in the first half. Then Klay Thompson hit a buzzer-beating 3, and the Americans pulled away in the second half.


Andray_Blatchephilippines glag5. Andray Blatche, F-C, Philippines

Typically making the headlines for the wrong reasons, Blatche is in the perfect position to prove he can consistently produce for a team that desperately needs the paint scoring he brings. Playing for a basketball crazy country like the Philippines, where Blatche was granted citizenship by their president specifically to help him play for their National Team, Blatche not only can play himself into a contract for next season but also can set himself up for popularity in a country that embraces American basketball.

Gorgui Diengsenegal flag6. Gorgui Dieng, F-C, Senegal

After breaking out over the last two months of the season for the Minnesota Timberwolves, Dieng will have a chance to build some momentum on his impressive late season performance, which included Western Conference Rookie of the Month for April. Senegal is devoid of a Ricky Rubio-style point guard to get the big fella some easy buckets, but being far and away the most talented player on this team, Dieng will be getting valuable experience in Spain that can be a big confidence booster as his career moves forward.



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