NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Report: LeBron leaning toward skipping Olympics — What a season it has been for LeBron James. The Cleveland Cavaliers star is fresh off perhaps the biggest win of his career after guiding the Cleveland Cavaliers to their first NBA title on Monday. Understandably, the reigning Finals MVP is a bit tired and according to The Vertical’s Chris Mannix, James may not take part in the 2016 Olympics in Rio:
In the aftermath of a grueling NBA Finals, LeBron James is leaning toward not competing at the Olympics in Rio this summer, league sources told The Vertical.
While James has not informed USA Basketball of his decision, team officials are operating with the expectation that it is unlikely James will be part of the team.
James, 31, has been a member of USA Basketball since 2004. He is one of three players – along with Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony – to be part of three men’s Olympic teams and has been integral to the United State’s resurgence as a basketball super power.
James will likely join a growing list of notable players electing not to play in Rio this summer. Two-time MVP Stephen Curry withdrew earlier this month. Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, Houston’s James Harden and San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge have also chosen not to play.
No. 2: Durant will play in 2016 Olympics — A stellar playoff performance by Kevin Durant got the Oklahoma City Thunder within one win from a spot in The 2016 NBA Finals. Alas, Durant and Co. missed out on their second Finals berth together and were sent home for the summer. Durant has never been one to rest on his laurels in the offseason and this one should be no different. ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reports Durant is all-in for the 2016 Olympics:
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant remains intent on playing in this summer’s Olympics after his looming free agency, unmoved by the recent withdrawals of a few high-profile names.
Durant confirmed Monday at his KD 9 shoe release in Austin, Texas, that he planned to play for the United States in Rio de Janeiro this summer.
“I’m excited about it. I’m looking forward to it,” he said.
Several star players withdrew their names from consideration earlier this month, including Golden State’s Stephen Curry, Houston’s James Harden and Thunder teammate Russell Westbrook.
“We talk so much about workload now, we knew all these guys were going to. We talk so much about minutes being played and resting guys during the year and the workload and it’s too many games, I knew guys were going to think about that,” Durant said.
“It’s natural. It’s a part of it. You can respect it. But I want to play though. I just want to hoop.”
Sources say Indiana’s Paul George and Golden State’s Klay Thompson are also considered locks alongside Durant for the 12-man Olympic roster that will be revealed in the coming days, joining Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins, whose inclusion was first reported by The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears earlier this month.
USAB chairman Jerry Colangelo told ESPN in a recent interview that he and coach Mike Krzyzewski have been preparing one roster “with LeBron and one without LeBron.”
Colangelo also said that the final roster is on course to be made public no later than June 27.
No. 3: Pippen, Rodman: 1996 Bulls remain best team ever — As the Golden State Warriors were on their way to a record 73 wins in 2015-16, they were treading on some hallowed ground. The last team to win 70-plus games was the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, who won 72 games en route to an NBA championship. One of the most vocal opponents of the praise sent Golden State’s way was former Bulls star Scottie Pippen, who said his Bulls would sweep these Warriors in a playoff series. After Golden State fell in Game 7 of The Finals on Monday, Pippen and his teammate, Dennis Rodman, rejoiced in knowing they still have an edge on these Warriors:
Scottie Pippen was asked at the end of an interview with ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike on Monday who the greatest team in NBA history was after the Cleveland Cavaliers rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to stun the Warriors and win the NBA Finals in seven games.
“The 1995-96 Bulls,” Pippen said. “We live on.”
Dennis Rodman expressed a similar sentiment in a tweet he posted after Game 7.
The Warriors are coached by Steve Kerr, another member of that 1995-96 Bulls team. He said after the game the Warriors were “stunned,” but said the better team won the NBA Finals.
“That’s the beauty of the NBA playoffs. You play a seven-game series. The best team wins and they were better than us in this series,” Kerr said.
But Pippen said there’s “a different pressure” in the postseason, “based on that season, especially.” It was a pressure he and the Bulls had to endure themselves when they went into the playoffs after a 72-10 season. That Bulls team steamrolled through the postseason, though, going 15-3 en route to an NBA Finals win where they beat the Seattle SuperSonics in six games.
“We had done so well and now we’re faced with the same thing that the Warriors were faced with. Can this team be considered one of the greatest teams? Well, you can’t be considered a great team until you win a championship.
“No matter how well you do in the regular season, it has to be capped off with a championship, to really mark your legacy in the game. That’s where we see Golden State had some failure there. They lost their dominance throughout the playoffs.”
No. 4: Thompson, Green still on board for 2016 Olympics — The Golden State Warriors are still smarting from their loss in Game 7 of the NBA Finals that ended a more than solid season on a decidedly sour note. As they lick their wounds and prepare for a 2016-17 that can’t get here soon enough for them, two of the players on the team have other commitments to tend to this summer. According to Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle, both Draymond Green and Klay Thompson sound like they’re a go to play for Team USA in the 2016 Olympic Games in a few months. :
“To have the opportunity to compete for a gold medal, that doesn’t happen every day,” Green said Monday. “So I want to play.”
Green and teammate Klay Thompson are finalists for the U.S. roster (so is restricted free agent-to-be Harrison Barnes). They’re also logical candidates to fill key roles on a team depleted by big-name NBA players seeking rest and recovery. Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, James Harden and LaMarcus Aldridge, like Stephen Curry, already have pulled out of consideration.
On the day after the Warriors fell to Cleveland in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, Green and Thompson struck different tones in peering ahead. Green was unequivocal about his interest in the Olympics and philosophical about his intent to maximize the “small window” of a basketball player’s career.
Thompson mostly wants to get away from hoops, at least for now. He plans to take a week off to watch his brother, Trayce, play for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Only then will Klay Thompson contemplate his summer plans.
“I’ve always planned on playing, but I’m not thinking about the Olympics right now,” he said. “I’m not going to even think about basketball for a week or so. …
“I’m tired right now. Give me a week or two and I’ll be back, but I am exhausted right now.”
Green is taking the long view of his Olympic decision, and the rest-or-represent question facing many top NBA players.
“This window we have for playing this game is very small,” Green said. “It’s five years if you’re lucky. Obviously, I plan on going longer than five, but you’re lucky to get that in this league.
“Say if I’m blessed with 10-12-13 years; that’s 12 or 13 years out of, what, 80 years of life? Seventy? If you can’t work hard for that, then you don’t need it, anyway.”
Green realizes he and his teammates face a short summer. They played 106 games this season (including the playoffs), after playing 103 last season.
The experience of reaching the NBA Finals in 2015 gave Green an offseason road map, which he plans to follow this time.
“Last year taught me how to really use training camp,” he said. “Every year before that, I tried to come in absolutely the best shape I possibly could. Last year, I used training camp and preseason games to get where I needed to be by opening night.
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