Morning shootaround — Aug. 11

NEWS OF THE MORNING

George calls Australian team ‘dirty’ | Australia driven to win medal in Rio | Bonner’s days with Spurs likely done

No. 1: George calls Australian team ‘dirty’ — Team USA had a struggle on its hands yesterday in Rio in the Olympics against fellow 2-0 team Australia. Although the U.S. defeated Australia 98-88 thanks in large part to a monster game from Carmelo Anthony. Fellow Team USA starter Paul George finished with five points in the win and afterward had much to say about the Australians’ style of play, writes Tony Harper of Fox Sports Australia:

Team USA star Paul George said the Boomers lived up to expectation that they’d be a “dirty” opponent when his team ground out a tough win in a brutal battle at the Olympics.

“We knew we were going to get their best,” George said after the heavily-fancied Americans escaped with a 98-88 win.

“It was an adjustment for us. The game kind of got out of hand early with the physical play.

“We knew that coming in – this team has a knack for being a little dirty.”

George said the US team rose to the physical challenge after emerging from halftime.

“I thought the second half we did a good job of just matching them,” he said.

“We were doing the same stuff they were doing and we got hacked for it. We’re fine playing physical, that’s our game in the NBA, but if they going to allow us to play that way they got to play it both ways.”

Boomers legend and now assistant coach Luc Longley fired back in response: “Tell ‘em that’s international basketball.’’

George tangled with Matthew Dellavedova in one of the game’s first confrontations and admitted he had targeted the man known around the US as “dirty Delly”.

“We just had to match their physicality,” said George. “That’s what we had to do. That’s the only way a team is going to get us out of our comfort zone is to muddy the game, doing little stuff to get to us.”

His Delly clash was a way to “let them know it wasn’t going to go the way they thought it was going to go”.

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No. 2: Future looking bright for Australia, even after loss — The Australian national team gave Team USA more than a scare yesterday and although the U.S. team got the victory, there’s no denying the progress Australia has made. In an interview with The Vertical’s Michael Lee, members of Australia’s team explain how they expect to not take any moral victories but instead push toward their ultimate goal of a medal in the 2016 Olympics:

Australia is in pursuit of its first Olympic medal but has an established basketball culture now, one that was on display during the first legitimate scare that the Americans have encountered in Brazil. The Boomers weren’t going to cower to the U.S., because even with the talent disparity the two sides were on equal footing in one important category – each team had a combined four NBA championship rings on its roster. The big game pressure wasn’t going to cause Andrew Bogut, Patty Mills, Aron Baynes or Matthew Dellavedova to shriek when they’ve already been asked to perform under a more intense glare.

“The first-ranked team, or the 50th-ranked team, we’re going to play them the same way,” said Joe Ingles, a Utah Jazz forward. “We’re not intimidated, we’re not scared of anyone and we hope we get another crack at them. We’re a really good group of guys. We’ve played together. We’ve got a helluva roster and we can match up with any team here. We’re going to play the same way, no matter what, we’re going to do what we do.”

With six NBA players on its roster, Australia had six more NBA players than Team USA had faced in cakewalk wins over China and Venezuela. Bogut’s presence, the maturity of other core members of the team and a relatively inexperienced American Olympic roster was enough to close a significant gap from the 33-point defeat Australia sustained in the quarterfinals of the 2012 London Olympics.

But even if Australia doesn’t get another chance to defeat the U.S., or fails to complete its goal for a medal in Rio, the Boomers are primed to be one of the better international teams for 2020 and beyond. Ben Simmons and Thon Maker, the first and 10th pick, respectively, in last June’s draft, and Dante Exum, the fifth pick in 2014, didn’t represent the national team this summer but provide some hope for Australia’s basketball future.

“The future looks very bright,” Australian national team coach Andrej Lemanis told The Vertical. “The Australian development system, it’s been coordinated and organized. That work is all starting to show itself in the quality of player that is coming through. It’s exciting. And, the other thing with Australia’s cultural mix as well, the athlete that is starting to come through as well, is changing the landscape a little bit.”

“I think what we proved today, it’s not necessarily about the talent,” said Luc Longley, the Australian assistant coach and former NBA champion. “We have more talent coming up, but the group we have right now, we thought we had a shot. I’m not going to say other players would’ve helped – that would’ve been unfortunate for our group – but Australian basketball has been producing good talent and you saw it on display” in the loss to the U.S.

The NBA thrived off successful international players, who have helped the game grow globally, but many of them have begun to age, leaving open a window for a new non-American power to emerge. Canada has been flooding the league with talent in recent years, including 2014 No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins, and could be poised for a run in four years. But Argentina is perhaps having the last run of its golden generation, Spain’s stars are getting older and started this tournament poorly and France hasn’t medalled since 2000, despite sending several players into the league. Serbia, Lithuania and Croatia have some young talent, but Australia also has a chance to be in that mix.

Bogut and the team that nearly upset the United States Wednesday aren’t concerned about the future, since they are still focused on leaving here with a gold medal. You read that correctly.

“No disrespect to the U.S., but we don’t want to go into an Olympics aiming for second, or fourth,” Bogut said. “We should go in with the mindset that we’re going to be first and they beat you, they beat you. But we’re not disrespecting anybody by saying that. We have a goal of being first. We have a goal of trying to be there in the end. What’s the point of playing otherwise? We have that mindset from the start, guys were saying let’s get a medal and we said as a group, ‘No, let’s get a gold and we’ll live with what we get after that, if we don’t get it.’ ”

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No. 3: Bonner’s days with Spurs likely over — When the San Antonio Spurs take the court for the 2016-17 season, they’ll do so without future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan (who retired) and fan favorite big man Boris Diaw (who was traded to the Utah Jazz). Another stalwart from the Spurs’ title-winning and title-contending teams of the last few seasons is likely gone as well. According to 4NewsSA.com, free-agent big man Matt Bonner doesn’t expect to receive another contract from the Spurs before camps open in a few months:

Not only is the Duncan-era over, the Bonner-era may be over in San Antonio.

With the San Antonio Spurs roster pretty much at max, the odd man out heading into next season is free agent forward Matt Bonner.

Bonner, who spent 10 seasons with the Spurs, spoke with Concord News Radio on his future in the NBA and said he is still looking for a team next season and is hoping an opportunity will open up.

When it came to re-signing with the Spurs, Bonner said there hasn’t been any movement on either side to re-upping with the team and admits he probably won’t be with San Antonio next season.

“Currently they haven’t signed me. Unless something changes going into the season, I’m probably not going to be with the Spurs.”

Bonner was part of the Spurs’ 2007, and 2014 championship runs. He averaged 5.5 points, 2.9 rebounds and shot 41 percent form the 3-point line during his run with San Antonio.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Young Miami Heat guard Tyler Johnson hasn’t let his new contract slow his work ethic … Former Brooklyn Nets guard Shane Larkin has reportedly signed a deal with a team in Spain … Utah Jazz guard Dante Exum says he’s fully recovered from his torn ACL … WNBA star Brittney Griner says she’d love to play 1-on-1 against Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins

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