NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: LeBron on Olympics: ‘I wish I was out there’ — Shortly after his Cleveland Cavaliers wrapped up the 2016 NBA championship, star forward LeBron James let USA Basketball know he wouldn’t be suiting up for the 2016 Olympics. Although he already has two gold medals to his name, James revealed in an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that he wishes he were a part of this year’s squad and hasn’t closed the door on participating in the 2020 Olympics:
The Cleveland Cavaliers superstar, who decided to skip his fourth Olympics after leading the Cavs to an NBA title in June, said in an interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols that he is keeping an eye on his teammates at the Rio Games.
“Every time I watch ’em, I wish I was out there,” James said in the interview, portions of which will debut Thursday on ABC’s “Good Morning America” and air subsequently during editions of ESPN’s SportsCenter. “I did not retire from Team USA. I just did not play this summer. So I still left the door open.”
The full interview with James will air Sunday on ESPN.
James joined USA Basketball for the 2004 Games in Athens, where the Americans lost their opener to Puerto Rico, dropped two more games and settled for bronze. He returned on the 2008 Redeem Team and won gold in Beijing and captured another gold medal four years ago in London.
After leading the Cavs to a historic comeback against the Golden State Warriors in June, James said he needed rest and would not play in Brazil. If he decides to return to the national team, he would be 35 at the 2020 Tokyo Games.
James also addressed the call for social change he delivered at last month’s ESPYS with Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony.
“We wanted to start off the show with something that meant something, you know, that really was true to our hearts, and let our fellow athletes know where we stand,” he said.
He also talked about his work with the LeBron James Family Foundation and why building something in the Akron, Ohio, community where he grew up is so important to him.
“I’m similar to these kids in every way, every way, shape or fashion,” he said. “I walk the same roads as these kids. I breathe the same air as these kids. You know, I understand what they’re going through, growing up in an inner city and having people just — basically forget them. Like, there’s no way they’re gonna make it. I had days where I just felt like it was just me and Mom, you know, and no one cared, and there’s no way that we’re gonna be able to make it outta this.
“I definitely could’ve been a statistic. I mean, I grew up in a single-parent household. My mother was 16 when she had me. I grew up in the inner city, where there’s a lot of violence.”
No. 2: Rose stands by ‘super team’ comments — When New York Knicks guard Derrick Rose told our Lang Whitaker a month or so ago he considers his squad to be a “super team”, many in NBA circles laughed the comment off. The Knicks have no doubt remodeled their squad by acquiring Rose via a trade and signing veterans such as Joakim Noah, Courtney Lee, Brandon Jennings and others. Rose had a chance to walk back his comments in a recent interview, but as ESPN.com’s Ian Bagley notes, Rose wasn’t about to reverse field on his “super team” talk:
In an interview published earlier this week from Seoul, South Korea, Rose expanded on those comments and explained that they stemmed from confidence in himself and his team.
“I still believe that,” Rose said. “Like I said, with that Super Team term, you have to be very careful, I guess, if you’re in the United States. But I feel like if you’re in any team in the NBA — it don’t have to be the NBA, it could be the college level, high school level — you should believe in yourself and have the confidence in yourself that you’re playing on a super team anywhere. So I have a lot of confidence, and I’m not taking that back.”
Rose also addressed a number of basketball topics during two interviews on his trip to South Korea to promote his new sneakers.
In comments that might ease the fears of Knicks fans who worry that Kristaps Porzingis won’t get enough touches with Rose around, the point guard said he plans to “share the ball more” in 2016-17, as he did last season.
“We have more options on this team. With the Bulls, we had more options too but the offense really went through me and Jimmy [Butler],” Rose said. “With the Knicks, we have [Kristaps Porzingis], we have [Carmelo Anthony], we have [Joakim Noah] rolling to the rim. We’ve got Courtney [Lee].”
Anthony said in a recent interview with NBA TV that he wants Rose to “have fun” playing again, and he suggested that the former Bulls star could benefit from a change of scenery.
“I just want him to get back to playing basketball and being the Derrick Rose that everyone fell in love with,” Anthony said.
Rose, a free agent in 2017, says he and the other Knicks will be properly motivated heading into the season.
“We have to go in, and we have to prove something,” he said. “All of us want to prove something. Bringing a group like that together can be very dangerous if we all come together the right way.”
No. 3: Ginobili bids emotional farwell to Argentinian national team — San Antonio Spurs swingman Manu Ginobili has built a Hall of Fame career for himself thanks to his NBA accolades and his role on the Spurs’ championship teams. But his legacy is even greater as a member of Argentina’s national team, which he led to stunning upset of Team USA in the 2004 Olympics en route to a gold medal finish. Ginobili, Luis Scola and Andres Nocioni took on USA one last time yesterday on the Olympic stage, but Argentina ultimately fell 105-78 in the semifinals and were eliminated. The loss marks the likely end of Ginobili on the national team, which was an emotional moment for him, writes Marc Stein of ESPN.com: :
Brazil might not seem like a storybook setting for a couple of Argentines to walk away from the sport they changed, but you fell for these two all over again in Argentina’s 105-78 quarterfinal defeat to the United States. Even on enemy soil.
If not your heart, Ginobili and Scola and their countrymen always won your respect with how hard they played, how together they were, how proud they will forever be to have worn their country’s colors. The nation responsible for plunging USA Basketball into the deepest of self-examinations, resulting in a total overhaul of the program and, yes, the hiring of Mike Krzyzewski as coach, is irresistible to a hoops lifer.
“First of all, we beat an outstanding … not just a team,” Krzyzewski said. “They’re what I call a program. An amazing culture.
“Congratulations to Argentina and the magnificence they’ve shown the world for the last almost two decades.”
This was a night to pay tribute to Ginobili, Scola, Andres Nocioni and Carlos Delfino.
The last four holdovers from the seminal 2004 Argentina squad that, after failing to qualify for Sydney in 2000, stunned Team USA in the semifinals and somehow won the gold medal in their first try together.
“Truly amazing,” said Kryzewski, who will never forget the achievement because he otherwise might never have had this job.
So both Krzyzewski and Team USA veteran Carmelo Anthony, who was just a 20-year-old on the roster in 2004, made sure not to leave the floor without letting Ginobili, now 39, know how honored they were to scrap with the Argentines for all these years.
“I’m not going to say the exact words [they told me],” Ginobili said. “They were just very cool and important displays of affection and respect.”
It all added up to some scene inside the Carioca Arena 1, just two hours after Ginobili’s dear friend Tony Parker played the last game of his international career in a heavy loss to Spain and wound up being applauded by the world’s press on his way out of the interview room after pouring his heart out at the podium.
So there was Ginobili, after a 27-point defeat in the one country where he’s typically unwelcome, shuffling off the floor with the game ball tucked under his arm and tears in his eyes.
Scola, for his part, didn’t outright say it was the end as Manu had, but joked when someone asked about the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo: “I’ll be 40. I’ll be happy if I can walk.”
“It was emotional,” Ginobili conceded. “I didn’t want it to be. I was hoping just to sneak out and go to the locker room and do what I had to do there, but everybody conspired against it.”
Even in the land of green and gold, there was no alternative but a celebration. With their flex cuts, their toughness, their brotherhood, Manu & Co. won the only gold medal in men’s basketball to elude the United States in the six Olympiads in which NBA players have been allowed to participate.
It has been a frequent lament in this cyberspace that there appears to be little in the pipeline to continue Argentina’s success in the new millennium, but Scola refuses to see that as a tragedy.
“The [truth] is, in 70 years of basketball history in our country, for 60 years — or 55 years — we were between 10 to 20 [in the world],” Scola said. “That was our range.
“And now all this happened and we happened to be top three for 10 years, 12 years, 13 years. You know reality says there’s a strong chance we come back to where we were before. Just because, along our history, that’s what we’ve been.
“We happened to have this generation of very good players and we jumped to top five. … Do we see Ginobilis and Nocionis in our [young] guys? No. But [did] people [think] in ’99 or ’98 that we’re gonna be winning a gold medal in 2004? No. Nobody. People would laugh [at that].
“Our goal in ’99 … the whole goal for our whole careers was just to make it to the Olympics once. Not winning, not make it to the quarterfinals, not make it to the semifinals, not making a medal. Just be there. One time. That’s all we wanted. And that was ’99, not ’81. That was five years before we won the gold medal.”
“Today I go home with a bag full of emotions,” Ginobili said.
“We left, I think, a footprint in FIBA basketball. Proud of it.”
“For a moment we thought we could compete with them,” Scola said, hearkening back to an early 19-9 lead Wednesday night that quickly became a 47-27 deficit after a tidy U.S. run of 38-8.
“But this is a fair game. They’re just better than us now. We know that. They got more athleticism, more talent, bigger. We’re OK with it, because it’s just the way it goes. There was a time where we could compete with these guys. And actually there was a couple times we beat them. We’re not there now.”
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