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Posts Tagged ‘Tony Parker’

Spain And France Still Battling … On Twitter!


VIDEO: Spain and France served up an instant classic in Thursday’s EuroBasket semifinal

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Apparently, an overtime thriller in a EuroBasket semifinal wasn’t enough for certain members of the Spanish and French national teams. Hours after Pau Gasol led Spain to a rousing comeback win over Nic Batum, Tony Parker and the host nation team, members of their respective camps turned to Twitter to continue the fight after Thursday’s game.

Both Ricky Rubio and Rudy Gobert lobbed shots (nothing vicious) back and forth in an intense rivalry that stretches back years, highlighted in the last year by a French upset of Spain on their home soil in last year’s FIBA World Cup and now Spain’s return of serve today.

Spain locked up their spot in next summer’s Rio Olympics with the win. France will have to earn a spot in a FIBA qualifying tournament in 2016. In the meantime, we need the players on both sides to, uh … keep it classy.

 

Spain comes back to beat France and earn spot in ’16 Olympics

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — The Eurobasket semifinal between France and Spain, with an Olympic bid on the line, lived up to the hype. Spain escaped with a 80-75, overtime victory to book its ticket to Rio, and France can only look back at a blown opportunity on its home floor.

France had been the better team all tournament and the better team through 34 minutes on Thursday. But it all came crashing down quickly.

The knockout round hosts led by nine with six minutes to go in regulation and by two late in overtime, but missed four free throws in the final 1:14 to blow their first chance at a trip to the Olympics.

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In the fourth period, Pau Gasol led a 14-2 Spain run to turn that nine-point deficit into a three-point lead. France survived with a Nicolas Batum 3-pointer with 14 seconds left. But with a chance to tie the game with three free throws with 15 seconds left in overtime, Batum missed the all three (the third intentionally) and a Gasol dunk gave Spain its five-point win.

Gasol finished with 40 points and 11 rebounds, with Spain running most of its late-game offense through him in the low post against Rudy Gobert. Batum (3-for-14 shooting) and Nando De Colo (6-for-12) each had 14 points for Spain. Tony Parker had a big bucket in overtime, but shot 4-for-17.

Not only did Spain earn an Olympic bid, but they avenged last year’s loss in the World Cup quarterfinals on their home floor. Spain is now 6-3 against France in major tournaments over the last seven years.

With how it went down at last year’s World Cup and with two early losses in this tournament, Spain looked like it had lost its grip on its status as the best national team outside of the United Stats. But it will now play for its third Eurobasket championship in the last seven years.

Spain will play the winner of Friday’s semifinal, Lithuania vs. Serbia, in the gold medal game on Sunday. France moves on to the bronze medal game and will still have a chance to qualify for next year’s Olympics. As a 3-7 finisher at Eurobasket, they’ll be entered into one of next year’s qualifying tournaments.

Earlier on Thursday, Greece beat Latvia and Italy beat the Czech Republic to earn bids to the qualifying tournaments. Latvia and the Czech Republic will play for seventh place and Europe’s final automatic bid to the qualifying tournaments on Friday.

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Blogtable: NBA’s best international player?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: New coach with toughest gig? | Best international player today? | Mozgov or Thompson?



VIDEOTop 10 plays from Grizzlies center Marc Gasol

> The NBA had 101 international players on its opening-day rosters last season, and could add another 10-12 this season. Who is the best international player in the NBA right now, today?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comWe’re not talking lifetime achievement (Dirk Nowitzki), right? Nor are we going with the foreign-born guy we’d draft No. 1 for the career he’ll put together (possibly Andrew Wiggins)?  Fine. For today and this season, give me Marc Gasol, the first-team All-NBA center and a top-10 finisher in Kia MVP balloting last season. At 30, he’s at the peak of his power and in his best physical shape ever. He’s got size, he boasts multiple skills and he’s a tremendous teammate and individual.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Marc Gasol. Tony Parker is still in the conversation with his overall shooting and 3-point range plus the intangibles as one of the centerpieces of all that is right in San Antonio (the underwhelming per-game numbers in other categories are misleading because the Spurs don’t assign him a heavy workload). And there were times in the past it seemed that Joakim Noah was ready to make a push up the ranking. Gasol’s 2014-15 earned the top spot, though. Offense, defense, professionalism. That’s deserving of No. 1.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Marc Gasol at one point wasn’t even the best foreign-born player in his own family. But now he has squeezed ahead of not only Pau Gasol but Dirk Nowitzki (on the downside of a great career), Tony Parker, Serge Ibaka, etc. In a few years he may pass the baton to Andrew Wiggins. We’ll see.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: If Tim Duncan counts as an international player, he’s still No. 1, with Marc Gasol a close second. Duncan is still an impact player on both ends of the floor, and his leadership and coachability can’t be discounted. Tony Parker is more important to the Spurs’ offense than Duncan is at this point, but isn’t the two-way player that his teammate is. Dirk Nowitzki, meanwhile, has become a real liability on defense.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: This is Marc Gasol’s honor and mantle to carry until someone else from the international pool takes it. A physical brute and an absolute technician as the backbone of the Memphis Grizzlies, Marc is no longer playing in the shadow of big brother Pau. The ultimate testament to Marc’s journey is that you don’t have to make a case for him by pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of any of the other candidates. He’s earned his spot at the top of the international heap by working his tail off and becoming an All-Star and All-NBA player without any glaring flaws in his game.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: Tony Parker is the best today, and right beside him is teammate Tim Duncan (born and raised in the Virgin Islands) in the present day – in addition to being the undisputed best international NBA player of all time.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogThe first player to come to mind was Dirk Nowitzki, because he’s been the best international player in the NBA for so long. But with Dirk aging and playing less of a role with the Mavericks, perhaps it’s time to look elsewhere. Al Horford? Andrew Wiggins? Pau Gasol? (Does Kyrie Irving count, since he was born in Australia?) But even considering all of those guys, I think I might have to go with Marc Gasol. It’s easy to forget about him because while he was one of the top free agents this summer, he stayed below the radar and re-signed with the Grizzlies. But at just 30 years old, Marc Gasol is still one of the top centers in the NBA, with one of the most diverse skillsets in the league.

Morning shootaround — Sept. 8


VIDEO: Day 3 of the FIBA EuroBasket tournament

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Parker makes EuroBasket history | Report: Nets add veteran Jones | The hard times of Bulls fandom

No. 1: Parker makes EuroBasket history — As we inch ever closer to the start of the 2015-16 NBA season, the San Antonio Spurs are seen as one of the favorites to win it all once again. They had a great offseason, adding LaMarcus Aldridge and David West to a core that includes mainstays Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. Speaking of Parker, he’s been busy in the summer himself, powering France through the EuroBasket tournament. At the start of 2015-16, Parker will have played in 1008 regular-season games and 203 playoff games. But in yesterday’s game against Poland, he became the all-time leading scorer in EuroBasket history. Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News has more:

Tony Parker became the all-time leading scorer in EuroBasket history as France held off Poland on Monday to improve to 3-0 in group play.

Parker scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half of France’s 69-66 victory to push his career EuroBasket total to 1,046. He entered Monday’s game, his 62nd in the tournament, tied with long-time record holder Nikos Galis of Greece.

Galis played in just 33 games at EuroBasket, leading Greece to the 1987 championship before retiring in 1994. His scoring average of 31.2 points will likely never be broken.

“I’ve seen Galis do things I never saw in the NBA,” three-time NBA scoring champion Bob McAdoo once said as he finished his professional career in Europe.

Parker, in contrast, has steadily amassed his total since his first appearance at EuroBasket in 2001.

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No. 2: Report: Jones signs deal with Nets — Despite averaging less than 6 points and 2 rebounds in the NBA, Dahntay Jones has carved out an 11-season career thanks to his defensive skill and ability to fit in on just about any squad. He’ll get a crack at a 12th season come this fall as he has a non-guaranteed deal with the Brooklyn Nets, writes Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Free-agent guard Dahntay Jones has agreed to a non-guaranteed deal with the Brooklyn Nets, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Jones, 34, will have a chance to make the Nets in training camp. Brooklyn has 12 guaranteed contracts, and several players on partial guarantees, including Markel Brown, Quincy Miller and Ryan Boatright.

Jones is familiar with Nets coach Lionel Hollins, who was a Memphis assistant during Jones’ stint with the team from 2003-07.

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No. 3: Being a Bulls fan isn’t always easy — By the measure of success in The Finals, the Chicago Bulls are perhaps the gold standard in the NBA considering they are 6-0 all-time on the championship stage. But the times before and since those title runs of the 1990s have been up and down for Chicago fans. One famous supporter — David Axelrod, a former Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama — details his memories of the good (and not-so-good) days as a Bulls fan:

I moved to Chicago in the early ’70s to go to college, where I spent more time in the gym playing pickup games than the library, excelling in neither. The first thing I did when I got a job after graduation was buy two Bulls season tickets. After the Garden, the Chicago Stadium seemed familiar to me; another creaky, cacophonous relic where, in 1932, the Democrats first nominated Franklin D. Roosevelt for President. My seats were in the second row of the first balcony, which hung right over the court and cost, if memory serves me, $6 apiece. These were the days before the need for luxury skyboxes made the old vertical, coliseums obsolete, and when working people could still afford the price of admission.

At first, I was simply a basketball-loving refugee, tacitly embracing the hometown team, but mostly just happy to see pro games. The Bulls had some scrappy teams in the early to mid ’70s: Jerry Sloan and Norm Van Lier, lockdown defenders who turned every encounter with opposing backcourts into something approaching a mugging; the smooth, sweet-shooting Bob Love and Chet Walker; and Tom Boerwinkle, a hulking seven-footer, who once grabbed 37 rebounds off Kareem but, improbably, could also throw gorgeous, backdoor passes from the post. And then I lived through some mostly horrendous seasons. That is, until Michael arrived.

Our 13 years with Jordan, especially the last eight, were a basketball fantasy. When Michael was on the court, with his all-world talent and an otherworldly will to win, the extraordinary became commonplace; the heroic, expected. The Bulls, with Phil Jackson as ringmaster, were perennial favorites, and their annual march through the playoffs was, for Chicagoans, a joyous, annual civic communion.

Ten years later, when the Bulls miraculously cashed in on a 2 percent chance to win the lottery, they drafted Derrick Rose, and we thought it was the beginning of the rebirth; the native son and local schoolboy hero, returning home to restore the Bulls to their rightful place atop the NBA . And two years later, when the team hired the brilliant and relentless Tom Thibodeau as coach, it seemed as if a New Bulls Era was at hand.

But the basketball Gods giveth and they taketh away. After showing messianic promise as the league’s youngest MVP, Rose blew out one knee and then another, dooming the team and a stout supporting cast to a permanent state of “respectability.” And to paraphrase the late Harry Caray, respectability is like kissing your sister — nice, but not all that satisfying.

So now the Bulls are at a crossroads. Thibodeau is gone after five winning seasons, shoved out the door by a management that tired of his sullen “my way or the highway” approach. In his place, they’ve hired the anti-Thibodeau — Fred Hoiberg, a popular ex-Bull and Iowa State coach, as genial as Thibs was dyspeptic. Hoiberg is an exponent of an uptempo game the Bulls brass believes is better suited to the league and the personnel they have today. Whether he can install his system and still maintain the withering defense that was Thibodeau’s trademark is an open question. So, too, is whether the talented group of players the Bulls have assembled can cohere as a unit.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Former Los Angeles Lakers guard Dwight Buycks is considering a deal with a team in China … Former UCLA standout Lazerick Jones has agreed to a non-guaranteed deal with the Memphis Grizzlies … Philadelphia 76ers second-rounder J.P. Tokoto has signed a one-year deal with the team

Morning Shootaround — Sept. 6



VIDEO: Day 1 Wrap: EuroBasket 2015

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Colangelo looks ahead to 2016 | Nowitzki, Schröder lead German win on Day One of EuroBasket 2015 | Bonner looking beyond basketball | Philippines still working to add Clarkson

No. 1: Colangelo looks ahead to 2016 The 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro are about a year away, but USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo understands that it’s never too early to look ahead. Speaking with the Boston Globe‘s Gary Washburn, Colangelo looked forward to some of the USA’s most likely competition for a gold medal in Rio…

“Well, first of all, there’s a wave — just like the NBA — there’s a continual wave of new young players. Generally speaking, that’s true internationally also,” Team USA chairman Jerry Colangelo said. “I think without question, you’d have to say Spain, if they get their players to perform and are healthy, despite the fact they are aging, they’re very formidable.

“Serbia is considered a very strong international team coming into this Olympic year. I think France is another team, age aside, there’s a lot of talent, and a big sleeper in the whole mix is Canada. Canada has some extraordinary, very good, fine young players and they’re going to be heard from. If it’s not ’16, it will be ’20.”

The Serbian team is led by Timberwolves forward Nemanja Bjelica and Fenerbahce Ulker’s Bojan Bogdanovic. Depending on the status of Spurs guard Tony Parker for next year’s Games, France could be the stiffest competition with Nicolas Batum, Evan Fournier, Rudy Gobert, and Joffrey Lauvergne.

Team Canada is loaded with young prospects such as Andrew Wiggins, Tristan Thompson, Nik Stauskas, Andrew Nicholson, and Cory Joseph. The Canadians are currently vying to qualify for their first Olympic Games since 2000.

“If you’ve competed your whole life, you certainly understand that the wins yesterday are yesterday’s news,” Colangelo said. “All that matters is now. That’s a driver for all of us who are involved in USA Basketball. The culture that we’ve tried to build is very unique. We’re all very proud to represent our country.”

Colangelo, 75, has been the GM and owner of the Phoenix Suns, owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and was critical in bringing the Winnipeg Jets to Phoenix in the 1990s.

“As Americans we’re taking a lot of heat around the world and when you have a chance to represent your country on the international stage we take that very seriously,” he said. “I’ve been blessed with a long career in sports and a lot of success, but at this stage of my life, to be able to lead an organization that is doing all of what I just said, makes it special for me.

“Back in ’04 as I watched where we were, USA Basketball, some of the other countries really had togetherness, like Argentina, like Spain. That was something I thought we needed to develop. So developing a national team concept, stating that we had to change our culture and to see where we are, it makes you feel very good. There was a plan. Right now we’re on a roll.”

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No. 2: Nowitzki, Schröder lead German win on Day One of EuroBasket 2015 EuroBasket 2015 tipped off yesterday in several cities across Europe, and in early action Germany froze Iceland behind 15-point games from both Dallas Mavericks’ forward Dirk Nowitzki and Atlanta Hawks guard Dennis Schröder. The Netherlands also made headlines as they knocked off Georgia on day one

Iceland outscored Germany 22-12 in the final quarter as Jon Steffansson topped all scorers with 23 points for the team considered an outsider in the tough Group B.

Nowitzki needed time to get into the game but also contributed seven rebounds. Schroder had six rebounds and four assists.

The group stage of the tournament is being played in four cities across the continent.

Poland beat Bosnia-Herzegovina 68-64 in Group A in Montpellier, France, the Netherlands stunned Georgia 73-72 in Group C in Zagreb, Croatia, and the Czech Republic routed Estonia 80-57 in Group D in Riga, Latvia.

Robin Smeulders sank a jumper with 18 seconds remaining to lift the Dutch to victory as they returned to the competition for the first time since 1989. Charlon Kloof led all scorers with 22 points. Georgia got 16 points from the Dallas Mavericks center Zaza Pachulia and Tomike Shengelia also added 16.

Jan Vesely led the Czech Republic with 16 points and eight rebounds.

Marcin Gortat, the Washington Wizards center, had 10 points and seven rebounds for Poland, while Adam Waczinski had 15 points. Andrija Stepanovic led Bosnia with 20.

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No. 3: Bonner looking beyond basketball Matt Bonner may not rate extensive playing time with the San Antonio Spurs, but the role player understands his job and has won a couple of rings during his tenure in Texas. Now, as he enters his twelfth season, the always-interesting Bonner is showing he understands what’s required to continue a career in basketball beyond just playing the game, as our own Ian Thomsen writes

“I don’t have a set number of years that I’m going to play,” said Bonner, looking ahead to his upcoming 10th season with the Spurs — which will be his 12th in the NBA overall. “I’m going to play as long as I can play. With my skill set, as long as I’m healthy, I think I can keep playing. And I’m fortunate to play for an organization that values recovery and keeping guys healthy and extending careers.”

Bonner is 6-foot-10 and 235 pounds with three-point range (41.4 percent for his career, which ranks No. 15 in the NBA all-time), enabling him to stand up to big men defensively and create mismatches at the other end of the floor — the same formula that has enabled Robert Horry and others like him to play into their late-30s. But Bonner also has recognized that long-term plans evolve quickly, and that the future arrives with the furious speed of these young players who were stampeding back and forth across the Summer League court in July.

When the Spurs’ season ended with a loss to the Clippers in the opening round — the first time in four years that San Antonio hadn’t played into June — Bonner tried to take advantage of the silver lining. At age 35, he signed on for two of the several hands-on courses in the NBPA’s career development program.

Bonner was in Las Vegas to investigate a potential career in an NBA front office. Even as he studied these young players who were dreaming of the same kind of playing career that he had made for himself, Bonner found himself looking beyond. He wasn’t going to be able to play basketball for another 30 years, and at the same time he was too young to retire.

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No. 4: Philippines still working to add Clarkson There are just a few weeks before FIBA Asia tips off, meaning time is running short for the Philippines to add Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson to their official roster, which would also require Clarkson missing some of Lakers training camp. But after meeting yesterday with Lakers execs Jeannie Buss and Mitch Kupchak, the Philippines officials feel like they have a better grasp on what’s needed to make it happen, writes Nelson Beltran in the Philippine Star

“It’s still a work in progress but with better clarity,” said SBP vice chairman Ricky Vargas after a meeting with Los Angeles Lakers team president Jeanie Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak in LA.

Vargas said the Lakers officials have no objection for Clarkson to play for the national team on a long-term program.

But a stint by Clarkson in the forthcoming Asian meet is subject to the approval of “the Lakers coaches” since it will run in conflict with the Lakers’ media day on Sept. 28 and the Lakers’ training camp in Hawaii on Sept. 29-Oct. 7.

In the Asian meet, Oct. 1-3 is set for the quarterfinals, semifinals and final.

“They requested some time to talk to the Lakers coaches,” said Vargas.

Accompanied by PBA board member Patrick Gregorio in a six-day whirlwind trip to Taipei, Hong Kong and the US, Vargas also announced a positive dinner meeting with the father of Jordan.

“(He’s) appreciative of reception his son received from the Filipino basketball fans and from Gilas Pilipinas team,” said Vargas of his talk with Mike Clarkson.

“They asked to review the arrangement and wanted assurance that we secure Lakers permission to allow him to skip three days of training camp,” Vargas also said.

“We go home tomorrow bringing with us a more positive feeling and a commitment from the Lakers and parents that Jordan will be part of Gilas program for the long term,” Vargas added.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Josh Powell is leaving his gig as an assistant with the Rockets to try and play for the Bucks next season … Nate Robinson is reportedly considering an offer from a team in ChinaSteph Curry says Riley Curry taught him how to dance

Morning shootaround — Sept. 5


VIDEO: Day Five Wrap: 2015 FIBA Americas Championship

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Canada heads to second round with momentum | Parker back in bleu | Holiday to start camp with restrictions | Sixers to sign Marshall

No. 1: Canada heads to second round with momentum — After dropping their first game at the FIBA Americas tournament to Argentina, Andrew Wiggins and the Canadian National Team have won three straight by an average of 27 points. After a day off on Saturday, they’ll begin the second round (where they’ll play the four remaining teams that they haven’t faced yet) with some momentum and improved chemistry, as Eric Koreen of the National Post writes…

It has only been three days, but it feels as if a lot has changed for Canada since their opening loss to Argentina, and it is not merely a matter of Nik Stauskas’ shots falling. It has been almost cliché: young team learns painful lesson, and responds in kind. Whereas Canada tried fruitless individual forays as Argentina ran away from them on Tuesday, they answered Puerto Rico on Friday with savvy ball movement that led to open three-pointers.

Canada moved on defence like the slippery floor was ablaze, and the open Puerto Rican shots ceased. They took advantage of the whistle-happy referees, driving with abandon, knowing any contact would result in two free throws. And when their opponents had to adjust, they kicked the ball out to the corners for uncontested three-pointers. A 44-35 deficit turned into a two-point lead at the half. Combine that 11-0 run with the third quarter, and Canada outscored Puerto Rico 46-16 in just more than 12 total minutes.

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No. 2: Parker back in bleuEuroBasket tips off on Saturday, with plenty of NBA stars playing for their country. One of them is Tony Parker, who didn’t play for France at last year’s World Cup, but is looking for a second EuroBasket title and a berth in next year’s Olympics. He’s also hoping to inspire the next generation of French hoopers, as ESPN’s Mark Woods writes …

And while at the age of 33 he has signaled his national duty will come to a close after 2016, the lure of playing on home soil for a significant prize too irresistible to turn down.

“My idol was Michael Jordan,” Parker said. “He was always motivated to get better. Lots of people have asked me, ‘Tony, why do you continue to play for the French national team? There’s nothing to prove.’ But I’m motivated, to play as long as possible, to use my talents for as long as possible and to push my limits.

“You look for things to motivate you. There’s history you can look at. There have been many great teams that have come before you: Yugoslavia, the great teams, Spain [now]. They’re a super example for us. … Perhaps in 10, 15, 20 years, we’ll have inspired the basketball players of France.”

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No. 3: Holiday to start camp with restrictionsJrue Holiday has played just 74 games in his two seasons in New Orleans. So, while Holiday should be good to start training camp at the end of this month, the Pelicans will be cautious with their point guard as he recovers from two procedures to repair a stress fracture in (and remove a screw from) his right leg. John Reid of the Times-Picayune has an update on both Holiday and Pelicans forward Quincy Pondexter

New Orleans Pelicans point guard Jrue Holiday has made enough progress in his recovery from offseason surgery in his lower right leg that he’s expected to be cleared for training camp later this month.

But Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said on Friday that Holiday is likely going to be under restrictions involving practicing just once a day when two-a-day practices are scheduled during camp, which is set to open on Sept. 29 at The Greenbrier in West Virginia.

The outlook, however, is a little more bleaker for starting small forward Quincy Pondexter. It’s looking like the Pelicans may have to wait until this upcoming November for Pondexter to fully recover from undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in May.

Reid’s colleague Andrew Lopez talked to Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry about Anthony Davis, who has put on some weight this summer…

But now, Davis is up to 253 pounds and coach Alvin Gentry is excited to see what the future holds for the budding MVP candidate.

“The thing with him is that he’s still got a young body and his body is going to change a lot more in the next three or four years,” Gentry said following the Pelicans’ Premier Sideline Event Tuesday night at the team’s practice facility.

“I think for him, the ability to have a strong base and not get pushed around is important. The thing that I like about it is that he put on the weight without jeopardizing any of his quickness or ability. That’s also a huge point too. I think it gives him the opportunity to have a stronger base and at least when he’s getting knocked around he can hold his on.”

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No. 4: Sixers to sign Marshall — The Philadelphia 76ers have two (healthy) young and talented big men, but could use a guy to get them the ball. With only scraps left on the free agent market, the Sixers will sign Kendall Marshall, who’s a terrific passer, but is recovering from an ACL tear suffered in January. Yahoo‘s Adrian Wojnarowski has the report…

Free-agent guard Kendall Marshall has agreed to a multiyear contract with the Philadelphia 76ers, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

The deal includes a fully guaranteed salary for the 2015-16 season, sources said.

Marshall has been rehabilitating a torn anterior cruciate ligament in Chapel Hill, N.C., over the past few months and worked out this past week for the 76ers in Philadelphia. Marshall is expected to return sometime in the first half of the upcoming season, league sources said.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Tom Gores is buying the rest of the PistonsLeBron James is back in the labThe Warriors raised their championship banner … and the Grizzlies are going to California for training camp.

ICYMI: The best international plays of the 2014-15 season:


VIDEO: International players top 10 plays

Blogtable: Can any team challenge the USA in Rio in 2016?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

 


BLOGTABLE: Remembering “Chocolate Thunder | Can anyone beat USA in 2016? |
Name your all-time, All Soviet Union/Russia NBA team


 

VIDEO: USA Basketball Showcase

>Qualifying for the Rio Summer Olympics continues this month with FIBA Americas and EuroBasket. Is there anybody out there who can truly challenge the USA in 2016?”

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com “Truly” challenge, as in stand toe-to-toe and slug it out with Team USA? No, I don’t think so. But as a squad capable of pulling off an upset, I wouldn’t want to sleep on Canada. The group of north-of-the-border NBA players is young – Andrew Wiggins, Tristan Thompson, Anthony Bennett, Cory Joseph, Andrew Nicholson – so 2020 might be a year in which Canada makes real Olympic noise, but even one year out is going to make a difference for a tight and budding squad.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com:  With a full complement of elite players the United States is easily the class of the field. But a key to the success that Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski have brought back to the USA Basketball is having respect for the field. You wouldn’t want to sleep on a Spanish team with Pau and Marc Gasol and Rudy Fernandez or France with Tony Parker, Boris Diaw, Nicolas Batum and Rudy Gobert.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com:  Sure the U.S. can be challenged. The Olympics become a single-elimination tournament at some point, so anything is possible. And the rosters that have been together for years and play team ball are still dangerous. Spain is at the top of that list, while also noting that I like France’s possibilities as well. But it’s still Team USA’s gold to lose. The favorites before will be the favorites again.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comThe short answer is no. Under Jerry Colangelo and Coach K, the USA has shaped up and restored order in the basketball world. That said, in the future I’d keep a watch out on Canada and Australia.The Canadians under Steve Nash and with Andrew Wiggins and Co. are building something special. And Down Under, gaining steam is a growing generation of teens who are the children of American professional players.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: In no particular order, the next three best teams are France, Serbia and Spain. The U.S. has a huge advantage in regard to talent and depth, and they put Serbia away early in the gold medal game of last year’s World Cup. But both France and Spain – with more size, experience and athleticism – are better equipped to knock them off should they cross paths. The U.S. will be the heavy favorite in Rio next year, but a gold medal is never a given when it’s a single-elimination format with 40-minute games.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com:  With all due respect to the competition, they all know they are going to Rio to fight for second place. That’s not American arrogance on display, it’s just reality. Even if there is a team capable of challenging the U.S. for a quarter or two, the group Jerry Colangelo and Coach K have assembled (whatever the 12-man roster) should prove too strong and too deep for Spain, France, Canada or any other crew eager to play hero. A true challenger is not on the radar right now and perhaps not anytime soon, provided the USA Basketball machine remains dialed in and well stocked.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com The old contenders – Spain, France and Argentina – could still be hanging on, but the team to watch (pending its qualification for Rio) is going to be Canada. By 2020 the Canadians will be the main challengers to the US – and they may emerge as early as next summer.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: At the risk of sounding overconfident, when Team USA is at their full-strength, I don’t think anyone can challenge them. A lineup of Steph Curry, James Harden, LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Kevin Durant would be dynamic and destructive, and that doesn’t even factor in a bench (Westbrook! CP3! Blake!) that could provide Coach K all sorts of mix and match options. Oh, and sure, Kobe we could use you, too. I assume the USA will meet stiff opposition along the way, perhaps from teams such as France or Spain or a younger team like Canada. But if Team USA is playing at their full potential, I think it will be a dream in Rio.

Morning shootaround — Aug. 17


VIDEO: Steve Smith names his top-five must-watch games for ’15-16

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Wall doesn’t expect Olympic invite | Kings tab Beech to head analytics | Donovan’s journey included a stop on Wall St.

No. 1: Wall doesn’t expect Olympic inviteJohn Wall could very well be the second best player in the Eastern Conference. And he could see improvement this year if the Wizards play more Mike D’Antoni-ball, like they did in the playoffs. But all that might not mean anything when USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski choose the 12 guys who will represent the country in next year’s Olympics. CSNWashington.com’s Ben Standig spoke with Wall, who doesn’t think he’ll be wearing “USA” on his chest next summer:

John Wall did the math. He’s not making Team USA’s squad for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Wall wants in, no doubt. The two-time NBA All-Star will have the 2015-16 season to impress. However, having just left USA Basketball’s minicamp in Las Vegas, the Washington Wizards star grasps the red, white and blue numbers game. At this point, Wall is directly competing with fellow point guards Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving, Russell Westbrook and Mike Conley Jr. Heavy hitters indeed.

If history is a guide, three point guards will be part of the 12-man roster. Barring the unforeseen, two of those spots are locked up. Paul was a member of the 2012 Olympic gold medal squad. Curry helped the US triumph at the 2014 World Cup and then led the Golden State Warriors to the NBA championship.

“Oh, yeah. Ten times out of 10 they’ll be on the team,” Wall said when presented with the premise during a discussion Saturday. He spoke with CSNwashington.com at his charitable foundation’s back to school event for local kids in Washington.

Before the three PG factoid could be fully stated to Wall, he blurted out a name.

“Kyrie.”

Irving also played on the 2014 team, not to mention at Duke for Team USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski. He’s also currently a teammate in Cleveland with king maker LeBron James, who is another 2016 lock if wants in.

“I’ll be out of the picture,” said Wall through a laugh and without any noticeable trace of resentment.

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No. 2: Kings tab Beech to head analytics — There’s been a lot of turnover in the Sacramento Kings’ front office since Vivek Ranadivé bought the team two years ago. In July, amid a story that new Kings vice president Vlade Divac was “strongly opposed” to analytics, the team parted ways with Dean Oliver, who essentially wrote the book on analytics. Less than a month later, Sacramento has found a replacement. ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reports that they will be hiring Roland Beech, who founded the site 82games.com and has spent the last six seasons with the Dallas Mavericks:

The Sacramento Kings have come to terms with Roland Beech to hire the longtime NBA sabermetrician to head up their analytics department, according to league sources.

Sources told ESPN.com that Beech is poised to join the Kings as their vice president of analytics under Vlade Divac, Sacramento’s new head of basketball operations.

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No. 3: Donovan’s journey included a stop on Wall St. — New Oklahoma City Thunder coach Billy Donovan is, basically, a basketball lifer. But between his playing career and his coaching career came another job that helped him realize where his passion was. The Oklahoman‘s Anthony Slater has the story…

For 23 years, Donovan avoided the Wall Street lifestyle that so many from Rockville Center are so often destined. He rerouted his path to the NBA with an undying dedication to basketball. But athletic limitations gave his dream an expiration date. By 1989, he was out of the league and a 24-year-old looking for work. Wall Street was the most obvious choice.

Those four months in a Lower Manhattan office are nothing more than a footnote in the iconic coach’s illustrious career. But in retrospect, they served as an important sparkplug for his second basketball life. The brief unhappiness bred both an appreciation for what he left behind and an extra boost of hoops passion that turned into one of Donovan’s best assets, paving his path to the Thunder organization.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Pelicans are getting together in L.A.Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith are still unsigned, but the Cavs have added Jared Cunningham to their training camp roster … and Tony Parker headlines France’s Eurobasket roster, which includes five other NBA players and two former NBA’ers.

ICYMI: The top 100 plays of the 2014-15 season:

VIDEO: Top 100 Plays of the 2015 NBA Season

Morning Shootaround — July 27


VIDEO: The NBA’s connections in Africa are as strong as they are deep, courtesy of Basketball Without Borders

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Reluctant Popovich is a “lifer” | Cavaliers finally complete Haywood deal | Lillard “not a part of” USA Basketball plans | Longtime Lakers trainer Vitti set to retire

No. 1: Reluctant Pop is a “lifer” — His life is much more than just basketball, but that doesn’t mean San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will escape the lifelong grip the game of basketball has on so many. Pop almost escaped in recent years, but a huge free agent summer (LaMarcus Aldridge and David West join, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard all sign new deals, etc.) will keep him on the sideline for the foreseeable future. It turns out that Pop will end up being a “lifer” (like his mentor and good friend Larry Brown) after all, as the great Buck Harvey of the Express News details:

Popovich goes to Africa this week to coach an exhibition game, proof the energy inside this 66-year-old man is real. It’s also proof he is far past the challenge he faced last year, when both his health and the health of his franchise were in doubt.

His hip surgery had gone well, but there was a hiccup with a heart condition that was not unlike the atrial fibrillation that Fab Oberto had. Popovich underwent a procedure, and, after he had done everything the doctors had asked, palpitations returned.

Brown says the episode occurred during the preseason tour in Europe. That eventually culminated with Popovich missing two games in late November for a second procedure.

“I really believe he was close to retiring then,” Brown said.

What if Popovich had been forced to walk away? Would Tim Duncan have returned for another season? Would LaMarcus Aldridge have ever considered signing with the Spurs?

The same dynamic is also in place for a healthy Popovich. The Spurs aren’t the Spurs without him. He stays, in part, because he feels an obligation to.

Popovich long ago told Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker he would coach them through the end of their careers, although Parker gave him an out. Given that he’s younger than Duncan and Ginobili, Parker told Popovich he would understand if he retired earlier than he did.

But the obligation went further this summer. How could Popovich sell Aldridge on the franchise, and on the culture of winning he had created, if he said he might not stick around?

This was never the way Popovich saw his life playing out. For all the success he has had, and so much he never could have imagined, he couldn’t shake the idea there was more than basketball out there.

He said almost a decade ago, for example, he wasn’t built like a Jerry Sloan. And in a recent ESPN article he revealed this was his thinking after the 2013 Finals:

“I thought about retiring. Not so much because of the loss, but because there are other things to do in life.”

He went through similar soul-searching after the 2014 championship. Popovich talked to Brown about it then.

Brown, 74 and eager to begin another season at SMU, calls himself a lifer. Brown acknowledges he and his good friend are different on this.

“Pop can separate himself better than I can,” he said.

But Brown thought leaving a year ago would have been a mistake. He told Popovich to wait before making a decision, and Brown asked him this question:

“You just won a championship. Who is going to follow you?”

This gets back to his obligation. Leave, and the Spurs are forever changed.

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No. 2: Cavaliers finally complete Haywood deal — The move surprised no one. Brendan Haywood has been caught in trade rumors since the February trade deadline. So the Cavaliers finally moving the veteran big man, in a deal for trade exceptions of $10.5 and $2.85 million and two future 2nd round Draft Pick, is no surprise. The addition of veteran swingman and LeBron James friend, collaborator and confidant Mike Miller, was an added twist that comes as a mild surprise. Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group provides some context:

The Cavaliers had a deadline of Aug. 1 to trade or release Haywood before his salary for the 2015-16 season became guaranteed. Portland will waive Haywood before the guaranteed deadline.

Haywood’s departure was inevitable. He played a grand total of 119 minutes for the club last season. The shocker of the transaction is Miller’s involvement.

Statistically, all across the board, Miller just endured the worst season of his 15-year NBA career.

A league source says Miller approved the trade, as he wanted to play for a team where he would have a chance to see significant minutes. Miller will seek a buyout from the rebuilding Trail Blazers to pursue a team that will promise him a spot in a rotation.

Miller exercised his $2.8 million player option for next season at the end of June.

He is a great friend of LeBron James. The four-time MVP recruited Miller last offseason to provide shooting assistance, but he never found his shooting stroke and David Blatt was reluctant to commit playing time to the veteran.

I’m told James understand Miller’s situation and is “OK with the move.” He was not OK with the Miami Heat when they traded Miller to Memphis in the summer of 2013 in order to avoid major luxury tax penalties.

Times have changed.

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No. 3: Lillard “not a part of” USA Basketball plans — For all of the stars who are set to attend USA Basketball’s minicamp next month in Las Vegas, there is one who seems to have little interest in going through the process again. Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard has been there and done that and does not feel like he’s in the program’s master plan after missing out on a roster spot last year. Joe Freeman of the Oregonian has more:

It appears that one Trail Blazers player will participate in an August minicamp for USA Basketball. But it won’t be Damian Lillard.

According to ESPN, center Mason Plumlee has been invited to participate in a three-day minicamp for the US National Team that will take place next month in Las Vegas. It will be the second consecutive summer that Mason, who played on Team USA in the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain, will don red, white and blue.

His participation in next month’s event ensures that he will have the chance to make the 12-man team that will represent the United States in the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Meanwhile, it appears that Lillard, the Blazers’ All-Star point guard, will not participate in next month’s minicamp. During a Saturday night appearance on CBS Radio, Lillard told host Jody Mac he would “probably not” play.

“I did it the last few summers and last summer I didn’t make it,” Lillard said, when Mac asked why he wouldn’t participate. “I don’t know why I would go. After I got cut last summer, I don’t think I’m a part of it.”

Lillard did not respond to a text message from The Oregonian/OregonLive seeking comment.

Last summer, Lillard was one of the final cuts on the FIBA World Cup team. And while he publicly expressed appreciation for the chance to represent his country — and said he was not “worried or down about the situation” — he privately felt slighted by his omission from the team.

“More wood on the fire,” Lillard told The Oregonian/OregonLive last summer. “Not my first time being put off and probably not the last.”

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No. 4: Longtime Lakers trainer Vitti set to retire — A golden era will come to an end after next season for the Los Angeles Lakers. Yes, Kobe Bryant is entering the final year of his contract. But it’s longtime trainer Gary Vitti, a fixture on the sideline in Los Angeles for decades dating back to the Magic Johnson and “Showtime Lakers,” who is retiring. Again, this will mark the end of an era, as Mike Bresnahan of The Los Angeles Times reports. Kurt Helin of Probasketballtalk.com summarizes the scope of Viti’s time with the Lakers:

Vitti, a part of the Laker fabric, talked about it with Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times.

“From a basketball standpoint, the greatest championship would be 1985, the first time we beat Boston,” Vitti said as he slowly consumed an open-faced gyro at an upscale Manhattan Beach restaurant near his home. “We lost to the Celtics the year before and should have beat them. A lot of my interview with Riley was him talking about that. He said to me, ‘We need to win.’”

Vitti has had a special place within the Lakers. He’s a liaison between the players and coaches/front office. He sits close to Byron Scott on the bench. It’s a job he has grown into and is passionate about. When the Lakers health fortunes turned on the team in the past few years, some of the louder than smart Lakers fans online blamed Vitti. Wiser fans knew that what happened to Steve Nash’s nerves, Kobe’s Achilles, Julius Randle‘s leg, and on down the list were not on the training staff.

Vitti could have stayed on as long as he wanted. But it’s time, he said.

“When somebody gets hurt, I blame myself. That’s the Laker way — you’ve got a problem, you go in the bathroom, you look in the mirror, you start with that person,” Vitti said. “The one that really affected me and maybe even affected this decision [to retire] was Julius Randle. All of his doctors and his surgeon are saying that nothing was missed, but the guy goes out there and breaks his leg the first game [last season]. That one really bothered me.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Kevin Love and Kevin Durant both to attend USA Basketball minicamp, though they are not expected to play in exhibition gameDennis Rodman defends his former tag team partner Hulk Hogan … The Lakers’ Nick Young, aka“Swaggy P” is still trying to come to grips with the fact that he was serious trade bait this summer …

Aldridge move just another master class by ever-evolving Spurs

VIDEO: David Aldridge on why LaMarcus Aldridge picked Spurs

This was hardly a roman candle that came out of nowhere on the Fourth of July.  It was a carefully managed, brilliantly-executed plan.

Think of all the things the Spurs have been able to accomplish over the past two decades:

— 18 straight trips to the playoffs.

— 16 consecutive seasons of 50-plus wins.

— 5 NBA championships.

Now this might be the slickest trick of them all.

LaMarcus Aldridge jumps from the Trail Blazers to the Spurs.

While so-called glamour franchises in New York and Los Angeles  keep floundering in their bids to reclaim relevance, little ol’ San Antonio finds a way to keep barreling down the tracks like a locomotive toward championship No. 6.  And maybe 7 and 8.

Just more than 12 months after their last celebratory river parade with an aging roster, the Spurs have made the transition to the next stage of the franchise with a move that was both brash and bold, but also a long time coming.

For even as general manager R.C. Buford and his staff kept juggling a roster built around the aging core of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker to annually compete for championships, they were always looking ahead to this day when the future merged with the present.

“My complete faith and trust in R.C. is never going to change, because of the track record he has,” head coach Gregg Popovich told Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News. “He’s always thinking not just for the next year and the next two years, but the next three years, the next seven years, that type of thing.”

By making all of the necessary moves — trading Tiago Splitter to Atlanta for a handful of beans, letting Aron Baynes go to Detroit, Marco Belinelli to Sacramento — Buford has set up the Spurs not only for next season but perhaps the next decade.

For so many years, the Spurs and their fans have proudly worn the label of a franchise that builds championships rather than buys them.  They were the ones that defiantly took down — and ultimately broke up — the Monied Mercenary Miami Heat of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

But the game of pro basketball is a business and the business is about making the most proficient, often the shrewdest, moves to stay on top of the competition.

Of course, the Spurs will be right back among the teams at the head of the Western Conference class in 2015-16 with a front line of Duncan, Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard.  With this nifty Texas two-step, the Spurs, who lost in the first round of this year’s playoffs, are suddenly 2-1 oddsmakers favorites to win the West, ahead of champion Golden State and Oklahoma City, and 4-1 to win it all, behind only LeBron and Cleveland.

Let’s not forget that with literally billions of dollars being thrown around in the free agent market in less than a week, Buford locked up Aldridge for four years (player option after third) at $80 million.  It’s a number that will look positively pedestrian net summer when the salaries shoot through the clouds with the influx of new TV money.  It almost looks that way now when you consider that Orlando will pay Tobias Harris $64 million over the same time frame.  Go ahead, compare Aldridge and Harris.

But just as important, with Aldridge at 29 and Duncan at 39, the Spurs will be in the thick of the contending pack for the foreseeable future.  That had to be the decision-making difference for Aldridge after he heard pitches from Portland, L.A. Phoenix, Houston and Miami.  Whenever the ageless Duncan finally decides to hang up his spurs, Aldridge has a 24-year-old running mate in Leonard, the 2014 Finals MVP, to keep churning ahead with perennial chances to add to the banner collection.

Don’t think that’s a tough trick to pull off without hitting bottom and suffering the bruises and indignity of suddenly finding out how life feels in the draft lottery?  Just ask the Lakers and Knicks.

As carefully and strategically as Popovich has managed the minutes of his veterans over the years to keep them fresh, Buford maneuvered and managed the salary cap with the flexibility of tiny gymnast to make this day possible.  It was never just a year-to-year reach for one more playoff run, but a decade-long plan to transition to the future.  All the while the Spurs were stacking up Larry O’Brien Trophys, they were keeping an eye on this critical summer when 10 contracts were timed to come off the books at the same time.

“We put the team together with that in mind,” Popovich said.

Sometimes the best-laid plans work out perfectly.


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