Paul still wants to give it a go for Team USA

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The FIBA World Championships will kick off in August, which means it’s far too early for Team USA to have solidified its 12-man roster.

That said, Chris Paul, provided he’s healthy enough to play, is a lock. He’s still interested in playing alongside America’s finest, and he’s the best point guard in the game today.

Such conditionality might not have meant much a few months ago, but Paul returned from a left knee injury earlier this week that sidelined him for 25 games. He played well, but obviously looked a bit removed from his All-Star self. It’s obvious that Paul and the team took every precaution in waiting to bring Chris back into the lineup, which is a luxury the Hornets can afford as a team safely out of the playoff race, and one blessed with a talented back-up point guard in Darren Collison.

But although Paul looks to be on the mend now, August is a long way away. That long way could be filled with problem-free workouts, as Chris looks to get himself back into game shape and regain his timing. Or he could experience complications, a possibility with any player recovering from injury. Plus, after a long regular season and an extended rehab period, will Paul be ready to go by the time Team USA opens up mini-camp? Even Chris isn’t sure. From the Associated Press:

Paul said he’d also like to play for Team USA in the FIBA World
Championships in Turkey, beginning in late August. However, he said it
was too early to know if he’d be able to play for the national team,
given that his comeback is only one game in.

“There’s a lot left
to see,” Paul said. “I’ve played one game now and today’s the first day
after, so I’ve still got to see how my knee’s doing and everything like
that, but there’s nothing like playing international ball. It’s such a
good feeling when you can represent your country.”

Bower said
he’ll talk with Paul about Team USA after the season, but he did not
indicate that the Hornets would stand in the way if Paul appeared to be
healthy enough to play in Turkey.

“Representing the Hornets and
USA Basketball is a huge honor and we understand that, and the care and
conditions that that team is under during their participation is
something that is beyond question,” Bower said. “So we’ll talk about
all that in the offseason.”

Having the blessing of the franchise isn’t essential, but it’s certainly important. These situations — in which injured players participate in international competition in the off-season — can be rather tense, as the player’s desire to represent their country and the owner, mangement, and coaching staff’s desire to protect their assets come into direct conflict with one another. Just ask Mark Cuban or Gregg Poppovich.

Isaiah Thomas loses tooth, calmly hits two 3-pointers vs. Wizards (VIDEO)

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Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas is going to need a dentist after Sunday’s Game 1 against the Washington Wizards. While trying to fight around a screen, Thomas caught a spare elbow and wound up with his dental work all over the floor at TD Garden.

The play came in the first quarter as Thomas was trying to guard Washington’s Otto Porter Jr. coming off a screen. As Porter reached for the ball as the pass came to him on the curl, he wound up whacking Thomas in the front of his grill.

Thomas’ tooth could be seen on slo-mo replay flying across the air.

Warning: sort of gross.

Via Twitter:

Gross! Although it should be said that it seems possible that Thomas’ tooth is actually a bridge, which is to say it was missing already. The Celtics medical staff was able to put the tooth back in during the second quarter.

Meanwhile, Thomas came back up the floor after losing his tooth and hit two 3-pointers, so perhaps it’s good luck?

Why is Robin Lopez holding this dog during his exit interview? (VIDEO)

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What did Chicago Bulls center Robin Lopez have to say during his exit interviews? I can’t really tell, it’s all a bunch of white noise. All I see is him holding his giant, shaggy dog named Muppet while speaking to reporters.

I can’t get over it, really. Why hasn’t someone thought of this before?

Lopez is the perfect candidate to do this if you think about it, given his propensity to be a little off-kilter.

Via Twitter:

Lopez was mostly talking about taking away positives from a weird Bulls season in which they struggled all year until miraculously making the 8-seed before challenging top-ranked Boston in round 1.

Clippers, Jazz prepare for Game 7 in Los Angeles

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LOS ANGELES  (AP) – Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul was adamant the sun would not set on Paul Pierce‘s NBA run in Salt Lake City on Friday night.

“I looked over at ‘Truth’ during one of (those) timeouts and I said ‘You’re not ending your career in Utah,’ ” said Paul, referring to Pierce’s popular nickname. “We told him that. We just said we want to keep this thing going for him. Paul was big tonight. Like the 3 he hit over there on the wing, and stuff like that. Just his energy and his voice in those different timeouts I think was huge for us.”

With a crucial 98-93 victory over the Utah Jazz in Game 6, the Clippers will attempt to extend the career of the 39-year-old Pierce, who is retiring at season’s end, and capture the series Sunday in Game 7 at Staples Center.

The winner advances to the second round to meet the Golden State Warriors in a best-of-seven affair beginning Tuesday at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif.

Paul, whose two late free throws sealed the win against the Jazz, led the charge by scoring 29 points, dishing eight assists and allowing the Clippers to avoid elimination in the opening round for the second straight season. The Portland Trail Blazers bounced them last season in six games, aided by injuries to Paul and Blake Griffin.

And as Paul loathes to hear, the point guard has never guided a team past the second round.

“This is what we talked about before (Game 6),” said Paul, who has become the Clippers’ main force offensively with Griffin out of the playoffs again, this time with an injury to his big toe. “Doc (Rivers) said to go out there and give yourself a chance. We knew we couldn’t win both games (Friday), and we wanted to give ourselves a chance.”

Utah will have another opportunity to end Pierce’s career on Sunday despite missing a chance on its home court. After the Jazz won Game 5 on Tuesday at Staples, All-Star forward Gordon Hayward made it clear he didn’t want to return for a Game 7.

Hayward, though, is humming a different tune now.

“We’ve come a long way from where we were three years ago,” Hayward told the Salt Lake Tribune. “If you had told me at the beginning of the year you’d be in a Game 7 against the Clippers in L.A., I’d have been like, ‘Bring it on.’ ”

The Jazz will be forced to bring their best with center Rudy Gobert hobbling again. Gobert, who sustained a hyperextended left knee in Game 1 that kept him out of the lineup for two games, sprained his ankle in the second half of Game 6 and was forced to the bench because of it during critical stretches.

Gobert said the ankle wouldn’t hinder him Sunday.

“I sprained it on somebody’s foot,” said Gobert, who finished with 15 points, nine boards and three blocks, according to the Tribune. “I tried to run through it, but that didn’t work out. I’ve had a lot of sprained ankles before. I will be good.”

PBT Extra: Can Toronto threaten Cleveland, LeBron James in second round?

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There are a few reasons to think the Toronto Raptors can push and maybe even upset the Cleveland Cavaliers in their second round playoff series that starts Monday. For one, they went six games last playoffs and this is a deeper, more versatile Raptors team with Serge Ibaka as the power forward/center, P.J. Tucker coming off the bench, and the emergence of guys like Norman Powell. The Raptors have a great backcourt in Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. And, the Cavaliers were not a focused or good defensive team in the first round.

On the other side of the ledger, the Cavaliers have LeBron James.

I break down this series in the latest PBT Extra.