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.

John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115

Associated Press
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CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

Associated Press
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Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.

After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”

Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.

Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.

This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.

One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.

 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.