Danilo Gallinari to skip international play this summer

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nba_gallinari.jpgNBA players are dropping out of the their commitments to international competition like flies, and though the Americans will still be fielding a team of Superfriends from around the league in the FIBA World Championships, a number of factors should keep plenty of top-notch players out of international competition this summer.

Danilo Gallinari doesn’t quite qualify as a top-notch player and he wouldn’t have been playing in the World Championships anyway, but he is an NBA talent and pretty damn entertaining. He also is falling right in line with his NBA brethren, many of whom (LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Manu Ginobili, etc.) are choosing to skip out on this summer’s festivities for a variety of reasons.

For what it’s worth, the excuses of those playing for Team USA seem far more flimsy than those playing for other countries, as Ginobili looks to preserve all he can from his aging body given the new extension he signed with the Spurs and Gallinari, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport (via Alan Hahn of Newsday), will take the summer off to continue strengthening his surgically-repaired back. LeBron James, on the other hand, is just really, really, really, really, really busy and wants to make Kazaam 2.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that — I love Kazaam as much as the next guy with slightly masochistic movie-watching tendencies. It’s just clear that even given Team USA’s commitment to developing consistency in its program, it’s not even remotely the same dynamic as the one that exists between foreign-born NBA players and their national teams.

As mentioned before, there is a slight difference in Gallinari’s case, as Italy didn’t even qualify for the 2010 FIBA World Championships. He would be competing to help his country earn a spot in the 2011 Eurobasket tournament, which is still a high-prestige event even if it’s not quite on the level of the Championships. 

So it’s a no-go for Gallo, even if he wishes it were otherwise. Hahn does note that Gallinari’s two fellow countrymen in the NBA — Andrea Bargnani and Marco Belinelli — will represent l’Italia this summer.

This is definitely good news for the Knicks, who will need a fully healthy and refreshed Gallinari as a centerpiece of their 2010-2011 team. If New York is really going to overhaul the roster in free agency, guys like Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, and Toney Douglas are going to have to play very well next year for the Knicks to have a shot at taking a legitimate step forward. Acquiring some serious talent in free agency obviously helps, but without at least some depth in the rotation, you’re looking at an early playoff out for the Knicks at best.

Tyronn Lue says he has secret plan to fix Cavaliers’ defense for playoffs

AP Photo/Phil Long
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Only one team that ranked outside the top 12 in points allowed per possession during the regular season won an NBA title. The 2000-01 Lakers, who were 21st in defensive rating, are the lone outlier.

The Cavaliers rank 22nd in defensive rating this season and have been even worse lately.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue says he has a plan. He just won’t reveal it yet.

Lue, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“We’ve got to hold back. We can’t show our hand early because … these are some good teams and we don’t want them to be able to come into a series and be able to adjust to what we do. We just have to be able to play our normal defense until we get there and then we will see what happens.”

Also:

“I think the rebounding hurt us. Rebounding. But it will be different once some other things happen. … Their two-guards, their threes, they still crashed the boards. But we have something to fix that. Just not right now.”

What precisely those plans are, Lue wouldn’t tell us. And here’s the other part — he’s not exactly sure they’ll work.

“I’m not confident, but we’ve got to” get the defense fixed, Lue said. “We have to.”

The Cavs ranked just 10th in defensive rating last season, among the worst marks for an eventual champion. But they cranked up their defense in the playoffs, especially late. Cleveland held the Raptors 4.8 points per 100 possessions below their regular-season scoring rate and the Warriors 7.8 below theirs.

Lue also unleashed a 3-point-heavy attack in the playoffs last year after sitting on the strategy through the regular season.

So, I have some faith Lue will implement a better defensive gameplan when it counts. It also helps to have LeBron James, who can still play elite defense when not in the slog of a long regular season.

But the Cavaliers’ defensive deficiencies right now are glaring. This roster appears to lack defensive potential, and their many miscues keep them well below whatever that potential is.

The challenge in elevating this defense to championship-caliber will be immense, maybe even unprecedented.

Mavericks’ Salah Mejri dunks while getting shoved in the gut (video)

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The Mavericks built a 13-point lead over the Thunder with 3:30left thanks to plays like this Salah Mejri dunk on Nick Collison.

Unfortunately for Dallas, Russell Westbrook happened.

Willy Hernangomez dunks on Andre Drummond, Pistons’ playoff chances (video)

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Andre Drummond and the Pistons couldn’t slow down anything.

Not Willy Hernangomez. Not the Knicks. Not Detroit’s plummeting playoff hopes.

After a 109-95 loss to the Knicks last night, the Pistons — who’ve lost four straight and seven of eight — are 1.5 games and two teams out of playoff position.

Terrence Ross 360 dunks his way back into Raptors fans’ hearts (video)

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In his first appearance in Toronto since the Raptors traded him to the Magic, Terrence Ross did what he has done best throughout his career: Delight Toronto fans with a dunk.

And of course the fans appreciated it, because their Raptors cruised to a 131-112 win.