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.

Report: At least seven teams will try to pick of free agent Andre Iguodala from Warriors

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Golden State has a lot of free agents to retain or replace this summer if they are going to keep their championship team together. Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry are the two biggest names, but both going to get massive paydays from the team and are not going anywhere. Then there are the role players teams could try to pick off: Shaun Livingston, Zaza Pachulia, JaVale McGee, David West, plus Matt Barnes.

However, Andre Iguodala is the free agent most teams are targeting. At least seven teams have Iguodala on their radar, reports Chris Haynes of ESPN.

Andre Iguodala has become the foremost target in an attempt to weaken the Golden State Warriors’ chokehold on the NBA, league sources have told ESPN.

The Minnesota Timberwolves, San Antonio Spurs, LA Clippers, Philadelphia 76ers, Orlando Magic, Brooklyn Nets and Utah Jazz are among the teams interested in the 2015 NBA Finals MVP, sources tell ESPN. It is not yet known if Iguodala will take meetings.

Iguodala, who just finished a close second in the Sixth Man of the Year voting, still can hit threes and bring some buckets, but more importantly he brings defense, flexibility, and leadership. He’s crucial to the switching small-ball lineups the Warriors employ, and he stepped up his game last season when Durant was down. Losing Iguodala would be a blow to these Warriors.

Durant has said he will take a little less money and structure his deal so that the Warriors can retain Iguodala and Livingston, but both of them are unrestricted free agents with options.

Iguodala, 33, is coming off a four-year, $48 million deal and the Warriors would like to retain him in that ballpark of $12 million a year or a little less. The question is the years, Golden State may want to do two, Iguodala will want four, and the likely will settle at three, but that could change or have options.

For Iguodala the question becomes: what if another team comes in over the top, promising a few million more a year and a starting role? At this point in his career, does he want to stay with the Warriors and win, or would that tug on his pocketbook and ego be too much of a draw? Iguodala has said he and GM Bob Myers have been clear and up front with each other throughout the season and talked out scenarios.

Iguodala likely re-signs with the Warriors, but with a number of teams hunting him it may not be that simple a decision.

Kevin Durant congratulates Westbrook on MVP: “F—- balled out. Gotta respect it!”

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Whatever animosity there is between Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook — and I don’t think it’s as much as some people want to drum it up to be — is more from the Westbrook side. He had the right to feel jilted, even if it was just business.

Monday night Westbrook won the NBA MVP award, and deservedly so after his historic season. Tuesday, Durant was congratulating the winners in the community section of his YouTube page, and that included Westbrook.

“Huge congrats to Russell Westbrook on MVP, that boy went out there and was a created player on 2k all year, F—– balled out. Gotta respect it!”

KD also had some love for his other former teammate, James Harden, who came in second in the MVP voting.

“Shoutout my boy James Harden. For 5 years now he’s taken his game to the next level, he will be an MVP one day, he’s an MVP now, he’s made so many people proud. I know this first hand, recognize what he has done for the game!”

Durant had love for everyone. Which is how he’s feeling after his bold move last summer paid off with a ring.

LaVar Ball confronts wrestler at WWE event (video)

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — LaVar Ball has brought his Big Baller Brand from the basketball court to the wrestling ring.

The outspoken father of NBA draft No. 2 pick Lonzo Ball showed up with the newly minted Los Angeles Laker and another son, 15-year-old LaMelo, for a live segment on Monday’s “WWE Raw” at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

During the segment, LaMelo Ball twice used the n-word, which was broadcast over the air. WWE says in a statement to the Los Angeles Times that the language “was not scripted nor reflects WWE’s values.”

For LaVar Ball’s appearance, the ring was decorated with mannequins displaying his Big Baller Brand clothing line. He got in a heated confrontation with WWE wrestler The Miz, and took his shirt off to cheers from the crowd.

Bulls, with Michael Carter-Williams, first team to decline extending qualifying offer to Rookie of the Year

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Just four years ago, Michael Carter-Williams won Rookie of the Year.

Now, the Bulls don’t even see a $4,187,599 qualifying offer as worth extending.

David Kaplan of CSN Chicago:

Credit Sam Hinkie for trading Carter-Williams (to the Bucks) at just the right moment, netting the 76ers a valuable Lakers first-round pick that Philadelphia used to trade up for Markelle Fultz. Carter-Williams hasn’t nearly lived up to the typical production of a former Rookie of the Year.

The Bulls got Carter-Williams far cheaper from Milwaukee, for Tony Snell (who had a breakout year with the Bucks). But Carter-Williams continued to regress in Chicago. It’s just hard for a point guard with such a shaky outside shot, and Carter-Williams’ injuries haven’t helped.

With a smorgasbord of point guards that now includes Kris Dunn and Cameron Payne, the Bulls can move on.

Carter-Williams can probably latch on as a backup point guard somewhere. As an unrestricted free agent, teams will have greater comfort pursuing him. But this is a blow for someone with such a big accolade on his résumé.