President Obama picks the Lakers, and if you play with him avoid the hard foul

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Thumbnail image for obama.jpgBarack Obama still watches a lot of basketball, although it tends to be the West Coast games, because those are the games that are on when he is finally getting back to the residence. Makes sense, he’s got a job with some brutally long hours.

In his sit down interview with Marv Albert shown on TNT last night — which Obama made time for despite not having done a full, all issue press conference in over a year — it was clear he still follows the game he loves. As he said, it just tends to be late at night, with the West Coast games on in the background as he reads some paper you don’t have clearance for.

And he still picks the Lakers (although, that was before last night).

“Boston surprised me. They gelled in the playoffs in a way that they hadn’t all through the season. (Rajon) Rondo’s become one of the best point guards in the league in no time. I mean, when he gets a real jump shot, he’s going to be unstoppable.  But I’ve got to go with the Lakers again. I think (Pau) Gasol may be the best big man in the league right now. He’s different from Dwight Howard, but he’s (got) unbelievable footwork, speed, savvy, he’s playing magnificently. Kobe (Bryant) is the fiercest competitor in the league and they’ve got what I continue to believe is the best coach in the NBA right now in Phil Jackson, so their going to be formidable and I think it’ll be a tough series. Boston’s a veteran club, but the Lakers are looking pretty good.”

Of course, as seemingly is required by law, all basketball related interviews must include a question about LeBron James and what he should do.

“I think that the most important thing for LeBron (James) right now is actually to find a structure where he’s got a coach that he respects and is working hard with teammates who care about him and if that’s in Cleveland, then he should stay in Cleveland. If he doesn’t feel like he can get it there, then someplace else. The one thing I remember about the Bulls was it wasn’t until Michael (Jordan) had confidence in Phil Jackson, Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, it wasn’t until you got that framework around you that you could be a champion. Same thing happened with Kobe (Bryant), first with Shaq (O’Neal) then later with (Pau) Gasol. He’s gotten that sense of a team around him and I think LeBron hasn’t quite been able to get that yet. That’s what he needs to find.”

Albert: “Could you, on behalf of the Bulls, throw in perhaps a night in the Lincoln Bedroom or a ride on Air Force One?”

Obama: “You know, like I said, I don’t want to meddle. I will say this, (Derrick) Rose, (Joakim) Noah…it’s a pretty good core. You know, you could see LeBron fitting in pretty well.”

Does the president still get time to play, now that the White House has a built in basketball court?

“Well, these days I probably play once every two to three weeks, not as often as I’d like. But during, say, the health care debate, when things are just going crazy over on Capitol Hill, a lot of times I’ll just come out here and shoot or I’ll play a game of HORSE and it takes an edge off things.”

Is it different playing as president?

“Well, it is true I usually have guys with guns around, so if somebody takes a real hard foul, they could get in trouble. Nobody ever lets me win because if you let me win, you’ll never hear the end of it. I’ll talk a little trash about you. I’ll make you feel bad about yourself if we beat you real bad.”

PBT Extra bold prediction previews: Can Thunder win 60 games?

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Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka are healthy — just how good will the Thunder be?

The bold prediction in this PBT Extra preview with Jenna Corrado is that the Thunder will win 60 games, something they have not yet done. I wouldn’t bet on them hitting that number — with a new coach, and them making sure Durant and Westbrook get rest coming off injuries, plus the fact they’re in the deep West, that number may be high.

I think they have a better chance to come out of the West than win 60 games. I think they have a good shot to come out of the West.

Gallinari ready to take big role in new Nuggets offense

Danilo Gallinari, Jimmy Butler
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DENVER (AP) — Danilo Gallinari wants everyone to know this: His surgically repaired left knee, the one that took three procedures to fix and nearly two seasons to fully trust, no longer bothers him.

The Denver Nuggets forward doesn’t need to be on any sort of minutes restriction. He doesn’t need days off during the season. And he certainly doesn’t need to be coddled.

He’s Gallo again, the hard-to-guard Italian playmaker who can knock down the 3-pointer just as easily as drive to the hoop or even post up. He believes he will fit in quite nicely into new coach Michael Malone’s system.

“The thing I’m focused on is trying to get (this team) back to the same level that the Nuggets were when I got to Denver, when we were going to the playoffs easy. When we were clinching a playoff one or two weeks before the season was over,” said Gallinari, who was acquired in the 2011 blockbuster deal that sent Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks. “We need to get back to that level.”

Almost seems so long ago, given that the Nuggets have missed the playoffs two straight seasons after consistently making it for nearly a decade.

Gallinari returned last season for the first time since blowing out his knee in a game on April 4, 2013. His minutes were closely monitored early in the season. He never really got completely on track until late last season, when he averaged 20.5 points over the final 10 contests, including a career-high 47 against Dallas. He’s hoping to carry that kind of confidence this season.

“I’m good to go. I was good to go as soon as the beginning of last year,” Gallinari said. “I was not on the same page with the coach that we had.”

That would be Brian Shaw, who was fired last March after 1 1/2 seasons in charge and going 56-85. Exactly why he wasn’t on the same page with Shaw, well, Gallinari preferred the past remain the past.

“I’m ready to play the new season,” he said. “We need to win games, and get back to the same level we were before.”

Gallinari thinks the Nuggets have the personnel to do just that, especially with a rookie point guard in Emmanuel Mudiay and Gallinari’s knee feeling better than it has in a while. He feels like he has some ground to make up, too, since he said that knee robbed him of some of his prime.

“Playing my best basketball right before I got injured,” the 27-year old said. “Now, we’re back to the same level, hopefully better.

“My knee has been feeling great. It felt great last year. Feeling great during the summer. Feeling great now. I just feel good.”

He spent the summer playing for the Italian team at the EuroBasket tournament, where he averaged nearly 18 points a game. In those games, Gallinari saw quite a bit of time at the four spot on the floor, forcing teams to either use a bulkier big man to cover him and risk getting burned on a drive or a smaller player that Gallinari could simply shoot over.

Malone plans to employ a similar type approach, something they discussed over gelato when the coach visited Gallinari in Italy soon after he was hired.

“He’s 6-foot-10. He can handle the ball. He can play pick-and-roll. He can stretch the floor and shoot the 3,” Malone said. “There’s not a lot he can’t do offensively.”

Gallinari wants the responsibility of being the go-to player for the Nuggets this season, especially at crunch time.

“I’ve always been trying to do that, since I came to Denver,” Gallinari said. “That’s what I like to do. I feel good filling those shoes.

“I want to have the ball in my hands. I do want to have the ball in my hands a lot more.”