National teams will tear up NYC for pre-FIBA events

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The roster for Team USA currently reads “Kevin Durant and…Kevin Durant?” but that shouldn’t stop you from getting excited about America’s team for the FIBA World Championships. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, and Dwight Howard could be considered doubtful, but even the second and third tiers of native NBA players could make a hell of a supergroup to take on the stars from other nations around the world.

They’ll do that in an official capacity in the Championships themselves, but will also compete in some preliminary events as part of the World Basketball Festival, which this be hosted this year in New York. From the Associated Press:

USA Basketball and Nike announced Wednesday that the inaugural
festival will take place Aug. 12-15, with hopes it will return every
two years in different locations in advance of the world championships
or Olympics.

The Americans will face France, while China will
take on Puerto Rico, in exhibitions at Madison Square Garden on the
final day. Brazil, Puerto Rico and France will hold open practices and
scrimmages at Harlem’s famed Rucker Park earlier in the weekend. The
festival will benefit communities in New York by providing resources to
help more kids play basketball.

The United States will start
training in Las Vegas from July 19-24 and resume workouts Aug. 9-16 in
New York. Then it’s on to Spain for games against Lithuania and the
host country, followed by a matchup with Greece in Athens. The world
championships are Aug. 28-Sept. 12 in Istanbul, Turkey.

Thabo Sefolosha’s lawyer: White police officer targeted black Hawks forward

Thabo Sefolosha
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NEW YORK (AP) — A lawyer representing a professional basketball player arrested outside a New York City nightclub has told a jury his client was targeted because he’s black.

Attorney Alex Spiro said Tuesday in Manhattan Criminal Court that a white police officer saw a black man in a hoodie when he confronted the Atlanta Hawks’ Thabo Sefolosha on April 8.

Sefolosha was arrested while leaving a Manhattan nightclub following a stabbing. He subsequently suffered a season-ending leg fracture after a confrontation with police.

A prosecutor said in opening statements that Sefolosha called an officer who repeatedly told him and others to leave a “midget.”

Sefolosha pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor obstructing government administration, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest charges. The Swiss citizen declined a plea deal from prosecutors.


DeMar DeRozan says he hates talking about free agency, takes pride in Raptors longevity

DeMar DeRozan
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DeMar DeRozan has a $10,050,000 player option for 2016-17. Given the rapidly escalating salary cap, it’s a practical certainty DeRozan will opt out and get a major raise.

But he says he doesn’t want to talk about it.

DeRozan, via Eric Koreen of the National Post:

“I hate that, honestly,” DeRozan said in a one-on-one interview. “I never speak about it. With me, I’ve always been that one player: I’ve been loyal. I’ve been every single thing you can think of here. I think people don’t understand how much pride I take in playing (in Toronto). A lot of times when I do get asked that, it kind of frustrates me.

“Everyday I wake up, I take pride in being the longest Raptor here. People bring up third or whatever in franchise scoring — there is so much stuff like that.”

This sounds awfully similar to LaMarcus Aldridge, who stated his desire last year to become the great Trail Blazer ever and then signed with the Spurs this summer.

Things change, and the impracticality of an extension ensures DeRozan will hit free agency. I believe he’s devoted to the Raptors right now, but his loyalty might change in the next nine months – especially once he sees contract offers from other suitors.

Toronto’s interest in DeRozan might fluctuate, too. He’s a nice player, but the Raptors haven’t won a playoff series with him despite winning the division the last two years. Depending how this season goes, Masai Ujiri might want to rework the roster significantly next summer, and letting DeRozan walk could create major cap space.

I believe DeRozan wants to return to the Raptors, and I believe they want to keep him. But so much can change between now and when both sides must make that call.