Team USA is not on a cakewalk to the World Championship

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USA_Logo.jpgNo Kobe, No LeBron, no problem. Team USA is just going to coast to the World Championship. Because we are the USA and we are that deep with talent. That’s what you all seem to think, based on everything from message boards to betting lines.

You’re all wrong.

The USA is sending a “B” team to Turkey, and the “A” team needed late-game heroics from Kobe to beat Spain and win the gold. Kevin Durant is a stud, but how does his game translate to the international game? This is a team full of guys inexperienced on a big international stage, and it is going to be a learning experience. That’s good, the kids need to learn, but we all know lessons like this can come at a price.

Remember 2006, when a younger Team USA didn’t respect, and didn’t know much about Greece, and Theo Papaloukas destroyed them on the pick-and-roll all game? I could see that happening again. And Papaloukas is back with Greece, by the way.

The Painted Area, maybe the best site follow for international basketball, suggests the USA should be underdogs in this tournament.

Spain does not have Pau Gasol but it has everyone else from the silver medal team of two years ago. Ricky Rubio won’t go to Minnesota but he will go to Turkey. You say no Gasol weakens Spain up front, but can the USA’s front line really exploit that? The USA is starting Brook Lopez at center and likely backing him up with Tyson Chandler. Or JaVale McGee. We’re not exactly intimidating people here.

Heck, Brazil can throw a front line of Nene, Anderson Varejao and Tiago Splitter out there and how well can the USA match up with that.

And all those big men can camp out in the lane, take away driving lanes and block shots — there is no defensive three seconds in international basketball. Like college, you can play all the zone you want and camp your big right in the middle of the paint. Russell Westbrook and Tyreke Evans are going to find the driving lanes much more clogged than they are used to.

Also Greece, France and Argentina will be good teams with a mix of NBA and European club talent.

The USA has the talent to win the gold. Kevin Durant may be young but he is the team leader and he is professional. But don’t go thinking the USA can coast.

One more look back: Top 10 clutch shots of season to this point

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The opening weeks of the season have seen some dramatic finishes — and for a Saturday night, why not watch a compilation of them? What else were you going to do? You’ve got 3:30 to sit through these.

Who got the top spot? Marc Gasol? Damian Lillard? Al Horford? John Henson? If we told you it would just destroy the surprise.

Like crossovers? Check out Top 10 handles of NBA season so far

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It’s not really fair if you ask Nemanja Bjelica to cover Stephen Curry in space, but it does make for a good highlight.

On a nice slow Saturday afternoon around the NBA, let’s take a look at the top 10 handles moves of the season so far, courtesy NBA.com. Of course, there is some wickedness from James Harden, Derrick Rose, and Chris Paul, too. But I’m good with Jordan Clarkson in the top spot.

Watch Giannis Antetokounmpo find Jabari Parker for the slam

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I want the Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker combo to work better than it does. The Buck get outscored by 2.3 points per 100 possessions when those two are on the court together, with neither end of the court working terribly well.

And yet, there are flashes — like the play above — where you think this could start to work. It just may need more time (and getting Khris Middleton back in the mix would help).

Antetokounmpo is having a phenomenal season, and is making plays.

Draymond Green fires back at league: “It’s funny how you can tell me… how my body is supposed to react”

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It’s not hard to find out how Draymond Green felt after picking up a flagrant foul Thursday night when his leg flew up after a foul and caught James Harden in the face. Just go to his Twitter feed.

Saturday at Warriors’ practice, Green expanded on the subject, here’s the video via Anthony Slater of the San Jose Mercury News.

If you prefer to read are Green’s comments transcribed:

“I just laugh at it. It’s funny how you can tell me how I get hit and how my body is supposed to react. I didn’t know the league office was that smart when it came to body movements. I’m not sure if they took kinesiology for their positions to tell you how your body is going to react when you get hit in a certain position. Or you go up and you have guys who jump to the ceiling. A lot of these guys that make the rules can’t touch the rim, yet they tell you how you’re way up there in the air which way you’re body (is supposed to go). I don’t understand that. That’s like me going in there and saying, ‘Hey, you did something on your paperwork wrong.’ I don’t know what your paperwork looks like. But it is what it is. They made the rule. Make your rule. I don’t care. But if you’re going to say it’s an unnatural thing, an unnatural act, no offense to James Harden, but I’ve never seen nobody up until James started doing it that shoots a layup like this under your arm (sweeps arms in a demonstration). That’s really not a natural act either. That’s not a natural basketball play either. But, hey, if you’re going to make a rule, make a rule. But if you’re going to take unnatural acts out the game, then let’s lock in on all these unnatural acts and take them out the game. I don’t know. Let them keep telling people how their body react I guess. They need to go take a few more kinesiology classes though. Maybe they can take a taping class or functional movement classes. Let me know how the body works because clearly mine don’t work the right way.”

Two things.

First, Green should know that the ultimate hammer on NBA fines is Kiki Vandeweghe — former NBA player, two-time All-Star, who also coached in the league. You want a guy with a players’ perspective making the call? You already have it. And Vandeweghe played in a far more physical era than this one.

Second, the flagrant was not issued because of intent but because of the action — if you kick a guy in the face, it’s a flagrant foul. There’s no gray area here, and officials shouldn’t have to guess a player’s intent. When Green went up he was fouled by Harden, and to maintain his balance Green flailed his legs out, something he has done plenty and other players going back decades have done too. That doesn’t mean it’s not reckless. That doesn’t mean a player is still not responsible for his body. Ask soccer officials about this same issue — get your leg above the waist with other players around and it can be called a “dangerous play.” In the NBA, if your leg flies up and hits a guy in the face, it’s a flagrant foul. Whether or not you meant to do it.

Green knows the league is cracking down on this. He knows he’s a target. It’s on him to change. One would think the Finals would have taught him that lesson.