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.

Nets’ national anthem singer kneels to finish performance

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NEW YORK (AP)—  The national anthem singer at the Brooklyn Nets’ home opener took a knee at the end of her performance.

Justine Skye was nearing the completion of the song Friday night when she went to one knee for the finish. There were some cheers, but appeared to be more boos from the crowd at Barclays Center to see the Nets play the Orlando Magic.

NBA players have continued to stand during the playing of the anthems, as required by league rule.

Mavericks’ rookie guard Dennis Smith Jr. misses game with knee swelling

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DALLAS (AP) — Dallas Mavericks rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. missed Friday’s game against the Sacramento Kings with swelling in his left knee.

Smith, the ninth pick in the NBA draft out of North Carolina State, had 16 points and 10 assists in the Mavericks’ season-opening loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

Smith participated in the Mavericks’ shootaround on Friday morning and was a late scratch. It is not known if Smith will play Saturday for Dallas.

The Mavericks were also missing guard Devin Harris, who was granted leave of absence after his brother died on Thursday.

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?