Kobe Bryant shows some respect for Spain's national team

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In establishing the hierarchy of teams competing in the FIBA World Championships, Team USA and Spain are clearly on the top tier. Both squads have superior talent to the rest of the Championship pool, and while both have their respective kinks to workout before the competition really ramps up, they’re rightfully considered co-favorites.

However, it’s no stretch to say that Spain may have the slight edge over the Americans, particularly since Team USA has yet to prove itself against a worthy competitor. Thus far, USA has only played friendlies with China and France, neither of which is a particularly competitive squad. Spain, on the other hand, is a proven team with long-established chemistry and plenty of depth. Overlooking any game with the Spanish national team is an easy way to take a loss.

Even then, the Spaniards aren’t merely a team that can take their opponents by surprise. Even other national teams looking to tech against them will have trouble slowing down Spain’s impressive offensive balance. Team USA will need to execute well in their head-to-head games with Spain, lest they surrender some early tournament. Spain is more than formidable, and it’s clear that the Americans have a lot of respect for the members of the Spanish team and their success over the years.

Kobe Bryant, for example, though he isn’t playing in the World Championships, picked out Spain as “‘that one’ team that could really challenge the Americans in the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Turkey,” according to Adriano Torres of ESPN Los Angeles. His comment isn’t a token tossed to a would-be contender, either. Bryant has a firm understanding of what Spain can accomplish in these types of tournaments, and he considers the Spaniards to be a real threat to the Americans in the FIBA World Championships.

Americans invented the game and, when actually interested in giving international competition a proper go, tend to do quite well. Yet with this year’s Team USA a B-team and Spain returning all of their vital cogs aside from Pau Gasol, the Spanish national team could definitely take their second straight World Championship. Kevin Durant et al will have a say in that, but should the Americans not continue to improve from now until the elimination rounds, the WC looks like Spain’s for the taking.

Players’ union, NBA to set up cardiac screening for retired players

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First it was Darryl Dawkins. Then it was Moses Malone.

Two all-time great players who recently died — and at t0o young an age, 58 and 60 respectively — from undiagnosed heart conditions. Even before that, recognizing the issue the NBA players union and the league itself were setting up supplemental health coverage to provide cardiac screening for retired players, something ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan recently broke.

The joint effort between union executive director Michele Roberts and NBA commissioner Adam Silver — at a time when there still may be potentially acrimonious labor negotiations looming for their sides — is intended to ease the health concerns of its retired players.

Roberts said action from the players’ association on providing screening for its retired players is “imminent.”

“I wish I could give you an exact timetable, but we have to make sure all the components are in place,” Roberts told ESPN recently. “I will tell you we hope to have something sooner than later.”

The Cardiologists are affiliated with the NBA already, and some of the money will come from the league, while the union is both pitching in a chunk of cash and is the one organizing this, according to the report.

It’s good to Roberts and Silver working together on this. While you’d like to think this would be the kind of no-brainer move that the league and union would work together on, in the past the relationship didn’t always facilitate this sort of cooperation even on the obvious.

I’d like to think this bodes well for future labor talks, but I’m not willing to completely draw that parallel.


Stephen Curry drops 30 on Portland in preseason (VIDEO)

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Somebody is in midseason form.

Stephen Curry put up 30 on Portland in a preseason game Thursday night, hitting six threes and getting to the line 15 times over the course of his less than 26 minutes. It was quite a show.

Portland won the game 118-101 behind 25 points from Allen Crabbe and 22 from Damian Lillard. Not a lot of defense in this one but it was fun to watch.