Winderman: It's okay not to get excited about the World Championships

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Thumbnail image for usa_durant_rose_iguodala.jpgAs the telltale economic numbers will eventually show, productivity was down across America on Wednesday afternoon. Such is the result of a nation shutting down to catch the riveting drama that is U.S.-Greece international basketball.

Or not.

Somehow, we’re having a hard time getting caught up in World Championships fever.

So, for that matter, apparently is the Worldwide Leader, which will broadcast Saturday’s U.S. opener in Turkey on ESPN Classic just after women’s tennis from 1984 and just before college football from 2005. Apparently, filler was needed without another timeless episode of Stump the Schwab being available.

Look, I, like just about anyone else who stops by this space, could and would watch basketball 24/7/365.

But based on the roster the NBA (known as USA Basketball this time of year) has put together, exactly what type of World Championship is this?

The World Championship of Guys Who Mostly Never Will Be All-Stars?

Is it so wrong to admit that for this country the Olympics are everything?

Can an event have any significance if the last time your country won gold it had Derrick Coleman on its roster?

Considering we still have two more weeks of exhibition football, there is something to be said about sporting sustenance.

But also appreciate that unless the United States wins the gold medal, the event will provide no tangible benefit to what matters most for USA Basketball (otherwise known as the NBA the rest of the year) when it comes to the ultimate goal, gold at the 2012 London Games.

Only the World Championships champion receives an automatic Olympic berth. For everyone else, it’s back to regional qualifying in 2011, which, for the U.S., would mean next summer’s Tournament of the Americas in Argentina.

Consider also that there are four knockout rounds in Turkey, plenty of chances for that one slip-up.

As for “development” and “cohesion” and “camaraderie” and all those other Colangelo-Krzyzewski buzzwords we’ve been hearing this past month, how many members of this current roster truly are expected to be with the U.S. in London in 2012, when space will be cleared for Dwyane and Dwight, Kobe and Carmelo, among others?

How exactly is Derrick Rose running the floor with Kevin Love going to enhance his alley-oops to LeBron James?

Wednesday, America forced itself back to work after the artistry that was U.S. vs. Greece.

Saturday, just after Martina faces Chrissie on ESPN Classic (no spoiler alert necessary, we won’t give away the result), and just before a five-year old Wolverines-Cornhuskers game is shown, the United States will participate in something that is being portrayed as part of its road to the Olympics.

But it’s not.

It’s just exhibition basketball.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Devin Booker demolishes youthful scoring records

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When a 20-year-old LeBron James scored 56 points in a game, he called it, “probably the best game of my life.”

Devin Booker just topped him with 70 points in a game at age 20.

LeBron has obviously gone onto bigger and better things since dropping 56 in a loss to the Raptors during his second year, but that game was a harbinger. Booker – whom LeBron singled out before the season as an under-the-radar rising star – could be on a similar track.

Or Booker could be following Brandon Jennings, who scored 55 in his seventh game, also at age 20.

The future is bright – and unknown – for the second-year Suns guard.

What’s clear: His accomplishment last night is unmatched, and nobody else has come close. Here are the highest-scoring games in NBA history by someone under age 21:

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This is the result of Phoenix going so young and Booker playing so well. Not every team would provide such an opportunity, but Booker seized it.

Not only is he the youngest player ever to score 70 points in a game, he’s the youngest to score 60 in a game.

Somebody ought to buy him a drink to celebrate – in October, once it’s legal.

Union: Joakim Noah would not have been suspended under next CBA

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Selective Androgen Receptor Modulator LGD-4033 was not banned by the current Collective Bargaining Agreement when it was enacted.

The next CBA will offer a new challenge policy for failed drug tests.

Perhaps Joakim Noah, whom the NBA suspended 20 games, just tested positively at the wrong time.

SARM LGD-4033 (Ligandrol) was added to the banned list after the current CBA was signed in 2011. The drug is also banned by the next CBA, which will take effect July 1.

But the next CBA would also allow Noah an opportunity to contest his suspension – which his union says he would have done successfully..

National Basketball Players Association:

“After a thorough investigation, the National Basketball Players Association believes that Joakim Noah did not intentionally or knowingly violate any policy of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).  Under the recently negotiated CBA effective July 1, a player’s unintentional ingestion of a prohibited substance would be taken into consideration, and we believe the conduct here would not result in discipline.  Unfortunately, the current CBA does not permit such consideration.”

“Joakim was completely forthcoming and cooperative throughout the investigation and we believe that this isolated occurrence was a regrettable mistake.  Joakim has offered his deepest apologies for this infraction, and neither he nor the NBPA will pursue an appeal.”

Unlike the current CBA, the new CBA allows a player to challenge a suspension if he “did not know or suspect, and could not reasonably have known or suspected, even with the exercise of considerable caution and diligence, that he was taking, ingesting, applying, or otherwise using” the drug. He must also establish how the drug entered his system.

That’s obviously a high burden. The CBA even defines it as an “unusual circumstance.”

Could Noah have presented such convincing evidence? Maybe, but it’s far easier to make that claim in a statement than actually convince an arbitrator.

Stephen Curry with touchdown pass to Andre Iguodala, who finishes with reverse lay-up (VIDEO)

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The 49ers may want to give Stephen Curry a call, because I’m not sure Brian Hoyer can throw that pass.

Curry showed a soft touch on a touchdown pass over a defender to the streaking Andre Iguodala, who had to finish with the reverse layup, a little no-look flip. It was vintage Warriors, a little playground in transition.

The Warriors beat the Kings 114-100 behind 27 from Curry. With the win the Warriors are 2.5 games up on the Spurs for the best record in the West, but Golden State has a tough road back-to-back this week in Houston than San Antonio. Get at least a split there and the Warriors will be tough to catch.

LeBron James says he has scratched cornea, could sit Saturday vs. Wizards

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With time running down in the third quarter, LeBron James went hard to the basket for a layup, and the shot was contested by Jeremy Lamb, who ended up poking LeBron in the eye on the play.

It isn’t intentional, but it looks painful.

 

 

That blow could have LeBron sitting out Saturday night when the Cavaliers take on the Washington Wizards in Cleveland. From Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

LeBron James said he suffered a scratched cornea in his right eye in Friday’s 112-105 win over Charlotte after being examined by a Hornets team physician.

James, who scored 32 points in 40 minutes, could not keep his right eye open during his postgame interview session and said his vision was blurry… Summing it all up, James said “if coach decides to give me a game off (Saturday), it’s not because I’m resting. It’s because I’m banged up.”

He was treated by the Hornets’ team doctor who administered eye drops, but the Cavaliers will make the call closer to game time depending on how LeBron is feeling.

The Cavaliers are 0-6 without LeBron this season. They also have just a one-game lead over the Celtics for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. (Boston beat Phoenix on Friday, despite Devin Booker dropping 70, and they have a key game with the Heat on Sunday.) That said, the Cavaliers are two games up in the loss column on the Celtics, which is a decent lead, but the Cavs need to start winning consistently.

And beating a hot Washington team will not be easy even with LeBron.