Scouting report on Croatia (that's the USA's opening game Saturday, in case you forgot)

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Thumbnail image for USA_Logo.jpgLet me guess, you have not spent a lot of time watching Croatia’s national team.

To be honest, neither have we. Fortunately there is Tony Ronzone, Team USA’s director of international player personnel (and assistant GM for the Timberwolves). He gets paid to watch and know these teams and provide scouting reports.

Which he did a mini-version of for Chris Sheridan of ESPN (who is traveling with the team).

“[Croatia is] a team that’s done very well early in tournaments. If you look at their matches, they always win three or four games right in a row. They’re a team that with Roko Ukic is very streaky, talented. They’ve played together for many, many years. They’re going to play this game trying to win it and attack us. Marko Tomas is one of the best European guards, he can score, he does a lot of stuff, Ante Tomic of the Utah Jazz, he’s a very skilled player at 7-foot-2, more of a finesse type of guy. They’re big, they’ve got three bigs, so they’re going to be tough….”

“Marco Banic is kind of like a Carlos Boozer type, physical, tough, beats you up, pounds you. So they’re more of a finesse team, but with those two guys they tend to get physical. But they’re more kind of like a U.S. team. They get after you a little bit, they streak shoot, and they have a guard that can go for 40 on you if you let him get hot, Marko Popovic. He’s put up big numbers over in Europe, so you’ve got to respect those guys.

“I think they’re going to start out man-to-man on defense, and if things don’t go well they’ll drop into a zone. I think we’re going to see a lot of zone, I really do. As we continue in this tournament we’re going to see more and more zone. We haven’t seen it at all so far,” Ronzone said.

Rich Cho on Trail Blazers getting swept: ‘Being a previous Portland GM, that didn’t disappoint me’

AP Photo/The Charlotte Observer, Jeff Willhelm
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In 2011, the Trail Blazers surprisingly fired Rich Cho after only season as general manager.

Cho – since hired and fired by the Hornets – seems to be holding a grudge.

John Canzano of The Oregonian:

That’s a sentiment many people hold toward their former employer. Few say so publicly. That Cho did indicates just how strongly he feels.

Under owner Paul Allen, the Trail Blazers have run through numerous executives. It’s part of the culture in Portland, and it leaves a lot of outgoing people bitter.

Current general manager Neil Olshey ought to be mindful of that.

Josh Allen’s old tweet: ‘I hate LeBron!!!!! #LeBronSucks’

AP Photo/Margaret Bowles
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Josh Allen, a quarterback from Wyoming, could be the No. 1 pick in tonight’s NFL draft. But his recently unearthed high school tweets – which include using the n-word with an ‘a’ at the end – are the sports story of the day.

And there’s an NBA tie.

Via Ryan Young of Yahoo Sports:

I hate LeBron!!!!! #LeBronSucks

— Josh Allen (@JoshAllenQB) June 7, 2011

Damian Lillard went down this same road with LeBron James, and they got past it.

But it would be a little more awkward if the Cleveland Browns – who have the Nos. 1 and 4 picks – take Allen. Then, Allen will face more scrutiny over this tweet – the most innocuous of the bunch.

Donovan Mitchell tells Thunder fans, Jazz teammates Utah not returning to Oklahoma City this season

AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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The Jazz blew a 25-point second-half lead in Game 5 last night, extending their series with the Thunder. Up 3-2, the Jazz are still in control. They can close out in Game 6 tomorrow in Utah. Blow that, and they must return to Oklahoma City for Game 7 Sunday.

But Utah rookie Donovan Mitchell is making it abundantly clear he doesn’t plan to do that.

Gabe Ikard of The Franchise 107.7:

Jake Edmonds of KUTV:

A confident proclamation that rallies his team or youthful exuberance run amok?

The narrative will be decided after Game 6. That’s just how this is done.

Report: Grizzlies moving toward keeping J.B. Bickerstaff as coach

AP Photo/Matt Slocum
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From the moment Robert Pera opted to retain control of the Grizzlies and end a prolonged ownership saga, it seemed interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff would remain Memphis’ coach.

Lo and behold…

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Bickerstaff did a decent job before the Grizzlies started tanking. But that was a small a sample, and his prior work as Rockets interim coach was uninspiring.

To be fair to Bickerstaff, those were both difficult situations. He’s an experienced assistant who might be ready for this challenge.

To be less fair to Bickerstaff, this looks like Memphis taking the cheap route. The Grizzlies didn’t appear to conduct much of a coaching search, if any. Nor has Bickerstaff been mentioned with other openings. It probably won’t cost as much to hire him as it would a more-established option.

Memphis seems to be operating under the belief that a healthy Mike Conley and Marc Gasol will right the ship next season. And they might. But given the age and injury history of those two, I wouldn’t assume they stay healthy and productive all season. Even if they do, they’d have to carry an underwhelming supporting cast – with limited room for upgrade this summer – in a deep Western Conference.

The Grizzlies want Bickerstaff, who’d be a first-time non-interim head coach, leading that team trying to win now? That doesn’t seem like the right risk-reward balance – at least until considering his salary, and even then.