Why aren't people pumped about Team USA? Well, did you watch today's game?

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rwworlds.jpgTeam USA is a lot of fun to watch if you truly love the game of basketball.

They are aggressive on defense, they pressure and gamble. They want to run. They have spectacular athletes. They can turn the finesse of international basketball into a day at Rucker Park with dunks and showmanship. Did you see his second-half crossover from the wing, blow by the guy and dunk. That was schoolyard. That was fun.

But the USA’s 106-78 crushing of Croatia shows why it’s just hard to get behind this team at the World Championships.

In a fantastic post at Hardwood Paroxysm our own Rob Mahoney wonders why everyone loves Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder and yet doesn’t care or mocks Kevin Durant and Team USA this summer. He gets into the idea of ownership and passion, and that is a lot of it.

But so is the fact that in this tournament, Team USA will rarely be tested. And it’s hard to be excited about a team that can cruise to victory.

USA Basketball toyed with Croatia, going on a 50-15 run over the second and third quarters. Croatia was a team where the casual basketball fan couldn’t name a player, not one guy in the NBA and a star player who even us basketball junkies went, “oh, I’ve heard of him.”

Slovenia on Sunday has a few guys we know (Goran Dragic, Primoz Brezec and Bostjan Nachbar) and the same with Brazil on Monday (Leandro Barbosa, Tiago Splitter and Anderson Varejao). But those two games will end with scores a lot like this one. Then comes Iran and Tunisia, and they are about as good at basketball as you think.

We Americans love scrappy underdogs, but this team is really only a borderline underdog to one team in the world, Spain. That semifinal will be a real contest. Argentina, Turkey and Greece have a puncher’s chance against us in a one-game elimination setting. After that, we win easy.

So no doubt this is a fun team. But it’s hard to get excited about an underdog team that is barely an underdog.

Still, they are a lot of fun to watch. In the playground sense, with Kevin Love’s outlets and Durant doing whatever Durant wants to. We just want to see a test.

Brandon Jennings no fan of the NBA’s new Awards Ceremony event

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Come June 26, Drake will be on stage in New York City, handing out the NBA’s awards — Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, and so on. (We need to set an under/over on the number of players Drake hugs that night.)

The NFL does it. The NHL does it. And the NBA has decided to follow suit with a broadcast awards ceremony where everything — except the All-NBA Team — will be announced that night. It’s happening because the broadcast partners want it.

Brandon Jennings is not a fan. Here is what the Wizards’ point guard Tweeted:

Jennings took down a Tweet that said if he had won the award he would have wanted to get it with the organization and his teammates around him. (And no, he knows he’s not winning the award. If you were going to put that in the comments be more creative.)

There’s something to what Jennings is saying. The NBA award roll out was awkward at times in previous years, but it gave the fans a chance to celebrate the awards with their favorite player. Now, everyone will watch it unfold on television from a ballroom in NYC. That feels a little colder. Also, we will get to see the reaction of those who don’t win (particularly this season, where several players can make a strong case for MVP).

It will be interesting to see how this first year goes, and how the league tweaks it going forward. The more than two month gap between the end of the regular season and the awards could feel a bit awkward. But we’re not going to knock the idea until we’ve seen it in action.

Portland GM makes it official, Festus Ezeli will not be back with team next season

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This season the Portland Trail Blazers found their center of the future (and the present) in Jusuf Nurkic.

Which makes the next step fairly obvious: Portland will not pick up the option on Festus Ezeli for next season, GM Neil Olshay confirmed at the team exit meetings Tuesday.

Portland signed Ezeli on what they thought was a great contract (one-year, $7.4 million, with a team option for the second year) because he was coming off knee surgery last summer. However, Ezeli was never healthy, needed a second surgery, and never got on the court. After taking it slow over last summer he practiced with the team twice in mid-October, there was more swelling, so he pulled back.

This summer Ezeli will not draw any guaranteed money from teams, but some teams may take a look at him. Athletic bigs get a lot of chances in the NBA.

Gordon Hayward will play for Jazz in Game 5 without minutes restriction

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Gordon Hayward has averaged 20.5 points a game in these playoffs — and that includes a 40 point outburst in Game 3 — but what has been more impressive is he has done it efficiently, with a true shooting percentage of 61.1. While Joe Johnson and others have stepped up, Utah will need Hayward’s shot creation if they are going to win this series.

They will have it Tuesday night in Game 5.

After missing the second half of Game 4 due to food poisoning (he tried to play but was ineffective in the first half), he is back and ready to go this time around.

So is Rudy Gobert. The Jazz will be at full health, while the Clippers remain without Blake Griffin for the remainder of the playoffs.

Having those two back is a boost for the Jazz, they need to score more consistently against the Clippers, but the bigger key will be defensively trying to deal with Chris Paul on the pick-and-roll. He has been masterful this series, and the Jazz need to keep him in check to give their offense a chance.

When NBA switches to Nike uniforms next season, Hornets will move to Jordan Brand

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There are not going to be dramatic changes to the look of the NBA when Nike takes over the apparel contract for next season, replacing Adidas. Instead of the Adidas logo, there will be a swoosh, sleeved jerseys will fade away, and some teams will modify their alternate jerseys, but the league is not getting a total uniform makeover next season. Things will look basically the same.

Except in Charlotte — they will not have a swoosh, they will have the Jordan Jumpman logo.

The why is obvious — Michael Jordan is the primary owner of the Hornets and, obviously, the guy the Jordan brand was named after. The Jordan Brand is part of Nike. The Hornets made the announcement this week buried in a press release about moving the fan shop at the arena, hat tip to Sole Collector for finding this. Here is what the release says:

The re-opening of the Hornets Fan Shop will coincide with the launch of the team’s new Jordan Brand uniforms as Nike becomes the NBA’s uniform provider beginning this season.  The Hornets will be the only team in the NBA wearing Jordan Brand uniforms, and with the agreement taking effect, the Hornets Fan Shop will have even more of the popular Jordan Brand Hornets merchandise than it has had previously.

While it’s not like the Lakers or Celtics are going to be changing up their traditional uniforms, even teams like the Hornets will keep a similar look under Nike.

What should be interesting to see is what the Christmas Day and All-Star uniforms look like under a Nike touch.