Three players who seem to be getting the most out of Team USA

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Participating in the FIBA World Championships for Team USA is largely about sacrifice. Players surrendering their games for the good of the team, and putting aside egos. But that doesn’t mean players aren’t getting anything out of it. For one, they’re being kept in better shape than they would be lounging all summer and occasionally going for a workout on their own schedule. For another, it affords them opportunities to work beyond their own game in a different setting to expand what they can do. Here’s a look at three players who so far seem to be getting the most, basketball-wise, out of the experience. 

1. Andre Iguodala: Iguodala is one of those players who everyone debates his value. Hyper-athletic, a terrific passer and a solid rebounder, he’s a wing that does it all. But consistently he’s been criticized for not being able to create his own shot, and for being more of a fill-in-all-the-gaps kind of player rather than a focus, despite the latter being his role his Philadelphia. But so far in Team USA play, he’s been arguably the most impressive player for Team USA outside of Durant. He’s actually been the initiator, and his combination of speed and hands on the perimeter have wreaked havoc on opposing guards. Iguodala also seems to be taking a leadership role, being vocal and rallying teammates. This could spell great things for Philadelphia if he can take that kind of jump. 
2. Eric Gordon: Gordon’s shooting has always been there, but it’s been good to see him working as a secondary spot-up option, given the needs of the Clippers. The idea of Blake Griffin and Gordon running the two-man game is pretty enticing. Gordon’s been good off the dribble but this role may suit him better. Combine that with his work on defense, and it’s been a huge win for him so far. This experience also probably helps with knowing what it’s like to play with real leaders. Seeing as how, well, it’s the Clippers. 
3. Kevin Love: Love’s doing pretty much what he always does, throwing great outlet passes, rebounding like mad, working hard inside and operating in the flow of the team. The best thing he’s getting out of Team USA? Getting things he hasn’t gotten in his NBA career. Good teammates, the trust of his coach, minutes, and appreciation. 

John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115

Associated Press
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CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

Associated Press
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Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.

After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”

Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.

Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.

This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.

One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.

 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.