FIBA World Championships: Lithuania upsets Spain, 76-73 (and that's not good for the USA)

6 Comments

Spain_Lithuania.jpgMaybe Spain misses Paul Gasol more than we thought.

After dropping their first game to France it was expected Spain would wake up and start to roll, but on Tuesday they blew an 18-point third quarter lead, were outscored 23-9 in the fourth quarter and fell to Lithuania 76-73.

Good you say. The other co-favorite coming into this tournament lost, that’s good for us Americans right? Wrong.

Spain will likely win its last two games (Canada and Lebanon left, two teams that well below Spain in talent). They will finish third in Group D, which means in the first round of the 16-team single-elimination tournament part of the World Championships they will likely play Greece. Two of the top four favorites coming in.

The winner of that game gets… the United States in the round of 8. Not good. While the Americans can beat either squad, you’d like to avoid teams with a real chance of beating you as long as you can. And both those teams could threaten the USA (Greece sandbagged their friendly against us).

The USA could have to face the Greece/Spain winner, followed by Argentina, followed by host Turkey in the finals to win it all. That is no easy road. Tougher than hoped for.

The USA can thank Spain for that.

Spain was up 11 to start the fourth quarter Tuesday but their offensive execution just floundered, with things like an out-of-control penetration turnover by Rudy Fernandez with 1:30 left. Meanwhile the very loud pro-Lithuanian crowd kept their team in it, and they seemed to be more focused and in control as the game went on.

Tied at 71-71 and 1:30 to go it was all Linas Kleiza (Toronto Raptors) against Marc Gasol (Memphis Grizzlies). First Kleiza missed a shot, then Gasol missed a shot at the other end. Kleiza drew a foul on Rudy Fernandez but it wasn’t shooting. Then Kleiza got one to drop in the paint (73-71 Lithuania). At the other end, Gasol drew the foul and with 19 seconds left went to the line with a chance to tie the game with a pair of free throws.

He missed both.

From there it was a lot of fouling, and the traditional trading of free throws, with Juan Carlos Navarro making two for Spain to cut the lead to 73-74 with 12 seconds left. Lithuania was able to get the ball to Kleiza and there were six seconds left when he was fouled and went to the line.

He hit both.

That was basically it. Spain had another chance to tie with a last second three, they tried to hit Ricky Rubio with a pass but in the end it was just another sloppy late turnover by Spain.

Jazz deny rumored promise to draft D.J. Wilson

Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Michigan forward D.J. Wilson said he’d stay in the draft only if he’d go in the first round. Yet, despite not doing any on-court work at the combine, the borderline first-rounder remained in the draft beyond the withdrawal deadline.

What gives?

Rod Beard of The Detroit News:

Kyle Goon of The Salt Lake Tribune:

NBA teams sometimes promise to draft a player. They never reveal that before the draft. So, Utah’s denial doesn’t mean much – even if it’s true.

The Jazz were the last team to give Wilson a full work out before he injured himself in a Spurs workout. So, this rumor could be based on circumstantial evidence rather than leak of a Utah guarantee.

Wilson would make sense for the Jazz, who could see their payroll bloat if they re-sign Gordon Hayward and George Hill (and maybe even Joe Ingles). They could move Derrick Favors, an interior who doesn’t exactly fit with Rudy Gobert. Wilson would give Utah another option with Trey Lyles as developing stretch fours behind Boris Diaw. (Utah could even move Diaw and count on Lyles/Wilson to emerge sooner than later.)

Watch LeBron James’ top highlight from each of his postseason appearances (video)

AP Photo/Ron Schwane
Leave a comment

LeBron James and Tony Parker are the only players to play in the last dozen postseasons.

(If you’re wondering, Manu Ginobili missed the 2009 playoffs due to an ankle injury.)

It’s fair to say LeBron was a bit more spectacular than Parker in that span. As LeBron enters his seventh straight Finals, the NBA released this awesome video showing LeBron’s best playoff highlight from each year:

There’s no entry for this year. Here’s betting it comes against the Warriors in the NBA Finals.

David Stern: We thought we could re-work Chris Paul-to-Lakers trade until Mitch Kupchak ‘panicked’

AP Photo/Kathy Willens
2 Comments

NBA commissioner David Stern – acting as New Orleans’ owner representative, he says – infamously vetoed a potential Chris Paul-to-Lakers trade in 2011.

But that didn’t close the possibility of Paul going to the Lakers.

The New Orleans Hornets (now the Pelicans and not be confused with the current Charlotte Hornets), Lakers and Rockets tried to rework the three-team trade that would’ve sent Paul to the Lakers, Pau Gasol to Houston and Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and a first-round pick to New Orleans. But talks fell apart around the time the Lakers dealt Odom to the Mavericks.

Stern on Nunyo & Company (hat tip: Harrison Feigen of Silver Screen & Roll):

In fact, in the course of the weekend, we thought we could re-do the deal. We really thought that Houston would be ready to part with Kevin Lowry, and we had a trade lined up for Odom that would have gotten us a good first-round draft pick – not we, but my basketball folks. But Mitch Kupchak at the time panicked and moved Odom to Dallas. So the piece wasn’t even there for us to play with at the time. So that was it — just about what was good for the then-New Orleans Hornets.

Remember, Stern – roundly criticized for his handling of this episode* – has blamed the Lakers and Rockets for the lingering perception. This could just be him again trying to shift responsibility.

*Somewhat fairly, somewhat not. Owners veto general manager-approved trades often enough, and Stern was acting as New Orleans’ owner after George Shinn sold the franchise back to the league. But Stern had an agenda as commissioner. He never should have assumed such a large conflict of interest. What he did with the Paul trade was reasonable for an acting owner, but because Stern was also commissioner, it’s fair to question how much New Orleans’ interests and how much the league’s interests factored into the decision-making.

But let’s take Stern at his word – that he and the Hornets thought they could re-do the trade and send Paul to the Lakers. That doesn’t mean they were right. Maybe the Lakers and Rockets (who had Kyle Lowry, not the “Kevin Lowry” Stern named) were never going to part with enough to get Stern’s approval.

And maybe New Orleans didn’t properly convey its interest in still completing a deal. Perhaps, Kupchak acted reasonably by trading Odom to Dallas – for a first-round pick, a deal Mark Cuban would ultimately regret – rather than wait around for the Hornets, who eventually sent Paul to the Clippers.

It’s easy to blame Kupchak, but he might tell a different story.

Isaiah Thomas makes it clear he wants to stay in Boston

3 Comments

It’s been a long time since there was so much discussion about whether a team needs to trade or just let go of an All-NBA and All-Star player at his peak who is clear and away a fan favorite.

Yet that’s where the Boston Celtics and Isaiah Thomas find themselves. After landing the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft — where they will almost certainly take point guard Markelle Fultz — and with the Celtics looking a full couple steps behind the Cavaliers in the playoffs, the question about whether Thomas is part of the future in Boston has come up. He is a free agent in 2018 and are the Celtics willing to pay the big money it will take to keep him?

Know this, Thomas wants to remain a Celtic and win a Celtic. You can listen to his full comments above, but Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe has the money quote:

Outside of chasing Gordon Hayward, this summer the Celtics are going to focus on getter some frontcourt help, someone to help with rebounding and rim protection. They will look to get better, but Danny Ainge isn’t going to push all his chips into the middle of the table to make a gambit on immediate massive improvement. He will remain patient, building this team so that in three years and five years they will be a force in the East.

And the Thomas discussion likely gets put on hold for a year (unless there is a change of course and contract extension talks come up, but that’s only if Boston misses on Hayward and any other big targets).