There are supposed to be rewards for winning your group-play bracket at the FIBA World Championships. And there are for the USA — it’s first round game is against Angola on Monday. Very winnable.
Then the sledding gets tough. It could have been worse. But tough.
Here’s the lineup. Saturday we get the two best games of the first round: first Serbia vs. Croatia, followed by the war that should be Spain vs. Greece. It would not shock to see the winner of that game in the gold medal game. The winners of those two games will go on to face each other in the round of 8 (look for the Spain/Greece winner to advance).
Sunday it is host and dancerless Turkey vs. France — Portland’s Nicolas Batum had a buzzer-beater three at the end of France’s game Thursday and if he hits it they (based on point differential) would have faced Russia in the first round, not undefeated Turkey. The other Sunday game is Slovenia vs. Australia, and the winners of those two games meet in the next round (look for Turkey out of this bracket).
Monday the USA gets Angola while Russia will take on (and likely defeat) New Zealand. Then it is USA/Russia on Thursday, with a Russian squad led by 6’11” Sasha Kaun and newly-signed Knick center Timofey Mozgov — two skilled big men. Against an undersized USA squad. This will be a first test.
Tuesday we see the other teams on the USA’s side of the bracket: Lithuania vs. China and Argentina vs. Brazil (that will be another entertaining game). Look for Argentina to advance out of this bracket, although with an off game Brazil or Lithuania could get them.
So your likely USA road to the gold medal: Angola, the tall Russian squad, Luis Scola and Argentina, then probably Spain in a repeat of the Barcelona gold medal game. But maybe Greece makes it all the way.
Either way, no easy road for the USA. Play like they did in the first half against Angola and they get no shiny metal objects to take home.
LeBron James is the best player on the planet when he dials it up, and he reminded every one of that leading his Cavaliers to the NBA title last season.
On the other side of the scale, after losing the title, the Golden State Warriors reloaded by adding Kevin Durant to a roster that already won 73 games and went to Game 7 of the NBA Finals last season. Along those same lines, the Spurs added Pau Gasol to replace Tim Duncan, and the Celtics picked up Al Horford to bolster a strong young team.
Joe Varden of The Cleveland Plain Dealer asked LeBron what he thought of all these teams stacking up.
“I know teams switch and pick up new coaches or new players, and their whole goal is kind of they want to beat me,” James told cleveland.com, in a candid discussion about the upcoming year and his place in the sport at age 31, in this his 14th season. “It’s never just about me, but I always hear them saying, ‘We gotta beat LeBron.’ It’s not just me on the court, but I understand that teams get together in this conference and across the league to try to beat me.”
If anyone should be used to having a target on his back, it’s LeBron.
And he’s not wrong.
The Warriors adding Durant was all styming how Cleveland and everyone else can defend the Warriors — particularly the small-ball “death lineup.” Oklahoma City and Cleveland had success putting their best defensive forward (Durant of OKC and LeBron for Clevealnd) on Draymond Green and switiching his pick-and-roll with Curry, then hoping Harrison Barnes didn’t make their big pay in a mismatch. Barnes couldn’t, it worked.
Now take out Barnes and put in Durant. Good luck defending that lineup now.
LeBron is right, the Warriors did target him. He’s the champ. He and the Cavaliers are the bar to clear. Can he and Cleveland rise up o task is the real question.
ATLANTA (AP) — NBA TV personality Kristen Ledlow says she was robbed at gunpoint at her home.
The host of “NBA Inside Stuff” said on Twitter and Instagram Sunday that she was held up the day before “by three men who knew who I was, where I lived and were waiting for me when I got home.”
She says in addition to stealing her car, purse and phone, the thieves took her “sense of security.” She says she’ll be taking a break from social media as a result of the incident because she says she “will not become a slave to fear.”
Ledlow didn’t say where the incident took place. NBA TV is based in Atlanta.
Miami felt set at point guard with Goran Dragic starting and the up-and-coming Tyler Johnson as his backup. They decided veteran Beno Udrih wasn’t part of the future and waived him.
Detroit, looking for some help at the one until Reggie Jackson returns, saw a dependable veteran guard on the market. So they snapped him up, reports Shams Charnaria of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.
At age 34 we are seeing Udrih’s game start to slip. Still, he has valuable NBA skills as a point guard: he doesn’t turn the ball over, can run an offense, and if you ignore him coming off a pick he will bury the shot.
Jackson is expected to be out at least another six weeks after getting PRP therapy to deal with knee tendonitis (he hopes to be back sooner). That leaves Ish Smith as the starting point guard in the short term; Udrih will help provide solid depth at the position.
The Pistons need to keep their heads above water until Jackson can return.
The first 12 years of the NBA’s salary-cap era went without a lockout. The league again avoided a lockout for a dozen straight years between 1999 to 2011.
Now, with a new Collective Bargaining Agreement coming soon, the NBA is setting itself up for another 12 years of labor peace.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:
The NBA and National Basketball Players Association are working on a seven-year extension to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, with a mutual opt-out in six years, league sources told The Vertical.
The seven-year deal could potentially deliver the NBA labor peace through the 2023-24 season, unless the opt-outs are exercised in 2022, league sources told The Vertical.
The new CBA will begin with the 2017-18 season.
Expect an opt out after six years. By then, there’s usually something to renegotiate.
Hope for another quick resolution, like we’re getting now.
And if neither the owners nor players opt out, be pleasantly surprised at an unprecedented 13th straight year without a lockout in this era.