Sadly, the Lithuanians will not be breaking out the Grateful Dead tie-dye uniforms Saturday.
They will not be rolling over for the USA, either.
Lithuania advanced to the semifinals of the World Championships, routing Argentina 104-85.
A lot of people probably thought with Argentina gone this should be easier for the USA, but Lithuania has been anything but an easy out this tournament — they are undefeated. They have defeated Spain and Argentina.
Former Nugget, soon to be Raptor Linas Kleiza has been the leader of this team — dropping 30 on China last round then 17 on Argentina — showing off a more rounded game than he was allowed to in Denver. But more on him tomorrow. (That’s called a tease in the business.)
Lithuania fell to the United States in a warmup game for the World Championships, 77-61. It was a game where the Lithuanians were very physical with the USA and it was close for a half, with the Americans shooting just 25 percent. It was a combo of poor play from the USA as they adjusted to a more physical brand of basketball, and the fact that Lithuania isn’t bad.
And they are playing better, with more confidence now than they did then. Russell Westbrook (12 points), Rudy Gay (14) and the quickness of the Americans eventually wore down Lithuania. It probably will again. But like we said, every step on the road to a title gets more challenging, and this will fit that mold.
The release of NBA 2K17, the latest edition of the popular 2K video-game series, is less than a month away. Players are starting to get their likenesses in the game, as well as their player ratings, and tweet them out. Magic forward Evan Fournier wasn’t too happy with the way his came out.
Fournier’s countryman Rudy Gobert got in on the fun, too, changing his Twitter avatar to Fournier’s screenshot and encouraging others to do the same. He even created a hashtag for it.
At least they’re having fun with it.
On Friday, the Jazz traded German center Tibor Pleiss to the Sixers along with two second-round picks for Kendall Marshall. The big draw of the trade for Philly was the picks, and Pleiss is not expected to stay with the Sixers, according to Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia’s Jessica Camerato.
Pleiss had a forgettable season with Utah, and the Sixers have a glut of bigs including Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor, Joel Embiid and Dario Saric. It would have been virtually impossible for Pleiss to crack the rotation, and it’s unlikely another team picks up his contract, which has $3 million guaranteed this season.
As a Jordan Brand athlete, Russell Westbrook is under the same Nike umbrella as former teammate Kevin Durant. But his latest Jordan spot, released Friday, has a very pointed tagline: “Some run, some make runways.”
Given the circumstances, it’s hard to interpret that as anything other than a reference to Durant signing with the Warriors and Westbrook signing an extension with the Thunder.
For two decades, Kobe Bryant saw everyone and everything as an obstacle to overcome: The Pacers, Sixers, Nets, Magic, Celtics, Tim Duncan, Gregg Popovich, Smush Parker, a torn Achilles. It didn’t matter. Kobe’s work ethic and drive had him rising above it all.
His focus hasn’t changed now. Kobe was on the Jim Rome show, and the topic of the new-look Warriors with Kevin Durant came up, along with the “woe is me” attitude of some players (and plenty of owners and GMs).
“I would have thought less about myself if I looked at that move and said, ‘That’s unfair,'” he said. “If you’re a real competitor, you look at that and say, ‘OK, lace ’em up. Let’s go. I don’t care how many players you have over there; we’re still going to take you down.'”
Easier said than done to make that happen, but that attitude is the only one to have if you think you have a chance. You can be sure LeBron James is thinking that way and telling his Cavaliers teammates the same.
We’re going to miss Kobe.