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 Rockets scooped up undrafted point guard Gary Payton II shortly after the draft ended.
How did they do it?
Fully guaranteeing his deal, according to Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders.
I rated Payton a borderline first-rounder coming out of Oregon State, but he went undrafted. Perhaps, the league just deemed him unworthy. Or maybe the teams that liked him most weren’t positioned to draft him. Or maybe teams opted for lesser players in the second round who were willing to spend a year overseas or in the D-League.
Houston guaranteeing his deal certainly points to a robust market for the point guard. It could also indicate the Rockets plan to keep him into the regular season.
Payton gives the Rockets 15 players with guaranteed salaries plus restricted free agent Donatas Motiejunas, who has an outstanding qualifying offer and seems likely to return. There’s no obvious candidate for Houston to waive to reach the regular-season roster limit of 15 – and it could be Payton. This could just be a (more expensive than usual) way of getting Payton onto the Rockets’ D-League affiliate. They won’t be the only team to eat a guaranteed salary this season.
With James Harden (yup), Patrick Beverley, Pablo Prigioni and Tyler Ennis at point guard, Houston doesn’t have a pressing need for Payton. But Ennis, who has accomplished little in two NBA seasons, should be on notice. That Houston values Payton so highly could mean Ennis is the odd man out. Both players, and everyone else, will have the preseason to prove themselves.
Payton, son of the former SuperSonics guard, has major defensive potential. Running an NBA offense will be a tall order, but he has enough raw skills to offer intrigue on that end. He’ll need his defense to buy him time.
Who does Chris Bosh have in his corner as he tries to play following a third blood-clot issue?
Not the Heat, who say they’re no longer working toward his return.
Not his longtime agent, Henry Thomas of CAA.
Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press:
Bosh is in the midst of the the biggest quandary of his career. He needs a trusted advisor at his side.
But that might not be enough.
Bosh still has $75,868,170 guaranteed over the final three years of his contract. If he doesn’t play by Feb. 9 and the Heat waive him, they can exclude his salary from cap and luxury-tax calculations (while still paying him) IF a doctor agreed upon by the league and players union says Bosh can no longer safely play.
Bosh would be a free agent in that scenario, but would anyone want him? How much would Bosh resent missing a partial season before that? How much would he sacrifice in a buyout to become a free agent sooner? What if the jointly selected doctor says Bosh can return? What do Miami and Bosh do then?
These are difficult questions, and Bosh needs someone to help him navigate the minefield that lies ahead.
If you’re desperately searching for the flaws that will undo the Golden State Warriors, depth has to be the main argument. In order to get Kevin Durant under the cap Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut, Leandro Barbosa, Festus Ezeli, Brandon Rush, and Marreese Speights had to be sacrificed.
However, they added a couple of veterans to fill in the gaps. Zaza Pachulia will be at the five, trying to be a poor man’s Bogut, is going to get the most attention.
But the Warriors also snapped up David West, who had gone to be part of the Spurs veteran bench last season and now is chasing a ring with the Warriors. How did that come about? Via the San Antonio Express-News.
“(The Warriors) reached out once we lost to OKC, maybe that night,” West told reporters at Golden State’s media day. “My agent was like, ‘If you’re interested in continuing to play, Golden State wants you.’ He was obviously talking to a few guys and to the coach during the process. Then, when Kevin Durant reached out, he told me he wanted me to come join, so it was a no-brainer.”
I have zero problem with a veteran player like West taking a pay cut and chasing a ring — we as fans can’t say “today’s players care more about money/friends than winning” then turn around and hammer the guy who puts winning first. That sounds like a Trump debate tactic.
Plus, West is going to get some run-up front with Golden State. He’s still solid — he is a physical defender, sets a good screen, and if you don’t stick with him on the pop West will destroy you from the midrange. He’s not his vintage self, but he’s still a guy a championship-caliber team can lean on.
And the Warriors will.
Former NBA player Anthony Carter is back with the Heat as a D-League assistant coach. Miami is the team he is most famous for playing for during a 13-year NBA career — but not for anything he did on the court.
Back in the summer of 2003, Carter had a $4.1 million player option for the coming season and he planned to exercise it and stay in Miami. Except his agent forgot to tell the Heat. Carter ended up a free agent and out a lot of money, and the Heat used that cap space to sign Lamar Odom, then trade him in the Shaquille O’Neal deal with the Lakers.
The agent is making it up to Carter and there are no hard feelings, the now coach told the Miami Herald.
As for the famous screw-up by his agent Bill Duffy back in 2003 that cost him more than $3 million, Carter said it’s all ancient history. Duffy agreed to make it up to him and has kept his word, paying him in installments over the years.
“In the end it was a blessing,” Carter said. “I’m still getting paid from it. Everything happens for a reason and my agent was man enough to stand up and just pay me over a period of time. To this day I’m still getting paid. I’m still getting paid until 2020.”
That’s the kind of professionalism Duffy is known for, he’s one of the best-respected agents around the league.
If you make a mistake, own it. That’s a lesson a lot of NBA front office people should take.