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Two South American Olympic bids decided Saturday

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It all comes down to one game. Well, two games, actually.

Brazil vs. the Dominican Republic. Argentina vs. Puerto Rico.

Those are your two semi-finals of the FIBA Americas tournament on Saturday. But if your goal is a spot in the 2012 London Olympics, these are the big games. Win Saturday and you are in, lose and you head to a pre-Olympics qualifying tournament next July to slug it out for a second-chance berth against other teams that just missed out. Sunday the two winners will play for the Americas championship.

Brazil — playing without Nene, Anderson Varejao or Leandro Barbosa — are the top seed and have lost only one game all tournament. That was their previous meeting with the Dominican Republic. The D.R. is coached by John Calipari and has Al Horford, who has been very good all tournament. But how the D.R. does in this game swings on Francisco Garcia and Charlie Villanueva — when those two are on this a very hard team to beat, but those two have been wildly inconsistent. Shocking with them, I know. Brazil has been playing better the last week, but if it’s an on day for the Dominican Republic’s swing guys, they can win this.

Argentina came into this as the favorite and with the most stacked roster — Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola, Carlos Delfino and Andreas Nocioni. Argentina’s only loss is to Brazil, and they beat Puerto Rico 81-74 when they met in the group stage. Puerto Rico features J.J. Barea, Carlos Arroyo and Renaldo Balkman — all good players who need exceptional games if the island nation is to pull the upset here.

Check back with PBT on Saturday and we will recap these games. And if Puerto Rico wins we will run a photo of Barea’s girlfriend.

PBT Extra: Who do you want to see most in first All-Star Game?

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Tonight the NBA All-Star Game starters will be announced. Then the coaches have a week to vote and the rest of the roster will be put together by them.

This year should see a few first-time All-Stars, guys bursting on the scene and grabbing fans attention — so we asked people on Twitter who they most wanted to see in his first All-Star Game and I break it down in this PBT Extra.

The winner? Giannis Antetokounmpo with 45 percent of the vote. Which shouldn’t be a surprise, he’s second in the fan voting for the frontcourt in the East (behind only LeBron James). Good news for those fans, the Greek Freak is almost guaranteed to be a starter, he’s getting plenty of media votes and likely a lot from the players as well.

Second place in the poll? Joel Embiid of the Sixers. I’d love to see him, but will players and media members vote in a guy on a minutes restriction? Will the coaches pick him for that same reason? He is on the bubble.

Russell Westbrook: ‘Don’t say what’s up to that b— a—’ (video)

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Did Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant talk during the Warriors’ win over the Thunder last night? Westbrook said no, though video and first-hand accounts indicate otherwise.

Even more clearly: Westbrook – who walked near teammates Enes Kanter, Anthony Morrow and Jerami Grant – didn’t want someone talking to someone as they left the floor after the game. ESPN caught Westbrook saying, “Don’t say what’s up to that b— a—.”

You will never convince anyone Westbrook is referring to anyone but Durant.

Russell Westbrook commits epic travel (video)

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Between getting laid out by Zaza Pachulia and apparently talking with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook committed a travel for the ages.

The Thunder guard took an inbound pass against the Warriors and just started walking up court without dribbling. The violation was so blatant, NBA officials even called the travel.

And it’s not as if they’re inclined to blow a whistle in that situation. Before Westbrook, Kemba Walker set a high bar last season, but he got away with this walk:

Are Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant on speaking terms after apparent conversation? Westbrook: ‘Nah’ (video)

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Russell Westbrook deleted Kevin Durant‘s goodbye text and, months later, told the whole world they still hadn’t talked.

That apparently changed during the Warriors’ win over the Thunder yesterday – though not if you ask Westbrook.

Westbrook dunked in the third quarter, and according to ESPN commentator Mark Jackson, Westbrook told Durant, “Don’t jump.” Anthony Slater of The Mercury News also wrote of the same quote.

ESPN’s telecast caught Durant clearly speaking to Westbrook shortly after. It appears Westbrook is talking back, but his back is to the camera.

After the game, Westbrook denied the exchange:

 

  • Reporter: “Are you and KD on speaking terms?”
  • Westbrook: “Nah.”
  • Reporter: “You guys had a little exchange in the third quarter.”
  • Westbrook: “What exchange?”
  • Reporter: “You and KD said something to each other.”
  • Westbrook: “Oh. You gotta maybe sit closer to the game. You maybe didn’t see clearly.”

This is so Westbrook – stubborn to the point of denying reality.

That approach worked for him when everyone rightly told him he was a significantly lesser player than Durant. Westbrook ignored that fact until it became false.

I suspect he wants to forget this exchange so he can maintain a cold animosity toward someone he prefers to resent.