Could ‘Melo’s role with D’Antoni cost him a spot on Team USA?

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Mike Krzyzewski and the coaches of Team USA have some very tough decisions ahead of them as they trim the list of 20 candidates down to 12 who get to suit up in London this summer for the Olympics.

Look at the power forward spot. You only really need three and the guys on that finals list include Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge and Carmelo Anthony. (Yes in the NBA ‘Melo is a three, but in international ball where you need a stretch four he plays mostly in that spot.)

One of the guys getting input on those cuts — Mike D’Antoni. The deposed Knicks coach. Anthony didn’t go to Knicks management and say “fire this guy” but his clashes and effort made it clear one of them had to go. And the elite players always beat the coach in the power struggle. Always. Then Anthony has admitted he is trying harder for D’Antoni’s replacement Mike Woodson.

But with Team USA D’Antoni has more power and putting together a team that fits well matters. Ken Berger of CBSSports.com spoke with an international basketball source about this very issue.

Among the greatest honors and marketing opportunities NBA stars have is to play with Team USA in the Olympics, and a person with ties to international basketball told CBSSports.com that Anthony’s role in D’Antoni’s demise — however unintended — did not sit well with USA Basketball authorities. D’Antoni, of course, is an assistant coach with Team USA. Anthony is by no means a coach killer, but his hold on a prominent role with the team in the London Olympics could be jeopardized by how his body of work with the Knicks is viewed by Team USA officials….

“I don’t even think Carmelo is thinking about this, but I think it’s going to hurt him,” the international basketball source said. “I don’t think he’s playing as well as the other power forwards are right now. He’s not a bad guy, but he needs to start playing better because the USA team is looking at that, and Mike is an assistant. It should not be given to him.”

I think in the end Anthony is there in London, and not just because Nike wants it. Although that helps. But ‘Melo’s game fits very well in international ball — he may have been Team USA’s third best player in Beijing four years ago. He can play inside and out and — with team USA — has been great about molding his game into the team concept.

If Team USA really is about winning, they need to bring Anthony. (Of that group listed above I’d leave Griffin home because his jumper is not nearly as steady as the other three.) But if they don’t the drop-off is not that steep.

Justise Winslow stepped on Joel Embiid’s mask (VIDEO)

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Joel Embiid started for the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday night. The Game 3 matchup between the Miami Heat and Philadelphia was an important one with the teams tied, 1-1.

Embiid had previously vented his frustration on social media about the perceived slowness of his return to the floor from an orbital fracture.

Now, the Cameroonian big man is back for the Sixers and playing with a huge mask and goggles.

But the mask didn’t come without its problems for Embiid. It clearly affected his shooting and ability to handle the ball, as evidenced by a missed alley-oop in the second quarter, among other things.

There’s also the matter of how other players are treating Embiid and his mask. At one point, Embiid’s googles ended up on the floor and Heat forward Justise Winslow purposely stepped on them.

Via Twitter:

That’s harsh.

Embiid will have to adjust to using the mask since it’s unlikely he will be cleared to play without it soon. Hopefully he has some backups just in case the first couple sets get broken.

Tractors worth $50,000 stolen from Scottie Pippen’s farm

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HAMBURG, Ark. (AP) — Authorities in rural Arkansas are investigating the theft of more than $50,000 worth of equipment from a farm owned by former NBA star Scottie Pippen.

Investigator Mark Griever of the Ashley County Sheriff’s Office says two tractors were stolen from the farm in Hamburg, about 110 miles (180 kilometers) southeast of Little Rock. According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Pippen’s family is offering a $2,500 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

Griever says Pippen owns the livestock farm with his brother.

Pippen, who now lives in Florida, is a native of Hamburg. Pippen won six NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls alongside Michael Jordan in the 1990s.

Bucks’ Jabari Parker “frustrated,” wants more playing time

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In the first two games against Boston, Jabari Parker is 1-of-7 shooting, has grabbed 15 percent of the available rebounds while on the court (low for a big expected to board), has more turnovers than assists, has been exploited on defense by Boston, and is -29. All in just 25 minutes.

Parker is also frustrated he isn’t getting more minutes and more of a chance to prove himself. From Stephen Watson of WISN News 12 in Milwaukee:

While there are questions about how Joe Prunty has handled the Bucks and their rotations in this series, more Jabari Parker is nobody’s answer. Except Parker’s. And Celtics’ fans. Parker can be as frustrated as he wants, he hasn’t played his way into more minutes.

Parker returned to the Bucks in January after rehab on his second ACL surgery and averaged 12.6 points per game. He showed some value, with an ability to score efficiently inside and shooting 38 percent from three, averaging 12.6 points per game. But he remains a below-the-rim player who struggles to defend, and in the playoffs that gets a guy a seat.

It’s going to be an interesting summer. Parker is a restricted free agent this summer and the Bucks do not see him as a core part of their future next to Giannis Antetokounmpo anymore, they are not going to come in with a big offer to keep him. However, his play (especially in the postseason) and injury history, combined with a tight free agent market, means he may not have many suitors at all. Is it possible a rebuilding team willing to take a chance — Phoenix, Atlanta, etc. — would come in with an offer higher than the Bucks would match? Yes, it’s possible. But it won’t be for a lot of years, just one or two as teams want to see if he can get right and become the player he once projected to be.

Sixers’ Joel Embiid upgraded to “probable,” will start in Game 3 Thursday

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Everything you saw in the first two games of this Miami/Philadelphia playoff series you can throw out in the trash.

Joel Embiid is back and is now “probable” for Game 3, the Sixers announced, upgrading his status from “doubtful” earlier in the day. Embiid had been out with a concussion and orbital bone fracture.

Embiid will go through warmups — trying out both a mask and goggles — then will make a formal decision. However, he is expected to go. He certainly wants to play. And he is expected to start. How many minutes he can go remains to be seen.

This changes the Sixers and the series. Yes, Philly has likely Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons and high quality role players such as J.J. Redick and Robert Covington, however, is Embiid that makes it all work. Put simply, when Embiid is on the court the Sixers are 15.2 points per 100 possessions better — their defense is elite and their offense is outstanding.

The Sixers will be better with their best player back in the fold, but don’t think this makes the series a cakewalk for Philly. It changes everything about matchups, but things are not all positives. When Embiid is on the court, the up-tempo, ball-movement style that the Sixers built around Simmons slows down and stops at points. The Sixers have played Hassan Whiteside and his rim protection off the court with floor spacing shooting bigs, now he has a place to be in the matchups. There are things the Heat can do now that may work for them.

It just may not matter — Philadelphia just got a lot better.