The conventional wisdom is that the gold medal game Aug. 12 in London will see the USA vs. Spain. Kobe Bryant vs. Pau Gasol. Kevin Love vs. Marc Gasol. The world’s two best teams facing off.
Pau thinks Spain can win it.
Of course, he said that to FIBA.com in a very Pau Gasol way. Which is to say filled with qualifiers.
My expectations are high. It will be a tough competition for everyone but I’m looking forward to being in London. My teammates and I will fight for the gold medal. I think that we can win the tournament. We have a lot of talent and everyone will be very motivated to give it their all on the court. We’re afraid of no one.
Health is going to matter in this series. The United States will miss Dwight Howard (back surgery) when they have to face Spain’s big front line. Spain will miss Ricky Rubio.
As for other teams, we’ll break it down more as we get closer. But pretty much everybody on the Spurs will be there leading another country — Tony Parker for France, Manu Ginobili for Argentina — and that should make you a little nervous.
Jusuf Nurkic did not enjoy his time as a member of the Denver Nuggets. His trade to the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for Mason Plumlee was a welcome change of scenery.
On Tuesday night, Nurkic got to take on his old team with huge playoff implications at stake. Portland beat the Nuggets, 122-113, moving a game ahead of their rivals in the race for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference and giving them the best tiebreaker between the two.
Nurkic was impressive, blasting his old squad with 33 points on 12-of-15 shooting, adding 16 rebounds, three blocks, and two assists.
Nurkic was interviewed in the arena after the game, and he was obviously happy he helped his team while also sticking it to Denver. Speaking with Portland reporter Brooke Olzendam, Nurkic took one last shot at the Nuggets, telling them to enjoy their summer.
Nurkic quite possibly sent the Nuggets packing for the year with the game at the Moda Center on Tuesday, so he might have been the guy who helped start their summer.
Still, that is ice cold.
Miami Heat forward James Johnson is one of the NBA’s best in-game dunkers. On Tuesday night against the Detroit Pistons, he yammed down a huge one-handed slam that embarrassed Marcus Morris and drew gasps from the crowd at the Palace.
The play came midway through the fourth quarter with Johnson at the top of the key. After a quick pass over to him, Johnson gave a quick hesitation before driving to his left and past his defender.
With the quick step, Johnson’s only remaining opponent at the basket was Morris, who was unfortunate enough to find himself between the high-flying Heat and the rim.
This is what happened next:
Morris was whistled for a foul on the play.
The Miami Heat took until the final moments on Tuesday night to beat the Detroit Pistons, but it was worth it. With just a handful of games left to play, the Heat need to stave off the Chicago Bulls for the final spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Thanks to a tip at the buzzer by Hassan Whiteside, they’re one step closer to achieving that goal.
The play came with just seconds left in the fourth quarter. James Johnson missed a shot with six seconds to go, and the Heat grabbed the rebound. Goran Dragic then tried his hand, but he couldn’t get it to go, either.
That’s when Whiteside came back with a tip at the buzzer that ended the game.
Miami now sits at 36-38, a game above the Bulls for the No. 8 seed.
Whiteside, meanwhile, is never going to wash that hand again:
Former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant was a pretty consistent player in the NBA. Save for his final injury-laden seasons and the lockout year of 2011-12, Bryant played in no fewer than 65 regular season games in a single season.
Coaches also had no reason or want to ask Bryant — a notorious worker — to sit out in order to rest. That wasn’t really on the menu, and Bryant knew that.
Speaking to ESPN’s First Take, Bryant said no coach really asked him to ever take a rest, “I’ve never been approached by a coach and asked to rest.”
Bryant remarked that he took queues from Michael Jordan during tough stretches of the season — back-to-backs or four games in five night scenarios — where he could switch his game up, floating from perimeter to post, in order to save energy during those matchups.
Bryant also said during the same interview that he understands the complexity of the modern game, and that players like LeBron James deserve to take a rest if they’ve earned it.
“LeBron has done so much for the game. He’s earned the opportunity to take a rest,” said Bryant.
The debate on this subject will continue, it seems.