Three spots remain on Team USA. Who should get them?

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We know who already had their tickets punched for London. Nine spots on the Team USA Olympic hoops roster have been secured and you can’t really argue with any of them: LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love and Tyson Chandler.

That means three spots are left with six players still on the roster: Blake Griffin, Andre Iguodala, Rudy Gay, Eric Gordon, James Harden and Anthony Davis.

“You could build a case for each of the contenders if you will, depending on what you want,” USA Basketball president Jerry Colangelo told the AP. “It’s like a menu: Another shooter, it’s Eric Gordon. You want a scoring guard, it’s Harden. You want a defensive specialist, it’s Iguodala. You want another guy with length who can shoot the ball and run the court, it’s Rudy Gay.”

Coach Mike Krzyzewski and Colangelo said they wanted to spend a couple days looking at guys in practice before they make their decisions, which get announced Saturday night. That’s the prudent thing to do.

We’re not so prudent. Here is who we think should make the team.

First note: Anthony Davis sat out the first day of USA camp Friday with a sprained ankle. He was a reach to make this team anyway, so we’re taking him out of the mix. He’ll get his shot in four years (we hope).

WHO SHOULD BE IN:

Blake Griffin. The United States is going to play a little bit small in the Olympics — lots of Kevin Love at center, LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony at the four. But with all the injuries to this team — Dwight Howard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Chris Bosh are all out — the USA needs some size. Griffin will be that. And in the first game he will some poor French guy the new Frederic Weiss. Clippers fans should be happy, for a guy who wants to win and has the work ethic of Griffin being around this caliber of players will grow him.

Eric Gordon. In international competitions where most of the opponents the USA faces can’t come close to matching up with them athletically, the USA will see a lot of zone played against them. There are a few ways to beat a zone, the best being drives or cuts into the heart of the paint, but the other is to shoot over the top. That’s what Gordon can do, a career 37 percent shooter from three who did this for Team USA in Turkey two years ago. He can spell Kobe at the two and stretch the floor. I leave James Harden off, but it’s close.

Andre Iguodala. The other decision is really Rudy Gay or Iguodala, and I lean Iggy for the reasons Jerry Colangelo mentions above — scoring will not be a problem for this team so I’ll take another wing defender you can bring off the bench. There are good defenders on this team — Kobe, LeBron — but you can never have enough defenders. Sorry Rudy, nothing personal.

Chris Paul’s free agency decision becomes a documentary

Associated Press
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ASSOCIATED PRESS — Chris Paul had a new home in Los Angeles and the potential for a $200 million contract if he stayed with the Clippers.

He also had reason to doubt a championship would ever come there.

So sometime between walking off the floor after a Game 7 loss with the Clippers last spring and walking back onto it Tuesday night in a Houston Rockets uniform, Paul decided he needed to pack up his family and try for a title elsewhere.

“I just felt that it was time,” Paul said.

His free agency process and decision is the subject of a three-part documentary series titled “Chris Paul’s Chapter 3” that debuts Thursday on ESPN.

The first episode shows Paul’s frustration following the Clippers’ ouster against Utah in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs and his questioning the Clippers’ culture. He had helped them become a perennial playoff team since his arrival in 2011, but not one that ever seriously contended for a title,

“Somewhere, I don’t know when it was – I’m not a saint by any means, it could have a lot do to with me also – but we just weren’t having as much fun,” he said.

He talked with his family and business partners about possibilities with Boston and San Antonio – where he feared Gregg Popovich might only coach for a couple more years – and visited music mogul Jay-Z and Disney CEO Bob Iger for their advice. He began to view Houston as the best option and eventually accepted a trade in late June, agreeing to opt in for the final year of his contract and delaying free agency until next summer.

All that after he had bought a house in Los Angeles across the street from Clippers teammate Paul Pierce, moving his in-laws in last January.

“Truthfully, I didn’t think there was no way that Chris would leave the Clippers,” said Pierce, now retired and an ESPN analyst. “He really built up something special, you know, with getting the Clippers back to being legitimate, make the playoffs every year, (winning) 55 games. He just bought a new home like less than a year ago. He had a $200 million offer on the table. So that really shocked me that he would leave.”

Paul never planned for his first real foray into free agency to become public.

“When it all came together and we saw how it looked it was like, man this would be cool to tell the story of how it’s not just cut and dry, you just pick a team,” Paul said. “We showed the move and everything that goes into it.”

Paul laments having to always have the ball in his hands in Los Angeles – which won’t be a problem alongside James Harden in Houston. And he worries about having to move his two young children, eventually telling his son he can’t go do his job without him. And after they finally move, Hurricane Harvey devastates Houston, a focus of the second episode.

“We are constantly looking for opportunities to bring fans closer to athletes in order to better understand their experience. In this series, Chris Paul gives fans a truly unprecedented look at his free agent decision-making process and how he thinks about both his basketball career and his life off the court,” said Connor Schell, ESPN executive vice president of content.

All three episodes will be available on the ESPN App and on-demand beginning Friday. They will then air next Tuesday from 8-9:30 p.m. EDT on ESPN.

Paul said he learned a lot about the free agency process – but would love to avoid having to do it again next summer.

“In a perfect world you win a championship and there’s nothing to even talk about,” he said.

 

Bulls claim PG Kay Felder off waivers

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The Bulls’ point-guard position is a quagmire.

Kris Dunn and Cameron Payne are both injured (and not necessarily good). Jerian Grant is maybe an adequate backup pressed into starting. Ryan Arcidiacono is on a two-way contract.

Enter Kay Felder.

Bulls release:

The Chicago Bulls announced today that the team has waived forward Jarell Eddie and center Diamond Stone, and claimed guard Kay Felder off waivers.

Felder was waived by the Hawks, who acquired him in a salary-dump trade from the Cavaliers. Cleveland drafted Felder No. 54 last year, but ran out of roster spots this year.

Felder is only a moderate prospect. He impressed in the D-League, but at 5-foot-9, he has significant limitations. (His size also makes him incredibly fun to watch when he gets rolling.)

For Chicago, he’s a quite-noteworthy addition.

LeBron James: ‘I still got Pandora with commercials’

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Dwyane Wade revealed last year that LeBron James refuses to use his phone internationally unless he’s on Wi-Fi.

LeBron’s friend and new Cavaliers teammate again brought up that claim, and LeBron confirmed – then went even further about his own cheapness.

LeBron in a joint interview with Wade on ESPN:

No. I’m not doing that. I’m not turning on data roaming. I’m not buying no apps. I still got Pandora with commercials.

LeBron – he’s just like us!

As funny as that line is, keep watching to see LeBron hilariously explain how his hairline affects his interviews.

PBT Extra: LeBron as MVP and other NBA postseason award predictions

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Last year, Russell Westbrook had a historic season on his way to the MVP award, with James Harden and Kawhi Leonard right on his heels. But heading into this season, the dynamic for MVP — and many of the NBA awards — feels very different and wide open.

In this latest PBT Extra, I lay out my preseason predictions for every award — LeBron James for MVP, Ben Simmons for Rookie of the Year, and on down the list. There are a few leaps and surprises in there (predicting Most Improved or Sixth Man before the season is a crap shoot, so why not gamble).

Now the predictions season is over, let’s get on to the games.