USA’s versatile, athletic roster will be fun to watch. Will win a lot, too.

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Al Davis would have loved Team USA.

Because speed kills.

Team USA basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski coded it with words like “athleticism” and “versatility” — and those are accurate, too — but the makeup of Team USA is both lightning quick but with length. This is a team that that can run the floor, make quick cuts in the half court offense and, most importantly, smother you defensively for 94 feet.

This is not a roster that is going to run you over, they’re just going to run right by you. (Well… Blake Griffin will do both.)

This is a roster that is the favorite to win gold. One that will try to do that with speed and defense; with overwhelming athleticism, not with size and brute strength.

This is a team that is going to be a lot of fun to watch. They will win and be entertaining.

Look at the final roster: LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, Tyson Chandler, Blake Griffin, James Harden and Andre Iguodala. You can do a lot of things with that roster and Coach K plans to.

“Almost everybody on the team can play multiple positions…” Krzyzewski said. “You could have a lineup in there where LeBron James is the point guard with Kobe and Westbrook and Carmelo and Durant. Whatever you think about could happen because of its versatility and athleticism.”

The rash of injuries Team USA saw in the run-up to these games — Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh, LaMarcus Aldridge, Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade) — impacted the roster, but this kind of design was probably the goal from the start.

It’s easy to see Love at center grabbing the rebound and whipping an outlet pass to Westbrook who takes a lob and throws the ally-oop to Griffin… and pity the poor Tunisian player who decides to block that shot. It’s a roster that can keep pressure on you for a full 40 minutes.

Pressure defense will be the calling card of the team, Krzyzewski said. They are taking it to heart, reportedly in practice the senior circuit is already harassing the USA Select Team players from the second the ball is inbounded. A lot of international teams can’t handle that kind of pressure and the resulting turnovers will lead to Team USA highlights.

The one concern for Team USA is size — Chandler is the only true center and the only 7-footer. He will be a defensive anchor inside. But when Team USA runs into Spain with both Marc and Pau Gasol starting then Serge Ibaka coming off the bench, will Kevin Love at the five and LeBron at the four be enough?

That’s where the pressure defense comes in — it’s hard for a smaller point guard to make a clean pass in the post when Andre Iguodala or Kobe Bryant are in their face. You can take Spain or any team out of it’s game by making it hard to get the ball to the players they want where they want, and that’s what the speed and athleticism of Team USA can do. It is disruptive.

Gold is not a lock, but some team is going to have to take it away from Team USA. And it is going to have to catch them to do it.

• One other note, if you want to know what numbers players will wear here you go, via Ben Goliver of CBSSports.com.:

Paul 13, Westbrook 7, Williams 8, Harden 12, Iguodala 9, Bryant 10, Anthony 15, Griffin 14, Chandler 4, Love 11, Durant 5, James 6.

Nikola Mirotic, Bobby Portis lead way, Bulls blow out Kyrie-less Celtics 108-85

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CHICAGO (AP) — Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis are starting to draw attention for their play together instead of their fight with each other.

Mirotic scored 24 points, Portis added a career-high 23 and the Chicago Bulls blew out Boston 108-85 on Monday night with Celtics star Kyrie Irving sidelined because of a bruised left quadriceps.

Owners of the NBA’s worst record, the Bulls (6-20) built an 18-point lead in the second quarter against the Eastern Conference leaders. And when Boston cut it to 12 in the fourth, the Bulls simply pulled away for their third straight win.

Leading the way were two players who made headlines for all the wrong reasons before the season started.

Their fight at practice left Mirotic with facial fractures, causing him to miss the first 23 games. Portis served an eight-game suspension.

But the two have played well together the past two games.

“We need to give the credit to (coach Fred Hoiberg),” Mirotic said. “Fred is the one who is making us play. He’s the guy who is calling the plays for us and putting us in the right spots to play.”

As for the fight?

“Man, that situation’s over,” Portis said. “Everybody’s talking about that. But that doesn’t matter anymore. We’re just trying to win games.”

Mirotic made his first start of the season with leading scorer Lauri Markkanen sidelined because of back spasms and shot 9 of 14 with eight rebounds. Through three games, the 6-foot-10 forward is averaging 16.3 points.

Portis shot 10 of 15 and nailed all three 3-pointers.

Al Horford scored 15 for Boston (23-6). Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier added 13 points apiece in the Celtics’ most lopsided loss of the season.

“Sometimes you get your butt kicked. It was simple as that,” coach Brad Stevens said. “Chicago dictated the whole game. They played harder than we did. They played with more presence than we did. They played more competitive than we did. They played with more authority than we did. You’re not going to win many games when you play like that.”

 

Russell Westbrook threw it down all over Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

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A rough night for the Thunder will not stop the Russell Westbrook highlights.

The Thunder had another poor game and fell to a Hornets. Westbrook tried to push the team back, but the Thunder defense that has kept them in games all season was not good enough against Charlotte, and the OKC offense was once again up and down.

Westbrook had 30 points on 22 shots on the night, and none of them were as impressive as this transition throwdown on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

Jahlil Okafor excited about fresh start with Nets

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NEW YORK (AP) — Jahlil Okafor finally got the fresh start he wanted.

Okafor was the consensus No. 1 high school player in his class, won a national championship at Duke, and averaged 17.5 points and seven rebounds in his rookie campaign for the Philadelphia 76ers.

Then things changed drastically.

Okafor struggled with injuries and a logjam at his position in his second season.

“When I first got drafted there, we already had Nerlens (Noel) there, Joel (Embiid) was there, so we’re trying to have three starting centers on the same team,” Okafor said Monday at his introductory news conference with his new team, the Brooklyn Nets.

“It just never really was the right fit.”

The 76ers traded Okafor along with seldom-used guard Nik Stauskas and two draft picks to the Nets on Thursday. Philadelphia got forward Trevor Booker from Brooklyn.

Okafor also had off-court problems during his time in Philadelphia. He got a speeding ticket for driving 108 miles per hour and was suspended by the 76ers for two games after in an altercation outside of a Boston nightclub with a heckler.

“Speeding obviously is illegal,” Okafor said. “I know that’s not what you’re supposed to do. I guess you just learn how the page can turn on you and how everything can flip. I can’t really say I learned anything, because you know going in that’s not right. You just learn from your mistakes, but (it was) a tough thing that I went through, I got past, and I’m looking to better times now.”

Okafor, the third overall pick in the 2015 draft, joins D'Angelo Russell, the second overall pick in the same draft class, on the Nets.

“We’re just very excited to get on the court together,” Okafor said. “You never would’ve thought the number two and number three picks would be playing on the same team a few years after, but like I said, everything happens for a reason and I’m really excited.”

Russell also had problems on and off the court with the team that drafted him. He was criticized for recording a video of former Lakers teammate Nick Young that aired sordid details about Young’s private life. The Lakers gave up on Russell and drafted Lonzo Ball as his replacement.

“I feel like we’re similar in that we have a lot to prove,” Okafor said. “I know he’s working his (butt) off as well. Right now he’s rehabbing, trying to get back on the court. I think we both have a chip on our shoulder and we have a lot to prove. We’re definitely similar in that regard.”

Okafor understands he has areas to improve, mainly defense and rebounding.

“I’m not a perfect player,” Okafor said. “I’m 21. There are things that I need to work on, that I have worked on and that I’ll continue to work on.”

He’s excited about fulfilling his potential with a new team.

“I feel really motivated right now, but I’ve always been motivated,” Okafor said. “This is the first time where people are against me in a sense because I’ve always been the hyped-up guy. It’s something new for me to experience, so I’m glad that I am experiencing it.”

 

Report: Celtics’ Marcus Morris to miss “extended time” to let knee heal

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Marcus Morris missed the Celtics’ first eight games of the season in an effort to get healthy. Upon his return he’s been solid, first as a starter, then coming off the bench, but his left knee continued to be an issue.

Morris was out Sunday when the Celtics beat the Pistons, and he’s going to miss more time trying to get a troublesome left knee right, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

How much time is “extended time?” Probably at least a couple of weeks.

Morris has averaged 12.1 points and 5.5 rebounds a game this season, with a true shooting percentage of 52.5, which is right around the league average.

This could mean more run for rookie forwards Semi Ojeleye and Daniel Theis, both of whom have played well in limited minutes.