Blake Griffin arrives for a news conference announcing the players selected for the 2012 U.S. Olympic men's basketball team in Las Vegas

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


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

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

Jahlil Okafor tweets apology for recent off-court behavior

Jahlil Okafor
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The off-court incidents have been piling up for Jahlil Okafor over the past month: first, an incident captured on video that showed Okafor getting into a fight with a heckler early Thanksgiving morning; then, a report that Okafor had a gun pulled on him in a previous incident; and finally, this morning’s report that the Sixers’ No. 3 overall pick in this June’s draft had been pulled over in recent weeks for driving 108 miles per hour in Philadelphia. Together, they aren’t a good look for the rookie.

On Sunday afternoon, Okafor apologized for his recent behavior in a series of tweets:

The recent incidents involving Okafor are surprising—going into the draft, he never had any red flags for maturity or off-the-court issues. He’s certainly saying the right things after the fact, and he’s only 19, so hopefully this is nothing more than a small rough patch where he’s made some bad decisions, and not an indicator of things to come.

Kobe Bryant announces this is his final season


It has seemed like this was it for a while. Kobe Bryant has been frustrated; he hasn’t been able to produce like he expects — his play has been hard to watch — and the Lakers are a train wreck.

Kobe made it official Sunday via the Players’ Tribune — this is his final season. He did it via a letter called “Dear Basketball.”

You gave a six-year-old boy his Laker dream
And I’ll always love you for it.
But I can’t love you obsessively for much longer.
This season is all I have left to give.
My heart can take the pounding
My mind can handle the grind
But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.

And that’s OK.
I’m ready to let you go.
I want you to know now
So we both can savor every moment we have left together.
The good and the bad.
We have given each other
All that we have.

It’s not coincidental this was announced a couple days before the Lakers travel to Kobe’s hometown of Philadelphia to face the Sixers. Also remember Kobe is an investor in The Players’ Tribune.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver quickly released this statement:

“With 17 NBA All-Star selections, an NBA MVP, five NBA championships with the Lakers, two Olympic gold medals and a relentless work ethic, Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest players in the history of our game.  Whether competing in the Finals or hoisting jump shots after midnight in an empty gym, Kobe has an unconditional love for the game.

“I join Kobe’s millions of fans around the world in congratulating him on an outstanding NBA career and thank him for so many thrilling memories.”

Kobe will go down as one of the game’s all-time greats. Few can come close to his resume: Five NBA titles, two NBA Finals MVPs, 15 time All-NBA teams, one MVP, 17 times an All-Star (and the All-Star Game MVP four times). And we could go on and on.

Good on Kobe for doing this now. After 55,000 NBA minutes his body has quit on him, and where his mind is still willing the flesh is clearly weak right now. He has not been able to adapt his game to the changing realities of what he can do.

Kobe has said he doesn’t want a “Derek Jeter Farewell Tour” but that will be the feel from here on out. Expect some special recognition at the All-Star Game in Toronto.

Bulls’ Dunleavy to see specialist after suffering setback with back injury

Mike Dunleavy, Joakim Noah
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CHICAGO—Over the past few weeks, Bulls forward Mike Dunleavy has seemed to be making progress in his back rehab. Dunleavy underwent back surgery shortly before the start of training camp and was initially given a timeline of 8-10 weeks. Recently, he’s been increasing his workload, and he traveled with the team on their recent west coast road trip.

However, his recovery may have hit a snag.

“Mike is going to see a doctor again tomorrow and then we should have a better update after that,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said after practice on Sunday. “He had a little bit of soreness. But we’ll have more on that tomorrow.”

An update to Dunleavy’s status is coming, but given Dunleavy’s age (35) and the frequency of back injuries to reoccur, this news certainly isn’t encouraging. Between Tony Snell and Doug McDermott, the Bulls have struggled at both ends of the floor on the wing. Getting Dunleavy back, whenever that happens, will be a huge help. But nobody knows when that will be.

Stan Van Gundy calls out Andre Drummond’s effort after loss to Thunder

Andre Drummond
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After a promising start to the season, the Pistons have lost three of their last four games and seven of their last 10. And although he’s been outstanding for most of the season, Andre Drummond has not been above receiving criticism from Stan Van Gundy. The coach called out Drummond’s effort on Friday night after a loss to the Thunder.

Via Sportando:

“I didn’t think he brought much energy to the Milwaukee game, and I didn’t think he brought much energy tonight,” Van Gundy said of the two beatings the Pistons received this week. “Why that is, I don’t know. But we need a lot more from him than we got tonight.”

Calling out your best player in the media is bold, but Van Gundy has enough of a track record and a reputation, going back to his days in Orlando with Dwight Howard, that he can get away with it. It also sends a message to the entire team that Van Gundy isn’t going to hold his star to a different standard than the rest of the team.

Despite a couple of poor performances, Drummond is having a career year, leading the league in rebounding at 17.1 per game while also averaging 17.9 points.