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.

Rumor: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope demanding more than $20 million annually to sign contract extension with Pistons

ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 27:  Kentavious Caldwell-Pope #5 of the Detroit Pistons reacts after a basket against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on October 27, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading andor using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Pistons owner Tom Gores said he’d pay the luxury tax if a contract extension for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope put Detroit over next season.

Yet, Caldwell-Pope hasn’t signed an extension with the deadline six days away.

What will it take?

Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

There was gossip over the summer that it would take a deal worth north of $20 million per year to get Caldwell-Pope’s signature.

That’s not an unreasonable demand. It’s up to Caldwell-Pope whether he’d accept less in exchange for more security, but I think he’d get even more as a restricted free agent next summer – maybe even a max contract, which projects to start at more than $24 million.

Caldwell-Pope is a good shooting guard in a league with a dearth of quality wings and a greater need for them as teams go smaller. He’ll be just 24 next offseason, so his next deal should last through his prime.

His preseason didn’t foreshadow a breakout year. He remains a good defender and streaky 3-point shooter. But it’s possible Caldwell-Pope steadies his outside stroke and/or becomes an even more impactful defender. He could also improve his off-the-dribble skills, though his bread is buttered as a 3-and-D player.

Still, it won’t take massive improvements for Caldwell-Pope to hold value. To some degree, the Pistons could view every dollar under the max on a Caldwell-Pope extension as savings.

If his demands remain high, the Pistons could always take another year to evaluate the fourth-year guard. With matching rights, they can always re-sign him in the offseason.

NBA sets record with 113 international players, a plurality from Canada, on opening-night rosters

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - NOVEMBER 21: Andrew Wiggins #22 of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Manu Ginobili #20 of the San Antonio Spurs go after a loose ball during the first quarter of the game on November 21, 2014 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Spurs defeated the Timberwolves 121-92. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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Until last season, the NBA set or tied its record for number of international players on opening-night rosters the previous three years.

But after peaking at 101 in 2014-15, the number dropped to 100 last season.

A sign the league has hit its foreign saturation point?

Probably not.

The NBA boasts a record 113 international players from a record 41 countries and territories to begin this season. Canada, with 11, leads the league for the third straight year.

A count of international players in the NBA on opening night:

  • 2016-17: 113
  • 2015-16: 100
  • 2014-15: 101
  • 2013-14: 92
  • 2012-13: 84

Here’s a full list of 2016-17 international players, but before you read it, take our quizzes on opening-night rosters.

Trivia: Name every player on a 2016-17 NBA roster

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 19:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers dunks the ball against the Golden State Warriors in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 19, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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NBA teams cut their rosters to a maximum of 15 players yesterday. Only one team, the Bulls, has just 14 players.

That means there are 449 players in the NBA as the season tips off tonight.

How many of them can you name?

Take these two quizzes, one for the Eastern Conference and one for the Western Conference. Players are in a random order within their teams.

Chandler Parsons out for Grizzlies’ opener

Memphis Grizzlies forward Chandler Parsons poses for a picture on NBA basketball media day Monday, Sept. 26, 2016, in Memphis, Tenn. Parsons signed with the Grizzlies in July. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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Chandler Parsons missed the Mavericks’ final 18 games last season, including the playoffs, due to knee problems.

Now with the Grizzlies, his games missed streak will hit 19.

Michael Wallace of

Maybe this is just a blip. Parsons will get healthy soon enough and diversify Memphis’ offense.

But Dallas didn’t make a stronger push to keep Parsons due to his knees. We could look back on this and chastise the Grizzlies for signing someone to a max contract who wasn’t even ready to play in the first place. They have big plans for Parsons, but he must play for those to work.

Brandan Wright just can’t get healthy. Maybe Memphis will believe this injury warrants missing time.