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Kobe says 2012 Olympic team could beat Dream Team. Krzyzewski wouldn’t rule it out.

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LAS VEGAS — Kobe Bryant was direct, in his very Kobe Bryant way. When asked to compare this 2012 Team USA — with himself, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and so on — and how it would do against the 1992 Dream Team with Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan (a team with 11 Hall of Famers), he gave the answer you knew he would.

Kobe said he thought today’s squad would win.

Of course he did. Kobe has never stepped onto a basketball court thinking the team he was on wouldn’t win. That’s part of Kobe.

USA coach Mike Krzyzewski has a better, longer-term perspective (he was an assistant with the Dream Team) and was asked if this team could beat the legendary Dream Team.

“Right now I wouldn’t say that,” Krzyzewski said, referring to how the team looked after a few days of practices. “But this team can be very good. The one thing about this team they are all kind of in their prime or getting ready to go into their prime, and Kobe hasn’t lost anything. Whereas in ’92 there were guys at the end of their careers. Larry (Bird) had a hard time physically, John Stockton was hurt, Magic had been out a year. In their prime, all those guys together, there was no team ever like that.”

It’s an interesting point. That 1992 team did have a prime Michael Jordan plus Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing (the 2012 team would struggle to slow him), Karl Malone and Clyde Drexler in his prime, among others. But the point that that Dream Team was not 1985 Magic or 1986 Bird is a valid one, we don’t always think of it that way because those guys were able to put on a show against inferior competition.

It’s also hard to judge teams across generations because the competition against them changed.

“The competitive nature of it is so much different (now than 1992), there is so much more competition now,” Coach K said. “Remember in ’92 not only were we ahead (in terms of basketball talent), but Yugoslavia split just before that, so they never put the Yugoslavian team together. And Russia split and became Russia and Lithuania. That would have been more competition. It’s not like the world was that far behind at the time, but the two best international teams in the world other than the United States, were split for the ’92 Games. Nobody is getting split before 2012.”

No, but we have the same expectations of them.

Gregg Popovich pins Spurs’ effort problems on players: ‘I don’t remember playing tonight’ (video)

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich gives instructions against the Detroit Pistons in the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game in Auburn Hills, Mich., Monday, Oct. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
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The Spurs fell behind by 18 and eventually lost to the Bulls, 95-91, last night – which begged the question:

Does San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich bear any responsibility for his team’s lack of early intensity?

Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News:

Popovich:

I don’t remember playing tonight. I didn’t play. Guys get a lot of money to be ready to play. No Knute Rockne speeches. It’s your job. If you’re a plumber and you don’t do your job, you don’t get any work. I don’t think a plumber needs a pep talk. If a doctor botches operations, he’s not a doctor anymore. If you’re a basketball player, you come ready. It’s called maturity. It’s your job.

Like it or not, motivation is part of an NBA coach’s job.

But that’s also precisely what Popovich is doing.

His credentials dwarf any other coach’s. He can play to his own ego and absolve himself of responsibility – and players will seek to please him. His years of success have earned him the ability to motivate this way, a method no other coach could use without alienating his team.

Donatas Motiejunas signing four-year, $35 million contract with Rockets

DENVER, CO - MARCH 07:  Donatas Motiejunas #20 of the Houston Rockets is helped to his feet by teammates James Harden #13 and Patrick Beverley #2 of the Houston Rockets at Pepsi Center on March 7, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockets defeated the Nuggets 114-100. 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 Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
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Once the Rockets let Donatas Motiejunas back into free agency, this was only a matter of time.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

This sounds remarkably similar to the salaries and incentives set in the original offer sheet from the Nets. But remember, the Rockets didn’t match some of those bonuses that Brooklyn would have been bound to.

So, why not hold Motiejunas to what became a four-year, $31 million offer sheet once matched? Houston got something in return – a later trigger date on guaranteeing Motiejunas’ 2017-18 salary. Originally, that decision had to be made March 1 – which would’ve meant dropping Motiejunas from the team this season to prevent his salary from counting next season. Now, the Rockets can make that call in July, after this season is complete.

The following two Julys, Houston will also have a choice on guaranteeing Motiejunas’ upcoming salary or dropping him.

Essentially, Motiejunas is signing the most lucrative Hinkie Special in NBA history. If he plays well and stays healthy, the Rockets have Motiejunas at an affordable rate. If he struggles or his back injuries flare up, they can drop him with little to no penalty.

After they backed themselves into this corner, Motiejunas and his agent, B.J. Armstrong, didn’t do so bad. Considering the similarity between this contract and the Nets’ original offer sheet, it seems Houston helped Armstrong save face after a bungled free agency (which is easier to accept when you’re adding a talented reserve to a formidable team).

But for how little is guaranteed and how much control the Rockets hold over the next four years, wouldn’t Motiejunas have been better off accepting the $4,433,683 qualifying offer?

Report: Rockets return Donatas Motiejunas to restricted free agency, working on new contract with him

Donatas Motiejunas, Kenneth Faried
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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The Rockets had Donatas Motiejunas in a bind.

He was beholden to them on a four-year, $31 million deal and unable to sign with other teams. Motiejunas’ choices: Report for a physical or wait in limbo.

But apparently Houston has allowed him out of that constraint.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

This means Motiejunas can’t sign with the Nets, who signed him to the original offer sheet, for one year.

I bet it also means Motiejunas and Houston have agreed to a new contract. Otherwise, why release him from the offer sheet? The Rockets would be giving up a tremendous amount of leverage out of the goodness of their hearts – unless this is just a prelude to a new deal with Houston.

John Wall pushes down Jusuf Nurkic from behind in retaliation (video)

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John Wall didn’t like how Jusuf Nurkic bumped him, so Wall shoved the Nuggets center from behind and sent him to the floor.

An overreaction to the bump? Probably. Wall got hit with a technical foul.

But I’m mostly just impressed Wall was strong enough to push over Nurkic.