Team USA experiments its way to blowout 113-59 win

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LAS VEGAS — Exhibition games should be about experimentation, about learning things to help you later. Unfortunately, you can’t learn too much from Team USA’s 113-59 throttling of the Dominican Republic in Las Vegas

We learned that teams are going to struggle with the athletes and pressure defense Team USA can bring. We learned that teams are going to pack the paint on the USA and give them jumpers (which they knocked down for a night). We learned that Kevin Durant can really score. We learned Carmelo Anthony is fun to watch when he works off the ball.

Those are things we all knew.

What we did start to learn was what kind of matchups and rotations we may see going forward and how Coach Mike Krzyzewski wants to use a versatile roster. He has a roster so deep the bench might beat the starters, and he used that. He spent the night trying everything. The USA Started Anthony, Kobe Bryant, Tyson Chandler, LeBron James and Chris Paul, bringing Durant off the bench. Durant thrived in that role, scoring a team high 24. After the game Krzyzewski said they plan to stick with that for at least another game.

Coach K went mad scientist experimenting matchup experiments all game. He had LeBron James at center for a stretch (guarding Al Horford in the post) with Andre Iguodala at the four. He went big for a stretch in the third with Tyson Chandler at center and Kevin Love at the four. Even just called up Anthony Davis (here because of the injury to Blake Griffin) played eight minutes.

“I thought Iguodala, Carmelo and LeBron and Kevin (Durant) all played big, they all covered fours and fives,” Krzyzewski said. “And we have to get comfortable with that.

“I thought Iguodala played a great game. He shot the ball well. (Sixers coach) Doug Collins was saying ‘why don’t you do that for us all the time?’”

Going small like that worked against an overmatched Dominican Republic, but Krzyzewski admitted it will be a better test against a big Brazil team next week in an exhibition in Washington D.C.

Iguodala said with this roster they shouldn’t worry about traditional positions as much.

“You see that when we have certain lineups in there,” Iguodala said. “One lineup we had LeBron and KD, and I was guarding the four and KD was guarding the three, but on the offensive end we’re interchangeable. We just play basketball.

“The really interesting thing is when anyone gets the rebound that turns it a break… it’s crazy when we’re coming at you and pretty hard to stop when we are executing the right way.”

What Coach K liked was the intensity on defense, the communication on switches, the pressuring the ball for 94 feet and wearing the Dominican Republic down. He found a lineup he likes doing that and you can bet you’ll see it again.

“I like when we have those guys off the bench — (Russell) Westbrook, Iguodala, (James) Harden, LeBron stays out there and Deron Williams, I like how we pressure the ball,” Krzyzewski said.

He added that Williams played very well and you can expect him to get more minutes. Chris Paul played only 8 minutes because he is recovering from a thumb injury.

Krzyzewski said you can expect some more mad scientist over the next couple weeks, but he hopes to have a pretty set rotation by the time Team USA gets to London.

NBA reacts to Suns’ Devin Booker dropping 70 on Celtics

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Devin Booker was the story of the NBA Friday night.

The 20-year-old Suns’ guard — who never scored more than 19 points in a game at Kentucky in college — dropped 70 on the Boston Celtics in a losing effort. He becomes only the sixth player in NBA history to score at least 70 in a game. At the end the Suns were fouling and calling time outs to stop the clock and get the ball back to Booker, but as Phoenix coach Earl Watson said to those who complained, “You got a problem with that? Do something. Simple as that.”

NBA Twitter exploded at what Booker did.

Booker himself responded this way.

Lonzo Ball makes expected official, declares for NBA Draft

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There was no hesitation. None was expected.

After UCLA was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in the Sweet 16 by Kentucky, the Bruin’s Lonzo Ball — who is expected to be a top-three pick — declared for the NBA draft this June.

Ball is expected to go second or third in the upcoming NBA draft. Speaking with people around the league Washington’s Markelle Fultz is a clear No. 1, but after that if the Lakers — the team with the second-worst record in the league — have the No. 2 pick they are expected to snap up Ball. Depending on how the lottery shakes out the top of the draft, Ball could fall a little — there are teams that like Josh Jackson — but not much.

Ball is a 6’6″ point guard who averaged 14.7 points, 7.6 assists and 6.1 rebounds a game for UCLA last season. He has fantastic passing vision, impressive shooting range (although he can take some questionable shots), and a great sense of floor spacing and how to run an offense, particularly in transition. However, his weaknesses were exposed in his final game some as De’Aaron Fox of Kentucky completely outplayed Ball. Defensive pressure took Ball (and the Bruins) out of rhythm, forced them to play in the half court (where Ball is not as strong), and it’s one of the things Ball is going to have to adapt to at the next level where everyone is more athletic. Also, he’s going to need to get more consistent defensively.

The potential for Ball to be special is there, which is why he will go high in the draft.

And no, the rantings of his father will not change that. Teams see the father as a distraction that can be handled, they aren’t going to let him get in the way of drafting talent.

Watch highlights of Shaquille O’Neal’s statue unveiling outside Staples Center

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Kobe Bryant said “Thank you. I learned so much from you as a player.”

Jerry West said he loved him like a son.

Jeanie Buss said “No one celebrates a championship like you, but please no more asking Mark Madsen to dance.”

The Lakers unveiled a new statue for Shaquille O’Neal Friday night, one flying high over a Staples Center entrance, and the stars were on hand for the event. Phil Jackson was there making Snoop Dogg jokes. Shaq and Kobe were sharing laughs. It was a big night for a big man with a big personality. And a big heart.

Check out the highlights above.

Report: Knicks’ Joakim Noah to be suspended 20 games for violating league drug policy

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Joakim Noah hasn’t set foot on an NBA court since Feb. 4, and his season was all but ended when he had knee surgery at the end of February. Last summer, Phil Jackson took a $72 million gamble on an aging Noah that has not worked at all, and left New York with an anchor of a contract for three more seasons after this one.

Tomorrow it will be official Noah is done for this season, but not because of the Knicks or his injury.

During his recovery, Noah violated the NBA’s drug policy and will pay for a 20-game suspension, reports Adrian Wojnarowski at The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Noah tested positive for an over-the-counter supplement that is prohibited under the outgoing Collective Bargaining Agreement, league sources said.

Noah, 32, is expected to serve 10 games of the suspension to finish out the 2016-17 regular season and 10 games to start the 2017-18 season, league sources said.

The National Basketball Players Association’s investigation concluded that Noah hadn’t “knowingly or willingly” violated the policy and cooperated fully with the league’s probe, league sources said.

According to reports, this is not a substance banned in the new CBA that kicks in July 1, but was covered in the previous CBA. Over-the-counter supplements could be something put in his regular workout recovery drinks that he was unaware of, although we are unsure of the details.

Traditionally, the player has to be healthy enough to play before the league starts the suspension. Noah has been out for more than a month, but if a league doctor says he is healthy enough to play the then the clock on the suspension can start. The 10 games this season is no big deal for the Knicks, he wasn’t going to play anyway, but the 10 at the start of next season could sting (depending on how they plan to use him).