Argentina’s Nocioni not sure USA wins gold medal

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It’s the problem Team USA faces — they are judged as much on style points as wins and losses. So far they are 4-0 in preseason games, but because Brazil led after one quarter and Argentina lost 86-80 — two teams with big front lines playing into a weakness of the U.S. squad — they have not been convincing enough to make American fans comfortable.

Because we all know a very good Spanish side — with Pau Gasol, Mark Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Jose Calderon, Rudy Fernandez and more talent on a team that has largely played together for a decade — is looming. They play a friendly on Tuesday where both sides will hold back what they think will work best, because it’s all about the gold medal game we expect from the two teams in London.

The one team in a good place to make a call is Argentina — they lost by 20 to Spain before taking on the USA. And here is what Andres Nocioni said Sunday after the USA game, via basquetplus.com and The Big Lead.

“The U.S. team will have to work very hard for the gold medal and I’m not so sure they will get it.”

Anyone actually disagree with that?

Well, I disagree with the gold medal part, but not the general sentiment.

I said that after Sunday’s game the close game with Argentina showed there are a few teams — France, Argentina, maybe Russia — who can push the USA and beat them maybe once in a seven game series. Especially with a USA that plays an aggressive, pressure style of game that some teams have the talent to adjust to and grind down. Spain is another animal, they wouldn’t win a seven game series against the USA but they might force it to a Game 6.

And in a one-and-done playoff or gold medal game, that makes these teams dangerous. It will take a focused USA to get the gold. It will take Kevin Durant scoring, LeBron bringing his all-around game and Tyson Chandler staying on the court (the USA’s +/- is dramatically better when he is in the game).

You can’t take too much from the USA’s Olympic tune-ups, even Tuesday’s showdown with Spain in Barcelona. Right now coach Mike Krzyzewski is playing around with lineups and experimenting, as he should. Nothing the team does really matters until June 29 against France.

But the one lesson we can learn is that it will not be easy. Not at all.

Stephen Curry drains shots from near half court during warmups like they’re layups

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Stephen Curry‘s pregame warmups draw people into the arena early, it’s a show in and of itself.

Before Game 4 Monday night, Curry was taking a couple shots from the center-court logo. And draining them. Like layups. Because he can.

We’ll see if he can put on that kind of show when the game tips off.

Gregg Popovich makes it official: No Kawhi Leonard for Game 4

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This was expected. It still sucks to hear.

Kawhi Leonard is out for Game 4 vs. the Warriors Monday night.

Leonard has sprained his left ankle in Game 5 against the Rockets and sat out Game 6 of that series (a San Antonio win), then returned for Game 1 against the Warriors. He re-injured his ankle twice in that game — once stepping on David Lee‘s foot, once when Zaza Pachulia slid under him on a jumper and took away his landing space. Leonard left that game with his team up 23 points, but the Warriors rallied back to win Game 1 and have controlled the series ever since. Leonard has not returned to the series.

San Antonio will play with pride on Monday night, but it may not be enough. You can bet the Warriors were reminded all day about taking their foot off the gas after what happened with Cleveland Sunday.

Report: Orlando hires Toronto GM Jeff Weltman to be president of basketball operations

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In Toronto, Masai Ujiri is the head of basketball operations and the guy with the hammer on deals. Jeff Weltman was his right-hand man and team GM.

Make that was his right-hand man, Weltman has been hired by the Orlando Magic to run its basketball operations, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Orlando Magic have hired Toronto Raptors general manager Jeff Weltman as the franchise’s president of basketball operations, league sources told The Vertical.

Weltman met with Orlando CEO Alex Martins and ownership on Monday, finalizing a five-year deal, league sources said.

Orlando officials had been intrigued with Cleveland GM David Griffin, but moved steadily toward Weltman as they became further engaged with his candidacy in recent weeks, league sources said. Weltman has been deeply involved in every aspect of the Raptors’ front office under president Masai Ujiri as Toronto became a perennial Eastern Conference contender.

Making a move now is smart in this sense: The Magic have the No. 5 pick in this draft and would want the guy making the big picture decisions about this roster on board to make this selection.

That roster already has some quality pieces — Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier, Nikola Vucevic, maybe Elfrid Payton — but has underachieved. There were questions about the culture and a lack of accountability, and that blame ultimately fell on GM Rob Hennigan and he was let go. Frank Vogel is locked in as

Frank Vogel is locked in as coach, so how well Weltman and Vogel work together — and share a vision — will be key.

Weltman is well-respected around the league. He spent five seasons as an assistant GM in Milwaukee, and has been with the Raptors since 2013 as that team has risen up the Eastern Conference standings and had its best run in franchise history. He also has worked with the Clippers and in Denver. He’s been one of those guys expected to get a chance in the big chair for a few years now.

He’s got it, and it’s an interesting challenge in Orlando.

Celtics’ Guerschon Yabusele has foot surgery, expected to be ready for training camp

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When the Boston Celtics head to training camp next fall, all eyes will be on Markelle Fultz whoever the Celtics take with the No. 1 pick. He will be the guy expected, in a few years, to lead the Celtics to the top of the mountain in the East (assuming LeBron James ever leaves that space).

But they will have another high first round pick coming in: Guerschon Yabusele, a 6’8” power forward out of France. The Celtics drafted him No. 16 a year ago, then had him go get a year of seasoning in the Chinese Basketball Association.

Yabusele is having foot surgery but is expected to be ready for training camp, reports Chris Forsberg of ESPN.

Guerschon Yabusele, a 2016 first-round pick of the Boston Celtics, underwent surgery recently to remove bone spurs from the top of both feet and will not participate in summer league, according to a league source.

Yabusele, the 16th overall pick in last year’s draft, spent much of his first professional season stashed in China. He came stateside in March and latched on with the Maine Red Claws, Boston’s D-League affiliate.

For a team that lacks rebounding, Yabusele could be a fit in Boston. He has the build of an old-school power forward, but he has a face-up game on offense, a quicker first step than people think, and he can shoot the three.

The Celtics also have Ante Zizic, last year’s No. 23 pick, who played last season in Turkey. The Celtics are a deep team, will they have a roster space for Yabusele or Zizic next season? Or will at least one of them play another year overseas, stashed away and waiting for their chance? There are a lot of questions about the Celtics’ plans this summer, that is just one of them.