Doc Rivers talks Olympic tournament, why he likes pros in it

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Starting Sunday when you watch the USA take of France in our first game of the Olympic basketball tournament, the voice doing studio analysis on the NBC family of networks is going to sound familiar. Didn’t he used to do this for a living?

He did. Now, he coaches the Celtics for his paychecks. Doc Rivers will be the studio analyst (and 76ers coach Doug Collins will be doing color in the booth).

Rivers was on the Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive” show and talked Olympic hoops. CSNNE.com was listening in and got the quotes on questions like who could really challenge the USA?

“I think it’s Spain, Argentina, or Brazil. I think those teams are very good,” Rivers said. “They have NBA players. Argentina’s a rough team. That’s how they’ve always played, so I think you can’t discount them. And they’ve all played together for so much longer than the U.S. team has.”

Rivers also was asked about professionals playing in the Olympics and the idea being floated of turning the games into a soccer-style under-23 tournament. Rivers thinks we need our pros there.

“I played in the World Championship game back in [1982], “Rivers recalled. “We played in the gold medal game at that time [against USSR]. That afternoon I was in the swimming pool and I noticed the group we were playing had their kids, their families. They were already professionals. The other countries were playing professionals in the Olympics, they just were not called pros. We lost by one, I remember that (95-94), and I just thought the age difference was huge. And either they were going to have an age difference at [age] 22 or 25 that was a cut-off or everyone should be allowed to play. And I thought it was the right thing to do.”

By the way Doc, do you think the Olympics even matter to the players anymore?

“It does now. After they lost a couple of times it does now. I don’t think it will replace an NBA championship. I think honestly that is what you grow up to be. You don’t grow up to win a gold medal, you grow up to win an NBA championship. I do think now guys are growing up, they want a gold medal, and they want an NBA championship.

It’s not about the shoes: Kevin Durant loses his, blocks two shots anyway

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Shoes? Kevin Durant don’t need no stinkin’ shoes.

Early in the second quarter of the Warriors win in New Orleans Friday, Durant came out of his shoes on a layup in the lane. He then picked up his shoe, carried it to the other end, flipped it to the bench, and played defense without it, and while he got moved out of the way allowing an offensive rebound for the Pelicans he then proceeded to block Tony Allen twice at the rim.

Durant — after deciding to play the rest of the game in shoes — had seven blocks on the night, to go with 22 points.

Joel Embiid frustrated, wants more post touches, to play back-to-backs

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Joel Embiid remains a frustrated man.

He wants to be unleashed on the NBA, and he feels he’s being held back.

Part of that is not playing in back-to-backs — Embiid started Friday night against Boston but will sit out by plan Saturday night against the Raptors in Toronto. Embiid knows the plan to help protect a body that has played only 31 games in three seasons before this one and was not cleared for most of training camp, but that doesn’t mean he likes it, as he told Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia.

“I just want to feel like an NBA player,” Embiid said.  “I feel like I’m not an NBA player because I can’t play back-to-back.”

I get his frustration, but can you blame the Sixers for treating the guy like he’s made of glass at this point? Hopefully, later in the season, he can be cleared to play on both ends.

His second frustration came from the loss to the Celtics on Friday — he wants more post touches. In the video above he is clear, “I didn’t get the ball enough in the post.”

He’s right here. Embiid had three post-ups all game, one in each of the game’s first three quarters (stat via Synergy Sports). Embiid is efficient in the post — he has shot 9-of-12 on those plays overall this season and the Sixers score 1.33 points per possession when he does. That will work especially well against teams going small (for example, the Cavaliers with Kevin Love at the five), although Friday night Boston had big man Aron Baynes starting at center (in part because of Embiid, in part because Marcus Smart was out injured). Still, Embiid can score on Baynes.

Take a look at Embiid’s shot chart from Friday night.

Part of this is on him with all the threes, but they have to utilize him better. It’s part of the Sixers growing pains that will come this season.

Nets’ national anthem singer kneels to finish performance

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NEW YORK (AP)—  The national anthem singer at the Brooklyn Nets’ home opener took a knee at the end of her performance.

Justine Skye was nearing the completion of the song Friday night when she went to one knee for the finish. There were some cheers, but appeared to be more boos from the crowd at Barclays Center to see the Nets play the Orlando Magic.

NBA players have continued to stand during the playing of the anthems, as required by league rule.

Mavericks’ rookie guard Dennis Smith Jr. misses game with knee swelling

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DALLAS (AP) — Dallas Mavericks rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. missed Friday’s game against the Sacramento Kings with swelling in his left knee.

Smith, the ninth pick in the NBA draft out of North Carolina State, had 16 points and 10 assists in the Mavericks’ season-opening loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

Smith participated in the Mavericks’ shootaround on Friday morning and was a late scratch. It is not known if Smith will play Saturday for Dallas.

The Mavericks were also missing guard Devin Harris, who was granted leave of absence after his brother died on Thursday.