Nicolas Batum thinks a few teams could beat Team USA

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It’s not going to happen this week. Tunisia and Nigeria are no threat to the United States, and while they have some talent Lithuania really isn’t either.

But next week against Argentina then moving into the medal round play things are going to get serious for Team USA. They need to start playing better because their opponents will.

France’s Nicolas Batum said he thinks the USA could lose one game, and maybe a key one. The Oregonian has Batum’s postgame comments after France lost to the United States and he thought they were somewhat vulnerable.

“During the preparation (for the Olympics) they didn’t blow out every team,” Batum said. “They won by six against Argentina, I think they won by 11 against Brazil (he’s correct). So, they can lose one game, maybe…

“(To beat the USA) You need to play a 40 minute game, control the rebounds, take care of the ball and play good defense. Some teams can do it and I think some teams can beat them. Really. Spain, Argentina, Brazil, a lot of teams can beat them.”

I think Batum is right about this — if we were talking a seven game series we could just turn the gold over to Team USA right now. But for one night, if the USA is cold from the outside and the opponent doesn’t turn the ball over, they can be beat. Spain might only win 2 or 3 out of 10 games against the USA, but on one given night they would get the one win they need in the Olympics.

Batum added it will not be easy. Batum also talked about the perceived weakness of the USA — size.

“Everyone says they are small, but LeBron is the size of every big on the other team. And (Kevin Durant) is longer than every big guy on the other team, too,” Batum said.

Yes, LeBron is the best power forward in the game today. And the best small forward. International coaches can spend a day in Scotty Brook’s shoes and figure out how to stop him.

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.

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?