Olympics Day 1 roundup: Argentina picks up key victory

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We’ve broken down the USA win over France a few ways now, but there were five other games in the Olympics on Sunday. And we know you didn’t watch all of them because you were entranced by beach volleyball. We get that.

To help you out, here is a recap of the rest of the day in Olympic basketball.

Argentina 102, Lithuania 79: It is the first day of Olympic competition but this one was big — it likely determines second and third place in Group A (behind the USA). Argentina pulled away in the second quarter and got monster games from its stars: Luis Scola had 32 points on 19 shots, Manu Ginobili put on a clinic with 21 points and 10 rebounds, and Carlos Delfino added 20 points.

With this win it is likely the last day of Group A play will feature an undefeated USA and Argentina playing for the top spot in the group. And like the exhibition meeting (86-80 USA) it will not be a blowout.

Spain 97, China 81: Spain had to work for this one. If you’re a cynic and want to combine that with the fact the team projected as the second best in this tournament was not blowing people’s doors off in the exhibition tune-ups for the Olympics you can raise some eyebrows. But for now, I’d say keep your eyebrows down. Spain always seems to be a side that starts slow and builds in international competitions.

This was a seven-point game early in the fourth quarter before Spain pulled away at the end to have a comfortable margin of victory. As you might expect, Spain’s size — especially when Serge Ibaka was on the floor defending the rim – was hard for China to handle. Pau Gasol had 21 points and 11 boards to pace Spain, Ibaka had 17 off the bench. Juan Carlos Navarro added 14.

Biggest surprise of this game was phenomenal play from Yi Jianlian, who dropped 30 for China with 12 boards. He’s never figured out how to fit his game in the NBA but he looked comfortable out there and put up big numbers. Good time to do that if you’re a guy looking for an NBA payday (and some European clubs had to notice, too).

Nigeria 60, Tunisia 56: Nigeria owned the game early — Tunisia scored just 15 first half points and Nigeria was up 19 at one point. But Tunisia made a game of it late scoring 25 points in the fourth quarter and it took some steady play from Nigerian point guard Ade Dagunduro for them to hold on.

Brazil 75, Australia 71: This game was not expected to be this close but the Aussies put up a fight behind 20 points from Patty Mills (most recently of the Spurs) and some great outside shooting down the stretch that made a game of it. Brazil kept its head down the stretch and won because of veteran point guard Marcelinho Huertas, who had 10 assists. Brazil was led by 16 points from Leandro Barbosa.

Russia 95, Great Britain 75: Timberwolves fans, watch the replay of this game and you are going to be very happy. Just signed Andrei Kirilenko dropped 35 points on 14-of-17 shooting to lead Russia. Then your new backup Russian point guard Alexey Shved added 16 points and 13 assists. Russia is a sleeper medal team in this tournament, keep an eye on them. Luol Deng led GB with 26 points but needed 27 shots to do it.

Kevin Durant gets into Twitter debate with reporter over White House comments

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Kevin Durant became the latest Warrior — joining Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston, that we know of — to say he would not visit President Donald Trump’s White House as NBA champion. Which is all kind of moot because it’s unlikely the White House invites them and outspoken Trump critic/Warriors coach Steve Kerr and his players any way. (The White House’s biggest concern should be that Kerr accepts the invitation and uses that platform to challenge the president’s policies and style in front of him.)

Durant’s comments led to plenty of talk on sports talk radio and around the sports world online about whether a player or team should decline an invitation from the president. It’s not a new debate, Tom Brady denied that politics is why he didn’t visit Barack Obama’s White House (although I’m not sure many believed him), but KD’s on a big stage now so it became a talking point.

Former ESPN reporter Britt McHenry questioned a player not visiting the White House, and Durant responded, leading to a little Twitter back-and-forth.

Durant had previously Tweeted in response “by doing the opposite, I am inspiring more people” but that Tweet was deleted.

There is no one correct way to protest a person/policy/action, McHenry may see things differently, but Durant has chosen to stay away. That’s valid — traditionally these “champions to the White House” things are tedious photo ops with a few bad jokes thrown in. Having a hoops fan/player in Obama in the White House made the NBA visits more entertaining the past eight years, there was some trash talk, but still, they are largely just a public relations moment. If KD doesn’t want to play the PR game with Trump, that’s a legitimate response.

This has all been a tempest in a teapot. Until/unless the White House actually invites the Warriors to come, it’s all kind of moot.

Dwight Howard on Hornets’ coach Clifford: “It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you”

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Dwight Howard‘s game is much better than his reputation among fans.

He’s not the Defensive Player of the Year/All-NBA/MVP candidate level player he was back in Orlando, but Howard is still one of the best rebounders in the game, he’s strong defensively, and he’s an efficient scorer inside. He’s a quality center, if he plays within himself and is used well. His perception as a guy who does not take the game seriously and held back Houston and Atlanta in recent years has validity (he plays better in pick-and-roll than on the move, but wants the ball in the post), but the idea he is trash is flat-out wrong. He’s still good.

Howard wants to change his reputation, rewrite the final chapters of his career, and told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN that Steve Clifford’s Charlotte Hornets are the place that is going to happen.

“The other places I was, the coaches didn’t really know who I am,” Howard told ESPN. “I think that they had perception of me and ran with it. Cliff knows my game. He knows all the things that I can do. I’m very determined to get back to the top. It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you. They aren’t just saying it; they believe it. It really just pushed me to the limit in workouts: running, training, everything. I want to do more.

“In Orlando, I was getting 13-15 shots a game. Last season, in Atlanta, it was six shot attempts. It looks like I’m not involved in the game. And if I miss a shot, it sticks out because I am not getting very many of them. But I think it’s all opportunity, the system. I haven’t had a system where I can be who I am since I was in Orlando.”

Howard averaged 8.3 field goal attempts per game in Atlanta, which is about five a game below his peak. Last season 75 percent of Howard’s shots came within three feet of the rim — is is not there to space the floor, however, he can still move fairly well off the roll and is a good passer for a big.

Last season, 28 percent of Howard’s possessions came on post ups, and he averaged a pedestrian 0.84 points per possession on those. On the 21 percent of shots he got on a cut, he averaged a very good 1.36 PPP. When he got the ball back as a roll man (again on the move), it was 1.18 PPP. The challenge long has been Howard is better on the move but doesn’t feel involved unless he gets post touches, and if he doesn’t feel involved and engaged he’s not the same player.

Maybe Clifford can make this all work with some older plays where Howard feels comfortable.

Charlotte, with Howard in the paint and on the boards, should get back to being a top 10 NBA defensive team, not the middle of the pack as they were last season. Clifford is better than that as a coach, and Howard is an upgrade in the paint (on both ends). Charlotte should be a playoff team again in the East.

But it all will come back to Howard. Fair or not. And Wojnarowski is right, this is Howard’s last best chance to write the ending he wants to his career.

Friday afternoon fun: Watch James Harden’s 10 best plays from last season

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James Harden had a historic season in Houston.

Since it’s Friday afternoon and your sports viewing options consist of watching guys about to be cut from NFL rosters try to impress, why not check out Harden’s best plays from last season. It’s worth a couple minutes of your time.

Mavericks sign Jeff Withey to one-year contract

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Jeff Withey‘s ex-fiancée accused him of domestic violence, but he was not charged.

That frees him to continue his basketball career, which he’ll do in Dallas.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Mavericks could use another center, even if they re-sign Nerlens Noel. Salah Mejri is the only other true center, though Dirk Nowitzki will now play the position.

Withey is a good rim protector. Just don’t ask him to do anything away from the basket.

Dallas annually brings excess players to training camp and has them compete for regular-season roster spots. Whether or not his salary is guaranteed, Withey will likely fall into that competition.