Tyson Chandler says USA going to break bad habits Lithuania exposed

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There were back cuts. There was poor transition defense. There were American defenders giving up position to gamble for a steal and being exposed.

There were a few reasons Team USA struggled with Lithuania on Saturday — ice cold shooting from three is at the top of the list — but for a team that prides itself on defense, Team USA didn’t play it well.

USA starting center Tyson Chandler owned up to that speaking with PBT from the Gillette Lounge in Procter & Gamble Family Home in London. The guy that is out there to help organize and backstop the USA’s defense said that the previous two games caught up to them against Lithuania.

“We had a down night,” Chandler said in an exclusive interview with ProBasketballTalk. “We got beat off the dribble way too much, and our execution was poor defensively, and our communication was poor. So it was one of those nights and we struggled offensively but we got to learn with a victory….

“We want to be able go for steals and do that while still being solid. You don’t want to gamble without reason… We played a couple of games where we were able to jump all over the passing lanes and a little bit of bad habits creep in. And then you play a game like Lithuania and those bad habits are exposed. But the great thing is they are exposed and we came away with a win. It was a learning thing for us. Now we go out and make the adjustments”

Chandler has not been able to backstop the American defense as much as hoped these Olympics (12 minutes per game) because Coach J has gone small a lot and because of foul trouble at times. Foul trouble in part because  FIBA officiating is… inconsistent. That’s a word we can use on a family blog. Inconsistent.

“It’s an adjustment, you adjust every game. You learn game by game, you just have to adjust…” Chandler said diplomatically of the officiating. “An athletes job is to try to adjust to the way the game is being called. It’s very important that while we are on the floor we keep our composure and that we represent our country in the correct fashion. Because it’s not just the image we put off for ourselves, it’s about representing our country.”

Chandler spoke a lot about representing his country and how much that mattered to him. Composure on the court and acting like grown men is certainly part of that. But the other part is winning.

Lithuania was just the first of some real tests for the USA coming up, starting with Argentina on Monday.

“We understand we are into the thick of things now, it really begins now,” Chandler said. “Argentina is going to be a tough game and after that it’s the medal round, so things are going to pick up and get more intense. This is what we have all been waiting for.”

Is there a pressure on the team to win gold? Heck yes. Anything short will be viewed as a failure. But Chandler tries not to look at it that way.

“You don’t feel the pressure to go out and win a gold or something like that, you feel the pressure to go out and represent your country in the correct fashion… We also know we have the ability to inspire the next generation. We’ve seen how the game of basketball has evolved since the 1992 Olympics when the dream team was assembled… a lot of the kids who were inspired by that are in our league today.”

Chandler also talked about wanting to inspire his young children. He was hanging out in the Procter & Gamble Family Home, on the day they were celebrating Olympic dads (which you can like on Facebook).

“We’re enjoying the festivities, and I’m looking forward to 10 years from now being able to break back out the footage and sharing with them what all of this meant,” Chandler said.

Especially if he can also break out a gold medal to show them.

Cavaliers beat Raptors, become first team in 27 years to surrender 79 first-half points and win

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The Cavaliers haven’t been good enough throughout the season, especially defensively. The Raptors have – offensively, defensively, starters, bench. Hope has grown in Toronto of winning the Eastern Conference after getting eliminated by Cleveland the last two years.

But LeBron James and Cavs showed why it’s hard to pick any other team – even the first-place Raptors – to win the East in a 132-129 win over Toronto tonight.

Cleveland allowed 79 first-half points and fell behind by 15. But a LeBron-led offense was just too potent. This was the first time since 1990 (Nuggets over Spurs after trailing 90-83) a team surrendered so many first-half points then still won.

LeBron finished with 35 points, 17 assists and no turnovers. No forward has ever dished so many assists without a turnover in Basketball-Reference’s database, which dates back to 1963-64.

And LeBron led the Cavaliers to this win despite Tristan Thompson, Rodney Hood, Larry Nance Jr., Kyle Korver and Cedi Osman being out.

It’s only one game, and it was in Cleveland. But even with home-court advantage in a potential playoff series, the Raptors must grapple with even more lingering doubt now about their ability to beat the Cavs.

Report: Becky Hammon staying with Spurs, not coaching Colorado State men’s team

AP Photo/Darren Abate
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Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon was a candidate to coach the men’s team at Colorado State, her alma mater. That would have made her the first woman to coach a Division I men’s team.

Alas, it won’t happen.

Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports:

It’s unclear whether Hammon was ever actually offered the job.

She’s still on the right track for a head-coaching job somewhere. Most importantly, by all accounts, she’s doing good work in San Antonio. There’s also more attention on her career because of her pioneering status, and that will appeal to some teams.

This dalliance with Colorado State raises her profile even further and shows just how close she is.

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni: James Harden ‘best offensive player I’ve ever seen’

AP Photo/Jack Dempsey

James Harden torched a solid Trail Blazers defense for 42 points on 13-of-25 shooting, including 5-of-7 on 3-pointers, and seven assists.

That prompted his coach to heap praise on the runaway MVP.

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, via Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

“That’s the best offensive player I’ve ever seen,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said of Harden. “They’re running guys to him and he just steps a little further back and makes a 3. The way he can pass and see the floor, get layups, floaters, maybe a lob, maybe out to the corner — he has so many weapons, and now he’s shooting those step-back 3s.

“It’s impossible to guard him. It’s impossible.”

At first, that sounds like hyperbole from a biased source. But Harden might actually the best offensive player ever. (D’Antoni has been around for all the major contenders.)

Michael Jordan gets overlooked because he was also excellent defensively. Ditto LeBron James to a lesser extent. Another contender: Stephen Curry, whose Warriors might file away D’Antoni’s assessment for if they meet Houston in the playoffs. (The Rockets provide plenty of motivational fodder.)

The list of contenders definitely skews toward the present. Players have gotten progressively more skilled, especially the generation that grew up with the 3-point arc and didn’t suddenly have to adjust to it.

And Harden might be the cream of the crop. He’s an incredible shooter with very deep range off the dribble or spotting up, and he can drive with the best of them. Yes, foul-drawing is a skill. Harden’s combination of scoring volume and efficiency is unprecedented. He’s also an impressive passer, a skill fully unleashed by D’Antoni making Harden a point guard.

I think I’d lean toward Curry, who’s an even better shooter and screener. But it’s very close, and Harden keeps raising his level. Curry probably peaked two years ago (though he obviously remains elite). I definitely wouldn’t dismiss anyone who picks Harden as biased or misguided.

Cavaliers star LeBron James: Raptors ‘in a better place than we are right now’

Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP

It’s not enough to say the Raptors have the Eastern Conference’s best record.

The Celtics had the East’s best record last year, and most people thought the Cavaliers were better. Cleveland had a better point difference and more star power – LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love – than Boston. The Cavs confirmed that notion by cruising past the Celtics in a five-game conference finals.

The Raptors have been the Eastern Conference’s best team this season.

They rank fourth in the NBA in offensive and defensive rating, the only team top five in both categories. Led by DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, their starting lineup has embraced a more dynamic offense with more 3-point shooting and passing. Toronto’s bench is the best in the league.

LeBron, whose Cavaliers host the Raptors tonight, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“They’re in a better place than we are right now because they’ve had more consistency and they’ve had their guys in the lineup for the majority of the year,” James said after the Cavs’ morning workout. “So, they know what they want to accomplish. They know who they are at this point in the season. Obviously, you guys know about us, we’re still trying to figure that out.”

This is so obviously correct. It’s just surprising to see LeBron put it so directly, though it’s unsurprising he’s hanging on the Cavs’ instability to date.

Kevin Love and Isaiah Thomas were injured for long stretches, and Thomas and several others were traded. Coach Tyronn Lue is on a leave of absence.

But the Cavaliers made those major trades because they were struggling, and this new group won’t necessarily simply figure things out with time. Defensive problems persist. Lue’s health is unclear.

LeBron understandably remains confident in himself, even as the Cavs enter the postseason as a middling seed. He’s also setting up a narrative of Cleveland coming from behind if it advances to the NBA Finals. We’ll see whether it happens.

Tonight likely won’t be a referendum, though. Tristan Thompson, Rodney Hood, Kyle Korver and Larry Nance Jr. are out for the Cavaliers. That roster instability still exists.

If LeBron dials up playoff intensity tonight, that could send a warning to Toronto, though I’m not sure it’s necessary. As far ahead as the Raptors are right now, after Cleveland soundly eliminated them the last two years, I think everyone knows it’s a couple months too early to properly assess these teams’ relative places.