Andrei Kirilenko bows out of qualifying, next Olympics for Russia

Leave a comment

Russia brought a strong team to London — led by Andrei Kirilenko and Alexey Shved, with the very respected Dave Blatt as coach, the Russians took home the bronze medal.

But they are going to have a very different team in Rio. First Blatt left the team and now Kirilenko is saying he is going to take this Olympic cycle off.

That’s what has been reported at FIBA.com (hat tip to Rob Mahoney at SI’s The Point Forward for finding this).

“After the All-Star Weekend, RBF President Alexander Krasnenkov and the Player of Russian national team Andrei Kirilenko had a discussion, and Andrei announced his decision not to play for the national team during the next Olympic cycle (four years)….

“I have made the decision, though to be honest it wasn’t easy,” Kirilenko said in the RBF statement. “Playing for honor and a responsibility all these years, I was proud to be part of the team.”

Russia is one of a few teams that will look a lot different in Brazil compared to London. At the top of the list is Argentina — it’s golden generation with Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola, Carlos Delfino, Andres Nocioni and Pablo Prigioni all likely gone will be a radically different squad.

Team USA will be different too because Mike Krzyzewski will not be coaching it. Who steps into that role remains to be seen, although the most commonly discussed names are Gregg Popovich (who they should take) and Doc Rivers (who is a good fallback).

Tyronn Lue says he has secret plan to fix Cavaliers’ defense for playoffs

AP Photo/Phil Long
2 Comments

Only one team that ranked outside the top 12 in points allowed per possession during the regular season won an NBA title. The 2000-01 Lakers, who were 21st in defensive rating, are the lone outlier.

The Cavaliers rank 22nd in defensive rating this season and have been even worse lately.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue says he has a plan. He just won’t reveal it yet.

Lue, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“We’ve got to hold back. We can’t show our hand early because … these are some good teams and we don’t want them to be able to come into a series and be able to adjust to what we do. We just have to be able to play our normal defense until we get there and then we will see what happens.”

Also:

“I think the rebounding hurt us. Rebounding. But it will be different once some other things happen. … Their two-guards, their threes, they still crashed the boards. But we have something to fix that. Just not right now.”

What precisely those plans are, Lue wouldn’t tell us. And here’s the other part — he’s not exactly sure they’ll work.

“I’m not confident, but we’ve got to” get the defense fixed, Lue said. “We have to.”

The Cavs ranked just 10th in defensive rating last season, among the worst marks for an eventual champion. But they cranked up their defense in the playoffs, especially late. Cleveland held the Raptors 4.8 points per 100 possessions below their regular-season scoring rate and the Warriors 7.8 below theirs.

Lue also unleashed a 3-point-heavy attack in the playoffs last year after sitting on the strategy through the regular season.

So, I have some faith Lue will implement a better defensive gameplan when it counts. It also helps to have LeBron James, who can still play elite defense when not in the slog of a long regular season.

But the Cavaliers’ defensive deficiencies right now are glaring. This roster appears to lack defensive potential, and their many miscues keep them well below whatever that potential is.

The challenge in elevating this defense to championship-caliber will be immense, maybe even unprecedented.

Mavericks’ Salah Mejri dunks while getting shoved in the gut (video)

Leave a comment

The Mavericks built a 13-point lead over the Thunder with 3:30left thanks to plays like this Salah Mejri dunk on Nick Collison.

Unfortunately for Dallas, Russell Westbrook happened.

Willy Hernangomez dunks on Andre Drummond, Pistons’ playoff chances (video)

Leave a comment

Andre Drummond and the Pistons couldn’t slow down anything.

Not Willy Hernangomez. Not the Knicks. Not Detroit’s plummeting playoff hopes.

After a 109-95 loss to the Knicks last night, the Pistons — who’ve lost four straight and seven of eight — are 1.5 games and two teams out of playoff position.

Terrence Ross 360 dunks his way back into Raptors fans’ hearts (video)

Leave a comment

In his first appearance in Toronto since the Raptors traded him to the Magic, Terrence Ross did what he has done best throughout his career: Delight Toronto fans with a dunk.

And of course the fans appreciated it, because their Raptors cruised to a 131-112 win.