FIBA Americas tips off Friday. We breakdown why you might care.

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Team USA had a mini-camp workout for some younger players this summer, but that was basically it for the senior men’s team. USA Basketball largely gets to take the summer off and gear up for the World Championships in Spain next summer.

But much of the rest of the world is going at it in tournaments this summer. Ones that nobody stateside is really noticing.

The biggest may be EuroBasket, the European Championships that start Sept. 7. But first off, starting Friday, is FIBA Americas, which is taking place in Caracas, Venezuela.

Here is what you need to know about FIBA Americas:

• What is FIBA Americas? A tournament featuring 10 teams from North and South America, running August 30 to Sept. 11 in Caracas, Venezuela.

• What teams are going to be there? Not Team USA (we don’t need to be). The 10 teams that are going have been divided in to two groups of five for pool play:

Group A: Canada, Uruguay, Brazil, Puerto Rico and Jamaica
Group B: Argentina, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and Paraguay

• Why are these teams there? The top four finishers get a spot in the World Championships next summer. For a lot of these programs, that would be huge. (USA Basketball, as the defending gold medalists, already has a spot.) There are 24 teams at the World Championships, only 12 allowed to the Olympics (and the IOC just refused to up it). It would be hard for teams to get a bid to Rio, but this seems doable.

• Do I know any players in this tournament? Yes, you do. Canada has Tristan Thompson (Cavaliers), Joel Anthony (Heat), Cory Joseph (Spurs), Andrew Nicholson (Magic) and Andy Rautins (Knicks). Argentina has Luis Scola (Rockets). Other names you may know are J.J Barea, Ryan Hollins, Francisco Garcia, and Mexico’s Gustavo Ayon

• Who is sitting out this tournament? A lot of players who would really help their teams. The list of guys who are either injured or just said no includes Manu Ginobili, Al Horford, Greivis Vasquez and Kelly Olynyk. Brazil isn’t going to be quite the same without Tiago Splitter, Nene, and Anderson Varejao.

• Who is going to win this thing? Even with a lot of key missing players, Brazil and Argentina are considered the favorites. They should easily lock up two of the World Championship spots.

The race for the other two spots is more interesting: Canada has a fast-improving team, Puerto Rico has a solid squad and the Dominican Republic could push into that mix as well. But a lot of teams think they are one or two upsets away from getting a slot.

• Where can I watch the games? All the games will be streamed on ESPN3 (its online app, if you have access to it). NBA TV will show two games on Sept. 5, both semifinal games on Sept. 10, and will show the finals on tape delay on Sept. 12.

Hours after game-winning tip, restaurant told Giannis Antetokounmpo he had to wait

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Giannis Antetokounmpo was the toast of Milwaukee Sunday night: With the game on the line after a Boston comeback, he tipped in a missed Malcolm Brogdon lay-up that proved to be the game winner. (Jayson Tatum was in good position for Boston, he tried to move Antetokounmpo out of his rebounding spot, it just didn’t matter.)

Well, you would have thought Antetokounmpo was the toast of the town, but when he went to BelAir Cantina (a chainlet of Mexican restaurants in the area) he was told he had to wait. And wait. To the point he eventually left.

As you might imagine, the 6’11” Antetokounmpo walking into a restaurant a couple hours after tying up the series with the Celtics drew fast attention on social media. So did the fact he couldn’t get service.

First, good on Antetokounmpo for not pulling the “do you know who I am?” line. He was reportedly unassuming and just left after a while. No hard feelings, his girlfriend later tweeted this out.

As for BelAir Cantina, I kinda get it — I worked my way through college as a waiter and bartender. The restaurant got slammed, everyone working there was in the weeds, and things fall through the cracks. It happens.

But when the 6’11” toast of the town walks in, he cannot slip through the cracks. Cannot. Rather than social media posts about him not getting served and walking out, there would have been pictures all over of him eating the lamb barbacoa or whatever. It’s good for business. If you give the man a little special treatment after the game, nobody is going to complain (except the people who were going to complain about everything anyway… in that sense working in a restaurant was good preparation for me to use Twitter someday).

 

 

Kevin Durant apparently likes Instagram comment critical of Russell Westbrook (photo)

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Last summer Kevin Durant tweeted and deleted that the Thunder’s surrounding cast around him and Russell Westbrook was lacking when he played for Oklahoma City. Those tweets – another criticized Thunder coach Billy Donovan – appeared to be intended to come from a burner account, but Durant said he actually meant to send them from his own account.

Now, he apparently liked an Instagram comment with the opposite message about Westbrook. (I say apparently, because I can’t verify the authenticity of these screenshots, but they at least pass the initial smell test.)

“Like” is Instagram’s word. Maybe Durant uses the function for a different purpose – to note a comment, rather than endorse it.

Perhaps, Durant misread the conversation. The comment he liked rejected the notion that the Thunder were “subpar,” but it criticized Westbrook for them not living up to their ability. Perhaps, Durant focused on the comment sticking up for Oklahoma City overall and missed the part about Westbrook being the shortcoming. Skimming that conversation, it’s a plausible mistake.

Maybe Durant just actually hit the like button. It’s easy enough to do.

Or maybe Durant and Westbrook haven’t really gotten less hostile toward each other. Maybe Durant meant to like this from a burner account.

Those nefarious possibilities are the scintillating ones.

After getting crushed for those tweets last summer and repeatedly downplaying his feud with Westbrook, the Warriors star clearly wanted to move on from these storylines. But all those questions have suddenly reemerged. Perhaps for legitimate reasons, perhaps for benign ones. But we won’t know more about Durant’s intent until he answers to this.

Amir Johnson on South Beach: 2006 Pistons ‘let the streets beat us’

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Amir Johnson is a savvy veteran on the young 76ers.

On the 2006 Pistons, he was a scarcely used rookie straight out of high school.

But he was learning lessons he’d apply to his current role.

Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press:

Philadelphia heeded Johnson’s advice. The 76ers won Games 3 and 4 in Miami to take a 3-1 series lead.

The Pistons went 0-3 in Miami during the six-game 2006 Eastern Conference finals. There was little shame in losing to those Heat. They pushed Detroit to seven games in the 2005 conference finals and were – with Dwyane Wade transcendent while Shaquille O’Neal remained in his prime – even better the following year.

But too much partying is a major charge and a somewhat surprising one. The Pistons were led by the same veteran core – Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace – that made the previous two NBA Finals and won the 2004 title. They’d been around long enough to know better.

Gregg Popovich to miss Spurs-Warriors Game 5

AP Photo/Eric Gay
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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has missed Games 3 and 4 of his team’s first-round series against the Warriors following the death of his wife, Erin.

Unsurprisingly, he won’t coach the Spurs as they leave San Antonio for Game 5 tomorrow at Golden State.

David Aldridge of NBA.com:

Popovich should take all the time he needs. Ettore Messina is capable as acting coach, and Popovich being with his family now is more important anyway.

This will probably be the final game of the series. Up 3-1, the Warriors are the better team and at home.