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


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.

Gallinari ready to take big role in new Nuggets offense

Danilo Gallinari, Jimmy Butler
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DENVER (AP) — Danilo Gallinari wants everyone to know this: His surgically repaired left knee, the one that took three procedures to fix and nearly two seasons to fully trust, no longer bothers him.

The Denver Nuggets forward doesn’t need to be on any sort of minutes restriction. He doesn’t need days off during the season. And he certainly doesn’t need to be coddled.

He’s Gallo again, the hard-to-guard Italian playmaker who can knock down the 3-pointer just as easily as drive to the hoop or even post up. He believes he will fit in quite nicely into new coach Michael Malone’s system.

“The thing I’m focused on is trying to get (this team) back to the same level that the Nuggets were when I got to Denver, when we were going to the playoffs easy. When we were clinching a playoff one or two weeks before the season was over,” said Gallinari, who was acquired in the 2011 blockbuster deal that sent Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks. “We need to get back to that level.”

Almost seems so long ago, given that the Nuggets have missed the playoffs two straight seasons after consistently making it for nearly a decade.

Gallinari returned last season for the first time since blowing out his knee in a game on April 4, 2013. His minutes were closely monitored early in the season. He never really got completely on track until late last season, when he averaged 20.5 points over the final 10 contests, including a career-high 47 against Dallas. He’s hoping to carry that kind of confidence this season.

“I’m good to go. I was good to go as soon as the beginning of last year,” Gallinari said. “I was not on the same page with the coach that we had.”

That would be Brian Shaw, who was fired last March after 1 1/2 seasons in charge and going 56-85. Exactly why he wasn’t on the same page with Shaw, well, Gallinari preferred the past remain the past.

“I’m ready to play the new season,” he said. “We need to win games, and get back to the same level we were before.”

Gallinari thinks the Nuggets have the personnel to do just that, especially with a rookie point guard in Emmanuel Mudiay and Gallinari’s knee feeling better than it has in a while. He feels like he has some ground to make up, too, since he said that knee robbed him of some of his prime.

“Playing my best basketball right before I got injured,” the 27-year old said. “Now, we’re back to the same level, hopefully better.

“My knee has been feeling great. It felt great last year. Feeling great during the summer. Feeling great now. I just feel good.”

He spent the summer playing for the Italian team at the EuroBasket tournament, where he averaged nearly 18 points a game. In those games, Gallinari saw quite a bit of time at the four spot on the floor, forcing teams to either use a bulkier big man to cover him and risk getting burned on a drive or a smaller player that Gallinari could simply shoot over.

Malone plans to employ a similar type approach, something they discussed over gelato when the coach visited Gallinari in Italy soon after he was hired.

“He’s 6-foot-10. He can handle the ball. He can play pick-and-roll. He can stretch the floor and shoot the 3,” Malone said. “There’s not a lot he can’t do offensively.”

Gallinari wants the responsibility of being the go-to player for the Nuggets this season, especially at crunch time.

“I’ve always been trying to do that, since I came to Denver,” Gallinari said. “That’s what I like to do. I feel good filling those shoes.

“I want to have the ball in my hands. I do want to have the ball in my hands a lot more.”

Knicks’ Rookie Jerian Grant gets up, throws it down (VIDEO)

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The Knicks did well trading for Jerian Grant on date night — he’s going to be able to walk in this year and play quality minutes off the bench.

And, he can get up and throw it down.

Carmelo Anthony had 18 points to lead the Knicks to a 94-88 win over the Sixers.