EuroBasket tips off Wednesday, here’s a quick primer

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At this point in the end of summer/start of fall those of us basketball junkies are looking for a fix. That is where EuroBasket comes in.

If you’re asking “What is EuroBasket?” let us help you out with a little primer.

• What is EuroBasket? A FIBA tournament featuring 24 teams from Europe, being played in Slovenia the next couple weeks.

• What teams are going to be there? Some of the world’s best teams, this is a serious tournament. Here are the teams by group:

Group A: Ukraine, Great Britain, France, Germany, Israel, Belgium
Group B: Latvia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lithuania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia
Group C: Poland, Slovenia, Spain, Croatia, Czech Republic, Georgia
Group D: Finland, Greece, Russia, Italy, Sweden, Turkey

• Why are these teams there? The top six finishers get a spot in the World Championships next summer. For a lot of these programs, that would be huge. (Spain is hosting the World Championships and are in automatically, so if it is one of the top six then the top seven earn a spot for next summer.)

• Do I know any players in this tournament? Yes, a lot of them. Spain has Ricky Rubio (Timberwolves) at point guard and Marc Gasol (Grizzlies) in the paint. France has Tony Parker (Spurs) at the point and Nicolas Batum (Trail Blazers) at the four. Turkey will have Hedo Turkoglu, Ersan Ilyasova and Omer Asik. Goran Dragic (Suns) will lead host Slovenia.

And if you are the kind of basketball junkie who would be watching EuroBasket in the first place there are a whole lot more names you know from other international tournaments and/or short stints in the NBA.

• Who is sitting out this tournament? That has been the big story as a number of teams are without their key stars. No Pau Gasol (Lakers) for Spain. No Joakim Noah (Bulls) for France. No Dirk Nowitizki (Mavericks) for Germany). No Luol Deng (Bulls) for Great Britain). No Andrei Kirilenko (Nets) for Russia.

And that’s just the biggest names, there are a whole lot more.

Any sleeper players I should watch for? If you have never watched Bo McCalebb play, watch a Macedonia game.

• Who is going to win this thing? Even without Pau Gasol it’s hard to bet against Spain — they have Rubio and the bigger Gasol but also a plethora of quality players around them such as Sergio Rodriguez, Jose Calderon, Juan Carlos Navarro, and Rudy Fernandez. Just to name a few. They see this as a tune up for the World Championships they really want to win on their home soil next summer.

There are other teams that have a shot. Lithuania, led by Linas Kleiza and Toronto’s Jonas Valanciunas looked good in the run up to the tournament. Greece was the one team to beat Lithuania in tune ups and they have Kosta Kufos and Nick Calathes (both of the Grizzlies) leading a veteran team of guys that play in Europe. And don’t sleep on France, with Parker at the point and guys like Batum, Boris Diaw and Nando de Colo.

• 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 pick up games and show everything starting with the quarterfinals.

LeBron James: “I’m out of shape” (VIDEO)

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LeBron James looked good in the opening night ceremony against the Boston Celtics. The Cleveland Cavaliers star put up a stat line of 29 points, 16 rebounds, and nine assists in the win over the Eastern Conference rival.

That doesn’t mean that James is done dealing with a nagging ankle injury that kept him out of all five of Cleveland’s preseason games. Speaking to reporters after practice on Thursday, The King said that he will indeed play on Friday against the Milwaukee Bucks, but he won’t do it under the circumstances he prefers.

Specifically, LeBron said that because of his injury, he’s been unable to get into the kind of shape he’d like to be in heading into the season.

Via ESPN:

“I just want to get to where I should be,” James said after participating in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ practice Thursday. “The ankle and the foot injury just kind of kept me out and set me back further than I would like, but I got some time now along the course of these games that we got. We got two back-to-backs coming up, so that’s going to help and we have some opportunity to get some practice time in as well.”

“I’m out of shape, very out of shape for my expectations,” James told TNT’s Kristen Ledlow during his on-court postgame interview Tuesday.

No doubt it will be tough to keep one of the most durable stars in NBA history out of of the regular season games they need to start this season off right. However, this is the kind of thing that slows down the careers of aging stars, and if I can play devil’s advocate here for a minute, this is what we’ve been looking for from James for some time.

I’m not saying this is the beginning of the end for LeBron, but it is an important enough thing to note and to keep a pin in for future reference.

Meanwhile, James is still doing great stuff off the court like this:

Aww.

Lakers without Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for opener due to DUI suspension

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LOS ANGELES — This isn’t new news, but a lot of NBA fans forgot it.

Last June the NBA suspended then Pistons now Lakers guard two games for “pleading guilty to operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, in violation of the law of the State of Michigan.” Those were to be the first two games of next season — the Clippers game Thursday followed by the Suns Friday.

Lakers coach Luke Walton played it close to the vest, not revealing who would start at the two in KCP’s place. The most logical answer may be Jordan Clarkson, but Walton likes him creating shots with the second unit. Other options are limited, Luol Deng is possible, they could go small with backup point guard Tyler Ennis or bigger with Corey Brewer. (Josh Hart might have been the best call, but the rookie is out with a sore Achilles.)

Whoever starts it will be a blow to the defense-starved Lakers to be without their best perimeter defender.

This summer, after landing Avery Bradley, the Pistons chose to renounce the rights to Caldwell-Pope, setting him free into what was a difficult market. Even for a good wing defender who hit 35 percent from three last season, when the market dried up so did the chance for a decent multi-year deal. The Lakers grabbed him for one-year at $18 million.

Caldwell-Pope’s agent is Rich Paul, who happens to be LeBron James‘ agent (and he’s a free agent next summer), but whatever the ulterior motives this was a good signing by the Lakers. If KCP works out this season for them they would be in the driver’s seat to re-sign him next summer (although the Lakers would not have his Bird rights).

Thunder reveal “Hoodie Melo” hoodies before Knicks game (PHOTO)

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Ah yes, Hoodie Melo. The new, improved version of Carmelo Anthony that is much better than the old one, mostly because he isn’t playing for the New York Knicks. Also, he is often seen wearing a hooded sweatshirt.

Of course, as is often the case in the NBA, when a cultural phenomenon comes along there’s often plan to make money off of it following close behind. That appears to be the case here, as the Thunder announced special Hoodie Melo sweatshirts that were selling before the game against the New York Knicks on Thursday.

The sweatshirts mimic the style of a popular Jordan brand logo, Carmelo’s shoe sponsor.

Via Twitter:

Carmelo stayed true to form throughout the warm-up session before the game, taking to the floor during lineups wearing — you guessed it — a hoodie.

Of course, there was lots of intrigue during the Thursday night game between Anthony and his former team, with the first points of his career coming in Oklahoma City looking like this:

Long live Hoodie Melo. May his brand forever beat forecasted sales numbers.

Warriors unveil sweet new uniforms (photo)

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The Warriors might not have Draymond Green against the Pelicans tomorrow, but Golden State will have these awesome jerseys:

Fresh. To. Death.