FIBA Americas: Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Argentina and Mexico qualify for 2014 FIBA World Cup

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The 2013 FIBA Americas Championship tournament will wrap up this week, but the important part was concluded on Sunday when the semifinalists were finalized. The top four teams of the tournament automatically earn berths to next year’s FIBA World Cup (an Olympic qualifier) meaning Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Argentina and Mexico are one step closer to appearing at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

The first three teams were all expected to be in this position, but Mexico’s bid comes as a surprise considering they weren’t even going to play in the tournament until Panama was ruled ineligible. North America’s neighbors to the south earned their surprising bid, though, with back-to-back victories over Jamaica and Puerto Rico over the weekend.

For USA fans wondering about recognizable names on the rosters of the qualifying teams, Puerto Rico has J.J. Barea, Carlos Arroyo and Renaldo Balkman; Mexico features Gustavo Ayon, Jorge Gutierrez, Orlando Mendez-Valdez and Lorenzo Mata-Real; the Dominican Republic had internet sensation Jack Michael Martinez and Francisco Garcia; and Argentina was dragged to the semifinals on the back of Indiana Pacers big Luis Scola.

Two teams eliminated at the FIBA Americas tournament could be in the running for a wild card bid for next year’s world cup, but their early-round losses at the FIBA Americas tournament have hurt their chances of having an easy path in the 2016 Olympics. Team Canada featured four NBA players, but were missing Anthony Bennett, Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Olynyk due to injury — and eventually were eliminated with a loss to the Dominican Republic squad. Brazil is the one of the best teams in international competition, but they went 0-4 with a roster decimated with the absence of Nene, Anderson Varejao, Tiago Splitter and Leandro Barbosa.

The two semifinals are for bragging rights, mostly, but will tip-off Tuesday with Mexico taking on Argentina and Dominican Republic facing Puerto Rico for a berth in Wednesday’s championship game.

It’s not about the shoes: Kevin Durant loses his, blocks two shots anyway

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Shoes? Kevin Durant don’t need no stinkin’ shoes.

Early in the second quarter of the Warriors win in New Orleans Friday, Durant came out of his shoes on a layup in the lane. He then picked up his shoe, carried it to the other end, flipped it to the bench, and played defense without it, and while he got moved out of the way allowing an offensive rebound for the Pelicans he then proceeded to block Tony Allen twice at the rim.

Durant — after deciding to play the rest of the game in shoes — had seven blocks on the night, to go with 22 points.

Joel Embiid frustrated, wants more post touches, to play back-to-backs

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Joel Embiid remains a frustrated man.

He wants to be unleashed on the NBA, and he feels he’s being held back.

Part of that is not playing in back-to-backs — Embiid started Friday night against Boston but will sit out by plan Saturday night against the Raptors in Toronto. Embiid knows the plan to help protect a body that has played only 31 games in three seasons before this one and was not cleared for most of training camp, but that doesn’t mean he likes it, as he told Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia.

“I just want to feel like an NBA player,” Embiid said.  “I feel like I’m not an NBA player because I can’t play back-to-back.”

I get his frustration, but can you blame the Sixers for treating the guy like he’s made of glass at this point? Hopefully, later in the season, he can be cleared to play on both ends.

His second frustration came from the loss to the Celtics on Friday — he wants more post touches. In the video above he is clear, “I didn’t get the ball enough in the post.”

He’s right here. Embiid had three post-ups all game, one in each of the game’s first three quarters (stat via Synergy Sports). Embiid is efficient in the post — he has shot 9-of-12 on those plays overall this season and the Sixers score 1.33 points per possession when he does. That will work especially well against teams going small (for example, the Cavaliers with Kevin Love at the five), although Friday night Boston had big man Aron Baynes starting at center (in part because of Embiid, in part because Marcus Smart was out injured). Still, Embiid can score on Baynes.

Take a look at Embiid’s shot chart from Friday night.

Part of this is on him with all the threes, but they have to utilize him better. It’s part of the Sixers growing pains that will come this season.

Nets’ national anthem singer kneels to finish performance

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NEW YORK (AP)—  The national anthem singer at the Brooklyn Nets’ home opener took a knee at the end of her performance.

Justine Skye was nearing the completion of the song Friday night when she went to one knee for the finish. There were some cheers, but appeared to be more boos from the crowd at Barclays Center to see the Nets play the Orlando Magic.

NBA players have continued to stand during the playing of the anthems, as required by league rule.

Mavericks’ rookie guard Dennis Smith Jr. misses game with knee swelling

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DALLAS (AP) — Dallas Mavericks rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. missed Friday’s game against the Sacramento Kings with swelling in his left knee.

Smith, the ninth pick in the NBA draft out of North Carolina State, had 16 points and 10 assists in the Mavericks’ season-opening loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

Smith participated in the Mavericks’ shootaround on Friday morning and was a late scratch. It is not known if Smith will play Saturday for Dallas.

The Mavericks were also missing guard Devin Harris, who was granted leave of absence after his brother died on Thursday.