Final eight set for quarterfinal matchups at EuroBasket

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Officially seven of the eight teams left in EuroBasket quarter finals — we’ve now advanced to the tournament style rounds of the European championships — will get an invite to the World Championships next summer.

Technically Europe is set to send six teams, but with Spain already in as host, that number jumps to seven because Spain doesn’t count against the total. Which means six of the other seven teams that reached the EuroBasket quarters will get automatic invites — they will play each other in a traditional tournament, but with a losers bracket and only the team that loses the 7/8 playoff game in that bracket (Saturday) doesn’t get an automatic invite.

That should create a little drama, however with FIBA keeping four wild card invitations in its back pocket, there’s a chance all eight of these teams are bound for Madrid next summer (don’t be shocked if Russia, also part of this tournament but already eliminated, gets a wild card invite, too).

Anyway, here are the eight teams left and their next matchups, plus the broadcast times on NBA TV for the first two (NBA TV also will broadcast the semifinal games on Friday).

Spain vs. Serbia (Wednesday, 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBA TV): Spain is the powerhouse of this tournament, although they always seem to have some lapses in a big tournament and they did that last round. Still, they have Ricky Rubio, Marc Gasol, Rudy Fernandez and on and on with names and players you know. Spain is the best team in the tournament when they care to be. Serbia has a good offense led by Nenad Krstic and they have already upset France this tournament so they are capable of a big game.

Slovenia vs. France (Wednesday, 3 p.m. ET, on NBA TV): France has the best offense in the tournament thanks to Tony Parker playing like he did in the NBA Finals. The French are one of the two teams that seem like they could challenge Spain for the title. Slovenia is the host of EuroBasket and have advanced this far thanks to Goran Dragic.

Croatia vs. Ukraine (Thursday, 11:45 a.m.): Croatia won their second round group and is the favorite here because they play solid defense. Croatia is led by Bojan Bogdanovic and his 17.5 points a game.

Lithuania vs. Italy (Thursday, 3 p.m.): This should be the best matchup of the quarterfinals. It’s strength on strength with Marco Belinelli and the Italian offense putting up plenty of points and Lithuania shutting teams down with their defense and being led by the Raptors Jonas Valanciunas (who has played well, as he did in Summer League). Both of these teams are better than likely anyone other than Spain or France, but they face off in this round and it will be over for one of them (the loser should easily win the next game and qualify for the World Championships).

Watch Michael Jordan’s best highlight from each of his playoff runs (video)

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I’ve become a sucker for this highlight format.

Jazz deny rumored promise to draft D.J. Wilson

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Michigan forward D.J. Wilson said he’d stay in the draft only if he’d go in the first round. Yet, despite not doing any on-court work at the combine, the borderline first-rounder remained in the draft beyond the withdrawal deadline.

What gives?

Rod Beard of The Detroit News:

Kyle Goon of The Salt Lake Tribune:

NBA teams sometimes promise to draft a player. They never reveal that before the draft. So, Utah’s denial doesn’t mean much – even if it’s true.

The Jazz were the last team to give Wilson a full work out before he injured himself in a Spurs workout. So, this rumor could be based on circumstantial evidence rather than leak of a Utah guarantee.

Wilson would make sense for the Jazz, who could see their payroll bloat if they re-sign Gordon Hayward and George Hill (and maybe even Joe Ingles). They could move Derrick Favors, an interior who doesn’t exactly fit with Rudy Gobert. Wilson would give Utah another option with Trey Lyles as developing stretch fours behind Boris Diaw. (Utah could even move Diaw and count on Lyles/Wilson to emerge sooner than later.)

Watch LeBron James’ top highlight from each of his postseason appearances (video)

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LeBron James and Tony Parker are the only players to play in the last dozen postseasons.

(If you’re wondering, Manu Ginobili missed the 2009 playoffs due to an ankle injury.)

It’s fair to say LeBron was a bit more spectacular than Parker in that span. As LeBron enters his seventh straight Finals, the NBA released this awesome video showing LeBron’s best playoff highlight from each year:

There’s no entry for this year. Here’s betting it comes against the Warriors in the NBA Finals.

David Stern: We thought we could re-work Chris Paul-to-Lakers trade until Mitch Kupchak ‘panicked’

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NBA commissioner David Stern – acting as New Orleans’ owner representative, he says – infamously vetoed a potential Chris Paul-to-Lakers trade in 2011.

But that didn’t close the possibility of Paul going to the Lakers.

The New Orleans Hornets (now the Pelicans and not be confused with the current Charlotte Hornets), Lakers and Rockets tried to rework the three-team trade that would’ve sent Paul to the Lakers, Pau Gasol to Houston and Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and a first-round pick to New Orleans. But talks fell apart around the time the Lakers dealt Odom to the Mavericks.

Stern on Nunyo & Company (hat tip: Harrison Feigen of Silver Screen & Roll):

In fact, in the course of the weekend, we thought we could re-do the deal. We really thought that Houston would be ready to part with Kevin Lowry, and we had a trade lined up for Odom that would have gotten us a good first-round draft pick – not we, but my basketball folks. But Mitch Kupchak at the time panicked and moved Odom to Dallas. So the piece wasn’t even there for us to play with at the time. So that was it — just about what was good for the then-New Orleans Hornets.

Remember, Stern – roundly criticized for his handling of this episode* – has blamed the Lakers and Rockets for the lingering perception. This could just be him again trying to shift responsibility.

*Somewhat fairly, somewhat not. Owners veto general manager-approved trades often enough, and Stern was acting as New Orleans’ owner after George Shinn sold the franchise back to the league. But Stern had an agenda as commissioner. He never should have assumed such a large conflict of interest. What he did with the Paul trade was reasonable for an acting owner, but because Stern was also commissioner, it’s fair to question how much New Orleans’ interests and how much the league’s interests factored into the decision-making.

But let’s take Stern at his word – that he and the Hornets thought they could re-do the trade and send Paul to the Lakers. That doesn’t mean they were right. Maybe the Lakers and Rockets (who had Kyle Lowry, not the “Kevin Lowry” Stern named) were never going to part with enough to get Stern’s approval.

And maybe New Orleans didn’t properly convey its interest in still completing a deal. Perhaps, Kupchak acted reasonably by trading Odom to Dallas – for a first-round pick, a deal Mark Cuban would ultimately regret – rather than wait around for the Hornets, who eventually sent Paul to the Clippers.

It’s easy to blame Kupchak, but he might tell a different story.