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LeBron, Durant lead Team USA roster pool for 2014 World Championships, 2016 Olympics

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When Team USA takes the court in Rio in 2016 to defend its gold medal, you can expect to see somethings old and somthings new — guys who won gold in London and Beijing will be mixed with newcomers who got their real first taste of USA Basketball this coming summer in Spain for the world Championships.

USA Basketball released its player pool for the 2014 World Championships and 2016 Olympics on Thursday, and while that pool is fluid you can expect that the rosters of those teams will almost all come from the names below.

The pool of veterans includes every member of the 2012 London Olympics team except Kobe Bryant, who has said before he was retiring from the international stage.

“I talked to Kobe last night and he said ‘I’ll be there but you probably don’t want to play me,’” Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

MORE: Ranking the candidates for the 2016 Olympics

Here is the pool of players, starting with those returning from previous Olympic teams:

Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks)
LeBron James (Miami Heat)
Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers)
Deron Williams (Brooklyn Nets)
Tyson Chandler (New York Knicks)
Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans)
Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder)
James Harden (Houston Rockets)
Andre Iguodala (Golden State Warriors)
Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Dwight Howard (Houston Rockets)
Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers),

Remember Griffin was named to the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team roster but injured his knee and had to drop out. Also, Howard was a member of the 2008 team in Beijing but has not played since.

The new names in the Olympics pool are:

Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)
LaMarcus Aldridge (Portland Trail Blazers)
Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards)
DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings)
Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons)
Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets)
Paul George (Indiana Pacers)
Gordon Hayward (Utah Jazz)
Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Kyle Korver (Atlanta Hawks)
David Lee (Golden State Warriors)
Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs)
Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers
Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors).

Curry did participate in the 2010 World Championships, but not the Olympics.

Durant and Kevin Love announced last summer that they would participate, and Krzyzewski said Thursday in a conference LaMarcus Aldridge said he wants to participate this summer. Expect this summer’s team to have a lot of guys from the bottom list above, with some of the veterans wanting to step back in for the trip to Rio. Hence, you end up with a mix.

Obviously injuries will play a role in who plays when. Coach K hinted that guys like Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook likely would not play this summer coming off their injuries, but they could be added to the pool and play in 2016.

There are other guys on the cusp of making this pool, Krzyzewski singled out Greg Monroe of the Pistons as one, and he could be added later.

Krzyzewski’s staff for both the World Championships will be Syracuse University veteran coach Jim Boeheim (bringing his zone defense knowledge among other skills), Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau and New Orleans Pelicans head coach Monty Williams.

James Harden says playing in every game should matter in MVP voting

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James Harden has played in every Houston Rocket game this season so far. Russell Westbrook has done the same thing for Oklahoma City.

When voters sit down in a few weeks to choose the league’s Most Valuable Player — in one of the most wide-open races in memory, with Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James making legitimate cases as well — Harden says they should take playing every game into account. It’s the latest part of the rest discussion going on around the league. Here’s what Harden told Calvin Watkins of ESPN.

“Yeah, because you’re not leaving your teammates out there to dry, ” Harden said Tuesday morning, before the Rockets’ game against the Warriors. “For me, I worry about always having my teammates’ back and always being out there….

“I’m going to have [my teammates’] back and they know that they have mine as well,” said Harden, who is second in the league in points and first in assists. “For the coaching staff and the fans, especially here in Houston, the front office, I’m here to play.”

Both LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard have had rest nights.

This injects Harden into the rest debate, where recently Harden’s teammate Patrick Beverley came out and said players are “disrespecting the game” when they rest. Gregg Popovich sees more nuance in the debate and certainly backs resting players. On the latest PBT Podcast, former Bull B.J. Armstrong told me that they didn’t have rest days back in his day, but players were kept out of games for things they could play through to get right for the playoffs, it was just listed differently. He added that the rest situation might have been different back in the day if the data about the increased chance of player injuries on the second night of a back-to-back (and it goes up from there with four games in five nights) had been available.

In this case, Harden lobbying for his case in the MVP voting. The thing is, his numbers make the case for him: Harden is averaging 29.4 points per game, leading the league with 11.3 assists a night, and he’s creating the most points per game 27.5 (buckets and direct assists. He has taken on the point guard duties in Mike D’Antoni’s offense and has taken on the largest load on offense he has in his career — and he has continued to do it efficiently.

However, one can make a strong statistical case for Westbrook (who carries a larger load for an OKC team that has less talent around its star than Houston), Leonard (best defender of the group), and LeBron (the Cavs recent struggles may doom his chances).

Little details are going to divide this group, and Harden is trying to get his point out there.

That said, the Rockets are almost certainly locked into the three seed in the West, and once it’s clear they are in that slot team management should discuss giving Harden a night off before the playoffs, to let his body rest. Whether he wants to or not.

Rajon Rondo is hilarious (photo)

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Is Rajon Rondo stubborn? Yes.

Is he petty? Yes.

Is he harsh? Yes.

But the Bulls point guard is also hilarious in his own way.

 

Sean Highkin of The Athletic:

Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek: “We can use some more defensive players”

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For all the flipping between the triangle and a more modern offense, despite ball stopping by Derrick Rose and Carmelo Anthony, the New York Knicks offense is 17th in the NBA for the season. Not good, but the middle of the pack, right around Oklahoma City, Miami, and Memphis — all playoff teams (or potential ones in Miami’s case).

The reason the Knicks season ends in seven games is their defense — 25th in the NBA. Put the triangle in (and get players who fit the system) or don’t, but that’s not the end of the court where the Knicks need to improve. And while system matters on defense, the fact of the matter the Knicks roster is loaded with poor and/or indifferent individual defenders.

Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek emphasized all this speaking to ESPN’s Ian Begley.

“I think if you look at our defense this year, we can use some more defensive players,” Hornacek said. “[Management] will look at that. [General manager] Steve [Mills] and [president] Phil [Jackson] and those guys will look at whatever can help us out. We know we need some help there.”

Admitting you have a problem is the first step. Now comes the time for action.

The Knicks are going to have a Top 10 draft pick (currently sixth) plus max-player money in free agency. Also, they are looking to move Anthony this summer (he has a no-trade clause so he will have to agree to it). All of which is to say they have a chance to reshape this roster into one that will have more of a defensive focus. Or any defensive focus for that matter.

It will be interesting to see if the Knicks target more defensive minded free agents this summer, ones who might fit the triangle offense such as Thabo Sefolosha, or to a lesser extent Tony Allen. It’s going to be a fascinating summer in New York.

Master P says Pelicans should hire him as assistant coach: ‘I’m serious’

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Did you know Master P had two NBA contracts?

Percy Miller was with the Hornets before the 1999 season and the Raptors before the 1999-00 season. But he was cut in the preseason both times.

These were mostly publicity stunts. Still, the rapper could actually play a bit. NBA quality? He long insisted yes, though his music career provided a convenient and lucrative excuse for sidetracking his basketball ambitions.

Yet, now, the New Orleans native says he wants back in the NBA with the Pelicans — in a different role.

Master P, via TMZ:

I think they need me to be an assistant coach.

I’m serious about coaching.

I don’t think he’s actually serious.

But if he is, would it be a good idea? Probably not. The Pelicans have real issues integrating Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, and they need devoted coaches, not passing entertainers, to solve this.

Would it be fun? Heck yeah.

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