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.

Paul George on trade to Thunder: “I took it as it was a kick in the behind”

Associated Press
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Paul George and Russell Westbrook — now with Carmelo Anthony — form one of the more interesting teams in the NBA in Oklahoma City. Deep with quality role players and a defense that should be top 10 (if not top 5) in the league, if the three big names can learn to sacrifice and mesh, the Thunder will be dangerous.

Paul George sounds motivated to take it all on… which he should be the first day of training camp. Still, it’s a good sign for Thunder fans.

George opened up to Sam Amick of the USA Today in a lengthy interview at the start of camp, and among the topics he discussed was the trade to OKC (after George’s camp told Indiana he would test free agency next summer). Did getting sent to the Thunder motivate him?

“I took it as it was a kick in the behind, like, ‘Go ahead and go try to beat the Warriors. Go play alongside Russ and get your butt kicked against the Warriors.’ That’s how I looked at how that trade went down, because honestly we had no idea OKC was even interested or was in the trade until the trade actually happened. But again, I’m not here to trash Indiana. They have some of the best people I’ve ever met in their front office and in that organization. I grew up there. I could go on and on (with) the positives in Indiana, but that’s where my thought process and my – that’s where I, I guess, my opportunity to leave had opened up.”

There was some “go ahead and beat the Warriors” in that trade — it looks, from the outside, like the Pacers did not want George to land anywhere he wanted to go.

Thing is, as human beings, we by our nature try to make the best of situations. Even people who suffer genuine personal tragedies often come out the other side saying that it changed who they were for the better and they are happy with their new life. This is just basketball. George will adapt — and he’s on a very good team. If the bar is “can they beat a healthy Warriors team in a series” then the Thunder will fall short, as will every other team. But the Thunder are on that next tier in the NBA and could be a threat.

Plus, competitors like George always look at a trade as a challenge.

It’s going to be a fascinating season for the Thunder. We’ll see if all that talent is willing to make the sacrifices needed to win at the highest levels of the NBA.

When will Zach LaVine return to court for Bulls? Think Thanksgiving.

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When the Chicago Bulls traded Jimmy Butler — finally making a decision on the franchise’s direction — one of the centerpieces they got back from Minnesota was Zach LaVine. The wildly athletic two-guard had evolved into more than just a dunker, averaging 18.9 points per game and shooting 38 percent from three — he had become a legitimate scoring threat against any defense.

Then he blew out his ACL.

How that injury impacts his game remains to be seen… so when will the Bulls see him on the court? Coach Fred Hoiberg addressed that as Chicago started training camp, as reported by Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago.

That’s just taking contact in practice. The Bulls will be cautious bringing back a guy they see as part of their future, so expect this to be closer to Thanksgiving or the end of the month before he plays. Which is the smart move to make.

Even then, ACL injuries take a long time to overcome, even for young players putting in the recovery work. It may be next season before we know if LaVine will continue on the trajectory he was on in Minnesota.

Magic Johnson shrugs off concern about Lonzo Ball realty series

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Lonzo Ball has yet to play in one NBA game, yet he has his own signature shoe line, and he — along with his father LaVar Ball and the rest of his family — have their own reality show on FaceBook. Lonzo told me he doesn’t foresee this show, nor his bombastic father, being a problem with his teammates or on the court.

Magic Johnson agrees with that. At least for now.

The head of Lakers’ basketball operations said as training camp opened that he’s not worried about the show Ball in the Family being a distraction. If it is, he’ll step in, he told Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

“Only time I am going to concern myself with what [Lonzo] does off the court is if it is affecting his play on the court,” Johnson said at the Lakers’ media day when asked about Ball’s reality Facebook series, “Ball in the Family.”

“Right now, I think it is awesome,” Johnson said. “His family is great. They came out Saturday, we had a big Laker picnic. … His dad is wonderful with me, and I am cool with him. … I think [Lonzo] is tired of all this [hype]. He is just like me; I just want to play and I think he wants to play, and then Saturday night [for the Lakers’ preseason opener], sold out, in Anaheim, wow!”

It’s Magic’s job to put a positive spin on things.

That said, he’s right. The Lakers (and every NBA team) have dealt with overinvolved parents before and know how to create some space for the player to focus on the game. Locker rooms have a way of sorting themselves out in these kinds of situations. Plus, the Lakers have been down the reality show road before (when Lamar Odom married Khloe Kardashian), and while that had an ugly ending, it wasn’t for lack of Lakers’ players and others in the organization trying to step in and help. (Odom just wasn’t yet in a place to accept help.)

Soon LaVar will be focused on his other sons and Lonzo, who appears practiced at tuning his father out and focusing on what is in front of him, will have the grind of the NBA schedule to worry about.

Former NBA player Chuck Person named in college basketball bribery scandal

Associated Press
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The recruitment of major college athletes — and then the steering of the handful that get to go pro to shoe companies and agents — is a sleazy business. It makes HBO’s “The Duece” look like Disneyland. It’s something sports fans know but largely turn a blind eye to until it forces its way into the headlines.

It turned up in the headlines Tuesday when four college assistant coaches from major universities were charged by federal prosecutors in a bribery scandal along with a representative of Adidas and others to steer players to specific agents or a financial handler.

Former NBA Rookie of the Year Chuck Person, now an assistant coach at Auburn, was among those named in the scandal.

Person is making headlines because he’s the biggest name in the scandal. He is charged with accepting approximately $91,500 from a business manager, who has flipped and is working with prosecutors. This “business manager, offered bribes to Person to steer players toward his services, as well as another person charged in the scandal.

Person told prosecutors he gave $18,500 of the money he took to two players’ families, according to the filings.

Person was the No. 4 pick in the 1986 NBA draft and went on to win Rookie of the Year, followed by a 13-year NBA career. He made $22.9 million over the course of his career.