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

4 Comments

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.

76ers second-rounder Jonah Bolden signs in Israel

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jonah Bolden – No. 16 on my draft board – slipped all the way to the 76ers at No. 36 in the NBA draft. An impressive summer league has raised his stock significantly.

But Philadelphia won’t reap the rewards this season.

Bolden signed a three-year contract with Maccabi Tel Aviv, the team announced. The club also said the deal contained NBA outs and the 76ers helped facilitate his move from his previous team, Red Star in Serbia.

This is a helpful arrangement for Philadelphia, which is running out of roster spots. Bolden will develop elsewhere while allowing the 76ers’ to maintain his exclusive negotiating rights.

Bolden must get stronger and more adept at handling physicality. The athletic stretch four can also continue developing his burgeoning perimeter skills.

Then, next year, maybe the 76ers will have room to sign him themselves.

Anthony Davis does #DriveByDunkChallenge (video)

Lars Niki/Getty Images for Saks Fifth Avenue
2 Comments

If you’re not up with what the kids are doing, the cool thing this summer is the #DriveByDunkChallenge – driving to random houses, running out of a still-running car, dunking on their basketball hoop, running back into the car then driving off.

It sounds like a lot of fun for those who can dunk (and don’t get accosted by startled homeowners). An example:

Pelicans star Anthony Davis took his turn:

Report: Thunder signing Dakari Johnson two years after drafting him

Nick Laham/Getty Images
3 Comments

Two seasons ago, Dakari Johnson was the youngest player by more than two years on the D-League’s All-Rookie team. Last season, Johnson was the youngest player by more than a year on an All-D-League team – and he made the first of three teams.

Now, Johnson – who the Thunder drafted No. 48 in 2015 and whose rights they continued to hold – is finally moving up to the NBA.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Thunder have already used the full taxpayer mid-level exception, so presumably Johnson will get the minimum – $2,128,226 over two years. That, plus two years of meager D-League salary, will be Johnson’s return for granting Oklahoma City four years of his services.

He could have forced the Thunder’s hand either of the previous two years by signing the required tender – a one-year contract, surely unguaranteed at the minimum – a team must extend to retain a draft pick’s rights. Accepting the tender would have meant Johnson earning an NBA salary (and gaining a year of service) if Oklahoma City kept him past the preseason. Or, if they waived him, he would’ve been an unrestricted NBA free agent. He still could have developed with the Thunder’s D-League affiliate while available to any NBA team.

Instead, Johnson repeatedly rejected the tender, allowing Oklahoma City to maintain exclusive negotiating rights.

At least the Thunder helped develop him. A strong 7-footer, Johnson has improved his mobility and skill level. He’s still an old-school center in a league moving away from that style, but he’s now more equipped to keep up.

Whether he’s ready enough is another question. Johnson will fall behind Steven Adams and Enes Kanter on the depth chart. At just 21, Johnson is still a decent developmental prospect.

Johnson gives the Thunder 16 players on standard contracts, one more than the regular-season maximum. They could waive Semaj Christon, whose salary is unguaranteed, but I’d be leery of having only Raymond Felton behind Russell Westbrook at point guard. Nick Collison at least provides insurance at center.

So, there’s no guarantee Johnson sticks into the regular season. One thing working in his favor: His salary will be luxury-taxed at the rookie minimum, because the Thunder drafted him. Christon or any other player acquired through free agency would be taxed at the second-year minimum.

No matter how it shakes out, Johnson is at least finally getting significant money in his pocket.

Raptors coach Dwane Casey: DeMar DeRozan to play some point guard

Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Raptors gave away backup point guard Cory Joseph to save money. So, who will play behind Kyle Lowry?

Presumably, Delon Wright and Fred VanVleet will each slide up a spot on the depth chart. The third-year Wright looks ready to join the rotation, and he deserves at least the opportunity.

But Toronto also has another – unexpected – option at point guard: DeMar DeRozan.

Raptors coach Dwane Casey, via Bryan Meler of Sportsnet:

“DeMar DeRozan, have him handle the ball a bit more as a point guard, a facilitator, a passer. Kyle Lowry moving the ball a bit more, spacing up. We don’t want to give our whole ‘what we’re going to try to do next year’ away, but again it comes down to passing the basketball and better spacing more so, than we know, one-on-one play.”

“Everyone and their brother knows we want better ball movement,” said Casey.

DeRozan didn’t play point guard at all last season.* So, this is a pretty big shift.

*Defined as playing without Lowry, Joseph, Wright or VanVleet.

Known as an isolation player, DeRozan has quietly improved as a distributor. I don’t think his ability to run an offense is at a point-guard level, but I’m also not sure that’s the point.

The Raptors are trying to change their style and promote more ball movement. This could help in the long run.

I supported the Timberwolves playing Zach LaVine at point guard as a rookie even though it was clear he should be a shooting guard. Playing point guard was a crash course that helped him develop skills useful at shooting guard, skills he couldn’t have as easily developed while playing off the ball.

The same could be true with DeRozan. Some rocky minutes at point guard could better equip him to play with Lowry in better-passing units come playoff time.

It was more conventional to play a 19-year-old on a bad team out of position to focus on skill development than it is for a 28-year-old on a good team. But he we are.

The Raptors have achieved enough success in the regular season and not enough in the playoffs. Experimenting during the long regular season is a good plan.