Later this month, when Kevin Durant and Kevin Love lead 20 players into a Las Vegas training camp trying to make the Team USA squad for the FIBA World Cup in Spain in August, they practice against some of the best young players in the game.
Names of who will be on that USA Select team of young stars started to leak out Friday.
Marcus Smart, Doug McDermott, Victor Oladipo, Tobias Harris, and both Miles and Mason Plumlee received invites, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.
Michael Carter-Williams got an invite but had to turn it down after a recent shoulder surgery, reports Marc Stein of ESPN. Other players certainly have been invited but we do not yet have the full list.
It’s an interesting group of names so far. McDermott has excelled at the Summer League in Las Vegas with a game that could do well in international play — he can certainly shoot with range, but he can also put the ball on the floor and has good court vision and IQ. Defense… well, he’s a rookie still with things to work on. Oladipo had a good rookie season, and the Plumlee brothers both provide size and mobility.
They are all about to get invaluable experience.
They are going to work out with and go up against the best players in the world — to see how they train, their mental focus, their understanding of the game. They will see what it takes to reach the highest levels.
For Coach Mike Krzyzewski and Team USA, it’s a chance to start evaluating young players who may be future parts of USA Basketball squads. Guys such as Kyrie Irving and DeMarcus Cousins, who are expected to be on the USA roster for Spain, started on this USA Select team.
Last summer Kevin Durant tweeted and deleted that the Thunder’s surrounding cast around him and Russell Westbrook was lacking when he played for Oklahoma City. Those tweets – another criticized Thunder coach Billy Donovan – appeared to be intended to come from a burner account, but Durant said he actually meant to send them from his own account.
Now, he apparently liked an Instagram comment with the opposite message about Westbrook. (I say apparently, because I can’t verify the authenticity of these screenshots, but they at least pass the initial smell test.)
“Like” is Instagram’s word. Maybe Durant uses the function for a different purpose – to note a comment, rather than endorse it.
Perhaps, Durant misread the conversation. The comment he liked rejected the notion that the Thunder were “subpar,” but it criticized Westbrook for them not living up to their ability. Perhaps, Durant focused on the comment sticking up for Oklahoma City overall and missed the part about Westbrook being the shortcoming. Skimming that conversation, it’s a plausible mistake.
Maybe Durant just actually hit the like button. It’s easy enough to do.
Or maybe Durant and Westbrook haven’t really gotten less hostile toward each other. Maybe Durant meant to like this from a burner account.
Those nefarious possibilities are the scintillating ones.
After getting crushed for those tweets last summer and repeatedly downplaying his feud with Westbrook, the Warriors star clearly wanted to move on from these storylines. But all those questions have suddenly reemerged. Perhaps for legitimate reasons, perhaps for benign ones. But we won’t know more about Durant’s intent until he answers to this.
Amir Johnson is a savvy veteran on the young 76ers.
On the 2006 Pistons, he was a scarcely used rookie straight out of high school.
But he was learning lessons he’d apply to his current role.
Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press:
Philadelphia heeded Johnson’s advice. The 76ers won Games 3 and 4 in Miami to take a 3-1 series lead.
The Pistons went 0-3 in Miami during the six-game 2006 Eastern Conference finals. There was little shame in losing to those Heat. They pushed Detroit to seven games in the 2005 conference finals and were – with Dwyane Wade transcendent while Shaquille O’Neal remained in his prime – even better the following year.
But too much partying is a major charge and a somewhat surprising one. The Pistons were led by the same veteran core – Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace – that made the previous two NBA Finals and won the 2004 title. They’d been around long enough to know better.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has missed Games 3 and 4 of his team’s first-round series against the Warriors following the death of his wife, Erin.
Unsurprisingly, he won’t coach the Spurs as they leave San Antonio for Game 5 tomorrow at Golden State.
David Aldridge of NBA.com:
Popovich should take all the time he needs. Ettore Messina is capable as acting coach, and Popovich being with his family now is more important anyway.
This will probably be the final game of the series. Up 3-1, the Warriors are the better team and at home.
LeBron James and Lance Stephenson have met in 23 playoff games.
Stephenson has tried to agitate LeBron throughout all of them.
From the choke sign back when Stephenson was still a benchwarmer to the infamous ear blow to the tapping of LeBron’s face the next game, Stephenson has been relentless. And LeBron has mostly kept his cool.
But not last night.
Midway through the fourth quarter of the Cavaliers’ Game 4 win over the Pacers, Stephenson stuck close to LeBron as LeBron went to the Cleveland bench. LeBron pushed Stephenson away and received a technical foul.
I mean, I should never have gotten a tech in the first place. There’s a timeout called, and this guy’s following me to my bench. I gave him a little nudge, and he falls to half court. Come on. But I should know better. I should know better. I’ve been dealing with this since elementary. It’s like I tell you a joke – I tell you a joke and then you laugh, and you get caught. That’s what happened. Lance told me a joke. I laughed. Teacher caught me. Now, I’ve got to go see the principal. That’s what happened.
Stephenson earned that technical foul. He did just enough to bait LeBron, but too much where Stephenson would get a tech. Then, Stephenson exaggerated the contract.
LeBron got got, and he knows it.
He’s also probably savvy enough to remain on greater alert to Stephenson’s antics the rest of the series and avoid responding again.