Blake Griffin withdraws from USA Basketball this summer

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As some players are added to the group that will compete for a spot on the USA Basketball roster that will play in the FIBA World Cup this summer, others are content with bowing out.

There were 19 players initially tabbed to participate in the Team USA mini-camp in Las Vegas next week, a pool from which the final roster for this summer’s team would be chosen. Blake Griffin was a part of that initial group, but after further consideration, he’s decided to forego the opportunity in order to prepare for the upcoming grind of the NBA season instead.

The official release:

Los Angeles Clippers All-Star forward Blake Griffin on Thursday announced that he will not participate on the USA Basketball Men’s National Team this summer. Griffin was one of 19 players selected to the USA roster from which the 2014 USA World Cup Team will be selected.

“I appreciate the invitation to play for Team USA this summer,” Griffin said. “It is a special opportunity anytime you have a chance to represent your country, and I was honored to be included. However, right now I want to focus and dedicate 100 percent of my energy on improving and preparing for the upcoming season with the Clippers.”

The people that are likely to care the most about this are Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski; most casual basketball fans know that the USA roster is star-studded and deep, so the impact of losing a player like Griffin — especially in a non-Olympic year — won’t ultimately mean that much.

Representing your country is certainly an honor, but given the rigors of the NBA season, it’s understandable that players would choose to pass. Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge didn’t even get this far, remember, and while the wavering commitment will hurt the chances of these players participating in future Team USA activities in Colangelo’s eyes, the reality is that Griffin plays a very physical game that requires as much offseason rest as possible, and there is more than enough talent in place on Team USA without him to complete the task at hand.

Tyronn Lue says he has secret plan to fix Cavaliers’ defense for playoffs

AP Photo/Phil Long
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Only one team that ranked outside the top 12 in points allowed per possession during the regular season won an NBA title. The 2000-01 Lakers, who were 21st in defensive rating, are the lone outlier.

The Cavaliers rank 22nd in defensive rating this season and have been even worse lately.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue says he has a plan. He just won’t reveal it yet.

Lue, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“We’ve got to hold back. We can’t show our hand early because … these are some good teams and we don’t want them to be able to come into a series and be able to adjust to what we do. We just have to be able to play our normal defense until we get there and then we will see what happens.”

Also:

“I think the rebounding hurt us. Rebounding. But it will be different once some other things happen. … Their two-guards, their threes, they still crashed the boards. But we have something to fix that. Just not right now.”

What precisely those plans are, Lue wouldn’t tell us. And here’s the other part — he’s not exactly sure they’ll work.

“I’m not confident, but we’ve got to” get the defense fixed, Lue said. “We have to.”

The Cavs ranked just 10th in defensive rating last season, among the worst marks for an eventual champion. But they cranked up their defense in the playoffs, especially late. Cleveland held the Raptors 4.8 points per 100 possessions below their regular-season scoring rate and the Warriors 7.8 below theirs.

Lue also unleashed a 3-point-heavy attack in the playoffs last year after sitting on the strategy through the regular season.

So, I have some faith Lue will implement a better defensive gameplan when it counts. It also helps to have LeBron James, who can still play elite defense when not in the slog of a long regular season.

But the Cavaliers’ defensive deficiencies right now are glaring. This roster appears to lack defensive potential, and their many miscues keep them well below whatever that potential is.

The challenge in elevating this defense to championship-caliber will be immense, maybe even unprecedented.

Mavericks’ Salah Mejri dunks while getting shoved in the gut (video)

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The Mavericks built a 13-point lead over the Thunder with 3:30left thanks to plays like this Salah Mejri dunk on Nick Collison.

Unfortunately for Dallas, Russell Westbrook happened.

Willy Hernangomez dunks on Andre Drummond, Pistons’ playoff chances (video)

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Andre Drummond and the Pistons couldn’t slow down anything.

Not Willy Hernangomez. Not the Knicks. Not Detroit’s plummeting playoff hopes.

After a 109-95 loss to the Knicks last night, the Pistons — who’ve lost four straight and seven of eight — are 1.5 games and two teams out of playoff position.

Terrence Ross 360 dunks his way back into Raptors fans’ hearts (video)

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In his first appearance in Toronto since the Raptors traded him to the Magic, Terrence Ross did what he has done best throughout his career: Delight Toronto fans with a dunk.

And of course the fans appreciated it, because their Raptors cruised to a 131-112 win.