Kevin Love leaving Team USA not helpful, certainly not devastating either

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Kevin Love is a unique talent and one whose game fits well in international basketball — he’s a big man who shot 37.6 percent from three last NBA season to stretch the floor, and for his career he grabs better than 20 percent of the available rebounds when on the court. Plus for Team USA he’s a great outlet passer on a team that wants to run opponents into the ground. He’s a matchup nightmare for other teams.

Team USA will miss him in Spain now that he has dropped out of the World Cup competition for this summer. Also out are power forwards Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge. We (and I’ll use “we” here as I’m an American) could have used all of them.

But this is far from devastating for Team USA.

The first thing you need to remember is that assembling a team for international basketball is different from putting together an NBA team. Different style of ball. Think back to the 2008 and 2012 Olympic gold medal teams from the USA, they had just two or three traditional NBA “bigs” on the roster and only one was ever on the court at a time. We saw a lot of LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony at the four (neither of those men are available for the team this summer).

Bigs who can shoot from deep and provide quickness matter more — and Team USA has that in droves.

As for the power forward position… I’d like you to meet Kevin Durant.

From a guy who knows the international game, Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.com.

This also opens the door for DeMarcus Cousins and Kenneth Faried, who will be in camp, as well as Anthony Davis (pretty much a lock to make the team) and Andre Drummond.

USA Basketball President Jerry Colangelo spoke with Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports about the opportunities this opens up for others such as Chandler Parsons who can play either the three or four.

While Davis is expected to make the team, Colangelo also spoke highly about the chances for Cousins, Faried and Drummond. Colangelo also sees Parsons and Paul George as candidates to play power forward and space the floor with their shooting against the international competition.

There is one legitimate concern about the NBA’s front line — facing Spain. That would be the second best team in the world (silver medals the last two Olympics) with a front line of Marc and Pau Gasol. You need enough size on the roster to be ready for that matchup. Remember in the 2012 London Olympics gold medal game Spain was right with Team USA until Marc Gasol got in foul trouble. On their home court with their home crowds (the FIBA World Cup takes place in Spain), the USA can’t count on those kinds of breaks.

But the fact is the USA is so deep with talent and athleticism that the loss of talented players — even a Kevin Love — is far from devastating. Team USA is still the favorites and they have plenty of options along the front line. Colangelo put it this way to Marc Stein of ESPN.

“You can’t just sit around and cry in your beer about who you don’t have. You look at what you do have and you say, ‘We’re going to get the job done.’ We feel very confident about our opportunity. We’re ready for it.”

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.

PBT Extra: Rockets vs. Spurs far more than Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden

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Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden. Two MVP candidates matching up in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

However, the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets is much more than that.

It’s a battle of pace. It’s a chess match between two of the best coaches in the game. It’s about which team’s role players are going to step up.

I talk about all of that in this latest PBT Extra. Plus, of course, when Leonard will guard Harden.

How to start your Saturday night: Watching 15 minutes of best plays from NBA season

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There are no NBA playoff games Saturday night, the first night since the start of the postseason there hasn’t been one game. Don’t worry, there are two games on Sunday, including Game 7 between the Jazz and Clippers.

But if you need a Saturday night fix, this will have to do: 15 minutes of the best plays from last season, as compiled by NBA.com.

Go ahead, watch it. You’ve got nothing better to do.

 

Paul Millsap says the expected, he will “most likely” opt out of contract

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This is ranked right next to “overeating can lead to weight gain” on the list of surprising things, but we will dutifully report it anyway:

Paul Millsap is going to opt out and officially become a free agent this summer.

Atlanta’s owner as well as Mike Budenholzer, the coach and head of basketball operations, have both said they plan to do whatever it takes to re-sign Millsap with the Hawks. Millsap didn’t sound like someone eager to leave after the Hawks were eliminated from the playoffs Friday.

“It’s been great. I’m looking to expand this and see where the franchise can go. These last four years has been great. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Even with both sides singing Kumbaya, keeping Millsap in Atlanta likely means a five-year contract at or near the max, which for a 32-year-old player means the Hawks would regret the last year or two of that deal.

Not that the Hawks have much of a choice here, they have to come in big and keep him. For one, they can’t afford to lose Al Horford and then Millsap for nothing in back-to-back years. If they were going down the rebuilding road, they needed to trade Millsap at the deadline (or last summer) to make sure they got something in return. Atlanta explored trade options at the deadline, but then pulled back (rumored to be because of an edict from ownership, which didn’t want to see the team blown up after the Kyle Korver trade).

By not making that trade the Hawks signaled their intention to remain a good team — a 43-win team this season that got them the five seed — with Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard, one that draws well at an arena that historically has not been that full, and see if they can add on. They strike me as a team that will win between 42-50 games a year and be middle of the pack in the East for the next few years, unless they can find a way to add an elite player (which is incredibly difficult).

But if the Hawks can’t re-sign Millsap, then the plan gets blown up. So expect them to come in with a big offer come July 1.