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Durant says 2014 USA team better than 2010 version that won gold

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LAS VEGAS — There has been a lot of talk around Team USA about who is not at training camp. No Kevin Love. No Blake Griffin. No LaMarcus Aldridge. There’s a lack of traditional big men.

However that’s how the USA has won gold the past four years. At the London Olympics two years ago LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony were the primary power forwards. The USA has the athletes and tries to use that to their advantage — crank up the pressure defense, force turnovers and create fast break opportunities.

The level of athleticism gathered together in Las Vegas to open Team USA training camp can’t be questioned. This is a good team — Kevin Durant thinks a very good team.

“Our team is better than that 2010 team I think…” said Durant, referring to the team that won the World Championships four years ago in Turkey (FIBA has since changed the name of the event to the World Cup). But why is this group better?

“Just different guys,” Durant said. “I’m four years better. Steph (Curry) is four years better than he was on that team, we got Kyrie Irving, we got Klay Thompson, we got better players I think. It’s just a different team.

“But that 2010 team was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I think we have a team that’s even better.”

Durant, Curry and Derrick Rose would be the only holdovers from the 2010 team (that team relied a lot on Lamar Odom as a point-forward), but Durant says that’s okay because that core group is improved.

“That four years experience is a lot,” Durant said. “I’ve been in different situations as a player these last four years. Once you see stuff you learn. You learn from your mistakes, you can tell someone else and help them learn.”

Durant is being asked to play a stretch four for Team USA this summer, something he admitted has been an adjustment the first couple days because it puts him in different spots on the floor than he’s used to.

“That’s all I’ve been playing here and it’s difficult, I’m used to playing the three and spacing a lot,” Durant said. “Now I’m setting screens and rolling, kind of initiating my offense from the top and swinging the ball. Just trying to be a guy who can space the floor, shoot it when I get it also be a decoy as well —we got so many good players and you gotta guard everybody.”

And that’s the key to the USA — all 12 guys on this roster still will be elite NBA players. No other nation can roll out that kind of depth and athleticism, that depth of shooters. If the team buys into the system and is selfless, they would be almost impossible to beat.

And maybe they would be better than the 2010 team. But they have a lot way to go to prove it, it’s still a long road to gold.

Sit back and watch the top 10 dunks from the first five weeks of NBA season

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Who doesn’t love a good dunk compilation?

Well, somebody probably just said “bah, humbug” but is that the person you really want to hang out with?

The fine folks at NBA.com put together the Top 10 dunks of October and November, and when Rudy Gobert dunking over Kristaps Porzingis is all the way down at 10, you know it’s a good list. Put off starting your Christmas shopping, at least for another 2:44, and watch the video.

Want to watch Chance the Rapper throw dodgeballs at mascots? Here you go.

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 12:  Chance The Rapper performs on Camp Stage during day one of Tyler, the Creator's 5th Annual Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival at Exposition Park on November 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
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Want to watch Chance the Rapper throw dodgeballs at mascots? Of course you do. How is that even a question?

Above you can see just that from Chicago Friday night (where Dwyane Wade, Jimmy Butler and the Bulls knocked off the Cavaliers). Benny the Bull is on his side as well, while the Cubs’ mascot and others try and stay out of the way.

I’ll take this over another kids’ dribbling contest any day.

LaMarcus Aldridge, Manu Ginobili hustling saves lead to Spurs bucket (VIDEO)

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That’s about the most Spurs play ever.

During the third quarter of San Antonio’s win over Washington Friday night, LaMarcus Aldridge saved the ball from going out-of-bounds on the baseline, he threw it out high to Manu Ginobili, who had to leap and save it from going into the backcourt. Two hustle plays. From there the Spurs whipped the ball around the perimeter, and it ended up back to Aldridge on the baseline, where he nailed the 12-foot jumper.

Eventually, the Spurs would get a Kawhi Leonard jumper to give them the victory.

LeBron on Cavs’ three-game losing streak: “We got to get out of the honeymoon stage”

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James wipes his face as he looks down after guard Kyrie Irving missed a shot during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls on Friday, Dec. 2, 2016, in Chicago. The Bulls won 111-105. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
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For a team that is 13-5 and atop the Eastern Conference standings, the Cleveland Cavaliers haven’t been their intimidating selves consistently this season. There have been flashes during a 13-2 start, but mostly they win on talent, or when they flip the switch for a half, but they haven’t looked like a tested team working on building good habits through the first quarter of the NBA season. They have an elite offense, but their defense is surrendering 105.1 points per 100 possessions, 20th in the league.

It’s been worse the last four games. The Cavaliers had to come from behind to beat the Sixers, then got blown out by the Bucks and Clippers. Friday night, Cleveland lost to Chicago, giving the Cavs a three-game losing streak, and LeBron James had enough. He sent a message to his team through the media (from the Associated Press):

“We got to get out of the honeymoon stage,” James said. “You got to play the game, the right way. We’ve got to battle every night like we ain’t won nothing. Last year is last year. After ring night is over with, now it’s a new season and everybody is gunning for us every night and we have to understand that. The honeymoon stage is over. It’s time to play some real ball and be physical, especially in the trenches. Giving up 78 points (in the paint) is ridiculous. We’ve got to man up. Everybody.”

The Cavaliers would be far from the first team to have a championship hangover, and considering the five-decade title drought in Cleveland before that win we should have expected one of those “I can’t get off the couch, I’m just going to lay here and watch golf all day” kind of hangovers. As Gregg Popovich has said before, its human nature to let up after a big win.

However, the blowout loss at the hands of the Clippers Thursday — the only title contending team the Cavs have faced this season — should be a wake-up call. The fact is the Cavaliers are still playing well enough to beat everyone in the East, but their real tests come in the form of the Warriors/Clippers/Spurs out West. Right now it’s hard to picture the inconsistent defense of the Cavaliers lifting them past any of those teams in four out of seven games.

LeBron has been to six-straight Finals for a reason — he does not let up. And he’s going to have to shake this team out of its malaise to get them back to an elite standing.

It’s also the first week of December. It’s we’re having this same conversation the last week of March about the Cavaliers then it’s okay to start looking for the panic button in Cleveland. For now, trust LeBron to be the leader this team needs. Calling them out was just step one.