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.

Draymond Green goes down, Rockets rally to spoil Warriors ring night 122-121

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Draymond Green is not the best player on the Warriors. He’s third or fourth best, depending on what you think of him vs. Klay Thompson.

But Draymond Green is the most important Warrior — what they do defensively does not work without him (and their small ball playmaking suffers as well). Without him, the Warriors are not the same.

That was on full display Tuesday night in the season opener — the night the Warriors got their 31-diamond rings and the latest banner went up at Oracle Arena. Green tweaked his knee in the third quarter landing off a shot and did not play in the fourth, and that’s when the Rockets outscored the Warriors 34-20 to come from behind and steal a win, 122-121.

Green was diagnosed with a “knee strain” and was walking around after the game without a cast/boot/crutches, although with a slight limp according to reports. He said this is nothing serious, although don’t be shocked if the Warriors give him another game or two off to rest it.

Kevin Durant almost saved the day for Golden State with a baseline jumper as time expired — the referees called it good, but an official review showed the ball was still in his hands when the buzzer went off.

James Harden had 27 points and 10 assists to lead the Rockets. However, the real story was their revamped bench outplaying the Golden State bench — Eric Gordon looked like the sixth man of the year with 24 points, P.J. Tucker had 20 and shot 4-of-6 from three, and Luc Mbah a Moute added 14.

The Rockets made their final push with Chris Paul sitting on the bench. CP3 sat the final four-and-a-half minutes of the game, and the Rockets thrived with Gordon, Harden and an old-school (meaning, like last season) offense. After the game, coach Mike D’Antoni said that Paul was out there “playing on one leg” due to his knee problem, and Paul could miss more time.

Golden State was also without Andre Iguodala, who tweaked his back lifting weights over the weekend, according to coach Steve Kerr. Not having Green or Iguodala hurt the Warriors defense, especially against an elite offensive team.

Surprisingly, Nick Young led the Warriors with 23 points off the bench, hitting 6-of-7 from three. Stephen Curry added in 22, Kevin Durant scored 20 and Klay Thompson 16. However, in the fourth quarter the Warriors big three of Durant, Curry, and Thompson were 5-of-14 from the floor and 2-of-7 from three. Curry could not find the range.

Last season the Spurs blew the Warriors out by 29 on opening night, and the Warriors bounced back to win 67 games and the NBA title. Nobody should read too much into an opening night win. But for a Rockets team with dreams of challenging these Warriors in May, this is a good confidence boost to start the season.

Kevin Durant’s game winner waived off, he didn’t get shot off in time

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With Draymond Green sidelined after tweaking his knee in the third quarter, the Houston Rockets were able to make a dramatic fourth-quarter comeback and upset the Golden State.

But Kevin Durant almost saved the game for the Warriors.

Down one with 10 seconds to go, the Warriors were able to get Stephen Curry a good look at a three but he missed it. The ball was volleyballed around a little, and Durant got a hold of it and took a 15-footer along the baseline that the referees on the court ruled a game-winner — but when reviewed it left his hand a fraction of a second too late.

It was the right call. And this is a big boost for the Rockets as they try to find their identity going into a long season.

 

The Warriors’ championship rings have 31 diamonds in them (VIDEO)

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Tuesday night meant the return of NBA basketball, and of course what we all wanted to see: the Golden State Warriors.

In the second game of the evening, the Warriors squared off against the Houston Rockets. Before the teams tipped, the Warriors received their championship rings in front of their hometown crowd at Oracle Arena.

Wearing special Nike hoodies with the phrase “The Champions” on the back, the Warriors received their rings to a standing ovation.

Perhaps the best part of the ceremony was finding out the official gemstone count in the rings. According to Sports Illustrated’s Ben Golliver, the rings have 31 diamonds in them.

Via Twitter:

Hmm. 31.

3-1.

3-1 lead.

Nope, doesn’t ring a bell.

Report: Cavaliers ditched Kyrie Irving tribute video idea vs. Celtics

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It was the first game for Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving back in Cleveland against the Cavaliers on Tuesday night. Irving spent the first six years of his career in Cleveland before being traded to the Celtics over the summer.

Of course, there was no love lost between the two teams nor between Cavaliers fans and Irving. Boston won the opening tip which Irving gathered, prompting a round of boos from the audience at The Q.

Perhaps more interesting was that the Cavaliers had a tribute video lined up for Irving but decided not to run it.

According to multiple reports, the video was set to run during a floating point in the game, but the operations folks in Cleveland never found the right time.

Another report from Cleveland.com has said that the aforementioned video had set off a few Cavaliers players.

Via Cleveland.com:

According to team spokesman Tad Carper, multiple Cavs officials, including majority owner Dan Gilbert, chose not to show the video because “we were expecting to run it at a floating opportunity based on the right moment, and we felt that moment never presented itself.”

Carper said the decision to cancel the video was not “directly” tied to the gruesome ankle injury to Celtics guard Gordon Hayward with 6:50 left in the first quarter, either.

A source with direct knowledge of Cavs’ players thinking told cleveland.com that several inside the Cleveland locker room were upset Monday upon hearing that a video was planned.

The video would have upset some inside the Cleveland locker room? I wonder which ones.