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.

Who is betting favorite to win Rookie of the Year? Lonzo Ball? Ben Simmons? Depends.

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The Rookie of the Year race is wide open heading into next season.

It’s that way every year — if you had predicted Malcolm Brogdon was going to win a year ago, you would have been laughed out of the building — but this coming season has a lot of talent at the top of the board who could win. Lonzo Ball, Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, Jayson Tatum all have a real shot — and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Who is the better favorite? Depends on where you do your betting.

The William Hill’s Nevada sportsbook (which works with a number of Las Vegas casinos, such as the SLS), has this (hat tip ESPN):

Lonzo Ball 9-5
Ben Simmons 5-2
Dennis Smith Jr. 4-1
Markelle Fultz 13-2
De'Aaron Fox 8-1
Jayson Tatum 8-1

The Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas has Simmons as the betting line favorite at 9-4

The online betting site Bovda.lv has this line

Lonzo Ball 9-4
Dennis Smith 3-1
Ben Simmons 5-1
Jayson Tatum 5-1
Markelle Fultz 8-1

Traditionally, Rookie of the Year goes to a guy who has the ball in his hands, is aggressive, and puts up raw numbers. It celebrates scorers.

This year a whole lot of guys can fit that bill, more than are mentioned here. It’s going to be a wild ride.

Check out the first NBA 2K18 trailer (VIDEO)

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The NBA season is coming… and that means NBA 2K18 also coming.

To whet the appetite of you gamers out there, check out the first trailer for the upcoming game, with music by Mobb Deep.

You can pre-order the game now.

Aging Pelicans’ owner couldn’t remember Anthony Davis’ name in deposition

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Tom Benson, the now 90-year-old owner of the New Orleans Pelicans and the NFL’s Saints, a few years back changed around the succession of control of the team after his passing — his wife Gayle will take control. Rita Benson LeBlanc, Benson’s granddaughter and former handpicked successor, sued saying Benson had been manipulated. After meeting privately with Benson, a judge ruled that while Benson suffered some “cognitive impairment” he was capable of making his own decisions and that Gayle remained the successor.

Benson has been sued multiple times since then, including by former Saints employee Rodney Henry, and the then-89-year-old Benson was deposed in that case last year.

Someone broke the gag order and sent a copy of the deposition to The Advocate of New Orleans, and it shows that Benson’s mental acuity is fading. He couldn’t remember who Anthony Davis was by name.

During another set of questions, apparently aimed at establishing how close Benson and Henry had been, Benson was shown a photo of the two men with Pelicans star Anthony Davis.

“Who is this?” Williams asked.

“It’s Rodney and a basketball player,” Benson said. “Oh, hell, I forget his name. Let me — he’s a great player for us. Tell me his name, and I will tell you yes or no.”

When asked “is it Anthony Davis,” Benson said yes. The man is 90, I’m not sure that we should expect much. He had the foresight to bring in people to run his businesses — including his sports teams — and set up a line of succession for when he does pass. Smart moves.

Would Benson’s mental state impact potential changes coming to the Pelicans? Probably not. New Orleans’ GM Dell Demps bet big on going big in a league trending smaller, pairing Davis and DeMarcus Cousins. If that doesn’t work out, plenty of people around the league expect a house cleaning on the basketball side with the Pelicans. Benson’s mental state, whatever it may be, does not impact that.

The deposition leak came from an anonymous source (and anonymous email account, the paper verified the document before publishing). Who leaked it? It may be nearly impossible to find out, but only one side benefits from all this becoming public. And it’s not Benson.

K.J. McDaniels signs with Raptors for camp, can he make roster?

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A few years back in Philadelphia, the athletic K.J. McDaniels was a highlight factory and looked like a guy who could develop into a role player on the wing in the NBA.

Except, he never actually developed. Houston gave him a chance (three years at a total of $10 million), and it didn’t work out, then last season Brooklyn had him for 20 games, but they decided to move on.

Now Toronto is going to give him a chance, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

McDaniels’ agent later confirmed the news. This is a training camp, make-good contract for McDaniels. But unlike a lot of those contracts being handed out around this time, there is space on the Raptors roster for a player or two.

McDaniels will compete with Alfonzo McKinnie, Kennedy Meeks, and Kyle Wiltjer for one of the final roster spots in Toronto. Of that group, I’d most likely want to keep McDaniels because of the shot blocking and his potential — but his outside shot has to improve.

The Raptors can carry 15 on the roster and very possibly will until at least Jan. 10, which is the date these partially guaranteed deals become fully guaranteed for the season. Toronto is flirting with the tax line, and ownership is not going to want to pay the tax for this team, so if they do carry 15 they likely will cut it to 14 by that date.