Derrick Rose says he is not pulling out of Team USA in wake of George injury

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If you were a Team USA player, it would be natural to have some second thoughts after Paul George’s injury. Yes, that was a fluke, the kind of thing that could happen playing pickup anywhere at any time, but if you were a player who has battled some injuries it would be natural to stop and think.

Derrick Rose says he is not pulling out of Team USA in the wake of George’s injury.

Rose has played 10 games over the last two seasons due to knee injuries, and while he has looked close to his old self at training camp and drawn raves (and maybe a starting job) from Coach Mike Krzyzewski, there are some talking heads and some Chicagoans who thought he would use the camps to train but he wasn’t going to really play for his country.

Nope. He’s going to Spain for the World Cup. From friend of this blog Aggrey Sam of CSNChicago.com.

“I have no fears. I have faith. I know that I’m going to be fine. I know that I busted my ass the entire two summers. You can say two seasons to get back to where I am right now. And just try and keep it moving, stay positive every day, do everything consistent like I’ve been doing. Doing the consistent work when I come in, stretching, seeing Jen (Swanson, the Bulls’ director of athletic performance), talking to Jen, just getting my mind clear before I step out on the floor. I’m doing everything that Coach K and them want me to do, and I think everything will go my way.”

All pro athletes have to have this faith that they will be fine, whether they play in the NBA, the NFL or the Barclays Premier League. Every time you step on the field of play something could go terribly wrong, but you can’t play like that and be effective. You have to block it out of your mind.

Rose is in his hometown with Team USA this week as they have a couple days of training camp in Chicago before facing Brazil in an exhibition on Saturday night (a good test as Brazil mimics powerhouse Spain with size up front, rolling out Tiago Splitter, Nene and Anderson Varejao).

Rose likes the feeling he is getting around the Windy City right now.

“It’s going to feel like a pro-am game a little bit. Everyone has been talking about it in the city. It seems like it’s a buzz. It’s great what USA Basketball and Nike has been doing around the city, just keeping kids occupied, keeping people occupied, getting them something to do. I think it’s going to help the city, and it should bring some hype to the city,” Rose explained. “It’s kind of hard. It’s different. In Vegas, I usually go back to my room. But being here, in my hometown, you’re going to stay out a little bit more, going to see a little bit more. But my goal is to stay off my feet. I’m happy to be in the city, it’s good weather right now and the city needs this right now.

“I think it’s going to be encouraging for the kids, all the little hoopers that’s coming back from school and actually playing in pro-ams now and that’s in high school and get a chance to come out to the game.”

And see Rose play, let him show Chicago he is all the way back. And with that the Bulls become title contenders. Not that it will change the minds of some naysayers, but the true fans who love the game and the Bulls will get it.

Kevin Durant gets into Twitter debate with reporter over White House comments

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Kevin Durant became the latest Warrior — joining Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston, that we know of — to say he would not visit President Donald Trump’s White House as NBA champion. Which is all kind of moot because it’s unlikely the White House invites them and outspoken Trump critic/Warriors coach Steve Kerr and his players any way. (The White House’s biggest concern should be that Kerr accepts the invitation and uses that platform to challenge the president’s policies and style in front of him.)

Durant’s comments led to plenty of talk on sports talk radio and around the sports world online about whether a player or team should decline an invitation from the president. It’s not a new debate, Tom Brady denied that politics is why he didn’t visit Barack Obama’s White House (although I’m not sure many believed him), but KD’s on a big stage now so it became a talking point.

Former ESPN reporter Britt McHenry questioned a player not visiting the White House, and Durant responded, leading to a little Twitter back-and-forth.

Durant had previously Tweeted in response “by doing the opposite, I am inspiring more people” but that Tweet was deleted.

There is no one correct way to protest a person/policy/action, McHenry may see things differently, but Durant has chosen to stay away. That’s valid — traditionally these “champions to the White House” things are tedious photo ops with a few bad jokes thrown in. Having a hoops fan/player in Obama in the White House made the NBA visits more entertaining the past eight years, there was some trash talk, but still, they are largely just a public relations moment. If KD doesn’t want to play the PR game with Trump, that’s a legitimate response.

This has all been a tempest in a teapot. Until/unless the White House actually invites the Warriors to come, it’s all kind of moot.

Dwight Howard on Hornets’ coach Clifford: “It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you”

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Dwight Howard‘s game is much better than his reputation among fans.

He’s not the Defensive Player of the Year/All-NBA/MVP candidate level player he was back in Orlando, but Howard is still one of the best rebounders in the game, he’s strong defensively, and he’s an efficient scorer inside. He’s a quality center, if he plays within himself and is used well. His perception as a guy who does not take the game seriously and held back Houston and Atlanta in recent years has validity (he plays better in pick-and-roll than on the move, but wants the ball in the post), but the idea he is trash is flat-out wrong. He’s still good.

Howard wants to change his reputation, rewrite the final chapters of his career, and told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN that Steve Clifford’s Charlotte Hornets are the place that is going to happen.

“The other places I was, the coaches didn’t really know who I am,” Howard told ESPN. “I think that they had perception of me and ran with it. Cliff knows my game. He knows all the things that I can do. I’m very determined to get back to the top. It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you. They aren’t just saying it; they believe it. It really just pushed me to the limit in workouts: running, training, everything. I want to do more.

“In Orlando, I was getting 13-15 shots a game. Last season, in Atlanta, it was six shot attempts. It looks like I’m not involved in the game. And if I miss a shot, it sticks out because I am not getting very many of them. But I think it’s all opportunity, the system. I haven’t had a system where I can be who I am since I was in Orlando.”

Howard averaged 8.3 field goal attempts per game in Atlanta, which is about five a game below his peak. Last season 75 percent of Howard’s shots came within three feet of the rim — is is not there to space the floor, however, he can still move fairly well off the roll and is a good passer for a big.

Last season, 28 percent of Howard’s possessions came on post ups, and he averaged a pedestrian 0.84 points per possession on those. On the 21 percent of shots he got on a cut, he averaged a very good 1.36 PPP. When he got the ball back as a roll man (again on the move), it was 1.18 PPP. The challenge long has been Howard is better on the move but doesn’t feel involved unless he gets post touches, and if he doesn’t feel involved and engaged he’s not the same player.

Maybe Clifford can make this all work with some older plays where Howard feels comfortable.

Charlotte, with Howard in the paint and on the boards, should get back to being a top 10 NBA defensive team, not the middle of the pack as they were last season. Clifford is better than that as a coach, and Howard is an upgrade in the paint (on both ends). Charlotte should be a playoff team again in the East.

But it all will come back to Howard. Fair or not. And Wojnarowski is right, this is Howard’s last best chance to write the ending he wants to his career.

Friday afternoon fun: Watch James Harden’s 10 best plays from last season

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James Harden had a historic season in Houston.

Since it’s Friday afternoon and your sports viewing options consist of watching guys about to be cut from NFL rosters try to impress, why not check out Harden’s best plays from last season. It’s worth a couple minutes of your time.

Mavericks sign Jeff Withey to one-year contract

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Jeff Withey‘s ex-fiancée accused him of domestic violence, but he was not charged.

That frees him to continue his basketball career, which he’ll do in Dallas.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Mavericks could use another center, even if they re-sign Nerlens Noel. Salah Mejri is the only other true center, though Dirk Nowitzki will now play the position.

Withey is a good rim protector. Just don’t ask him to do anything away from the basket.

Dallas annually brings excess players to training camp and has them compete for regular-season roster spots. Whether or not his salary is guaranteed, Withey will likely fall into that competition.