World Cup Preview: USA vs. Finland, what to expect

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Scouting reports make Finland sound like a team that’s fun to watch play — it’s all about pressure on defense then shooting from the outside (usually a catch-and-shoot). It’s a good system.

Until you run into someone that does it better.

The USA does it better.

That is Finland’s problem in its World Cup opener Saturday (3:30 ET, ESPN). The USA does what Finland wants to do, but better. With better athletes. And more of them.

Finland — led by Utah’s Erik Murphy, plus Petteri Koponen (Dallas has his draft rights) — is the 39th ranked team in the World. Compare that to what the USA did in its tune-up games: Beat world No. 10 Brazil by 17 points, then world No. 26 Dominican Republic by 43 points, then world No. 17 Puerto Rico by 26, finally world No. 13 Slovenia by 30.

On paper all of those teams are better than Finland. Many much better.

Which is to say that for the USA this should be like the tune-up games, ones where they can overwhelm their opponent. The USA can pressure on defense, disrupt Finland’s offense, run on them and generally attack and be aggressive without fear. Look for Anthony Davis to have a massive game, along with wing players like James Harden and Stephen Curry. Look for all 12 USA players to get quality run.

Finland got into the tournament as a wild card selected by FIBA (along with Greece, Brazil and Turkey). Finland was taken instead of China, Russia (2012 Olympic bronze medalists) and Germany, among others. Why? Mostly because they travel well and had the backing of Rovio (the makers of Angry Birds) — basically, they were going to make FIBA money at the gate selling tickets. It was about the dollars, not the basketball quality. Just so you know FIBA has some FIFA in them.

Good for the Finland players, they got in the door and want to make the most of this. I hope they savor the experience.

But the USA should win this one going away.

Jimmy Butler: I didn’t move Derrick Rose or Joakim Noah from Bulls

PHOENIX, AZ - JANUARY 30:  Joakim Noah #13, Derrick Rose #1 and Jimmy Butler #21 of the Chicago Bulls react during the second half of the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on January 30, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Bulls 99-93. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Jimmy Butler said of the Derrick Rose trade, “It had to be one of us.”

Butler also says not blame him for the Bulls losing Rose — or Joakim Noah, who’s also headed to the Knicks.

Jimmy Butler, via Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago:

“That has nothing to do with me, I don’t move guys,” Butler said. “People are gonna think what they’re gonna think. I don’t let it bother me. I know where I stand, I know who I am. It’s one more thing for people to talk about. I don’t pay too much attention to it.”

I can believe Butler didn’t directly urge Chicago to trade Rose, but Butler’s presence matters.

Rose and Butler clearly didn’t ideally mesh on the court, and there might have been off-court issues, too. If it weren’t for Butler, the Bulls might have kept Rose.

Noah is a little different, because it seems he, more than the team, was ready for a breakup. Still, that might have also had to do with Butler.

Butler is trying to grow into a leader, a natural progression for someone who became his team’s best player. But that was awkward with the Bulls’ previous leaders — Rose and Noah — still in the locker room. There’s no simple solution, though moving on without Rose and Noah will clear that cloud.

So — without other information — it’s too much to “blame” Butler for Rose’s and Noah’s departures. But Rose and Noah moving from Chicago to New York can still be ascribed to Butler.

It might not have been something asked for directly. It’s just the reality of the situation.

Dwyane Wade: “It’s Jimmy Butler’s team”

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Dwyane Wade is back in sweet home, Chicago.

Wade met with the media for the first time and talked about the pairing of himself and Rajon Rondo with the Bulls’ existing star in Jimmy Butler — Wade used the term “three alphas” more than once. But he also was clear about whose team this was going to be on the court.

“We’re not going to go through this all year. It’s Jimmy Butler’s team. Myself and Rondo are here to bring what we bring as athletes.”

Wade added that he would not be a Bull if Jimmy Butler had not personally called him and asked him to come.

Wade took that cue from Shaquille O’Neal when he joined Wade’s Heat team — which eventually led to the Heat’s first title in 2006. The Bulls would love for that kind of result here, although it’s much tougher to see this Chicago roster having anywhere near that kind of impact.

 

LeBron James talked Justin Bieber out of performing at Donald Trump’s nominating convention

MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - MAY 29: Justin Bieber drinks champagne at the podium during the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Monaco on May 29, 2016 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco.  (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
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With the Republican National Convention being held in Cleveland, you knew there was going to be a LeBron James influence.

It apparently kept Justin Bieber away from Donald Trump and Co.

TMZ

Justin Bieber got a $5 million offer to perform at a Republican event during the GOP Convention, but turned it down after his manager considered quitting and LeBron James urged him to reject it … sources tell TMZ.

That’s a lot of money for a single gig. This either speaks to the power of LeBron’s words — or the embellishment of Bieber’s value.

Watch Bulls’ Dwyane Wade press conference live (video)

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Dwyane Wade playing for a team other than the Heat will be strange.

You can get your first glimpse of that weirdness today, when the Bulls introduce Wade at 3 p.m. Eastern.

If the above video doesn’t load, click here to watch the press conference.