Raul Togni Neto, Nicolas Batum

World Cup Day 1 roundup: Brazil with big win, Andray Blatche puts on a show

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The FIBA World Cup tipped-off on Saturday in Spain with a dozen games. Since it’s Labor Day weekend and all and you have barbecues to attend and beers to drink, we put together a quick recap for you.

• The USA’s defense forced Finland into a 0-of-17 shooting performance in the second quarter, a quarter the USA won 29-2. From there the USA went on to eek out a 114-55 win. Klay Thompson had 18 points, Anthony Davis 17 and Derrick Rose looked impressive throwing up a dozen. Finland had a loud and large crowd on hand, which was nice.

• Brazil picked up a key win over France 65-63 in a battle of two potential medal teams (both in Group A this round). Brazil trailed in the second quarter of a sloppy game until point guard Marcelo Huertas poured in 11 of his 16 points on the night to fuel the Brazilian comeback and give them a two point lead at the half, a lead they were able to maintain in the second half. Boris Diaw led France with 15 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists, and he had a three-point shot at the final buzzer to try to win it but Anderson Varejao of Brazil got the block. This was a game littered with NBA players but Evan Fournier (Magic) barely played and Nene (Wizards) was 2-of-6 shooting with four turnovers in what was often a sloppy game.

• As you would expect Spain had little trouble with Iran, winning 90-60. The real news here was that Serge Ibaka did not play for Spain due to a hamstring injury. We will monitor this going forward, but remember Ibaka battled a calf injury in the NBA playoffs last year.

• Andray Blatche had a monster game for the Philippines — 28 points (despite a 1-of-9 shooting start when he was settling for jumpers) and 12 rebounds. Blatche, still an NBA free agent, was faking three pointers and driving past Croatian big men when they bit, getting into the lane and generally finding all sorts of room to operate and put on a show. It wasn’t enough. The Brooklyn Nets new forward Bojan Bogdanovic scored 26 points leading Croatia to a 81-78 overtime victory.

• Argentina had little trouble with Puerto Rico winning 98-75 behind 20 points and 9 rebounds from Luis Scola, plus 10 assists from Pablo Prigioni. J.J. Barea had 24 points to lead Puerto Rico.

• The Suns’ Goran Dragic scored 21 points and pulled down 7 rebounds to lead Slovenia to a 90-80 victory over Australia.

• Greece beat Senegal 87-64 in part due to Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 11 points, 5 rebounds and 3 steals. Minnesota’s Gorgui Dieng led Senegal with 21 points and 14 rebounds.

• In other action in the USA’s group Turkey came from behind to beat New Zealand 76-73, and the Ukraine (coached by Mike Fratello) beat the Dominican Republic 72-62.

• Other Word cup games on Saturday saw Angola beating Korea 80-69, Serbia toying with Egypt 85-64, and Lithuania beating Mexico 87-74.

Philadelphia 76ers fans are celebrating wins by raising pet cats above their head

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Nothing is crazy in the world of sports, especially not traditions where you literally raise your pet cat above your head every time the Philadelphia 76ers win a basketball game. Nope. Not crazy. It’s simply part of #RaiseTheCat, a social media trend that has taken over Sixers Twitter.

Yup. Seriously.

It all started when 76ers rookie Ben Simmons shared pictures of his two Savannah cats on Instagram. They are gorgeous, expensive hybrid animals, and you know the Internet loves them a good ol’ cat.

🐯for those asking they are F2 Savannahs

A photo posted by Ben Simmons (@bensimmons) on

Philadelphia has gone 8-2 over their last 10 games, and one Sixers fan decided to start a social media wave of his own after each W way back near the start of the season.

With the Sixers winning more games, there’s been more photos of cats to go around.

The trend has finally caught on, with other Sixers fans using the hashtag to proclaim their jubilee after the team wins.

And of course, Simmons himself had to finally join in:

I love Basketball Twitter.

(h/t SB Nation)

LeBron James considering return to US Olympic team under Gregg Popovich

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 12:  LeBron James #6 of the United States celebrates after the Men's Basketball gold medal game between the United States and Spain on Day 16 of the London 2012 Olympics Games at North Greenwich Arena on August 12, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) LeBron James says Gregg Popovich taking over as coach of the U.S. Olympic team will be a factor in whether he plays in the 2020 Tokyo Games.

James has won two Olympic gold medals, but he skipped last summer’s Rio de Janeiro Games to get rest after leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to an NBA championship. On Saturday, James said Popovich “factors a lot” in his plans going forward with the U.S. team.

James was asked about Popovich, San Antonio’s longtime coach, before the Cavs hosted the Spurs.

James considers “Pop” the greatest coach in NBA history and called him a “great mastermind of the game of basketball.”

Popovich is replacing Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who led the U.S. team to three consecutive gold medals.

Stan Van Gundy to Reggie Jackson: “We’re not trading you for Ricky Rubio”

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It was rumored this week that the Detroit Pistons and Minnesota Timberwolves were mulling a trade that would send Ricky Rubio to Michigan and Reggie Jackson to Minnesota. Now, Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy says that isn’t happening.

Nor was it a real offer that was even on the table.

In a video posted to the Detroit Free Press, Van Gundy went off on one of his classic fireside chats — the kind that involves profanity — on how he sees the NBA as it works.

Warning: NSFW language ahead.

While the whole thing is worth watching for the Van Gundyness of it all, here’s the meat you’re looking for:

All these rumors and stuff look I mean know it’s fun for everybody and you’ve got some source somewhere and it’s also all bullshit. Im not denying that discussion — they take place all the time – -that’s a lot different than considerations. Somebody says ‘Hey would you consider Ricky Rubio for Reggie Jackson that discussion might have taken pace. And clearly we didn’t make that move. We wanted to see if they’d go [Michael] Gbinije for LeBron.

Van Gundy said he didn’t know if the specific Jackson-for-Rubio discussion even happened, saying that Pistons president Jeff Bower only brings him trades they are actively considering.

Meanwhile, Van Gundy confirmed that he did text Jackson after his agent made contact with Bower.

“This is the crazy season. We’re not trading you for Ricky Rubio,” said Van Gundy about his text to Jackson.

Report: After fining Wizards, league issues memo warning teams on bench etiquette

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 12:  Courtney Lee #5 of the New York Knicks takes a three point shot in the first quarter against the Chicago Bulls at Madison Square Garden on January 12, 2017 in New York City. 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 Elsa/Getty Images)
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The NBA league office fined Washington Wizards assistant coach Sidney Lowe $5,000 — and the team an additional $15,000 — for his role in distracting a New York Knicks shooter during a game this last week.

Now, the league has issued a warning to teams: make sure you’re practicing good bench etiquette, or we’re coming for your wallets.

According to ESPN’s Zach Lowe, the NBA sent a memo to all 30 teams on Saturday reminding them to remain on their own bench in accordance with league rules. Obviously that means no stepping onto active basketball courts:

So what are coaches needing to confine themselves to?

Official NBA rules state simply:

The coach’s position may be on or off the bench from the substitution box line (closest to the coach’s bench) to the baseline. A coach is not permitted to cross the midcourt line and violators will be assessed an unsportsmanlike technical foul immediately. All assistants and trainers must remain on the bench. Coaches and trainers are not permitted to go to the scorer’s table, for any reason, except during a dead ball.

Like we see with preseason points of emphasis, it’s possible we see additional fines in the weeks to come. Several coaches enjoy toeing the line (literally) to see what they can get away with and how far out on the court they can stand. Tom Thibodeau immediately springs to mind.

Or, it could go the other direction. Perhaps we see more coaches sitting back, respecting their distance?

Hopefully we just don’t see any more of them trying to close out on opposing shooters.