The FIBA World Cup is taking place in Spain right now, but it was Labor Day Monday in America and we know you were celebrating the gains organized labor has brought to our country… or drinking a lot of beer, either way you weren’t watching FIBA ball. So here is what you missed.
• We said from the start this tournament was going to come down to Spain vs. the USA — and Spain flexed its muscles and looked dominant in beating Brazil 82-63 on Monday. Spain looked like a force from the opening tip with Pau Gasol scoring 12 (of his 26 for the game) in the first quarter and the Spaniards hanging a 30 spot on a good Brazil team in the first frame. The game was never really close and Bulls fans had to watch this game and just drool about what the 34-year-old Gasol is going to bring to Chicago this year. Gasol also had 9 rebounds and even blocked Nene right at the rim.
Make no mistake Spain is a legitimate threat to the USA (the two almost certainly will not meet until the gold medal game). The Spaniards looked better beating Brazil than Team USA did in its exhibition against that same team, with Spain having better ball movement and team play. Plus they have a raucous home crowd. Spain also has legitimate talent — they start Pau Gaol, Marc Gasol, Juan Carlos Navarro, Rudy Fernandez and Ricky Rubio, with Serge Ibaka, Jose Calderon and Sergio Rodriguez coming off the bench.
• Senegal pulled off an upset of Croatia 77-75 behind Gorgui Dieng (Timberwolves) who had 27 points on 8-of-14 shooting. Dieng has been a force in this tournament averaging 22 points a game on 54 percent shooting, plus 11.7 rebounds and a couple blocks a night. The Sixers Dario Saric looked good again with 15, as did the Nets Bojan Bogdanovic, but it wasn’t enough for Croatia.
• The Philippines are the best and most entertaining 0-3 team in the tournament. They came out with their young legs Monday and tried to run the old men of Argentina into the ground — and it worked for a while. The Philippines led early but eventually Argentina came back for an 85-81 victory.
• In other action France destroyed Egypt 94-55; Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 15 points to help lead Greece past Puerto Rico 90-79 (Greece has now qualified for the knockout round of 16); and Serbia beat Iran 83-70.
• Team USA had Monday off but play against New Zealand on Tuesday (11:30 ET on ESPN).
LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and a number of Cavaliers and Brooklyn Nets players wore “I can’t breathe” T-shirts in warmups after the death of Eric Garner in New York. LeBron and his then Heat teammates wore hoodies for a photo shoot after the Travon Martin shooting. NBA players have made other protest fashion statements, with no repercussions from the league.
But when WNBA players wore black warmup shirts in support of Black Lives Matter and other anti-violence protests, the WNBA came down with fines for the Indiana Fever, New York Liberty and Phoenix Mercury ($5,000) and players involved ($500) for uniform violations. That led to a lot of backlash — including among WNBA players. Some refused to answer basketball questions with the media after recent games.
Saturday, the WNBA rescinded the fines. As they should have.
The women’s players’ union supported the move, via a statement from the director of operations Terri Jackson.
“We are pleased that the WNBA has made the decision to rescind the fines the league handed down to the players on the Fever, Liberty, and Mercury. We look forward to engaging in constructive dialogue with the league to ensure that the players’ desire to express themselves will continue to be supported.”
I want a league — for men or women — where player’s individuality and statements can be made — I don’t want the NBA to be the button-down, cookie cutter NFL. Let the players be themselves. And if players want to weigh in on the biggest social issue of our time, they should. Without fear of repercussion.
Good on the WNBA for coming around to that.
Meyers Leonard could be poised for a big season in Portland. His minutes jumped last season because he provided spacing. With Portland adding Evan Turner on the wing to go with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, any big who can stretch the floor is going to get run, and Leonard has turned himself into a stretch four.
Leonard just hopes he can show what he can do at the start of the season — he’s still recovering from shoulder surgery. Here is what he told the Associated Press.
“My hope is to be ready right around the start of the season,” he said. “It’s a progression, first introducing rebounding, grabbing stuff overhead, then one-on-one, three-on-three, extending to the full court. We’ll see. You just never know.”
Leonard had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in April (they could have used him in the playoffs), and the timeline then was to have him back around the start of the season. Before he was shut down, he proved enough to get a four-year, $41 million contract extension with the Trail Blazers this summer.
The Trail Blazers will start Al-Farouq Aminu at the four, and Moe Harkless can certainly play there too (I’m far less sold on the future of Noah Vonleh). Leonard wants to get back before someone starts to steal any of his minutes.
NEW ORLEANS (AP) The New Orleans Pelicans say they have signed free-agent forward Terrence Jones and re-signed guard Tim Frazier.
A person familiar with the negotiations says Jones, a four-year veteran, signed a one-year deal Friday for the NBA minimum of about $1.14 million, while Frazier has signed a two-year deal worth about $4.1 million. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the Pelicans have not released contract terms.
The 6-foot-9 Jones, who was Anthony Davis‘ teammates on Kentucky’s 2012 national championship team, has spent his first four NBA seasons with Houston, posting career averages of 10.4 points and 5.8 rebounds.
Frazier played in 16 games for New Orleans late last season, averaging 13.1 points, 7.5 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 1.4 steals in 29.3 minutes per game.
Deron Williams will be back with the Dallas Mavericks next season — and be ready to go by the start of the season.
He’d like to say he’d be back for the next few seasons, but coming off a Sports Hernia injury his options were a little limited. However, his recovery is going well he told NBC Dallas in an interview from American Century Championships celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe (which you can watch this weekend on NBC).
“Feeling really good. It’s healing pretty well, I’m doing a lot of work on and off the court. I haven’t got the full-go clearance yet, but that’s coming soon. I’ll be ready to go definitely by the time training camp rolls around.
“I’m running, I’m jumping a little bit. I’m just not going crazy. I kind of have to wait for August 1 for that, to go see the doc and get the go ahead. But it’s not much restriction right now.”
Williams averaged 14.1 points and 5.8 assists per game for the Mavericks last season and was solid at 32. His efficiency slipped a little (to be expected as he is on the wrong side of 30 and has plenty of miles) but he played well for Dallas.
Dallas signed him to a one-year, $10 million deal. Williams was hoping for a little more security.
“I was happy to come back. Would have liked a little longer deal but I’m back for one year and hopefully can build on last year and improve. I think there’s room for a lot of improvement. Hopefully I can stay healthy. I think that’s the biggest key but I’m excited about this year and this team.”
The one-year deal is more about Dallas than Williams — they could see a significant shift in plans when Dirk Nowitzki steps away (he inked a two-year deal but the second year is only $5 million guaranteed, so he could be in his final run if he wants).
Dallas added Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut from the Warriors to a starting five that also includes Nowitzki, Williams, and Wesley Matthews. If they can stay healthy — no little thing with that group — it’s a quality starting five that coach Rick Carlisle is going to love.