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Jerry Colangelo to step down as president of USA Basketball

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There will be a complete changing of the guard at the top of USA basketball heading into the next World Cup.

Gone is Mike Krzyzewski as coach, replaced by the most logical next in line, Gregg Popovich (who spent a lot of time with Team USA in the run-up to the Rio Olympics this summer).

Now Jerry Colangelo, the USA Basketball Chairman who orchestrated a rebuild of its structure, is stepping down and will not seek a third term, it was announced Thursday. Colangelo will continue as the Managing Director of the USA Basketball Men’s National Team — meaning he will be hands on in selecting that team — but he will back away from other levels of the organization.

“Given the coaching change and the challenge of assembling a group of players for FIBA’s new competition schedule, this is a good time to devote my full attention to the Men’s National Team,” Colangelo said in a statement. “As Chairman of USA Basketball, I’m proud of what our teams at all levels have accomplished and how our players have embraced the responsibility of representing their country.  I look forward to working with the next Chairman to ensure that we continue to honor and build on USA Basketball’s rich tradition.”

A new Chairman will be elected by the USA Basketball Board of Directors at its meeting Nov. 14. We already know who is in line for the position, and my guess is General Martin Dempsey will pass the USA Basketball background check.

Colangelo took over in 2004 after the USA won bronze in Athens and didn’t look good doing it. Beyond just recruit top players to the senior men’s team, he set out to rework the structure of USA Basketball and have top players competing for their country — and wanting that honor — at a young age. The other key was to get all these teams playing the same system and style.

It was a prestige honor before, but once (Colangelo and Krzyzewski) came in and built up a culture, it totally changed into a different dynamic,” Kyrie Irving told NBCSports.com this summer after a Team USA practice. “Every generation that is coming up has to come through USA Basketball if you’re, quote/unquote, a top player in the country….

“I myself played when I was 17 years old going into Duke. I end up going (to college) for one year, then I end up playing on the select team that I’m playing against today (the NBA rookies and young stars that the USA scrimmages against).”

Irving was part of the USA team that won gold in Rio this summer. That Rio medal showed how Colangelo had changed USA basketball — in 2004 a lot of top players pulled out of going to Athens (both over security concerns and most of them couldn’t stand coach Larry Brown) and there was no structure of good players in the system to step up and take their place. The team was just slapped together, and they hoped for the best. The got bronze. In 2016 a lot of top players pulled out of the Rio Olympics (injuries, Zika virus, and other concerns) but now there was a structure in place with guys who had come up through the system. The result was golden.

Not everyone around the NBA is happy that Colangelo — who also is an executive with the Philadelphia 76ers — has access to all this top talent from the NBA and could potentially leverage that to his advantage. The NBA put limits on his contacts with players, although he can speak to them specifically about USA basketball issues.

Colangelo is already talking about who might make the 2020 roster for the Tokyo Olympics, but he and the national team face real challenges before then. As Colangelo noted, FIBA changed the schedule for qualifications to the World Cup, which is now in 2019 (one year before the Olympics) to be during the NBA and other winter seasons of top leagues. Unlike European soccer leagues, which take breaks so players can compete in these tournaments, the NBA and top Europeans and other leagues are not. So the USA will be sending and interesting team of D-Leaguers and others to these games. It’s a disastrous idea from FIBA that Colangelo and USA Basketball have to deal with.

He’s not retiring; that’s for sure.

Chris Paul appears to kick at … something … while standing over Utah’s Joe Ingles (VIDEO)

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Chris Paul and the Los Angeles Clippers are out of the playoffs.

Once again, due to injury and perhaps a little bit of a curse for LA if you want to go that way, the Clippers found themselves bounced early when expectations were high.

Facing the Utah Jazz in a Game 7 at Staples Center on Sunday, Paul and the Blake Griffin-less Clips couldn’t get it done. The Jazz closed the series, 104-91.

Meanwhile, there was one play late in the game that say Paul give a full kick at … something … with Jazz wing Joe Ingles on the ground.

I’ll let you be the judge:

Big deal? Medium deal? No deal? I guess we will have to find out in case the league makes some kind of comment about it via the L2M on Monday.

Paul Pierce after final NBA game: “I gave every ounce I could, each and every day” (VIDEO)

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That’s it for Paul Pierce.

The Los Angeles Clippers lost in Game 7 of their first round series against the Utah Jazz, and in doing so ended an illustrious 19-year NBA career for The Truth.

Pierce, 39, saw his team go down by a score of 104-91. The former Boston Celtics star also saw time with the Washington Wizards and Brooklyn Nets before making his final stop in LA.

After the game, Pierce thanked his fans in every NBA city.

Via Twitter:

Current and former NBA players got in on congratulating Pierce on an incredible career on social media:

Shout out to Paul Pierce for an incredible career.

We meet again: Cavaliers, Raptors back together in postseason

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CLEVELAND (AP) We The North vs. We Are The Champions.

One round earlier than a year ago, Toronto and Cleveland are meeting again in the NBA playoffs.

On the way to winning their first title last season, LeBron James and the Cavs took care of the Raptors in the Eastern Conference finals, a series that was tied 2-2 before Cleveland won the final two games. The teams finished this season with identical 51-31 records and their history makes for an intriguing May matchup.

“They know us,” James said, “and we know them.”

After sweeping Indiana in the opening round, the Cavs will have waited a full week before Monday’s Game 1 tips off at Quicken Loans Arena, where Cleveland is 15-1 against conference opponents over the past three postseasons.

The down time gave James and his teammates a chance to recharge, heal some nagging bumps and bruises and prepare for a Toronto team that not only added Serge Ibaka (acquired from Orlando in February) and P.J. Tucker (acquired from Phoenix at the trade deadline) this season, but is looking for revenge after having its season ended by Cleveland in 2016.

These Raptors don’t want that to happen again.

“We’ve got some fighters and scrappers,” coach Dwane Casey said after Toronto eliminated Milwaukee in six games. “The guys are going to compete. We make it hard on ourselves sometime, but at the end of the day we’re going to go down swinging.”

They submitted last year in Game 6 at home, when James scored 33 points with 11 rebounds, six assists and three blocks in Cleveland’s 113-87 win.

“He canceled Christmas,” Casey said earlier this season. “One of these days … one of these days.”

For the Raptors to knock off the Cavs, whose shaky defense still showed some significant holes against the Pacers, Toronto stars DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry will have to be at their best.

“The two-headed monster,” Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said.

DeRozan averaged 23.5 points per game in the opening round against the Bucks, and may need to bump that into the 30s for the Raptors to have a chance.

Toronto lost three of four against Cleveland this season with the only win coming in the season finale, when Lue rested James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

Here are some other things to keep in mind as James takes another step toward a possible seventh straight trip to the Finals:

ROAD WARRIOR: James loves the road, where he has won at least one game in a record 27 consecutive playoff series.

The three-time champion revels in the discomfort of being booed and hated.

“Home cooking is great; love the home fans for 14 years,” he said. “But I love playing out on the road more than I love playing at home. It’s just a weird thing. I love the adversity. … It’s the bunker mentality of knowing it’s 15 guys plus the coaching staff and whoever there that’s traveled with us against the whole state and the whole city.”

Or in this case, all of Canada.

KYLE IS KEY: Lowry is back to full speed after missing 21 games following surgery on his right wrist. He averaged 14.3 points and 5.2 rebounds against the Bucks, but the Raptors will need more from him to dethrone the Cavs.

Lowry might be able to exploit Cleveland’s suspect perimeter defense and lack of a true rim protector by driving to the basket.

FREE-THROW WOES: After making a career-low 67 percent of his free throws in the regular season, James went only 22 of 38 (58 percent) from the line in the opening round.

None of his misses was too costly, but the pressure only intensifies from here with every make and every miss meaning more.

DEMAR THE STAR: DeRozan can get his shot off any place, any time. Like they did with Paul George in the first round, the Cavs are expected to focus their attention Toronto’s best player, harassing him with double teams to make him give up the ball.

“He’s one of the best one-on-one players in our league right now, and he does a good job of getting to the free-throw line,” Lue said. “His mid-range jumper is automatic and he can also get to the basket where he’s very athletic. He’s a tough cover and we just want to make him make field goals and not free throws and make it hard on him.”

ON THE MOVE: James has been climbing various lists all season and he’s still rising. He enters the series 60 points behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (5.682) for the second place on the career postseason scoring list. Once he passes Mr. Sky Hook, next on the list is His Airness, Michael Jordan (5,987).

More AP NBA: apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

Wizards’ Markieff Morris rolled his ankle so hard he “thought it was broke” (VIDEO)

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The Washington Wizards dropped Game 1 of their semi final round against the Boston Celtics on Sunday. A big part of that loss was the absence of Markieff Morris, who turned his ankle with just a few minutes to go in the first quarter.

Morris was shooting a jumper from the left elbow extended with Boston’s Al Horford contesting. Horford didn’t give Morris enough of a chance to land, and a foul was called.

The video of Morris’ ankle turning is pretty gross, especially if you’re a basketball player, so just be forewarned.

Via Twitter:

After the game Wizards coach Scott Brooks said he did not have an update on Morris’ status but that they would see how he was feeling on Monday.

Morris, meanwhile, said he initially thought he had broken his ankle.

Speaking to MassLive.com, Morris said as much:

“This was my worst one,” Morris said. “I kind of twist my ankles like this, that’s my injury, an ankle twist. But this was by far the worst one. I honestly thought it was broke. They got the swelling to go down a whole lot, but it almost was like the size of a softball.”

Game 2 of the series is in Boston on Tuesday.