Watch Luka Dončić go coast-to-coast with sweet slam for Slovenia

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Slovenia won its first European basketball championship on Sunday, defeating Serbia 93-85 in Istanbul behind 35 points by Goran Dragic.

Dragic, the Miami Heat guard who was voted MVP of the tournament after the game, watched the final four minutes from the bench due to cramp. He had been visibly tiring, missing all three shots and the one free throw he took in the final quarter.

With Dragic out, Serbia briefly took the lead at 79-78, and again at 82-80 with 3:37 to go. But Slovenia, which had upset pre-tournament favorite Spain 92-72 in the semifinals, refused to fold. It went on a 12-0 run, during which guard Klemen Prepelic scored the go-ahead basket, 84-82, with 2:20 to go.

After a balanced first quarter, which ended with Serbia 22-20 ahead, Dragic scored 20 of Slovenia’s 36 points in the second quarter to help give it a 56-47 halftime lead.

“We gave them a lot of transition points. They brought the NBA speed on the floor,” Serbia coach Aleksandar Djordjevic said.

“We are an uptempo team … the importance of the game shouldn’t change what we do,” said Slovenia’s Serb coach, Igor Kokoskov.

Djordjevic responded by taking out his 2.21-meter (7-foot-3) center Boban Marjanovic of the Detroit Pistons in favor of more mobile players, who managed to slow down the pace in the third quarter at the 16,000-seat Sinan Erdem arena. Dragic still managed to score nine points and Slovenia stayed ahead, 71-67, but lost young star Luka Doncic with a sprained ankle.

Bogdan Bogdanovic, who is set to join the Sacramento Kings next season, led Serbia with 22 points.

Kokoskov, also the assistant coach for the Utah Jazz, gave a nod to his boss – coach Quin Snyder.

“He is my dear friend, my boss. He told me `Be prepared for the press conference and say something deep and smart.’ Well, I can’t say anything.”

Dragic may be a nine-year NBA veteran but Kokoskov, the first European to be a full-time assistant coach in the league, has spent 17 seasons there, after a brief stint at college level. He and Dragic worked together at the Phoenix Suns for four seasons (2008-11 and 2012-13)

Earlier, Spain defeated Russia 93-85 to take third place, with 51 points coming from the Gasol brothers, Pau (26) and Marc (25). Alexey Shved led Russia with 18.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?

Hawks’ DeAndre’ Bembry out with fractured wrist

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In their season opener Wednesday, Atlanta second-year man DeAndre’ Bembry came off the bench and played 17:45, scored six points and was +13 on the night. It was a good start to his career.

But now he is going to miss some time with a fractured wrist.

Bembry underwent an MRI, which revealed a fracture in his right wrist, the Hawks announced Friday. He will return to Atlanta with the team (the Hawks lost to the Hornets Friday night) and will meet with team doctors at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center on Monday. His status will be updated after that.

“We just may play some other guys more, we may use some of the young guys,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told the AP before Friday night’s game. “We’ll just figure it out tonight and as we move forward. I don’t think there’s anything guaranteed for anybody, it’s unfortunate for DeAndre’ and for us.”

 

Danny Ainge says Celtics will apply for Disabled Player Exception

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It’s not likely Gordon Hayward returns this season. His agent said as much, although a return in March is not out of the question. (It’s better PR wise for the Celtics to say he is out for the season, then if he returns early great, it’s better than setting a deadline he doesn’t meet.)

With that, the Celtics are going to apply for the Disabled Player Exception, which could help them land a replacement player, Danny Ainge told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.

President of basketball operations Danny Ainge told the Globe on Friday the club is applying for the Disabled Player Exception, which would provide the Celtics $8.4 million to pursue a player to fill Hayward’s roster spot.

“We’re in the process of doing that,’’ Ainge said. “We have a while to do that. There’s no urgency, but we will apply for that.”

There are limits to what that money can get the Celtics. The money is the same as the mid-level exception, the Celtics can go over the cap to use it, and the player can be obtained via free agency or trade. However, the player must be in the last year of his contract.

It gives the Celtics options. It also does not mean Hayward cannot return, it only means NBA-approved doctors determined he is not likely to return before a mid-June deadline.

Kings hire former WNBA Seattle coach Jenny Boucek as assistant

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The NBA now has a third female assistant coach.

The first was Becky Hammon, who has been part of Gregg Popovich’s Spurs staff for several years (and has coached their Summer League team). The second was Nancy Leiberman, who has been on the staff in Sacramento for a couple of seasons now.

Now the Kings have hired former Seattle Storm coach Jenny Boucek as an assistant coach on Dave Joerger’s staff. She will work as an assistant player development coach.

A former WNBA player in the league’s inaugural season, the past three years she has coached the WNBA’s Seattle Storm (she was fired midway through the last season), and prior to that had been the head coach of the Sacramento Monarchs from 2007-09.