Dan Feldman

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 10:  The United States celebrate after defeating Australia 98-88 during a Preliminary Round Basketball game on Day 5 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Carioca Arena 1 on August 10, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Team USA has reclaimed reign of Olympic dominance


Losing to Puerto Rico was stunning. Falling to Lithuania was dispiriting.

But after those group-play losses in the 2004 Olympics, the strong belief was Team USA would rally to win the knockout stage. After all, the Americans had claimed every Olympic gold medal in the Dream Team era.

Of course, it didn’t go that way.

The Americans lost to Argentina in the semifinal, sending USA Basketball into crisis.

But the U.S. program has rebounded. Jerry Colangelo was charged with leading the turnaround, and he hired Mike Krzyzewski to guide it. The very best players, at least until this year, took greater pride in playing in the Olympics. LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard and Kevin Durant helped Team USA win gold medals in 2008 and 2012.

Since that loss to Argentina, the Americans are 20-0 in the Olympics.

That 20-game Olympic win streak is tied for the third-longest ever – matching one U.S. streak and trailing two others:


If the Americans beat Serbia – 6 p.m. tonight on NBC Sports Network and streaming online here – they’ll take sole possession of the third-longest win streak in Olympic history. If they add a win over France on Sunday and go onto win the gold medal, they’ll claim the second-longest streak – passing the 24-0 mark set by the Dream Team, Dream Team III* and whatever you wanted to call 2000 Team USA.

*Dream Team II competed in the 1994 FIBA World Championship.

Nothing is guaranteed, and one off night could cost the U.S. its streak. Matching the Americans’ 62 straight wins to begin Olympic basketball competition seems nearly impossible.

But, after the uncertainty of 2004, this sustained run of victories is another sign:

Team USA is back.

TNT to begin Monday night NBA doubleheaders in January

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 19:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers blocks a shot by Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 19, 2016 in Oakland, California. 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 Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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TNT is adding a Monday night doubleheader package to its NBA coverage, starting with an NBA Finals rematch on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The Cleveland Cavaliers will visit the Golden State Warriors on Jan. 16, returning to the arena where they won their first championship with a victory in Game 7. The Oklahoma City Thunder face the Los Angeles Clippers in the late game.

TNT already televises a Thursday night doubleheader. The Monday night coverage is part of Turner Sports’ long-term extension with the NBA that includes enhanced multimedia rights.

The network will televise the NBA season opener between Cleveland and New York on Oct. 25 and 64 games overall during the regular season.

Report: Rockets among teams expressing strongest interest in Rudy Gay trade

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 22:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Houston Rockets fights for a rebound with Rudy Gay #8 of the Sacramento Kings during the game at the Toyota Center on January 22, 2014 in Houston, Texas. 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 Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

The Kings upset Rudy Gay by not talking to him about trading him. Then, they got on the same page by talking to him about trading him.

What will it take to actually get a deal done?

Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders:

The next hurdle is value. League sources say while there are teams that have expressed interest in Gay – most notably the Houston Rockets – getting anything of real value back on what could be a one-year rental at Gay’s price tag is hard math to make work.

There is a sense among league insiders that the Kings are not looking for a ton in return for Gay, so that may make finding a deal a little easier even with all the issues surrounding a deal.

The Rockets added offensive talent this offseason in Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon and Mike D’Antoni to complement James Harden. Gay would fit the trend.

Sacramento might want Trevor Ariza in an exchange of small forwards. Houston would probably rather use Corey Brewer as centerpiece of a trade. (Neither player alone would make salaries match, though Gay could be traded for Ariza and Brewer.)

The Kings might not be seeking much for Gay, but their definition of selling low could still be higher than what the rest of the league considers fair value. There’s a reason a trade hasn’t happened yet.

Report: Cavaliers offered J.R. Smith about $10 million per year, believe they’ll re-sign him

CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 22:  J.R. Smith #5 of the Cleveland Cavaliers acknowledges the crowd during the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 NBA Championship victory parade and rally on June 22, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

The Cavaliers handled their most-pressing matter, locking up LeBron James.

That leaves J.R. Smith as Cleveland’s – and the NBA’s – top remaining free agent.

Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders:

While the Cavaliers and J.R. Smith have not yet reached a free agent deal, there is a continued sense from league and Cavalier insiders that a new agreement is going to happen, it’s simply a case of how long and how much?

Smith got married over the weekend and was surrounded by his Cavalier teammates, who posted pictures all over social media.

League sources said that Smith and his camp were not overly concerned about reaching a deal, with a belief that the Cavs have put a multi-year deal in the $10 million per year neighborhood on the table weeks ago and the Smith and his advisors have been looking for a slightly bigger package and that waiting things out, was simply the leverage to try and get a slightly better deal.

LeBron’s deal took the Cavs slightly above the luxury-tax line. Smith would shoot them well past it. Assuming the Cavaliers pay the tax this season – it’s determined by team salary on the final day of the regular season – they would be on the hook for the repeater rate in 2017-18.

So, Smith’s length will be important. Cleveland might hesitate to guarantee much money beyond this season for Smith, who turns 31 next month.

Smith reportedly wants $15 million per year, which would be slated to cost the Cavs more than $43.75 million – Smith’s salary plus $28.75 million in luxury tax. (The “more than” is because they already have a couple players on partially guaranteed deals that put them slightly over the tax line. A $15 million salary for Smith would push the Cavaliers into the fourth tier of tax, where each dollar of salary is hit with a $3.25 penalty.)

Is Smith worth that? The market has largely dried up, so Cleveland would be bidding against itself.

But his agent is LeBron’s agent, Rich Paul. Smith and Paul have waited out the Cavs, even as other teams spend their cap space. I’d guess that’s by design. A strong 3-point shooter and improved defender, Smith would be a valuable part of a championship-contending team with its window wide open. He can leverage that and his LeBron tie more effectively than he could leverage an offer from another team.

Those negotiations, without another team helping to set the market, aren’t easy, though. So, Smith remains unsigned.

Carmelo Anthony: If I don’t win an NBA title, I can still say I had great career

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 12:  Carmelo Anthony #15 of the United States celebrates winning 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 Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Carmelo Anthony won a national championship at Syracuse. He has won two Olympic gold medals, and he’s trying for a third in Rio. He has made nine All-Star games and six All-NBA teams and won a scoring title. He’ll earn more than $260 million in his career, and his next contract could raise that total significantly.

But he hasn’t won an NBA title.

Anthony, via Marc Stein of ESPN:

“Most athletes don’t have an opportunity to say that they won a gold medal, better yet three gold medals,” Anthony said. “I would be very happy walking away from the game knowing that I’ve given the game everything I have, knowing I played on a high level at every level: high school, college, won [a championship at Syracuse] in college and possibly three gold medals.

“I can look back on it when my career is over — if I don’t have an NBA championship ring — and say I had a great career.”

Anthony is deflecting to a certain degree. If his Knicks were legitimate championship contenders, he might view an NBA title as more important. But with that goal so far removed, he’s trying to manage expectations – both internal and external.

Of course, Anthony also contributes to New York being so far from a championship. He’s an excellent scorer, but his limitations make it difficult to build a team around him – especially because his scoring prowess commands such a high portion of the salary cap. The Nuggets assembled an effective supporting cast for him, but it sure wasn’t easy.

It also doesn’t help that Anthony isn’t totally consumed by winning a title. He cares about more than just basketball, which makes him like many of us who have broad interests outside our jobs. It also separates him from many of his peers who, following Michael Jordan’s lead, are manically devoted to winning.

And that’s OK.

Anthony’s values don’t have to be your values or Jordan’s values or anyone else’s values.

When Anthony retires, he’ll have had a great career. A championship might be the missing piece, and when comparing him to other all-time greats it’d be fair to hold that against him. But how we rank players isn’t everything, and Anthony seems content with his accomplishments. That matters, too.