Dan Feldman

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 10:  Kyrie Irving #10 of United States moves the ball against Matthew Dellavedova #8 of Australia during a Preliminary Round Basketball game between Australia and the United States 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)

Kyrie Irving says he was ‘very serious’ about playing for Australia – until Team USA’s Coach K stopped him

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Team USA escaped a close call with Australia yesterday thanks in part to Kyrie Irving‘s clutch fourth quarter.

Oh how differently it could’ve gone.

Michael Lee of Yahoo Sports:

Irving was 17 and mulling over an invitation to play for Australia – the country in which he was born and spent the first two years of his life – on its under-18 team. Coach Mike Krzyzewski, in the middle of a Team USA tenure that has resurrected America’s supremacy in the game, then told the youngster he needed to think bigger.

“It was very serious,” Irving said of how close he came to playing for Australia, which would’ve later made him ineligible to play for the nation where he grew up. “It was a legit thing, until Coach K intervened. He strong-armed me. As a young fella, he did tell me I had a chance to be a part of something bigger than myself. He said, ‘You could be the starting point guard on the U.S. Olympic team.’ I never thought it would happen as soon as it has, but I had aspirations and dreams of being a guard on an Olympic team.”

Irving was born in Australia while his dad played professional basketball there, and he holds dual citizenship. It would’ve been reasonable to pick Australia, because there was no guarantee Irving would develop into a player worthy of making the superior Team USA.

In hindsight, Irving would’ve just upgraded the Australians’ strongest position. They already have Matthew Dellavedova and Patty Mills at point guard. The Americans have a bigger relative need at point guard with Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Damian Lillard and John Wall skipping the Rio Olympics.

Good thing for Team USA that Irving and Krzyzewski share such a strong bond.

Report: Knicks scheduled to open season at Cavaliers

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 26:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks battle for position during their game at Madison Square Garden on March 26, 2016 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 Al Bello/Getty Images)
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Carmelo Anthony made a reasonable prediction, but he went 0-for-2.

Anthony predicted the Knicks would face the Bulls – with all the Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and even Dwyane Wade storylines – on either Christmas or opening night. But New York is reportedly scheduled to play the Celtics on Christmas.

As for opening night?

Ian Begley of ESPN:

It’s unclear whether this would also be the Cavaliers’ first game.

The Cavs opened with the Knicks two years ago, LeBron James‘ first game back in Cleveland as a Cavalier. New York won that one, but it wasn’t a sign of things to come. The Cavs finished 53-29 and reached the NBA Finals. The Knicks ended up 17-65.

So, this would be a high-profile game with New York’s market and all the big names on both teams. Just don’t read too much into the single early result.

Venezuela outlasts China in men’s basketball

Venezuela's Nestor Colmenares (43) drives to the basket pat China's Sui Ran (5) and Yi Jianlian (11) during a men's basketball game at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
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Venezuela men’s basketball coach Néstor García smacked his forehead, grimaced and paced – unable to believe his team’s foolishness.

Fortunately for the Venezuelans, they survived it in a 72-68 win over China on Wednesday.

Up four with 3.8 seconds left, Nestor Colmenares – who led Venezuela with 16 points and five rebounds and added four assists – fouled Zhou Peng on a 3-point attempt. With a narrow path to victory opened by Colmenares’ blunder, Peng missed the shot. That effectively ended the chance at a hard-fought comeback after Venezuela built a 25-10 first-quarter lead.

This was probably just a matchup to determine the order of fifth and sixth in the six-team Group A – a hallow accomplishment. Just the pool’s top four teams advance.

But Venezuela still gets the pride of an Olympic victory. The next step is beating another nation. Venezuela, which also qualified for the 1992 Games, is now 3-0 against China and 0-7 against everyone else.

Yi Jianlian scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead China, which has now lost 10 straight Olympic games dating back to 2008.

After opting out of Nets contract, Shane Larkin signs in Spain

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 13:   Delon Wright #55 of the Toronto Raptors guards Shane Larkin #0 of the Brooklyn Nets during their game at the Barclays Center on April 13, 2016 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 Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
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Shane Larkin opted out of a contract that would’ve paid him $1.5 million next season.

I thought he’d get a small raise, but he was undoubtedly taking a risk.

It doesn’t appear it will pay off.

Euroleague.net:

Laboral Kutxa Vitoria Gasteiz has found a new point guard, Shane Larkin

In a market favorable to backup point guards, I’m surprised Larkin couldn’t find an NBA job.

He has shown flashes, looked far better as a distributor and outside shooter last year and is just 23. The Nets might a poor excuse for an NBA team, but he ranked fifth on Brooklyn in minutes and started 17 games.

Nobody wanted him as a third point guard?

Maybe it’s his hands.

Paul George: Team USA had to match physicality of ‘dirty’ Australia

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 10:  Matthew Dellavedova #8 of Australia goes to the basket against Paul George #13 of United States during the Men's Preliminary Round Group A between Australia and the United States on Day 5 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Carioca Arena 1 on August 10, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
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Team USA earned a hard-fought win over Australia today.

A key?

Paul George on Australia, via Tony Harper of Fox Sports:

“We knew that coming in – this team has a knack for being a little dirty.”

“We just had to match their physicality,” said George. “That’s what we had to do. That’s the only way a team is going to get us out of our comfort zone is to muddy the game, doing little stuff to get to us.”

A team with Mathew Dellavedova and Andrew Bogut dirty? Why, I never.

George helped set the tone early by getting into a stare-down with Dellavedova, but Delly didn’t flinch, either. Both teams brought it in the showdown of undefeateds.

Were the Australians actually dirty? I say they were more unforgiving than dirty.

Of course, they’d agree. Harper:

Boomers legend and now assistant coach Luc Longley fired back in response: “Tell ‘em that’s international basketball.’’

There’s definitely more allowable contact in international play, and Australia took full advantage. Team USA responded enough in kind to allow its talent advantage to win out.