Dan Feldman

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 19: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers drives against Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs during the first half at Quicken Loans Arena on November 19, 2014 in Cleveland, Ohio. 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 Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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LeBron James says Kawhi Leonard defends him best

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Joe Dumars’ reputation was boosted significantly when Michael Jordan said the Pistons guard defended him better than anyone. Ruben Patterson labeled himself the Kobe Stopper and is still known for it.

Guarding a generational scorer better than anyone else is a ticket to lasting recognition.

Asked who defends him best, LeBron James anointed Kawhi Leonard.

LeBron, via the Open Run podcast:

Kawhi Leonard. Kawhi Leonard, he’s solid. He’s solid, solid at that end of the floor. He’s very, very solid. I like him. I like the kid.

This seems like the right choice. The Spurs’ forward has won the last two Defensive Player of the Year awards. His superior length, strength, athleticism and intelligence gives him a chance against LeBron.

But it’s just a chance.

LeBron excelled against Leonard in the 2013 Finals. Leonard slowed LeBron enough the following year for San Antonio to win the title, though LeBron still thrived for most of the series.

Still, that’s a far higher success rate than most against LeBron.

Report: Wizards sign Casper Ware

PORTLAND, OR - MARCH 15:  Casper Ware #22 of the Long Beach State 49ers drives to the basket against the New Mexico Lobos in the second round of the 2012 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Rose Garden Arena on March 15, 2012 in Portland, Oregon.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
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Do the Wizards need a third point guard?

John Wall will obviously start, and Washington traded for Trey Burke to serve as its primary backup. Marcus Thornton and Tomas Satoransky are combo guards, and they might provide enough depth.

But if the Wizards want more of a true third point guard – at least by height – they’re bringing one to camp: Casper Ware.

Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post:

The Wizards have just 12 players – three below the regular-season roster limit – with guaranteed salaries. That’ll create a riveting training-camp competition between Jarell Eddie, Danuel House, Daniel Ochefu, Sheldon McClellan and Ware.

The 5-foot-10 Ware, who signed a couple 10-day contracts with the 76ers in 2014, was a pesky defender and decent outside shooter at Long Beach State. Can he prove those skills translate to the NBA after honing them overseas for a few years? That, or improved distributing, will be his ticket to sticking.

Croatia asserts itself among Team USA’s biggest threat in 2020 Olympics

Croatia's Dario Saric (9) celebrates a score against Brazil during a men's basketball game at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
AP Photo/Eric Gay
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Team USA was the team to beat in Olympic men’s basketball. Team USA is the team to beat in Olympic men’s basketball. Team USA will be the team to beat in Olympic men’s basketball.

The Americans have won 14 of 18 gold medals in the sport, half the misses coming in controversy – the stolen 1972 finish and a boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games. The U.S. has won the last two golds and carries a 23-game winning streak.

The United States’ biggest competition is the field. Play enough games in what becomes a single-elimination tournament, and you’re bound to slip somewhere.

But there are always another nations that presents bigger tests than others. Right now, Spain leads the pack. The Spaniards have won the last two silver medals, looked darned good against top competition in Rio and spooked Team USA more than anyone else.

By the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the U.S. could have a new top challenger. Keep an eye on Croatia.

Croatia was narrowly eliminated by Serbia in a quarterfinal yesterday, but the Croatians impressed prior. They beat Spain, Brazil and Lithuania to win Group B. A loss to Nigeria is inexplicable, but it can probably be attributed to another reason I’m so high on Croatia: its youth.

The Croatians – led by Bojan Bogdanovic (27), Dario Saric (22) and Mario Hezonja (20) – are the youngest team to win a game in Rio.

Here’s every team in the 2016 Olympics sorted by average age, weighted by playing time:

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China went 0-5, losing by nearly 30 points per game. It’ll take far more than typical player development for the Chinese to make an impact in Tokyo

Serbia is nearly as young as Croatia, and 21-year-old Nikola Jokic remains underrated. The Serbs aren’t going anywhere, either.

But it’s also about who’s missing. While Serbia is playing without Boban Marjanovic and Nemanja Bjelica, Croatia could add three 2016 draft picks: No. 4 pick Dragan Bender (Suns), No. 23 pick Ante Zizic (Celtics) and No. 32 Ivica Zubac (Lakers).

Of course, Croatia isn’t the only team with talent that didn’t reach Rio.

Australia – which beat Serbia, which beat Croatia – has Ben Simmons, Dante Exum and Thon Maker in the wings. But don’t count on Patty Mills (28), Andrew Bogut (31), Aron Baynes (29), David Anderson (36) and even Matthew Dellavedova (25) to be as good four years from now.

France could reload with Evan Fournier, Ian Mahinmi, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Petr Cornelie and maybe even Joakim Noah. (The Knicks think the 31-year-old Noah will be fine in four years.)

Canada, which didn’t even qualify for the 2016 Olympics, might be able to build a roster full of NBA talent. Andrew Wiggins, Tristan Thompson, Cory Joseph, Trey Lyles, Jamal Murray and Kelly Olynyk look formidable.

But, aside from Team USA, nobody in Tokyo will match Croatia’s Olympic success, youth and incoming talent – at least if all goes to plan. Four years is a long time, and a lot can change between now and 2020.

Still, Croatia entered the 2016 Games looking to be an Olympiad away from seriously threatening for a medal. The Rio results should only lift expectations for Croatia in Tokyo.

LeBron James included Godfather III in playoff binge

HOLLYWOOD - JULY 12:  Cleveland Cavaliers player LeBron James arrives at the 2006 ESPY Awards at the Kodak Theatre on July 12, 2006 in Hollywood, California.  (Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images)
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LeBron James is known for tuning out social media during the playoffs.

How does he fill the time?

Movies.

He reportedly repeatedly watched “The Godfather” to get in the right mindset during the 2016 postseason, but that report didn’t reveal which of the three films. Now, LeBron elaborates.

LeBron, via the Open Run podcast:

Watching The Godfather one, two and three. As much as people say three shouldn’t have been made, whatever. It’s a part of the trilogy.

I joked LeBron must have watched “The Godfather: Part III” before Games 1 and 2 of the Finals. Maybe there was truth to that.

Godfather III is trash, and I seriously question LeBron’s judgment now.

If he cuts it from his rotation, the Cavaliers might go Fo’, Fo’, Fo’, Fo’ next year.

Michael Malone says his family hasn’t worn purple since Kings fired him

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 03:  Head coach Michael Malone of the Sacramento Kings calls a time out against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on November 3, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. 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 Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Michael Malone has taken the high road since the Kings ridiculously fired him in 2014.

But Malone, who now coaches the Nuggets, might be just a little bitter.

Malone on The Lowe Post podcast, as transcribed by AJ Neuharth-Keusch of USA Today:

“I have not (worn purple since the firing),” Malone said recently on an ESPN podcast. “And what I really love about that is I haven’t, it’s my wife’s favorite color, she hasn’t, and my daughters haven’t. It’s almost become taboo, forbidden in our household.”

“It’s really funny though,” Malone continued. “I had a bunch of purple ties and stuff, because you try to work in your home colors, but I think I donated them to the national suit drive last year.”

If his wife stopped wearing her favorite color, that’s serious support – FAR more than Malone ever got from ungrateful and unaware Sacramento ownership.