Kurt Helin

United States' Kevin Durant (5) signals to teammates after he scored against Argentina during a men's quarterfinal round basketball game at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Associated Press

Kevin Durant says he plays his best when he doesn’t worry about game’s outcome

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Life comes with a lot of gray areas. Sports are somewhat cleaner that way — teams, coaches, and players get judged on outcomes. There is a big scoreboard at the end of the stadium that says who won and who lost. No gray area there.

Athletes become driven by that outcome — Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Bill Russell, Jerry West, and many of the other top NBA players ever were known for their insane competitiveness and drive to win every game.

Kevin Durant is competitive, but he told Jeff Zillgitt of the USA Today he plays his best when he doesn’t worry about the outcome.

“I told myself before I left my room, I’m at my best if I don’t care if we win or lose,” Durant said. “It might be different for other players. But for me, I’m more free and aggressive, and it’s way more fun for me if I don’t care about the outcome. I know if I go out there and be who I am, the outcome will dictate itself.”

 He will get ripped by some on Twitter/in the comments for this, but three thoughts:
First, this is just an extension of the “process over outcome” that coaches talk about all the time. Do things the right way and don’t worry about the outcome because it will take care of itself.
Second, do what works for you. Durant is one of the best pure scorers on the planet, a former NBA MVP, and if he plays his best thinking this way, then think this way.
Finally, before you say “but he doesn’t care about winning” explain to me why he just left Oklahoma City for Golden State to have a better chance to win.
Whatever motivates him, Team USA needs the scoring machine Kevin Durant to show up for the game against Spain Friday in the Rio Olympics. He’s the best player in Rio on any team, the USA needs him to play like it.

 

Report: NBA has chosen New Orleans to host 2017 All-Star Game Charlotte lost

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 16:  Western Conference Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors moves the ball across mid court during 2014 NBA All-Star game against the Eastern Conference at the Smoothie King Center on February 16, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The East defeated the West 163-155.  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 Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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This result has been rumored as close for some time, but according to the Associated Press the NBA has now decided:

The 2017 All-Star Game is headed to New Orleans.

The NBA has not officially confirmed this, but it is expected soon.

This is the third time since 2008 the NBA has brought the All-Star Game to New Orleans since 2008, the last one being in 2014. Because of the economic boost the game — and the many people it draws — bring to a city, New Orleans and Louisiana officials lobbied hard to get the event once the door opened.

The 2017 game had been scheduled to be in Charlotte, but NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and the NBA owners rightfully drew a line in the sand around the discriminatory HB2, what is commonly called “the bathroom law,” and was passed by the North Carolina legislature earlier this year. The law restricts transgender bathroom use (you have to use the bathroom for the gender with which you were born) and preempted anti-discrimination ordinances put in by Charlotte and other North Carolina cities that tried to block discrimination against gays and lesbians. It was a calculated “red meat” political move by a Republican legislature trying to make this a big issue and motivate their voters in the fall election (North Carolina is considered a swing state in the presidential race).

North Carolina can put the law on the books, just like free speech laws allow people to say terrible things, but there are consequences to actions. Adults understand that. It wasn’t just the NBA,  HB2 led to a business backlash as well with PayPal, Deutsche Bank, and others pulling plans for expansion in the state.

Louisiana is far from a model state as far as gay/lesbian rights legislation and issues go, but it has not gone as far as the “bathroom bill” that other states have passed (at least not yet).

There are few cities nationally that could quickly handle an event the size and scope of the All-Star Game (with an event that size, less than a year is very fast to get it together, and the arena/convention spaces had not to be booked). New Orleans was one, and a place the NBA had been before. Also in the running were Las Vegas, Orlando, Brooklyn, and Chicago.

The NBA has told Charlotte officials that if the law is changed, the 2019 All-Star Game will be there (2018 is in Los Angeles).

In the short term, there is going to be another big party in the Big Easy come February.

 

Usain Bolt celebrated 200m gold by doing “the silencer” — LeBron James approved

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 18:  Usain Bolt of Jamaica celebrates winning the Men's 200m Final on Day 13 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 18, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Associated Press
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Usain Bolt needed about 10 strides of the 200 meter finals in Rio to make up the stagger, and from there on in he ran away from the field to win his third straight gold medal in that event.

Bolt celebrated with LeBron James‘ signature move — The Silencer.

LeBron approves.

LeBron was watching that historic performance from Bolt at home, but he could have seen it in person had he decided to play in Rio.

Later, Bolt did break out his signature “To Di World” pose.

Ricky Rubio opens up about loss of his mother

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — There are few things in this world Ricky Rubio loves more than basketball, the electricity he feels when he’s on the fastbreak, teammates running with him and a no-look lob pass just begging to be thrown.

His mother, Tona, was certainly one of them.

The point guard spent all of last season with the Minnesota Timberwolves watching from afar as Tona’s body slowly succumbed to lung cancer, and there were times that he wondered if he should be playing at all.

“Sometimes at night during the season I was going through hell,” Rubio told The Associated Press as Spain prepared for a showdown with the United States in the Rio Olympics semifinals Friday. “Waking up in, who knows, Sacramento, in LA, in the middle of the night alone in a hotel and thinking, `Why am I here? Is it really worth it?”‘

When Timberwolves president and coach Flip Saunders died suddenly from lymphoma in October, it rocked the organization and Rubio in particular. Watching Flip’s son Ryan, an assistant coach on the team, grieve put a permanent pit in Rubio’s stomach, giving him the sinking feeling that he was getting a glimpse into his own future.

Sometimes during video chats – Tona’s was the first voice Rubio wanted to hear after a win or a loss – she would have to step away while becoming ill. He scrambled back home after the season was over and spent about six weeks with her before she died on May 25 at the age of 56.

“Anyone can say he’s close to his mom,” said Lucas Charte, Rubio’s close friend and manager. “But when you see Tona and Ricky and how their relationship went, it was something else. There was a kind of connection between them. They were too similar. Ricky has a brother and a sister. Nobody’s parent will tell you they have a favorite. But you could tell Ricky was Tona’s favorite.”

Rubio has always looked forward to playing for the Spanish national team. He started practicing with them at 16 and sees his teammates as a surrogate family that helped raise him from a child prodigy into a trusted veteran.

But when Tona passed, Rubio thought long and hard about pulling out of Rio to be with his father and two siblings back in Spain.

“At one point when everything happened, you think what’s the best?” Rubio said. “Stay with your family? Stay back home? Or sacrifice one more time everything for one goal, which is the gold medal, and dedicate it to her.”

Rubio tore the ligaments in his left knee at the end of a promising rookie season in 2012, causing him to miss the London Games that summer. He watched his beloved teammates fall to the United States, 107-100, in the gold-medal game. On his first day of rehab, Rubio vowed to physical therapist Andre Deloya that he would bring him to Rio four years later. Deloya never mentioned the promise again, but when it came time, Rubio had the tickets ready for him and his wife.

One promise kept. One to go.

Spain started the tournament 0-2 and Rubio was not playing well. Tona was not there, and he could not get her absence out of his head.

“I had a lot going on in my mind. It started with doubts. I started wondering if all the sacrifice was worth it,” he said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself, like I’ve been doing my whole career. At one point I decided to forget about all the pressure and just play for fun and do my game and enjoy what I do.”

He has gradually settled in, and Spain is humming heading into the rematch with Rubio at the controls. In the first two games of the tournament, Spain was outscored by six points in the 28 minutes he was on the floor. In their last three victories, they have outscored their opponents by 67 points in Rubio’s 59 minutes.

The mighty Americans – winners of 50 straight games in international tournaments – have shown some rare vulnerability in this tournament, emboldening challengers like Spain and Australia.

“It would mean everything for us,” Rubio said of a win on Friday. “It would mean the world. I remember watching Argentina beat the U.S. in 2004 and I think maybe the same story that Argentina wrote with the `Gold Generation,’ we can write, too.”

Rubio wants to win for Spanish fans after falling short against the U.S. in the gold-medal games in Beijing and London. He wants to win for teammates Pau Gasol, Juan Carlos Navarro and Jose Calderon, who may not have another Olympic run in them.

Most of all, he wants to win for Tona.

Five things to watch: USA vs. Spain Rio Olympics semifinal

United States' Kevin Durant, front right, congratulates teammates as they walk off the court during a timeout during a men's basketball game against France at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, Aug. 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Associated Press
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After Spain dropped its first two games in Rio — to Croatia and host Brazil — it was easy to overlook the two-time defending silver medalists. No Marc Gasol, no Serge Ibaka, an aging Pau Gasol and team core — maybe this Spanish team wasn’t as good as anticipated. A lackluster win over Nigeria didn’t change that perception.

WATCH THE GAME HERE

However, since that moment Spain has been the best team in the Olympics — beating Lithuania by 50, Argentina by 19, and then France by 25.

Friday Spain becomes the toughest test the USA has faced in Rio.

Winner of the game (2:45 Eastern on NBC Sports Network) moves on to the gold medal matchup, loser to the bronze medal game. Here are five things to watch in USA vs. Spain.

1) How well is Pau Gasol moving? We learned yesterday Gasol has a calf injury that had the Spanish coach saying he was questionable for the biggest game of the Olympics. Everyone — particularly Team USA — expects him to play, but if Gasol is limited so is Spain. Gasol is the Spain’s leading scorer and rebounder — 17 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. They need him to be special. Gasol’s game has never been based on explosive athleticism, but if he is slowed he can be taken advantage of. Watch to see how he is moving — particularly on defense.

2) Can the USA get stops? The USA’s offense has at times been stagnant and predictable — and predictable is defendable. Still, because of the ridiculous talent gap between the USA and its opponents, the Americans have put up points. The real problem has been at the other end. Teams with guards who can handle pressure, and teams that run motion offenses and cut hard off the ball — particularly backdoor cuts along the baseline — have given the USA trouble.

Well, guess how Spain plays? They start three guards in Ricky Rubio, Sergio Llull, and Rudy Fernandez — one NBA and two NBA-level guards who are not going to just cough the ball up. With them there is Gasol and the Bulls’ Nikola Mirotic, two bigs both capable of hitting the three. Then the five of them (and the Spanish subs) are in constant motion. If the USA doesn’t communicate, if they lose focus on their guy in the corner while ball watching, the USA is going to get eaten alive. This is the best offense the USA has faced, the Americans need to play their best defense.

3) How long does Mike Krzyzewski stick with his starters? The USA’s starters — Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson (and sometimes Paul George), Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, DeMarcus Cousins (or sometimes DeAndre Jordan) — have not been impressive in the USA’s biggest, toughest games. The starters can hurt teams with the three ball (when it falls for them), but they don’t defend and lack grit. The bench has played better. Remember how the USA quickly found itself down 10 to Argentina last game until Paul George entered?

Here’s a great stat from NBA.com’s John Schuhmann from USA vs. Argentina: The lineup of Kyle Lowry, Jimmy Butler, George, Durant, Cousins was +20 (35-15) in nearly 12 minutes of play. The rest of the USA lineups were 70-63.

If things don’t work early, Coach K has to go to his bench quickly. Lowry isn’t a great defender, but he’s been better than Irving in Rio. Butler and George are excellent defenders, Durant is long and plays well in a team defensive system, and Cousins is a big and athletic body in the paint. I’d suggest changing up the starting lineup some, but if not Coach K has to switch to whatever lineup does work sooner rather than later this game.

 

4) Is Kevin Durant being the best player in the Olympics? Last game against Argentina, an aggressive and attacking Durant took over on offense for stretches — he was shooting over and Eurostepping around every defender the South Americans threw at him. The USA needs that guy again. Durant leads the USA in scoring at 18.5 points per game on 62 percent shooting. But it’s more than that — he is the single best player in Rio. Straight away. I love his instincts to want to play within the team system, but he is one of the two best scorers on the planet earth, and the USA needs him to play like the unstoppable offensive force that he can be. There is nobody on Spain who can defend him, and if they send double teams at him he knows how to find the open man — and frankly, he can score over the double anyway. KD needs to be MVP KD on Friday.

5) Can the USA expose older, poor defenders of Spain? Even when he’s healthy, Gasol doesn’t move all that well on defense anymore and can be exposed on defense. Nikola Mirotic has played fantastically for Spain in Rio and is a floor spacing big that will get buckets against the Americans, but he is not a good defender either. A number of other guys Spain rolls out — Fernandez, Sergio Rodriguez, Jose Calderon, Juan Carlos Navarro — are older and not exactly fleet of foot. If the USA moves the ball, runs good pick-and-roll action, and just plays as a team these guys can be exposed defensively.

If the USA falls back into its habit of isolation/hero ball, they can be defended. It’s that simple.