Kurt Helin

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 20:  Angel Mccoughtry #8 and Diana Taurasi #12 of United States celebrate after winning the Women's Gold Medal Game between United States and Spain on Day 15 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Carioca Arena 1 on August 20, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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Watch highlights as USA women win gold with 101-76 victory over Spain

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The USA Basketball men’s basketball teams have dominated the Olympics the past eight years, and they are one win away from gold again.

But they are not half the dynasty that the USA women are.

The American women have won 49 straight games in the Olympics and have now won six straight Olympic golds after their 101-76 thumping of Spain. Check out the highlights below.

Gordon Hayward says he skipped Olympics to focus on family, his game

Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward (20) drives past Phoenix Suns forward P.J. Tucker in the first quarter during an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
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There were likely a lot of factors that played into Gordon Hayward‘s decision not to play in the Rio Olympics this summer (he turned down an invite). For one, his wife was due with their second child and he didn’t want to be away (a very valid reason). Obviously, there were concerns about the Zika virus and other issues in Rio (which largely have not been as big a problem as feared).

If one were cynical, one would note that Hayward is a free agent next summer with a huge payday coming — whether he stays with or leaves Utah — and he didn’t want to put that at risk.

But Gordon said in a post on his official blog that saying no to the Olympics was hard, but it was about family first. It also allowed him to sharpen his game, in an effort to lift the Jazz to the playoffs.

Making the decision to not join USA Basketball in Rio and represent my country in the Olympics was one of the most difficult choices I’ve ever had to make…. But I think ultimately for me, I wanted to be here with my family. It would have been too tough for me to make the choice to leave them, and play for Team USA at a time like this. I felt like being here with (his wife) Robyn and here for Robyn, and supporting her through these first few months with our second child, was important. Experiencing what goes on when you have a child, to me, outweighed the benefits of being an Olympian….

I also wanted to spend the summer in Utah and commit to training. We have a big year ahead of us with the Jazz. I want us to make the playoffs this year, and I’ve been training since May to help make that happen. You miss a big chunk of that vital training time before camp when you go to do something like play in the Olympics, and it kind of changes up your routine. I want to be the best player I can be to get us to the playoffs. I want to be an All-Star this year.

Those things are important to me. I felt the best place to be to achieve those goals was Utah. I also looked at the fact that I’m only 26 years old, and I feel like if my career goes the way I want it to, I will get another opportunity to play in the Olympics.

Nobody can knock a family first decision. As a father (albeit, one who has not exactly been invited to an Olympic team), he made the right move.

Next season is going to be interesting in Utah. The Jazz are on every pundit’s list of fast climbing teams that with their offseason moves — adding George Hill at the point, plus Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw for depth — should not only be a playoff team but maybe up in the five/six seed slot. This team is poised for a big season and Hayward is a key part of that as a main offensive option.

Then after the breakout season, can the Jazz keep Hayward? He professes his love for Utah in that blog post, Utah will offer him as much money as any other team (they better), but he is an unrestricted free agent who will have options. He is going to be part of a wild 2017 summer.

And if not wanting to risk that was part of the calculus on Rio, you can’t blame him for that, either.

 

Report: J.J. Hickson signs deal to play in China

Denver Nuggets center J.J. Hickson (7) reacts after he was called for a foul during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Friday, Dec. 5, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
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J.J. Hickson was a solid reserve big man in the NBA who started in Cleveland and looked like he should be a good pick-and-pop big but — outside a couple of stretches — never actually shot the ball well enough to pull it off. He got most of his shots right at the rim. After an ACL injury robbed him of half a step and his shooting numbers sank, he struggled to get on the court. Last season he started in Denver, was waived, then spent some time in Washington. He averaged 12.5 minutes and 5.9 points a game last season in his stops.

This summer there wasn’t much interest in him from NBA teams, so he is headed to China, reports David Pick.

Maybe there, where his lack of defense is less of an issue, he can find his shot and game again, then catch on with an NBA team at the end of next season (the Chinese season ends in March). Don’t be shocked if his name comes up as a late season addition somewhere.

Nate Wolters signs contract to come to camp with Denver Nuggets

Evan Fournier, Nate Wolters
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After bouncing between Milwaukee and New Orleans for a couple of NBA seasons, Nate Wolters spent last season playing in Turkey. But he’s looking for a way back to the NBA.

He’s hoping that road starts with a training camp contract with the Denver Nuggets, something first reported by Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Denver has 15 players under guaranteed contract for next season already, so they are not bringing Wolters into camp with a real shot of making the roster. In addition, the Nuggets have Emmanuel Mudiay and Jameer Nelson at the point, plus they will give Jamal Murray some run there to see if is an NBA one. That pretty much rounds out the position.

But maybe Wolters can catch the eye of another team, then go to the D-League and work his way back to the NBA. This is a foot in the door.

LeBron James on Kevin Durant’s move to Warriors: “I think it’s all great for our league”

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 17: Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder drives to the basket against LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the first half of their game on December 17, 2015 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. the Rockets defeated the Cavaliers 105-93. 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 David Maxwell/Getty Images)
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Adam Silver didn’t think Kevin Durant‘s move to Golden State was good for the NBA. Of course, he was speaking for the people he works for — the NBA owners. And 29 of them didn’t like that move because they didn’t get KD.

LeBron James is good with it.

LeBron was asked about Durant’s decision to go to Golden State in an interview with Business Insiders, and he said he was  had no issue with it, and that it can’t be compared to moves he or other players made.

So, I think it’s all great for our league. Our league is very competitive. It’s continued to grow, and [NBA Commissioner] Adam Silver has done a great job of picking up where David Stern started, so it’s pretty cool….

Well, I think every decision is different. My decision to leave Cleveland to go to Miami and then go back is different from Kevin Durant leaving OKC [home of the Oklahoma City Thunder] and going to the Warriors. It’s different from Shaq leaving Orlando and going to the [Los Angeles] Lakers. It’s different from Michael retiring, coming back, retiring, coming back, and then going to the [Washington] Wizards. So I think every decision is different, and how much you have invested in that player, I guess, or how much you feel for that player is how you’re going to react. So everyone is different.

What did you expect him to say? Superstars are always going to have the back of other superstars switching teams — they either already have or will someday likely walk in those shoes.

I think Silver, and anyone else, saying this is bad for the league is wrong — this will be great for the league’s popularity and ratings. Love them or hate them, people are going to tune in to watch the Warriors. Look at it this way: When was the NBA its most popular? Where there was one dominant team in Chicago, with one dominant player (Jordan), and there was an entire league trying to play catch up. What was the second most popular time in NBA history? When there was one super team in Boston and one in Los Angeles — Bird and Magic — and they dominated the league with a brilliant rivalry. The NBA never thrived on parity, the NBA thrives on great stars and superteams, and that’s what it has now.

LeBron’s perspective shouldn’t be a surprise, either. Players back players. Not the older, get off my lawn generation of players who say everything was so much better back in the day (but often tried to do the same thing, and would totally back Durant if they played now).

Today’s players get that this is a business, and they should make as much money as they can now (because the owners sure are), and they should choose the working environment they want.Which is what Durant did. Fans shouldn’t have that perspective, they have emotional investments in cities and teams.  Fans can say think KD took an easy path to a title — although you’re a hypocrite to use the “ringz” argument for judging a player’s career then complain he did the thing most likely to get him a ring — but players generally will have KD’s back. To them, this is a business.