Kurt Helin

Marco Belinelli’s shooting clinic leads Italy past Spain at EuroBasket

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When those kinds of shots are going down, you should just go the full J.R. Smith and put everything up.

Kings’ fans had to be thinking “what if” as Marco Belinelli went off for Italy Tuesday against Spain in a key EuroBasket Group B — the “group of death” — showdown, leading Italy to a 105-98 win.

Belinelli was 7-of-9 from three on his way to 27 points — and he turned the game around. Spain was up five with 9:30 left in the third quarter when Belinelli’s sharpshooting sparked a 15-0 Italian run, and the team in blue never trailed again.

Despite all that Belinelli didn’t even lead Italy in scoring. The Nuggets’ Danilo Gallinari was attacking and got to the free throw line 14 times on his way to 29 points. Andrea Bargnani of the Nets added 18.

The Bulls Pau Gasol went off for 34 to keep Spain close — only he and the Bulls Nikola Mirotic (13) were in double digits for Spain.

With the win Italy is 2-1 in Group B and has a good chance to advance to the knockout stage, while Spain falls to 1-2 and needs to pick up wins against Iceland and Germany to make sure it advances as well.

Nikola Mirotic rips apart Serbian flag, apologizes


The Bulls’ Nikola Mirotic is playing for his adopted home of Spain at EuroBasket (he was born in Montenegro), and the traditional powerhouse is struggling (they are 1-2 through three games and needs some wins to make sure they advance to the knockout stage).

One of those losses was a tough one opening night to Serbia — Spain had an early double-digit lead but Serbia roared back with their physical play and took control in the third quarter, then held off a late Spanish charge to win 80-70.

Walking off the court, a frustrated Mirotic had a fan waving the Serbian flag in his face, and as you can see in the video above he ripped it apart.

As you might imagine, this video has led to an uproar — no country likes to see its flag disgraced. Fans are pissed. Mirotic has taken to Twitter to apologize, and offer an explanation.

It’s not a great angle for the video, but he does seem to have his head down, and the person holding the flag does dip it right into his face as he walks past. Whether he really knows what it was or not, only Mirotic knows.

But people are not going to be buying him dinners in Serbia for a while.

It’s official: Lakers’ Jordan Clarkson will not play for Philippines at FIBA Asia

Dallas Mavericks v Los Angeles Lakers

As we had told you, this was the expected outcome despite the desperate pleas of Philippine basketball officials.

Lakers’ guard Jordan Clarkson will not compete for the Philippines in the Olympic qualifying FIBA Asia tournament that starts near the end of the month. The Philippines had to submit their roster for the event on Tuesday, and they did without Clarkson on it. From the press release:

“We did all that we could to have Jordan Clarkson join Gilas for the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship but we are saddened to report that we are not able to beat the deadline to secure the necessary clearances on time.”

Clarkson’s mother is Filipino and because of that he was eligible to play for the Asian islands nation as one of their own (he didn’t have to become a naturalized citizen ala Andray Blatche).

The Lakers stood in the way, but for good reason.

The Lakers open training camp in Hawaii Sept. 29. The semi-finals of FIBA Asia is Oct. 1, the finals Oct. 3 — there’s a good chance the Philippines could get that far (they were finalists in this event four years ago). The Lakers want their young guard in camp, improving and gaining chemistry with his teammates. If he had played in the tournament, Clarkson likely would miss first three to six days of training camp. The Lakers were having none of it.

Financially this is likely also the right move for Clarkson. The second round pick will make $845,059 this season, a minimum salary deal. He will get a new contract extension next summer, one that is going to pay him a whole lot more. While injuries can happen anywhere at any time, would Clarkson take the risk now?

The Lakers took that question out of his hands. Now the Philippines has to qualify for Rio without the man who would have been their best player.

Divisions? Who needs divisions? NBA to seed 1-8 in playoffs based solely on record, not division standing

Beyond Sport United 2015

Down with divisions.

At least when it comes to seeding the NBA playoffs.

That’s what the NBA owners agreed to Tuesday, doing away with old tradition rewarding division winners with an automatic four seed or higher — teams will be seeded one through eight based solely on their record, division standing will play no part, the NBA announced.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver had said this change was coming.

We saw why it was needed last season.

The Portland Trail Blazers would have been the sixth seed in the Western Conference by record with their 51 wins. However, because they won a depleted Northwest Division NBA rules said they could be no lower than the four seed (although the Blazers did not have home court in the first round against fifth-seeded Memphis). The real impact was that the three-seed Clippers and the pushed down sixth-seed Spurs had to face off in the first round — a physical, emotional series that was more reminiscent of a Conference Finals that went seven games. The Clippers won the battle, but didn’t have the energy to finish off the Rockets in the second round. Two teams that some (myself included) thought were the second and third best teams in the West were out.

It generated a lot of talk around the league — why exactly were the Blazers being rewarded? Tradition? This is not baseball. NBA teams play each team in their conference four times (a couple only three times, to make the schedule work), they do not play the teams in their division more than others in their conference. Why does the old division system even exist? Well, it still exists but the rewards of winning a division are now pretty miniscule, unless you like “Division Champion” banners.

The NBA also tweaked the tiebreak system for playoff seeding. From the press release:

The Board also approved changes to tiebreak criteria for playoff seeding and home-court advantage.  Head-to-head results have become the first criterion to break ties for playoff seeding and home-court advantage between two teams with identical regular-season records; the second criterion is whether a team won its division.  Under the old tiebreak system, a division winner was awarded the higher seed and received home-court advantage in a series if the two teams met in the playoffs.

LeBron James hosting Cavaliers for pre-camp workouts in Miami

LeBron James

LeBron James may have sold his home in Miami, but that he’s still going to have some people over for a late summer get together.

Specifically, his fellow Cavaliers teammates. LeBron has invited — and getting an invitation from LeBron is more of a summons — the other Cavs down to Miami for some pre-training camp workouts. Our friend Chris Haynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer had the scoop.

A few players and coaches have already assembled in Miami while the majority of the team’s roster is expected to arrive towards the middle of the week, one source revealed.

James’ pre-camp is tentatively scheduled to conclude early next week, I’m told….

Now, the four-time MVP is of a new mindset for the upcoming season. Last year he preached patience and did his best to shield his team from heightened expectations. Going into the 2015-16 season, it’s about establishing a sense of urgency, knowing the season won’t be measured a true success unless a Larry O’Brien Trophy is hoisted.

LeBron was smart to tamp down expectations when he first got to Cleveland — the fans in Northeast Ohio are hungry for a title, but LeBron had been down this road before. He knew from his experience in Miami there would be some bumps in getting everyone together and pulling the rope in the same direction. He knew a first-year title was unlikely.

But the second year? Yes, anything short of hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy will be seen as falling short. It’s not fair, it’s incredibly hard to win a title (and some luck has to go your way), but that’s the reality. More will be expected of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, despite the injuries they suffered last season. The Cavs are the clear favorites to come out of the East, but if they relax some team could rise up and smack them. So LeBron is getting his message out early.

Smart. That’s what leaders do.