Kurt Helin

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Lakers center Timofey Mozgov injures groin in international game

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The Lakers agreed to pay center Timofey Mozgov $64 million, their first and biggest free agent deal of the summer. That remains a very strange sentence to type.

And things are not off to an ideal start, about six weeks before the opening of training camp. From Mike Bresnahan of the Lakers’ cable channel TWC Sportsnet (he just left the LA Times as their Laker beat guy).

We don’t know how serious this is, but it might be wise for Mozgov to shut things down for a while. Groin injuries tend to be slow to heal and easy to reinjure. There is plenty of time to get right before camp opens (unless the MRI shows something much worse than expected), but it takes time.

The injury-free Mozgov of two seasons ago was a much better player than the one last season nagged by injuries and seeing decreasing minutes in Cleveland. The Lakers have bet big on the former Mozgov returning. That means focusing on getting and keeping him healthy. This is less than an ideal start to that.

Watch highlights of USA’s nail-biting win over Serbia

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After the first two games in Rio, there was an air of invincibility around Team USA.

Two games later the Americans are 4-0 and have clinched the top spot in Group A, but the invincibility is long gone.

The USA escaped with a 94-91 win against Serbia Sunday — a game where the Serbians had a clean look to tie the game at the end, it just rimmed out. Check out some highlights — and a lot of DeAndre Jordan dunks — from the game.

The play of the game may have been Milos Teodosic’s ballsy pass late in the contest (Serbia didn’t lose for lack of clean looks).

After fast start USA gets sloppy, escapes with 94-91 win against Serbia

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At first, it looked like the close game with Australia had been a wake-up call for Team USA.

The Americans came out Friday against Serbia with an aggressive defense, and Serbia seemed slow to set up their offense. It played into the USA’s hands — the Americans forced turnovers then got out and ran. DeMarcus Cousins was bringing the ball up in transition and making spin moves off the dribble midcourt. The USA raced out to 9-0 lead, eventually pushing that to 23-5. The USA was back and this game was all but over, right?

Wrong. Not even close.

From that point on Serbia outscored the USA 86-71, Serbian players moved the ball and moved off the ball, the USA jacked up isolations shots and missed their threes. Serbia was the better team for three quarters — they outscored the USA by 7 in the fourth — and had a chance to tie the game as time ran out when NBA-bound Bogdan Bogdanovic got a wide-open three, but it rimmed out.

The USA escaped with a 94-91 win. That improves them to 4-0 and the USA clinched the top spot of Group A. 

But any air of invincibility is long gone.

That is two close games in a row for the USA — this is not a wake-up call, this is the reality that this USA team is not as far ahead of the rest of the world as they would like to believe, and they need to play better at both ends to earn gold.

“We’ve just got to start getting some movement,” Paul George said in a televised postgame interview. “We’ve been relying on our natural talent so much, it’s so easy to guard us. Teams are just loading up watching us play one-one-one…

“Teams are going to muddy the game up.”

At the start of the game, the USA was moving the ball better, getting some transition opportunities. But they started taking that a little too far and it led to turnovers. The USA got sloppy. At the same time, the USA still struggled to deal with international officiating — both DeAndre Jordan and Coach K picked up technical fouls complaining about calls late in the first. Jordan also picked up an “unsportsmanlike” foul later in the game, although he earned that one.

Give Serbia credit, they have talent. Denver big man Nikola Jokic showed why he was a League  Pass favorite last season — and third in Rookie of the Year voting — with 25 points. Milos Teodosic was penetrating, scoring and dishing on his way to 18 points and six assists.

The USA’s vaunted defense can struggle against teams that move the ball — and more importantly cut off the ball — in the halfcourt. The USA ball watches and it opens up opportunities that both Serbia and Australia exploited (and other teams can as well)

When things get tight, the USA offense goes to too much isolation — they become predictable in the half court game, relying on Kyrie Irving to create. Irving had a team-high 15 points, Jordan had 13 points, while Paul George had 12 points and nine rebounds.

The USA faces a talented French team on Sunday. France hasn’t played as good as they have looked on paper this series. However, you can bet they will give the USA their best shot, and the way the USA has looked under pressure lately that could be enough. The Americans need to improve.

Signed, sealed: LeBron signs $100 million contract with Cavs

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LeBron James didn’t waste any time signing his new contract.

A day after agreeing to a deal that can pay him $100 million over the next three seasons, the Cavaliers superstar signed it Friday and will make $31 million next season.

James, who can become a free agent in the third season, will make $33 million in 2017-18, a person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press. James’ 2018-19 option is worth $36 million, said the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because financial terms were not disclosed.

In his third season back in Cleveland, James led the Cavs to the title, the first for one of the city’s three professional sports teams since the Browns won the NFL championship in 1964.

“We are very fortunate to have a championship group together,” Cavs general manager David Griffin said. “One that has grown organically to trust, and sacrifice for one another – on and off the floor. At the core of that group is LeBron. His leadership, passion and tireless commitment are the hallmarks of our success and have inspired our entire franchise.

“His connection and dedication to his community and this fan base are absolute. We share his determination to win at the highest level and can’t wait to get back to work, together to defend our title.”

The Cavs rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the finals to stun Golden State, winning Game 7 on the road. Late in that game, James raced back to block a shot by Andre Iguodala, a rejection that has become the signature play of the three-time champion’s career.

James, who has spent most of his time since winning his third title in Los Angeles, posted a photo of him signing the deal on his Instagram account with the caption “Committed!!” He’s seated next to agent and close friend, Rich Paul.

A four-time MVP and 12-time All-Star, James averaged 25.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and 6.8 assists last season. The 31-year-old shows little sign of slowing down, and on Thursday he said on a Twitter posting he’s focused on the Cavs defending their title.

Appearing in his sixth straight finals last season, he averaged 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, 8.9 assists and 2.3 blocks, becoming the first player to lead a series in every major statistical category.

Andrew Bogut’s left knee, injured in Finals, causes him to sit out Australia win over China

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Australia didn’t need Andrew Bogut on the court to beat China on Friday. They won’t need him to beat Venezuela in their final game of group play, either.

Which is good, because he needs a little time off to rest his left knee. Bogut suffered a bone bruise to the left knee during the NBA Finals when J.R. Smith ran into him (it was one of the turning points of the series).

Not surprisingly, that has flared up a little.

You can be sure Mark Cuban is in favor of this rest.

The Aussies can rest Bogut until next week, but they will want him for the knockout stage/medal rounds. With a win over Venezuela, Australia would come in second in its group to the USA, meaning they would be on the other side of the bracket and could avoid the Americans until the gold medal game (if they advance). Australia and Lithuania have looked like the two best teams in the tournament so far (outside of the USA), although both Spain and France have talented rosters and could put a run together.