Kurt Helin

Associated Press

Leading man: Carmelo Anthony embraces role as US team’s leader

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Carmelo Anthony was the last one to take the practice floor Friday, joining his U.S. teammates after wrapping up interviews where he was asked about everything from the opening ceremony to his diet.

He was in heavy demand.

With two Olympic gold medals and a chance to be the first men’s player to win three, Anthony has become the unlikely face of USA Basketball, a rise that couldn’t have been imagined 12 years ago.

This star-studded American squad, missing some big names but still ferocious, needed someone to show the way. And like Jason Kidd, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James before him, Anthony has emerged as the ring leader inside the five rings.

“Carmelo is the veteran and a super-likable guy,” said Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan. “We got 12 Alphas in here. But he’s the leader of this team and we follow him.”

Probably to the top tier on the medal platform.

The Americans’ journey to a probable gold begins Saturday against China, a team the U.S. drubbed by 49 and 50 points in two recent exhibitions. The matchup will likely dissolve into another lengthy layup drill, but it will give Brazil’s passionate hoop fans inside Barra Carioca Arena the chance to snap selfies and scream for every thunderous dunk and 3-pointer by players they’ve only seen on TV.

Anthony, though, has warned his teammates not to take any opponent lightly. It’s a lesson he learned in his first Olympics at Athens in 2004, when the U.S. was stunned by Puerto Rico in the opener and then fell to Lithuania and Argentina while stumbling to a bronze – and worldwide embarrassment.

“He’s very open about what happened there,” forward Draymond Green said, “and he’s very open about how that pushed them into wanting to get back to the top.”

While close friends James and Chris Paul skipped Rio and a chance at winning their third golds, Anthony, the New York Knicks All-Star often criticized for not winning more and not making his teammates better, embraced the chance to take a leading role in this summer blockbuster.

This is an Anthony those outside his inner circle have rarely seen, a player unafraid to raise his voice on and off the floor, one who demands with compassion. Following the recent police shootings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota and the ambush on officers in Dallas, Anthony was moved to take social action.

During the pre-Olympic tour, he organized a community event in Los Angeles to help curb gun violence, and it’s possible he and his U.S. teammates could use these games to promote causes to a global audience.

The 32-year-old Anthony said he hasn’t changed, but his actions say otherwise. Bryant and James may have been more extroverted as Olympians, but Anthony says he’s always been willing to express his opinion, provide advice or steer a straying teammate back on track.

He’s just doing it more.

“Even with those guys around, I’m still the same and so my role hasn’t changed since 2007 when we first started creating what we wanted to create,” said Anthony, who along with Kevin Durant are the only holdovers from 2012. “Even though guys lead in their own way, that Olympic experience and the type of player that I am and the type of person that I am, it’s been easier and it’s been more genuine.

“I’ve always been a person who has embraced that role and it’s just become more visible now to people. If you’re around us or at our practices, they know that this is who I am and this is not anything new.”

It’s nothing Jim Boeheim hasn’t seen before. He coached Anthony for one year at Syracuse and the U.S. assistant sees his elevated status as an extension of his personality.

“He’s the most vocal,” Boeheim said. “They all look at him as the senior guy and this team has a lot of guys that qualify as leaders because they all play hard, they all do the right things. That’s what leadership does, anyway.”

Although U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski has not officially named a captain, Anthony is the one he meets with to discuss scheduling practices, team meetings and anything else that might pop up.

Krzyzewski, who served as an U.S. Army Captain, believes leadership is earned.

“First of all, a leader has to lead by example,” he said. “A leader always has to have courage and whatever the leader says, he has to back up. And by doing that he’s trustworthy. Those things help a really good player become better because that means you have to be `on’ all the time.

“I’ve always said that if your best player is a leader he’ll be a better best player.”

And, in Anthony’s case, a third-time gold medalist.

WWE’s Big Show says he will wrestle Shaq at next Wrestlemania

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Last month at the ESPYs, the WWE’s Big Show threw down the gauntlet — he wanted to get in the ring with Shaquille O’Neal.

In case you didn’t catch it, Shaq’s response was “You sure you want to do that?”

Yes he does.

The Big Show confirmed to the Shanghai Daily that the fight is going to happen (big hat tip to Matt Moore of CBS’s Eye on Basketball — I think he subscribes to Shanghai Daily).

At next year’s Wrestlemania in Orlando, Wight will also come face to face with former NBA basketball player Shaquille O’Neal, another sporting heavyweight, for a match that might just shake the foundations of pro wrestling.

“We’ll have one heck of a match and we’ll see what’s up. We’ll give the fans a treat.”

Just make sure that ring has extra supports. When one of them hits the mat, it could end up on the Richter scale.

Adam Silver on age limit: “My sense is that it’s not something that’s going to change in the short term”

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NBA Commissioner Adam Silver — speaking on behalf of the NBA owners — has made no secret of the fact he wants the NBA’s minimum age raised from 19 to 20. Those same owners see this as risk management, thinking GMs and front offices will make fewer mistakes if they get more info on players (studies show that’s not the case, for example they got three years of watching Michael Olowokandi).

The players’ union and its director Michelle Roberts see it differently, they would prefer there be no age limit.

That has led to the delicate balance of the one-and-done system now in place that nobody likes. And it doesn’t look like it’s changing anytime soon, Silver told Bloomberg News.

It’s still something I care a lot about. I’m also a realist. Given that Michele has said her preference would be for an 18-year-old minimum age, my sense is that it’s not something that’s going to change in the short term. And by the way, I’ve always said I understand the other side of the issue, about a young man’s opportunity to make a living. But my view has always been that we’d be a better league if players came into the draft at 20 instead of 19.

It’s long been thought that the NBA could get the age limit up in the next CBA, but it was going to cost them — the players’ aren’t giving that bargaining chip away. Whatever the cost, it seems to be more than the owners are willing to pay.

By the way, just like Roberts, Silver said he is optimistic a deal will get done and there will be no lockout.

While we and the union have agreed that we’re not going to talk publicly about the substance of our discussions, neither side has made it a secret that we’re talking and that the goal is, of course, to avoid any type of work stoppage whatsoever. I feel fairly confident that, based on the tone of these discussions thus far, based on the sense of trust and the amount of respect among the parties, that we should be able to avoid any kind of public labor issue and that the things we need to get done will get done behind closed doors.

Knicks’ Willy Hernangomez playing in Olympics for Spain, learning from Pau Gasol

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Knicks rookie-to-be backup center Willy Hernangomez (a second round pick of the Sixers in 2015) didn’t play for New York in Summer League, something that was a great learning experience for Kristaps Porzingis the summer before.

Instead, Hernangomez is in Rio playing for Spain in the Olympics.

With Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka out for Spain, it opened up a front court spot for Hernangomez. He’s taking advantage learning all he can going against polished veteran NBA big man Pau Gasol every day in practice. Hernangomez talked about it to Marc Berman of the New York Post.

“Playing in the Olympics games, it’s a big opportunity to improve and play big games and with a player like Pau,” Hernangomez said. “Practicing with him, he teaches me a couple of things, shows me some moves, little things to play better in the NBA. It’s a big opportunity for me to play against him in practice. I learned more with him in one month than in one year [in Spain].”

That’s a two-time NBA champion, six-time All-Star, and high IQ coach Hernangomez has for the summer.

Hernangomez is going to get his chances this season in New York. The Knicks will likely start Joakim Noah at the five and Porzingis at the four, but Noah is going to need nights off in an attempt to keep him healthy. Porzingis will play some five, and Hernangomez could get some run as well (he showed an improved jumper in Spain last season, but he is mostly a back-to-the-basket guy). Otherwise, Hernangomez and Kyle O'Quinn will be battling for backup minutes behind Noah.

Knicks fans will get a little preview of that from Rio.

There are 46 NBA players in the Olympics. Yes, that’s a record.

Associated Press
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If the last NBA Draft didn’t drive the point home, maybe the Olympics will — international basketball is thriving.

There will be a record 46 active NBA players who suit up in Rio for the Olympics, a new record (there were 41 in the London games four years ago). There are another 18 former NBA players who will be taking part in the Rio games as well. That’s 64 current or former NBA players in the games.

Not surprisingly, the San Antonio Spurs have the most with five guys, followed by the Utah Jazz with four. The Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks, Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks, and Toronto Raptors each have three.

Ten of the 12 teams in the Olympic tournament have an NBA player. Outside Team USA, Spain has the most active NBA players with seven. After that it’s Australia, Brazil, and France each with five NBA players.

Here’s the full list, sorted by nation.

Argentina
Nicolas Brussino (Dallas Mavericks)
Patricio Garino (San Antonio Spurs)
Manu Ginobili (San Antonio Spurs)
Luis Scola (Brooklyn Nets)
Australia
Aron Baynes (Detroit Pistons)
Andrew Bogut (Dallas Mavericks)
Matthew Dellavedova (Milwaukee Bucks)
Joe Ingles (Utah Jazz)
Patty Mills (San Antonio Spurs)
Brazil
Leandro Barbosa (Phoenix Suns)
Cristiano Felicio (Chicago Bulls)
Marcelo Huertas (Los Angeles Lakers)
Nene (Houston Rockets)
Raul Neto (Utah Jazz)
Croatia
Bojan Bogdanovic (Brooklyn Nets)
Mario Hezonja (Orlando Magic)
Dario Saric (Philadelphia 76ers)
France
Nicolas Batum (Charlotte Hornets)
Boris Diaw (Utah Jazz)
Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz)
Joffrey Lauvergne (Denver Nuggets)
Tony Parker (San Antonio Spurs)
Lithuania
Mindaugas Kuzminskas (New York Knicks)
Domantas Sabonis (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Jonas Valanciunas (Toronto Raptors)
Nigeria
Michael Gbinije (Detroit Pistons)
Serbia
Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets)
Spain
Alex Abrines (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Jose Calderon (Los Angeles Lakers)
Pau Gasol (San Antonio Spurs)
Guillermo Hernangomez (New York Knicks)
Nikola Mirotic (Chicago Bulls)
Sergio Rodriguez (Philadelphia 76ers)
Ricky Rubio (Minnesota Timberwolves)
United States
Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks)
Harrison Barnes (Dallas Mavericks)
Jimmy Butler (Chicago Bulls)
DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings)
DeMar DeRozan (Toronto Raptors)
Kevin Durant (Golden State Warriors)
Paul George (Indiana Pacers)
Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors)
Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers)
DeAndre Jordan (L.A. Clippers)
Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors)
Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors)