Kurt Helin

DeMarre Carroll lives with, plays through liver disease; working to spread awareness

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A year before he was drafted into the NBA, DeMarre Carroll thought his NBA dreams were dead.

He was diagnosed with a rare liver disease, something he opened up to Jared Zwerling of the NBPA about.

It was July 2008, and DeMarre Carroll, then a rising senior at Missouri, started having an itching feeling all down his legs.

The itching got so bad that Carroll was scratching his skin off and he was bleeding. His girlfriend at the time thought it was allergies because they had just gotten a dog. About a month later, he had blood drawn that showed his liver enzymes were very high. But some more tests revealed he had a rare form of liver disease….

“That’s when you have to either become strong mentally or you’re going to become weak,” Carroll recently told the NBPA, reflecting on that life-changing moment. “I feel like that’s when I took that step. That one incident has helped me mentally, so anything I go through now doesn’t compare to what I went through back then.”

Carroll is now on medications that keep the disease and its symptoms in check.

Now, with his newfound fame and solid standing in the NBA, he has set up a foundation and is working to help spread awareness of liver diseases and to help people with prevention.

“I’m basically the first NBA player that played that I know of with a liver disease, and I’m trying to be an advocate for it,” he said.

With the support of the NBPA Foundation, Carroll is in the process of creating an informative and interactive educational component on his foundation’s website. The purpose is to provide a fun learning guide for the youth, ages 5-18, on the use, function and importance of the liver. They’ll also discover the 100-plus liver diseases that affect people their own age…

“You hear so much about the heart and about other organs, but you never hear about the liver,” he said. “And I feel like the liver is such an unsaturated market. I want to really step up and be the person to make my voice heard on a high level, so people can really understand that the liver is also affected.”

Good on Carroll.  You should read the entire NBPA story.

A lot of NBA players have charitable foundations, but the personal commitment to them varies widely. It’s just a tax shelter for some, something a family member or friend runs. Carroll is not that way. He is hands on, reaching out and working to do good in an area he’s passionate about — he visits children’s hospitals, he gets involved on a personal level.

He’s going to help some people, and that matters a lot more than basketball.

USA will win gold, here are five other men’s hoop teams that could medal in Rio

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The USA is going to win the gold medal in men’s basketball in Rio.

(And in women’s basketball, where we may be even a bigger favorite. But that’s another post.)

There is no need to couch that statement — short of the ship Team USA is staying on in Rio’s port sinking, there is no team in this tournament that can truly challenge the USA’s depth and athleticism. This is not “the 73-win Warriors are going to win the NBA title” confident, this is “the 73-win Warriors need to beat the winner of the West Coast Conference tournament” confident.

Some nations may play better as a team, but this is not 2004 in Athens where the talent gap is close enough that the USA’s moments without cohesion will matter. The Americans do play fairly well as a unit, and they are just vastly more talented than anyone else.

But the Olympic Committee has to give out silver and bronze medals, too. It’s the rules.What other teams could medal?

What other teams could medal? Here are the five teams battling it out for one of those other medals, in reverse order of likelihood. (Note: there are a couple of other teams to watch who have an outside shot to medal — Croatia and Australia.)

5) Argentina. The golden generation of Argentinian basketball won them actual gold in Athens in 2004 — Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola, Andres Nocioni, Fabricio Oberto, and Carlos Delfino were part of those teams. The challenge is the much older versions of Ginobili, Scola, and Delfino also have key roles on this team a dozen years later, and the generation that came up behind them simply is not as good. That said, Argentina just beat a good French team in an Olympics tune-up, and they play well as a unit.

4) Serbia. Led by Denver’s Nikola Jokic and other name players — Bogdan Bogdanovic (Sacramento has his rights but he will play in Europe at least another year), Miroslav Raduljica,Nemanja Nedovic, and CSKA Moscow’s point guard Milos Teodosic — Serbia won one of the three qualifying tournaments this summer to get into the Rio games. They are bruising inside and have quality point guard play, but they don’t have great wing play.  That said, Teodosic is a challenge for any team to handle and he could lead them to a medal.

3) Lithuania. They have quality big men inside — the Raptors Jonas Valanciunas and the just drafted Domantas Sabonis out of Gonzaga — plus they have a quality point guard in Mantas Kalnietas. More than that, Lithuania has been one of the most consistently strong teams on the international stage for more than a decade. They lack a depth of playmakers and that will be their undoing (that and a not mobile defense), but this is a team that will be difficult to play against and nobody will look good even in beating them.

2) Spain. While Spain’s core talent has gotten older — Pau Gasol, Jose Calderon, Sergio Rodriguez — they still have a lot of it including Willy Hernangomez, Nikola Mirotic, Rudy Fernandez, Juan Carlos Navaro, and Ricky Rubio. (They will miss Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka.) Spain the defending European champions and won the silver medal the last two Olympics — this team is not as good as those teams, but they still have the talent to get a medal. Spain is going to ask a lot of Pau Gasol, we’ll see if he’s up to it.

1) France. You could interchange France and Spain, but I like what the French bring to this tournament in terms of talent and balance. They have Tony Parker running the point, Nicolas Batum defending on the wing, Boris Diaw as a playmaker at the four, and Rudy Gobert blocking shots in the paint. They have depth with Nando de Colo (MVP of the qualifying tournament), Mickael Gelabale, and Joffrey Lauvergne. This team needs to hit its threes to be a real threat (they should have brought Evan Fournier), and it needs Tony Parker to be the vintage version of himself more than just occasionally. Still, France should get hardware out of Rio.

Remembering former NBA player, Olympian Dwight Jones

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Dwight Jones, the former NBA player and Olympian, passed away recently from an aortic aneurysm at the age of 64. This video takes a look back at his career.

Jones played 10 seasons in the NBA as a versatile 6’9″ forward or center who averaged 8.1 points and 5.9 rebounds a night, and was known as a beast on the offensive glass. A native of Houston, he played his college ball at the University of Houston (making two NCAA Tournaments with the team) and also played for the Rockets while in the NBA.

He may best be remembered as the USA’s top scorer who was ejected from the gold medal game during the controversial 1972 Olympic loss to Russia. That loss ate at him the rest of his life (as it did many members of that team).

Our thoughts are with his family at this time.

Myles Turner’s goal next season: Average 15-20 points per game

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Myles Turner looked like the big the Pacers needed in his rookie campaign — he could space the floor on offense, he could protect the paint on defense. He was a 19-year-old rookie learning hard lessons on the fly, but he fit better along the front line in Indiana than C.J. Miles or Lavoy Allen. Pacers front office people thought rookie Turner reminded them of rookie LaMarcus Aldridge.

That’s a lot of development still to do, but Turner doesn’t lack for confidence in getting it done. He averaged 10.3 points per game last season, and this is what he told Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders.

“Individually, I feel like I can put up big numbers for this team and help in any way necessary. I’d like to see myself put up 15 to 20 points per game. That may seem like a long shot, but I feel like I’m very capable.”

Those numbers aren’t wildly unreasonable, especially if he shoots better from three (21.4 percent last season). The question is will he get the touches on a roster that added Jeff Teague (who shoots more than George Hill) and Thaddeus Young (Paul George and Monta Ellis are going to get theirs, too). Turner has to get his shots in the flow of the offense, not overdo it pushing for numbers.

Also, they need him to be a better defender — he blocked shots at a great rate but was often out of position and just looked like a guy who lacked experience on that end. In addition, his size and frame made it difficult for him against more traditional bigs defensively (think DeMarcus Cousins, although he gives everyone trouble).

The Pacers are hoping Turner’s time on the USA Select Team this summer in Las Vegas helps speed along his development.

“I feel like I’ve made huge strides because that pace is so much faster than what people think. I mean, you see them beating up on these foreign teams and now I can definitely see why teams struggle against them. You have to make plays a lot faster and you have to make reads a lot faster, so I feel like that was really good for me.”

Turner is going to have a lot more on his shoulders this season, but he looked like a rookie who could grow into that role.

In Rio, USA Basketball teams will be staying on luxury cruise ship

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NBA players are used to staying in five-star hotels on the road, flying on charter planes, and generally having time away from home be as comfortable as possible.

The Olympic Village rooms in Rio don’t exactly live up to those standards if you ask Andrew Bogut.

Team USA will have no such concerns. Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams are staying on The Silver Cloud luxury cruise ship docked in the renovated harbor in Rio. The US Olympic delegation booked it and the rooms on a larger adjacent ship during the games where the “Olympic family” will stay. All of this will make the place a safe haven for players during the games (the ship has a special security detail to keep people not staying on the ship off it). All of the ships amenities will be at their disposal.

That said, expect to see the USA players at other venues and checking out other sports during the games, among other activities. That’s part of the Olympic experience.

The ship will be docked in the Maua port terminal, one of the areas revitalized in preparation for the games that the Brazilian government sees as part of the legacy of the games.