Kurt Helin

Al-Farouq Aminu pulls out of Rio Olympics, will not play for Nigeria

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Portland swingman Al-Farouq Aminu helped his native Nigeria qualify for the 2012 London Olympics and he played in those Game. Then he helped Nigeria qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics with a strong performance to help Nigeria win its first AfroBasketball tournament last summer.

But when Team USA faces Nigeria in the final pre-Olympics tune-up for both teams Monday night in Houston, Aminu will not be on the court. Nor will he be in Rio. Aminu released this statement through the Trail Blazers Sunday.

“Due to continued and unresolved organizational challenges with the Nigerian Basketball Federation, I’m withdrawing from participation in the 2016 Olympic Games. I wish the Nigerian players, coaches and staff great success in the Olympics and hope to participate in future opportunities with the national team.”

Nigeria said on twitter the issue is insurance. Festus Ezeli also is not playing for Nigeria for insurance reasons.

The biggest name on Nigeria now is likely former NBA player Ike Diogu, or new Pistons rookie and former Syracuse star Michael Gbinije.

Carmelo Anthony to continue record Olympic basketball career in Rio

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HOUSTON (AP) — Carmelo Anthony was the first player Jerry Colangelo talked to about joining a new U.S. national basketball team program. Now, he’s the last one standing.

An Olympic career that started miserably is still going 12 years later, so long that some of Anthony’s teammates were middle schoolers when it began. He will become the first U.S. man to play in four Olympics, and if the Americans medal he will leave Rio de Janeiro as the most decorated men’s basketball player ever.

“He’s going to be the leader of this team along with (Kevin Durant). And to have somebody who, this will be his fourth Olympics, that level of experience – and he’s still a great player – and commitment, it’s a godsend, really,” U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “He’ll be one of key factors in us attempting to win the gold medal.”

Anthony already owns two of those, along with a bronze. He figures to shatter many of the U.S. records he doesn’t already own, and even Michael Jordan and LeBron James should be looking up at Anthony on the team’s scoring list before the end of the Rio Games.

And to think, there were people wondering why Colangelo approached Anthony at all in 2005 after his petulant performance a year before in Athens.

“Here we are, this is his fourth and he’s the first guy that I had spoken with,” Colangelo said. “And it’s great to see in my mind, the career he’s had, and it’s great for us to know that he’s had so much success with us, in terms of the international game, and he’s thrived in the international game.”

Nobody knows that better than Nigeria, the Americans’ opponent here Monday in their final exhibition game. Anthony scored a U.S.-record 37 points against them in just 14 minutes of a 156-73 rout four years ago, setting American records by going 10 of 12 from 3-point range.

“All the guys, once I hit that first one, guys they knew at that point, especially from earlier in the day at shootaround,” Anthony said. “As players, guys who can get hot like that, you can see that from a mile away. I didn’t see it, but I’m guessing they saw it and their goal was just to get me the ball.”

That team, like four years earlier in Beijing, had James, Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul, veterans who were Anthony’s friends for years. They all passed this team, leaving the 32-year-old Anthony to learn a new group of teammates who are almost all on the other side of 30, but he said this trip is really no different.

“I think it just took kind of a couple days to just kind of really figure everybody out from a personal level,” he said. “As far as being basketball players, that was the easy part.”

The New York Knicks’ All-Star considered not playing but was urged to return by U.S. assistant Jim Boeheim, his coach at Syracuse when Anthony led the Orange to the 2003 NCAA title.

“I told him basically, I said, `Look, you had two or three bad years. Let’s go have a good experience playing basketball,”‘ Boeheim said. “And that’s what this.”

It wasn’t in 2004, when Anthony was among the last additions to a U.S. team that lost three times and left with a bronze medal. The then-rookie provided a bad attitude and not much good play, but Colangelo met with him early in the 2005-06 season and told Anthony he was interested and would be watching him that season.

Anthony has made the most of his second chance and gone on to play 72 games in a U.S. uniform, nearly the equivalent of a full NBA season. He’s the team leader in 3-pointers at the Olympics and ranks in the top five in most other categories.

Anthony needs 17 points to tie Jordan for third place on the U.S. list in the Olympics and needs 35 to pass James as the career leader. Even if he never wins an NBA championship, his international achievements alone should be enough to secure Anthony a spot in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

“I never really thought about it like that,” Anthony said. “As far as the NBA championship goes, as long as I’m in this league, I have the opportunity to go win an NBA championship or try to compete to win an NBA championship. Winning a gold medal don’t come around as often, you know what I mean? So this was it was a very difficult but it was a very honest conversation I had to have with myself.”

An inexperienced U.S. team should benefit from the answer.

“I’m very happy that he decided to do this. This is more than a win-win,” Colangelo said. “I think for his legacy, I think it speaks volumes.”

Michael Beasley’s contract with Rockets now guaranteed, he will be with Houston next season

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In Michael Beasley‘s 20 games with the Rockets last season after coming back from playing in China, he reminded everyone he knows how to get buckets. He averaged 12.8 points a game on 52.2 percent shooting overall, and he was the most reliable shot creator on the team without a fantastic beard. He wasn’t great defensively, but even in the playoffs he put up double digit scoring numbers against the Warriors.

That sounds like Mike D’Antoni’s kind of guy — so Houston is keeping him around. His $1.4 million contract for next season became fully guaranteed today (Aug. 1), as noted by Marc Stein of ESPN.

At that price, it’s a smart move by the Rockets. He likely will be Trevor Ariza‘s main backup, asked to create shots with the second unit when James Harden sits, although he needs to take fewer long twos (22.9 percent of his shots were 16 feet out to the arc, and while he hit a healthy 44 percent of those it’s not a shot he should rely on.

We know about Beasley’s past issues in the NBA, but the guy has matured, and he is putting up points. The Rockets could use that.

What Jimmy Butler told Dwyane Wade: “We can win games if you’re here with us”

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Dwyane Wade came to Chicago in part because he felt wanted — a sense he didn’t fully get from Pat Riley and Miami anymore. It wasn’t just money, it was how he was recruited. Bulls’ team leader Jimmy Butler called Wade and asked him to be a Bull.

But what did Butler say to Wade, exactly?

Butler laid it out for Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago.com after Butler and his Team USA teammates beat Venezuela 80-45 in an exhibition game Friday night in Chicago.

“Just what we can do if we were to play basketball together. I said look man, I’m okay with whatever role you want me to play,” said Butler to CSNChicago.com in an exclusive interview after Team USA beat Venezuela 80-45 Friday at the United Center, with Wade sitting next to Team USA’s bench. “But we can win games if you’re here with us. So that’s basically how it went.

“I was telling him, of all the things that have been said, I’m here to win. I don’t care what role I’m supposed to play, whose team it is, you come here, we’ll win games.”

Butler went on to say he wanted Wade and Rajon Rondo on the team because they have won titles. They know what it takes. He wants them to show him — and yes, Butler knows he can be bull-headed about things at times.

“I agree, I can (be). Fine. It only makes me better,” Butler said. “If you’re on my tail all the time it only makes me better. I want that. I like that. If I’m (messing) around, you tell me, you let me know, you’re better than that. You’re right. I’m gonna respond in a positive manner and I’m gonna do what I’m supposed to be doing.”

That “they know how to win” thing sounds great on paper, but it doesn’t answer the big questions about the Bulls heading into next season: With Butler, Wade, and Rondo, do they have enough shooting to space the floor and keep teams from just packing the paint defensively? Can this roster get enough stops? And, is Fred Hoiberg up to the task of coaching three strong-willed players and getting them in line?

But I’ll say this, the Bulls got better and a lot more interesting this summer.

Chris Paul says his entire camp gets free shoes if Michael Jordan misses shots. Kids go shoeless.

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Chris Paul‘s bet was simple:

If Michael Jordan missed three shots as he worked his way around the court, everyone at the CP3’s youth camp would get a free pair of shoes.

We all should know that’s a sucker bet — it involved Jordan missing shots under pressure. Those kids were never getting shoes.

Kids, now you know how the Utah Jazz felt. And the Cleveland Cavaliers. And…