Kurt Helin

Report: In a shock to nobody, Pau Gasol cleared to play against USA

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From the minute that Spain’s men’s basketball coach in Rio Sergio Scariolo said that Pau Gasol might not play against the USA in the semifinals due to a calf injury, the universal reaction was essentially the “yeah, right” meme. Nobody believed him. Certainly not Team USA and its coaches, who have prepped as if Gasol was going to play.

He will, according to a report from the well-connected David Pick.

Gasol leads Spain with 17 points and 8.7 rebounds per game — he and the Bulls’ Nikola Mirotic are the lynchpins of the Spanish offense.

Still, one of the keys to the game is how well Gasol is moving — is this injury slowing him at all? We may not notice so much on offense, where Gasol’s game is based on IQ and fundamentals more than athleticism, but on defense will he be able to keep up with the more mobile USA big men (DeMarcus Cousins and DeAndre Jordan). Gasol is not a great defender at this point when healthy, if hobbled he can be exploited.

Kevin Durant says he plays his best when he doesn’t worry about game’s outcome

Associated Press

Life comes with a lot of gray areas. Sports are somewhat cleaner that way — teams, coaches, and players get judged on outcomes. There is a big scoreboard at the end of the stadium that says who won and who lost. No gray area there.

Athletes become driven by that outcome — Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Bill Russell, Jerry West, and many of the other top NBA players ever were known for their insane competitiveness and drive to win every game.

Kevin Durant is competitive, but he told Jeff Zillgitt of the USA Today he plays his best when he doesn’t worry about the outcome.

“I told myself before I left my room, I’m at my best if I don’t care if we win or lose,” Durant said. “It might be different for other players. But for me, I’m more free and aggressive, and it’s way more fun for me if I don’t care about the outcome. I know if I go out there and be who I am, the outcome will dictate itself.”

 He will get ripped by some on Twitter/in the comments for this, but three thoughts:
First, this is just an extension of the “process over outcome” that coaches talk about all the time. Do things the right way and don’t worry about the outcome because it will take care of itself.
Second, do what works for you. Durant is one of the best pure scorers on the planet, a former NBA MVP, and if he plays his best thinking this way, then think this way.
Finally, before you say “but he doesn’t care about winning” explain to me why he just left Oklahoma City for Golden State to have a better chance to win.
Whatever motivates him, Team USA needs the scoring machine Kevin Durant to show up for the game against Spain Friday in the Rio Olympics. He’s the best player in Rio on any team, the USA needs him to play like it.


Report: NBA has chosen New Orleans to host 2017 All-Star Game Charlotte lost


This result has been rumored as close for some time, but according to the Associated Press the NBA has now decided:

The 2017 All-Star Game is headed to New Orleans.

The NBA has not officially confirmed this, but it is expected soon.

This is the third time since 2008 the NBA has brought the All-Star Game to New Orleans since 2008, the last one being in 2014. Because of the economic boost the game — and the many people it draws — bring to a city, New Orleans and Louisiana officials lobbied hard to get the event once the door opened.

The 2017 game had been scheduled to be in Charlotte, but NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and the NBA owners rightfully drew a line in the sand around the discriminatory HB2, what is commonly called “the bathroom law,” and was passed by the North Carolina legislature earlier this year. The law restricts transgender bathroom use (you have to use the bathroom for the gender with which you were born) and preempted anti-discrimination ordinances put in by Charlotte and other North Carolina cities that tried to block discrimination against gays and lesbians. It was a calculated “red meat” political move by a Republican legislature trying to make this a big issue and motivate their voters in the fall election (North Carolina is considered a swing state in the presidential race).

North Carolina can put the law on the books, just like free speech laws allow people to say terrible things, but there are consequences to actions. Adults understand that. It wasn’t just the NBA,  HB2 led to a business backlash as well with PayPal, Deutsche Bank, and others pulling plans for expansion in the state.

Louisiana is far from a model state as far as gay/lesbian rights legislation and issues go, but it has not gone as far as the “bathroom bill” that other states have passed (at least not yet).

There are few cities nationally that could quickly handle an event the size and scope of the All-Star Game (with an event that size, less than a year is very fast to get it together, and the arena/convention spaces had not to be booked). New Orleans was one, and a place the NBA had been before. Also in the running were Las Vegas, Orlando, Brooklyn, and Chicago.

The NBA has told Charlotte officials that if the law is changed, the 2019 All-Star Game will be there (2018 is in Los Angeles).

In the short term, there is going to be another big party in the Big Easy come February.


Usain Bolt celebrated 200m gold by doing “the silencer” — LeBron James approved

Associated Press

Usain Bolt needed about 10 strides of the 200 meter finals in Rio to make up the stagger, and from there on in he ran away from the field to win his third straight gold medal in that event.

Bolt celebrated with LeBron James‘ signature move — The Silencer.

LeBron approves.

LeBron was watching that historic performance from Bolt at home, but he could have seen it in person had he decided to play in Rio.

Later, Bolt did break out his signature “To Di World” pose.

Ricky Rubio opens up about loss of his mother


RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — There are few things in this world Ricky Rubio loves more than basketball, the electricity he feels when he’s on the fastbreak, teammates running with him and a no-look lob pass just begging to be thrown.

His mother, Tona, was certainly one of them.

The point guard spent all of last season with the Minnesota Timberwolves watching from afar as Tona’s body slowly succumbed to lung cancer, and there were times that he wondered if he should be playing at all.

“Sometimes at night during the season I was going through hell,” Rubio told The Associated Press as Spain prepared for a showdown with the United States in the Rio Olympics semifinals Friday. “Waking up in, who knows, Sacramento, in LA, in the middle of the night alone in a hotel and thinking, `Why am I here? Is it really worth it?”‘

When Timberwolves president and coach Flip Saunders died suddenly from lymphoma in October, it rocked the organization and Rubio in particular. Watching Flip’s son Ryan, an assistant coach on the team, grieve put a permanent pit in Rubio’s stomach, giving him the sinking feeling that he was getting a glimpse into his own future.

Sometimes during video chats – Tona’s was the first voice Rubio wanted to hear after a win or a loss – she would have to step away while becoming ill. He scrambled back home after the season was over and spent about six weeks with her before she died on May 25 at the age of 56.

“Anyone can say he’s close to his mom,” said Lucas Charte, Rubio’s close friend and manager. “But when you see Tona and Ricky and how their relationship went, it was something else. There was a kind of connection between them. They were too similar. Ricky has a brother and a sister. Nobody’s parent will tell you they have a favorite. But you could tell Ricky was Tona’s favorite.”

Rubio has always looked forward to playing for the Spanish national team. He started practicing with them at 16 and sees his teammates as a surrogate family that helped raise him from a child prodigy into a trusted veteran.

But when Tona passed, Rubio thought long and hard about pulling out of Rio to be with his father and two siblings back in Spain.

“At one point when everything happened, you think what’s the best?” Rubio said. “Stay with your family? Stay back home? Or sacrifice one more time everything for one goal, which is the gold medal, and dedicate it to her.”

Rubio tore the ligaments in his left knee at the end of a promising rookie season in 2012, causing him to miss the London Games that summer. He watched his beloved teammates fall to the United States, 107-100, in the gold-medal game. On his first day of rehab, Rubio vowed to physical therapist Andre Deloya that he would bring him to Rio four years later. Deloya never mentioned the promise again, but when it came time, Rubio had the tickets ready for him and his wife.

One promise kept. One to go.

Spain started the tournament 0-2 and Rubio was not playing well. Tona was not there, and he could not get her absence out of his head.

“I had a lot going on in my mind. It started with doubts. I started wondering if all the sacrifice was worth it,” he said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself, like I’ve been doing my whole career. At one point I decided to forget about all the pressure and just play for fun and do my game and enjoy what I do.”

He has gradually settled in, and Spain is humming heading into the rematch with Rubio at the controls. In the first two games of the tournament, Spain was outscored by six points in the 28 minutes he was on the floor. In their last three victories, they have outscored their opponents by 67 points in Rubio’s 59 minutes.

The mighty Americans – winners of 50 straight games in international tournaments – have shown some rare vulnerability in this tournament, emboldening challengers like Spain and Australia.

“It would mean everything for us,” Rubio said of a win on Friday. “It would mean the world. I remember watching Argentina beat the U.S. in 2004 and I think maybe the same story that Argentina wrote with the `Gold Generation,’ we can write, too.”

Rubio wants to win for Spanish fans after falling short against the U.S. in the gold-medal games in Beijing and London. He wants to win for teammates Pau Gasol, Juan Carlos Navarro and Jose Calderon, who may not have another Olympic run in them.

Most of all, he wants to win for Tona.