Kurt Helin

Denzel Valentine’s overtime buzzer beater gives Bulls title at Summer League

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Denzel Valentine put a thrilling finish on the NBA Summer League.

Valentine hit the tying 3-pointer with the final second of regulation, then made a jumper at the buzzer in overtime to give the Chicago Bulls an 84-82 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night.

Valentine was scoreless on 0-for-6 shooting through three quarters, but he proved that fortunes change quickly in Las Vegas. His 3-pointer with 0.2 seconds forced the extra period after Tyus Jones had just given Minnesota a 77-74 lead on a 3 with 3.6 seconds to go.

It was tied again on Xavier Silas’ 3 with 11.7 seconds remaining in OT, but Valentine, the college player of the year from Michigan State, worked the clock down before making his spinning jumper in the lane as the Bulls finished 7-0.

That ended the NBA portion of summer basketball after leagues in Orlando, Salt Lake City and Las Vegas over the last two weeks. Rookies got their first looks, some veterans got their last shots, and it ended with a play that had Twitter buzzing like a game that took place in June instead of July.

And just as the NBA stops, USA Basketball starts. Right on the same UNLV campus just hours before the summer league championship game, the U.S. Olympic team held its first training camp practice. The Olympics start on Aug. 5 in Rio de Janeiro and the Americans will hope to be playing for a third straight gold medal on Aug. 21.

Then, finally, the “offseason” will finally start.

A look back at the summer:

MVP! MVP!

OK, it’s actually Most Outstanding Player in the Final Four, so technically Tyus Jones would be MOP, MVP. The Minnesota Timberwolves’ point guard won Summer League MVP honors and finished with 27 points in nearly leading the 24th-seeded Wolves to the championship. He won the Final Four Most Outstanding Player award after leaving Duke past Wisconsin for the 2015 national championship.

THIBODEAU BOWL

That’s what the Summer League championship game was dubbed, with coach Tom Thibodeau’s new team (Minnesota) facing the Bulls team he coached for five seasons before he was fired. Thibodeau, an assistant on Mike Krzyzewski’s U.S. Olympic team staff, took in the championship game from a baseline seat near Timberwolves players Karl-Anthony Towns and Zach LaVine.

SIMMONS’ STOCK

Ben Simmons showed off the versatility that made him the No. 1 pick in the draft. The freshman from LSU played in four games for the Philadelphia 76ers in Las Vegas, averaging 12.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and 5.5 assists. If the 76ers do someday get the forward from Australia along with recent high picks Joel Embiid and Dario Saric on the court with second-year forward Jahlil Okafor, the future could be bright after a dismal recent past.

ALL-SUMMER LEAGUE HONORS

Besides Jones, the rest of the All-Summer League team, as voted by a panel of media members:

First team: Jordan McRae (Cleveland), Bobby Portis (Chicago), Ben Simmons (Philadelphia) and Alan Williams (Phoenix).

Second team: Jaylen Brown (Boston), Thon Maker (Milwaukee), Kelly Oubre Jr. (Washington), Normal Powell (Toronto) and Tyler Ulis (Phoenix).

BULLS’ BACKCOURT

Chicago figures to have a starting backcourt of Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo after signing both players earlier this month, and there’s some good young talent behind them. Valentine showed he’s a clutch performer, while Jerian Grant, acquired from the Knicks in the trade for Derrick Rose, was MVP of the championship game with 24 points and 10 rebounds.

PACKING THEM IN

The summer league broke two attendance records in Las Vegas, including the overall attendance mark with 108,931. The previous mark was 99,437, set last year. Over 11 days, the summer league averaged 9,902 per day.

The event also broke the single-day mark on July 9, when 16,208 visited both the Cox Pavilion and Thomas and Mack Center. The spotlight game that night featured the top two draft picks in last month’s draft, Simmons and the Lakers’ Brandon Ingram. The previous mark was 12,422, set last season, also on the day the top two draft picks met, with Towns and D'Angelo Russell facing off.

RISING SUNS?

Phoenix got a look at a promising young core while going 4-2 in Las Vegas. All-Rookie selection Devin Booker averaged 26 points in his two games, top-10 picks Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss both showed potential and guard Tyler Ulis looked like a second-round keeper. Ulis averaged 14.5 points and had 10.0 points and 9.0 rebounds per game. Bender, the No. 4 pick from Croatia, shot just 27.5 percent from the field but managed 8.6 points and 5.6 rebounds in his five games.

Freelance writer Willie Ramirez contributed to this report.

Report: Oklahoma City rescinds qualifying offer to Dion Waiters, who is now unrestricted free agent

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When the Thunder reached a deal with European guard Alex Abrines on Monday, it made Dion Waiters expendable. Not that they wouldn’t want to keep him still, but Waiters leverage with the Thunder largely went away.

Now the Thunder have taken the next step, rescinding their qualifying offer to Waiters, something reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports. That means Waiters is an unrestricted free agent.

With the qualifying offer in place, the Thunder had the rights to match any offer for Waiters. Unlike guys like Tyler Johnson of Miami or Allen Crabbe of Portland, no team was going to come in with an offer large enough to make Oklahoma stop and considering not matching. (Brooklyn tried to poach Johnson and Crabbe, but their teams matched the big offers.)

But with Waiters an unrestricted free agent, Brooklyn (which has $20 million in cap space still), Philadephia and others can try to land him at what they see as a reasonable price. Sacramento had interest in the past, but has since filled their cap space. In Brooklyn Waiters likely would come off the bench behind Rondae Hollis-Jefferson; in Philadelphia, he likely would move into the starting lineup.

Waiters is a shoot-first guard who averaged 9.8 points per game in nearly 28 minutes a night for the Thunder last season. Long known as a gunner, he improved his shot selection (and just shot less) last season, plus he developed and shot 35.7 percent from three. His game started to mature in OKC, would that continue if he were given a larger role on a lesser team, or would he return to his gunner ways?

Draymond Green apologized to USA Basketball teammates for assault incident

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LAS VEGAS — Draymond Green was arrested a week ago for an assault in East Lansing, Michigan.

As Team USA got together in Las Vegas for the start of their road to the Rio Olympics, Green apologized to the team for the incident.

“The message for him was: This is an opportunity. When we met yesterday, we gave him a chance to address the team. ‘What do you want to tell the team?’ Basically, he said he wanted to apologize for what happened.

“We were talking about the things that are important to us as a team, that are really strong principles, and being able to maintain your composure is one of them. He knows that’s not what happened and what should have happened. He had a chance to share with the players.

“We’re trying to bond people here because we have a lot of new people. It’s not like this is the same 12. When a player is willing to say, ‘I made a mistake, I didn’t do what I should have done. I apologize for that.’ That helps bring people together.”

Green wouldn’t address the issue directly, saying his attorneys are on handling it.

“Everybody’s concerned,” Green said. “At the end of the day, as a public figure as a guy who’s representing this country, I said it’s bigger than me. It’s bigger than anybody on this team. That’s just the stuff we have to remember….

“My attorneys are handling everything, and leave it in their hands. I got an opportunity to compete for a gold medal. You don’t let any type of distraction get in the way of that. This is not about me. It’s not about anyone on this team. It’s about going out and defending our country the right way. Everything else is kind of secondary to that.”

There will not be any punishment for Green for the incident, according to Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski.

“No, no, we’ve already hung him by the thumbs last night for two hours,” Krzyzewski said with a laugh. “It shouldn’t have happened.… Hopefully, it will get resolution. He apologized to the team last night and then we [moved] forward.”

Green’s altercation happened with former Michigan State football wide receiver Jermaine Edmondson. According to the complaint, Edmonson says Green’s entourage attacked him before Green hit him. Green’s attorney denied this. Now it plays out in the courts.

Kevin Durant: “I just made a decision based on where I wanted to go. Simple as that.”

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LAS VEGAS — “We got one goal and one goal only: to win. Nobody cares about stats or whatever, we’re just trying to come out there and win. You try not to put too much pressure on yourself, it’s a game, but we’re not going to be halfway about the process.”

That is Kevin Durant, talking about Team USA heading into the Rio Olympics, a team where he has been passed the torch and is the clear leader.

It also could be Durant talking about his move to Golden State.

As Team USA opened its training camp in Las Vegas Monday, Durant spoke about the change of scenery in terms of it being his decision, his desire, not something pushed on him by outside forces or internal strife.

“No, no it wasn’t,” Durant said of the reports Russell Westbrook’s style of play helped push him away from Oklahoma City. “Obviously that’s coming out now that I’ve gone, of course it’s going to come out, but I can’t really control that. I just made a decision based on where I wanted to go. Simple as that. You can think about all the reasoning and the factors, but the fact is it’s that simple.”

Long a golden boy in terms of image, Durant was hit with a wave of criticism for the move, not just on social media but from some of the biggest voices in NBA commentary — Charles Barkley and Reggie Miller. They echoed the criticism of many that Durant took the easy way to a title.

Durant shrugged it off.

“I respect the hell out of them two, they can say whatever they want to about me,” Durant said. “I went to do something that I wanted to do. They had their careers, they did what they wanted to do. I respect the hell out of Reggie Miller and Charles Barkley, there were hell of players, they’re two guys I look up to, so I can’t control how they think or how they feel. Or anyone else for that matter. I’m excited about the future….

“Those guys have a big voice in our game, they have a megaphone. If Charles Barkley says it it must be true. If Reggie Miller  says it it must be true. They have such a big platform and people respect them, so it seems bigger than it is. I got support, I got my family around me, they love me, they support me no matter what I do — I could be playing tennis right now and retire from the game of basketball and they would love me. I think about that.”

Becoming a villain in the eyes of many is a big change for Durant and he knew what was coming with this choice. But that wasn’t going to sway him.

“I thought about it,” Durant said of the criticism coming his way. “But in life when you make decisions based on everyone else I think it’s mistake. I made a decision in my mind, and I knew people were going to be upset about it. I just told myself to put me first and do what I wanted….

“I haven’t changed who I am, people haven’t changed their mind about me as a person, I just focus on the people that are positive, hold me accountable, and push me past my limits. And life goes on at some point.”

That doesn’t mean he thought it was easy.

“For a few days after I didn’t leave my bed (later he clarified, his rented house in the Hamptons) because I was like ‘if I walk outside somebody might just hit me with their car, or say anything negative to me.’ Like I said I never had this reputation, and so many people who don’t even watch basketball are telling me congratulations, and good luck going forward, it’s crazy how big I got and how big this got…..

“I was hurt for a few days because I knew I hurt so many people.”

Now, Durant says the Warriors will figure out how to make all these stars fit — this is different than the Boston big three or the Miami trio with LeBron. What they have in common with those teams is a willingness to sacrifice.

“We’re going to have our own path, we’re going to have to figure out how to play on our own,” Durant said. “So all these players are going to have to sacrifice to play. Golden State, Oklahoma City, anywhere else — it’s all about the sacrifice to play winning basketball.”

In the short term, he and other stars will sacrifice to try and win a gold medal.

Report: Nets’ Bojan Bogdanovic escaped Turkey during failed coup by taking boat to Greece

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Brooklyn’s Bojan Bogdanovic was just trying to get in a little R&R. He had helped his native Croatia qualify for the Rio Olympics, so he and his girlfriend went on a little vacation before he had to report to camp and get ready for playing in Brazil.

La Ga No…Par dana odmora prije nastavka misije Rio #sretnanovagodina #elbabo #bzb #rioparty #cacemicopcabana

A post shared by Bojan Bogdanovic (@44bojan) on

That translates as “A few days of rest before continuing the mission to Rio.”

The couple went to the Turkish coastal resort area of the Bodrum Peninsula. Just so happens that’s where Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan was staying at the same time.

Then the attempted coup in Turkey came.

We will let Nets Daily recap what happened next, translating a report Greek sports talk radio station sport-fm.gr.

Turkish air force planes flew low overhead and Erdogan claims dropped bombs on the hotel where plotters believed he was staying.

Time to leave. Eurohoops and sportfm.gr report Bogdanovic got out via boat, crossing the Aegan to the Greek Island of Rhodes with the help of his agent and Greek team officials on the Rhodes end.

The “escape” was arranged via his agent in collaboration with the team manager of the Greek team Colossus, George Gkotzogiannis and a member of the club board. The trip between Bodrum Peninsula and Rhodes takes an hour. The 27-year-old Croatian arrived safe, spend a few hours in Rhodes and then left for Zagreb, the Croatian capital. He heads to South America this week for the Olympics.

Good news that he got out of what is clearly a dangerous situation.

As an aside: Turkey has one of the stronger, better paying professional basketball leagues in Europe, but if you’re an American player would you take less right now to play in a safer location in Europe?