Kurt Helin

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Tom Thibodeau thinks Team USA’s defense is good, could be better

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In its first outing of the Rio Olympics, Team USA held China to 38 percent shooting, 29 percent from three, forced 24 turnovers, and generally made every made bucket by China require an impressive shot from one of their skill players. The USA cruised to the win because of that defense.

Tom Thibodeau thought it was okay.

The never-pleased coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves was barking out defensive assignments during the game and said this to Marc Stein of ESPN after the contest.

“Every night you want the bar set high,” Thibodeau said. “So there’s a lot of things we did well, but I’m sure there are things that we could do a little bit better. And that’s what we want to keep our focus on.”

When a helpful reporter followed up by suggesting that the Americans had to have registered at least an “8 and a half” with the way they tormented China in a 119-62 rout, Thibodeau shot back: “I wish I had a professor in school like you.”

The USA’s first couple games of the Olympics are against teams they dominated in the exhibition run-up to Rio — first China, next a Venezuela team without a single NBA player on the roster.

But they will have tougher games coming up in the group play stage — France a team considered a medal contender before the games, and Australia, the team that beat France handily Saturday — and that’s when they will need their defense. Those teams have good talent (not the depth of it the USA has, but they have good players). You know Thibadeau will go into the film session saying “you got away with this against China, but do that against France and they will score easily.” That drive is what makes him so good.

But from a fan’s perspective, I’m not too worried about Team USA’s prospects in these games, and nothing in a 57-point win will have me feeling otherwise.

Knicks’ Thanasis Antetokounmpo signs to play in Spain

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The Greek Freak Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the fast-rising stars of the NBA.

His brother Thanasis Antetokounmpo also has a fascinating skill set, but has never quite been able to put it all together. After spending most of the last couple seasons with the Knicks’ D-League franchise — and having cups of coffee with the Knicks themselves — he is headed to Spain according to Spanish publication Gigantes, via Sportando.

Antetokounmpo averaged 12.3 points and 5.1 rebounds in Westchester of the D-League, but he was mostly a role player there. His length makes him a consistent defender, but he never developed a consistent offensive set of moves, mostly he’s just a threat (particularly in transition) because of his athleticism.

Maybe he will develop his game overseas and return.

 

Watch Team USA arrive in Rio (then later today watch their first game)

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Team USA has been in Rio for a couple of days — living quite comfortably on a luxury cruise ship, I might add — but before their first game on Saturday, let’s take a look back at their trip to Rio.

As for that first game, it is against China — a team they thrashed by more than 40 points in each of two exhibition games recently — and you can see it at 6 Eastern on NBC Sports Network, or streaming at NBCOlympics.com.

Brook Lopez calls Nets’ offseason “abnormal,” but he liked it

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The Brooklyn Nets are so deep in a screwed up rebuild they couldn’t even follow “the process” if they wanted to — the Celtics control the Nets first round picks for years. Throw blame at former GM Billy King, he earned some, but know he was trying to execute the unreasonable and ridiculous wishes of owner Mikhail Prokhorov — he’s the guy who deserves the ultimate blame.

New GM Sean Marks is trying to right the ship — and is doing as good a job as could be expected. He added solid veterans — such as Jeremy Lin, Luis Scola, Greivis Vasquez, Randy Foye — and with that the Nets will suck less. They aren’t going to be good, but they won’t be embarrassing. Which is a step forward.

The thing veteran Brook Lopez sees as different is guys are already in working out at the Nets’ facilities — that hasn’t happened before, he told the New York Post.

“It’s abnormal,” he said. “It’s a good feeling. I know they’ve been harping on the culture and all but it’s a completely unique feel this time, like we’re moving in that right direction. It’s something people actually want to be a part of.”

The 7-foot, 28-year-old center calls the training staff “an international work force” with “guys taking what they’ve learned all around the world, bringing it together in this eclectic fashion so we really have the best of the best.

“It’s hard,” Lopez said. “We’re together and we’re doing it. Before, we’d have guys coming in, wouldn’t really get their treatment [or] their mobilization. And they weren’t necessarily on time. It’s the way it should be now.”

Step one in turning a franchise around ins bringing in a culture of hard work and accountability. Yes, they ultimately need to get a lot more talent on the roster, but the talent without the right culture around that doesn’t lead to success (you can see that around the NBA, and other sports, all the time).

If I’m a Nets fan, what Lopez said makes me happy. The product will be better this year — and with Jeremy Lin running the show, it will be entertaining. The Nets aren’t playoff bound, but they are moving in the right direction.

Klay Thompson, other Team USA hoops stars soak up Rio Opening Ceremony

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The Rio Olympics are officially underway.

Okay, technically they were underway a couple of days ago when soccer got started early (to fit in all the games). However, the official start is always the Opening Ceremony, which took place Friday night.

Team USA’s hoop stars were soaking it in — especially Klay Thompson.

Beyond grateful what a night @olympics

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And the Team USA guys were mixing it up with other athletes from our nation and others.