Author: Kurt Helin

2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup - Day Nine

Highlights of Team USA second half dunkfest on Slovenia (VIDEO)


After a poorly played first half, Team USA got it together in the second half against Slovenia and used their pressure defense to force turnovers and misses, then they got out and ran.

And dunked.

The second half of Team USA’s win was an alley-oop show, a dunkfest. Even off the inbounds play above, where Anthony Davis gets a little space on the cross with James Harden and so Kyrie Irving lobs it to him.

Or the second one, where James Harden rewarded the big man Faried for running the floor.

Of course, Faried was throwing it down in the first half, too.

Report: Goran Dragic says he will opt out next summer then re-sign with Suns

goran dragic

The Suns had one of the best backcourts in the NBA last season with Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe almost leading them to the playoffs in the West.

Now there are questions if they can keep either of them. The Suns remain in a standoff with restricted free agent Eric Bledsoe, with a four-year, $48 million offer on the table and Bledsoe threatening to play for the qualifying offer and become an unrestricted free agent next season.

Then there is Dragic, who can opt out and become an unrestricted free agent next summer — and will opt out. Then he will quickly re-sign with the Suns because he likes Phoenix, he told a reporter at the World Cup in Spain, as translated at Bright Side of the Suns.

“Got a very interesting position with the club. Guess I’ll break the contract and sign a new one,” he said. “As I spoke [to the Suns], I immediately during the first week, when the market opens, sign and I will therefore be calm.”

We should say for the record to take all translations of foreign interviews with a grain of salt. Also, situations can change over the course of a season.

That said, Dragic is a big fan of Phoenix — he took a little less money that was reportedly offered elsewhere a couple years ago to stay. He is in for a big raise but might give another hometown discount.

Dragic averaged 20.3 points and 5.9 assists last season for the Suns, playing at an All-Star level. He also played very well for Slovenia in the World Cup.

The interesting position he refers to could mean that under the current CBA the Suns cannot simply offer him a massive extension (the max is a 7.5 percent raise on his current deal, which is for $7.5 million next year). If he opts out, the Suns can give him the $13-$15 million he likely draws on the open market (maybe more depending on how he plays this coming season, there are a lot of teams with cap room next summer).

The question is does Dragic want to be courted, to check out his other options. Because he will have plenty. But it sounds like he wants to stay in the valley of the sun.

Despite sloppy offensive first half USA blows out Slovenia, on to World Cup semi-finals


This win over Slovenia wasn’t pretty — if Team USA plays like this Thursday against Lithuania it will be a close game. If they play like this Sunday against Spain they will lose.

The USA struggled with its offensive execution in the first half of the World Cup quarter-finals — James Harden was 0-of-8, Stephen Curry 0-of-4, the USA team shooting just 36 percent against one of the weaker defenses in the tournament — and it was just a seven point game at the half.

Then the USA won the second half 70-32.

Team USA overwhelmed another opponent with their athleticism and took the game 119-76 over Slovenia. They advance to the World Cup semi-finals against Lithuania on Thursday in Barcelona (3 ET on ESPN). Lithuania is a physical, veteran team that lost to Team USA by just five points at the London Olympics. They will not roll over and feature NBA front line players in Toronto’s Jonas Valanciunas and the Rockets’ Dontas Motiejunas (which will lessen USA’s advantage on the glass so far this tournament).

Team USA needs to bring the second half defensive pressure and offensive execution for the entire next two games. Because the start of this game was not pretty.

The Americans opened the game 1-of-11 from the floor as they played too much isolation, one-on-one basketball without much ball movement. Basically a lot of drive without much kick. Meanwhile on the other side the fired up Slovenians were making shots and plays. They hung close for the first half of the first quarter.

But the USA’s big men of Anthony Davis, Kenneth Faried and DeMarcus Cousins were too much for the undersized Serbians to handle — the Americans had 14 offensive rebounds in the first quarter. Faried finished the game with 14 points and 13 rebounds, Davis 13 and 11, Cousins 9 and 5.

Still the game remained tight as the Americans missed shots, didn’t execute in the half court and get frustrated by the always unpredictable FIBA officiating. It was a seven point game at the break, 49-42.

In first half, USA shot 36 percent overall, 3-of-10 from three. The USA was 4-of-13 shooting outside paint until they hit their last couple jumpers before the half.

After back and forth start to the third quarter the USA went on a 17-5 run, taking advantage of Slovenian turnovers to get out and run, stretching lead out to 22. The USA found its defensive pressure and was getting its transition points, which is how the team was built to play. USA put up 37 in the third quarter and led 86-64 after three.

Klay Thompson had 20 off the bench to lead Team USA in scoring. James Harden had 14 all in the second half, Kyrie Irving had 13. Derrick Rose had a dozen on 6-of-10 shooting and looked the best he has all tournament.

Goran Dragic had 13 points to lead Slovenia but needed 15 shots to get there. His brother Zoran Dragic had 11 points on 12 shots.

It goes down as another blowout American win, but one that still leaves you wondering if they can win the tournament.

Al Jefferson says he’s 100 percent, plantar fasciitis gone

Charlotte Bobcats v Miami Heat - Game Two

Al Jefferson was a beast last season for Charlotte — he averaged 21.8 points on 50.9 percent shooting, pulled down 10.8 rebounds a game, plus he worked hard on defense and had the best year of his career at that end. That was enough to get the Hornets to the playoffs and Jefferson on to Third Team All-NBA.

But come the playoffs he was slowed by plantar fasciitis, enough so that he missed Game 4 against the Heat.

The only real cure for plantar fasciitis (an inflammation of the plantar fascia tissue band that runs along the bottom of the foot) is rest, and Jefferson told the Hornets’ official site he got that this summer and is good to go. He was back at the team facilities taking part in optional workouts with no restrictions.

He also said his focus this season was to improve on the defensive end. I said above that he worked harder on defense than he ever had but he’s never going to be a defensive force. However, he was solid as part of a top 10 defense with the Bobcats last season. Coach Steve Clifford deserves a lot of credit for that.

This season Charlotte should take a step forward, not only making the playoffs but being a threat in the first round. The Bobcats lacked offensive creativity on the wings last season but add Lance Stephenson to go with Kemba Walker at the point and that should give them points plus more defense.

Add that to a healthy Jefferson in the post and the Bobcats are going to be fun to watch next season.

Australia issues statement denying it tried to lose game to Angola

Australian forward Joe Ingles celebrates

What else were they going to say?

FIBA is investigating if Australia intentionally lost its final World Cup group game to Angola for the reason of getting on the other side of the knockout bracket and away from Team USA as long as possible. Goran Dragic rightfully called Australia on it.

(It worked in that Australia got to the other side of the bracket, but then the team lost its first game of the knockout stage to Turkey. The best laid plans of mice and men….)

Australia released a statement denying they tried to throw the game.

The Australian Boomers went into the game against Angola to win — plain and simple. Claims to the contrary are widely speculative, insulting to the Australian sporting culture and to our playing group who gave their very best throughout this tournament. They’re downright wrong.

Basketball Australia has put a strong and detailed case to FIBA outlining why the decision was made to rest injured players and restrict playing time for fatigued players during the last game day of Group D. That decision was supported by clear and definitive medical advice.

I call BS on that.

If Australia had needed to win that game, would they have played it this way? No. Did they benefit from a loss? Yes.

Australia played their best guys the first half against Angola, were up double digits and decided if they won they got the Americans in the second round and pulled their guys so they could avoid the USA another round (in theory). For the record, let me note that in trying to tank the game they played Dante Exum a lot (sorry Jazz fans). That they can get the team doctor who is paid by the team to back up the claim, and that they can make a case they just wanted to rest guys before the knockout stage, is moot. Their intentions were clear here, they were the better team trying not to win.

I think the bigger finger should be pointed at FIBA itself for creating a system where tanking is a good idea. Not that the NBA has figured that out, but Australia did what the system called for. FIBA should look in the mirror when assigning blame.