Kurt Helin

Watch wild “scorpion” dunk over three people from NBA house in Rio

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There is an NBA House in Rio during the Olympic games. Because the Olympics are all about brand promotion. And probably some other stuff as well, but brand promotion seems to be at the top of the list, and the NBA marketing people don’t miss a chance to promote the brand.

At that NBA house, 6’1″ Jordan Kilganon threw down this impressive scorpion dunk over three people. It’s worth watching.

It’s not quite Aaron Gordon/Zach LaVine impressive, but it is August, and you’re not likely to see another dunk this good unless Vince Carter and Frederic Weis suit up again.

Special summer: USA’s Kyrie Irving could win NBA title, Rio gold

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — When he wakes up in the morning, Kyrie Irving first looks at the scar stretching across his left knee, an enduring symbol of his journey over the past year.

It’s been quite a climb.

“It’s crazy to see how it’s worked out,” he said.

At this time last summer, Irving, the U.S. Olympic team’s ankle-breaking point guard – and kid brother to his doting teammates – was at a personal low point.

Playing in his first NBA Finals in 2015, Irving shattered his kneecap while banging into Golden State’s Klay Thompson in Game 1. The freakish injury not only cost the Cleveland Cavaliers a possible championship, but brought more criticism to Irving, who played in just 11 games in college because of a foot injury and has battled assorted maladies during his career.

He had been knocked down before, never like this. Bedridden at first, he graduated to crutches and endured grueling hours of rehab.

Once he started running again, he never stopped.

Irving returned from the injury and, along with LeBron James, led the Cavs to a historic comeback championship – Cleveland’s first since 1964 – this season. And as if lifted from a Hollywood screen play, Irving’s game-winning 3-pointer in Game 7 came from just a few feet from where his knee buckled the previous June.

Just 24 and maybe only beginning to tap into his potential as a player, Irving is now on the verge of pulling off a rare doubleheader – an NBA and Olympic title in the same year.

“It would be great,” he said Tuesday following practice. “I just want to get it done.”

It won’t be easy. Nothing has been in the Rio Games for the U.S. team, which escaped three close calls while going 5-0 during pool play. The Americans, seeking their third straight gold medal, will face another tough test in Wednesday’s quarterfinals against Argentina, the last team to beat them in Olympic competition and an experienced group featuring future Hall of Famer Manu Ginobili and a handful of current and former NBA players.

In his first Olympics, Irving knows the stars and stripes on their jerseys are also bullseyes.

“All the pressure is on us every single time we take the floor, which I happily accept,” said Irving, who tied a U.S. record with 12 assists in a win over France. “You gotta respect those guys. They make great offensive plays as well as defensively. You gotta be well prepared.”

Irving has learned there are no shortcuts to greatness.

Following his injury, Irving received support from family and friends. However, he realized that if he was going to make it back and be better than ever, there was only one person who could lift him.

“I just had to figure it out on my own,” he said. “I was going to be the only one who was going to get myself out of that funk. I just had to climb out of it. It really took a lot of pride, a lot of anger, built-up rage that I just had to let go. I just had to attack my rehab and attack the little things that were going to make the biggest difference when I came back.”

Irving has been re-united on Team USA with coach Mike Krzyzewski, who recruited him to Duke but only had him on the floor for a fraction of his freshman season. When Irving considered going pro, it was Coach K who encouraged him to take the leap.

They’ve remained close and Irving has had to accept his coach’s praise and wrath.

“I don’t think we would be able to speak genuinely about each other if we didn’t have a genuine relationship,” Irving said. “I’m very fortunate to have a mentor like that and have a guy like that in my corner.”

His teammates have Irving’s back as well.

Stars in their own right, they’ve watched him mature during his short stint on the national team. They also appreciate the work and sacrifice that went into his recovery.

“That just shows how relentless he is,” U.S. center DeAndre Jordan said. “He’s a warrior. I have so much respect for Kyrie. A lot of guys could feel sorry for themselves, but that wasn’t him. He came back with a vengeance, had a hell of a season, led his team to an NBA Finals and ultimately to a championship.

“I have a lot of respect for that guy as a leader.”

While the past year has been richly rewarding and satisfying for Irving, there’s unfinished business.

“I’m glad, but it’s not over yet,” he said. “I still have one more thing to do and that’s get a gold medal with this great team.”

Will USA show improvement in first Olympic elimination game vs. Argentina?

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The biggest concern for Team USA in Rio is not the tight 10-point win against Australia, where the Americans struggled to defend good guard play, were pushed around, and where the offense was stagnant. A wake-up call game can happen for a team.

No, the real concern is that they showed no improvement in those areas against Serbia, a three-point USA win. Then against France the offense looked a little better, but the defense was still a mess.

The Americans are not getting better as the Olympics have moved along.

Now the Olympics move into an eight-team tournament where it’s win or go home. Will the USA show that improvement against Argentina in their quarterfinal game (5:45 Eastern on NBC SportsNetwork)? They need to start soon.

The USA likely can beat Argentina without much improvement, but if they don’t start to show it now it’s hard to imagine them flipping the switch when they take on Spain or France in the semifinals Friday.

The USA overwhelmed Argentina in an exhibition in Las Vegas last month, beating them 111-74. However the Argentinians have improved since then — their conditioning is better, and they have found the cohesion and unity of play the Americans are still searching for. Wednesday’s game is going to be closer than the one a month ago.

Argentina is playing for the final time with the core of its “Golden Generation” — Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola, Carlos Delfino, and Andres Nocioni. That group won gold in 2004. Argentina has been getting good play from the guys around that core, particularly Facundo Campazzo who has averaged 16.4 points per game and is a real threat from three.

Argentina has the guard play to bother the USA, and their veteran bigs still know how to score the basketball. However, they lack the depth or size to likely win the game, or really threaten the USA late (probably). Expect a big game out of Kevin Durant (16.8 points per game) and Carmelo Anthony (15.2).

However, the two medal-round games after this the USA will see teams that can threaten them — they need to show more focus and cohesion on defense starting Wednesday. The book on how to beat the USA is out there — primarily draw the American bigs into high pick-and-roll actions where the communication has faltered, and have shooters in the corners make backdoor cuts to the basket when American off-ball defenders get caught ball watching. Will the USA show improvement?

If not, this game Wednesday could serve as a warning for what would come Friday against a more talented European squad.

Not that the USA should need another wake-up call at this point.

 

 

Report: Lakers in “advanced discussions” to bring Yi Jianlian back to NBA

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If you watched Team USA destroy China this summer — both in two exhibition games, then in the Rio Olympics — you saw former NBA player Yi Jianlian put up a few buckets. The one-time Buck/Net/Wizard/Maverick big man has averaged 20.4 points on 16.4 shots per game during the Rio Olympics. He got to the line 6.2 times per game. He was the best player on one of the worst teams in the tournament.

One of those USA/China exhibitions was in Los Angeles at Staples Center, where the Lakers brass got a first-hand look at Jianlian. Apparently they like what they saw, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.

Jianlian was last in the NBA in 2012, when at age 24 he was a below-average NBA big man. He relied far too heavily on the long two (his last season in the NBA, in Dallas, 56 percent of his shots were 16 feet out to the arc) and never developed consistent three-point range. He was a decent rebounder but turned the ball over a little too much. He’s not a great rim protector.

The Lakers have only 13 guaranteed deals for next season — and they probably will waive and stretch Nick Young — so they will have the roster space.

Jianlian is a 7’0″ power forward, a spot the Lakers likely will rotate a number of good young players through — Julius Randle is the incumbent, with both Brandon Ingram and Larry Nance also able to play there. Jianlian could fight for minutes in that spot.

It’s hard to picture him as part of the future in Los Angeles, but he may be part of the short term.

Report: Paul Pierce coming back to Clippers for one more season. Probably.

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It’s not the money. For a guy that has made $193.5 million over the course of his career, another $3.5 million isn’t going to motivate him.

It’s not minutes or points: The future Hall of Famer averaged a career-low 18.1 minutes and 6.1 points per game last season.

But something is motivating him, because after a summer away from the game Paul Pierce is going to come back to the Clippers. Probably. So reports Dan Woike of Los Angeles Daily News.

Pierce, an 18-season veteran in the NBA, is planning to return to the Los Angeles Clippers for his 19th season in the league according to multiple league sources.

Pierce has wavered with his decision for most of the summer, and another change in plans wouldn’t be shocking.

Pierce has a guaranteed contract for this season, so the ball was in his court: Does it want to come back at age 39 (by the time the season starts). Apparently, he’s leaning yes.

But there is not a lot of run for him. He is best now as a small ball four, and the Clippers start Blake Griffin at that slot and give him a lot of minutes. And there’s a lot of competition.

If Pierce is going to contribute as a small-ball power forward, he’ll be competing for minutes with traditional options like Marreese Speights, Brandon Bass, and first-round pick Brice Johnson.