Author: Kurt Helin


FIBA World Cup USA vs. Slovenia preview: Is the USA finally tested?


On Aug. 26 Team USA played Slovenia in the final exhibition for both teams before the start of the FIBA World Cup. Slovenia had no answer for the big men of the USA with Anthony Davis finishing with 18 points, nine rebounds and five blocks, while Kenneth Faried had 14 points and eight rebounds. Kyrie Irving added 13 points, Derrick Rose had 11. The Americans led by six after a quarter, 13 at the half and blew it open in the third quarter. The Americans won by 30.

Is Tuesday going to be any different?

Well, it will be a little closer, but the outcome will be the same.

The USA and Slovenia meet in the quarterfinals of the FIBA World Cup in Spain Tuesday (3 p.m. ET, ESPN). They meet now because Australia tanked a game against Angola to get on the other side of the bracket and avoid the Americans (then the Aussies promptly lost in the round of 16 to Turkey, well done).

Slovenia is the best team the Americans have seen since the start of the World Cup and they have the tools to follow the blueprint Turkey put together to slow the Americans down. Expect a lot of back cuts, for one thing, and we’ll if the USA defenders wake up to those plays.

Also, expect a lot of pick-and-roll with Goran Dragic, who is averaging 16.5 points on 58.8 percent shooting plus adds 4.3 assists a game in the World Cup. (He went 3-of-11 in the exhibition meeting against the USA, expect that to improve and the Suns guard to finish better.) His brother Zoran Dragic can knock down shots and is shooting 45.8 percent from three this tournament on his way to 13.2 points a game (he had 16 against the Americans last time).

What’s more, the Slovenians have seen the Americans and their athletic, pressure defense before. That will help them adjust to the blitz this time.

That will be enough to keep Slovenia close for a half, but in the end the Americans will pull away.

The biggest problem for Slovenia is their ultimate game plan is to get create pressure to throw off the opposing backcourt then get out in transition — but they don’t want to get into a track meet with the USA. The Americans are more athletic and deeper, their big men run the floor better and when the tempo goes up the Americans play better. They will win out that way.

But Team USA will need to play a little better than they have so far to continue the run of easy wins (Turkey came the closest so far and lost by 21). Which is what the Americans need — they need to tighten up the defensive rotations, they need to find ball movement in the halfcourt now, because Spain is still looming in the gold medal game and still looks like a team that could well beat the Americans if the USA isn’t playing better than it has up to now.

Nuggets’ Danilo Gallinari says he made a mistake where he got first knee surgery done

Denver Nuggets forward Gallinari reacts after making a shot during the second half of their NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City

When we last saw Danilo Gallinari on the court he was a leading scorer for a Denver team that was hot (they won 57 games that year) and was the team nobody wanted to play in the first round.

Then Gallinari tore his ACL right before the playoffs, dooming the Nuggets in the playoffs. He went off to the Steadman Clinic of Vail, Colorado, to get his knee work done and the only question seemed to be if he would miss the start of the 2013-14 season as he recovered.

Instead he missed all of last season. Now he told the La Gazzetta dello Sport in his native Italy going to that clinic was a big mistake. (Translation by the great Sportando site.)

“Steadman? It is clear that if I could go back, I would not go to Steadman Clinic. I will write a book on my last year and half with some things never told. But it is better not to talk about that. I just say that one month after my surgery, Steadman said that he would not work anymore. I made a wrong choice but he was considered one of the best surgeons and his clinic was within a hour’s drive from Denver. Now I see what happened to Giuseppe Rossi, Westbrook, Vonn and many other maybe not famous that went to his Clinic”

Remember Russell Westbrook went there and had to have a second knee surgery to clean up a loose stitch after the first one. In Gallinari’s case he had a quicker repair done because the tearing was not seen as bad, the second time he had the full reconstruction. Done elsewhere.

Gallinari is trying to move on and says he is back, and so might Denver this year. Injuries robbed this team last season (Gallinari was out all season, JaVale McGee played just five games and a lot of other core guys missed time) and there is an eagerness to regain their old form.

But Gallinari knows there is a process for him that is mental as well as physical (see what Derrick Rose is going through with Team USA).

“I feel great. I am ready to return seven months after my last knee surgery. I had a few contact practices in Milan. Now I have to re-gain confidence and be ready. I will need to be patient because after more than a year without basketball you have to work also on the mental aspect. But I want to be a better player than before the injury.”

Hopefully he can stay healthy and start there.

Report: NBA’s new $2 billion-a-year television deal would keep rights as they are with only ESPN, Turner

Reggie Love

The NBA is reportedly on the verge of signing a new television rights deal that would kick in starting with the 2016-17 season and would basically double the amount of television revenue coming into the league. This could be very good for players who want to get paid, it’s certainly good for the owners pocketbooks (as if we were really worried about that).

It also means the NBA would be broadcast nationally as it is now on ESPN/ABC and Turner (TNT, NBA TV) — and that’s it. (Which is plenty for most fans, frankly.)

While there were rumors of another network — specifically Fox Sports 1 — picking up a game a week for the second half of the season, that appears dead according to the Sports Business Journal report.

A final deal might not be signed or announced before the new season, but talks with ESPN and Turner are advanced enough that sources said there is little chance the NBA will carve out a third package for another network, like Fox Sports or NBC Sports. ESPN, in particular, has been adamant during negotiations that the NBA not develop a new package to sell to a competitive sports network, sources said.

The NBA cannot talk to other networks until the middle of next year, when ESPN and Turner’s exclusive negotiating window runs out. Barring an unforeseen snag in the ongoing negotiations, all sides expect new deals to be signed well before that happens.

For the record, while this blog is an NBC property, as a blogger I’m not consulted on potential national broadcasting moves and decisions. Shocking, I know. I didn’t help develop The Blacklist either.

Reports had been that Fox Sports was the real interested party, there had been talk of them doing a Monday night game that would get highlighted. That would leave Turner with Tuesday/Thursday and ESPN with Wednesday/Friday most weeks of the regular season (after the end of the NFL season the NBA starts to air more games). David Stern said before he retired he likes how the NFL television deal has a piece with all the major networks.

That apparently is not going to be the case here. At the very least this is a shot across the bow of Fox saying “ESPN is paying a billion, the price has gone way up for that one game a week you want.”

Maybe the NBA wants more exposure, but I think the current coverage works — for the casual fan there is no shortage of NBA games available if you have cable/satellite. Most weeks ESPN/TNT broadcast six games, and that’s not counting NBA TV games or ones shown on local broadcast rights whatever is your home team. There is more streaming online now and more coming in that department. If that’s not enough, if you’re a junkie like me, get the league pass.

So long as Turner/TNT keeps the Inside the NBA crew together, I’m good.

PBT Extra: How concerned are other owners after email forces Hawks sale?

Bruce Levenson

It was a strange series of events that started with the Atlanta Hawks general manager on a conference call reading an inappropriate scouting report about free agent Luol Deng, which led to an investigation within the Hawks organization, which led to the discovery of an inappropriate email from owner Bruce Levenson. Now he is selling his share of the Hawks.

This turn of events has some around the NBA feeling a little uncomfortable, something I discuss with Jenna Corrado in the latest edition of PBT Extra.

Suffice to say, other team owners are not sure where the line is anymore and what out of their past could get dragged up.

Report: Charlie Villanueva reaches non-guaranteed deal with Dallas Mavericks

Charlie Villanueva

He chose Dallas.

Charlie Villanueva was trying to get another NBA contract, documenting every step, after finishing a disaster of a five-year deal (well, for the time that had him, he made his $37 million) and it was down to the Clippers and Mavericks.

He chose Dallas, reports Tim MacMahon of

The key is the non-guaranteed part — Dallas can cut him without a cost. Dallas has 15 players under guaranteed contract already (teams can only carry 15), plus a couple guys such as Ivan Johnson and Eric Griffin on partially guaranteed deals.

What Villanueva can bring to Dallas is being a stretch four to play behind Dirk Nowitzki, if he finds his shot again. Villanueva has long been a streaky shooter who gives a team that, some defensive rebounding, and little else. In recent years those good shooting streaks have gotten shorter — he took 60 percent of his shots from three last season and hit 25 percent of them.

If he’s healthy and hitting shots… still, it’s going to be hard for him to make this roster. But he’s made his choice.