Kurt Helin

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Venezuela earns Rio berth off poor Canadian effort

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Canada had been clear and away the best team at FIBA Americas — after an opening-game loss to Argentina, the young squad had easily handled the competition, winning seven in a row by at least 17 points. That included beating Venezuela by 20.

But with a berth in the Rio Olympics next year on the line Friday, Canada played its worst game of the tournament.

Venezuela came from seven points down with less than three minutes to go — aided by a questionable foul call on a rebound that gave Venezuela the free throw to win it — and beat Canada 79-78.

With the win, Venezuela earns a berth in the 2016 Rio Olympics, the first for the South American nation since 1992.

Canada had nine NBA players on their roster, Venezuela had zero (they were without Greivis Vasquez all tournament).

Boston’s Kelly Olynyk was the best player on the court, scoring 34 points on 11-of-13 shooting, plus pulling down 13 rebounds. Andrew Wiggins struggled, scoring nine points on 4-of-11 shooting.

Canada led 75-68 with three minutes left when Venezuelan guard Heissler Guillent caught fire. He hit two threes, cutting the Canadian lead down to one. On the next possession, Olynyk fumbled the ball out by midcourt and fouled Guillent in the scramble to recover it.  Guillent hit two free throws putting Venezuela up by one. Canada’s Andrew Nicholson was fouled soon after and hit one-of-two free throws to tie the game.

With everything on the line, Venezuela tried to isolate Guillent on Cory Joseph (a good defender). He settled for a three that he missed but going for the rebound Canada’s Aaron Doornekamp was called for a questionable foul on Jose Vargas with 0.3 left on the clock. That sent Vargas to the line with a chance to win it — he hit the first free throw and intentionally missed the second, ending the game.

While the call will be what everyone talks about, that is not what cost Canada the game. Look at the 17 Canadian turnovers, or the 5-of-17 shooting from three. They had the talent to run away with this game. That said, credit Venezuela for being feisty and hanging around.

Nothing “imminent” but Lakers could sign World Peace

Los Angeles Lakers v San Antonio Spurs - Game One
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When you think veteran mentors perfect to guide your young potential stars down the right path, you think…

Metta World Peace?

The guy who has bounced between China and Europe since the Knicks waived him in 2014 because he struggles to perform at an NBA level?

The Lakers are seriously considering it. MWP has been working out at the Lakers’ facility and apparently formed a bond with young big man Julius Randle. Sam Amick of the USA Today asked Laker GM Mitch Kupchak about it.

“I love the guy,” Kupchak said. “I really do. Last year, he was in Europe, he was in China. (Then) he coached his daughter’s middle school or high school team to a championship. He was here to work out when he got back from Europe playing, and then he’d come in through the summer. He’s been coming in on a regular basis. I do know that he wants to play, and that’s where we are.

“We’ve got a couple more weeks (until training camp). Our roster’s not complete. And we’ll just take it from there. Nothing’s imminent in terms of a signing anytime soon, but it’s hard not to watch a guy when he’s in your gym every day going up and down the court, working with young guys, playing hard. Part of me says he can still play, so I don’t know where we’re going to end up on it. But that’s kind of where it is.”

The part of him that thinks World Peace can still play should watch tape of MWP in New York. He’s not near the same defender he used to be, and in that last season with the Knicks he averaged 4.8 points a game on 39.7 percent shooting overall and 31.5 percent from three (where he took a lot of shots). If Lakers fans are picturing the MWP from 2010, they need to dissuade themselves of that notion.

That said, if World Peace has bonded with and can be an effective mentor for Randle, it’s worth considering. It’s just a lot of money to pay a glorified coach (even though the league picks up a chunk of veteran minimum contracts).

Eurobasket reaches round of 16, here is the bracket

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Lose and go home — and miss out on the Rio Olympics.

That’s where things stand as EuroBasket heads into the 16-team knockout stage — the two teams that advance to the Finals get their ticket punched for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil, the next five are in the qualifying tournaments (which will have a lot of teams and wild cards. If you’re wondering who is left, here’s what the brackets sort of look like.

Saturday (Sept. 12)
Latvia vs. Slovenia
Greece vs. Belgium
pain vs. Poland
3 p.m.: France vs. Turkey

Sunday (Sept. 13)
6 a.m.: Croatia vs. Czech Republic
8:30 a.m.: Serbia vs. Finland
12:30 p.m.: Israel vs. Italy
3 p.m.: Lithuania vs. Georgia

Quarterfinals

Sept. 15
Latvia/Slovenia winner vs. France/Turkey winner
Spain/Poland winner vs. Greece/Belgium winner

Sept. 16
Croatia/Czech Republic winner vs. Serbia/Finland winner
Israel/Italy winner vs. Lithuania/Georgia winner

From there you’ve got a Final Four.

If you’re looking for favorites, France and Serbia are teams to watch, Spain is a traditional powerhouse but they have looked vulnerable, and watch out for Italy.

Draymond Green thinks Warriors still title favorites

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Why can’t Golden State repeat?

Did San Antonio add LaMarcus Aldridge? Yes. Should the Cavaliers and Thunder be healthier? Likely. Are the Clippers and Rockets deeper? Yes. But that doesn’t mean that the Warriors cannot hang out with Larry O’Brien again, it just means the mountain to climb is that much steeper. And a lot of prognosticators are picking those other teams.

Daymond Green doesn’t get that at all, as he told the USA Today.

“I’m definitely fired up,” he said. “Obviously people are going to say what they’re going to say. You know everyone says ‘Oh, such and such was hurt (with the Cavs in the Finals),’ or ‘this (guy) was hurt’ or ‘the Spurs got this person’ and ‘the Cavs got this.’ That’s all fine and dandy. At the end of the day, we’re still champions. I didn’t need anybody to think that we were a favorite coming into this season to win it again. It is what it is. I want to win it again anyways, and that’s enough motivation for me.

“People are still going to come at us like we’re the defending champs. There won’t be any nights off. There won’t be any easy nights. Everybody’s going to be up for us. That doesn’t change.”

When the Spurs won the year before, Gregg Popovich expressed concern that the problem was human nature — earn a title and players naturally take their foot off the gas pedal. Stephen Curry told me not to expect that from the Warriors.

“We’re all competitors, we’re all proud of what we did last season, but once you enter a new year, we’ll get our rings on opening night, and that’s the end of the celebrating of what happened and you look forward to the next journey, the next goal, which is to win another one,” Curry said.

“I’m hopefully going to lead that charge, and we have such a great core of guys that are young and hungry and want to relive that intoxicating feeling of winning a championship. You look at the history of the league, you understand how hard it is to win one, but the challenge of winning multiple is something that I’m happy to be gunning for now, that I’ve got one under my belt. But that’s the mission.”

Any rational prognosticator is going to have the Warriors in the mix — they just won 67 games then won  title, if you don’t think they can win another you’re doing it wrong. But they also did catch a lot of breaks in terms of health last season, and it’s fair to wonder if Lady Luck will smile on them again. (Any team that wins a title catches a few breaks.)

Also, the West got deeper, and just because some people think the Spurs or Cavaliers — or Warriors or Rockets or Thunder or… — are going to win is not an insult. However, if you need that to motivate you, go for it.

Ex-Jazz Doctor: D-Will thought he didn’t need coaching

Utah Jazz v Houston Rockets, Game 7
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Deron Williams and Jerry Sloan played the feud— to the point Sloan quit and D-Will still got traded. Williams thought the grass was greener elsewhere, but Avery Johnson is not always the answer to your dreams.

How bad were things? Check out what former Utah Jazz physician Dr. Lyle Mason told Salt City Hoops (hat tip Eye on Basketball):

…the personality conflict grew between him and the coach, and eventually it became impossible for the two of them to stay. When the coach quit, management still decided that it was best if he went somewhere else.

Deron was the opposite of Stockton: Deron could not handle the coach calling any plays. He wanted to call every play. I’ll never understand why that was such a big deal, that if the coach called one play, he was going to run another one, which he always did. And that was part of what really drove them apart, was that Deron just decided he didn’t need coaching, and Jerry obviously thought otherwise.

He goes on to say Williams was always kind and liked the idea of raising his children in Utah, he just couldn’t get along with Sloan.

Much like Shaq and Kobe, that was an immature version of D-Will in those years in Utah. Both he and Sloan said later they could work together again. The Williams that will suit up in Dallas this year may have lost a step physically but is going to blend in much better as a teammate than he did in Utah.

At least Rick Carlisle better hope so. Ask Rajon Rondo, Carlisle likes to call all the plays.