Author: Kurt Helin

Aerial view of Dakar

Due to Ebola concerns in region, USA Basketball cancels trip to West Africa


On it’s way to Spain for the World Cup, Team USA was going to make a stop in Dakar in Senegal to do a day of clinics and events to promote basketball on the African continent.

But in the wake of the Ebola breakout in that region USA Basketball has decided to cancel that event, reports Marc Stein of ESPN after speaking with USA Basketball president Jerry Colangelo.

“I speak for all at USA Basketball when I say we’re extremely disappointed we will not be able to visit Senegal,” Colangelo said. “Our entire traveling party was very much looking forward to the experience…

“Although the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] does not yet suspect any [Ebola] cases in Senegal, the country’s position as a neighboring country to Guinea and Dakar’s role as a gateway to West Africa heightened our concern,” Colangelo said.

USA was to be in Senegal, which borders Guinea, a country that has seen more than 500 reported cases of the deadly ebola disease and 377 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. In total there have been more than 1,000 deaths from the virus in the West African region.

USA Basketball is currently in Chicago, where there are a couple days of practices followed by a friendly against Brazil on Saturday night. From there Team USA moves on to New York for a week of practices and exhibitions. After that it is on to Spain for some final tune-ups and, eventually, the World Cup itself.

Team USA opens the World Cup in Bilbao, Spain, on Aug. 30 taking on Finland. The USA and host Spain are considered the gold medal favorites.

Kings sign 7’5” Sim Bhullar to training camp contract

Houston Rockets v Sacramento Kings

Sim Bhullar is huge.

The 7’5”, 360-pound center who played his college ball for New Mexico State was part of the Kings’ Summer League team and even around other NBA players he looked huge. He dwarfed DeMarcus Cousins. In a timeout huddle he was literally a head taller than every other guy there.

He also has a long, long way to go in terms of conditioning and fundamentals to be considered a real NBA prospect, but he’s got an invite to the Kings training camp this fall, the team announced.

Bhullar was born in Toronto becomes the first player of Indian heritage to sign an NBA contract.

“I’ve long believed that India is the next great frontier for the NBA, and adding a talented player like Sim only underscores the exponential growth basketball has experienced in that nation,” said Kings Owner Vivek Ranadivé (also of Indian heritage) in a released statement. “While Sim is the first player of Indian descent to sign with an NBA franchise, he represents one of many that will emerge from that region as the game continues to garner more attention and generate ever-increasing passion among a new generation of Indian fans.”

Bhullar is a project. Expect him to spend next season with the Kings’ D-League affiliate in Reno as they work to hone his game. After watching him for a couple games in Las Vegas I’m not sure he will ever be an NBA player. But he’s not a bad project to take on.

Stephen Curry admits he had some second thoughts after Paul George’s injury

Stephen Curry
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NBA players — and NFL, NHL, and Barclays Premier League players as well — know on some level that every time they step on the court or field they risk a catastrophic injury. Intellectually they get that. They also block it out of their minds — you can’t play all out if in the back of your mind there are concerns about a knee or whatever.

A fluke injury like Paul George’s happening right in front of the players can bring those fears to the front of the mind.

Golden State’s Stephen Curry — who is expected to be a starter for Team USA — has battled his share of injuries over the years and admitted George’s injury gave him pause, speaking with ESPN.

“Reacting to Paul’s injury is natural,” Curry said. “I think just talking to my family and guys in the Warrior front office, just kind of seeing where everybody was, but at the end of the day it’s a great honor to wear this jersey and to have these experiences and I’m going to take advantage of it.”

“Everyone’s all in,” (USA coach Mike) Krzyzewski said. “They wouldn’t be here if they weren’t all in. And they’ve been all-in. These guys love playing for the United States and they understand that we have a one month commitment now. And actually a month from today, if things went well, we would be playing for a gold medal in Madrid.”

Despite the loss of George and Kevin Durant — not to mention guys such as Kevin Love, Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge not taking part this summer — Team USA has the talent to get to that gold medal game. The USA lucked out with the draw and got a soft group and, once it enters elimination play, a soft side of the bracket if they win the division. The USA will likely face Spain in that gold medal game, and that presents some real challenges, but the USA should get there.

If more guys pulled out in the wake of the George injury, maybe that equation changes. But those guys all know the risk every time they step on the court anywhere.

Portland Trail Blazers apply to host 2017 or 2018 All-Star Game

Portland Oregon Waterfront Skyline After Sunset

There are as many as 10 teams that will apply by the end of today (Aug15) to host either the 2017 or 2018 NBA All-Star games, and most will do it quietly. For major markets that have hosted it before, it’s part of the process.

But in medium to small markets trying to impress their fan base they will play with the big boys, you make an announcement of the bid. That happened already in Charlotte.

Now it’s happened in Portland.

The Trail Blazers have applied to host one of the two up coming All-Star Games, reports Chris Haynes and

“The city is fully capable of hosting an All-Star game,” Trail Blazers President and CEO Chris McGowan said, “the region is fully capable and we, obviously, have an arena and a campus and the Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum and a Convention Center and eventually a convention center hotel all in very close proximity to each other.”

“The only hurdle would be, I’d say, competition amongst other teams that are bidding for this,” said McGowan. “We’ve heard there are anywhere from six to 10 other franchises bidding. Getting the NBA open-minded to coming to Portland — they’ve been on record saying that they would be willing to look at an All-Star Weekend in Portland.”

I had heard for years that the one thing really holding Portland back was not enough quality hotel rooms in the heart of the city. The All-Star Game is a destination event that doesn’t just draw players and media, it becomes a huge draw of fans that fill up a city for parties, with most of those people not getting into one of the three days of actual in-arena hoops events. Having enough good hotel rooms in a 30-mile radius doesn’t cut it.

The above mentioned convention center hotel would certainly be a boost. If it’s enough of a boost in what is a crowded bid field remains to be seen.

Personally, Portland is one of my favorite food and beer cities in the nation. I’m good with this, might even need to spend a few extra days there to eat at Pok Pok a couple more times.

Derrick Rose says he is not pulling out of Team USA in wake of George injury

Derrick Rose, Tom Thibodeau

If you were a Team USA player, it would be natural to have some second thoughts after Paul George’s injury. Yes, that was a fluke, the kind of thing that could happen playing pickup anywhere at any time, but if you were a player who has battled some injuries it would be natural to stop and think.

Derrick Rose says he is not pulling out of Team USA in the wake of George’s injury.

Rose has played 10 games over the last two seasons due to knee injuries, and while he has looked close to his old self at training camp and drawn raves (and maybe a starting job) from Coach Mike Krzyzewski, there are some talking heads and some Chicagoans who thought he would use the camps to train but he wasn’t going to really play for his country.

Nope. He’s going to Spain for the World Cup. From friend of this blog Aggrey Sam of

“I have no fears. I have faith. I know that I’m going to be fine. I know that I busted my ass the entire two summers. You can say two seasons to get back to where I am right now. And just try and keep it moving, stay positive every day, do everything consistent like I’ve been doing. Doing the consistent work when I come in, stretching, seeing Jen (Swanson, the Bulls’ director of athletic performance), talking to Jen, just getting my mind clear before I step out on the floor. I’m doing everything that Coach K and them want me to do, and I think everything will go my way.”

All pro athletes have to have this faith that they will be fine, whether they play in the NBA, the NFL or the Barclays Premier League. Every time you step on the field of play something could go terribly wrong, but you can’t play like that and be effective. You have to block it out of your mind.

Rose is in his hometown with Team USA this week as they have a couple days of training camp in Chicago before facing Brazil in an exhibition on Saturday night (a good test as Brazil mimics powerhouse Spain with size up front, rolling out Tiago Splitter, Nene and Anderson Varejao).

Rose likes the feeling he is getting around the Windy City right now.

“It’s going to feel like a pro-am game a little bit. Everyone has been talking about it in the city. It seems like it’s a buzz. It’s great what USA Basketball and Nike has been doing around the city, just keeping kids occupied, keeping people occupied, getting them something to do. I think it’s going to help the city, and it should bring some hype to the city,” Rose explained. “It’s kind of hard. It’s different. In Vegas, I usually go back to my room. But being here, in my hometown, you’re going to stay out a little bit more, going to see a little bit more. But my goal is to stay off my feet. I’m happy to be in the city, it’s good weather right now and the city needs this right now.

“I think it’s going to be encouraging for the kids, all the little hoopers that’s coming back from school and actually playing in pro-ams now and that’s in high school and get a chance to come out to the game.”

And see Rose play, let him show Chicago he is all the way back. And with that the Bulls become title contenders. Not that it will change the minds of some naysayers, but the true fans who love the game and the Bulls will get it.