Author: Kurt Helin

Team USA Practice Session

Report: Rose, Curry, Harden, Davis four of five Team USA starters vs. Brazil


It was one of our big questions heading into the Chicago training camp for Team USA — who would start and get the minutes in place of Paul George and Kevin Durant.

In the case of George at the three, the obvious answer was always James Harden and that seems to be where Coach Mike Krzyzewski is headed. (Yes, Harden at the three, Team USA is playing small as it did winning its last couple gold medals.)

At the four… still trying to figure that part out according to Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports.

Three guys on that list are not a shock. From the first day of camp Coach K had raved about Anthony Davis as the center for the type of ball they wanted to play, and Stephen Curry has always been at the two in the top units (it makes sense in international ball where shooting is a premium). Early on Kyrie Irving was getting the start at the one but Derrick Rose’s play pushed him here, plus now with Durant out they need scoring and Rose brings that.

As for the final starting spot, and looking at the guys on the roster, there are only three clear options to me: Rudy Gay, Gordon Hayward and Chandler Parsons. None of those thrill me, but with Davis at the five and an up-tempo offense those are the fits (then you can bring in DeMarcus Cousins with the second unit and change tempo if you want).

Of that group, I’d probably start Parsons, his versatility is the best fit in my mind. But Coach K doesn’t have to make that decision yet — that’s what exhibitions like Saturday against Brazil are for. Roll out a lot of different combinations and see what clicks. The USA has a couple weeks of practices and a few exhibition games to figure things out before settling on a starting five.

By the way, that Rose is starting is a sign of how well he’s playing. Smile Chicago fans.

Report: E’Twaun Moore expected to sign with Chicago Bulls

Mason Plumlee, E'Twaun Moore

For a guy who is a marginal NBA player, E’Twaun Moore keeps getting rumored to land on some very good teams.

First it was the Cleveland Cavaliers. But now comes a report he is instead about to ink a deal with the Chicago Bulls, reports Mary Stevens out of Sports Talk Florida — the Web site of NBC Sports Radio affiliate Sports Talk 1080 in Orlando.

Former Orlando Magic guard E’Twaun Moore will sign with the Chicago Bulls in the next few days, according to sources. Several reports indicated the young guard was joining the Cleveland Cavaliers but those rumors are false.

That would be an interesting fit.

The Bulls have 13 guys on the roster right now, so while they don’t have to add a body they likely will, ideally someone providing depth on the wing. Moore is a 6’4” guard who Orlando kept mistakenly playing at the one but who is really a two out there to knock down threes (35.4 percent last season).

That potentially could be a good fit in Chicago. They have a slasher in Derrick Rose and a very good passing front line with Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah. A guy who can stay at the arc and knock down shots could have some value. Plus he can play some at the one if needed (but they have Derrick Rose, Kirk Hinrich and Aaron Brooks, so there are not lot of minutes at the one).

The Bulls have Jimmy Buttler starting at the two and an improved Tony Snell behind him. There are not a lot of minutes to be had there either. But on a minimum deal in a limited role off the bench it’s not a terrible pick up.

Report: Chauncey Billups a real possibility to make Cleveland Cavaliers roster

Chauncey Billups

When last we saw Chauncey Billups, the veteran point guard was playing sparingly for the Detroit Pistons last season. Which is what he did for the Clippers for a couple seasons before that. In Los Angeles he was sort of an additional assistant coach, someone who could guide a then growing Clippers team into playing the right way.

But on the court he’s never been the same since blowing out his Achilles tendon. Billups worked hard to get back on the court, but he lost some explosiveness and could only make up for so much of that with his hoops IQ.

Cleveland might be able to use a guy to play a few minutes and be provide a lot of veteran stability in the locker room, and they might pick up Billups reports Jared Zwerling of Bleacher Report.

Honestly, the media makes more sense to me — he’s be a fantastic analyst. But based on what I’ve seen and the ball handlers in Cleveland, he’d be an assistant coach by any other name. Billups is a legend of the game — a seven-time All-Star, a Finals MVP, a 17-year-veteran — but father time always wins the race.

Consider this something to watch. Billups may not be ready to walk away.

In honor of Magic Johnson’s 55th birthday, how about a highlight package? (VIDEO)

Magic Johnson

I’ll admit my bias up front — Magic Johnson is my favorite player ever.

He turned 55 today.

He played fast but he played smart, and always with flair and creativity. He broke the point guard mold at 6’9″, a height that let him see the whole court, but what he saw was different from what everyone else was seeing. He was two moves ahead. He’d bring the ball up the court, you could see his eyes get wide and you knew that second that he had already figured this sequence out in his head. It was checkmate, the defense just didn’t know it yet.

I could go on about how Magic’s contributions off the court — helping change the perceptions about HIV, his work as a businessman in Los Angeles — were more important than what he did on the court. (We’ll just ignore his work as an analyst.)

For a few minutes, just sit back and enjoy greatness.

Hat tip to wetagua for putting together that package.

Expect Stephen Curry to work off the ball more in Steve Kerr’s Golden State offense

Stephen Curry

The last couple seasons in Golden State the ball is in Stephen Curry’s hands — he’s not only the best pure shooter in the game he’s their playmaker and shot creator for everyone else. Klay Thompson and the rest of the guys work off the ball. Curry averaged 24 points a game last season but also had 8.5 assists a game.

On the guard-rich Team USA squad this summer Curry is working off the ball more with Derrick Rose and Kyrie Irving serving as the point guards… and he said in Las Vegas he likes that role.

Which is good, because he should be doing more of that with the Warriors next season.

Steve Kerr is bringing an offense to Golden State that has a lot of player movement and rather than Curry creating everything he will be cutting off the ball more and getting some catch-and-shoot looks that way, Warriors’ assistant coach Alvin Gentry told KNBR radio in San Francisco, as transcribed by the Bay Area News Group.

“I think if you talk to Steph, I don’t know if he wants the ball in his hands that much at all like it’s been in the past,” Gentry told KNBR. “It’s one of the things we talked about with Steve Nash in Phoenix as he got a little bit older. It’s very tiresome when you come down and basically have the ball 80 percent of the time and you’re creating shots and everything for yourself as well as other players.

“I think we’ll try to alleviate some of that with Steph as far as pitching ahead and getting the ball from one side of the floor to the other, running some pin-downs for him where he can come off and catch-and-shoot, and as I said, try to create easy baskets for him. By ball movement, I still don’t think it’s going to affect Steph one way as far as the shots that he gets, the assists that he has.”

Golden State’s offense last season was predictable. They have such great shooters and talent with Curry, Thompson, Andre Iguodala, David Lee and the rest that the scored anyway, but teams knew how to defend them. That was to the Clippers’ advantage come the playoffs.

Expect that once they get used to it Kerr’s offense will lift up the Warriors to a new level offensively (despite that wealth of talent they were 12th in the NBA in points scored per possession). The question is if Kerr can get this team to keep playing hard and defend (they were third best in the league in points allowed per possession, behind only the Pacers and Bulls). Do both those things and the Warriors become a serious threat.