Author: Kurt Helin

USA v Great Britain - Men's Exhibition Game

Report: USA Basketball considers adding another star to roster…. but don’t expect Kevin Love


Kevin Love is not walking through that door.

And that’s okay, Team USA is still likely to make it to the World Cup gold medal game in Spain in September without him.

No doubt Team USA’s roster could use some star power and scoring punch after Kevin Durant shocked everyone by pulling out on Thursday. Four years ago KD averaged 33 points a game over the USA’s final three games on their way to winning gold at the FIBA World Championships (now called World Cup) and he was actually going to be more important offensively to a guard-heavy Team USA roster this time around.

So what about adding a star player, ideally one who can play the four? USA Basketball president Jerry Colangelo got some phone calls on Thursday in the wake of KD’s announcement and is considering his options but likely will play the hand he has, he told Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports.

“I’ve had a couple of calls,” Colangelo told Yahoo Sports. “I know a couple agents are offering a good couple of their clients who could fit the bill. I’m going to be on the phones tonight. I was just talking with coach. I’m going to see what our deal is going to be.

“Probably it won’t be anything other than we go forward. But don’t rule out the possibility. …I really need to touch with Coach K so we can have a little discussion. We talked earlier, but because of these calls I wanted to discuss some things with him. As of now, I say no add-ons with a possibility.”

Colangelo went on to say specifically there were no plans to add Kevin Love as a potential replacement.

The problem for Love is that while it looks like he will be traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Aug. 23 — one week before the World Cup tips off — the motivation for him to sit this one out remains. Sure, part of that motivations was that he didn’t want risk an injury that would blow up the trade (he’s missed parts of the last two seasons with hand injuries), but the other part is he didn’t want to risk injury before signing a max contract extension next summer (2015). With that deal locked in look for Love to be back for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

Even without Durant and Love the USA really still should get all the way to the gold medal game. In their group the next best team is likely Turkey (seventh ranked in the world, but Omer Asik is likely their best player), then when we get to the single-elimination tournament part of the event the toughest team on the USA’s side of the bracket is Lithuania (fourth ranked, led by Dontas Motiejunas and Jonas Valanciunas).

Spain likely awaits in that gold medal game, with a crazy deep roster (Marc Gasol, Pau Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Jose Calderon, Ricky Rubio and a lot of top flight international players) playing on its home court. But that is one game and the USA’s athleticism and pressure from their guards can win them that one game. That would be a lot easier with Durant or some additional scoring punch on the roster, but the USA’s chances are not ruined without him.

Still, the USA should be considering its options.

Thursday And-1 links: LeBron took his kids to Browns practices to see Johnny Manziel

LeBron James Football

Here is our regular look around the NBA — links to stories worth reading and notes to check out (stuff that did not get its own post here at PBT) — done in bullet point form. Because bloggers love bullet points more than TMZ loves Jay Z/Beyonce marital trouble….

• The only thing anywhere near as hot as LeBron James in Cleveland is Johnny Manziel. And the future savior of the Browns (*cough*) is still a distant second. But the stars almost collided on Thursday when LeBron took his boys to see the Browns practice as they get ready for their first preseason game this weekend. LeBron talked with Browns coach Mike Pettine as well as with Manziel (who is represented by LeBron’s marketing firm).

“He just asked how camp was going,” Pettine said. “You could tell that he’s into it and loves football, a big Browns fan. He said he’ll be at the games when it’s warm and when it’s cold he’ll be watching in his basement.”

There are some things Miami can always offer that Cleveland can’t, not needing to bundle up for a game is one of them.

• LeBron’s old running mates in Miami, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade now have something else in common — their own lines of ties.

• Sixers GM Sam Hinkie is still trying to find a way into and to get some value out of the Kevin Love trade, and he’s ticked that the Thaddeus Young rumors leaked.

• Dirk Nowitzki the movie? Fortunately it’s a documentary about the star, which is set to debut in Germany in September.

• Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins — of course it’s him — with the best big of writing anywhere on Paul George and his injury.

Power ranking the best/worst uniforms in the NBA over at

• After watching the Spurs knock them out of the playoffs, Thunder coach Scott Brooks wants his team to increase its assists and move the ball better next season. I bet 2/3 of the coaches in the league say that, and I doubt many have any success. We’ll see if Brooks is the exception.

• One league executive told the Philadelphia Daily News that the Sixers have a “negative effect on the integrity of the NBA.”

• Brook Lopez says he is fully cleared for basketball activities. Which should make the good people of Brooklyn happy. Well, relatively.

• One final bit out of my time with Team USA in Las Vegas, it is Mike Krzyzewski talking about Kyrie Irving: “He’s not been accustomed to playing with guys who are rim runners, and with the shooters. In some respects you create a little tunnel vision of him as a scorer, in this camp he reacquaints himself with lobs, with drive-and-kick, with things he hasn’t been asked to do as much in the past couple years.”

• Kemba Walker is pumped to have someone else who can create their own offense off the bounce in Charlotte. As he should be.

• Michael Beasley went to Los Angeles for some workouts in front of teams last week. While there he rented a car — a Porsche none the less — but he didn’t bother to return it so the rental company had to come and tow it away. And you wonder why teams are lining up to take his talent.

• RIP to Dale Schlueter, an original member of the Portland Trail Blazers from their inaugural season (1970-71), who died of cancer last week at the age of 68.

• Watch the Bucks’ John Henson eat his way through the Wisconsin State Fair. For the record, this is not exactly doctor recommended healthy eating.

• Much to the joy of the Orlando brass, Maurice Harkless will not play for Puerto Rico in the FIBA World Cup this summer.

• Hawks’ second round pick Edy Tavares is expected to play next season in Spain.

• Byron Mullens will play in China next season.

• Finally, Minnesota’s Zach LaVine with the selfie dunk video.

Tim Hardaway Sr., Malik Allen named Pistons assistant coaches

Knicks Hardaway Basketball

Stan Van Gundy is going with people he knows and trusts, having turned to his former players to round out his staff.

Tim Hardaway Sr. and Malik Allen have been hired as assistant coaches for the Pistons this season, reports Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press. Hardaway played for the Heat when Van Gundy was an assistant coach, Allen played in Orlando when Van Gundy was in charge of that franchise.

In addition, Quentin Richardson has been hired as the franchise’s director of player development.

Hardaway, who had been a scout with the Heat, told the Miami Herald he was pretty pumped up about the move.

“I’m ecstatic,” he told me this afternoon. “It’s something I wanted to do. It’s all about teaching. I’m good at teaching and understanding players….

“Stan and I have great rapport. [Heat president] Pat Riley said it’s a great thing for me and he’s happy for me.”

Hardaway will be at the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies this weekend, where he will see former teammates Mitch Richmond (that’s two-thirds of Golden State’s “Run TMC” in the Hall, just not Hardaway) as well as Heat teammate Alonzo Mourning get their induction. Hardaway should be in, too.

By the way, also on the Pistons’ coaching staff will be Brendan Malone, Bob Beyer, and Charles Klask.

Kevin Durant withdraws from Team USA, will not play at World Cup in Spain.

2014 USA Basketball Men's National Team Practice

Kevin Durant was the real lynchpin of Team USA this summer — he was going to play the four while Tea USA went very small with three guards on the perimeter. He was going to be the perfect international stretch four and likely the team’s leading scorer.

However, he has withdrawn his name from consideration after going through the first round of training camp in Las Vegas last week, USA Basketball announced.

“This was an extremely difficult decision as I take great pride in representing our country,” said Durant. “I know that I owe it to my USA Basketball teammates to be totally invested in the experience. After going through training camp with USAB, I realized I could not fulfill my responsibilities to the team from both a time and energy standpoint. I need to take a step back and take some time away, both mentally and physically in order to prepare for the upcoming NBA season. I will be rooting for USAB and look forward to future opportunities with them.”

This is a punch to the gut for Team USA and their chances at gold in this tournament (and with that an automatic berth in the 2016 Rio Olympics). If Team USA doesn’t win gold in Spain it will have to send a team good enough to the FIBA Americas tournament next summer to qualify (not that hard, but we can’t just ignore it like four years ago).

Durant gave no hint of this in Las Vegas last week, speaking at the time about enjoying the challenge of leadership.

A lot of people will say this is because of the horrific injury that happened to Paul George, something Durant denied through reports. However, he is on the cusp of a huge $320 million new shoe deal with Under Armour and that seems a far more likely reason to withdraw. Why risk injury with that much money on the line?

“Kevin reached out to Coach K and myself this afternoon and expressed that he is just physically and mentally drained from the NBA season and his attention to his many responsibilities. He tried to give it a go at our recent Las Vegas training camp but felt coming out of camp that he was not prepared to fulfill the commitment he made to the team,” said USA Basketball Presidet Colangelo. “Coach K and I fully support Kevin. His well being is the most important thing to us and we support him taking the time to get ready for next season. He’s been part of the National Team program for eight years and a big part of the success we have achieved, and we look forward to him being part of our success in the future as well.

“We are excited about the opportunity ahead of us and to getting back to work in Chicago on Aug. 14. All 15 players are committed to the USA Basketball standard, which is to come together to win gold medals.”

It’s going to be a lot harder to win gold — which means beating Spain in Spain — without Durant. Remember Kevin Love is not on this team and will not be joining it according to confirmed reports earlier today, and they also are without guys they could use at the four such as Blake Griffin or LaMarcus Aldridge.

This could mean good things for guys like DeMarcus Cousins and Andre Drummond, who can play the five if Mike Krzyzewski wants to shift Anthony Davis over the four spot. What also could well happen is Chandler Parsons and/or Gordon Hayward will get a lot of run at the four spot.

All those options are a considerable drop off from what Durant brings. This is a big blow to Team USA’s chances this summer. The USA will have the best, deepest collection of guards and perimeter players in this tournament and that is going to have to carry them.

Nike creates Paul George comeback ad

Team USA Practice Session

I like it.

Paul George’s story is one of a guy overlooked at every turn but came back every season better, a guy with a crazy worth ethic and determination. Just go read the great Lee Jenkins story about him, then tell me how you doubt he can come back from his horrific injury while playing with Team USA.

A little promotion along the way is not a bad thing.

But just a little. What I’m sure Nike learned from watching Derrick Rose and rival adidas on the comeback trail (or knew before Adidas started a series of videos and more) is that comebacks are unpredictable. They take time and and involve setbacks, sometimes big setbacks. You don’t want to set the expectations bar too high.

What Nike does here works. It’s just the right amount of comeback. Let’s hope it stays that way.