Kurt Helin

(From L) Lithuania's forward Mindaugas Kuzminskas, Lithuania's center Jonas Valanciunas, Lithuania's point guard Mantas Kalnietis and Lithuania's power forward Paulius Jankunas react during the round of 8 basketball match between Italy and Lithuania at the EuroBasket 2015 in Lille, northern France, on September 16, 2015.  AFP PHOTO / PHILIPPE HUGUEN        (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)

Valanciunas scores 26, leads Lithuania past Italy

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If you want to know why Jonas Valanciunas got paid by the Raptors this summer, you simply needed to watch the EuroBasket semi-finals — big men with that kind of offensive touch and skill are rare.

Valanciunas scored 26 points on 11-of-13 shooting, and pulled down 15 rebounds, doing a lot of damage to the soft interior of the Italian defense and advancing Lithuania to the EuroBasket semi-finals against Serbia Friday. The winner of that game will get their golden ticket for the Rio Olympics next summer. Italy, with this loss, is headed to a qualification tournament next summer where it will try to grab one of the three final spots in the Olympic tournament.

France and Spain will face off in the other EuroBasket semifinal.

Lithuania and Italy played a back-and-forth, physical game that was tight the entire way but saw plenty of swings. For example, this was a one-point game at halftime, but Lithuania attacked the rim and stretched the lead out to 10 quickly in the third. Then Italy knocked down a couple of threes, went on a 10-2 run and by the end of the third quarter it was a one-point game again.

It was tight enough that the game went to overtime, sent there by a driving Danilo Gallinari layup with 32 seconds left that tied the game 79-79. The Nuggets’ forward finished the game with 17 points.

In overtime, the key play was a flop that the referees wisely did not call. Lithuania was up two, when Mantas Kalnietis (who played for the Pacers at NBA Summer League) started a drive and bumped Italy’s Daniel Hackett — and Hacket went sprawling to the ground trying to sell a call. The referees were not buying it. Hacket (who played his college ball at USC) was way out of position and Kalnietis nailed a wide-open three. It was a five-point game with two minutes to go after that, and Italy could never quite recover.

In overtime, Lithuania went to the Kalnietis/Valanciunas high pick-and-roll nearly every time down, and Italy just did not have a defensive answer.

Andrea Bargnani led Italy with 21 points, on 8-of-22 shooting, and he did have a couple of key baskets late to make sure the game reached overtime. Marco Belinelli added 18 points, but was 3-of-11 from three. As a team, Italy was 8-of-28 from three, and they are a team that needs the long ball to fall to win.

The other star for Lithuania — as he has been all tournament — is Real Madrid’s Jonas Maciulis, who dropped 18 in this game on 8-of-14 shooting. Kalnietis finished with 14 points.

Curry welcomes Nash to Warriors, pokes fun at Kerr

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Steve Nash has been hired as a consultant with the Golden State Warriors, working with them on player development of their guards.

Stephen Curry welcomed Nash to the Golden State family — and poked a little fun at Steve Kerr in the process.

Finally we get a decent coach around here….👀

A photo posted by Wardell Curry (@stephencurry30) on

Well played Stephen, well played.

Fast Break news & notes: Brett Brown likes Sixers path

Boston Celtics Vs. Philadelphia 76ers Exhibition Game

Even in the dog days of the NBA off-season, there’re a lot of interesting tidbits of news and stories worth reading we don’t get to here at NBC’s PBT. And we’re bloggers, so we have an instinctive love of the bullet point. So we’ve combined them into one post that can get you caught up some news and notes around the NBA quickly.

Sixers’ coach Brett Brown still believes in the rebuilding course the franchise is on. Of course, what else is he going to say at this point? The better question is: Does ownership still believe in that course? And for how much longer?

• On a day where one Muslim youth has been singled out for being smart and creative, it’s good to read about how people of many faiths in Oklahoma City worked hard to make Muslim Enes Kanter feel welcomed as part of the community.

Is Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning the Magic vs. Bird of this era?

• Michael Jordan also has a lawsuit going in China over unauthorized use of his image, but things there are not going as well for him as they did in Chicago.

The NBA players union organized a players’ workout session. Their new facility in New York will have a full gym and other amenities that will make this far more common.

• I hope to see this go through — the Bucks are discussing a $15 an hour wage floor and allowing unions at their new arena. My experience is most arena workers are good, hard-working people, and many are scraping to get by.

George Hill may be the bellwether for how things go in Indiana next season.

This story talks about Giannis Antetokounmpo, but I’m generally a fan of the idea that playing up the positional scale (i.e.,., going small) is better than the alternative.

• NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote an opinion piece for the Washington Post criticizing Donald Trump. Trump handled that with a level of maturity usually reserved for middle-school bullies.

• Zach Lowe spent way too much time and effort thinking about and ranking NBA logos, but you have to read it.

• Al Harrington is hoping to land an NBA coaching job.

• Memphis is headed to one of my favorite spots for training camp.

• Recent draft picks Kelly Oubre Jr. of the Wizards and Terry Rozier of the Celtics recently signed with Adidas. Both will be wearing their shoes mostly on the bench this season.

Nikola Pekovic is about to be the new president of Partizan Belgrade’s basketball club.

Minnesota owner expects Flip’s system, Bennett to stay

Ricky Rubio, Kevin Garnett

What NBA owners want for their team, NBA owners usually get.

So when Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor spoke to ESPN 1500 and local television guy Darren Wolfson about what is going to happen in Minnesota with Flip Saunders being out to start the season as he battles cancer, we should pay attention. And what Taylor expects is not a big change in the system under Sam Mitchell.

Whoever is coaching the Timberwolves this season, it will be one of adjustments and system tweaks. Minnesota has a lot of interesting young pieces — Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns, Ricky Rubio, Shabazz Muhammad — not to mention Kevin Garnett and Andre Miller for veteran presence. The question is what combinations and what styles best suit this group. It should be a season of experimentation in Minnesota — and it should be entertaining.

Also, don’t expect the Timberwolves to trade Anthony Bennett anytime soon.

The fact Anthony had a good summer is why there are trade rumors — fans want to sell high, and the front office would be smart to gauge the market. But playing well in FIBA Americas is not suddenly going to make Bennett a hot commodity on the trade market, the level of play there is more than a couple steps below NBA level. Other teams will be patient, so will the Timberwolves.

Soon Harden will stop being seen in Air Jordans

James Harden

To quote some other writer, this is much ado about nothing. But when you combine celebrities and hundreds of millions of dollars in the dearth of the off-season, you get a story.

To be clear, there are 200 million reasons James Harden should stop wearing Air Jordans.

Harden’s new mega-deal with Adidas doesn’t officially kick in until Oct. 1, and he was seen around the Los Angeles area still wearing Air Jordans. Which he is certainly not a violation of the letter of his contract for another couple of weeks. Still, you can imagine that’s not sitting well with the people at Adidas. ESPN’s Darren Rovell asked the good people at Adidas about it.

Asked whether Harden will have to stop wearing his Air Jordan collection in public when the deal officially commences Oct. 1, Adidas’ Mark King said, “That’s part of the deal.”

“The difference between football and basketball is that a guy like Aaron Rodgers doesn’t have a walk-around shoe,” King said. “Harden does, and he will be in our lifestyle stuff.”

This matters to Adidas — they know they are a long, long way from toppling Nike in basketball shoes, but they have brought in other big names such as Kanye West to design lifestyle shoes to wear around. That’s a market they want to go after. Harden’s pop culture status — the beard, dating a Kardashian, being known for fashion — is part of the reason Adidas went in big to land him. So it doesn’t look good when he’s walking around in other people’s gear. It’s not a big deal, but it’s noticed.

Harden seems to have learned his lesson.