Team USA routes France. What did we really learn?

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Thumbnail image for durant_USA.jpgAs expected, Team USA routed France, 86-55.

We talk about how Team USA is sending a “B” team to the World Championships (Kobe, LeBron, Wade, Melo and more are staying home) but France also has six NBA players not suiting up, including Tony Parker. So what we know for one thing is that the basketball talent pool in the NBA is much deeper than France. Well, not sure we learned that so much as were reminded.

What things did we learn, or at least learn to look for going forward?

* The USA has a lot of work to do on half court offensive execution. Coach K said as much after the game.

The USA’s half court offense early on seemed to be about half-hearted high picks and waiting for dribble penetration from a guard. In the second quarter they got better about trying to exploit mismatches (like anybody on Rudy Gay) but that was sporadic. The spacing was poor at times and there was a little too much isolation and not great player movement. They can do that against France and still win handily, but by the time of the knockout stages of the World Championships there will be teams that can slow the USA running game down, not turn the ball over as much, and force the USA to beat them in the half court. This needs to get better.

* Russell Westbrook looks like he may be the last guy cut (there are 13 guys on the roster right now, that has to be at 12 by Aug. 26). Both Stephen Curry and Eric Gordon looked good with their burn against France, while Westbrook did not get in until late and, while not looking bad, didn’t look as good as the other two. It was thought Gordon and Curry were fighting for one roster spot, but both have simply played too well not to be on the roster.

* The first quarter by the USA was just sloppy. Five turnovers, they missed open looks (Kevin Durant had a few of those in what was an off game for him, but he still finished with 14 points) and at one point France was up three.

* The USA halfcourt pressure man-on-man defense really bothered France, as it will most teams. A few forced 24 second clock violations, forced turnovers that led to chances to run. This is a long and athletic team that can be a defensive force on the wings.

* The USA also ran a lot of zone defense, and they seem to be getting better at it. You need to be good at it in international ball, however, because they run a lot of it in European leagues and guys recognize how to attack it much better than America players tend to. France broke it down a few times beautifully, and Chauncey Billups said that China broke their zone a lot in a scrimmage. Something to watch going forward.

* Lamar Odom looks good playing inside using his quickness and length. He really has a game that’s a great fit for international basketball as a big.

* Not a lot of burn for Kevin Love, who is still getting over a bruised calf, but when he was in you see why he is so key — the outlet pass. Nobody in the league is better at it than him, and on a team that wants to run like the USA that skill is crucial.

* France’s Nicolas Batum… I love his game. I think he could have a big year on a Portland team primed for a breakout year (if they can just stay healthy).

* Billups is good. Very good. Rudy Gay is amazing in the open court. Again, not things we learned but things we were reminded of.

Magic suspended Mohamed Bamba for being late to walk-through

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Seven of the top eight picks in the 2018 NBA draft are scoring double-digit points per game.

The exception: Magic center Mohamed Bamba.

Bamba certainly hasn’t been bad. He’s just acclimating to the NBA at a more common rate than peers like Luka Doncic, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Deandre Ayton. This is an exceptionally good rookie class.

But this won’t help Bamba catch up. He missed Orlando’s 101-76 loss to the Mavericks last night.

Chris Hays of the Orlando Sentinel:

Bamba, who was suspended for a game for being late for the team walk-through at the hotel in Dallas on Monday

“It was a violation of team rules,” Clifford said. “It’s just a one-game thing. Mo will play again on Thursday, but that’s what it was.”

“It’s just bad on my part and I just need to be better … just gotta be on time,” Bamba said. “It’s very difficult because you want to be out there and impact the game in any way possible and hope for a different outcome.”

I doubt Magic coach Steve Clifford suspended Bamba for a single instance of tardiness. This was likely a culmination.

Orlando (12-15) is eighth in the Eastern Conference, in the thick of the playoff race. If the Magic are going to take advantage of the low bar for making the postseason, they need all hands on deck – including Bamba.

Lonzo Ball bypasses open layup for no-look backward bounce pass, leaves Luke Walton staring into abyss (video)

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Lonzo Ball missed a layup early last night. That might have made him overthink later, when he was ahead of the pack on another fastbreak. Instead of shooting the open layup, Ball bounced the ball behind him without looking, leading to a turnover and open Heat 3-pointer.

On the bright side for the Lakers, they still beat Miami.

On the bright side for us, we got this great Luke Walton reaction GIF:

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LeBron James says he was referring to only arena, not consideration of signing with Knicks

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After the Lakers beat the Heat in LeBron James‘ and Dwyane Wade‘s final game together, the stars shared an eyebrow-raising conversation on the court:

  • Wade: “I appreciate you letting it end here. I appreciate you bringing us here today.”
  • LeBron: “It was either here or at the Garden. That’s it. That’s the only places we could end it at, man.”

That prompted immense speculation about whether LeBron considered signing with the Knicks. After all, how else would he and Wade – who said he’d re-sign with Miami or retire – have played at Madison Square Garden?

Michael Duarte of NBC Los Angeles

This was always the most likely explanation. The arenas in Los Angeles in New York are the NBA’s biggest stages, and LeBron has repeatedly stated his affection for Madison Square Garden. He didn’t have to think through all the implications to say those were the only appropriate locations.

But I’m still a little skeptical.

LeBron sure was speaking up for the cameras with Wade. And that was after an on-court conversation with Wade a few years ago blew up into a big deal. LeBron also got reminded just last year, with Lonzo Ball, about how much attention those on-court talks generate.

Plus, ever since Phil Jackson bothered him with his “posse” comment, LeBron has repeatedly gone out of his way to tease the Knicks.

Ultimately, I believe the given explanation that this was just about the arena’s allure and nothing more. An offhand remark needn’t completely follow the logic that either LeBron or Wade must play for the Knicks for them to meet at Madison Square Garden. But I’m not completely sold this wasn’t a passive-aggressive dig at the Knicks.

Kings player after beating Bulls: ‘Uh-oh, another 2 1/2-hour practice for them tomorrow’

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New coach Jim Boylen has ruled the Bulls with an iron fist. His abnormally frequent and lengthy practices nearly inspired a mutiny by his players.

A 108-89 home loss to the Kings last night likely won’t ease attention in Chicago. Especially with the opponent piling on afterward.

Chicago Sun-Times:

The Bulls are the laughingstock of the NBA right now.

Even the Kings – the Kings!are mocking them.