USA Basketball remains unimpressive, undefeated with 92-57 win over Tunisia

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Kryzewski_USA.jpgOnly USA basketball can win a game by 35 points and not impress doing it.

But that was the case with the USA’s 92-57 win over Tunisia. The USA exits FIBA World Championship pool play 5-0 and is now off until Monday when it will take on Angola in the round of 16 — the first of the one-and-done knockout rounds.

Undefeated or not, the USA did not impress Thursday. If this were a high school team, their next practice would be filled with running suicides. Then, while the team stood bent over gasping for air on the baseline with hands grabbing shorts, Coach K would walk out to the free throw line, try to find the words, just shake his head and say “again” then blow his whistle.

The issues were really in the first half, when the USA’s recent trends of a stagnant half-court offense, questionable shot selections and turnovers plagued them. The USA took a lot of threes early in the clock and went 0-8 from deep to start. The offense was listless at best. A fired up Tunisian team was playing its best and they hung around. The score was 19-13 USA after one and 39-33 at the half.

The USA has become dependant on their pressure defense to create turnovers and easy transition basket. Which is fine, but there is no steady Plan B to fall back on. When a team like Tunisia comes in and can withstand the pressure without sloppy turnovers, the USA starts to struggle to score.

In the first half, Kevin Durant was the exception, scoring 9 of the USA’s first 11 points on his way to 14 points.

Another issue — Tunisia had 20 offensive rebounds in this game. That
would be 38 percent of their missed shots where they got a second
chance. Rebounding is about desire, and the fact the Tunisia got the
boards talks to the focus and motivation Team USA had for this one.

The second half was more traditional USA blowout, with the defense forcing turnovers and an open floor for the USA’s superior athletes to run wild.

Eric Gordon looked very good for the USA, dropping 21 points. He has been a bit spotty after a very strong opening game (and training camp) for USA basketball, but he was back for a half against Tunisia. Russell Westbrook added 14 and Steph Curry had 13, as the USA bench guards had a good day.

The USA has three days of practices now to right the offensive ship. Then they get a very winnable game against Angola on Monday. But after that it’s going to get tough — three games from a gold medal and it could be Spain followed by other top teams like Argentina and Turkey.

If the USA plays in those games like it did in the first half against Tunisia, it will not be undefeated any more.

Jeanie Buss: Phil Jackson fired by Knicks because ‘people close to you will take the knife and put it in your back’

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When he hired Phil Jackson as team president, Knicks owner James Dolan infamously said he was ceding control “willingly and gratefully.”

But New York kept Steve Mills, who had been running the front office, on staff as general manager. Mills also replaced Jackson as president after Jackson got fired.

That served as a lesson for Jeanie Buss, Lakers owner and Jackson’s former fiancée.

Sam Amick of The Athletic:

Jeanie had learned from Jackson’s mistakes in New York, where he took that job as the head of the Knicks front office in March of 2014 and was fired three years later after, as she saw it, he fell prey to the internal politics that have plagued that franchise for decades.

“He should’ve made sure (to control) who was surrounding him, because the people close to you will take the knife and put it in your back,” she continued.

Buss doesn’t name Mills or anyone. But it’s hard not to jump to man who was both Jackson’s predecessor and successor. After regaining control, Mills said he tried to steer Jackson in other directions (which, hopefully).

This reflects poorly on Dolan, whose poor leadership has cast a shadow over the organization for years. There is a toxic culture within the Knicks, from the top down.

But it’s not as if Jackson were simply a victim of that culture. With the notable exception of drafting Kristaps Porzingis, Jackson failed miserably in roster-building. He contributed to the malaise with a comedy of incompetence.

Maybe Mills stabbed Jackson in the back. But Jackson was his own problem, anyway.

Report: Knicks, Lakers, Clippers will pursue Kevin Durant in free agency

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The Warriors are reportedly bracing for Kevin Durant to leave in free agency next summer.

Just because of the New York rumors? Maybe. They’re spreading like wildfire.

But the Knicks won’t be the only team chasing Durant.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

The New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers will take a run at the back-to-back Finals MVP, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Of course, every team wants Durant. But not every team will actually pursue him. Many teams believe they have no chance of signing him and won;t waste their time.

It’s probably not coincidental this early list of suitors includes only the very biggest markets. Durant already plays for the best team in a desirable location. How do you differentiate yourself from Golden State? Maybe by being in an even bigger market.

The Clippers are reportedly the frontrunner to sign Kawhi Leonard. Could they get Durant, too? That’d be intriguing.

The Lakers are definitely looking to get LeBron James a star teammate, and Durant’s name has at least come up. But Durant is already dogged by the perception he’s just riding the Warriors’ coattails. He wouldn’t change the narrative by joining LeBron.

The Knicks don’t even project to have max cap space, though they’d rush to move Courtney Lee or someone else to get Durant. But this is already the worst team on the list. New York is going to further deplete its assets while remaining appealing to Durant? Hey, it could happen.

Or maybe Durant will look at these teams and see has it pretty good in Golden State.

It could also go the other way. If Durant gives even the slightest indication he’s interested teams not yet planning to pursue him, they’d jump to get into the race. So, don’t assume Warriors, Knicks, Lakers and Clippers is anything more than the preliminary pool of vying teams.

Report: Jimmy Butler trade talks ‘mostly dormant’

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Timberwolves president Tom Thibodeau reportedly raised his asking price for Jimmy Butler after the star’s explosive return to practice.

Unsurprisingly, potential trade partners – who already weren’t offering enough to satisfy Minnesota – didn’t rush to meet Thibodeau’s new demands. Not even close, apparently.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

For now, Minnesota’s talks with teams around the NBA are mostly dormant, league sources told The Athletic.

Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor and Butler reached an agreement: Minnesota would continue to try to trade Butler, and Butler would be a good teammate and play hard.

But how long will this détente last if the Timberwolves aren’t making progress on a trade?

Watch Kelly Olynyk’s game-winning putback with 0.2 seconds left for Miami

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All game long Miami owned the glass — the Heat grabbed the offensive rebound on 42.9 percent of their missed shots on Thursday night. That led to 16 more shot attempts and nine more free throws by the Heat than the Wizards on the night.

And it led to this, the game-winning putback from Kelly Olynyk with 0.2 seconds left.

 

Wizards fans need to admit it — they missed Dwight Howard inside (he is out with a butt injury, yes seriously). Without his presence (he’s still a quality rebounder), the Heat just outworked the Wizards on the glass and that ended up being the difference.