Luis Scola looks like the best player at the World Championships

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Thumbnail image for Scola_Argentina.jpgHoly Scola Batman!

Luis Scola made a pretty convincing case that it is he, not Kevin Durant, who has been the best player at the FIBA World Championships. Tuesday Scola had a stunning performance. Even the shots he tried to miss went in.

Scola dropped in 37 points, shooting 13 of 19 inside the arc, and had 9 rebounds leading Argentina to a dramatic 93-89 win. Lest you think this was a one-time thing, he leads the tournament averaging 30.3 a game.

Look at his play down the stretch Tuesday:

* 3:00 left and Argentina up two he runs a pretty little pick-and-pop with Pablo Prigioni and drains the open 17 footer.

* 2:18 left he spots up alone on the weakside elbow extended, and when Brazil overloads the strong side he gets a cross-court pass. Scola sees Anderson Varejao charging at out, so he pump fakes him, drives the right side of the lane and puts up a high arching floating layup that he banks in over seven-foot Tiago Splitter.

* 1:04 left he gets the ball on the right block with Anderson Varejao playing him physicall, but Scola bumps his way into the middle of the court and hits a 15-foot turnaround fade away over him. Beautiful shot.

* Next Brazil possession they run a pick-and-roll with Toronto’s Leandro Barbosa handling the ball and Varejao setting the pick. Scola show out hard to slow down Barbosa and when Barbosa tries to blow by him Scola steals the ball with some quick hands.

* :25 seconds left (this is the possession after his steal) and after letting some time run off the clock Argentina runs that same little pick-an-pop play from the left side and despite the shot being contested this time Scola knocks down the 18 footer.

* :01.2 seconds left and Scola is fouled, Argentina up two (this was an intentional foul by Brazil). Scola hits the first to make it a three point game, then tries to miss the second so Brazil have to try a desperation heave (players in FIBA ball cannot call a timeout). Scola’s shot hit the backboard and went in anyway.

That’s 10 points and a crucial steal in the final three minutes.

Scola has never had to breakout and lead the Houston Rockets the way he has Argentina. But you watch this play and you realize why he is so valuable to Houston — this is a guy who can quietly do a lot and can perform under pressure.

And with apologies to Durant, so far Scola is the FIBA World Championships MVP. But there are some big games ahead to finalize that decision.

Reggie Bullock game-winner gives Pistons coach Dwane Casey victory in return to Toronto

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Revenge is a dish best served with two seconds left in a tie game.

Pistons coach Dwane Casey – certainly not thrilled with the Raptors firing him earlier this year – guided his new team to a 106-104 win in his return to Toronto tonight. Detroit erased a 19-point second-half deficit and got the ball with two seconds left, giving Casey and Reggie Bullock chances to shine.

Casey drew up a great play, an alley-oop to Glenn Robinson III. But Pascal Siakam made an even better play to knock the ball out of bounds.

The Pistons’ second play of the possession proved even more effective, as Bullock slipped toward the rim and hit the game-winner.

What a satisfying victory for Casey.

Reports: Steve Kerr chose and Warriors players supported suspending, not fining, Draymond Green

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The Warriors suspended Draymond Green one game for his argument with Kevin Durant during and after Golden State’s loss to the Clippers on Monday.

Sam Amick of The Athletic:

Jackie MacMullan on ESPN:

What about an internal fine? And what I was told this morning was that the rest of the players on this team didn’t support that, that the rest of the players on the team felt this had to be to done and that they’re all prepared, on that plane ride to Houston today, to get those guys together and put this behind them for now.

Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic:

Green was surprised by the heavy-handedness. A fine was expected. Green had just come back from injury, giving him a rest day for Tuesday’s game against Atlanta and a private fine would have been an acceptable rebuke of his behavior. He was fined a few thousand dollars when he went after Kerr in the locker room in Oklahoma City in 2016. He didn’t think this incident was nearly as bad, so the punishment being drastically worse was shocking.

I wonder whether Green will feel as if the Warriors are ganging up on him. Many see his suspension as Golden State’s attempt to appease Durant before free agency, and the original issue escalated because Green thought there was already too much emphasis on Durant’s free agency. This could push a stubborn Green deeper into a corner.

Or he could realize his peers wanted him suspended and see that as a wakeup call. He might put more stock in that than Kerr’s point of view.

It’s too early to determine how this will go, but the starting point is apparently a divide between Green and everyone else.

Kyrie Irving, teammate of 12-year-veteran Al Horford: Celtics need 14- or 15-year veteran for leadership

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The Celtics just had a 1-4 road trip, the lone win coming in overtime against the lowly Suns. Most Boston players (except Marcus Morris and, lately, Kyrie Irving) look out of sorts offensively.

Irving, via Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston:

Looking at this locker room, me being in my eighth year and being a ‘veteran’ as well as Al [Horford] and [Aron] Baynes. Right now I think it would be nice if we had someone that was a 15-year vet, a 14-year vet that could kind of help us race along the regular season and understand it’s a long marathon rather than just a full-on sprint, when you want to play, when you want to do what you want to do.

Al Horford is in his 12th season. His team, the Hawks then Celtics, have made the playoffs every season of his career.

I’m not sure Irving intended this as a slight of Horford. Irving certainly didn’t forget about Horford, whom Irving mentioned the sentence prior.

But I’d definitely understand if Horford felt slighted. He’s experienced enough to provide that veteran leadership. So is Irving for that matter.

Ultimately, these comments might prove benign, just more weird words from Irving. Still, they’re potentially significant enough to keep an eye on Boston’s leadership situation.

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns: ‘I’m not one of the most important [players on the team]. I’m just a piece on this team’

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Jimmy Butler made the Timberwolves his team. He willed himself into being their best player despite having teammates with more talent and physical skills. He took a leadership position by talking over everyone (for better or worse). He even asked for top-contract status with a renegotiation-and-extension that would have required gutting the rest of the roster.

With Butler traded to the 76ers, who takes up the mantle in Minnesota?

Karl-Anthony Towns is the logical candidate. He’s now the Timberwolves’ best player. He just signed a max contract extension that will hit super-max salaries if he makes an All-NBA team this season. He’s even already one of Minnesota’s longest-tenured players.

Kent Youngblood of the StarTribune:

Karl-Anthony Towns took issue with the idea that, with Butler gone, he had to become the team’s leader.

“First of all, I’m not one of the most important [players on the team],’’ he said. “I’m just a piece on this team. Everyone is just as important as the next. So if everyone’s doing their job and everyone is working hard, doing the little things, we make a great product.

Somewhere, Butler is cackling, assured his doubts about Towns were correct.

But leading isn’t for everyone. That doesn’t make non-leaders bad people. The world needs followers, too.

That said, things generally flow much more smoothly on teams where the best player is the main leader. It creates an orderly culture. If Towns doesn’t want that role, it’ll be something for the Timberwolves to overcome.

Maybe Towns, 22, will grow into it. There’s still plenty of time left for him to develop both as a player and person.

But Butler’s exit created a natural entrance for Towns into leadership. Towns could have seamlessly seized the reigns right here. That he isn’t shows how far he is as a leader.