EuroBasket: Spain, France earn Olympic berths with victories

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Spain, the silver medal team in Beijing who gave the United States all it could handle in the gold medal game, will be back for the London Olympics. They will be joined by a French team led by Tony Parker and Joakim Noah.

Friday Spain and France won their games to advance to the finals of EuroBasket. Both teams want the European championship, but they have gotten the two automatic bids from the continent to the Olympics.

Here are some breakdowns:

Spain 92, Macedonia 80: Macedonia’s team reminded me a little bit of the 2000 Philadelphia 76ers — they played fantastic defense and counted on one small, quick guard to create a lot of their offense. Then eventually they ran into just too talented a team.

Macedonia led by one at the half, 45-44, and it felt like an upset. Bo McCalebb had carried the Macedonian offense to the semifinals and he had 25 in this game.

But he was not the best guard on the floor, that was Juan Carlos Navarro. He took over in the second half scoring 19 third quarter points and finishing with 35. Pau Gasol finished with 22 points and 17 rebounds.

Macedonia still had a fantastic tournament and will be in the pre-Olympic qualifying tournament next summer, a second chance to surprise some teams and sneak into the games.

France 79, Russia 71: Russia’s strategy was to give Tony Parker jump shots, not let him penetrate. It was pretty successful, but Parker still hit 9-of-20 shots on his way to 23 points, and nobody accounted for Nicolas Batum, who had 19 points on 8 shots.

France plays good defense, if they get enough offense they are hard to beat. If Parker’s jumper is falling at a decent rate they are hard to beat. Both those things happened, Russia could not maintain floor balance with their defense and the result is France going on to the Olympics.

Andrei Kirilenko had 21 points and Timofey Mozgov had 12 for a Russian team headed to the pre-qualifying tournament next summer (where they should be a favorite to get one of the last-chance Olympic spots).

The Spain against France final should be interesting. Spain has a long front line — Marc and Pau Gasol as well as Serge Ibaka — but their help rotations have been spotty this year. If Parker can get into the lane he can cause trouble for them. Spain is the favorite, they crushed France in a friendly this summer. (You can throw out Spain beating France at EuroBasket, Parker and other key French players sat that one out.)

Kings hire WNBA’s Lindsey Harding as assistant coach

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The Sacramento Kings have hired former WNBA player Lindsey Harding as an assistant and player development coach on Luke Walton’s staff.

The team also hired Stacey Augmon and Rico Hines on Friday.

Harding played nine years in the WNBA before working as a pro personnel scout and then player development coach for the Philadelphia 76ers.

She becomes the latest woman to serve as a coach in the NBA, joining others like Boston’s Kara Lawson, San Antonio’s Becky Hammon, Dallas’ Jenny Boucek and Cleveland’s Lindsay Gottlieb.

The Kings have a history of hiring female coaches, notably Nancy Lieberman and Boucek.

 

Wizards reportedly to finally remove interim tag from GM Tommy Sheppard

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Tommy Sheppard has been doing the work as the Wizards GM since April when Wizards owner Ted Leonsis finally ended Ernie Grunfeld’s run as team GM.

Sheppard was the GM through the draft. Through free agency. All the time with the “interim” tag on his job title. In Las Vegas for Summer League, plenty of other executives wondered why that tag was still on Sheppard’s title.

It’s finally coming off, reports Candace Buckner of the Washington Post.

The Washington Wizards removed the interim tag from Tommy Sheppard’s title Friday, promoting him to be the 12th general manager in franchise history, according to a person with knowledge of the situation…

The promotion of Sheppard, who will be entering his 17th season with the Wizards, mirrors the internal hiring decision Leonsis made with his hockey team. In 2014, Leonsis elevated Brian MacLellan as the Washington Capitals senior vice president and general manager after firing George McPhee. Before the promotion, MacLellan had spent the previous seven years under McPhee as an assistant general manager.

This likely will be made official in the next 48-72 hours.

Part of the delay may have been that a couple of prominent names were linked to the Wizards job at different times. There were reportedly talks with Tim Conley, who built Denver into a real threat, but he decided to stay in the Rockies. There were rumors of Masai Ujiri coming to the District, but he has chosen to stay in Toronto after winning a title.

Making Sheppard the full-time GM provides some stability just as the Wizards reach their most important moment of the summer.

On July 26 the Wizards can offer star two guard Bradley Beal a three-year, $111 million extension. The Wizards have been talking to Beal’s people and the offer will be made.

What Beal decides will decide the Wizards future for years. If Beal doesn’t sign that offer, the Wizards have to look at trading him. If he signs it, they need to build more around him.

Beal has spoken numerous times in the past about wanting to stay with the Wizards. However, there was plenty of informed speculation at Summer League that he is frustrated with the franchise and could choose to not sign it and essentially force his way out.

Either way, Beal’s decision will define the next steps for Sheppard for years.

 

Child tries to call out James Harden for step-back travels, he says it’s no travel

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If you tried this move in a high-school game 10 years ago, you would have been called for traveling.

In today’s NBA, as the rules are interpreted, James Harden‘s step back is not a travel.

At an event on Friday, a young fan tried to call Harden out on the travel and he defended himself. Via Kelly Iko of The Athletic.

Harden’s stepback is not a travel (when he executes it properly). Even if it looks like it is.

Here is the play in question.

The official response — meaning from officials:

I know when you played Junior High basketball in 2002 that was a travel, but the NBA hasn’t called it that way in years.

The NBA rule here (Rule 10, Section XIII) simplified is a “gather and two steps.” Meaning one step while Harden is gathering the ball, plus two more. Nobody pushes the boundary of the gather step like Harden, he has mastered the grey area. But when he executes it properly — and he doesn’t every time — it’s not a travel.

No matter what that young boy’s father tells him.

Justin Holiday reportedly reaches deal with Pacers, will join forces with brother

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The Pacers just added the wing depth and some defense at the position they have been looking for.

It’s through someone they have long had their eye on, Justin Holiday, the six-year NBA veteran who split time last season between Chicago and Memphis. He has reached an agreement to join the Pacers — and his brother, Aaron Holiday — for a season in Indiana. Shams Charania of The Athletic broke the news.

The Pacers have been in touch with Holiday for a while, reports J. Michael of the Indy Star.

Holiday averaged 10.5 points a game last season, shot 34.7 percent from three, and played solid wing defense.

Victor Oladipo is the team’s best wing player, once he returns from injury (the Pacers are hoping around Christmas or a little after). Beyond him there is Jeremy Lamb, C.J. Wilcox, T.J. Warren, Doug McDermott, and Brian Bowen. Holiday can find minutes in that group.

This also sparks the dream of an all T.J./Holiday lineup. The Pacers have two Holidays, Justin and Aaron, as well as three un-related players named T.J. — T.J. McConnell, T.J. Warren, and T.J. Leaf. We need to see those five on the court together next season, if only for a few minutes.