Team USA experiments its way to blowout 113-59 win

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LAS VEGAS — Exhibition games should be about experimentation, about learning things to help you later. Unfortunately, you can’t learn too much from Team USA’s 113-59 throttling of the Dominican Republic in Las Vegas

We learned that teams are going to struggle with the athletes and pressure defense Team USA can bring. We learned that teams are going to pack the paint on the USA and give them jumpers (which they knocked down for a night). We learned that Kevin Durant can really score. We learned Carmelo Anthony is fun to watch when he works off the ball.

Those are things we all knew.

What we did start to learn was what kind of matchups and rotations we may see going forward and how Coach Mike Krzyzewski wants to use a versatile roster. He has a roster so deep the bench might beat the starters, and he used that. He spent the night trying everything. The USA Started Anthony, Kobe Bryant, Tyson Chandler, LeBron James and Chris Paul, bringing Durant off the bench. Durant thrived in that role, scoring a team high 24. After the game Krzyzewski said they plan to stick with that for at least another game.

Coach K went mad scientist experimenting matchup experiments all game. He had LeBron James at center for a stretch (guarding Al Horford in the post) with Andre Iguodala at the four. He went big for a stretch in the third with Tyson Chandler at center and Kevin Love at the four. Even just called up Anthony Davis (here because of the injury to Blake Griffin) played eight minutes.

“I thought Iguodala, Carmelo and LeBron and Kevin (Durant) all played big, they all covered fours and fives,” Krzyzewski said. “And we have to get comfortable with that.

“I thought Iguodala played a great game. He shot the ball well. (Sixers coach) Doug Collins was saying ‘why don’t you do that for us all the time?’”

Going small like that worked against an overmatched Dominican Republic, but Krzyzewski admitted it will be a better test against a big Brazil team next week in an exhibition in Washington D.C.

Iguodala said with this roster they shouldn’t worry about traditional positions as much.

“You see that when we have certain lineups in there,” Iguodala said. “One lineup we had LeBron and KD, and I was guarding the four and KD was guarding the three, but on the offensive end we’re interchangeable. We just play basketball.

“The really interesting thing is when anyone gets the rebound that turns it a break… it’s crazy when we’re coming at you and pretty hard to stop when we are executing the right way.”

What Coach K liked was the intensity on defense, the communication on switches, the pressuring the ball for 94 feet and wearing the Dominican Republic down. He found a lineup he likes doing that and you can bet you’ll see it again.

“I like when we have those guys off the bench — (Russell) Westbrook, Iguodala, (James) Harden, LeBron stays out there and Deron Williams, I like how we pressure the ball,” Krzyzewski said.

He added that Williams played very well and you can expect him to get more minutes. Chris Paul played only 8 minutes because he is recovering from a thumb injury.

Krzyzewski said you can expect some more mad scientist over the next couple weeks, but he hopes to have a pretty set rotation by the time Team USA gets to London.

PBT Podcast: MVP, Rookie of Year, other awards plus NBA playoffs, Finals predictions

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Will James Harden repeat as MVP or will someone else — LeBron James, Anthony Davis — grab the award away from him?

Luca Doncic and Deandre Ayton seem to be the favorites for Rookie of the Year, but could Trae Young or Jaren Jackson Jr. push their way into the conversation?

Who will win Coach of the Year? Is Jamal Murray a guy to watch for Most Improved Player?

Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBC Sports discuss all the major awards plus get into playoff predictions in this latest PBT Podcast. Can Charlotte sneak into the final playoff slot in the East or is Detroit going to take that? Are the Spurs going to miss the playoffs in the West for the first time in 22 years? And are the Warriors a lock to win it all? (Hint: They are not.)

We want your questions for the podcast, and your comments, email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com. As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

Report: Suns signing Jamal Crawford

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The Suns are desperate for a point guard.

How desperate?

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

I wouldn’t assume Phoenix plans to play Crawford at point guard. Perhaps, he’ll be an off guard. But the possibility is scary – whether the fear comes from playing Crawford out of position or the possibility he’d actually be the Suns’ top point guard.

It’s questionable whether the 38-year-old can help in either backcourt spot. He doesn’t attack the rim like he used to, and his defense has become even more porous.

Though he declined a $4,544,400 player option with the Timberwolves, there’s a reason he remained a free agent so long. He’ll likely settle for the minimum with Phoenix, one of the NBA’s bottom teams.

The Suns now have 14 players with guaranteed salaries on standard contracts, three with small or no guarantees (Richaun Holmes, Isaiah Canaan and Shaquille Harrison) plus Crawford. The regular-season standard-contract roster limit is 15. So, it’ll be interesting to see whom Phoenix drops in the next day. The Suns reportedly applied for a disabled-player exception for Darrell Arthur.

The Suns might try to spin this as adding veteran leadership. But they already have Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson and Tyson Chandler. How many veteran leaders do they need?

They need a starting-caliber point guard. Crawford isn’t it. At best, they realize that and have other plans for him.

Charles Barkley says he hasn’t worn underwear in a decade

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Charles Barkley can’t control everything, like whether the Magic hire him as general manager.

But he can control his underpants, as he explained on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

Knicks stress patience, indulge impatient tendencies by stretching Joakim Noah

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NBCSports.com’s Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

Knicks president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry talked a big game about patiently rebuilding – practically a foreign concept in New York.

And most of the summer, they backed up their words.

They drafted Kevin Knox No. 9 and Mitchell Robinson No. 36. They didn’t sign a single free agent to a multi-year deal. They made no win-now trade (or any trade at all).

Yet, even in the Knicks’ most patient offseason in years, they closed it with an incredibly impatient move.

New York stretched Joakim Noah, locking in a cap hit of $18,530,000 this season and $6,431,667 each of the following three years. The move opens an additional $12,863,333 in cap space next summer.

But what if the Knicks don’t need that extra room? What if they don’t attract free agents worth spending that amount then? Eating Noah’s entire $19,295,000 2019-20 salary that season, rather than splitting it over three years, is off the table.

What if they need even more room? What if they can draw great free agents who command more money than New York can offer? Attaching sweeteners to trade Noah’s salary and remove it entirely is also now impossible.

The Knicks could have waited until next summer to stretch, straight waive or trade Noah. They would have had far more information then, as the stretch deadline is Aug. 31.

This move puts so much needless pressure on New York to use its cap space next summer. Though the Knicks’ reported top target, Kyrie Irving, already said he’d re-sign with the Celtics, Kevin Durant-New York rumors are swirling, and Jimmy Butler put the Knicks on his list. The Knicks project to have about $33 million in cap space next summer, including a cap hold for only Kristaps Porzingis. They could add a franchise-changing star.

But this doesn’t jibe with a patient rebuild.

Biding time until next summer, New York took fliers on Mario Hezonja (one year, $6.5 million) and Noah Vonleh (one year, minimum). But despite seemingly tepid markets for those two in free agency, the Knicks didn’t capitalize on their leverage by attaching any additional unguaranteed seasons to their contracts. That will make it extremely difficult to get value from them. If Hezonja or Vonleh break out, they’ll be in line for bigger deals next summer.

Of course, it’s more likely New York’s first-, not second-, draft players dictate the team’s future. For the first time in eight seasons, the Knicks will have three players simultaneously on rookie-scale contracts – Porzingis, Frank Ntilikina and Knox. That most-modest benchmark is a major accomplishment in New York, where quick fixes have ruled the day.

After waiving Noah, it’s hard to see the Knicks as truly committed to a new, more prudent approach.

 

Offseason grade: C-