Nigeria — Team USA’s opponent in the late game Thursday — is better than Tunisia, the USA’s last opponent.
Nigeria beat Tunisia by four points. Vegas odds makers have the USA as 42 point favorites, which is closer than predicted against Tunisia (it was a 54 points spread, a number the Tunisians covered). The two meet in a game that starts at 5:15 ET (live on the NBC Sports Network).
Nigeria isn’t going to put up much of a test for the Americans, who should run away and hide early. The USA is vastly superior at every position on the floor and this should be another chance for Mike Krzyzewski to get into his bench and give guys a lot of run. As he did the last game. Do look for Kevin Durant — who leads Team USA in scoring (17.5 per game) and rebounding (9.5) to get his, but anyone on the USA roster can put up numbers in this one.
Nigeria has two players that will be familiar to NBA fans. One is former Clippers lottery pick Al-Farouq Aminu, who was traded to New Orleans in the Chris Paul deal (and is now teammates with Team USA’s Anthony Davis). Aminu averaged 6 points and 4.7 rebounds a game last season, shot just 41 percent, doesn’t have great handles for a wing and generally shows promise but is not making NBA fans think he will live up to it.
Aminu has averaged 11 points and 10 rebounds through two games in London. Expect the USA to pressure him when he has the ball to get it out of his hands.
The leading scorer and rebounder for Nigeria has been former NBA player Ike Diogu, who has averaged 12.5 points and 10 rebounds a game. Diogu is an undersized (6’8”) forward who couldn’t get off the Spurs bench last season. He has some tools and is using the Olympics as a showcase to get a new NBA contract. That said, he is not a guy who can really exploit the “undersized” USA inside. Tyson Chandler and Kevin Love should have their way with him.
Look for the USA to experiment with lineups and throw a lot of lobs to Anthony Davis. There isn’t a lot else to do.
This should be another game that is only close if the USA doesn’t take it seriously. Things will get more challenging with Lithuania then Argentina next on the schedule, but for today this should be a stroll through Hyde Park for Team USA.
They’re all only borderline first-round picks. Though I think at least one will get picked in the opening round, this could be the first NBA draft without a senior selected in the first round.
Like most drafts in this era, the top prospects are largely underclassmen. They had to declare for the draft by Sunday. Some will definitely stay in. Others will withdraw by the NBA’s deadline (June 10) or, more importantly, the NCAA’s deadline to retain eligibility (May 29). Unlike previous years, players can hire agents while retaining college eligibility. But they had to enter the pool by now to stay in.
Here are all 2019 early entrants, players who came through the American system followed by international players:
Lakers president Magic Johnson reportedly planned to fire coach Luke Walton and wanted to fire general manager Rob Pelinka. Instead, Johnson resigned with a stunning public announcement without first telling owner Jeanie Buss. Pelinka, who has many detractors throughout the league, is now in charge of the front office. The Lakers reportedly offered to keep Walton, but he bolted for the Kings. The Lakers have no coach. They do have a roster LeBron James described as “[fart noise].” Johnson will reportedly help the team recruit free agents.
Nearly one year after signing LeBron James, the Lakers are a mess.
I think it’s very precarious right now. I think the trust that LeBron James has in the Lakers organization has been damaged – maybe irrevocably. I’m not saying it can’t be repaired. But right now, there’s a tough bridge that has fallen that’s going to be need to be put back together. And that’s going to have to be a proving ground for Jeanie Buss, for Rob Pelinka, for Kurt Rambis, for Linda Rambis – whoever else is involved in this process now. And there’s going to be an initial thing proven with whoever is hired as the coach and then this summer.
LeBron, via Instagram:
Even if LeBron has lost confidence in the Lakers, his denial is important. It means he doesn’t want to escalate this issue.
LeBron, for good reason, holds extreme confidence in himself. I’m sure he believes, as long the Lakers have him, they’ll be alright.
But he can’t do everything, and he knows that, too. He often held the Cavaliers’ feet to the fire. He signed a series of short-term contracts, creating the threat of departure. He demanded Dan Gilbert spend more. He, often passive-aggressively, called on executives, coaches and teammates to perform better.
LeBron hasn’t shown that same urgency in Los Angeles, starting with locking in for three years – longer than any contract in his return to Cleveland.
Maybe this is an older and more mature LeBron trying to present steadiness amid chaos.
Or maybe this is yet another sign LeBron went to Los Angeles with priorities other than winning. After all, the Lakers’ shoddy operation won’t prevent him from enjoying his L.A. lifestyle and Hollywood proximity.
Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts makes Russell Westbrook ‘next question’ jokes (video)
Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts had fun at Westbrook’s expense, too.
Westbrook has repeatedly answered questions from Berry Tramel of The Oklahoma with, “Next question.” Though Westbrook shifted to variants of “not sure” after the last couple games of the series, he still didn’t meaningfully answer Tramel’s questions.
Stotts interjected himself into Westbrook’s feud with Tramel before Game 3.
Also, when former Sooner standout Terry Stotts, who is head coach of the Trail Blazers, entered the pregame interview room on Friday, the first thing he said was, “Go ahead, I’ll answer your question, Berry.”
Then, Stotts really laid it on thick after Game 5 last night, as shown in the above video. He specifically called on Tramel to ask a question then joked how badly he wanted to answer with “next question.”
Stotts landed on the hot seat after Portland got swept in the first round last year. He kept his job and did a fantastic work with the Trail Blazers this year. It’s great to see him enjoying himself.
I also can’t help but wonder how Westbrook feels about Stotts.
Kyle Lowry’s ring finger “popped out” during Game 5, he will be ready for Game 1 vs. 76ers
In the second quarter of the Raptors’ close-out win against the Magic, Kyle Lowry injured his finger, apparently dislocating the ring finger on his right hand, his shooting hand.
However, it’s the playoffs, he was back in the game quickly and he will certainly be ready to go Saturday when Toronto begins a second-round showdown against Philadelphia. Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN has the details.
Lowry jammed the finger while deflecting a ball in the second quarter. During the subsequent timeout, the Raptors’ medical staff attended to Lowry’s hand on the bench. He returned to play but went back to the locker room with 2:41 remaining in the first half.
Lowry, who was wearing a splint on the finger during the postgame news conference, started the second half for the Raptors and finished with 14 points, 9 assists and 4 rebounds in 26 minutes.
“It popped out, but it’s fine,” Lowry said. “I popped it back in. Got a couple days to get it back and recover, and hopefully it will be better by Game 1. Well, it will be better by Game 1.”
It needs to be because the Raptors can’t have another 0-of-7 shooting start from him, which is what they got in an ugly Game 1 loss to Orlando. The 76ers are not the Magic, Toronto can’t have another dreadful start in Game 1 and dig themselves a hole at home.
Lowry’s shooting and playmaking will be a big part of that next series.