EuroBasket tips off Wednesday, here’s a quick primer

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At this point in the end of summer/start of fall those of us basketball junkies are looking for a fix. That is where EuroBasket comes in.

If you’re asking “What is EuroBasket?” let us help you out with a little primer.

• What is EuroBasket? A FIBA tournament featuring 24 teams from Europe, being played in Slovenia the next couple weeks.

• What teams are going to be there? Some of the world’s best teams, this is a serious tournament. Here are the teams by group:

Group A: Ukraine, Great Britain, France, Germany, Israel, Belgium
Group B: Latvia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lithuania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia
Group C: Poland, Slovenia, Spain, Croatia, Czech Republic, Georgia
Group D: Finland, Greece, Russia, Italy, Sweden, Turkey

• Why are these teams there? The top six finishers get a spot in the World Championships next summer. For a lot of these programs, that would be huge. (Spain is hosting the World Championships and are in automatically, so if it is one of the top six then the top seven earn a spot for next summer.)

• Do I know any players in this tournament? Yes, a lot of them. Spain has Ricky Rubio (Timberwolves) at point guard and Marc Gasol (Grizzlies) in the paint. France has Tony Parker (Spurs) at the point and Nicolas Batum (Trail Blazers) at the four. Turkey will have Hedo Turkoglu, Ersan Ilyasova and Omer Asik. Goran Dragic (Suns) will lead host Slovenia.

And if you are the kind of basketball junkie who would be watching EuroBasket in the first place there are a whole lot more names you know from other international tournaments and/or short stints in the NBA.

• Who is sitting out this tournament? That has been the big story as a number of teams are without their key stars. No Pau Gasol (Lakers) for Spain. No Joakim Noah (Bulls) for France. No Dirk Nowitizki (Mavericks) for Germany). No Luol Deng (Bulls) for Great Britain). No Andrei Kirilenko (Nets) for Russia.

And that’s just the biggest names, there are a whole lot more.

Any sleeper players I should watch for? If you have never watched Bo McCalebb play, watch a Macedonia game.

• Who is going to win this thing? Even without Pau Gasol it’s hard to bet against Spain — they have Rubio and the bigger Gasol but also a plethora of quality players around them such as Sergio Rodriguez, Jose Calderon, Juan Carlos Navarro, and Rudy Fernandez. Just to name a few. They see this as a tune up for the World Championships they really want to win on their home soil next summer.

There are other teams that have a shot. Lithuania, led by Linas Kleiza and Toronto’s Jonas Valanciunas looked good in the run up to the tournament. Greece was the one team to beat Lithuania in tune ups and they have Kosta Kufos and Nick Calathes (both of the Grizzlies) leading a veteran team of guys that play in Europe. And don’t sleep on France, with Parker at the point and guys like Batum, Boris Diaw and Nando de Colo.

• Where can I watch the games? All the games will be streamed on ESPN3 (its online app, if you have access to it). NBA TV will pick up games and show everything starting with the quarterfinals.

Likely No. 1 pick Zion Williamson leaves Duke-North Carolina game with knee injury

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Zion Williamson will probably be the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft.

He’s a generationally good prospect. The rest of this draft also looks relatively weak.

In fact, Williamson has such a stranglehold on the top pick, some have suggested he sit out the rest of his freshman season.

His injury during Duke’s game against North Carolina tonight will only heighten those calls.

Duke:

Hopefully, Williamson is OK.

And hopefully, the system changes. The NCAA is a cartel in which schools conspire to cap compensation for athletes at a scholarship plus some expenses. In a free market, Williamson would earn far more.

Unfortunately, it probably can’t be both. If Williamson escapes this without major injury, the status quo will likely endure.

But, if this injury even allows him to play again this season, it might be a warning shot that causes him to sit until he can enter the NBA draft.

Again, I hope he’s healthy enough to make that decision for himself.

Jayson Tatum guarantees Celtics will win 2019 NBA championship

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Friday morning, Jayson Tatum guaranteed the U.S. team would beat the World team in the Rising Stars game that night. The U.S. team won.

So, Tatum was asked Saturday morning whether he wanted to guarantee anything for that night. He guaranteed he’d win the Skills Challenge. He won.

So, then ESPN’s Rachel Nichols asked Tatum whether he wants to guarantee anything else. And he really let it ride.

Tatum:

We’re going to win the Finals this year. February 16th, mark it. Jayson Tatum says we’re going to win the Finals this year.

Obviously, Tatum wasn’t going to pick against Boston. But this wasn’t that. He could have easily avoided such a grand proclamation.

Instead, even if he were just caught up in the emotion of an All-Star Saturday Night victory and taking the interview especially seriously, Tatum put a little more attention and pressure on the Celtics.

I’m not convinced that’s what this team needs.

Kristaps Porzingis reportedly gave Knicks wish list of trade destinations: Nets, Clippers, Heat, Raptors

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Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said Kristaps Porzingis will sign long-term with Dallas this summer, and Porzingis he was on the same page.

But he will be a free agent. Restricted, but a free agent, nonetheless.

Porzingis’ exit from the Knicks provided a clue about where he’d want to go if he explores leaving the Mavericks.

Marc Stein of The New York Times in his newsletter:

The four teams Porzingis had on his wish list of trade destinations were the Nets, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors, according to two people with knowledge of the list who were not authorized to discuss it publicly.

Porzingis had little leverage to get to any of these teams. Because he’ll be a restricted free agent, the Knicks or any team acquiring him would retain immense team control over him.

The Nets and Clippers project to have cap space this summer. The Heat and Raptors don’t.

But even if Porzingis signs an offer sheet elsewhere, Dallas will will likely match it.

Still, Porzingis will become an unrestricted free agent someday – 2020 in the unlikely event he accepts his qualifying offer or a future year if he signs a multi-year deal this summer. It’s probably best to file away this list until then.

Kyrie Irving on video with Kevin Durant: ‘Me and one of my best friends talking’

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The Knicks opened double-max cap space for next summer. Kevin Durant‘s company is moving to a new office in New York. Kyrie Irving backed away from his commitment to re-sign with the Celtics.

Plenty of people were already connecting dots when this video emerged of Durant and Irving talking at the All-Star game (in which, not for nothing, they jelled).

Ben Stinar of Amico Hoops:

Irving, via MassLive (warning: language in the above video):

It’s just crazy. This is the stuff that just doesn’t make the league fun. It doesn’t make the league fun. Nobody helps promote the league even more by doing bulls— like that, of just putting fictitious things on what we’re talking about. It’s crazy.

It’s a video of me and one of my best friends talking. And then it turns out to be a dissection of a free agency meeting? Do you get that? Like, do you get that? And then I’m asked questions about it? That’s what disconnects me from all that s—.

That wasn’t a denial.

Still, it’s hard to believe Durant and Irving really discussed free agency in a hallway with so many people passing. There are far more discreet places to have that conversation.

Like a restaurant in Miami where they were spotted together:

I understand Irving’s exasperation with this, just as I understood Durant’s testiness over constant speculation. They should be allowed to spend time together as friends without it turning into a bigger deal.

But there is immense interest in where they play next year. People will continue to search for clues – some that prove insignificant, some that might prove significant – about the stars’ futures.

So, I’m at least glad Irving addressed this. It’s going to get discussed either way. Better for him to enter his perspective into the conversation.