Report: Philippines wants to naturalize JaVale McGee, Andray Blatche before World Championships

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Because the JaVale McGee, Andray Blatche pairing worked so well before in Washington….

The FIBA World Cup (what you used to call the World Championships) is coming to Spain this summer and the Philippines team will be there, having qualified as the No. 2 team in FIBA’s Asia tournament (behind Iran, surprisingly). The Philippines were led up front by 6’11” Marcus Douthit (who played at Providence, was drafted in the second round by the Lakers and spent a couple of years in the D-League).

Now the Philippines want to bring in the big guns of McGee and/or Blatche, reports Philstar, via Sportando.

Gilas Pilipinas has got an extra month of training period for the 2014 FIBA World Cup (the Philippines professional league shortened its season for the cause), and is now looking at NBA players JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche to be put in a pool of naturalized players for use in its long-term program…

Before June 30, Gilas is hoping Congress grants McGee and Blatche their naturalization papers….

“We’re in discussion with Javale. However, he’s just found out that he needs to undergo a procedure for his shin injury. With that development, it’s prudent also to choose a backup. Blatche agreed to undergo the naturalization process. He wants to play for the Philippines,” said Reyes.

This has the potential to be both a smart basketball move and a gold mine of unintentional comedy. I’m more pleased with the latter.

McGee has played in just five games for the Nuggets this season due to a stress fracture in his left tibia, and he’s not even back to running yet (just working on an elliptical machine). Blatche, on the other hand, is having a solid season for the Brooklyn Nets. While McGee has had tryouts with Team USA he’s never made the squad for a tournament (once you play for one nation in a major FIBA event you have to play for that nation the rest of your career).

If this goes through — and that’s still a big if — suddenly the Philippines team becomes a lot more interesting. Not a threat to the United States or Spain (the two title contenders) but a lot more interesting to watch.

The World Cup will take place Aug. 30 through Sept. 14 in Spain. The event is nearly as popular as the Olympics for basketball (at least outside the United States) and the winner of the event gets an automatic berth in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Which is why Team USA will be focused — lose this to Spain and in the summer of 2015 the USA has to assemble a team good enough to qualify for Rio, not take the summer off.

PBT Extra: Five players to watch heading into the NBA’s trade deadline

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It’s going to be a slow NBA trade deadline this year.

The reason it will be relatively quiet on Feb. 7 (the deadline day) this year is reflected in the five players to watch talked about in this PBT Extra. The bottom line: There are far more buyers than sellers.

Take Trevor Ariza in Washington, for example. A number of playoff teams are looking for wings on expiring contracts to help them out — the Rockets and Lakers are at the front of that line — but Wizards owner Ted Leonsis has said the team the team will not tank, so is Ariza even available.

Or, what about Terrence Ross in Orlando? Another wing a lot of teams have interest in, but is Orlando selling?

And while the Dallas Mavericks have made public overtures about reconciliation with Dennis Smith Jr., sources tell me the plan on both sides is still to find a trade, it’s just right now the offers are lowball ones (because the Mavs have no leverage and there will be good young point guards such as Terry Rozier and D'Angelo Russell available in July as restricted free agents, and teams like them better).

Still, there will be trades. These are the guys to watch.

Report: Hornets rookie Miles Bridges to compete in dunk contest

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Want to see more dunks like this and this?

Watch the dunk contest during All-Star weekend.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

Miles Bridges, the No. 12 pick in last year’s draft, has quickly proven himself as belonging in the Hornets’ rotation. He’s active, capable of getting to the rim and picks up defensive concepts quickly.

But like most rookies picked in the middle of the first round, he hasn’t yet earned a national profile.

The dunk contest will be his opportunity to change that.

Bulls’ Wendell Carter reportedly out 8-12 weeks following thumb surgery

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Wendell Carter Jr. has had a strong rookie season in Chicago: 10.3 points a game, 7 rebounds, showing real strength and touch inside and getting 67 percent of his shot attempts in the paint. The advanced stats like him: He’s got an above average PER and Value over Replacement Player, something very rare for a rookie. He looks like a key part of the future in Chicago.

And he’s out for the next two-to-three months.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune first reported that Carter might have ligament damage in his left thumb requiring surgery, and that coach Jim Boylen said Carter was seeing a specialist. Shams Charania of The Athletic took it to the next step.

That’s a blow to his development but doesn’t really change the trajectory of a Bulls team that will pick high in next June’s draft.

This does not change the Bulls’ plans heading into the trade deadline — big man Robin Lopez is still available (but likely will end up a buyout candidate) reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Bobby Portis will get more run with Carter out.

The young Bulls have been hit hard by injuries this season.  Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Portis have all missed time, and Denzel Valentine has yet to play a game for Chicago this season.

Wizards owner Ted Leonsis: ‘We will never, ever tank’

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Before the season, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis stated his goals: 50 wins and the conference finals.

Washington is 19-26 and 11th in the Eastern Conference.

Time to shift priorities?

NBC Sports Washington:

Ben Standig of NBC Sports Washington:

The Wizards are too talented to tank right now. Led by Bradley Beal, they have a roster of capable veterans. They just traded for Trevor Ariza, making that even more true.

As bad as they’ve been, the Wizards are just 2.5 games and three teams out of playoff position. They will likely miss the postseason, but there’s no alternative better than trying to get there. They’re too far down the road toward winning now to simply pivot into a rebuilding.

But what about if the Wizards get eliminated from playoff contention with games left in the season? They won’t tank down the stretch to improve their draft position? What’s the point of that?

And what about future seasons? Washington will have a tough time building a satisfactory winner after signing John Wall to a super-max extension that kicks in next season. That difficult-to-move contract almost mandates the Wizards prioritize the present. A healthy Wall is good enough to ensure Washington can’t bottom out – for now.

Wall be 32 in the final year of that deal. The Wizards could be in ruins by then. Taking the option to tank off the table would be a mistake.

To be fair, I’m not totally sure Leonsis is doing that. Owners almost never admit to tanking. Most deny it.

But this goes a level beyond. This is far more forceful than Leonsis had to be, which makes me believe it’s actually his plan.

That’s fine right now. Eventually, it could make a futile situation far worse.