Team USA going small ball, but how many bigs do they keep on the bench?

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LAS VEGAS — Kyrie Irving, Stephen Curry, Paul George, Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis.

For the second day in a row coach Mike Krzyzewski rolled out that five-some out as a unit for scrimmages at the end of the Team USA practice and it looked like the starting group. Behind that guys like Klay Thompson, James Harden, John Wall, Derrick Rose, Bradley Beal and a number of other guards and wing players seem to be getting long, hard looks. Chandler Parsons got run as a stretch four on Monday.

Team USA is going small. Three guard lineups with what would be an NBA three serving as an athletic stretch four.

“Everyone talks about match-ups (with big teams such as Spain), people have to match-up against us, too,” Krzyzewski said. “What you have to do is put your best 12 together and then make adjustments with the best 12. Obviously we’re not going to have 12 guards, but that’s what we’ve done. You try to get eight or nine guys that are going to be the core, then three or four guys who complement them. We’ll see how that works out.”

That small ball has worked out well the last four years with gold medals at the 2010 World Championships and the 2012 London Olympics. Remember on that London team LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony were the primary power forwards, and they overwhelmed teams with athleticism and defensive pressure. Yet a lot of talk around Team USA seems to be about the guys not here, such as Kevin Love and Blake Griffin.

“The big men we lost are not centers. We’ve never really had… well in Beijing (2008 Olympics) we did, we had Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh (back when Bosh played more in the post),” Krzyzewski said. “But since then we had Tyson (Chandler) but he didn’t play large minutes. At both the World Championships and in London (2012 Olympics) we had LeBron, Carmelo, Kevin (Love), they were the four/fives. Actually in Istanbul (2010) it was Lamar Odom, who played great, Kevin (Durant), Rudy Gay, Tyson, Kevin Love as a young guy, as a 21 year old. We’re accustomed to (playing small).”

What Team USA is trying to figure out now is who the main rotation guys will be, USA Basketball President Jerry Colangelo told ProBasketballTalk. But at some point they need to think about the bigs.

“We talk about having a core group of players, and that number could vary depending on the people you’re working with, could be eight, could be nine, and then looking for individuals who are specialists, if you will,” Colangelo said. “High energy people, three point specialists, defenders, and that will really be determined by who ends up in our core of eight or nine players.

“This is a very deep roster. We don’t have a lot of bigs, we have a lot of perimeter players, terrific guards for sure. That structure, in our case, may be you carry an extra big or two, just because of our strengths — which will be wings, and the point and the two guard — but you need to protect yourself with a couple of bigs.”

DeMarcus Cousins seems to be getting a lot of run with the main units, but Andre Drummond is making plays and getting a lot of praise from Krzyzewski. The question is fit.

“DeMarcus brings a different big man than Anthony (Davis),” Krzyzewski said. “Just like (Andre) Drummond does. And we have to see how we might incorporate that into what we’re doing.”

What team USA wants is versatility — and that includes their big men, which is why Anthony Davis is a lock.

“What you would hope to have is a roster that would be adaptable and can play against whomever the opposition would be,” Colangelo said.

Report: NBA minimum draft age will not change in new CBA, one-and-done remains

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While the NBA — representing the owners — and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) continue last-minute negotiations on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) before an opt-out deadline Friday night at midnight, one point of contention is off the table:

The NBA draft age will not change in the new CBA, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. The NBA one-and-done rule will remain in place.

The NBA one-and-done rule is unpopular with fans and college coaches (and, of course, players coming up). NBA Commissioner Adam Silver had worked to eliminate that restriction saying it was unfair, but he could not get it done.

There wasn’t much motivation from either side to make a move. From the players’ union perspective, lowering the draft eligibility age to 18 would bring more young players in to develop in the league and take away roster spots from veterans (and the union is made up of those veterans, not undrafted players). The union has suggested ways to keep veterans on the roster (possibly a roster expansion) as mentors, but a deal could not be reached. As for the teams, plenty of GMs would prefer an extra year to evaluate players, especially with them going up against better competition in college/G-League/Overtime Elite/overseas.

There are other impediments to a CBA deal, such as the details around a mid-season NBA tournament, the configuration of the luxury tax, veteran contract extension language, a games-played minimum to qualify for the league’s end-of-season awards.

If the sides do not reach a deal by midnight, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the league would likely opt out of the current CBA, meaning it would end on June 30. The two sides would have until then to reach a deal on a new CBA to avoid a lockout (although they could go into September before it starts to mess with the NBA regular season calendar and not just Summer League).

 

Timberwolves big man Naz Reid out indefinitely with fractured wrist

Minnesota Timberwolves v Phoenix Suns
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This sucks for a Timberwolves team finding its groove.

Part of that groove was the offensive spark of big man Naz Ried off the bench, but now he will be out indefinitely with a fractured wrist, the Timberwolves announced. From the official release:

An MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) taken yesterday at Mayo Clinic Square by Dr. Kelechi Okoroha on Reid revealed a left scaphoid fracture. He will be out indefinitely and further updates on his progress will be provided when available.

A scaphoid fracture involves one of the small bones at the base of the hand that connects the wrist and fingers. Reid injured his hand on this dunk attempt against the Suns, he instinctively used his left hand to help break the fall and it took the weight of the landing.

Impressively, and despite being in pain, Reid played through the injury.

Reid developed into the sixth man, spark plug roll for the Timberwolves behind starters Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns. In his last five games, Reid averaged 18.8 points on 59.1% shooting (including 45% from 3 on four attempts a night) and grabbed 5.2 rebounds in his 22 minutes.

Reid is a free agent this offseason. The Timberwolves want to keep him and have had talks with him, but he will have plenty of suitors.

His loss will be a blow to Minnesota, especially heading into crucial games down the stretch — starting with the Lakers Friday night (a team Reid had some big games against) — and into the postseason. Expect coach Chris Finch to stagger Towns and Gobert a little more, and he can turn to Nate Knight or Luka Garza off the bench, but their role would be limited (especially come the playoffs).

Three things to Know: Do the Celtics have the Bucks number?

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Three Things To Know is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out NBCSports.com every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks that make the NBA must-watch.

1) Do the Boston Celtics have the Milwaukee Bucks number?

I am often the Drum Major leading the “don’t read too much into the regular season game” parade. The marathon grind of 82 games and the circumstances surrounding any single night makes it very difficult to draw conclusions that apply to a playoff series.

Take last night’s showdown of the top two teams in the East, which saw the Celtics blow out the Bucks 140-99. Jayson Tatum scored 40 while Jaylen Brown added 30. Both Celtics’ stars sat the fourth quarter because this one was decided.

There are reasons for the Bucks’ off night. Milwaukee was on the second night of a back-to-back (they dominated the Pacers on Wednesday) and this was the first game back from a four-game road trip (those first games home are notorious letdowns). In the Celtics’ previous game, they got crushed by a struggling Wizards team.

Yet, it isn’t just this one 41-point game that has me thinking Boston is just a bad matchup and better than Milwaukee.

The two teams faced off in a Christmas Day showcase game and the Celtics won handily, 139-118. The Bucks won the rematch on Valentine’s Day in overtime (131-125), but the Celtics sat Tatum, Brown, Marcus Smart and Al Horford — four starters — for that game.

None of those games matter if these teams meet in the second half of May, when the Eastern Conference Finals tip-off. The No. 2 seed Celtics are lined up for a harder road through the playoffs (they could face the Heat and then the 76ers). Could that take a toll on them physically before matching up with the Bucks?

Maybe it doesn’t matter. It looks like Boston has Milwaukee’s number this year.

2) Julius Randle out until start of playoffs. At least.

The No.5 seed New York Knicks appear headed for a first-round showdown with the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Knicks have a puncher’s chance to win that series.

But only if Julius Randle plays.

The Knicks’ All-Star forward and leading scorer will be re-evaluated in two weeks due to a sprained ankle, the team announced. That timeline has him being re-evaluated just a couple of days before the Knicks tip-off in the playoffs (either April 15 or 16).

Randle rolled his ankle going for a rebound and landing on Bam Adebayo‘s foot in the second quarter Wednesday night, and he left the game not to return. Tonight’s game against the aforementioned Cavaliers (in Cleveland) will be the first game Randle has missed all season.

Randle is playing at an All-NBA level again this season, averaging 25.1 points and 10 rebounds a game.

3) Cancel your plans: Must-watch NBA schedule Friday night

We’re approaching the season’s end and the schedule makers lined up some games with some weight for Friday night. It’s not like you had plans you can’t cancel. Here are the games worth watching (times Eastern).

• Knicks at Cavaliers (7:30, League Pass).
This a first-round playoff matchup preview, except the Knicks will be without Julius Randle (hopefully he will be back in a couple of weeks for the games between these teams that really matter).

• Clippers at Grizzlies (8, League Pass). Russell Westbrook vs. Dillon Brooks, round two. These also are two of the top five teams in the West, and maybe the two teams in the conference playing the best ball recently (Memphis is 8-2 in their last 10, the Clippers 7-3). While Paul George is out with a sprained knee and Kawhi Leonard is questionable (personal reasons), both of them sat out for the first game in this two-game set Wednesday night and the Clippers won anyway behind a big Westbrook outing. The Grizzlies were without Jaren Jackson Jr., Desmond Bane and Tyus Jones in that first game, all are expected back tonight (the Grizzlies’ defense without Jackson was awful).

• Lakers at Timberwolves (8, NBA TV). Game of the night. Two teams in the middle of that moras at the bottom of the West (both teams are 39-38, but Minnesota has the tiebreaker coming in so is the eighth seed over the Lakers ninth), and both teams desperately need wins. The Timberwolves have been playing their best basketball of late (at least until the loss to the Suns), but will they have an answer for slowing LeBron James, and especially Anthony Davis (who remains the lynchpin to any Lakers’ success)? Matchup within the game to watch: Jarred Vanderbilt trying to slow Anthony Edwards is going to be fun.

• Nuggets at Suns (10:30, NBA TV). This lines up to be a second-round playoff preview (if both teams advance, which in this West is no lock). Does Denver have any answer for Kevin Durant? (Does anyone?) The Nuggets are on the second night of a back-to-back, but Nikola Jokić sat out the first game (a loss to the Pelicans) and is expected to play in this one. Can Deandre Ayton slow the two-time MVP?

BONUS THING TO KNOW: Brandon Ingram went off for a triple-double to lead the Pelicans past the Nuggets last night, scoring 31.

As expected, Alabama’s Brandon Miller says he will enter NBA Draft

NCAA BASKETBALL: MAR 24 Div I Men's Championship - San Diego State vs Alabama
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This is far from a surprise, but it’s now official.

Brandon Miller, the Alabama wing projected as likely top-three pick, told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski he would enter this June’s NBA Draft.

Miller, a 6’9″ sharpshooting wing, has climbed draft boards over the course of this season as he has shown off more aspects of this game. He has good size, impressive athleticism and projects as a three or four in the NBA (two high-value positions). His skill set starts with being an elite shooter (39.9% on 3-pointers this season) who has the size to shoot over the top of many defenders, but this season showed off improved finishing at the rim and playmaking off the bounce.

The development and growth of Miller’s game (while Scoot Henderson played well but missed a lot of 3s in the G-League) put Miller in the mix for the No.2 pick (Victor Wembanyama remains the clear No.1). Most teams likely still lean toward Henderson and his otherworldly athleticism, but whoever the basketball lottery gods gift the No.2 pick will have a conversation.

Miller made more headlines this season for his off-the-court troubles than his play on it. Tuscaloosa police say he brought a gun to former Alabama teammate Darius Miles, who allegedly used it to shoot and kill Jamea Jonae Harris. Miller was never charged with a crime and multiple front office sources told NBC Sports that unless something changes and he is, this will not impact his draft status.