World Cup Day 1 roundup: Brazil with big win, Andray Blatche puts on a show

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The FIBA World Cup tipped-off on Saturday in Spain with a dozen games. Since it’s Labor Day weekend and all and you have barbecues to attend and beers to drink, we put together a quick recap for you.

• The USA’s defense forced Finland into a 0-of-17 shooting performance in the second quarter, a quarter the USA won 29-2. From there the USA went on to eek out a 114-55 win. Klay Thompson had 18 points, Anthony Davis 17 and Derrick Rose looked impressive throwing up a dozen. Finland had a loud and large crowd on hand, which was nice.

• Brazil picked up a key win over France 65-63 in a battle of two potential medal teams (both in Group A this round). Brazil trailed in the second quarter of a sloppy game until point guard Marcelo Huertas poured in 11 of his 16 points on the night to fuel the Brazilian comeback and give them a two point lead at the half, a lead they were able to maintain in the second half. Boris Diaw led France with 15 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists, and he had a three-point shot at the final buzzer to try to win it but Anderson Varejao of Brazil got the block. This was a game littered with NBA players but Evan Fournier (Magic) barely played and Nene (Wizards) was 2-of-6 shooting with four turnovers in what was often a sloppy game.

• As you would expect Spain had little trouble with Iran, winning 90-60. The real news here was that Serge Ibaka did not play for Spain due to a hamstring injury. We will monitor this going forward, but remember Ibaka battled a calf injury in the NBA playoffs last year.

• Andray Blatche had a monster game for the Philippines — 28 points (despite a 1-of-9 shooting start when he was settling for jumpers) and 12 rebounds. Blatche, still an NBA free agent, was faking three pointers and driving past Croatian big men when they bit, getting into the lane and generally finding all sorts of room to operate and put on a show. It wasn’t enough. The Brooklyn Nets new forward Bojan Bogdanovic scored 26 points leading Croatia to a 81-78 overtime victory.

• Argentina had little trouble with Puerto Rico winning 98-75 behind 20 points and 9 rebounds from Luis Scola, plus 10 assists from Pablo Prigioni. J.J. Barea had 24 points to lead Puerto Rico.

• The Suns’ Goran Dragic scored 21 points and pulled down 7 rebounds to lead Slovenia to a 90-80 victory over Australia.

• Greece beat Senegal 87-64 in part due to Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 11 points, 5 rebounds and 3 steals. Minnesota’s Gorgui Dieng led Senegal with 21 points and 14 rebounds.

• In other action in the USA’s group Turkey came from behind to beat New Zealand 76-73, and the Ukraine (coached by Mike Fratello) beat the Dominican Republic 72-62.

• Other Word cup games on Saturday saw Angola beating Korea 80-69, Serbia toying with Egypt 85-64, and Lithuania beating Mexico 87-74.

Nets reportedly extend Caris LeVert on 3-year, $52.5 million deal

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The Brooklyn Nets have Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, and that’s going to be important for the next half-decade or so. Those two players will shoulder the bulk of Brooklyn’s championship hopes over that time frame.

But so too is it important for the Nets to keep a strong team around its superstars. Too many teams seem to end up top heavy as they try to chase championships year after year.

To that end, Brooklyn has reportedly signed their own budding star Caris LeVert to an extension that takes him through 2023.

Via ESPN and Twitter:

LeVert’s extension starts at $16.2 million in 2020-21 and escalates to $17.5 million and $18.8 million in the next two years, ESPN’s Bobby Marks reported.

The deal gives LeVert security and a chance to return to free agency or negotiate an extension before his 28th birthday.

LeVert’s extension is worth a reported $52.5 million, which makes him reasonably paid within the team context and should give him a chance to cash out yet again before he hits age 30.

This season will be an interesting look into how LeVert and Irving work together on the floor without Durant. They can get into some kind of rhythm and find an understanding between them, which is going to be vital for when Durant eventually returns in 2020.

Team USA sees betting odds in World Cup skew downward

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Team USA is 12 man roster is now set, and they are prepared to take on the rest of the world in the 2019 FIBA World Cup In China with summer.

The United States finally lost a game for the first time in 13 years on Saturday, falling to Patty Mills and Australia, 98-94.

But despite that loss, the United States is still the odds-on favorite to win the World Cup this year. Then again, their odds have started to slip since the start of the summer.

According to Westgate, the United States is favored at 4/7 to take home the gold. Team USA originally opened at 1/5. Now some other teams have moved up in oddsmakers’ minds.

Via Westgate and Action Network:

  • United States: 4/7
  • Serbia: 2-1
  • Greece: 10-1
  • Spain: 20-1
  • France: 25-1
  • Australia: 30-1
  • Lithuania: 60-1
  • Canada: 100-1

Serbia seems like a pretty good shot to usurp the throne for the United States. Nikola Jokic has said that he wants his team to medal, but no doubt he and his squad will be looking for a gold medal.

The United States is suffering from a lack of continuity and star power. That might not matter given that Gregg Popovich is still the head coach and USA Basketball far out matches other countries in terms of raw talent.

But as we saw in 2004, talent doesn’t trump all when it comes to Team USA. The door is open for other countries to grab the top spot for the time being, and oddsmakers think so as well.

Rui Hachimura pumped when friend Sumo wrestler Hakuho drains free throw

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Rui Hachimura, the Gonzaga star drafted ninth by the Washington Wizards, is having a blast this summer playing for his native Japan as their national team gears up for the World Cup in China starting in one week.

However, he may never have been more pumped than when his friend, legendary sumo wrestler Hakuho, came out in his robes and drained a free throw.

The Wizards have to get Hakuho to a game this season, let him take a few shots during a timeout. We all need to see this.

And Hakuho was nothing, another sumo wrestler walked out in robes and drained a straight-on three.

I need to see a sumo wrestler pickup game now more than I need anything else in my life. I want to see the battle for post position.

Hachimura has played well for Japan, he dropped 31 points on Germany in the final tuneup game for the World Cup, showing off a comfort level from the midrange that is impressive. He hit shots off the dribble and on the catch.

Hachimura and Japan are in the same group as Team USA in the World Cup, and the two teams face off Sept. 3 in Shanghai.

Enes Kanter says he might add ‘American’ name once he’s a U.S. citizen (VIDEO)

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Enes Kanter has been dealing with being a man without a country for some time. The Turkish-born Boston Celtics center has openly criticized Turkish president Recep Erdoğan, And as such he is no longer welcome back in his home country.

In fact, Kanter didn’t have a valid Turkish passport this past spring, so the question of whether he might be able to re-enter the United States if he went to Canada was raised by several Portland Trail Blazers fans, including Senator Ron Wyden.

Kanter has been in the process of becoming a U.S. citizen for some time, and he appears close to that goal. As such, Kanter mentioned this week that he might add an “American” name onto his name when that happens.

Speaking to TMZ, Kanter said that, “I’m actually becoming a U.S. citizen in two years: I’m actually thinking about adding an American name. I’m still thinking about it. I don’t know yet.”

One of the newest Celtics, Kanter appears to have a diplomatic way about him and the ability to network with folks higher up. Given amount of time, resources, and potential political power behind him as an NBA player, there is hope that he will become an U.S. citizen.

Whether Kanter really wants to add an ”American” name — whatever that’s supposed to mean — is anyone’s guess. One of the founding principles of this country is the concept of the melting pot, and so a great American name for Enes Kanter would be… Enes Kanter.