France shocks Spain at World Cup 65-52, USA’s path to gold just became more open

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One week ago, Spain toyed with France winning by 22 in group play. Spain dominated inside — Marc Gasol had 17 points, Pau Gasol 15 — and played defense that held the French to 39 percent shooting.

Wednesday the scrip flipped — and the USA’s path to the gold medal just became a lot more wide open.

France played a fantastic defensive game Wednesday — their recovery on the pick-and-roll was spot on all game, while inside the combination of Joffrey Lauvergne in the first half and the Utah Jazz’s Rudy Gobert in the second held Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka to a combined 5 points on 2-of-14 shooting.

The result was a shocking upset — France 65, Spain 52. No Tony Parker or Joakim Noah, no problem. France advances on to the World Cup semifinal Friday against Serbia.

Host Spain is done. Adios. It was shocking because they were undefeated in the tournament having won their previous six games by an average 26.5 points. They, along with Team USA, had looked like the clearly two dominant squads of this World Cup, and with Spain at home there was seemingly no question that they would play for the gold.

Suddenly the USA’s path to gold looks much easier. Lithuania (Thursday’s opponent) and either France or Serbia in the final might have a puncher’s chance against the USA. But really it would take their best games and a terrible, off night from the USA to see an upset.

Spain seemed flummoxed by what France did defensively, with fantastic pick-and-roll defense and discipline that didn’t give the Spanish guards (or bigs) room to make the ball moving passes they had all tournament. France also did a great job of slowing the game down, not letting the guards of France get a lot of easy buckets in transition.

Plus, Spain just missed shots. They started 0-9 from three in the first half and were just 2-of-22 from three for the game. On the night Ricky Rubio was 1-of-7 shooting, Sergio Rodriguez 0-of-3, Rudy Fernandez 2-of-6. Combine that with Ibaka and Marc Gasol’s off nights and you have a Spanish team that shot just 32 percent.

But maybe the most shocking part of the night was the way Lauvergne and Gobert controlled the paint and glass – Gobert had 13 rebounds and Lauvergne 10, while the Gasol brothers had a dozen combined.

We have talked about how for Team USA players like Anthony Davis and Kenneth Faried could use their World Cup play as a springboard into a huge NBA season. Throw Gobert on that list.

Also we should be fair to Pau Gasol, who was the one Spanish player who had a good night — 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting plus he had three blocks. He had a very strong entire tournament. Bulls fans will love him this season (likely in a way some Lakers fans never did).

On offense France was doing enough attacking off the dribble in the half court, keeping it a half court game and slowing it down. And they were hitting their shots when it mattered. Boris Diaw had 15 points to lead the way, and late in the game some of the offense ran through him (and as you would expect, it was creative and smart with the ball). Then there was point guard Thomas Heurtel, who was running the show late and hit a couple of key baskets including a dagger three.

It was a team win for France, the European champions who are now looking at a real chance to medal at the World Cup.

It was a team loss for Spain in a year that, at home, they thought they could get a World Cup gold medal. But in a one-and-done tournament you have to bring it every night.

Wednesday France brought it, and they move on.

Much to the delight of Team USA (even though they would never say that publicly).

LeBron, other NBA players react to Kyrie Irving trade to Mavericks

Dallas Mavericks v Brooklyn Nets
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Is there going to be a football game of some kind next weekend? You’d never know the way the NBA trade deadline can dominate the headlines.

Kyrie Irving is getting traded to the Mavericks, which has blown up the NBA world — Dallas looks like a threat in the West, and there is a countdown clock over Kevin Durant‘s time in Brooklyn. It wasn’t just fans and pundits stunned by the news, NBA players past and present took to Twitter and social media to react and give their thoughts on the Irving trade. Starting with LeBron James and one of the guys in the trade.

Nets reportedly trade Kyrie Irving to Mavericks for Dinwiddie, Finney-Smith, picks

Milwaukee Bucks v Brooklyn Nets
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Dallas desperately needed a second star and shot creator to go next to Luka Dončić.

They got one — Mark Cuban has always been willing to take risks to win. The question about how long this can last comes later.

The Nets are trading Kyrie Irving to the Dallas Mavericks for Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, their unprotected 2029 first-round pick their 2027 and 2029 second-round picks, according to multiple reports.

Irving is reportedly “ecstatic” to make the move to Dallas (the hard questions about a future contract will wait until after the season).

Irving reportedly will land in Dallas Monday, take the standard post-trade physical, and could be available for the Mavericks on Wednesday against the Clippers.

Brooklyn had several suitors to choose from but wanted in return players it could slot in around Kevin Durant now (or, once he is healthy and returns) so they could still have a puncher’s chance to win the East. Dinwiddie gives Brooklyn a point guard and shot creator who can play some off the ball — and he returns to Brooklyn, where he made a name for himself in the league. Finney-Smith is a coveted two-way wing who can step in right now. Plus, the Nets add some potentially valuable picks down the line.

That offer gave the Nets more win-now possibilities than they got out of the Lakers’ offer (two future first-rounders and Russell Westbrook) or what the Suns and Clippers put in the mix.

There are questions for Dallas, but ones they believe they can answer — elite talents figure out a way to make it work on the court. Off the court, it helps that both coach Jason Kidd and former Nike executive turned Mavericks GM Nico Harrison have strong relationships with Irving. That’s a start.

The pairing of Dončić and Irving should lead to games and stretches where they look brilliant, but the question is not the highs but the lows — how deep and how prolonged will those be? Irving works well off the ball (as he has done with Durant and LeBron James) and should be able to play off Dončić. However, can Dončić play well off the ball when Irving is hot? Do the Mavericks — with Tim Hardaway Jr., Christian Wood, Maxi Kleber, Reggie Bullock and the rest — have enough around their two stars to be a serious threat in the West? Off the court, can the very different personalities of Irving and Dončić mesh, or at least work well enough not to be a distraction?

The biggest question: Do Cuban and the Mavericks really want to re-sign Irving for the four-years, $198.5 million he demands at the end of the season? There are reports that Dallas (like every other front office in the league, including Brooklyn) is hesitant to do a long-term deal with Irving that gives him that kind of guaranteed money.

But that is a concern for the future — Dallas got its second star. It has vaulted itself into the upper echelons of the Western Conference and positioned itself to contend.

Reports: Stephen Curry out ‘weeks’ with leg injury, Warriors hope for return after All-Star Break

Dallas Mavericks v Golden State Warriors
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This is bad news for the Warriors. How bad depends on how the word “weeks” is ultimately defined.

Stephen Curry has torn ligaments in his leg — in the shin area just below the knee — and while the team does not have an official timeline he will be out “weeks” reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

“Weeks” is a vague word, and for the Warriors the difference in Curry being out three weeks (with one of those being the All-Star Break) versus him being out six to eight weeks could be the difference in how long a playoff run the Warriors have.

The Warriors are hoping for a Curry return just after the All-Star break, reports Monty Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area.

Of short-term concern, this has Curry out for the All-Star Game where the fans voted him a starter. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will bump one of the reserves up to a starting spot — likely Ja Morant, who was third in fan voting — and name an injury replacement for the team. The top candidates are Devin Booker (if he returns from injury this week as expected), De'Aaron Fox or Anthony Edwards.

Longer term, the Warriors can’t afford to be without Curry for an extended period.

Curry is averaging 27.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 6.4 assists a game, and the Warriors outscore opponents by 5 points per 100 possessions when he is on the court and get outscored by 5.4 when he is off. With the team one game above .500 and struggling to avoid the play-in, an extended absence for Curry is trouble for a Warriors team that has never found its footing this season.

 

Nets reportedly going to sit Kyrie Irving until he is traded

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This time it looks like it’s going to happen, the Brooklyn Nets will trade Kyrie Irving (unlike this summer).

Just don’t expect to see Irving on the court for Brooklyn until he’s moved, reports Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

That is at one time a combination of smart, the only real call to make, the Nets wanting to look like they have control over the situation because Irving’s camp already leaked that he was going to sit out the rest of the season if not traded.

Irving did not play Saturday night when the Nets went down by 20 in the first quarter but rallied behind 44 points from Cam Thomas to get a much-needed win.

Four primary suitors have stepped up for Irving: The Lakers (considered Irving’s preferred destination), Suns, Mavericks and Clippers. The question is what do the Nets want back in a trade? If, as most around the league expect, the goal is to remain in the championship picture around Kevin Durant, Brooklyn will prize quality players and depth over draft picks. That’s bad news for the Lakers (the core of their offer is two future first-round picks plus Russell Westbrook) and good for the team down the hall, the Clippers can offer good players — John Wall, Luke Kennard, Reggie Jackson, plus young players such as Terance Mann — plus a pick if they need it.

The question for teams: Irving wants a max contract after this summer, similar to the four-year, $198.5 million fully guaranteed extension the Nets would not offer after Irving had 10 weeks or so of not being disruptive and focusing on basketball. Around the league, front offices are very hesitant to get into the Irving business for that long (most thought he would never get more than a two-year offer). Are the four teams above desperate enough for a bold move that ownership would sign off on four years with Irving? Will any of them? Or, like this summer, will Irving find the market not to his liking?

It’s going to be interesting until the Feb. 9 trade deadline.