51 Q: Who makes the 2016 U.S. Olympic team?

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The USA Basketball program is in as enviable a place as it’s ever been, but it’s almost too much of a good thing at times. Some top-flight talent (Damian Lillard, for example) has already been left off the team in recent tournaments, and the cutting process for next year’s Olympic team is going to be absolutely brutal. Most of the 12 spots on the team are already spoken for with veteran players for whom it might be their final go-around in international play, as well as a handful of younger stars who are sure things.

Jerry Colangelo has made it clear that LeBron James has a spot on the team if he wants one. James will be 31 by the time the Rio Olympics start, and with all the miles on his body, it could be tempting for him to take the summer off, especially if the Cavs make another run to the Finals that has him adding to his total minutes all the way into June. But this would likely be his final Olympic opportunity, having been a part of the previous two gold-medal teams in 2008 and 2012. Carmelo Anthony is in the same boat, and he’s been so effective as a member of the Olympic team that it’s tough to see him passing up the opportunity to do it one more time.

A few of the NBA’s younger stars also seem like locks to make the roster, the guys who are being positioned as the future of the program once the LeBron/Carmelo generation is out. 2014 FIBA World Cup MVP Kyrie Irving will make it if he’s healthy. So will Anthony Davis, James Harden, Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook.

Theoretically, Kevin Durant would be a shoe-in for the team — he played with Team USA in 2010 and 2012, and he’s one of the faces of the program. But his health and free agency complicate things. He played in just 27 games last year, sitting out with a foot injury, which could play into his decision. And he could decide to sit out after signing a big free-agent deal, whether it’s in Oklahoma City or elsewhere. That’s what Marc Gasol did this summer, skipping the EuroBasket tournament to rest after inking a five-year extension with the Grizzlies.

If you tentatively pencil in Durant and Chris Paul (another Team USA vet who has just enough of his prime left to give it another go), that only leaves three spots open. At least one of them has to be a big man, since Davis is the only frontcourt player who’s a sure thing to make the roster. Blake Griffin, Kevin Love, DeMarcus Cousins, Kenneth Faried and Andre Drummond are all in the program; in all likelihood, only one and maybe two of them will be able to make the roster. Another wing is possible, be it Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard or Klay Thompson. With Paul, Westbrook, Curry and Irving already all but guaranteed to make it, John Wall is probably out purely by default, which is insane to think about.

The elephant in the room, of course, is Kobe Bryant. He’s said he wants to ride out into the sunset with one more Olympic appearance. There’s no world in which, purely on basketball merit, Kobe Bryant in 2016 is more worthy of a spot than any of the younger players who will be cut, but the USA Basketball program is so deep that they will be heavily favored to win gold regardless. A lifetime-achievement spot on the team for Kobe is fine, if he’s healthy. But that’s a big if.

No matter who makes the team, the fact is that USA Basketball is in a phenomenal place. The diversity and depth of the talent that will make up the program over the next decade is staggering. 2016 could be a transition year as some veterans like James, Anthony, Paul and Durant take a victory lap while the next generation takes a foothold.

Carmelo Anthony has 18, but Giannis Antetokounmpo’s triple-double leads Bucks to win

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MILWAUKEE (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo had his second triple-double of the season and the Milwaukee Bucks beat Carmelo Anthony and the short-handed Portland Trail Blazers 137-129 on Thursday night.

Antetokounmpo had 24 points, 19 rebounds and a career-high 15 assists to lead the Bucks to their sixth straight victory. Antetokounmpo, who also had a triple-double in the season opener, has 16 career triple-doubles. Milwaukee is 14-2 in those games.

Eric Bledsoe added 30 points and six assists in the Bucks’ highest-scoring game of the season.

After scoring 10 points on 4-of-14 shooting in 24 minutes in his season debut Tuesday night against the Pelicans, Anthony had 10 points in the first half Thursday. The 10-time All-Star finished with 18 points (6-of-15 shooting) and seven rebounds for the Blazers, who were without Hassan Whiteside (hip), Damian Lillard (back), Zach Collins (shoulder) and Jusuf Nurkic (leg).

CJ McCollum scored a game-high 37 points and Skal Labissiere added 22 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks off the bench for Portland. The Trail Blazers lost their third straight game and seventh of the last nine against the Bucks, including sixth straight in Milwaukee.

The Bucks made their first seven shots, including three 3s, and led 17-6. Milwaukee never trailed.

The Bucks also had their highest first-half total, leading 72-58.

Report: Knicks not looking to make early-season coaching change with David Fizdale

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It didn’t take a Kremlinologist to read into what Knicks president Steve Mills said at his forced by the owner impromptu press conference 10 games into the NBA season:

Coach David Fizdale was in trouble. Big trouble.

It may not just be immediate, reports Marc Berman at the New York Post.

Mills wanted to see “consistent effort” and he’s gotten it. Indications are the coach’s hot seat is cooler halfway through this 10-game trial. Their record is 2-3 since the James Dolan-inspired conference, but could easily be 4-1 (they blew big leads to Charlotte, losing on a last-second 3-pointer, and, of course, had Philly dead in the water)…

The Knicks had to really sink south for a coaching change to be made by Game 20. Indications are it was far-fetched for a change to be made this early anyway. Was owner James Dolan, who has given Fizdale private reassurances, really going to let president Mills hire a new coach from the outside on a long-term deal with Fizdale still having at least one season fully guaranteed on his pact for 2020-21? Sources indicated the major deterrent to making a change at Thanksgiving was the sketchy alternative of promoting one of the assistants – Jud Buechler, Keith Smart or Kaleb Canales.

Good luck finding anyone who thinks Fizdale is safe long term in New York (and for the record, Smart has been an NBA head coach before, there are worse choices).

However, making a mid-season coaching change should really only happen for a couple of reasons. One is that the situation is so bad, so toxic, that it could poison the team into future seasons. The other is that there is a coach available on the sidelines that the team sees as “the man” going forward and they want to snap him up before someone else does (the Kings hiring George Karl comes to mind, although he turned out not to be “the man” they needed).

Not sure either of those situations applies to the Knicks and Fizdale. A move is more likely in the offseason.

However, predict James Dolan’s moods at your own risk.

Cavaliers’ new jerseys feature a big ol’ feather

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The Cavaliers rank near the top of the NBA by taking 19% of their total shots outside the restricted area while still in the paint. But Cleveland has converted just a middling 41% of attempts in that floater/runner range.

Maybe these uniforms will help the Cavs find a more feathery touch.

Though not in so many words, the Cavaliers actually stuck a feather on their jerseys and called it macaroni.

Jarrett Allen denies Kyrie Irving rumors, “He acts like a normal teammate”

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It hasn’t taken long for the “Kyrie Irving isn’t a good leader in Brooklyn” rumor mill to start up. The Nets 6-8 start combined with a desire in some corners of the NBA (and NBA Twitter) to pile on Irving has started the talk. Whether those rumors are just smoke or there’s some fire there depends on who you ask.

It was ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith who brought the topic to the forefront again on First Take.

Just as a refresher, anything Smith says should be taken with a full box of Morton’s Kosher salt. His job is to stir things up. That doesn’t mean he has no connections.

Nets center Jarrett Allen did an AMA on Bleacher Report and shot down the idea Irving is a bad influence in the locker room.

He acts like a normal teammate. People say that he has mood swings, but that’s a complete lie. He wants to see us succeed and do well if anything.

Allen added this when asked to compare playing with Irving vs. D'Angelo Russell.

They’re kind of different. Kyrie can score from anywhere, even without me setting up the pick-and-roll. DLo…we worked well; if he didn’t score, he’d kick it to me to score.

The Nets are a franchise inhabiting a strange space this season. First, this ultimately is Kevin Durant‘s team, but he doesn’t really get the keys until he can play, which almost certainly means next season. That makes Irving an interim Alpha on that team, but that’s an unusual dynamic.

Second, this is a Nets team that has rebounded from as low as it can get in the NBA to being a place Irving and KD wanted to play by establishing a culture, an identity. This is a lunch pail group of players who were selfless and bought into the team’s ideas and concepts. Nobody was a superstar, it was team first. Except, in come two superstars who bring their own ways of doing things — and the Nets can’t mess with that. There are compromises that need to go on for both sides, with Irving/KD bending to the Nets some, but the Nets giving them superstar treatment.

All of that creates friction that is going to rub some people the wrong way. Plus, Irving is a unique personality who is going to do things his way, and that will bother others. Some of those people will talk to the media, but that doesn’t mean everyone — or even a majority — feel the same way. It’s usually people who feel aggrieved who want to vent.

How all this plays out in Brooklyn is going to be something to watch. But the ultimate test is next season, not this one.