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.

Report: Lakers have interest in Joakim Noah

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The Los Angeles Lakers are reportedly interested in Dwight Howard. He has not yet been bought out by the Memphis Grizzlies, but a return to L.A. for Howard would be one of the most Lakers things of all time.

Howard infamously left Los Angeles under an auspicious circumstances in 2013 after things went south during the 2012-13 season between him, Kobe Bryant, and Steve Nash. He signed with the Houston Rockets that summer.

But Howard is not the only aging center under consideration by the Lakers. According to Shams Charania, Los Angeles is also considering adding Joakim Noah to their roster.

Via Twitter:

DeMarcus Cousins’ ACL injury has created a dearth of center depth for the Lakers, one that cannot be easily filled quickly. There aren’t a lot of available players left, and Los Angeles doesn’t have much to help facilitate a trade.

LeBron James and Anthony Davis need some help moving forward if they want to go deep into the Western Conference playoffs, and having only JaVale McGee playing at the center position won’t help them do that. They need to add somebody, but Howard or Noah being the answer to that is a scary proposition for a team with championship hopes.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar didn’t like how Bruce Lee was portrayed by Quentin Tarantino

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was friends with Bruce Lee before the actor’s tragic death in 1973. He was his teacher, pal, and co-star in in 1972’s Game of Death. Naturally, Abdul-Jabbar is protective of his friend’s legacy, and he’s not too happy about the way Lee was portrayed in Quentin Tarantino’s latest film.

Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is a meandering, beautiful, boring tribute to the film industry as it was changing at the end of the 1960s. It’s worth seeing just as a thing to look at, but the narrative — or lack thereof — is plodding, and the ending harkens back to a kind of transposed version of Inglourious Basterds that leaves you wondering what the point of making the film was in the first place.

Somewhere in the middle of its 2h 45m runtime, there’s an extended scene in Once Upon A Time where Brad Pitt’s character Cliff fights Bruce Lee. Why? Probably because Tarantino wanted to pay tribute to Lee being an important part of that era, and because Tarantino is so untouchable that nobody can tell him to leave extemporaneous scenes on the cutting room floor.

Instead, what Tarantino’s tribute scene appears to have done is angered Abdul-Jabbar along with members of Lee’s family.

In an article penned in The Hollywood Reporter this week, Abdul-Jabbar called Lee’s portrayal “sloppy” and “somewhat racist”.

Via THR:

Quentin Tarantino’s portrayal of Bruce Lee in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood does not live up to this standard. Of course, Tarantino has the artistic right to portray Bruce any way he wants. But to do so in such a sloppy and somewhat racist way is a failure both as an artist and as a human being.

The John Wayne machismo attitude of Cliff (Brad Pitt), an aging stuntman who defeats the arrogant, uppity Chinese guy harks back to the very stereotypes Bruce was trying to dismantle. Of course the blond, white beefcake American can beat your fancy Asian chopsocky dude because that foreign crap doesn’t fly here.

Lee’s family, including daughter Shannon, has also spoken up about how Lee was portrayed in the film. In an interview with The Wrap, Shannon Lee said that, “He comes across as an arrogant asshole who was full of hot air.”

Once Upon A Time is a forgettable movie wrapped in the trappings of modern prestige media, where viewers are either unable separate production value from content, or unwilling to do so. It is beautiful, and the people involved are heavy hitters. But halfway through, the viewer is left asking “What’s the plot of this movie?” and that question remains until the final 15 minutes, when the inevitable, telegraphed ending finally, mercifully closes the story and the end credits roll.

Meanwhile, in true Tarantino form, his indulgences have created a mini-storm around one of his films in the most unnecessary way. An ill-conceived and executed scene that added nothing but length to Once Upon A Time has turned into a grating talking point for people like Abdul-Jabbar and Shannon Lee.

Rachel Nichols and Maria Taylor to host ‘NBA Countdown’

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Things just keep getting better for NBA fans when it comes to national TV broadcasts.

It was announced in August that TNT would be doing away with the “Players Only” broadcast that appeared on NBA TV. Those broadcast crews were roundly criticized as being meandering and uninformed when it came to the product on the floor.

Now fans are getting more of what they want in the form of Rachel Nichols and Maria Taylor.

According to a report from Richard Deitsch, Nichols and Taylor will be the hosts of ESPN’s pregame show, NBA Countdown.

Paul Pierce and Chauncey Billups Won’t return as analysts on the pregame show next year, leaving just Jalen Rose. That means there are a couple of spots open, and we don’t yet know who ESPN will fill them with. Nichols will reportedly continue to host her regular show “The Jump”.

As the league continues to get more popular, it makes sense that broadcast partners listen to the audience. Nichols is an NBA favorite, so having her be more visible makes a lot of sense.

NBA players roast Kyle Kuzma over outfit posted to Instagram (PHOTOS)

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Kyle Kuzma is going to be expected to have a big year for the Los Angeles Lakers. He thinks he can have the impact of a third star for L.A., a team that didn’t add Kawhi Leonard to go alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis this summer.

That’s big talk from Kuzma, but perhaps that talk has boosted his confidence a little bit. In a photo posted to Instagram this week, Kuzma could be seen wearing… whatever this is.

Via Twitter:

Twitter had a great time with Kuzma outfit, which looks like something pulled straight out of an early 2000s episode of TRL.

Kuzma’s contemporaries in the NBA thought he was getting a little wild with it, too, with several hopping onto the post to roast the Lakers big man.

Via Twitter:

I don’t know what this means for the upcoming Lakers season, but I’m sure it’s something interesting.