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Jerry Colangelo to step down as president of USA Basketball

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There will be a complete changing of the guard at the top of USA basketball heading into the next World Cup.

Gone is Mike Krzyzewski as coach, replaced by the most logical next in line, Gregg Popovich (who spent a lot of time with Team USA in the run-up to the Rio Olympics this summer).

Now Jerry Colangelo, the USA Basketball Chairman who orchestrated a rebuild of its structure, is stepping down and will not seek a third term, it was announced Thursday. Colangelo will continue as the Managing Director of the USA Basketball Men’s National Team — meaning he will be hands on in selecting that team — but he will back away from other levels of the organization.

“Given the coaching change and the challenge of assembling a group of players for FIBA’s new competition schedule, this is a good time to devote my full attention to the Men’s National Team,” Colangelo said in a statement. “As Chairman of USA Basketball, I’m proud of what our teams at all levels have accomplished and how our players have embraced the responsibility of representing their country.  I look forward to working with the next Chairman to ensure that we continue to honor and build on USA Basketball’s rich tradition.”

A new Chairman will be elected by the USA Basketball Board of Directors at its meeting Nov. 14. We already know who is in line for the position, and my guess is General Martin Dempsey will pass the USA Basketball background check.

Colangelo took over in 2004 after the USA won bronze in Athens and didn’t look good doing it. Beyond just recruit top players to the senior men’s team, he set out to rework the structure of USA Basketball and have top players competing for their country — and wanting that honor — at a young age. The other key was to get all these teams playing the same system and style.

It was a prestige honor before, but once (Colangelo and Krzyzewski) came in and built up a culture, it totally changed into a different dynamic,” Kyrie Irving told NBCSports.com this summer after a Team USA practice. “Every generation that is coming up has to come through USA Basketball if you’re, quote/unquote, a top player in the country….

“I myself played when I was 17 years old going into Duke. I end up going (to college) for one year, then I end up playing on the select team that I’m playing against today (the NBA rookies and young stars that the USA scrimmages against).”

Irving was part of the USA team that won gold in Rio this summer. That Rio medal showed how Colangelo had changed USA basketball — in 2004 a lot of top players pulled out of going to Athens (both over security concerns and most of them couldn’t stand coach Larry Brown) and there was no structure of good players in the system to step up and take their place. The team was just slapped together, and they hoped for the best. The got bronze. In 2016 a lot of top players pulled out of the Rio Olympics (injuries, Zika virus, and other concerns) but now there was a structure in place with guys who had come up through the system. The result was golden.

Not everyone around the NBA is happy that Colangelo — who also is an executive with the Philadelphia 76ers — has access to all this top talent from the NBA and could potentially leverage that to his advantage. The NBA put limits on his contacts with players, although he can speak to them specifically about USA basketball issues.

Colangelo is already talking about who might make the 2020 roster for the Tokyo Olympics, but he and the national team face real challenges before then. As Colangelo noted, FIBA changed the schedule for qualifications to the World Cup, which is now in 2019 (one year before the Olympics) to be during the NBA and other winter seasons of top leagues. Unlike European soccer leagues, which take breaks so players can compete in these tournaments, the NBA and top Europeans and other leagues are not. So the USA will be sending and interesting team of D-Leaguers and others to these games. It’s a disastrous idea from FIBA that Colangelo and USA Basketball have to deal with.

He’s not retiring; that’s for sure.

Russell Westbrook listed as out for season opener vs. Warriors

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No Russell Westbrook. No Andre Roberson. Maybe no Steven Adams.

This is not what the NBA had in mind when they sent Oklahoma City to Golden State for the second game of the NBA’s opening night doubleheader on national television. But, that’s the reality due to injury.

Westbrook had arthroscopic surgery on right knee back on Sept. 12 and it was expected to be re-evaluated around the start of the season. However, with the marathon of the NBA season about to start no way the Thunder were never going to rush him back, national television and the Warriors or not. While it’s less than ideal, getting it dealt with and missing training camp and a few games is better than to risk something worse during the season (or miss a month of the season in a Western Conference where there is little margin for error because of the depth of quality teams).

The Thunder called it “maintenance,” but this is Westbrook’s fourth surgery on that knee, although it’s the first in more than four years. His issues with this knee date back to the 2013 playoffs when Patrick Beverley crashed into it and tore the meniscus.

Westbrook is about to turn 30, has some heavy-usage miles on that body, and just signed a five-year, $205 million contract extension.

Alvin Gentry: Pelicans wouldn’t trade Anthony Davis for anyone – ‘not even Beyonce’

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Pelicans star Anthony Davis said he’s the best player in the NBA.

His coach, Alvin Gentry, agreed then expanded.

Gentry:

If you don’t want to call him the best player, I call him the most valuable. Because if you can trade him for anybody, then he is the most valuable guy. Not that we would ever consider that. Don’t you guys take some kind of spin and put it on top. There is no one in the league that we would trade him for. There is no one out of the league. Not even Beyonce. If we wouldn’t trade him for her, then he’s probably untouchable.

I’d trade Davis for Giannis Antetokounmpo, who’s also in the MVP race, even younger and locked up an extra season.

LeBron James, Stephen Curry and James Harden are better, older and locked up for longer than Davis. I’d probably trade Davis for LeBron or Curry, though not Harden.

Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Jayson Tatum are worse, younger but also locked up for longer than Davis. I probably wouldn’t trade Davis for any of them, though the additional team control makes it worth considering.

Really, Davis is already at the point – as few as two years from unrestricted free agency – trade speculation hits high gear. The possibility of him leaving New Orleans high and dry in 2020 is too great to ignore.

As far as Davis for Beyonce… I guess it depends on your priorities.

Paul Allen, long-time owner of Portland Trail Blazers, dies after battle with cancer

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This is a painful loss, not just for the Portland Trail Blazers, but for the NBA.

Paul Allen, who made his money as one of the founders of Microsoft and went on to start Vulcan enterprises, which owns the Trail Blazers as well as the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks, has passed away from his battle with cancer. He was just 65 years old.

“Paul Allen was the ultimate trail blazer – in business, philanthropy and in sports,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “As one of the longest-tenured owners in the NBA, Paul brought a sense of discovery and vision to every league matter large and small.  He was generous with his time on committee work, and his expertise helped lay the foundation for the league’s growth internationally and our embrace of new technologies.  He was a valued voice who challenged assumptions and conventional wisdom and one we will deeply miss as we start a new season without him.  Our condolences go to his family, friends and the entire Trail Blazers organization.”

Just a couple of weeks ago, Allen had announced his non-Hodgkins lymphoma had returned. It was his third round with the disease, but it was not known that it was already at a life-threatening stage.

After his first battle with the disease, Allen left Microsoft to pursue other interests, which included philanthropy and owning the Trail Blazers and Seahawks. Allen bought the Trail Blazers in 1988 for $70 million from real estate developer Larry Weinberg. Forbes currently estimates the value of the franchise at $1.3 billion.

It is possible this will lead to a sale of the Trail Blazers in not too distant future.

(Do not think this means another owner can swoop in like a vulture and move the team. Aside the fact Commissioner Adam Silver and the league would push back against moving a healthy franchise, the Blazers’ lease at the Moda runs through 2025, with explicit language to keep the team in Portland through 2023 at least.)

Allen’s sister, Ms. Jody Allen, released the following statement:

“Paul’s family and friends were blessed to experience his wit, warmth, his generosity and deep concern. For all the demands on his schedule, there was always time for family and friends. At this time of loss and grief for us – and so many others – we are profoundly grateful for the care and concern he demonstrated every day.”

Our thoughts and condolences go out to Allen’s family and friends.

Larry Nance Jr., Cavaliers reportedly agree to four-year, $45 million contract extension

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Cleveland wanted this to happen, he’s the son of a Cavaliers’ legend who showed last playoffs he can have a role in whatever is next for this team post-LeBron.

Larry Nance Jr. wanted this to happen — he was born in Akron and was raised in the area, Cleveland is where he wants to be.

So as had been expected, the Cavaliers and Nance were able to work out an extension to his rookie contract before the deadline, as reported by Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Joe Varden of the Athletic said the final numbers were four-years, $44.8 million.

That seems about a fair price. Nance was a steal in the draft by the Lakers 27th back in 2015 and was a fan favorite in L.A., but was sent to Cleveland in the Isaiah Thomas trade. Nance is a quality rotation player on both ends, a guy who averaged 8.7 points per game last season (expect that to go up) and shot 58.1 percent overall (and a 58.5 true shooting percentage, above the league average). He had a PER of 21.5 while with the Cavaliers last season (and a 20.2 PER with a 68.5 true shooting percentage in a smaller playoff role), showing the kind of versatility prized in today’s NBA.

This contract is a win for both sides.