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Jordan Crawford, Henry Ellenson headline Team USA for next round of World Cup qualifying

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It’s been a strange qualifying process for the 2019 FIBA Basketball  World Cup, thanks to FIBA idiotically putting qualifying windows during the traditional basketball season and hoping to eventually encourage league-wide breaks as is seen in soccer. Good luck with that. All it did was weaken the talent pool for teams.

Even with this next qualifying window right before NBA training camps open, most players are not taking part. There are a handful of NBA players expected to suit up for their countries in the September FIBA World Cup Qualifying window. For example, Sacramento’s Nemanja Bjelica and Bogdan Bogdanovic are expected to play for Serbia, then there’s Tristan Thompson for Canada and Cedi Osman for Turkey, but they are the exception to the rule.

The USA is sticking with its plan of sending a team made of free agents and G-League players coached by Jeff Van Gundy — who have gone 5-1 so far in qualifying — and on Monday announced the 14 players who are coming to USA Basketball training camp, 12 of whom will be on the team that will face Uraguay and Panama next month. The players are:

• Bryce Alford (Oklahoma City Blue)
Dwayne Bacon (Charlotte Hornets)
• V.J. Beachem (Free Agent)
Jordan Crawford (New Orleans Pelicans)
Henry Ellenson (Detroit Pistons)
Isaiah Hicks (New York Knicks)
Reggie Hearn (Grand Rapids Drive)
Dakari Johnson (Free Agent)
Frank Mason III (Sacramento Kings)
Ben Moore (Fort Wayne Mad Ants)
Chasson Randle (Capital City Go-Go)
Travis Trice (Milwaukee Bucks)
Jameel Warney (Texas Legends)
Derrick White (San Antonio Spurs)

“With our September second-round games marking the start of the most critical part of the World Cup Qualifying, I think it is imperative for us to look for players who possess mental fortitude, who are tough, and who have experience,” said Van Gundy. “All of our second-round games are going to very, very difficult and competitive battles. Argentina, Panama and Uruguay are all really good and well coached.

“It’s good to have Reggie (Hearn) and Jameel (Warney) back, they’ve already experienced how tough these games are. And by looking to players who have played in the NBA and internationally, I’m hoping we have the experience required to win and qualify the United States for the 2019 FIBA World Cup.”

The U.S. will host Uruguay on Sept. 14 (7 p.m. Pacific Time) at UNLV’s Cox Pavilion, then travels to take on Panama on Sept. 17 in Panama City.

Russell Westbrook has beef with Joel Embiid after hard foul (VIDEO)

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Russell Westbrook is always looking for something — real or imagined — to use as motivational fuel.

He found something real Saturday in Joel Embiid.

With 1:46 left in a close game on national television, Westbrook was off to the races in transition with just Embiid back and the result was a hard foul.

Westbrook was pissed after the game thinking this was not just a hard foul (warning, NSFW language):

Embiid essentially shrugged.

The actual foul was hard but a bit of a fluke. Embiid went up to block the layup/dunk but Westbrook lost his dribble for a second, and the result was an airborne Embiid crashing into Westbrook. Hard. Was there a little bit extra in there? Depends on if you’re on Team Westbrook or Team Embiid.

But the NBA could use more feuds, so bring it on.

The Thunder went on to beat the 76ers on a Paul George game-winner.

Celtics’ Marcus Smart goes after Hawks’ Deandre Bembry, gets ejected

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Marcus Smart will be lucky if all he has to do is write a check to the league office. This is the kind of thing that can lead to a suspension.

Midway through the third quarter in Atlanta Saturday, Boston’s Smart picked up his second technical foul jawing with Atlanta’s DeAndre Bembry before a jump ball. That got him ejected. But it was when it charged back after Bembry rather than leaving the floor that the real trouble started.

Predicting the league office on fines/suspensions is like predicting a roulette table, but that looks like it could cost Smart a game. Smart had picked up his earlier technical arguing calls.

Boston came from behind to win Saturday in Atlanta, with Kyrie Irving leading the way scoring 32.

Bucks to retire jersey Marcus Johnson’s number

via NBA.com
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Marcus Johnson is a Milwaukee legend. He averaged 21 points a game in his seven seasons with the Bucks and is sixth on the all-time franchise list in points (10,980), is its all-time leader in offensive rebounds (1,468), is third in total rebounds (3,923), and made 4,546 during his time in Milwaukee. He is now a color commenter for the team.

Now, the team is going to retire his No. 8.

The ceremony will be March 24, a story broken by the Journal-Sentinel.

Johnson will be the ninth Bucks player to have his number retired and the first since the team’s move to its new home Fiserv Forum.

Current Bucks legend Giannis Antetokounmpo told the Journal-Sentinel he was happy. Antetokounmpo turned to Johnson at points for help with footwork, post moves, and more.

“I’m really happy for him, I think he deserves to have his jersey retired,” Antetokounmpo said. “It’s amazing. He’s just sitting down there like a normal person, but this guy was one of the best players in the league when he was playing. … He’s a legend.”

Johnson won an NCAA national championship at UCLA under the legendary John Wooden before going on to an NBA career that included five All-Star appearances and three All-NBA teams.

Paul George hits game winner, lifts Thunder past 76ers 117-115

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Paul George converted a four-point play with 5.1 seconds left, sending Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder to a wild 117-115 victory over Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday.

George’s clutch shot capped a wild finish that included another memorable exchange with Westbrook and Embiid. Westbrook hit the floor out of bounds under the basket after a foul by Embiid late in the game, and Westbrook fouled out with 14.9 seconds remaining after he got Embiid while shooting a 3-pointer.

Embiid made all three foul shots, tying it at 113, and Jimmy Butler‘s driving layup put Philadelphia in front with 6.9 seconds to go. But George drained a 3 while being fouled by Butler and made the foul shot.

Philadelphia had one last chance, but Butler missed a 3-point attempt in the final seconds. The 76ers have lost 19 in a row to the Thunder.

George finished with 31 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals. Westbrook had 21 points, 10 rebounds and six assists for Oklahoma City, and reserve Dennis Schroder also scored 21 points.

The Thunder had dropped five of six, including a 138-128 overtime loss against the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night.

Embiid, who was a game-time decision because of back tightness, had 31 points, eight rebounds and six assists. JJ Redick scored 22 points for Philadelphia, and Ben Simmons finished with 20 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists.

Oklahoma City led by as many as 16 points in the first quarter, but Philadelphia rallied in the second and trailed 59-56 at the break.