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At least 18 NBA players will play for home country in FIBA World Cup qualifiers this month

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We’ve focused mostly on the big names not taking part — Giannis Antetokounmpo, Danilo Gallinari, Marco Belinelli, any notable player for Team USA — in the September qualifying window for FIBA’s World Cup next season. If you recall,  FIBA came up with a ridiculous soccer-style qualifying system for the 2019 World Cup — placing most of the qualifying games in windows during in the middle of the NBA season, as well as other major leagues around the world — which, in practice, banned most country’s best players from competing. (The USA has used a team of G-League players, for example.)

There was one possibility for NBA players to take part: A September 2018 qualifying window. That is, if their teams would clear them. A lot of teams would not, and plenty more players wouldn’t even ask.

However, there are 18 competing (hat tip They are (broken out by country):

Dzanan Musa (Bosnia – Brooklyn Nets)
Jusuf Nurkic (Bosnia – Portland Blazers)
Tomas Satoransky (Czech Republic – Washington Wizards)
Bojan Bogdanovic (Croatia – Indiana Pacers)
Dario Saric (Croatia – Philadelphia 76ers)
Ante Zizic (Croatia – Cleveland Cavaliers)
Ivica Zubac (Croatia – Los Angeles Lakers)
Nicolas Batum (France – Charlotte Hornets)
Maxi Kleber (Germany – Dallas Mavericks)
Dennis Schroder (Germany – Oklahoma City Thunder)
Tyler Dorsey (Greece – Atlanta Hawks)
Nemanja Bjelica (Serbia – Sacramento Kings)
Bogdan Bogdanovic (Serbia – Sacramento Kings)
Ersan Ilyasova (Turkey – Milwaukee Bucks)
Furkan Korkmaz (Turkey – Philadelphia Sixers)
Cedi Osman (Turkey – Cleveland Cavaliers)
Alex Len (Ukraine – Phoenix Suns)
• Svi Mykhailiuk (Ukraine – Los Angeles Lakers)

There are two players each from the Sixers, Cavaliers, Lakers, and Kings.

Team USA, led by Jordan Crawford and Henry Ellenson plays on Sept. 14 in Las Vegas against Uruguay, then in Panama on Sept. 17. The USA is 5-1 so far in qualifying.

Report: Rockets lure assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik out of retirement with ‘significant raise’

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After a slow start, the Rockets got assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik to come out of retirement.


The usual way employers attract someone to a job.

Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

Fertitta was alarmed enough to personally recruit defensive guru Jeff Bzdelik, who retired just before training camp, to return, offering what sources say was a significant raise that pushed his salary to a range that ranks among the NBA’s highest-paid assistant coaches.

Good for Bzdelik using his leverage. He looked like a defensive whiz last season, and Houston slipped without him. Of course, personnel matters, too. There’s no guarantee these Rockets – minus Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute – reach last year’s defensive level.

Bzdelik has been back around the team, but isn’t working full-time yet. It’ll take a while to assess his impact on Houston.

And good for Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta paying up. Fertitta is still trying to determine the right amount for him to spend, but the team is better off if he’s willing to pay what’s necessary to attract the most desirable coaches.

Charles Barkley addresses Draymond Green-Kevin Durant dynamic (video)

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Want to hear an entertaining guy address an entertaining topic? Here you go.

Trae Young: I’ll be better than Luka Doncic

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Trae Young and Luka Doncic will be forever linked by their draft-night trade.

The Hawks took Doncic No. 3 then traded down with the Mavericks for No. 5 pick Young and a future first-round pick.

Young, via Andrew Sharp of Sports Illustrated:

“The thing with Luka,” Young says, “he’s a great player. I don’t understand why it can’t work out for both situations. I hear [Atlanta made a mistake] all the time. Luka’s a great dude, and I think he’s going to be a really good player. But at the same time, I’m going to be a better player. Just because of my ability to stretch the floor, get others involved, I think I’ll be better.”

Of course, Young was never going to say Doncic would be better than him. But Young didn’t have to address this so directly at all. By going out of his way to make such a bold statement, Young puts more pressure on himself.

So far, both Doncic and Young have impressed. I’ll still stick with Doncic, though. Enough to justify Dallas surrendering that extra first-round pick? That’s a far tougher call and the one the Hawks will be judged by.

Young doesn’t want that leniency, though. He’s aiming to be better than Doncic straight up and unafraid to say so publicly.

Markelle Fultz’s new free throw stroke is… different.

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Philadelphia’s Markelle Fultz is in his own head with his free throw stroke now. (And, likely much more than that, but we’ll stick with the free throws for now.)

Earlier this week Fultz double-clutched a free throw attempt and his stroke was a mess.

Each game that stroke seems to change and the latest one is… different. Very different.

As Vecenie notes, this is actually an improvement in terms of the release, but that doesn’t make it good. Fultz was 1-of-2 in his one trip to the stripe (as of this writing).

Still, I have never seen someone pass the ball back-and-forth between their hands as they go into their shooting motion like that. Very, very odd.