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USA heads to Panama for next FIBA qualifying test

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PANAMA CITY (AP) — The arena where the Americans will face Panama when qualifying for the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup resumes is named for boxer Roberto Duran, which seems appropriate to U.S. coach Jeff Van Gundy. He is expecting a fight.

The U.S. (6-1) visits Panama (3-4) in a second-round qualifier on Monday night, knowing that a win would put the Americans on the brink of qualifying for next year’s World Cup in China. The Americans are coming off a 57-point romp over Uruguay on Friday in Las Vegas, which was followed by the 3,000-mile trip to Panama City.

“It’s hard to prepare guys for what the intensity is on the road in a FIBA game when you’re wearing USA across your chest,” Van Gundy said.

That might be particularly true on Monday, given that Panama will need to pull off an upset if it is going to maintain any realistic hopes of qualifying for China. The U.S. and Panama are part of the same six-team group in this stage of qualifying out of the Americas Region, and only three of those six teams will be assured of spots in China next year.

Panama lost 82-73 at Puerto Rico on Friday.

“It’s going to be a tough game being on the road there in Panama,” U.S. forward Jameel Warney said. “I, personally, know how tough those road games are in other countries, so we just have to be ready. We have to go back and look at some film, get ready and improve from there.”

The U.S. is expected to use largely the same roster it had on Friday in Las Vegas.

For the first six games of qualifying, the Americans picked teams of mostly G League players. But because this window of games fell at an opportune time, before the start of training camps, the U.S. was able to pull some players who were in the NBA last season, such as Sacramento’s Frank Mason III, Charlotte’s Dwayne Bacon, San Antonio’s Derrick White and Detroit’s Henry Ellenson.

“Because we are relying on them, they can get their intensity right, they can get their game sharp so that when they go to training camp to fight for minutes, they’ll be in a good frame of mind,” Van Gundy said. “I think this helps us, certainly, but I think it helps the individual players as well.”

The U.S. has used 37 different players so far in the seven qualifying games. Should the Americans qualify for the World Cup, the expectation is that the roster would be filled with NBA stars.

Monday’s game is the first of three consecutive road matchups for the Americans. They’ll play in Argentina on Nov. 29 and in Uruguay on Dec. 2, before returning home to play Panama on Feb. 22 and Argentina in the qualifying finale on Feb. 25.

Report: Carmelo Anthony has multiple NBA options, expected to pick one before trade deadline

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The Rockets leaned heavily on Carmelo Anthony then promptly declared him unplayable. Anthony remains in limbo with Houston, on the roster but no longer part of the team. It seemed he might be finished in the NBA.

But he might get another chance soon.

Sam Amick of The Athletic:

According to​ two sources​ with​ knowledge​​ of Anthony’s situation, the exiled 10-time All-Star who remains on the Houston Rockets roster has multiple options available and is expected to pick one before the Feb. 7 trade deadline. There is no clarity as to whether he would be traded in these scenarios or waived and subsequently signed, but there are strong signs that he will play in the NBA again.

These options can’t be great. Otherwise, why wouldn’t Anthony have joined his new team already? My only guess is he’s waiting for a better offer.

Anthony has been most commonly linked to the Lakers. But that’s seemingly due more to his friendship with LeBron James than the Lakers wanting him. That said, LeBron’s voice carries a lot of weight in Los Angeles.

It’s tough to find a team that would actually benefit from acquiring Anthony. He looks washed up.

But if someone wants him and he wants to keep playing, he should go for it. He doesn’t owe it to anyone else to retire so we feel better about his legacy. It’s his life, not ours.

Watch Bulls coach Jim Boylen get bowled over by Denver’s Torrey Craig

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Chicago Bulls head coach Jim Boylen received a raise as part of the team deciding he deserved additional compensation after moving up from an assistant position.

Of course, what Boylen probably didn’t expect when he took the head job was to literally be in a more vulnerable position on the floor.

During Thursday night’s game against the Denver Nuggets, Boylen was it standing on the sidelines in front of his bench when an errant pass from Nikola Jokic sent Torrey Craig hurdling into Boylen.

Via Twitter:

Everyone appeared to be okay after the collision, but even still it feels like with the way things have gone for Boylen in Chicago, this could only happen to him.

Charles Barkley isn’t buying Kyrie Irving’s apology to LeBron James (VIDEO)


Kyrie Irving made headlines on Wednesday night when he won the game for the Boston Celtics against the Toronto Raptors, then proceeded to call LeBron James to apologize about how he treated the Los Angeles Lakers star when the two were on the Cleveland Cavaliers together.

To many, the move seemed like a quick maturation of Irving as well as a surprising about face by the shifty point guard. Even LeBron thought that Irving calling him was out of character, saying as much to media on Wednesday.

However, some saw Irving’s comments and actions a little bit differently. Speaking on Inside the NBA on TNT on Thursday, Charles Barkley said that he felt Irving’s conversation with LeBron was actually a swipe at his current Celtics teammates.

Via Twitter:

To be fair, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst expressed a similar sentiment to Barkley’s on “The Jump” on Thursday, and I have to side with both of them. Their explanation of Irving’s comments make more sense than some kind of overnight maturation on the part of the Celtics star.

Irving is a very good player but he’s also a transparent marketer. His flat earth comments, his commercial that became a terrible movie … it’s all about his personal brand. Part of that is shifting blame away from himself as Boston — currently fifth in the East — continues to struggle.

I don’t think Irving is magically more mature. If anything, his apology is a self-serving attempt at comparing himself to LeBron and by association, the rest of the Celtics as the flotsam that has traditionally consisted the Cavaliers roster.

That’s really not a fair view of either side, and I don’t trust much of what comes out of Irving’s comments beyond their obvious marketing value.

Russell Westbrook hanging with his son Noah before the Lakers game was extremely cute (VIDEO)

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Russell Westbrook seems like a pretty intense guy. The Oklahoma City Thunder point guard has won an MVP not by being a pushover, but by pushing past opponents for triple doubles.

We have really rounded out Westbrook as a individual over the past couple of years, particularly after Kevin Durant decamped Oklahoma City for the Golden State Warriors. Part of that has been seeing Westbrook as a father, which we got more of on a Thursday before the Thunder took on the Los Angeles Lakers.

Before the game, Westbrook was seen on the floor hanging out with his son, Noah, and generally having a good time.

The result was, admittedly, extremely cute.

Via Twitter:

Noah Westbrook will be draft eligible in 2036. Set your calendars, I guess.