FIBA World Cup Day 1 wrap up: Serbia impresses, Puerto Rico wins dramatically

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SHANGHAI (AP) — Serbia’s push toward unseating the U.S. as World Cup champion is off and running.

Bogdan Bogdanovic made his first four 3-point attempts to help his team take control early on, All-NBA center Nikola Jokic didn’t even start and the Serbians still had plenty on the way to easing past Angola 105-59 on Saturday in the first game of the World Cup.

“We played a great game from the beginning until the end,” Serbia forward Nikola Milutinov said. “We were tough. We were strong. Mentally we were ready.”

Bogdanovic scored 24 points on 8 for 10 shooting for Serbia (1-0 in Group D), which lost gold-medal games to the U.S. at the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

The lead was 50-32 at the half, and Serbia — which has made clear that it came to this World Cup believing it can win gold — opened the third quarter on a 15-2 burst to turn the game into a runaway.

“It’s a good start,” Serbia coach Sasha Djordjevic said. “But it’s just the start. It’s a long way. We know how to get to where we want to be. We just have to stay humble, stay focused.”

Jokic and Milutinov each had 14 for the winners, and Boban Marjanovic added 12 points and 10 rebounds. Jokic was 3 for 3 from 3-point range, and Serbia went 13 for 20 from long range.

Carlos Morais scored 15 for Angola, which was outrebounded 41-19 and shot only 36%. Leonel Paulo scored 10 for Angola. Take the combined 10 for 18 shooting by Morais and Paulo away, and the rest of the Angolan lineup shot 11 for 41 — 27%.

“We didn’t play the style of play consistently enough to have a chance to compete with them,” said Angola coach Will Voigt, a native of Cabot, Vermont.

Angola center Yanick Moreira was less diplomatic.

“We got … kicked. That’s it,” Moreira said. “I’m sorry about my language, but I don’t want to embarrass my country. When you come to the World Cup, you’ve got to be ready to play.”

Serbia used 11 of its 12 players by the end of the first quarter. The only Serbian who didn’t play was Nemanja Bjelica, sidelined with what Djordjevic said was knee inflammation caused by a cyst. Bjelica will be re-evaluated on Sunday.

PUERTO RICO 83, IRAN 81

At Guangzhou, David Huertas scored 32 points, Javier Mojica’s bank shot with 0.7 seconds left was the winner and Puerto Rico prevailed despite being down by 17 with 7:55 remaining.

Gary Browne scored 12 for Puerto Rico in a Group C opener.

Hamed Haddadi and Behnam Yakhchalidehkordi each scored 22 for Iran.

Huertas tied the game with a 3-pointer with 45 seconds left, then made another 3 with 16.1 ticks remaining for a 3-point lead. Haddadi made a deep 3-pointer from the right wing with 4.4 seconds left, but Mojica took an inbounds pass on the ensuing Puerto Rico possession and connected from the left side of the lane for the deciding points.

POLAND 80, VENEZUELA 69

At Beijing, Poland got its first World Cup win in 52 years.

Michal Sokolowski scored 16 points and grabbed nine rebounds, and Poland — back in the World Cup for the first time since 1967 — topped Venezuela in a Group A opener. Mateusz Ponitka scored 15 for the winners, and Poland finished with five players in double figures.

“We played to our identity, really good team basketball,” Poland coach Mike Taylor said.

Pedro Chourio scored 15 for Venezuela.

RUSSIA 82, NIGERIA 77

At Wuhan, Russia rallied in the final minutes to hold off Nigeria and get what may be a key win in Group B.

Mikhail Kulagin led the Russians with 16 points. Nigeria had six players in double figures, led by 18 from Josh Okogie. His 3-pointer midway through the fourth quarter put Nigeria up 71-63, but the Russians ended the game on a 19-6 run.

CHINA 70, IVORY COAST 55

At Beijing, in a game tied at the half, China ran away in the final two quarters to open its home World Cup with a win.

Yi Jianlian scored 19 points, Guo Ailun had 17 and Zhou Qi added 12 for the Chinese, who shot 53% and held Ivory Coast to 29% shooting. Guy Landry Edi led Ivory Coast with 10 points.

ITALY 108, PHILIPPINES 62

At Foshan, Italy opened the game on a 37-8 run and never looked back behind 17 points apiece from Luigi Datome and Amedeo Della Valle. Danilo Gallinari added 16 for Italy.

Andray Blatche had 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Philippines, and Jaymar Perez scored 15 as well.

SPAIN 101, TUNISIA 62

At Guangzhou, Spain led 42-39 at the half before outscoring Tunisia 59-23 after intermission.

Ricky Rubio scored 17 points and Sergio Llull 16 for Spain, which finished with six players in double figures. Salah Mejri led Tunisia with 15 points.

ARGENTINA 95, SOUTH KOREA 69

At Wuhan, Nicolas Laprovittola scored 17 points and Luis Scola had 15 as Argentina cruised in its opener. Guna Ra was dominant in defeat, finishing with 31 points and 15 rebounds for South Korea.

Hawks trade Harkless, second-round pick to Thunder for Vit Krejci

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The Atlanta Hawks just saved some money, getting under the luxury tax line. The Oklahoma City Thunder picked up a second-round pick for their trouble of taking on a contract.

The Hawks have traded Moe Harkless and a second-round pick to the Thunder for Vit Krejci the teams announced (Shams Charania of The Athletic was first).

This saves Atlanta a little over $3 million, which moves them from above the luxury tax line to $1.3 million below it. While the almighty dollar was the primary motivation in the ATL, the Hawks also pick up a development project. Krejci showed a little promise in his rookie season, appearing in 30 games and averaging 6.2 points plus 3.4 rebounds a night, before having his knee scoped in April.

Krejci was on the bubble of making the team in Oklahoma City, now the Thunder pick up a second-round pick for a guy they might have waived anyway.

Harkless, 29, is on an expiring $4.6 million contract, which fits nicely into the Disabled Player Exception the Thunder were granted for Chet Holmgren’s season-ending foot injury.

The Thunder are expected to waive Harkless and buy him out, making him a free agent. However, they could keep him and see if another trade could net them another second-round pick.

Lonzo Ball says ‘I can’t run’ or jump; Bulls’ Donovan has to plan for extended absence

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Officially, Lonzo Ball will be out 4-6 weeks after getting his knee scoped this week.

However, this is his second surgery on his left knee this year — he had meniscus surgery in January, after which he was never able to return to the court — and there are concerns Ball could miss significant time again. And coach Billy Donovan has no choice but to plan for an extended absence.

Ball did a Zoom call with reporters on Tuesday and it’s hard to come away from what he said overly optimistic. Rob Schaefer reported on the call for NBC Sports Chicago:

“Literally, I really can’t run. I can’t run or jump. There’s a range from, like, 30 to 60 degrees when my knee is bent that I have, like, no force and I can’t, like, catch myself. Until I can do those things I can’t play,” Ball said. “I did rehab, it was getting better, but it was not to a point where I could get out there and run full speed or jump. So surgery is the next step.”

The symptoms are something Ball said he has never dealt with and have left doctors, in his words, “a little surprised.”

It’s never good when doctors are surprised. Ball said the doctors don’t see anything on the MRI, but there is clearly something wrong, so they are going in and looking to find the issue and fix it.

Ball has been diligent in his recovery work from the start, the problem was pain in his knee. Something was still not right after the first surgery. Whatever it is.

The 4-6 week timeline would have Ball back in early November, but you know they will be overly cautious with him after the past year. Coach Billy Donovan was honest — he has to plan for a season without Ball.

The Bulls need Ball in a deep and challenging East. He brings defense, pushes the pace in transition, and takes care of the rock. Chicago has other players who can do those things individually — Alex Caruso can defend, Coby White pushes in transition, Goran Dragic takes care of the ball — but the Bulls lack one player who can do all those things. At least they lack one until Ball returns.

Whenever that may be.

Deandre Ayton says he hasn’t spoken to coach Williams since Game 7

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In a Game 7 against the Mavericks last May, Suns coach Monty Williams benched center Deandre Ayton, who ended up playing just 17 minutes in an ugly, blowout loss for Phoenix. When asked about it after the game Williams said, “It’s internal.”

Ayton and Williams have not spoken since then, according to Ayton.

Yikes. Remember that includes a summer where the Suns would not offer Ayton a max contract extension so he went out and got one from the Pacers, then the Suns instantly matched it. Ayton did not sound thrilled to be back in Phoenix on Media Day, and he was rather matter-of-fact about dealing with his coach.

It’s what every fan wants to hear — “this is just my job.”

Reporters asked Williams about this and he played it off, saying he hasn’t spoken with a lot of players yet.

It’s just day one of training camp, but there are a lot of red flags around the Suns: owner Robert Sarver being suspended and selling the team, Jae Crowder not in camp waiting to be traded, and now not a lot of communication between the team’s star center and its coach.

Maybe it all amounts to nothing. Maybe the Suns get on the court, Chris Paul looks rejuvenated, Devin Booker looks like Devin Booker, and none of this matters. But what had looked like a stable situation not that long ago now has a lot of red flags flying heading into the season, and that has to concern Suns fans.

 

Report: Lakers would have traded both first-round picks for Irving, Mitchell

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“If you make that trade, it has to be the right one, you have one shot to do it,” Lakers GM Rob Pelinka said at media day, pulling back the curtain a little on his thinking of trading two first-round picks. “So we’re being very thoughtful around the decisions on when and how to use draft capital in a way that will improve our roster.”

That tracks with the consistent messaging out of Los Angeles all summer: The Lakers would only trade the only two first-round picks they fully control for the rest of this decade (2027 and 2029) for a deal that made them a contender.

That meant landing Kyrie Irving or Donovan Mitchell, ESPN’s Dave McMenamin said on The Hoop Collective Podcast.

“I’ve been told that had the Lakers been able to acquire, Kyrie Irving, or the Lakers been able to acquire Donovan Mitchell, either of those players, the Lakers were willing and able to move both those [first-round] picks to do it.”

The problem for the Lakers is the market price for elite talent has moved beyond two first-round picks. The Jazz got three unprotected first-round picks (2025, 2027 and 2029) plus the rights to two pick swaps (2026 and 2028) in the Mitchell trade, not to mention three players: Lauri Markkanen (who they will try to trade for another pick), Collin Sexton, and Ochair Agbaji. The price for Kyrie Irving would have been at least as high, if the Nets really wanted to trade him.

The Lakers traded all of their young players and most of their picks to land Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook, except for the ones they let walk away (Alex Caruso). Before he was judicious in making trades like he was this offseason, Pelinka made deals that backed him into this corner.

The Lakers likely could use both picks to acquire Buddy Hield and Myles Turner out of Indiana (sending Westbrook back), but that doesn’t make Los Angeles a contender (a playoff team, but not a title threat) and it messes with the plan to have around $30 million in cap space next summer to chase a big name.

The Lakers you see in training camp are the Lakers you get. At least for now.