Team USA drops to 0-2 in exhibition play with 91-83 loss to Australia

0 Comments

Unquestionably stacked with talent, Team USA has been together for six days.

It showed on Monday night in Las Vegas — and it wasn’t pretty.

When Australia upped its defensive pressure in the second half, and particularly down the stretch, the American’s execution fell apart. Australia looked like a team that had been together and knew what it wanted to do. Team USA looked lost.

The result was a 91-83 Team Australia win that dropped USA Basketball to 0-2 in exhibition play in the run-up to the Tokyo Olympics in two weeks.

It’s too early to hit the panic button, but this loss is another red flag for USA Basketball. The American defense has a long way to go, in particular.

“In the first half we defended the way we wanted to defend,” USA coach Gregg Popovich said after the loss. “We were more physical, we sustained the defense longer, we rebounded better, we moved the ball better and had more pace. In the second half we tired out and when that happens you get hit mentally a little bit too. So we have some guys that have to get our legs and rhythm back, but in general, we need more conditioning and that’s totally understandable.”

You could feel some of that tension in a classic curmudgeonly Popovich moment postgame.

Popovich is also spot on — this is not 1992, and to expect blowouts of the top teams around the world is unrealistic. The rest of the world has closed the gap with America on the court. Australia is a good team with a legitimate shot at getting a medal in Tokyo (they finished fourth at the Rio Olympics). The Boomers are led by the Spurs’ Patty Mills — who is a beast in international play and led the team with 22 points — plus have current and former NBA players such as Joe Ingles, Matisse Thybulle, Aron Baynes, Dante Exum, Matthew Dellavedova, and Josh Green.

The Boomers beat the Americans three years ago in a friendly before the FIBA World Cup (where the USA finished seventh) and believed they could do the same Monday night.

“We walked in here expecting to win the game,” Ingles said.

Mills was on fire and even crossed up Kevin Durant at one point.

Still, the USA roster is deeper and more talented. After the loss to Nigeria in the first exhibition game, more of a response was expected.

We saw those steps forward in the first half, when the ball was popping for Team USA. Drive and kick with an extra pass to the open shooter, or players were cutting to the rim and being found. With that everyone found a little more room to operate. They looked more like a team.

However, the American defense struggled against an Australian team with more time together (not just this year but playing together in previous international competitions). It was a tale of two halves.

We were way more locked in and energetic on the defensive end, and offensively we were just flowing. It was very good ball movement, got some good shots. Some of them didnt fall in the beginning, but we played really well,” Bradley Beal said of the first half. “In the second half, it was just a totally different story. We kind of got tired, got lazy on defense, and that’s really where we got hurt.”

Jayson Tatum just lost his man on cuts at some point, help rotations were late across the board, and finding a mix of perimeter defenders and rim protection has not been easy for Popovich.

The defensive end of the court may be the bigger issue for the Americans in Tokyo. It looked like it on Monday night.

But that doesn’t mean the offense looked dominant. By the end, the ball movement was gone and the USA was playing “your turn then my turn” between Durant, Damian Lillard, and usually Bradley Beal.

Lillard led the Americans with 22 points and shot 6-of-11 from 3. Durant added 17 points on 6-of-13 shooting overall, while Beal added a dozen.

On the injury front, Baynes left the game in the first half after banging knees with Bradley Beal on a Beal drive. While Baynes did not return to the game, Australia coach Brian Goorjian played it down after the game saying it was nothing serious or long-term.

The Americans are back on the court Tuesday night against Argentina, and we’ll see if more time playing together starts to bring some of the cohesion Team USA desperately lacks right now.

Heat, Tyler Herro agree to four-year, $120 million extension (with $10 million in incentives)

Miami Heat Media Day
Eric Espada/Getty Images
0 Comments

Tyler Herro was frustrated — he saw players he felt he was better than getting paid.

Now he has a contract he will have to live up to.

The Heat have signed Herro to a four-year, $120 million extension of his rookie contract, with up to $10 million in incentives) a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and now confirmed by the team.

Herro went to Twitter to confirm the deal himself.

“Tyler is an impact multi-faceted player and we are excited to have him signed for the next five years,” Heat President Pat Riley said in the statement announcing the signing. “His improvement every year since we drafted him has led to this day. We believe he will continue to get better.”

This is a straight four years, no options for either side.

Signing an extension takes Herro off the table for any trades to upgrade the Heat roster this season. Herro had been at the heart of the rumors about the Heat and Kevin Durant, as well as other teams.

Herro’s new contract extension is a big bet on the wing taking another step forward this season and beyond. The deal is a little larger than expected (the conventional wisdom had Herro coming in close to the $107 million RJ Barrett got with the Knicks). Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel and I have discussed Herro’s price before and didn’t quite picture it this high, but with the rising cap over the next few years this deal may not look out of line.

Miami stepped up and paid the reigning Sixth Man of the Year high-level starter money — now he has to earn that job and that paycheck.

Mostly, he has to improve on defense so Eric Spoelstra can trust him at the end of games and deep into the playoffs (while Herro has had big playoff games, his role shrunk deeper in last postseason because of his defense).

Herro puts up numbers — 20.7 points a game on 39.9% from 3 last season — and is the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, but does this new deal move him up in the Heat offensive pecking order with Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler? Probably not in crunch time (and if Kyle Lowry bounces back this season, there could be games where Herro is option No.4).

This locks up part of Miami’s roster going into the season, but they are still on the look for depth at the four. Don’t consider this roster settled.

 

Watch Celtics shooters look sharp in easy preseason win over Hornets

Charlotte Hornets v Boston Celtics
Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images
0 Comments

It’s just one meanless preseason game, but for a franchise that could use some good news the Boston Celtics will take it.

The Celtics’ shooting looked in mid-season form in their preseason opener against the Hornets on Sunday — 57.1% overall and 22-of-47 from 3 (46.8%). Boston just couldn’t seem to miss, especially early.

Jayson Tatum had 16 points in 22 minutes, while Jaylen Brown was the leading scorer with 24 points in 24 minutes.

The one unexpected bright spot was a strong game from Mfiondu Kabengele, who is currently on a two-way contract with the team. He ended up with 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting and showed some hustle.

Kelly Oubre led the Hornets with 17 points, while LaMelo Ball had 14 points, seven rebounds and four dimes.

It’s just one preseason game, don’t read much of anything into it. But the Celtics will take the good news where they can find it.

T.J. Warren still out for Nets; team to reassess status in November

0 Comments

The Brooklyn Nets bet that the T.J. Warren from the bubble in Orlando — the one who averaged 26.6 points and 6.3 rebounds a game for the Pacers — would re-emerge and give them a quality forward they could mix into a deep rotation.

Instead, so far it has looked more like the Warren who has played just four games since the bubble due to stress fractures in his foot.

Warren is improving and the Nets are bringing him along slowly, keeping him off the court until November at least, reports Brian Lewis of the New York Post.

Small forward T.J. Warren, who has missed nearly two full seasons following multiple foot surgeries, is “doing some shooting” and “a little bit more movement the last two weeks than he was prior,” Nash said. He added that Warren will be reassessed in about a month.

The Nets can afford to be patient. They have plenty of other questions to answer as a team before worrying about what Warren can or cannot contribute. But in the dream scenario where everything comes together for the Nets this season, Warren gets healthy and becomes a valuable contributor off the bench giving the Nets more versatility, scoring, and shooting along the front line.

For now, the Nets and Warren wait.

NBA returning to Seattle for exhibition game; when will it be more?

Getty Images
0 Comments

SEATTLE — An NBA preseason game may not seem like a benchmark moment, even in a basketball-hungry city like Seattle, but Jamal Crawford believes there’s value even in an exhibition.

“It reignites a whole new generation of kids who need to see this,” said Crawford, a Seattle native who has been a basketball ambassador for the city through a 20-year NBA career and now with a pro-am that brings in NBA players every summer. “They need to be able to dream and know that it’s real.”

The NBA is making its latest brief return to the Emerald City. The Los Angeles Clippers will play the Portland Trail Blazers there on Monday night, the first time two NBA teams will meet in Seattle since 2018, when the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings played a preseason game. That was the last sporting event inside KeyArena before it was gutted and rebuilt into the gleaming Climate Pledge Arena.

There was a warm-up act of sorts Friday when the Clippers played Israeli team Maccabi Ra’anana in an exhibition, one where the most of the Clippers’ big names – Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, John Wall and Reggie Jackson – weren’t participating.

A sell-out crowd turned out for that Warriors-Kings game four years ago, the first one in Seattle since the beloved SuperSonics left for Oklahoma City in 2008 after 41 years in the Pacific Northwest. Another big crowd is expected Monday.

“The Sonics haven’t been a team since I’ve been in the NBA. So just to go play in Seattle is cool,” Blazers star Damian Lillard said. “We played in Vancouver a few years back. I think like two or three years ago, we had a preseason game at the (Memorial) Coliseum. So every time we get to do something like that, I always enjoy it because I wondered what was it like when it was a real thing, when the games were played in these different arenas. So I am excited to play in Seattle.”

Someday, possibly soon, the expectations are that Seattle will reclaim its place as an NBA town.

“It’s always been a great city to me,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said Friday. “It’s unfortunate that they lost their team and the team went to OKC. This city definitely deserves a team.”

Speculation is nonstop about when the NBA will choose to expand. Thanks to the resolution of its arena situation, Seattle seems likely to be at the forefront of those expansion talks, with Las Vegas likely right behind it.

But NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has been noncommittal about a possible expansion timeline, and it seems likely those talks won’t pick up steam until the league deals with the new collective bargaining agreement and television deals that are on the horizon.

The community’s commitment has never been in question. The appetite of Seattle fans hasn’t waned in the years since the Sonics left and as the region became a hotbed for NBA talent, whether it was Crawford continuing to carry the banner for the city, to Zach LaVine of Renton, Washington, to this year’s No. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero, another Seattle native.

As if any reinforcement was needed, the summer provided a perfect example as fans camped overnight outside Crawford’s summer league venue for the chance to get inside and watch LeBron James make his first basketball visit to the city in more than a decade.

“Anyone that knows Seattle knows what a great basketball city we are,” Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell said this summer when the preseason game was announced.

The idea for having the Blazers and Clippers meet in Seattle was the result of a brainstorm between Lue and Blazers coach Chauncey Billups. The two close friends wanted their teams to meet in the preseason and Lue noted the owners for both teams are Seattle based: Steve Ballmer of the Clippers and Jody Allen for the Blazers.

“I haven’t been back since I played there in 2008, I think it was. So just to be able to go back there and you know, Mr. Ballmer and kind of see his offices and how he lives, and (Chauncey) to get a chance to see his owner, and then to be with my best friend, I thought it would be a great common ground,” Lue said.