USA women rout Nigeria in final exhibition before Tokyo Olympics

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — The U.S. women’s Olympic team was in unfamiliar territory having dropped two exhibition games in a row for the first time in a decade.

The Americans rebounded with a strong effort to beat Nigeria 93-62 on Sunday in the final pre-Olympic exhibition tune-up for both teams.

“It feels good,” U.S. coach Dawn Staley said. “To come out and play the way we did on both sides of the basketball. We shared it, got our bigs the ball. We made a concerted effort to do that. ”I think everyone in the locker room feels good about being able to impact the game in a lot of different ways.”

A’ja Wilson scored 16 points and Breanna Stewart added 14 to lead the U.S., which dropped consecutive exhibition games for the first time since 2011 with losses to the WNBA All-Stars and Australia this week.

“No one wants to be on the team that loses,” Wilson said. “I was a little like uh-oh. People talk and jump the gun say everything and anything. the vets were like it’s ok, it’s part of the game, we’ll get back. Coach came in today and said we’re getting back to our dominance and that helped me feel a little more at ease. The people we have in the locker room are so talented we know what we were doing.”

The Americans got off to a strong start, racing out to a 20-4 lead. After shooting 2 for 18 from behind the 3-point arc in the loss to Australia, the U.S. pounded the ball inside early and often against Nigeria. The first 10 points came from Wilson and Brittney Griner.

The U.S. led 29-15 after one quarter as Stewart had 10 points. Griner took over in the second quarter to help the Americans extend the lead to 55-34 at the half. Nigeria never made a run in the second half against the U.S., which was missing Diana Taurasi for the third straight exhibition game as she recovers from a hip injury.

She said Saturday that she’d be ready for the Olympics.

Nigeria’s roster is still undetermined for the Olympics that begin next week. The African nation was trying to get Nneka Ogwumike and Elizabeth Williams to play for them. The two have filed appeals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in a last-ditch effort said two people familiar with the situation.

The pair were notified earlier this week by FIBA that their petition to play for the African nation had been denied because they played for the U.S. national program for too long. The people spoke to The Associated Press Friday on condition of anonymity because no official announcement had been made.

The two WNBA players would need to have FIBA’s decision overturned by Sunday night’s registration deadline for the Olympics or have the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) grant them a provisional allowance and add them to the roster until a hearing can occur.

Nigeria coach Otis Hughley Jr. wasn’t sure when and how the CAS would decide.

“I wish I could answer those questions. I don’t know the answers to those questions,′ he said. ”I’m locked into the girls we have who are eligible. I hope and pray that changes. … it would be a welcome edition.”

Hughley was disappointed that FIBA wouldn’t let the Nneka Ogwumike and Williams play.

“It’s unfortunate it’s coming out the way it is,” he said. “The parents and grand parents are both born there. Why would you not certify them? … Every country on this earth there’s an African on them. Why wouldn’t you let these children return to their own roots.

Williams did play for Nigeria in the exhibition game while Ogwumike and her sister, Chiney, who was approved to play as a naturalized player for Nigeria were on the bench, but not suited up.

Nneka Ogwumike didn’t make the U.S. Olympic roster which is what set off the chain of events that led to her trying to play for Nigeria where her parents are from and she and her sisters hold dual citizenship.

Erica Ogwumike, the youngest of the four Ogwumike sisters, had five points for Nigeria. Atonye Nyingifa scored nine points to lead the team.

Nigeria has been a team on the rise, reaching the quarterfinals of the World Cup in 2018. before losing to the U.S.

Cavaliers Evan Mobley out 1-2 weeks with sprained ankle

2022-23 Cleveland Cavaliers Media Day
Nick Falzerano/NBAE via Getty Images
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The Cleveland Cavaliers might have the best frontcourt in the East this season with All-Star Jarrett Allen and the emerging star Evan Mobley, but it may be a few weeks before we see them together.

Mobley is out 1-2 weeks with a sprained right ankle, the Cavaliers announced a couple of days before their preseason opener. Mobley stepped on a teammate’s foot and rolled his ankle during practice, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com.

Mobley, who finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting, averaged 15 points and 8.3 rebounds a game in his first campaign, but his more significant impact was on the defensive end. Mobley earned All-Defensive Team consideration as a rookie — an incredibly rare feat — and with Allen formed an impressive backstop for teams trying to drive the paint.

Reports out of Cavaliers training camp rave about the improvements made in Mobley’s offensive game, but we’ll have to wait a few weeks to see that for ourselves now. Mobley, with a more consistent face-up game and jumper, has the potential to develop into a top 15, maybe even top-10 player in the league. The Cavaliers are banking on the young core of Mobley, Allen, Darius Garland and the just acquired Donovan Mitchell to be able to take the team far in the next few years, with Mobley’s improvement key to just how far they can go.

It sounds like Mobley will be good to go for the start of the season.

Karl-Anthony Towns just cleared to walk Saturday following non-COVID illness

Karl-Anthony Towns Offseaon Workout
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Karl-Anthony Towns has not been in camp with the Timberwolves, sidelined by a non-COVID illness. Beyond that, there were not a lot of details other than his girlfriend Jordyn Woods saying on social media that she had taken him to the hospital.

Towns spoke to the media for the first time this season on Monday and said he was just cleared to walk again on Saturday, but did not get into detail about whatever illness he is dealing with.

First, it is Towns’ right if and when to disclose what he went through. This is not an on-court injury leading to a loss of playing time, and it is his call to talk about.

Towns has been sidelined before by illness, including COVID. After losing his mother and other family members to the disease, he also had a long battle with it. Fortunately, this is not that virus, but whatever it was it sidelined him for a couple of weeks.

That missed training camp is a setback as the Timberwolves try to get used to a two-big lineup with KAT and Rudy Gobert, plus some other new faces. Still, Towns and Minnesota should be good to go by the start of the season, a team thinking playoffs and much more after spending big this offseason.

Lakers reportedly ‘seriously considered’ Westbrook trade for Hield, Turner

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“If you make that trade, it has to be the right one, you have one shot to do it. 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 was Lakers GM Rob Pelinka on media day talking about the possibility of the Lakers trading the only two first-round picks they control this decade — 2027 and 2029 — to upgrade this roster around LeBron. Pelinka was clear the Lakers were committed to building a winner around LeBron, “We have one of the great players in LeBron James to ever play the game, and he committed to us on a long-term contract, a three-year contract… He committed to our organization. That’s gotta be a bilateral commitment, and it’s there.”

But should that include a Russell Westbrook trade to Indiana for Buddy Hield and Myles Turner? Shams Charania of The Athletic updated and added to the extensive previous reporting on this trade, saying the Lakers kept the door open right up to the start of training camp but didn’t pull the trigger.

Vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka, owner Jeanie Buss and senior basketball adviser Kurt Rambis seriously considered sending Westbrook and unprotected first-round picks in 2027 and 2029 to the Pacers for center Myles Turner and guard Buddy Hield, sources said. They held a series of meetings in the days leading up to camp to analyze the possible Pacers deal from every angle, with the views of Ham and Lakers executives Joey and Jesse Buss also being strongly considered in the process. The organization even delayed the midweek news conference for Pelinka and Ham as the debate continued…

If they were going to gamble on a make-or-break move of this magnitude, the thinking went, then everyone had to have confidence in the same vision. But when that wasn’t the case, sources say, the choice was made by Pelinka to remain patient and see, yet again, if Westbrook might find a way to make this imperfect fit with the Lakers work.

Hield and Turner would absolutely improve the Lakers. Turner can play the five, is an elite shot blocker who could provide a strong defensive back line next to Anthony Davis, and is a respectable 3-point shooter who can space the floor. He’s a natural fit. Hield brings shooting that the Lakers have coveted for years and need more of now.

That trade would have moved the Lakers up the ladder to a solid playoff team in the West. Would that trade make the Lakers contenders? Probably not. It still would have come back to the bubble version of Davis and LeBron being ready for the final 16-game sprint to have a puncher’s chance (that may be the case regardless of other moves). Also, it would have messed with future free agency plans in Los Angeles — the Lakers can have around $30 million in cap space next summer to chase Kyrie Irving (although Shams reports that’s not in their plans) or other name players, Hield is owed $19.3 million next season and Turner will be a free agent the Lakers would need to re-sign. This deal would end the dream of a free agent taking a little less than the max to come to the Lakers (a dream not likely to come to reality anyway).

As Pelinka said, the Lakers have one shot with trading their two picks to upgrade the roster — they have to hit a home run, this can’t be a solid single. The Lakers were not convinced Hield and Turner could be that home run tandem.

So Los Angeles will go into the season with a starting five of Westbrook, Kendrick Nunn, LeBron, Davis, and Damian Jones, with a bench of Patrick Beverley, Thomas Bryant, Austin Reaves, and Dennis Schroder. The Lakers will see if it fits, how far it looks like this group can take them under new coach Darvin Ham, and watch the market to see what other stars could become available.

The Lakers aren’t done dealing, but it looks like a deal with Indiana is now in the rearview mirror.

PBT Podcast: Philadelphia 76ers 2022-23 season preview

2022-23 Philadelphia 76ers Media Day
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images
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The Philadelphia 76ers are title contenders — if James Harden and Joel Embiid can play up to their potential on the biggest of NBA stages. That hasn’t always happened before, particularly with Harden.

Those two are now set up well. Philadelphia learned its lessons from the playoff loss to Miami last season. GM Daryl Morey rounded out the roster with more toughness and two-way players in the form of P.J. Tucker, Danuel House and DeAnthony Melton. Add in the development of Tyrese Maxey and Matisse Thybulle and you have a deep roster of quality players — down to BBall Paul.

Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia joins me to discuss if Doc Rivers is ready to take this team to the next level, and if all the additions can come together when it matters. Can Harden shake his history of playoff reputation and lead a team to the Finals?

You can always listen to the entire podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google Play, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please feel free to email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.