USA easily handles Uruguay in World Cup qualifier, 105-71

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LAS VEGAS — A special pregame surprise was awaiting the U.S. World Cup qualifying team Thursday night, in the form of a pep talk from Mike Krzyzewski.

Coach K’s words worked for the Americans again.

John Jenkins scored 22 points on 8-for-9 shooting — including a 6-of-7 effort from 3-point range — and the U.S. had little trouble on the way to a 105-71 victory over Uruguay in a World Cup Americas Region qualifying game, with Krzyzewski sitting courtside to enjoy the show.

“We knew when he came and talked to us that we had to put on a good performance and play hard,” Jenkins said.

Krzyzewski, the now-retired Duke coach, led the U.S. to three consecutive Olympic gold medals in 2008, 2012 and 2016. His message was simple, revolving around how playing with USA on a jersey means playing with pride is a must.

The Americans listened. They outscored Uruguay 33-13 in the second quarter, turning the game into a runaway, and it stayed that way.

“Coach K talked to the team five minutes before I went in to talk pregame,” U.S. coach Jim Boylen said. “How was I supposed to follow that? … It was a really cool honor, a great moment for all of us.”

The win, combined with Puerto Rico’s 75-72 win over Brazil (5-2) in another qualifier Thursday, put the Americans alone atop of their qualifying group.

Langston Galloway added 18 points for the Americans, who are likely now just two wins away from qualifying for next year’s World Cup.

The U.S. (6-1 in qualifying) made 3-pointers on four consecutive possessions during that second-quarter burst, and never looked back. DaQuan Jeffries scored 16, Dewan Hernandez added 12 and Robert Woodard II had 11 for the Americans, who were 15 for 29 from 3-point range.

David Stockton, whose father John Stockton — the Basketball Hall of Famer — also was in attendance, added nine assists in 17 minutes for the U.S.

Esteban Batista and Luciano Perodi each had 14 for Uruguay (4-3), which remains firmly in the mix for a World Cup berth. Uruguay has the same record as Puerto Rico and Mexico, and Colombia (3-4) gave itself new life by rallying from 20 points down to stun Mexico in overtime, 93-89.

The U.S. opened the day tied with Brazil in the Group F standings; there are two groups of six teams in the Americas Region, and the top three in each group — along with the best fourth-place team — will go to the World Cup.

The Americans can’t start packing for the World Cup yet. But they can probably start thinking about what to bring.

Other than the U.S. and Brazil, Group F also includes Puerto Rico, Mexico, Uruguay and Colombia. The other group in the Americas Region, Group E, features Canada (7-0), Venezuela (6-1), Argentina (5-2), the Dominican Republic (5-2), the Bahamas (2-5) and Panama (2-5).

Uruguay led 4-0 after 20 seconds, and that was the lone hurrah for the visitors from South America. The rest of the night was all U.S., which got its easiest win yet of this qualifying tournament.

“Tonight, every guy we have played as hard as he could play,” Boylen said.

Report: Draymond Green facing potential discipline after fight with Jordan Poole

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Warriors practice got heated on Wednesday and Draymond Green reportedly escalated some chest bumping with Jordan Poole and punches were thrown. The team is now considering internal disciple, according to The Athletic.

When a heated interaction with guard Jordan Poole escalated, Green forcefully struck Poole and needed to be separated swiftly, sources said. Green and Poole came chest-to-chest, with both players pushing and shoving each other prior to Green’s escalation of the physical altercation, those sources said.

The two players had been jawing at each other when it escalated and Green punched Poole, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. There aren’t details of the incident beyond that description (at least so far), although several reporters have confirmed the was a fight and the two had to be broken up. Poole was seen getting up shots after practice when the media was allowed in and reportedly was joking with teammates.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports Tweeted out what feels like the Draymond Green camp spin on the incident.

Warriors elder statesman Andre Iguodala Tweeted out this on the situation, wanting to keep it all in the family, and adding that “it broke my heart… but it fixed my vision.”

There is a history of tension between Green and Poole, including a public flare-up between the duo early last season, but the two talked after and smoothed things over. At least for a while.

What punishment Green will face from the team remains to be seen.

Poole is on the verge of an extension to his rookie contract, one where Tylyer Herro just set the market.

Green had hoped for an extension from the Warriors this offseason but there were limited discussions between the parties. Green can opt out of the final year of his contract at the end of this season and become a free agent.

Wizards’ Kispert likely to miss start of season due to sprained ankle

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The Washington Wizards made fewer 3-pointers than any other team in the league last season. They didn’t take a lot (second fewest) and didn’t make the ones they took (fifth lowest percentage). One goal for Wes Unlseld Jr. this season was to change that dynamic, and second-year player Corey Kispert was a big part of that plan.

Now Kispert is out through at least the start of the season, sidelined 4-6 weeks by a sprained ankle, the team announced Wednesday.

The injury happened on a fluke play in Japan against the Warriors, but Kispert shouldn’t miss much time once the real games start. The Wizards are a little short on the wing right now with Kispert joining Deni Avdija (groin injury) in the training room.

Kispert took 62% of his shots from beyond the arc last season and hit 35% of them, both solid numbers but ones Wizards hoped would improve for the 6’6″ wing this season.

Scoot Henderson says he has skills to be No.1 pick but not hung up on it

Metropolitans 92 v G League Ignite
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Scoot Henderson came out like a man on a mission Tuesday night against the Metropolitans 92 and Victor Wembanyama — he was in attack mode. He used his explosive athleticism to get to the rim, his impressive body control to get off good shots, and his strength to finish with authority. And if the defender played back, he would drain the jumper over him.

A year ago, Jaylen Brown called him the best 17-year-old he’d ever seen. Scoot is better than that now.

Many years, Henderson would be a clear No.1 overall pick. But, not this year, Wembanyama has that crown because he breaks the mold with his size and skill set (in the NBA, height still wins out).

Kevin O’Conner of The Ringer asked Henderson why he should be the top prospect and got a confident answer.

There will be a lot of people making the Henderson case this season — and with good reason. He could be a franchise cornerstone player for the next decade.

Henderson, however, is trying not to get hung up on No.1 vs. No.2.

There’s a long list of legendary players selected No.2: Bill Russell, Kevin Durant, Jerry West, Jason Kidd, and that is just the tip of the iceberg. Henderson can be one of them.

Unless Wembanyama’s medicals come back with red flags, he is destined to be the No.1 pick next June. That, however, will not be the end of Henderson’s story. Instead, it will be just the beginning.

Doc Rivers says he wants Harden to be ‘a scoring Magic Johnson’

Philadelphia 76ers Media Day
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We’re not in Houston anymore.

James Harden in Philadelphia will not be chasing scoring titles and dominating the game in quite the same way. Instead, he’s been asked to be more of a facilitator — but not too much of one. Doc Rivers told the team at ESPN’s NBA Today he wants scoring to go with the facilitating. Just like one of the all-time greats.

“I think we’ve talked so much about him being a facilitator… I need him to be James Harden too. If I had to combine, I would say a scoring Magic Johnson, I don’t know, but that’s what I want him to be. I want him to be a James Harden, but in that, I want him to also be the facilitator of this basketball team too. So in a lot of ways, his role is growing bigger for our team, and I just want him to keep thinking, ‘Do both.'”

Just play like Magic, no pressure there. For his career, Magic averaged 19.5 points a game (with four over 20 PPG) with 11.2 assists.

Harden can get close enough to Rivers’ lofty goals to make Philly a real threat, so long as defenders still fear his first step and step back. Harden can get his shot and get to the line, and he’s long been a great passer who has averaged 10.5 assists a game over the past two seasons. Now it’s just a matter of finding the balance of when to set up Joel Embiid, when to turn the offense over to Tyrese Maxey, and when to get his own shot.

Philadelphia is a deep team poised to win a lot of regular season games — the Sixers being the top seed in the East is absolutely in play. The questions Harden — and, to a degree, Embiid — have to answer come in May, when the second round of the playoffs start and Harden has faded while Embiid has had poor injury luck. In a deep East with Milwaukee, Boston, and maybe Miami and Brooklyn in the contender mix, there is no margin for error.

A Magic-like Harden would be a big boost for the Sixers in that setting.