CJ McCollum

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You can play a Kevin Durant-themed ‘Snake’ video game now

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I like stupid internet things, and the NBA is pretty stupid in the heat of August. I also like nostalgia, and I bet you do too. That’s why you are looking forward to LeBron James in Space Jam 2.

But what about a Kevin Durant-themed take on the classic “Snake” video game, made popular for my generation on Nokia cell phones?

That exists, too. Apparently.

A fan has created a free browser-based game that features Durant as the snake and folks from his career — Billy Donovan, CJ McCollum, Steven Adams — as the bits he eats to grow longer. When a player eats items, some trigger little phrases at the top of the screen.

For example, if you eat Kyle Singler, it says “Kd can’t win a championship with those cats.” This is a reference to one of Durant’s tweets about his OKC teammates from one of his burner accounts.

When you die, you can keep playing or “Hit Free Agency” to pick a new team. The options available are the Golden State Warriors, Oklahoma City Thunder, Seattle SuperSonics, University of Texas Longhorns, Brooklyn Nets, and New York Knicks.

I’m pretty bad at it, so my high score before I gave up was 875.

Play the game here and see if you can score better than me.

Kevin Love ‘expected’ to withdraw from Team USA World Cup training camp

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Add another one to the list of players who have dropped out of USA Basketball. So far, that list is

Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers)
James Harden (Houston Rockets)
Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers)
CJ McCollum (Portland Trail Blazers)
Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards)
Eric Gordon (Houston Rockets)
Tobias Harris (Philadelphia 76ers)

Now Kevin Love is expected to join the list, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic. The good news is Kyle Lowry wants to play.

Love’s floor spacing skills, rebounding, and outlet passes fit well in the international game. Love won gold with Team USA at the London Olympics.

The motivations behind all the defections are, in general, a combination of three things. First, the NBA title chase feels wide open this season with as many as eight teams thinking they have a legit shot at it, and the majority of those dropping out are on those teams. The players are prioritizing club over country. Secondly, FIBA moved the World Cup from 2018 to 2019, meaning if a player is eyeing the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo they would be taking part in two straight summers of USA Basketball — likely after long playoff runs — to do both. Players are choosing to take the World Cup off. Third, this World Cup starts late, running Aug. 31 to Sept. 15, and runs right up against the start of training camps.

Even with all the withdrawals, the USA team is loaded with enough talent to three-peat as gold medalists at the event. Kemba Walker, Kyle Lowry, Donovan Mitchell, Marcus Smart, Khris Middleton, Jayson Tatum, Kyle Kuzma, Harrison Barnes, Aaron Gordon, Thaddeus Young, P.J. Tucker, Julius Randle, Paul Millsap, Andre Drummond, Brook Lopez, and Myles Turner are among those invited.

Marcus Smart, Thaddeus Young reportedly added to USA Basketball training camp roster

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Elite NBA players have not dropped out of playing for Team USA like this since 2004, when nobody wanted to play for Larry Brown and rumors of potential terrorism in Athens had the NBA’s best backing out.

For the 2019 World Cup in China, USA Basketball has watched James Harden, Anthony Davis, Tobias Harris, Bradley Beal, Eric Gordon, and CJ McCollum all back out, robbing the American team of a lot of star power. Zion Williamson, who was projected to be part of the “select team” of young stars Team USA goes against also dropped out.

The Americans were down to 14 players heading into training camp (12 will be chosen to travel to China), and they needed more players. Enter Boston’s Marcus Smart and Thaddeus Young, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Don’t be surprised if another veteran name or two is added before training camp opens.

Smart and Young are a couple of smart selections, elite defenders who can shut down the best wing players on other teams (and in FIBA competition only a couple of teams have more than one top-flight wing player to handle).

So who is on the USA roster now? Let’s break it out by position:

GUARDS:
Damian Lillard
Kemba Walker
Kyle Lowry (questionable coming off thumb surgery)
Marcus Smart

WINGS:
Khris Middleton
Donovan Mitchell
Jayson Tatum
Harrison Barnes
Kyle Kuzma
Thaddeus Young

BIGS:
Andre Drummond
Myles Turner
Brook Lopez
Kevin Love
PJ Tucker
Paul Millsap

(We could argue about whether Mitchell is a guard or a wing, or other guys positions, but you get the basic picture.)

After Lillard, that roster does lack star power.

But the USA talent pool is so deep that it will overwhelm all but a couple of teams in the tournament. Serbia — led by Nikola Jokic and Bogan Bogdanovic — is the biggest threat to the USA and has good depth. Spain is impressive as well, but older.

The USA is and should be the World Cup favorite, but an improved rest of the world and a depleted USA roster is going to make things a lot more interesting in China.

USA Basketball is scheduled to begin its pre-World Cup camp in Las Vegas Aug. 5, with an intrasquad exhibition game at the T-Mobile Arena on Aug. 9. Then the team heads to Southern California for more training followed by an exhibition against Spain on Aug. 16 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. Then the team heads overseas for the World Cup, which begins in China on Aug. 31.

Report: Rodney Hood returns to Blazers on two-year deal

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The Portland Trail Blazers lost Al-Farouq Aminu to the Orlando Magic on Sunday. Rumors around Portland were that they wanted Aminu back on their taxpayer mid-level exception, but he got much more than that.

As such, general manager Neil Olshey made a crucial decision to re-sign free agent Rodney Hood.

According to multiple reports, Hood will return to the Rose City on a two-year deal. We have conflicting information at this time about the terms of Hood’s return — Adrian Wojnarowski has suggested Hood’s deal is worth $16 million, but The Athletic’s Jason Quick has reported that Hood is taking Portland’s full taxpayer MLE of $5.7 million starting next year.

Via Twitter:

In either case, keeping Hood in Portland is the right move for Portland. The team has desperately needed more shooting, largely because of the role of Aminu in the starting lineup. Hood was a great mid-season addition last year at the trade deadline, and combined with Kent Bazemore he should allow for more space for Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.

In the playoffs, teams have been able to clamp down on Portland’s star guards because of the lack of shooting at the wing for the Blazers. Both Aminu and Moe Harkless struggled last year in the postseason, and the weakness in Portland was the same as it has always been.

Having both Bazemore and Hood on the roster should help Portland’s 3-point shooting woes, as well as make it harder for trapping defenders to sag off of the Blazers wing players to help out on Lillard and McCollum.

Hood is a reasonable defender, and played well enough on offense to earn him a spot as a favorite within the hearts of Portland fans.

Hood also said that he found his love of the game again while playing in Portland, and perhaps that led to his decision to re-sign with the Blazers.

This is the time to take advantage of things in the Western Conference with Kevin Durant heading to the Brooklyn Nets and the Golden State Warriors looking significantly weaker.

Olshey and his Blazers are looking to make a splash, and I’m not so sure they are done dealing just yet. Portland could be very active in the trade market moving forward, and the Blazers will be contenders for the Western Conference Finals yet again.

Report: Al-Farouq Aminu to sign with Magic for three years, $29 million

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Al-Farouq Aminu will not be returning to the Portland Trail Blazers.

Reports broke on Sunday that Aminu had signed a 3-year, $29 million contract with the Orlando Magic. He will join a team that finished 8th in defensive rating last season and was a playoff entrant last season out east.

Via Twitter:

The Nigerian forward had an up-and-down season last year for Portland, playing well defensively but not making up for his contributions on the offensive side of the ball. Aminu ended up being a serious hazard on offense. He was often camped out in the corner acting as a release valve for Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, but couldn’t make enough of it.

He shot 34 percent on 3-pointers in the corners according to Cleaning the Glass. That wasn’t good enough, and it was exacerbated by the fact that Aminu acted as a spot-up shooter 47 percent of the time on offense — a hugely disproportionate amount — according to Synergy.

Those numbers alone tell you how much the Blazers needed him to be a better-than-average shooter from the corners, which he wasn’t. The geometry of Portland’s offense was such that Aminu’s shooting (and the streakiness of said shooting) could mean winning a game handily or losing via double-digits.

Aminu should be a good enough defender for the Magic moving forward. It’s also possible that they will need to rely on him less as a shooter in the corner, and more as a cutter in transition where he thrives. He can’t really dribble the ball, either, so he’s not going to be a useful player in the pick-and-roll game.

Contextually this makes sense for both teams. Rumor around Portland was that the team wanted to get Aminu back for their taxpayer mid-level exception. We also heard rumors that Aminu wanted north of $10 million per season, which is right around where he landed with his new contract in Orlando.

It was a good experiment for a while in Rip City, and a 37 percent year from 3-point range last season felt like it could have been a tipping point. But things never materialized, Aminu regressed back to his averages. He didn’t deserve a big raise, even in a market that’s overinflated. He got a little bit of a boost up from Orlando, and now the Blazers will have to figure out their big man rotation moving forward.

Rodney Hood is reportedly returning to the Blazers on a two-year deal, so he and Kent Bazemore should add some 3-point shooting where Aminu was lacking last year.