Kemba Walker

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C.J.McCollum, Eric Gordon both withdraw from USA Basketball for World Cup

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First Anthony Davis. Then James Harden.

Now add C.J. McCollum and Eric Gordon to the list, as reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic and Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Don’t be surprised if a couple of new players are added to the USA roster for training camp.

The loss of those four stars strips the Team USA of some international experience. As pointed out by John Schuhmann of NBA.com, now only four members invited to USA camp have played in the World Cup or Olympics: Harrison Barnes, Andre Drummond, Kevin Love, and Kyle Lowry — and Lowry just had thumb surgery and is questionable for the playing in China.

USA Basketball can still roll out this starting five:

Damian Lillard
Bradley Beal
Khris Middleton
Tobias Harris
Andre Drummond

Then off the bench have Kemba Walker, Donovan Mitchell, Kyle Lowry, Jayson Tatum, P.J. Tucker, Kevin Love, Brook Lopez.

That’s still enough talent, coached by Gregg Popovich, to win the World Cup. The USA remains the heavy favorites for a reason.

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.

James Harden not playing for Team USA in World Cup

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James Harden said he wanted to play for Team USA in the 2019 World Cup.

But the Rockets star has apparently changed his mind.

Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:

Houston definitely has a big season ahead. A Harden-Russell Westbrook backcourt is unlike any in NBA history. There’s a lot to figure out.

The Americans will still be favored in China. But they’re down to just six five 2019 All-Stars in consideration for the final roster:

And Lowry is injured.

At least the U.S. is loaded at point guard with Lillard, Walker and maybe Lowry. Plenty of wings and even bigs set to attend USA Basketball’s training camp are stars who are also comfortable handling the ball.

Report: Celtics complained about 76ers tampering with Al Horford

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Kyrie Irving was thinking about leaving the Celtics in December, according to Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie. Rumors of Irving leaving Boston had gotten so intense by February, he practically admitted he was open to leaving. Even Celtics president Danny Ainge said he got the impression by March or April that Irving could leave. By early June, it was apparent Irving wouldn’t re-sign. By mid June, it was clear he’d sign with Brooklyn. Irving announced July 1, the second day of free agency, he chose the Nets.

Al Horford‘s exit from Boston came more suddenly.

He declined a $30,123,015 player option that had to be exercised by June 18. The Celtics were on board with that, hoping to re-sign him to a long-term deal, presumably with a cheaper starting salary but more overall compensation. But the same day, a report emerged he’d leave Boston. Horford reportedly believed a four-year, $100 million contract awaited him in free agency. On the first day of free agency, he agreed to a four-year deal with the 76ers that guarantees $97 million and could be worth $109 million.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

The Celtics were, from what I am told, one of the teams that kind of stomped their feet about what they felt was tampering. Not with Kyrie, although that looked like it was lined up pretty far in advance. But with Horford. What happened with Horford – again, from what I am told – really upset the Celtics, that they were thinking they were going to be able to negotiate with him, talk to him about a new contract, and all of a sudden, it was like he already knew what his market was and was out of there.

The Celtics are hypocrites.

By June 26, Boston had become clear favorite to sign Kemba Walker. By June 29, he had reportedly told the Hornets he’d sign with the Celtics.

Again, free agency began June 30.

How does that happen without Boston tampering?

This is the game. Teams are generally clear to talk to players after the season, even though that’s technically against the rules. The Celtics cut the same corners as nearly everyone else. It’s ludicrous for Boston to complain about Horford’s departure, as if Walker didn’t arrive the same way.

The NBA hasn’t announced any fine for Philadelphia. But the league doesn’t announce all tampering violations.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver is correct: This system is broken. The league’s tampering rules are vague and arbitrarily enforced. The NBA should set realistic rules then enforce them fully.

Celtics president Danny Ainge: Kemba Walker and Enes Kanter were ‘Plan A’

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The Celtics, even a couple months ago, were still reportedly hoping to trade for Anthony Davis and re-sign Kyrie Irving.

But dreams die fast. Davis got dealt to the Lakers. Irving left for the Nets. Al Horford even left for the 76ers.

Boston settled for got its grand prize of Kemba Walker and Enes Kanter.

Celtics president Danny Ainge:

When we got done with the draft and started our preparation for free agency, as we started planning for Plan A, our Plan A was Kemba Walker and Enes Kanter.

This might be technically true, depending how you’re willing to interpret it. It’s not accurate.

The Celtics didn’t begin preparing for free agency after the draft. Those plans were being laid years in advance. They didn’t prioritize Walker and Kanter.

But if you grant that we’re talking about only Boston’s post-draft preparation, this could be true. It was already pretty apparent both Irving and Horford were exiting. Los Angeles had already traded for Davis.

Walker-to-Boston reports didn’t emerge until after the draft. He looked like the best free agent realistically available to the Celtics. Getting him would deplete their cap space. Kanter is a high-quality player for the room exception.

Even so, I’m not totally convinced Boston had given up hope immediately following the draft of the mercurial Irving re-signing. Welcoming him back to the locker room would have been complicated. But he’s more talented and younger than Walker.

So, maybe – maybe – Ainge is telling the truth on a technicality. But I’m not even sure of that, and he’s being inaccurate in a wider context, anyway.

NBA 2K20 ratings: LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard earn 97s to lead way

NBA 2K20
Via 2K Sports
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How do NBA players measure respect? There are a few ways, with the size of the paycheck being at the top of the list. Awards and accolades fit in there.

However, few things rile guys up like their NBA 2K rankings. Most play the game, and their ranking (out of 100) is seen as a measure of status among fellow players and fans.

2K Sports unveiled the top rankings for NBA 2K20 in a live-streamed show on Monday night, and LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard got the top honors. Here’s the top 20:

1. LeBron James 97
2. Kawhi Leonard 97
3. Giannis Antetokounmpo 96
4. Kevin Durant 96
5. James Harden 96
6. Stephen Curry 96
7. Anthony Davis 94
8. Paul George 93
9. Damian Lillard 92
10. Joel Embiid 91
11. Kyrie Irving 91
12. Nikola Jokic 90
13. Russell Westbrook 90
14. Klay Thompson 89
15. Karl-Anthony Towns 89
16. Jimmy Butler 88
17. Kemba Walker 88
18. Donovan Mitchell 88
19. Rudy Gobert 88
20. Blake Griffin 88

The highest-rated rookie: Of course it was Zion Williamson (81).

Anthony Davis is on the cover of NBA 2K20, which will be released on Sept. 6. Sorry, you’ve got to wait until then to play it, but here is an early teaser video.