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Mason Plumlee added to Team USA player pool (Montrezl Harrell, too, but he’s already out)

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The story of Team USA’s 2019 FIBA World Cup roster in a nutshell: USA Basketball announced Montrezl Harrell and Mason Plumlee were added to the player pool. Less than an hour later, Harrell put out word he probably wouldn’t play.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Many stars swiftly turned down Team USA for this year’s FIBA World Cup. More accepted an invitation to try out then withdrew. Now even Harrell is out.

Who’s in?

Here are the players slated to attend training camp, with rough positional designations:

Point guards

Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics)

Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors)

Combo guards

Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz)

Marcus Smart (Boston Celtics)

Wings

Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks)

Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics)

Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics)

Harrison Barnes (Sacramento Kings)

Big forwards

P.J. Tucker (Houston Rockets)

Thaddeus Young (Chicago Bulls)

Kyle Kuzma (Los Angeles Lakers)

Centers

Brook Lopez (Milwaukee Bucks)

Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons)

Myles Turner (Indiana Pacers)

Julius Randle (New York Knicks)

Mason Plumlee (Denver Nuggets)

Plumlee is an odd addition (except considering his connections). That’s so many centers – especially because USA Basketball also invited Harrell, another center. It seems original selections Lopez, Drummond and Turner could hold down the position.

The Americans could use more backcourt depth. J.J. Redick, who just signed with the Pelicans, might provide it.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

As an excellent outside shooter, Redick could fill a valuable role.

USA Basketball also announced the select team, a group of young players that practices against the senior squad:

At this rate, maybe a select-team player or two will make the final World Cup roster.

Zion Williamson done for Summer League following knee injury

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The Pelicans have the future of their franchise — No. 1 pick Zion Williamson — wrapped up in bubble wrap. As they should, this is Summer League, it matters less than what Kanye thinks about Taylor Swift.

Williamson played one half of one Summer League game on Friday night, had some knee-to-knee contact, the Pelicans sat him in the second half and are now shutting him down for the remainder of Las Vegas Summer League. Pelicans VP of Basketball Operations David Griffin made it official.

If these were games that mattered, Williamson probably could play. But they are not, it’s Summer League, no reason to take a risk.

It will come as a major disappointment for fans, who sold out the first weekend of games in Las Vegas primarily to see the phenom out of Duke play. The Pelicans will take on the Wizards tonight at 10 p.m. ET (7 p.m. in Las Vegas) but now without the main draw for fans.

Williamson’s entire first Summer League will now consist of 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting — all four of his makes were dunks — plus three rebounds and shooting 3-of-6 from the free throw line. He was up and down, was clearly pressing early, had three of his shots blocked by Mitchell Robinson of the Knicks, missed defensive assignments, and basically looked like a rookie in his first game. His jump shot form needs work (the release is low and too slow right now), but it’s fixable with work.

But when he got a little space Zion showed the footwork, strength, and potential that had scouts comparing him with the best players to enter the NBA in a decade. And he just embarrassed Kevin Knox.

That’s the highlight we’re going to have until training camp starts now in the fall.

Zion Williamson’s debut overshadowed after earthquake shuts down Summer League for night

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People are going to talk about Zion Williamson‘s NBA Summer League debut for a long time.

Not just because he took Kevin Knox‘s lunch money and threw down a dunk.

But rather because an earthquake — a 7.1 quake centered in Ridgecrest, Calif., a city basically halfway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas — shook the Thomas & Mack center where the game was being played, causing the massive overhead scoreboard and speakers to sway, and pushing NBA and Summer League officials to call off the rest of the games for the night.

The Knicks/Pelicans game has 7:53 left to go in the fourth quarter was eventually declared a final with the Pelicans winning 80-74. The late game in the Thomas & Mack, the Suns vs. Nuggets, was canceled.

The games in the smaller Cox Center next door, which seats about 5,000 and feels more like a mid-major college arena, continued for a while because it does not have the same overhead scoreboard. However, those games were eventually called off as well.

Ridgecrest is a city that had a 6.4 magnitude earthquake just days before. While the town itself is relatively small (fewer than 30,000) the rolling quake could be felt from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. When the quake hit, the Thomas & Mack center largely emptied out.

However, it had already started to empty out earlier after word began to get around Williamson was not playing in the second half of the game against New York because of a knee-to-knee collision in the first half. The Pelicans chose to sit him out of an abundance of caution (as they should, this is just Summer League).

The much-hyped debut showdown between No. 1 pick Williamson and No. 3 pick R.J. Barrett had both players looking like rookies who have work to do to reach their potential. Which is exactly what we should have expected, but also not what fuels the hype machine before the game.

Williamson’s Summer League debut finished with him having 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting — all four of his makes were dunks — plus he went 3-of-6 from the free throw line and had three boards. Also, for the record, he walked into the building wearing Puma’s but played in his Duke Nikes.

There were good things and highlights from Williamson — when he got a little bit of room he exploited it and showed the potential that had scouts drooling all season. He’s strong and aggressive.

Williamson’s jump shot also is a work in progress, it’s a low and slow release that led to his first three being short and later Mitchell Robinson blocking a three, which led to a run-out dunk. On the other end, Williamson’s defensive recognition was slow at times, as is to be expected with a rookie in his first game.

You can see why Williamson needs to work on the jump shot to round out his game. When Robinson guarded him, Williamson blew by the Knicks center and got to the rim, but Robinson started to play back and dare Williamson to take jumpers. It was kind of the Giannis Antetokounmpo treatment, and it worked on Zion.

Knicks No. 3 pick R.J. Barrett struggled even more, finishing the night 4-of-18 shooting including 1-of-8 from three. Barrett struggled to create separation and get his shot off how he wanted, while on the other end Frank Jackson took it right at Barrett and scored 30 points for the game (before it was postponed).

Nobody should read much into those performances, Summer League itself just sets a baseline for the coaching staffs to understand what the players need to work on the rest of the summer. One game at Summer League means next to nothing for a player. Last Summer I was at Trae Young‘s Summer League debut in Salt Lake City and struggled mightily, but by the end of the Las Vegas Summer League Young looked much better, and by the end of the NBA season he was pushing for Rookie of the Year.

The standouts for the Knicks were their second-year players Allonzo Trier (21 points on 8-of-14 shooting), Kevin Knox (17 points on 6-of-12 shooting, including a couple of plays where he attacked Zion and scored), and Mitchell Robinson (8 points, 10 rebounds, and four blocks — three of them on Williamson). It was evident how much more slowly the game moved for them.

At least until the shaking started.

Zion Williamson rips ball out of Kevin Knox hands, throws it down hard (VIDEO)

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Zion Williamson was up and down in his Summer League debut, getting his shot blocked by Mitchell Robinson three times in the first half alone. He looked like a rookie…

That’s not why you’re here — you want the highlights. Zion had those, too. But none like ripping the ball out of Kevin Knox hands and throwing it down.

That is a man’s move.

It was some payback for a Knox strip of Williamson earlier.

Williamson was putting on a show in warmups, too.

Zion had 11 points in the first half, and was sat the second half by the Pelicans in a conservative move after some knee to knee contact in the first half. (Fans may not like it, but that’s what teams should do here, this is just Sumer League.)

The Knicks with three players who got regular NBA minutes last season — Allonzo Trier, Mitchell Robinson, and Knox — controlled the game.

Concerns about Knicks organization reportedly at heart of why free agents stayed away

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It’s not about the last 20 years, most NBA players don’t account for “ancient” history when choosing a free agent destination. It’s about the previous five years or so.

If you’re thinking about the last five years, what do you know of the Clippers? Went to the playoffs every year, have player-friendly and loved Doc Rivers as coach, was the fun show of Lob City, rebuilt well on the fly, have Jerry West in the front office and an owner worth about $50 billion in Steve Ballmer.

What do you know about the Nets in the last five years? Playing in Brooklyn now, and management there has built a player-friendly culture built on guys who play hard, and they have made smart rebuilding decision after smart rebuilding decision under Sean Marks. This is a playoff team already poised to take a step forward.

That’s now what players think of the Knicks, according to a story in the New York Times by David Waldstein.

Yet interviews with agents and other basketball executives, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid jeopardizing any future business with the Knicks, bear out the perception that players would rather not deal with an organization seen as dysfunctional, though there are more nuanced explanations for the radioactivity of the team, as well…

But there is also the remote location of the Knicks’ practice facility — in suburban Westchester County, nearly 30 miles from Manhattan, a long commute that complicates living arrangements — and most recently there has been the surprising success of the Nets…

Players around the league, according to the agents, have taken note of the Knicks’ instability: There have been 10 coaches since Van Gundy left in 2001 and almost as many top executives, some with impressive résumés, like Isiah Thomas, Donnie Walsh and Phil Jackson. Now [Steve] Mills and Scott Perry, the general manager, are at the helm.

James Dolan is painted as the villain, the Knicks need to overcome that perception.

Perry and Mills have done a good job this summer in this sense: After striking out with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, they didn’t throw max contracts at second- and third-tier guys who would hamstring the organization going forward, as the Knicks have done in the past. They stuck with building around youth — R.J. Barrett, Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson — while adding smart veteran contracts such as Julius Randle (a two-year deal). Keep improving, but keep the financial flexibility go after the next star.

Think about the struggling franchises that have made big moves. The Lakers did it by putting together enough good young players that they could make an interesting offer for Anthony Davis. The Nets had young players with talent such as D'Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert, and Joe Harris. The Clippers may or may not get Kawhi Leonard, but they also have Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Landry Shamet, Montrezl Harrell plus veterans such as Lou Williams and Patrick Beverley who are respected around the NBA.

The Knicks need to spend a couple of seasons getting there, getting that core talent level up, then the rest of it can come together.

And then the stories about why players are staying away will stop.