Is there anyone in the NBA more ripe for parody than Joey Crawford?
I bet even Crawford finds it funny.
EuroBasket matters — it offers both the bragging rights of a European championship and is the 2016 Olympic qualifier for Europe. The top two finishers get their tickets punched for Rio for the 2016 games (the USA and Brazil have already qualified). Finishers three through seven get invited to the 2016 pre-Olympics qualifying tournament, where they can try to play their way into the final field of 12 (likely a couple of them succeed).
Because it matters, some of the NBA’s big names will suit up when play tips off Sept. 5 — Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker among others. There are 29 players under NBA contract in total expected to participate. Mark Cuban and many NBA GMs will watch clutching their lucky blanket and hoping against injury, but this is the kind of tournament that draws stars.
If you’ve wondered who is going, here’s a list of every NBA player suiting up in EuroBasket, hat tip to Hoopshype.
Bojan Bogdanovic (Brooklyn Nets)
Mario Hezonja (Orlando Magic)
Damjan Rudez (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Alexis Ajinca (New Orleans Pelicans)
Nicolas Batum (Charlotte Hornets)
Boris Diaw (San Antonio Spurs)
Evan Fournier (Orlando Magic)
Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz)
Joffrey Lauvergne (Denver Nuggets)
Tony Parker (San Antonio Spurs)
Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas Mavericks)
Tibor Pleiss (Utah Jazz)
Dennis Schroeder (Atlanta Hawks)
Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks)
Kosta Koufos (Sacramento Kings)
Kostas Papanikolaou (Denver Nuggets)
Andrea Bargnani (Brooklyn Nets)
Marco Belinelli (Sacramento Kings)
Danilo Gallinari (Denver Nuggets)
Omri Casspi (Sacramento Kings)
Jonas Valanciunas (Toronto Raptors)
Marcin Gortat (Washington Wizards)
REPUBLIC OF GEORGIA
Zaza Pachulia (Dallas Mavericks)
Nemanja Bjelica (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Pau Gasol (Chicago Bulls)
Nikola Mirotic (Chicago Bulls)
Furkan Aldemir (Philadelphia 76ers)
Ersan Ilyasova (Detroit Pistons)
Alex Len (Phoenix Suns)
Kobe Bryant isn’t going to let injuries determine when his career ends — he wants to go out on his own terms. After playing just 41 games the past two seasons due to injury, Bryant will be back in Lakers’ purple (Forum Blue, if you prefer) and providing tough love to a young team this season. This team, this franchise is still his.
After this season, he doesn’t know.
He’s talked about retiring after this season, but he could play in the Rio Olympics in 2016, or play overseas, or maybe return for another NBA season. While the ultra-competitive Kobe has set up an interesting post-basketball life, walking away from the game is never easy.
“I hope he retires, because I don’t want to see — I probably played two years too long. I hate to see Patrick Ewing, great as he was, struggle — I don’t like seeing great players just out there, you know?” Barkley said. “Michael Jordan playing for the Wizards, that didn’t do anything for me. Kobe’s obviously not going to walk away from $30 million. This should be like a farewell tour, play 20, 25 minutes a night. The Lakers aren’t going to make the playoffs. Could he play some more? Yeah, of course. His best days are behind him. I hear these fools on TV, talking about, ‘Kobe’s going to get healthy.’ Old people don’t get healthy; they die. Old people don’t get healthy. Father Time is undefeated. … You can get in great shape in the summer, because you’re playing against air. Air doesn’t hit back.”
Kobe probably has that quote pinned on his bathroom mirror so he sees it every morning. That is his fuel.
It’s impossible to predict what Kobe will do at the end of the season because even Kobe doesn’t know. Can he stay healthy for a season? He’s keeping his options open for a reason. My guess is he leaves the game — it’s a lot of work to get his body ready for an NBA season right now, and if you’re not in the Tim Duncan space where you’re still competing for rings, is it worth the effort? But we don’t know for sure, and if he wants to come back the Buss family will pay him handsomely to do so.
Kobe would love to prove Charles Barkley wrong, and then remind him of it.
It happened to DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard seemingly every game. It happened to guys such as Josh Smith, although less often.
But when it came to the Pistons’ Andre Drummond, there was not a lot of hack-a-Drummond taking place. That despite the fact he shot just 38.7 percent from the free throw stripe last season.
The Pistons should be improved this season, and Drummond should be at the heart of it — he had 27 points and 16 rebounds in the Team USA exhibition last week. He’s going to draw more attention and it he’s shooting around 40 percent from the line there will be hacking.
“We had teams do it,” said Van Gundy. “Quite honestly if we get better we’ll see it more. I had Dwight Howard and I also had Shaq (Shaquille O’Neal) so I’ve been through this before. In terms of wins and losses it just hasn’t been that effective. It might be effective for a possession or two….
“I don’t think it’s hopeless,” said Van Gundy. “I think my hope would be that this year we could get him up over 50% and we could start pushing 60%. If you get him over 50% then it’s not really an effective strategy. If you get to 52% then you’re having a quality possession.”
The average NBA team averaged 1.025 points per possession last season, so you can see where Van Gundy is going here — even at 52 percent that’s well above average.
The Pistons are talking extension with Drummond, and they will give him the max (it is possible the sides decide to do what Kawhi Leonard did with the Spurs and wait to sign next summer, giving them more cap space to chase free agents). The Pistons are going to pay Drummond to be their future, their cornerstone.
Will free throws be his Achilles heel, or will he knock enough down to take that off the table?
It is more impressive when New Zealand’s rugby team does it.
Andrew Bogut and Matthew Dellavedova – two guys who went hard just a couple of months back on opposite sides of the NBA Finals — stood arm-in-arm with Patty Mills and the rest of their Australian teammates and were unimpressed with the native Haka dance the All Blacks did before their match Saturday.
Australia and New Zealand are playing a two-game series for the championship of FIBA’s Oceana region — the winner qualifies for the 2016 Olympics (joining the USA and Brazil as locked in the 12-team tournament).
Dellavedova helped settle a nervous home Australian team down in the second quarter on his way to 15 points on the night. Mills was making plays late and had 17 for the game. Australia won 71-59.
Game 2 of the series is Tuesday in New Zealand and it is scored in aggregate — if Australia wins or loses by 11 points or fewer they will advance to the Olympics.