Yifan Ding/Getty Images

Jerry Colangelo: Team USA would’ve won FIBA World Cup if not for injuries

3 Comments

Team USA finished seventh in the 2019 FIBA World Cup – the Americans’ worst-ever finish in a major tournament.

Why did the U.S. fare so poorly?

USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo had sharp words for the many stars who withdrew. But that’s not his only explanation.

Kyle Kuzma suffered an ankle injury that kept him off the roster. Jayson Tatum missed the final six games with his own ankle injury. Marcus Smart was banged up and missed time throughout the event.

Colangelo, via Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated:

“I believe that if we didn’t have those injuries, we would have won,” said Colangelo. “The injuries were just too much to absorb.”

Maybe.

Those players – especially Tatum and Smart, who occupied a roster spots – would’ve helped. But even with those two, the Americans were vulnerable. Australia beat them in an exhibition, and Turkey nearly upset them in the first round. France and Serbia clearly outplayed them in the knockout phase. Team USA just lacked its usual talent.

Perhaps more top Americans will play in the 2020 Olympics. That will make the biggest difference.

If USA Basketball had attracted more stars for the World Cup, it likely could’ve withstood a few injuries. This roster allowed little margin for error.

Michael Jordan takes another shot, enters high-end tequila business with Jeanie Buss, other owners

ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images
6 Comments

Michael Jordan’s drink of choice? Tequila. And not the cheap stuff poured into a weak house margarita at a tacky chain Mexican restaurant, we’re talking the good, sipping tequila. The stuff the rest of us think we can afford about three drinks into the night already.

Now Jordan is getting into the tequila business with several other NBA owners — the Lakers’ Jeanie Buss, the Bucks’ Wes Edens, and the Celtics Wyc Grousbeck plus his then-fiancée-now-wife Emilia Fazzalari — and the brand has just launched.

Chloe Sorvino at Forbes Magazine had a more detailed breakdown about how this idea came together over a dinner they all shared at an owners’ meeting in New York in 2016.

By the time they were seated, this multibillion-dollar table was discussing the specific characteristics they wished they could find on the shelf—a tequila with a smooth, long finish like a fine cognac or whiskey.

“That was when we realized there was an opportunity in the market to create a new tequila, a better tequila,” says Fazzalari, who spent 29 years in financial services, in part developing information platforms for the energy sector, and has been heading up the project as CEO. “We let our hair down and became true friends that night.”

Tequila-fueled gamesmanship aside, the idea for Cincoro came at the right time. The United States consumes more tequila than any other nation–about 18.3 million cases last year, or 56% of global consumption, according to consultancy IWSR Drinks Market Analysis… The ultra-premium side of the American tequila market (where the starting price is $45 a bottle) is also growing fast—a 19% increase each year since 2013.

Having Jordan’s name and brand attached to the product also can help sales, as Nike will happily attest.

Maybe this works, maybe it doesn’t — much like the restaurant business, the liquor business is a fickle one that tends to defy expectations. These people have the money to afford a little loss, but they didn’t get rich taking losses very often.

Just expect if you’re sitting in the high-end seats near the court this season to watch LeBron James or Giannis Antetokounmpo or Kemba Walker, there will be certain, somewhat pricy tequila available on the menu.

Mitch Kupchak says playoff record — or lack thereof — swayed Kemba Walker decision

AP
9 Comments

Kemba Walker is now a member of the Boston Celtics, and that team is hopeful they can reach the Eastern Conference Finals and perhaps beyond next season.

Walker decided to walk away from the Charlotte Hornets and a potential opportunity for a supermax deal. Or at least, that’s what we thought.

We got word earlier this summer about the reported amount that the Hornets had offered Walker, and that it was significantly less than the supermax deal available to him.

In a new interview with Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer, Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak has said that there were several factors that led to the team not offering Walker the supermax.

First and foremost? The Hornets were surprised when Walker actually qualified for it.

Via Charlotte Observer:

Kupchak told the Observer the Hornets were somewhat blindsided by Walker making All-NBA, and thus becoming supermax-eligible. He said while Walker didn’t demand the full supermax, the wide gap between what the Hornets could justify paying and Walker’s growing status changed the dynamic.

“We had great years with him, and we didn’t get into the playoffs,” Kupchak said. “What makes us think that next year (would) be different?”

“I’ve got to step back and look at where we’ve been and where we’re going. Chart out a course that gives us the best chance to build something that is sustainable for more than a year or two.

Kupchak went on to say that he did not trade Walker leading up to the February trade deadline in 2019 because the offers for the star point guard just weren’t that interesting.

“Almost every offer revolved around draft picks. It was always lottery-protected,” said Kupchak.

For now, it appears that at least one person has been honest with us about how the Hornets handled and thought about Walker. While it would have been nice to keep the player many consider the best in team history, the results around him we’re not up to par. Of course, that was largely due to the roster construction around Walker, which Kupchak will try to fix in the coming seasons.

Walker will be happy to be at the top of East next season, and the Hornets appear ready to rebuild.

Team USA clinches worst-ever major-tournament finish with loss to Serbia

Getty Images
8 Comments

Serbia talked big (“If we meet, may God help them“) then celebrated little.

This is how far Team USA has fallen.

The United States’ 94-89 loss to Serbia on Thursday ensures the Americans will finish seventh or eighth in the 2019 FIBA World Cup – their worst-ever finish in a major event. Their previous low was sixth in the 2002 World Championship.

Team USA will face the Czech Republic-Poland loser Saturday in the seventh/eighth-place game. The consolation end of the consolation bracket will provide no consolation. USA Basketball operates on a gold-or-bust standard, and this edition fell way short.

At least the Americans prevented greater embarrassment by making Thursday’s final score respectable. They fell behind by 25 points in the first quarter, appearing listless and heading toward a historically lopsided loss.

Kings forward Harrison Barnes (22 points) and Celtics guard Kemba Walker (18 points and eight assists) played far better than in yesterday’s loss to France. But they weren’t nearly good enough.

Kings guard Bogdan Bogdanovic (28 points, shooting 7-of-14 on 3-pointers and 3-of-3 on 3-pointers) starred for Serbia. Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (nine points, seven assists and no turnovers) dictated the game at his own pace.

This matchup was highly anticipated – just not here. Team USA and Serbia were expected to be top medal contenders. Instead, both fell in the quarterfinals.

Though facing major questions going forward, the United States still qualified for the 2020 Olympics as a top-two World Cup finisher among teams from the Americas. (Semifinalist Argentina is the other.) In a much deeper Europe, Serbia – which will finish fifth or sixth – didn’t crack that region’s top two.

Europe produced four teams in the top six – semifinalists Spain and France plus Serbia and the Czech Republic-Poland winner. The Americas’ third team was 13th-place Brazil. Another five European teams also finish ahead of Brazil – Czech Republic-Poland loser, Lithuania, Italy, Greece and Russia.

So, Team USA took the far easier route into the 2020 Games. The Americans didn’t even have to beat Serbia, which must secure one of four remaining spots in a qualifying tournament next year.

A rematch in Tokyo is far from assured. But a sequel between these potential-powerhouse teams could hold far more significance than Thursday’s game.

It’d be hard to hold less.

Report: Marcus Smart out rest of World Cup

Lintao Zhang/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Among the many questions facing Team USA following its loss to France: Do the Americans care where they finish between fifth and eighth place in the World Cup?

The United States has a gold-or-bust standard for basketball. It’d be nice to beat Serbia tomorrow then Czech Republic or Poland on Saturday. But this tournament is already a failure for USA Basketball.

So, Marcus Smart might as well not play through injury.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Smart played well for the U.S. despite injury issues. He’s a good defender who contributes well in a limited role. USA Basketball just needed to put more stars around players like him.

Hopefully, these health issues don’t carry into the Celtics’ season. Boston placed a record four players on Team USA, which provided great opportunities to build chemistry. But injury was one of the risks, and Jayson Tatum is already out with a sprained ankle.