NBA Rumor: Olympic Games
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Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri and Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka both spoke out Sunday against the decision by Nigeria’s government to withdraw its basketball teams from international competitions for two years and potentially eliminate any chance of qualifying for the 2024 Olympics. Ujiri and Udoka are both of Nigerian descent. Ujiri called for resignations and a rebirth of the Nigeran federation.
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Ujiri released a letter saying “enough is enough,” and Udoka — shortly before his team played in Game 2 of the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors — also questioned the motives behind the move by government officials. “The leaders of the basketball ecosystem in Nigeria continue to rob our youth of their present and future while tearing the entire basketball community apart — this needs to stop,” Ujiri wrote.
Udoka said the Nigerian federation suffers from disorganization. “A lot of the same stuff I dealt with as a player, which is disappointing,” said Udoka, a former player for the Nigerian national team.
Liz Cambage called Nigerian players “monkeys” during a vicious five minute Las Vegas meltdown that led to the basketball superstar walking out on her Australian Opals teammates ahead of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. A special Sunday Telegraph investigation has obtained video that clearly shows Cambage elbowing her Nigerian opponent in the head during a closed-door practice match in Las Vegas, setting off a shocking chain of events.
The Sunday Telegraph investigation also revealed Cambage told Nigerian players before the practice match that she wished she was playing for Nigeria because her Australian teammates were racist. An Opals player who attended the Las Vegas camp in June last year said Cambage’s outburst pushed the team to breaking point and was the final straw. “There had been so many behavioural issues that had gone on previously that we could write a book, but that (Vegas) incident happened to be the final straw which happened to be the worst one,” they said.
Jokić politely declined The Athletic’s request recently to speak more in-depth regarding his MVP award and his relationship with Serbia. “For the people in Serbia, they also need the national team games,” Divac, a Basketball Hall of Famer, told The Athletic. “Obviously, it was kind of bad timing for him after the season where he played every game and averaged almost 40 minutes, being tired, being in the playoffs, he just couldn’t make it for the national team. And obviously, they lost in Olympic qualifications. “So he took a little bit of a hit from that. But I support him big time because people don’t understand NBA basketball. It’s rough. It would be very difficult on his body to continue to play in the summer.”
When asked at the Nuggets’ media day in late September if he knew Serbians were disappointed with him for not playing, Jokić, sitting in front of a Nuggets backdrop, paused with a confused look and asked: “Where (was I) not playing?” “The Olympics,” the reporter responded. “We didn’t play (in the) Olympics, brother,” Jokić said. “We didn’t qualify.” “In the preliminary ones,” the reporter said, clarifying the distinction. “Ah, yeah,” Jokić said. “I mean, I made a decision. If it’s good, if it’s bad, I’m going to stick to it. So I wouldn’t change it if I could play again because I made a decision.”
Jokić was criticized in the Serbian media and online, ranging from expletive-laden tweets, to nasty memes on Facebook groups, to complex Reddit threads. One Serbian tabloid went as far as to label Jokić a “national traitor” on its cover, though the corresponding article ironically criticized the flak Jokić received despite its clickbait headline. Still, the shocking rhetoric — particularly the word “traitor” — was a direct response to the Serbian zeitgeist’s reaction to Jokić.
During the height of the backlash, Jokić’s father, Branislav, shared with the Serbian press a lesser-known reason his son was skipping the Olympic qualifiers: Nikola and his wife, Natalija, were expecting their first child in the latter portion of the summer. The couple returned to Denver earlier than usual because of the pregnancy and the COVID-19 pandemic. Their daughter, Ognjena, was born in late September.
“As a player, I never blame anybody for not playing in it,” Bogdanović told The Athletic. “I understand the situation he’s in because we’re under a lot of pressure to play for our country. It’s his decision. He has his reasons for why he didn’t play, but he knows we always want him to play and the country wants him to play. He’s that type of player. “… Sometimes, you don’t know how someone feels about that kind of pressure because you don’t know where his brain is at and where his mental health is at and where’s his physical health at. Everyone has their own different circumstances.
Duvalier Johnson: Nikola Jokic on not playing in the Olympics:”I made a decision. If it’s good or bad then I’m going to stick to it.” Said that he would make the same decision again pic.twitter.com/m0wWEgaKan
Steve Kerr for 2024?
Would you be interested in being the head coach in Paris in three years? Steve Kerr: Of course I’d be interested. I mean, who wouldn’t be? I’ll leave it at that. I have no idea how it will all transpire; there are a lot of great candidates out there. And if I were to be considered, that would be an honor.
Rudy Gobert: pic.twitter.com/vsKxjVzaOX
Steve Kerr: Stephen Curry is the best shooter who ever lived
As one well-placed observer passed along recently, another way to put it is that Curry is 33 going on 29 in the Warriors’ eyes, thanks also to the copious prep work he puts in and how he looks after himself. You’ll notice that Golden State didn’t hesitate last week when it was time to make him the first player in league history to land a second $200 million contract.
“He’s the best shooter who ever lived,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of Curry when I reached him Saturday, hours after the Americans had turned back France in the gold-medal game, 87-82, to send a relieved Popovich off in red, white and blue glory at last and halt a two-game losing streak to Evan Fournier, Rudy Gobert and Co. “Steph can absolutely play on the Olympic team three years from now,” Kerr said.
Adam Himmelsbach: Jaylen Brown happy to get a hold of Jayson Tatum’s gold medal for a minute haha pic.twitter.com/4Mu9dzDY5b
Draymond Green: Draymond Green, feeling good after ceremony, wraps arm around Keldon Johnson. “We got a young 21-year-old they said shouldn’t be here. They gave Pop sh*t for it. And he brought more energy than anybody. That’s what we needed.”
Draymond Green: There he is!!!!
Draymond Green: Stop talking out the side of your neck!!
Draymond Green: Dummy!!!
Draymond Green: Oh Colin
Draymond Green: Spoke too soon!
Draymond Green: Oh God! Anyone doing this job held accountable anymore?
Draymond Green: You don’t say!
The Vertical: Pop is living his best life as a gold medalist 🤣🥇 (via @Draymond Green) pic.twitter.com/wGcY0qxJNl
Kevin Huerter: Lol @Draymond Green letting everybody know🤣🤣
Zach LaVine: Job finished pic.twitter.com/Uzc3rm5PAV
RJ Marquez: Kevin Durant with a message to those who doubted Team USA and Gregg Popovich. This was on Instagram live: “They were talking s*** about Pop saying he couldn’t get us to lock in…stop playing man! We were going to get this dub.” pic.twitter.com/xCQxeh4CwL
Ben Golliver: USA’s Kevin Durant puts his gold medal on coach Gregg Popovich pic.twitter.com/DctU3463at
Tim Reynolds: Pop on the guys putting the medals on him: “It felt like I was here.” Pop is Pop, man.
Mike Finger: Draymond Green, feeling good after ceremony, wraps arm around Keldon Johnson. “We got a young 21-year-old they said shouldn’t be here. They gave Pop sh*t for it. And he brought more energy than anybody. That’s what we needed.”
Ben Golliver: USA Basketball’s golden moment at 2020 Tokyo Olympics pic.twitter.com/eLgN8ArVwP
Tim Reynolds: Bam on the medal: “It’s (expletive) heavy.”
Nicolas Batum: LOVE THIS TEAM! 🙏🏽🇫🇷 pic.twitter.com/sCeXJZL6zG
Rudy Gobert: Fier. pic.twitter.com/dtSO1vtpif
Australia, led by Patty Mills' 42, wins first Olympic medal in nation's history
Ben Golliver: 2020 Tokyo Olympics men’s basketball medal stand Gold: USA (16th gold, 19th medal) Silver: France (3rd silver, 3rd medal) Bronze: Australia (1st ever medal) pic.twitter.com/BzvWMb2F3N
Steve Kerr on Kevin Durant: He's the most skilled player ever
Tim Reynolds: Steve Kerr on Kevin Durant: “He’s fearless. I’ve said it before: He’s the most skilled basketball player ever. I mean that. There’s nobody that’s his size, 6-11, that combines shooting and ballhandling skills and athleticism. You’ve never seen it before. (1/2)
Ben Golliver: USA’s Gregg Popovich on Kevin Durant: “KD is not special because he’s so talented. The way he works on his game is more impressive… The joy he has in playing, it’s like osmosis. It goes into the other players.” pic.twitter.com/16GaiYFhuh
The math is simple. Eight players were not enough to even have a regular basketball 5v5 practice. You hear players mention the word “sacrifice” a lot. But what the men from the top offices of the USA Basketball had to do to get the team to where they wanted to be took even more than sacrifice, because the three players from the USA Select Team knew they were always going to be in the background. They didn’t care, though. They were ready to join the team in the exhibition games before the Olympic Games. They even made the trip to Japan to help the squad play 5v5 in practices until the NBA Finalists arrived. Draymond Green doesn’t want you to forget about them. “We had three guys, John Jenkins, Cam Reynolds and Josh (Magette) who gave up their time with no reward in the end, except to see this team win the gold medal,” Green said after winning the Final against France in the Saitama Super Arena. He went on: “Those guys are special. We had nine guys, we lost Bradley Beal, Kevin Love – we started losing guys, and those guys were here. Doing everything we needed to win a gold medal. It’s a very special group, it’s not just the twelve guys you saw win the gold medal.”
Tim Reynolds: JaVale McGee on being part of the first mother-son gold-medal duo in US Olympic history: “It’s an amazing feeling, man. I’ve got a gold medal. My mother has a gold medal. … You can’t really explain it. Just knowing you’re the best in the world, amazing, man.”
This time, though, he wasn’t standing at attention. While his Team USA players hooted, hollered and waved Old Glory on the court in front of him, celebrating the Olympics vindication that their 72-year-old coach had craved his entire adult life, Popovich sat alone in his chair on the sideline at Saitama Super Arena. “I was totally frozen,” Popovich said after USA Basketball beat France 87-82 in the Tokyo Games gold-medal game Saturday. “I didn’t do anything. I sat there scared to death.”
Damian Lillard played injured in Tokyo
Shams Charania: Sources: Damian Lillard played through an abdomen injury during Team USA’s Tokyo Olympics run, which will require further testing upon return to the States. Lillard wanted to continue playing to help USA capture the gold medal.
Ben Golliver: Kevin Durant said Team USA held a players-only meeting after opening loss to France: “When you have a team meeting, you’re at the bottom. We worked our way up from there… A lot of people back home doubted us…. We came together and finished it off with a perfect ending.”
Gregg Popovich: 'We're glad it's over'
Ben Golliver: USA’s Gregg Popovich after winning Olympic gold: “We’re glad it’s over.”
Jorge Sierra: Only seven players with multiple NBA titles and Olympic golds: Michael Jordan Scottie Pippen David Robinson Kobe Bryant LeBron James Kevin Durant DRAYMOND GREEN
Jayson Tatum would like to play at the Games again
Gary Washburn: Jayson Tatum told me he plans to play for more USA Olympic teams: “Yeah, this is fun.” #Celtics #Tokyo2020
Tim Reynolds: Draymond speaks: “When you talk about a special group, you better be sure that you’re right. A lot of people got it wrong. And trust me, I’ll be posting those guys. I’ll be posting everybody I found who said something. Because no one holds anyone accountable anymore. But I will.” pic.twitter.com/lWrm2e3rK9
Monte Poole: Draymond Green’s admission in his postgame interview with NBC Bay Area’s Raj Mathai: It was hard to leave his family, so he took 2 of his baby girl’s (clean) diapers to Tokyo as reminders of home.
Mike Finger: Steve Kerr describing the first few seconds after Gregg Popovich had guided Team USA to a gold medal: “He was emotional. It’s been five years… He’s put in so much work, effort and emotion. He was very emotional, and thrilled, and relieved, and all of that.”
Ben Golliver: USA Basketball’s Jerry Colangelo was holding back tears while praising Kevin Durant for leading gold medal win over France at 2020 Tokyo Olympics. He added: “The last [gold medal] is always the best one. … I want a glass of champagne.”
Ben Golliver: France’s Rudy Gobert: “We tried to make him work as hard as we can, but he’s Kevin Durant. He’s going to hit shots that only him, in the world, can hit. … I think he’s the best scorer in basketball. He’s going to do what he does, especially on the biggest stage.”
Kevin Durant leads Team USA to another Olympic gold
Casey Holdahl: USA 87, France 82: FINAL in the gold medal game. @Damian Lillard with 11 points, 2 assists, a steal and a rebound in 26 minutes. @Kevin Durant carries the country with 29 points, @Jayson Tatum with 19. Fourth-straight gold for the United States.
Jorge Sierra: Best scoring averages for USA at the Olympics… KEVIN DURANT (2021): 20.7 Kevin Durant (2012): 19.5 Kevin Durant (2016): 19.4 Adrian Dantley (1976): 19.3 Charles Barkley (1992): 18.0 Michael Jordan (1984): 17.1
Tim Bontemps: In his postgame interview on NBC, Jayson Tatum said he remembered “being in high school” watching Kevin Durant and Draymond Green win the gold medal in Rio, only to now win one with them in Tokyo. Pretty wild how much things have changed for him over the past five years.
Andre Iguodala: Gold medal for my man @JaVale McGee !!!
Tim Reynolds: Luka Doncic’s 18 assists tonight for Slovenia vs. France were the second-most ever in an Olympic game. Manuel Saenz had 20 for Mexico vs. Japan on July 19, 1976. Now No. 3 on the top-assists list: Some guy named Steve Nash, who had 15 for Canada vs. Australia on Sept. 17, 2000.
“Tonight, our guys were pretty special on him,” Popovich said of Mills. “But he has been special for the Spurs, and he’s moving on to Brooklyn now. And we’ll miss him a great deal. But I think it’s a good move for him, he’ll get to play for a team that’s going to be a contender. And I’m thrilled with the victory, obviously, but when I looked him in the eyes, I felt badly because they do have great camaraderie and great history and culture. And they want it just as badly as any of us. So, that was a little bit sad, but that’s what we all do, right? We all try to win.”
The Australians credited Team USA’s swarming, switching defense. Australian coach Brian Goorjian said “unique to the competition from everybody else we’ve played is their ability to switch 1 through 5.” He said that ability is not only what makes the USA the favorite in this tournament, but also “they’re as good a Team USA team that I’ve played against.” It’s an interesting statement, given that this team has lost three games and Goorjian was coaching in the 2008 Olympics — the year of the “Redeem Team.”
Luka Doncic rips officiating after loss to France
Luka Doncic’s disappointment with Slovenia’s loss to France in the second Olympic Games semifinal was more than obvious in the finale with the Dallas Mavericks superstar also expressing his frustration on his way to the locker room. After the end of the game, Doncic was shouting “FIBA is probably happy” while walking through the media mixed zone per ’15min’. He was also reported to shout “FIBA happened” while Slovenia big man Ziga Dimec was being asked questions about the game.
Slovenia had several complaints with the officiating and particularly with a play halfway through the fourth period and the score tied at 78 where Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot blocked Jaka Blazic’s layup attempt. Blazic protested that it was a goaltending violation and he received a technical foul.
“Probably one of the best blocks I’ve seen,” said France center Rudy Gobert — perhaps the best shot-blocker in the world these days. “Being able to grind for 40 minutes and win an Olympic game on that block, it’s just amazing. This is why you play the game. This is why you work hard, why you sacrifice time from your families, to come here and try to accomplish something and be part of those moments.”
Callie Caplan: Luka’s opening statement after Slovenia’s semifinal loss to France: “We might have surprised a lot of people … but we’re not giving up yet.” He’s got ice wrapped around his left wrist after crashing into the courtside plexiglass, but said it’s just precautionary.
Ben Golliver: Slovenia’s Luka Doncic, who received a technical foul and appealed to multiple referees at the buzzer, on whether the officiating impacted last-second loss to France in Olympic semifinals: “No. That’s not a question you ask me.”
FIBA | #Basketball #Tokyo2020: 🗣️ “Nicolas is a class act. He told me he hates playing against me, but in a good way. That was nice of him, he’s just a class act.” – @luka7doncic 🇸🇮 #Tokyo2020 | #Basketball
The Vertical: Nic Batum’s BIG-TIME block to seal France’s win 😱 (via @NBCOlympics) pic.twitter.com/PJfOVCX6wt
Team USA to play vs. France in Olympics final
Jorge Sierra: Luka Doncic loses for the first time with Slovenia in the cruelest manner. A Batum block sends France to the Olympic final. What an epic game.
StatMuse: France hands Luka Doncic his first career loss in international competition. Now 17-1. pic.twitter.com/Uxw1KlQmDz
StatMuse: Luka injured his wrist vs France. He finished with: 16 PTS 10 REB 18 AST It’s the first Olympic triple-double since LeBron James in 2012. pic.twitter.com/kMviBOUICz
Ben Golliver: Gregg Popovich on USA’s sacrifices at Tokyo Olympics: “Khris Middleton’s wife gave birth & he came the next day, after the Finals. Those were pretty big sacrifices. More for his wife than for him, now that I think about it. Take the credit away from him & give it to his wife.”
Kyle Anderson: mike toby playing for slovenia? man that boy from jersey lol
Ben Golliver: Australia coach Brian Goorjian after loss to USA in Olympic semifinals: “I’ve been to three Olympics now, and they’re as good as as any Team USA team I’ve played against. They’re right there.”
Ben Golliver: Australia coach Brian Goorjian after loss to USA in semifinals & the bronze medal game: “The message is loud & clear: back straight, head back, walk out of here proud. … We’ve got something right now in front of us that has never happened in this country & let’s get excited.”
Ben Golliver: USA’s Gregg Popovich on whether he wants to face France or Slovenia for gold: “You really think I’m going to answer that question? How long have you been a reporter? You must be talking to some dumb coaches. I wouldn’t touch that with a 10-foot pole. You’ve got to be kidding.”
Team USA routs Australia, makes Olympic final once again
Rob Schaefer: Final: USA 97, AUS 78 Americans impressively flip 15-point deficit to 19-point victory to earn spot in gold medal game. Zach LaVine played 17 minutes, notched 9 pts, 3 reb, 2 ast, 2 stl. Another good defensive showing with some loud second-half highlights.
This situation never happens — never does the start of free agency coincide with the Olympics. To make it even stranger, Japan is 13 hours ahead of the American East Coast. So when free agency began at 6 p.m. Monday in the States, it was 7 a.m. Tuesday in Japan. Teams cannot talk to players before then, but preliminary discussions with player agents dominate the hours (and days) leading up to the official start of free agency. “This morning I woke up at 3:30, I called my agent, like, ‘You gotta get a deal done right now so I can move on from it,’” Batum said.
As for Batum, 32, he always wanted to rejoin the Clippers, because he said they gave him a fresh start on his career last season. “Of course, the last 48 hours, it’s in your head,” Batum said. “Just this morning for one or two hours (I was on the phone) with my agent, ‘Get a deal done. … OK, we’re good?’ Now I am back to the Olympics. That was a crazy day, for sure.”
Team USA to play Australia in Olympics semifinals
Keith Smith: Team USA will play Australia in the Olympics Semifinals. Thursday 8/5 at 12:15 AM ET. Gonna be another late night!
Tim Reynolds: Luis Scola says he didn’t intend to announce his retirement from international basketball today. But he very, very strongly hinted that tonight was the end of the road.
Ben Golliver: Argentina, Australia and a few hundred spectators salute Luis Scola with a standing ovation as he checks out of Olympic quarterfinal. Scola just completed his fifth Olympics at age 41. pic.twitter.com/nxoQgpV0zF
The Americans’ path to a fourth consecutive gold was going to be arduous at best and, more likely, treacherous, which bore out in an Olympics-opening loss to France. And it was there when Team USA fell down by 10 in the second quarter of an elimination game Tuesday to Spain, an aging team that is nevertheless the defending World Cup champions. “We started to panic a little bit,” Draymond Green admitted.
By now, the explanations and excuses are worn. New team. Short training camp. Three players at the NBA Finals. Greater continuity for other countries. COVID-19 took Bradley Beal off the roster. Injuries kept other stars out. The Americans are two wins from overcoming all of it. “As we started to practice a bit more, and going through those losses, we started to understand our roles a bit more and coach started to understand the rotation,” Durant said. “I think you mix all of that in the pot, you start to build a real team. That’s what I feel like we are at this point.”
Ben Golliver: France’s Nicolas Batum on whether Clippers/Mavericks playoff series can help in Olympic semifinals versus Luka Doncic & Slovenia: “We can’t bring Kawhi [Leonard] to the next game. It’s going to be different. This is a different team.”
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March 20, 2023 | 11:58 am EDT Update
Shaquille O'Neal undergoes hip surgery
Shaquille O’Neal sparked concern after sharing a photo of himself in a hospital bed on Sunday … but TMZ Sports has learned the NBA legend simply needed to fix a nagging injury, and he’s now doing OK. Our sources tell us the 51-year-old went under the knife over the weekend to have an issue with his hip corrected — and everything went according to plan. We’re told he’s already on the mend.
March 20, 2023 | 11:35 am EDT Update
Both Lakers and Austin Reaves interested in re-signing
Austin Reaves’ surge is setting him up for a fascinating offseason. He will be a restricted free agent this summer, and will undoubtedly have multiple suitors looking to pry him from the Lakers — especially after stat lines like Sunday’s. Both the Lakers and Reaves’ camp have interest in Reaves re-signing in Los Angeles, according to multiple league sources who were granted anonymity so that they coud speak freely. The max the Lakers can offer Reaves is a four-year, $50.8 million contract if they chose to use his Early Bird Rights, but they also have the power to match any contract he signs with another team.
The coming weeks will ultimately determine how the situation plays out. The Lakers have 10 regular-season games remaining, and possibly some postseason games as well. In the meantime, Reaves is thriving as his role expands and his confidence grows down the stretch of this season. “It’s special,” Reaves said of playing for the Lakers. “I mean, I grew up a Lakers fan. To do it for this organization, especially, is surreal. Sometimes I gotta stop and really think about what I am doing. … All I’m really happy about is the win.”
NBA Communications: Tonight, the Philadelphia 76ers can become the third team from the Eastern Conference to clinch a spot in the 2023 NBA Playoffs. The 76ers host the Chicago Bulls at 7 p.m. ET on the NBA App. Clinch scenario ⬇️