NBA Rumor: Team USA

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Mark Tatum: The world is getting better and that makes basketball a more attractive game

The U.S. men’s national basketball team got a reality check on the road to Olympic gold this week, losing two consecutive exhibition games against Nigeria and Australia. But for Mark Tatum, the deputy commissioner and chief operating officer of the NBA, those defeats marked a victory of sorts, in the league’s decades long quest to internationalize the game of basketball. “The world is getting better, and I think that makes basketball a much more attractive game for the world to follow,” Tatum said, in an interview on Yahoo Finance Live. “We’re happy to see that level of competition continue to grow and grow.”

Bradley Beal on Olympics: We don't want it to get into a politic protest

The Olympics present a stage for which the world is watching and there is a long history of athletes using the event to protest or speak out on political matters. But as Bradley Beal explained to NBC Sports Washington’s Chris Miller, the plan is for Team USA to focus on winning a gold medal. They have agreed as a team to continue working for societal change in other ways and keep this particular trip about basketball. “We’ve talked about that actually as a team. In all honesty, for the first time we can lay out our arms and focus on our competition and that’s what we’re going to do. We don’t want it to get into a political protest,” Beal told NBC Sports Washington.

Bradley Beal: “Our first meeting wasn’t about basketball, it was about life. It wasn’t about hoops at all. It was about him respecting us and what we did as players, what we continue to do and what we continue to embody and the fact we’re still trying to come out and win a gold medal regardless of what’s happened and what’s been going on. That spoke volumes. That spoke volumes. Pop, he’s a legend and he will always be a legend. Yeah, so ask him. He’ll be the one to ask about what’s going on in the world.”

Kobe Bryant wore No. 24 and No. 8 with the Los Angeles Lakers, but he donned No. 10 for USA Basketball when he helped the Americans capture gold medals at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. Jayson Tatum has worn that number as part of U.S. teams several times since — and will wear it at the Tokyo Olympics, where the Americans will aim to capture a fourth consecutive gold medal. “With this being the first Olympics since we lost him, it holds that much more value,” Tatum said. “It’s not something I take lightly.”

Tatum knew Bryant well. They worked out together and Bryant offered him advice many times. “I remember one talk, it might have been after a game, and he was saying that a lot of people won’t understand what you do,” Tatum said. “He said, ‘What I mean by that is, the ones that really want to be great and really want to be special really take that whatever-it-takes mentality.’ He told me it takes sacrifice, because the ultimate question is about how much are you willing to give up to be great.”

When he decided not to play in the 2016 Olympics, the number ended up with Kyrie Irving — another player who idolizes Bryant, just as Tatum does. And now, as was the case when the U.S. went to the Basketball World Cup two years ago, the jersey is Tatum’s. “For JT to have this moment, I’m happy for him, genuinely,” U.S. center Bam Adebayo said. “I’ve known JT since I was 12. He deserves everything he’s getting and he’s going to keep deserving more because he’s such a great player. I’m happy for him. That’s his idol, and he gets to represent that number. I know he’s going to have that ‘Mamba Mentality’ when he puts that 10 on.”

One of the first players to commit was Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, who let go of old scar tissue. Lillard is still bitter about what happened in 2014 when he was the final cut before Team USA went to Spain for the World Cup, sources said. Lillard felt he had secured a spot on the roster that year after talking to then-head coach Mike Krzyzewski, but the team pivoted and kept an extra center. The Blazers’ star said all the right things publicly, but the decision burned him for years.

Detroit Pistons forward Jerami Grant has been working out daily at a facility in his hometown of Washington, D.C., and eagerly wanted to make the roster. Coming into the week, Ford had let Grant know he was one of three or four players being considered for the last spots after Brooklyn Nets guard James Harden withdrew because of a hamstring injury. Colangelo called Wednesday morning with the official offer, which Grant immediately accepted. When he told his mother, Beverly, that he had made the Olympic Team, her tears quickly followed. A factor in the choice was Durant and Lillard lobbying Popovich on Grant’s behalf, sources said.

Khris Middleton ordinarily wouldn’t be thinking about anything right now other than what the Milwaukee Bucks are trying to accomplish in the NBA playoffs. An invitation to play in the Olympics, that’s not ordinary. Milwaukee starting guards Middleton and Jrue Holiday plan to play for the U.S. in the Tokyo Olympics next month, yet both insist that isn’t distracting them from the Bucks’ quest to win the franchise’s first NBA title in 50 years. “We’re in the middle of a championship run,” Middleton said. “To take a second to think about something outside of this season, it was a little tough to think about it. But it was an easy decision for me to go ahead and commit.”
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July 31, 2021 | 3:05 am EDT Update
Here’s what Wojnarowski reported on ESPN’s morning show ‘Get Up’: “Philadelphia is still asking for a lot. Teams are not willing to be strip-mined to trade for Ben Simmons. They’re going to continue to try and find a way, to see if there’s a deal here as free agency starts. You kind of get another cycle of deal-making here. But he’s four years left on his deal, they’re not going to just give him away in Philly. Whatever they get back for him, they’ve got to believe it continues to make them a championship contender. But they’d like to get a deal done before training camp.”
That pushed Hield to the forefront. But even as the possibility of a deal built around Kyle Kuzma and Harrell began to form, the Lakers kept the door open to a Westbrook deal. Westbrook asserted his voice into the conversation, and per an NBA source, the Wizards pivoted. Just like that, the pieces the Kings liked for Hield were no longer available.