Storyline: USA Basketball

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Those fans remember Barnes on their TVs in the Finals, too. “Just from what I’ve seen from our experience so far, trying to help guys understand what it means to play on an international stage and what we’re going to have to go through to win it,” Barnes said, when asked how his past championships can help here. “Anytime you have championship experience, whether it was just that journey of going through it, whether it was in ’15 or ’16, whatever it is, that just helps you in this process because you have eight games to lock in and do something special.”

So for Pop-watchers of a certain age, it’s hard to resist rewinding to the height of his reverence for the Jazz every time Popovich huddles with the budding Utah star Donovan Mitchell these days — a frequent occurrence on the U.S.A. Basketball practice floor. A picture of coach and player after a recent intrasquad scrimmage in Las Vegas, side by side and backs to the camera, slammed home the point: Mitchell has begun a six-week course of higher learning under Popovich.

Popovich still isn’t sure what he has roster-wise, but he can point to at least one luxury as he finally settles into his dream job as Mike Krzyzewski’s successor: Mitchell’s rise alongside the All-Star guard Kemba Walker will enable the United States to field an elite starting backcourt at the FIBA World Cup in China from Aug. 31 to Sept. 15. “Just try to throw yourself completely into it,” Snyder said he told Mitchell. “And try to communicate with Coach as much as you can. Be a sponge.”

Yet the mere mention of the word “scrimmage,” for a U.S.A.B. contingent in Las Vegas, inevitably evokes images of what happened to George. That’s the reality even when both player and program can gratefully say, on this unpleasant five-year anniversary, that they have rebounded as well as anyone could have hoped. “It was a travesty when it took place, and it just put us back on our heels,” Jerry Colangelo, U.S.A.B.’s managing director, said Thursday on the eve of Friday’s scrimmage. “But time has a way of healing. The fact that Paul came back all the way and it didn’t affect his career, it kind of minimized what transpired.”

U.S.A.B.’s struggles to attract stars for this summer’s World Cup bid have been a persistent N.B.A. story line over the past month. Those troubles, though, are more often attributed to player apathy toward a non-Olympic tournament, along with general concerns about workload and travel amid the league’s rising “load management” movement, rather than fretting about a George repeat. “No, sir,” Boston’s Kemba Walker said when asked if he viewed George’s story as a cautionary tale before accepting U.S.A.B.’s invitation to be the face of this World Cup squad.

All of that would have been hard to imagine on Aug. 1, 2014, seeing George, with his right leg placed in an air cast and teammates like Plumlee all around him so visibly shaken, taken out of the Thomas & Mack on a stretcher. “Hard to watch,” Walker said, recalling the broadcast he watched that night while traveling in Atlanta. “Sad.” Said Colangelo: “If Paul had gone down for the count, it would have been tragic for him and for us. Thank God it didn’t go down that way.”

USA National Team members expected at the World Cup training camp include Bam Adebayo (Miami Heat); Harrison Barnes (Sacramento Kings); Jaylen Brown(Boston Celtics); Kyle Kuzma (Los Angeles Lakers); Brook Lopez (Milwaukee Bucks); Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors); Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks); Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz); Mason Plumlee (Denver Nuggets), Marcus Smart (Boston Celtics); Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics); P.J. Tucker (Houston Rockets); Myles Turner (Indiana Pacers); Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics); and Thaddeus Young (Chicago Bulls).

The 14-man USA Basketball Select Team includes Jarrett Allen (Brooklyn Nets); Marvin Bagley III (Sacramento Kings); Mikal Bridges (Phoenix Suns); Jalen Brunson (Dallas Mavericks); John Collins (Atlanta Hawks); Pat Connaughton (Milwaukee Bucks); Craig; De’Aaron Fox (Sacramento Kings); Joe Harris (Brooklyn Nets); Jonathan Isaac (Orlando Magic); Jaren Jackson Jr. (Memphis Grizzlies); Mitchell Robinson (New York Knicks); Derrick White (San Antonio Spurs); and Trae Young (Atlanta Hawks).

Mitchell will also attend Team USA’s national team training camp Aug. 5-9 in Las Vegas. He hopes to earn a spot on the final 12-man roster for the FIBA World Cup in China, but his goal is to come back to Utah a much-improved player. “A lot of it, I’m just keeping it to myself with just being a better playmaker and a better player overall, being more efficient, and those are the obvious things, and then being in better shape,” Mitchell said. “Hopefully making the USA team will help with that.”

Thompson did not sound as definitive as he walked through an arena hallway following practice on Wednesday. Thompson mused, “I don’t even know what I’m getting for tonight, bro.” Thompson then added, “my focus is on winning this game tomorrow.” Still, it appears unlikely Thompson will play, according to a source familiar with his thinking. Thompson has appeared in five consecutive NBA Finals. He wants to focus on his pending free agency and a planned trip to China as part of his work with Anta from July 12 through 22.

If Walker plays, something he said he would like to do, he will come up against Japan in the group stage, with the Akatsuki Five, Turkey and the Czech Republic set to battle it out with the Americans for a place in the second round. “It will be an honor, of course, it will be the first time in my professional career that I will get the opportunity to compete for the U.S.A. team,” he said. “It will be an honor to play against Japan. I love playing against different competition, especially guys from another country, so I am looking forward to it.”

“He was remarkable, spectacular, off the charts, what he did to qualify USA for the world championships,” Popovich said of Van Gundy, who has worked as a television analyst since being fired by the Rockets. “He put together about five different teams, of mostly different players every time, and had a short amount of time to get ready. If they didn’t do well, the U.S. doesn’t go, and he deserves a lot of credit for doing that. I’m very grateful to him for what he did.”
1 year ago via ESPN

Head coach Gregg Popovich has named former player and friend Steve Kerr as an assistant coach on Team USA for the next two summers, an indication that the Golden State Warriors coach is emerging as an option to become head coach sometime in the future. USA Basketball made the announcement Thursday. Popovich also named Indiana Pacers head coach Nate McMillan and Villanova head coach Jay Wright as assistants. Popovich and this coaching staff will work with the national team for the 2019 World Cup in China and the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
1 year ago via ESPN

“This is an incredible opportunity and one I’m extremely grateful for,” Kerr said in a statement. “I had the good fortune to participate in our USA Basketball program as an amateur, and to have the chance to return to the world stage three decades later and work under Pop, one of my former coaches and a mentor, is a tremendous honor.” Kerr played for Team USA in the 1986 World Championships in Madrid while he was a player at Arizona. He hasn’t been a part of Team USA since 1988 as he’s focused on his NBA playing, front office and coaching career. Popovich bringing him into the fold will give him experience with the international game that could be put to use later.

The USA will continue its training through Sept. 13 at UNLV’s Mendenhall Center. The USA, playing in the first competition window of FIBA World Cup Qualifying second-round games, will meet Uruguay on Sept. 14 (7 p.m. PDT) at UNLV’s Cox Pavilion, then meet Panama on Sept. 17 in Panama City. The USA roster is capped by Bryce Alford (Oklahoma City Blue); Dwayne Bacon (Charlotte Hornets); Henry Ellenson (Detroit Pistons); Reggie Hearn (Grand Rapids Drive); Isaiah Hicks (New York Knicks); Dakari Johnson (Free Agent);Frank Mason III (Sacramento Kings); Ben Moore (Fort Wayne Mad Ants); Chasson Randle (Capital City Go-Go); Travis Trice (Milwaukee Bucks); Jameel Warney (Texas Legends); and Derrick White (San Antonio Spurs).

Featuring 10 players who played for NBA teams in 2017-18, and the return of two players boasting of previous World Cup Qualifying game experience, USA Basketball announced today 14 players who will vie for a roster spot with USA’s September World Cup Qualifying Team. The hopefuls will open training camp on Sept. 6 at UNLV’s Mendenhall Center. The Las Vegas training camp will be used to determine the 12-man team for the USA’s first competition window of FIBA World Cup Qualifying second-round games. The U.S. will square off against Uruguay on Sept. 14 (7 p.m. PDT) at UNLV’s Cox Pavilion, then meet Panama on Sept. 17 in Panama City. The player selections were made by the USA Basketball Men’s World Cup Qualifying Team Committee.

Returning to contend for a USA roster spot after previously playing with USA World Cup Qualifying Teams are guard Reggie Hearn (Grand Rapids Drive) and center Jameel Warney (Texas Legends). Hearn played with the USA’s November 2017 and June 2018 World Cup Qualifying Teams, and while getting the starting nod in all four games, averaged 12.3 points a game. Warney played for U.S. in the November World Cup Qualifier and averaged 11.5 points and 8.0 rebounds a game. Both players were also part of the USA AmeriCup Team that finished 5-0 to claim gold in August 2017. Warney, who was selected the 2017 USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year, earned AmeriCup MVP honors after posting 12.8 points and 8.6 rebounds per game, while Hearn contributed 10.0 points a game. Rounding out the U.S. training camp roster are Bryce Alford (Oklahoma City Blue); Dwayne Bacon (Charlottw Hornets); V.J. Beachem (Free Agent); Jordan Crawford (New Orleans Pelicans); Henry Ellenson (Detroit Pistons); Isaiah Hicks (New York Knicks); Dakari Johnson (Free Agent); Frank Mason III (Sacramento Kings); Ben Moore (Fort Wayne Mad Ants); Chasson Randle (Capital City Go-Go); Travis Trice (Milwaukee Bucks); and Derrick White (San Antonio Spurs).

Now it appears all might be not be as it appears with Robinson’s immediate future, with Heat President Pat Riley providing insight on the 3-point specialist’s plans in advance of training camp. “I’m really proud in the fact that Duncan Robinson has been invited to play in the international series,” Riley said of the September window for World Cup qualifying, “but he decided to stay here because he wanted to make our team, he wants to force us into giving him a real contract.”

It will be Colangelo and Gregg Popovich, who officially took over for Krzyzewski after the 2016 Rio Olympics, to choose those guys. Colangelo said there was initially an expectation on his part to step away from the program in 2016 along with Krzyzewski. But after Popovich said he would be willing to coach the team on one condition — that Colangelo stay at the helm — those plans changed. “So, in my mind, that gets me through 2020,” Colangelo said. “And then, we’ll see.”

Mavs assistant coach Jamahl Mosley was one of nine assistant coaches at the USA Basketball Men’s National Team mini-camp this week in Las Vegas. “To me this camp was great,” Mosley said. “We got the guys a chance to recognize, come together and start building a family with USA Basketball. Just getting together and being around these coaches is — I said it before — it was an honor and an privilege. I can’t even put into words how fantastic it’s been.”
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What is LaMelo’s relationship with Lonzo like? It seems like Lonzo could give him some good advice. Mirin Fader: “That is one of the most interesting things that I wish I had more space in the story to explore. Obviously, they’re close and they have a relationship, but I think they were much closer growing up than they are now. I found it peculiar when I asked LaMelo about the kind of advice that Lonzo gives him, he said something like, ‘Oh, just be yourself.’ I thought, ‘That’s cool, but I was more so wondering about what advice he gives on the court? What does he tell you about what it’s like bringing the ball up against the best defenders? What is it like defending [NBA players] every night for 82 games?’ He was like, ‘Honestly, I get that stuff from [his manager] Jermaine [Jackson].’ So, I’m not sure what that’s about.”
Mirin Fader, continued: “Are they less close? Why is he closer to Jermaine? I think there was some untied threads there. Maybe it’s geography or proximity… But at the end of the day, he did stress, ‘That’s my brother, I love him, I respect him. I want to be better than him.’ But I do think he’s, in a way, closer to Jermaine in that regard. I don’t know if that’s because he’s spending every waking moment with Jermaine? But I think one of interesting things to come out of the piece about the relationship with Lonzo is when Melo said, ‘I watched how he (Lonzo) dealt with the Alan Foster situation’ – with the stealing money from him – and he said, ‘Everybody makes mistakes.’ So he’s looking at Lonzo as having made a mistake for trusting this guy, and I thought that was interesting…”
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But on June 30, there was no five-year maximum offer for Butler, multiple sources say. Perhaps the Sixers pivoted after learning of Horford’s interest in joining. Perhaps they were concerned about tension between Butler and some within the team, including on the coaching staff. Maybe those two things were interrelated. Like every team chasing Butler, they probably wondered how he would age.
They have so many coaches, Brown took the unusual step of excising some — the player development group, some strength and conditioning personnel — from his film sessions. That decision tears at Brown. “I don’t feel right about it,” Brown says. “I want the young coaches to hear my voice. But you reach a point where there are just too many people.” Team sources insist the decision is unrelated to leaks last January about Butler questioning Brown at a film session.)
Butler didn’t publicly weep or need any heartfelt consoling, as Joel Embiid did in the immediate aftermath of that shot. But the pain was just the same, if not more, because Butler had never been closer to a possible ring at any other point in his first eight seasons in the NBA. “It just goes to show you how fragile life is. Not just basketball. Life,” Butler said in an interview with The Athletic. “How things can change in an instant, in the snap of a finger and it hurts because you think about what could’ve been. What happens if we win that game? Do we win a championship? Am I in Philly? All of these ifs. Who knows?
“I don’t give a damn. I don’t,” Butler continued. “I ain’t battling a rep. If you’re one of my teammates, you know better than that. That’s the part that helps me cope with it all. If you played with me, ask my teammates that, like, we fuck with each other. If you don’t like me, you don’t like me. But to say that I was on your team and I did some bullshit to you? Nah. I was on some team and I didn’t have your back? Nah. That’s just not how I operate. It’s just not who I am. That’s why I don’t worry about nothing. I want all my teammates to be happy. If you feel like you don’t have a voice. I know somebody that got a voice. And his voice is loud. It may be taken as being challenging. It may be taken as being a team cancer. That individual is OK with it, because I know that you my teammate. You my guy. I’m rocking with you. I’ve always been like that. I’m always going to be like that.”
Hachimura, who has drawn comparisons to Jabari Parker, Terry Cummings, Antawn Jamison and Pascal Siakam, among others, according to NBA pundits Hoop Scoop has contacted in recent days, recognizes that getting to the free-throw line on a consistent basis is something he needs to do more of. He’s only attempted 18 free throws, but made 5 of 6 against the Spurs. Being aggressive and scoring inside, even when contact is made by an opponent, is a priority. “Yeah, you have to,” Hachimura said, referring to completing scoring chances at the rim, according to The Washington Times. “Even if I get fouled, you have to go up strong.”
The Knicks had to really sink south for a coaching change to be made by Game 20. Indications are it was far-fetched for a change to be made this early anyway. Was owner James Dolan, who has given Fizdale private reassurances, really going to let president Mills hire a new coach from the outside on a long-term deal with Fizdale still having at least one season fully guaranteed on his pact for 2020-21? Sources indicated the major deterrent to making a change at Thanksgiving was the sketchy alternative of promoting one of the assistants – Jud Buechler, Keith Smart or Kaleb Canales.
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“It’s so many good memories,” said Deng of his decade with the Bulls from No. 7 pick in the 2004 draft until a 2014 trade to Cleveland. “When you are going through it, you really don’t see it that way. You’re in the league, you’re trying to prove a point, you’re trying to be the best player you can be. Every day, ‘You can do this, you can’t do that, we need this, we don’t need that.’ You kind of forget the relationship you have and what you are building. And then you think back to Chicago and what it meant. I know we never won a championship, but there’s a lot of good memories of how hard we played, how hard we battled growing up in front of the fans; those are things you look back on. For me to be here 10 years is such a blessing.”
But Deng did believe the Bulls would get that championship, and he believed it was in 2011 when they lost that conference finals to the Miami Heat or in 2012. “Everyone has their own opinion and I’m not taking anything away from the teams that won it that year,” Deng said. “But there’s two incidents that happened. People don’t remember with Omer Asik that season I think we won (62) games. Every time we had Omer play the whole fourth quarter, we beat Miami that year four times during the season and we won the first game (of the conference finals). But in the last few minutes of that game Omer broke his leg. I don’t know many people who know that story, but we really couldn’t beat the Heat without him after that. We all knew it in the locker room and we had a hard time doing it. I felt like we could’ve won that year. And then obviously the (following) year when Derrick got hurt I think mentally we didn’t prepare ourselves for what would happen if that happened.”
The Portland Trail Blazers have completed the two-way transfers of center Moses Brown and forward Jaylen Hoard from the Texas Legends of the NBA G League to Portland, it was announced today by president of basketball operations Neil Olshey. In three games with the Legends this season, Brown, 20, has averaged 5.7 points (66.7% FG) and 4.7 rebounds. Brown (7-1, 245) has played in two games for the Trail Blazers this season, recording three rebounds in five total minutes.
“Unbelievable. But we were talking about if he can keep this up, and I was like, ‘Yo, if somebody can keep this up, it’s him,'” said veteran Mavs guard J.J. Barea, who serves as a mentor for Doncic. “He plays on the ground. He’s super smart. He’s shooting the ball well. He’s finishing really well. I see him keeping it up. “It’s not hard for him to do this right now. He’s not forcing crazy s—. It’s just coming. That’s why I think he can keep this up. He’s making it look easy.”