Tagged in: basketball

USA basketball draws Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico for World Cup qualifying

Team USA will face Puerto Rico, Mexico and Cuba in the first round of qualifying for the 2023 Basketball World Cup.

The Americans, who acquired a fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal in Tokyo but concluded only seventh at the most recent Basketball World Cup two years ago, found out their qualifying opponents Tuesday when the draw was held at FIBA headquarters in Mies, Switzerland.

It will also be the first major tournament for USA Basketball with Grant Hill as managing director. Hill is succeeding Jerry Colangelo in that role; Colangelo oversaw each of the last four Olympics for the U.S., helping assemble teams that collected gold medals each time.

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The U.S. has won the World Cup five times, most recently in 2014.

There are 80 teams in the qualifying rounds. It starts with a double round-robin; all teams in the various groups for the first round will play the other three teams in their group twice. First-round games will be played during three different windows — Nov. 20-30, Feb. 21-March 1 and June 27-July 5.

Second-round games start in August 2022 and run through February 2023. The next World Cup — to be hosted by the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia — takes place from Aug. 25 through Sept. 10, 2023.

Defending World Cup champion Spain, trying to become one of the 12 European qualifiers for the tournament, opens with games versus Ukraine, Georgia and North Macedonia in the opening round.

As hosts, the Philippines and Japan are already in the 32-team World Cup field. The other 30 spots will be decided through qualifying. Indonesia does not get an automatic spot as a host country.

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Team USA falls to France at Tokyo Games for first Olympic men’s basketball loss since 2004

Team USA’s invincibility in men’s basketball is long gone, and the journey to a fourth successive gold medal is already fraught with adversity.

France gut-punched the Americans with a brilliant finish for an 83-76 triumph to open the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday. It snapped a 25-game Olympic winning streak dating back to 2004 for Team USA.

The final blow came when Evan Fournier drilled a 3-pointer with a minute to play to give the French the lead for good, completing their comeback after the U.S. had an eight-point lead with four minutes to play. It was the biggest of his 28 points in one of the finest games he has played in his career.

It was followed by an amazing possession in which the Americans managed to get five shots off and missed them all. The final three were wide-open 3-point attempts by Zach LaVine, Kevin Durant and Jrue Holiday.

“I got to lead the team because I know these guys,” Fournier said. “It’s a hell of a win. Our country is going to be extremely proud. But it’s just one game, to be honest.”

If there was a moment in this match that best encapsulated the situation between these two teams, it came at the end, when the French calmly shook the Americans’ hands and left the floor with the same business-as-usual demeanor Fournier displayed. Two years ago at the World Cup in China, France celebrated wildly after defeating a much-less-talented Team USA.

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“There’s nothing to be surprised about,” Team USA coach Gregg Popovich said before launching into what has become his go-to statement after losses.

“When you lose a game, you’re not surprised. You’re disappointed, but I don’t understand the word surprised. That sort of disses the French team, so to speak, as if we’re supposed to beat them by 30 or something. That’s a hell of a team.”

The French won the bronze at that World Cup, but their talent does not compare to that of the Americans.

And it does not explain how a U.S. team built for scoring and shooting went an unexplainable four and a half minutes without a basket down the stretch.

Fatigue was a factor. Three players didn’t get to the team hotel until 1 a.m. on gameday, an unusual set of circumstances. But one of them, Jrue Holiday, was masterful in the fourth quarter as he scored 12 of his 18 points and contributed several other energy plays to help the U.S. build a lead.

The Americans then had a host of stars to lean on such as Durant, Jayson Tatum and Damian Lillard. But they failed as the French ran an execution clinic.

Popovich seemed annoyed by media questions about the upset, as has been his custom. He has overseen losses in five of the past eight games he has coached for the national team dating back to 2019. There were some who admitted the loss was a disappointment, however.

“I think we have a history of dominance and maybe not always blowing people out, but we have a history of winning. And it’s not often that you see Team USA go out there and lose, especially to start,” stated Lillard, who shot just 3-of-10 and had two critical turnovers late in the game.

Popovich said he’d been thinking about this rematch for two years and daily since the game was drawn in February. But he never figured out how to slow down Fournier as he repeatedly got free for open looks on the perimeter. Even Holiday, who was brilliant in the NBA Finals, helping the Bucks clinch the title Tuesday, couldn’t stem the tide.

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‘Nervous’ Kevin Durant shines in return from injury, calls Brooklyn Nets debut ‘good step’

After a year and a half of Achilles rehabilitation, Kevin Durant returned to the basketball court for the first time on Sunday for the Brooklyn Nets’ preseason game versus the Washington Wizards.

“I was anxious, nervous,” Durant stated afterward. “I visualized this moment for so long — nine, 10 months of thinking about how it would be, this next phase of my career. I felt like I was chomping at the bit, especially once COVID hit because I didn’t see a future — when the season was going to start in the future. I was going through it.

“So to go through this felt solid.”

The first points in the game came from an authoritative Durant dunk. He followed that with an assist to DeAndre Jordan for a dunk.

The Nets went on to defeat the Wizards 119-114. Durant concluded shooting 5-of-12 from the field with 15 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists in 24 minutes of play. “It felt great, you know, to be back in a routine and get back on the floor and feel like a player again,” he said. “I didn’t think I played great. I felt I had some solid moments.”

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One of them was when he drew a charge on Washington’s Rui Hachimura early in the game.

“I definitely am feeling it right now,” Durant said with a laugh. “It’s good to get back in the flow of things, and it definitely gives me some confidence. … It’s a good step, and I am trying to build on it.”

Before the match, first-year head coach Steve Nash said he hoped to play both Durant and Kyrie Irving “north of 20 minutes” in each of Brooklyn’s two preseason games.

“When you have that type of injury,” Nash said of Durant after the game, “it is kind of remarkable he’s at the level he’s at.

“It’s amazing. This is an injury that very few people have conquered, so to speak. … It’s beautiful to see him back on the basketball court. I think the world missed him — I certainly did.”

Irving, who hasn’t played since February after undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery, finished with 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field.

Irving, who played for 18 minutes, declined to speak to reporters after the game, continuing to break the league’s media rules despite his being fined $25,000 on Friday for not speaking to reporters.

During the Nets’ weeklong training camp, Durant was not ready to make any proclamations about how much he would resemble his pre-Achilles injury self before actually playing in a game. After one preseason game, Durant stated he still isn’t ready to make any declarations.

“I want to play at the highest level of basketball — the highest intensity of basketball, and that’s not in the preseason,” Durant said. “I want to play at an elite level late into the season, playoffs. That’s when I want to play my best basketball, so I’m working toward that point.”

Since the game ended, Durant said he has been fielding texts and phone calls from friends, colleagues and acquaintances asking how he is feeling.

“I can’t wait ’til that’s over with so I can get back into the swing of things and just feel like one of the guys again,” Durant said. “So it was a good first step.”

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Heat aim to close out Celtics in Game 5

The Miami Heat can earn their first appearance in the NBA Finals since 2014 when they duel the Boston Celtics in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Friday night at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando.

The fifth-seeded Heat inched closer to a shot at their fourth NBA title by holding off the third-seeded Celtics 112-109 on Wednesday night for a 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven series.

Miami, which gained championships as the East’s second and first seed in 2012 and 2013, respectively, is trying to become the first team seeded fifth or lower to reach the NBA Finals since the eighth-seeded New York Knicks lost to San Antonio in 1999.

The last team seeded fifth or lower to win an NBA title was Houston in 1995, when it beat Orlando as the West’s No. 6 seed. Miami has never lost a playoff series in which it led 3-1. The Heat held such an advantage over top-seeded Milwaukee in the Eastern semifinals, then needed just one more game to eliminate the Bucks.

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The last time the Celtics found themselves in a 3-1 hole was last season versus the Bucks in the Eastern semis.

Milwaukee closed out the best-of-seven in the next game.

Boston hasn’t rallied to win a series after trailing 3-1 since defeating the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Finals in 1981. The Celtics went on to beat Houston in the NBA Finals that campaign.

One of the Heat’s concerns in the wake of Wednesday’s victory was the condition of center Bam Adebayo’s sore left wrist. Miami coach Erik Spoelstra reported Thursday that his big man was fine as he attempted to treat his club’s workout session on the eve of a potential NBA Finals-clincher as just another day.

“We stuck with our routine,” Spoelstra noted. “Everybody got the treatment, rest. Today is another day for rest and recovery. Everybody knows what to expect for (Game 5).” Game 6, if necessary, is arranged for Sunday afternoon.

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Kevin Durant among four Nets players to test positive for covid-19

Kevin Durant, the DMV’s contemporary basketball legend, tested positive for the COVID-19 virus after coming back from a trip to San Francisco with his new team the Brooklyn Nets.  Durant, who remains sidelined after rupturing his achilles tendon in the 2019 NBA Finals while playing for the Golden State Warriors, was one of four Nets players who reportedly have contracted the virus.

“Everyone be careful, take care of yourself and quarantine,” the Prince George’s County native said to the sports website The Athletic. He said that he is feeling fine and not showing any symptoms. “We’re going to get through this.”

According to various reports, Brooklyn hired an outside firm to handle its testing, but the organization hasn’t released the names of the players. However, the Nets said in a statement on Tuesday that only one of the four players showed symptoms of the virus. but they are being kept isolated while receiving medical attention from team physicians. 

Four players represent one third of the team’s roster who have been infected.

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“All players and members of the Nets travel party are being asked to remain isolated, closely monitor their health and maintain constant communication with team medical staff,” the Nets said in a statement.

“The health of our players and staff is of the highest priority to the organization and the team is doing everything within its power to ensure that those affected receive the best care possible.”

Durant, 31, signed a four-year deal that could pay him $164 million in Brooklyn after spending the last three years with the Warriors. While playing in the Bay Area he led Golden State to straight championships and they seemed poised for a third until he was lost for good in game six of the 2019 championship series.

The 10-time NBA all star led them on two title runs and was named NBA Finals MVP twice. He hasn’t played this campaign while rehabilitating an Achilles tendon injury suffered during their loss to the Toronto Raptors.

The final team the Nets faced before the season was forced into its hiatus were the Los Angeles Lakers ,who have been tested Wednesday. Lakers officials announced via Twitter after testing the team will be imposing a 14-day self quarantine.

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Rick Pitino hired as Greece´s national team coach

Rick Pitino is back in the coaching world after settling to take over as head coach of Greece’s national team. 

This marks Pitino’s first head-coaching gig since he turned down an offer to return to Panathinaikos in June. He went 10-9 and made the playoffs before being swept 3-0 by Real Madrid in his lone season with the team. 

The 67-year-old American coached Greek club Panathinaikos last season and guided the team to victory in the country’s cup competition before returning to the United States. He persists popular among Greek fans despite his outspoken criticism of smoking and rowdy behavior by spectators at games.

Pitino has served as head coach of the Puerto Rican national team in 2015 for the FIBA Americas Championships. That squad progressed to the second round in the tournament but was unable to qualify for the 2016 Olympics. 

Per Dionysis Aravantinos of EuroHoops.net, Thanasis Skourtopoulos will remain as Greece’s head coach for the EuroBasket tournament in February with Pitino taking over for the pre-Olympic tournament in the summer as the country attempts to qualify for the Tokyo Games.

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Taking over the Greek squad could give Pitino an opportunity to coach reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who most recently played for his home country this summer in the FIBA World Cup.

The Greek basketball federation said Friday that Pitino will be formally presented on Monday, when details of his agreement will be announced.

”Really honored to be coaching the Greek National team,” Pitino wrote on Twitter. ”Have a lot of work and preparation ahead but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and his brother Thanasis Antetokounmpo both play for Greece and the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Greeks narrowly missed out on reaching the quarterfinals at the World Cup in China in September. Pitino spent much of his career jumping between the college ranks and the NBA, coaching the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks as well as Kentucky and Louisville.

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Toronto Raptors vs Orlando Magic

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The road trip continues tonight as the Raptors (5-0) take on the Magic (1-4) at Amway Center in Orlando. Toronto is coming off impressive back-to-back wins out West over the Mavs and Thunder to enter tonight’s contest as one of two undefeated teams left in the league, alongside the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors. Orlando’s record is deceiving, having played some good basketball and lost two games in overtime to top-ranked teams in the Rockets and Thunder.

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Despite moving to 5-0 for the first time with Wednesday’s 103-98 win at Oklahoma City, Casey is trying to keep Toronto even keel after back-to-back Atlantic Division titles led to first-round playoff defeats.

The Raptors will try to continue their success at both ends, averaging an Eastern Conference-best 106.0 points while allowing 95.6. They’ve also held their last three opponents to a combined 25.9 percent shooting in the fourth quarter.

Toronto will certainly have to keep an eye on Evan Fournier in this meeting. A night after putting up a career-high 30 points in a 103-94 win at New Orleans, he had 29 and helped limit James Harden to 6-of-22 shooting in Wednesday’s 119-114 overtime loss at Houston.

Fournier, who averaged a career-high 12.0 points last season, is scoring a team-high 20.6. He’s made 55.4 percent from the field and 9 of 21 from 3-point range in his last three. Fournier has played well in his past five games against the Raptors, averaging 17.8 points.

Probable starters

Toronto: Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, DeMarre Carroll, Luis Scola, Jonas Valanciunas.

Orlando: Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo, Tobias Harris, Evan Fournier, Dewayne Dedmon.

Key matchup:Evan Fournier vs. Kyle Lowry/Cory Joseph.

Need to know:

  • The Raptors are off to their best start to a season but still have a ways to go to equal their biggest winning streak. They ran off nine straight in 2001-02
  • Nikola Vucevicwon’t play on Friday night. The team’s centre is out with a bone bruise on his right knee. Dewane Dedmon is expected to start in his place
  • Orlando is 1-4 but has fallen in a pair of very tight games this season. The Magic went to double OT with Oklahoma City on Oct. 30 and took the Rockets to overtime on Wednesday. They are losing their games by an average of 3.5 points
  • Mississauga’sAndrew Nicholson, now in his fourth year as a pro with the Magic, has seen action in one game this season.

 

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Chicago Bulls vs Charlotte Hornets

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Chicago Bulls (3-1) at Charlotte Hornets (0-3)
NBA Basketball: Tuesday, November 3, 2015 at 7:00 pm (Time Warner Cable Arena)
The Line: Charlotte Hornets +4 — Over/Under: 193

The Chicago Bulls look for their second road win to get off to a fast 4-1 start. The Chicago Bulls are averaging 99.5 points on 43.5 percent shooting and allowing 95 points on 39.6 percent shooting. Jimmy Butler is averaging 19.5 points and six rebounds while Nikola Mirotic is averaging 18.8 points and 6.8 rebounds. Pau Gasol is grabbing 7.8 rebounds and Derrick Rose is dishing 5.5 assists. The Chicago Bulls are allowing just 24.7 percent shooting from deep and have won 11 of their last 14 regular season games when allowing less than 100 points. The Bulls are playing as well as you could have hoped under new coach Fred Hoiberg. Kirk Hinrich is questionable with a toe injury.

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The Charlotte Hornets need a win after a tough 0-3 start to the year. The Charlotte Hornets are averaging 93.3 points on 39.1 percent shooting and allowing 98.3 points on 44.7 percent shooting. Kemba Walker is averaging 16.3 points and 5.3 assists while Nicolas Batum is averaging 13 points and 7.3 rebounds. Marvin Williams is grabbing nine rebounds and Jeremy Lin is dishing 3.3 assists. The Charlotte Hornets are getting just 58.7 points from their starters and are one of six teams that is shooting under 40 percent. The offensive struggles for the Hornets have clearly carried over from last season. The good news is that four of the Hornets last five wins have come on their home court.

The Bulls are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 road games and 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games overall. The Hornets are 3-0-1 ATS in their last 4 games vs. a team with a winning S.U. record and 3-1-1 ATS in their last 5 games overall. The Bulls are 6-2 ATS in the last 8 meetings in Charlotte.

Pay attention to Frank Kaminsky and Spencer Hawes in this game, too. Kaminsky, despite limited playing time so far, has almost unquestionably played better than Hawes so far, and it’s only a matter of time before the rookie overtakes the veteran in minutes. There might not be a better time to illustrate the difference between the player’s abilities early in the season than this game, where athletic big men will have to play a large role no matter what.

The Hornets have played well so far, but not well enough to earn a win just yet. Despite playing against perhaps the biggest challenger for the Eastern Conference title, the Hornets will have a pretty good shot to get their first win of the season on their home court.

Observations

▪  Bulls big man Joakim Noah has bought into coming off the bench, which allows the Bulls to start Nikola Mirotic at power forward, where he’s is a classic “stretch 4.”

▪  If the Hornets don’t win tonight, there is a distinct possibility they could start the season 0-6, facing a tough trip to Dallas and San Antonio.

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Steph Curry says Obama talked a lot of trash during their round of golf

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Sounds like NBA MVP Stephen Curry needs to work on his golf game. The NBA champion told Jimmy Kimmel Tuesday that he and his dad lost a golf match to President Barack Obama on the 18th hole.

As if the the President watching you putt wasn’t enough, you’ve got Secret Service agents looming. That’s pressure.

President Obama is known to take his sports \very seriously, and he carries that competitive streak to the golf course.  The president drove Curry around in the golf cart, Curry said. When it came time to actually golf, Curry told Kimmel that Obama engaged in trash talk to distract his golfing partners.

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The president was talking trash, oh my goodness,” said Curry. Kimmel was confused. “How do you talk trash in golf?” he asked. “Like what, specifically, did he say?” Anything to get inside your head and throw you off your game, Curry replied. When Kimmel said that didn’t sound very relaxing, Curry laughed: “Well, there’s 25 Secret Service agents at every hole, so I couldn’t relax at all.”

According to Curry, Obama and Allen’s team won.

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