2019 World Cup

Atlantic Notes: Fultz, Irving, Bolden, Scariolo

The Sixers‘ options with Markelle Fultz are limited, Chris Mannix of SI.com writes in the wake of this week’s news that the former No. 1 overall pick is dealing with shoulder and wrist injuries. After a report suggested Fultz would prefer a change of scenery, agent Raymond Brothers quickly denied that he had ever given any indication to the 76ers that his client wants to be dealt. Even if Philadelphia wanted to make a deal, it would be difficult to extract much value for the young point guard at this point.

According to Mannix, one rival executive suggested to him that the Sixers ought to make a call to the Suns – who badly need a point guard – to discuss a swap centered around Fultz and Trevor Ariza. Ariza would be a good fit for a Sixers team that could use another three-and-D wing, but he’s a 33-year-old veteran on a one-year deal — he wouldn’t exactly be a substantial return for a player who was drafted first overall just 17 months ago.

In Mannix’s view, the best path for the Sixers and Fultz, once he’s healthy, might be a G League assignment. A stint with the Delaware Blue Coats would give the 20-year-old an opportunity to run an offense and regain his confidence in a low-pressure environment. It would be a risk – if Fultz struggles in the G League, his value would decline even further – but Mannix contends that it makes more sense than having the second-year guard sit on the bench in Philadelphia.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Celtics guard Kyrie Irving said today that he only wants to play in the NBA until his early-to-mid-30s, tweets Marc D’Amico of Celtics.com. Irving is still only 26 years old, so it’s probably worth checking back in and gauging his stance again a few years from now.
  • Sixers rookie forward Jonah Bolden recently sustained a small cortical crack in the proximal fibula of his right leg during a G League game, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN.com. Bolden is expected to be sidelined for the time being, and will be re-evaluated next Thursday.
  • Following the Raptors‘ game on Friday against Washington, assistant coach Sergio Scariolo will head over to Europe to coach Spain for a pair of 2019 World Cup qualifying games next week, as Doug Smith of The Toronto Star details. It’s a rare opportunity for an NBA assistant like Scariolo, who said the Raptors approved the time off when he initially signed his contract during the offseason. “Without even myself working one hour on the floor, they had already given me this permission and I am really thankful,” Scariolo said.

And-Ones: Team USA, Jefferson, Jennings, Bass

With another round of World Cup qualifiers scheduled to begin next week, USA Basketball has officially announced its latest 12-man roster for games against Argentina (November 29) and Uruguay (December 2). The roster is made up primarily of G League players, though NBA free agents Tyler Zeller, Jarnell Stokes, and Eric Moreland are also on the squad. Other former NBA players on the roster include Chasson Randle, DeAndre Liggins, and John Jenkins.

With one more qualifying window scheduled for February after next week’s set of games, Team USA is in prime position to secure a spot in the 2019 World Cup. Team USA currently has a 7-1 record in qualifying contests, which puts the club in a tie with Argentina for first place in Group E. Puerto Rico and Uruguay are tied for third at 5-3. The top three teams in the group will earn spots in the World Cup, and the fourth-place team will have a chance to qualify as well.

Let’s round up a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world…

  • With some help from ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, longtime NBA forward Richard Jefferson published a piece on ESPN.com this week, sharing some of his memories from his NBA career and discussing his move into broadcasting.
  • After becoming a free agent this week, veteran guard Brandon Jennings may take the G League route as he tries to work his way back into the NBA, tweets Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports. However, Smith notes that nothing’s official yet.
  • Smith also checks in a pair of former NBA forward playing in China, reporting (via Twitter) that Brandon Bass is hoping to return to the NBA later in 2018/19, once the Chinese Basketball Association season ends. Jared Sullinger is also putting up huge numbers in China and is in good shape, according to Smith, who tweets that the former Celtic may be ready for another shot in the NBA.
  • Former Trail Blazers guard Tim Quarterman signed this week with Israeli team Ironi Naharyia, per his agency Prostep Sports (Twitter link). Quarterman was waived by the Rockets this past April.

And-Ones: 2019 World Cup, Bryant, 2019 Draft

With the 2019 World Cup in China now just 10 months away, FIBA has announced that Kobe Bryant and Yao Ming will serve as global ambassadors for the event, taking part in activities leading up to next year’s tournament to help promote the event.

“Growing up in Italy and spending many years visiting China, I have always appreciated the global impact that basketball has had on the positive development of young people,” said Bryant, who has long been one of the NBA’s most popular players in China. “I’m honored FIBA has invited me to serve as an ambassador for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019. I hope my participation inspires and motivates the best players from the 32 participating teams to represent their respective country on the world’s biggest stage. I look forward to seeing who will lift the trophy next year.”

Team USA hasn’t technically qualified for the 2019 World Cup yet, but is in position to do so comfortably, with a 7-1 record in qualifying games so far.

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • The struggling Cavaliers were the first NBA team to make major changes during the 2018/19 campaign, parting ways with Tyronn Lue and making major adjustments to their rotation just a handful of games into the season. Matt John of Basketball Insiders explores which teams around the league might be next to shake things up.
  • Firing a head coach is generally the simplest way a team can shake things up when it’s struggling, but the coach isn’t always to blame, writes Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders. Meanwhile, an NBA.com panel explores which coaches might be feeling the heat next in the wake of Lue’s dismissal.
  • ESPN’s NBA draft gurus continued to examine the 2019 class this week, with Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz offering up their positional rankings for next year’s draft, while Givony, Schmitz, and Kevin Pelton attempt to answer some big questions about 2019’s class. Within that latter discussion, Givony suggests that none of the candidates for the No. 1 overall pick in 2019 have emerged as a lock.

Team USA Announces Camp Roster For September World Cup Qualifiers

Fourteen players will participate in a Las Vegas training camp beginning this Thursday, USA Basketball announced today in a press release. Of those 14 players, 12 will be named to Team USA’s roster for the club’s upcoming qualifying games for the 2019 FIBA World Cup.

This set of games – the first window for the second round of qualifiers – will take place later this month. Team USA will face Uruguay on September 14, then play against Panama on September 17.

The following players will be vying for Team USA roster spots for these qualifying contests:

In the first round of qualifying games for the 2019 World Cup, Team USA was made up predominantly of G League players. That’s the case to some extent again this time, with guys like Hearn and Warney returning. However, many of the players this time around are currently under contract with NBA teams, including Bacon (Hornets), Ellenson (Pistons), Hicks (Knicks), Mason (Kings), Trice (Bucks), and White (Spurs).

“With our September second-round games marking the start of the most critical part of the World Cup Qualifying, I think it is imperative for us to look for players who possess mental fortitude, who are tough, and who have experience,” said Team USA head coach Jeff Van Gundy. “All of our second-round games are going to very, very difficult and competitive battles. Argentina, Panama and Uruguay are all really good and well coached.”

The second round of the World Cup qualifiers will take place over three windows of competition in September, November, and February. Team USA will play two games apiece vs. Argentina, Panama, and Uruguay during that stretch.

Having posted a 5-1 record during the first round of qualifiers, Team USA is tied for first with Argentina in Group E, which is made up of six teams. If Team USA remains in the top three of the Group E standings by the end of February’s games, the squad will qualify for the 2019 World Cup, which will take place in China next September.

Raptors Notes: Casey, HC Search, Valanciunas

The Raptors made a difficult decision to fire head coach Dwane Casey today, and according to Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca, there were three areas over the years where the club felt that Casey was lacking.

Two of those three areas were related to his in-game adjustments (or lack thereof) and his tendency to stick with a “tried and true” approach rather than attempting new methods. As Grange observes, the Raptors’ new-look offense in 2017/18 was a top-down directive that was implemented with significant input from assistant coach Nick Nurse, rather than something Casey initiated himself.

The third factor in the Raptors’ decision involves stars Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. According to Grange, the franchise hopes to find a head coach more “determined” to push those two players out of their comfort zones. Grange suggests that there was some frustration within the organization that DeRozan wasn’t held accountable frequently enough for his defensive lapses.

Grange’s piece includes several more interesting tidbits on the Raptors’ decision-making process and what led the team to this point, so it’s worth reading in full. Here’s more out of Toronto:

  • During his press conference this afternoon, Raptors president Masai Ujiri denied a report that Casey had requested a contract extension before he was fired (Twitter link via Ryan Wolstat of The Toronto Sun). Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today first reported that Casey had sought an extension, with Grange confirming separately that Casey was seeking a two-year deal.
  • Although Ujiri said today that there’s no timetable for the Raptors to hire a new head coach, league sources suggested to Grange that it likely won’t take long for the team to find Casey’s replacement.
  • According to Ujiri, the Raptors will consider experienced candidates as well as younger coaches. “We’ll look everywhere,” he said, per Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca (Twitter link). Current assistants like Nick Nurse and Rex Kalamian remain with the franchise for now, with Ujiri suggesting some of them could get interviews for the head coaching job.
  • Earlier this afternoon, we asked you whether firing Casey was the right decision by the Raptors. Place your vote and join the discussion right here.
  • On a non-coaching note, Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas has committed to playing for Lithuania during this summer’s FIBA 2019 World Cup qualifiers, according to FIBA.basketball.

Central Notes: Hood, Cavs, Pacers, Maker

While reports in the wake of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals indicated that Rodney Hoodrefused” to enter the game for the Cavaliers, he classified it a little differently in his explanation to reporters, as Nick Schwartz of USA Today details.

“They called my name, they did call my name, but I was like, ‘Just let Jose (Calderon play),'” Hood said. “He was warm and ready to play, so I said, ‘Just let him.’ I should have took it more serious, went in there, got some reps up.”

It may be a matter of semantics whether Hood “refused” to enter the game or just politely passed on the opportunity, but for what it’s worth, the rest of the Cavs don’t seem to be holding a grudge. According to Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com, after he apologized on Thursday, Hood said that his teammates just laughed at him, pointing out that after all the drama the team has been through this season, they didn’t need to blow the Game 4 incident out of proportion.

“Things like that happen in the course of a season,” Kevin Love said. “I mean, I’ve only known Rodney for a short period of time, but I know he’s a great guy. I know he’s here to win. Was that a great decision? Maybe not. But he came in today, said he’s all in and we believe him.”

While we wait to see if Hood regains a spot in the Cavs’ rotation in the Eastern Conference Finals, here are a few more notes from around the Central:

  • The Cavaliers were praised after the trade deadline for acquiring young, controllable players like Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr., but given how little they contributed during the Cavs’ four-game sweep of Toronto, Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman wonders whether that trade was a mistake for Cleveland.
  • Sean Deveney of The Sporting News previews the Pacers‘ offseason, observing that president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard will have a narrow line to walk as he looks to improve Indiana’s roster without handing out or taking on any bad long-term contracts.
  • It’s possible that All-Star caliber players like Kawhi Leonard and Kemba Walker will be on the trade market this offseason, prompting J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star to explore whether it would be worth it for the Pacers to pursue any big-time trade candidates.
  • Bucks big man Thon Maker intends to suit up for Australia during the FIBA 2019 World Cup qualifiers this summer, as he tells FIBA.basketball.

USA Basketball Announces National Team Pool For 2018-20

In multiple recent qualifying tournaments for the 2019 World Cup, USA Basketball has been represented by a collection of NBA G League players led by head coach Jeff Van Gundy. However, for the basketball’s biggest international events, including that ’19 World Cup and the 2020 Olympics, Team USA will once again be represented by some of the NBA’s biggest stars.

Today, USA Basketball announced the 35-man player pool that it will draw from when it puts together its National Team rosters for the major international events between 2018 and 2020. Led by head coach Gregg Popovich, the following players – listed alphabetically – are part of Team USA’s player pool for the next three years:

  1. Harrison Barnes, F (Mavericks)
  2. Bradley Beal, G (Wizards)
  3. Devin Booker, G (Suns)
  4. Jimmy Butler, F (Timberwolves)
  5. Mike Conley, G (Grizzlies)
  6. DeMarcus Cousins, C (Pelicans)
  7. Stephen Curry, G (Warriors)
  8. Anthony Davis, F/C (Pelicans)
  9. DeMar DeRozan, G (Raptors)
  10. Andre Drummond, C (Pistons)
  11. Kevin Durant, F (Warriors)
  12. Paul George, F (Thunder)
  13. Eric Gordon, G (Rockets)
  14. Draymond Green, F/C (Warriors)
  15. Blake Griffin, F (Pistons)
  16. James Harden, G (Rockets)
  17. Tobias Harris, F (Clippers)
  18. Gordon Hayward, F (Celtics)
  19. Kyrie Irving, G (Celtics)
  20. LeBron James, F (Cavaliers)
  21. DeAndre Jordan, C (Clippers)
  22. Kawhi Leonard, F (Spurs)
  23. Damian Lillard, G (Trail Blazers)
  24. Kevin Love, F (Cavaliers)
  25. Kyle Lowry, G (Raptors)
  26. C.J. McCollum, G (Trail Blazers)
  27. Khris Middleton, G (Bucks)
  28. Victor Oladipo, G (Pacers)
  29. Chris Paul, G (Rockets)
  30. Isaiah Thomas, G (Lakers)
  31. Klay Thompson, G (Warriors)
  32. Myles Turner, C (Pacers)
  33. Kemba Walker, G (Hornets)
  34. John Wall, G (Wizards)
  35. Russell Westbrook, G (Thunder)

And-Ones: Seattle, Wilkins, Trash Talk, Lottery

Last week, we touched upon how the NBA is planning to hold a preseason game in Seattle next season, the first NBA game at KeyArena since the Sonics left after the 2007/08 season. Now, according to a report from ESPN’s Emily Kaplan, the ownership group that applied to bring the NHL to Seattle is leaving the door open for bringing an NBA franchise back to the city as well.

The Oak View Group, comprised of investment banker David Bonderman, longtime sports executive Tim Leiweke, and Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer, is hoping to found the NHL’s 32nd team, and the NHL is reportedly likely to accept the bid. The OVG plans to begin remodeling KeyArena this October with the hope to begin play during the 2020/21 season.

As for the potential for an NBA franchise, Leiweke says, “The way we are going to structure all of our contractually obligated income is making sure there will be revenue upside built in should the NBA ever consider Seattle. We are committed to making sure the building, all of our contracts, all of our partnerships and all of our relationships, are done in a way that we can maximize value.”

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Having been waived by the Pacers earlier this season, Damien Wilkins has been a man on a mission in the G League, averaging 29.2 PPG, 6.0 RPG, and 5.0 APG for the Greensboro Swarm this month. As Scott Agness of VigilantSports.com details, the 38-year-old Wilkins badly wants to finish the season on an NBA roster.
  • In an entertaining piece for ESPN.com, Tim MacMahon and Law Murray break down some of the unwritten rules of NBA trash talking.
  • Speaking of entertaining pieces, Andrew Sharp of SI.com lays out his idea for a end-of-season tournament featuring non-playoff teams that would replace the draft lottery and determine the order of the top 14 picks.
  • With a win over Puerto Rico this week, Team USA clinched a spot in the second round of the qualifiers for the 2019 World Cup, per an AP report (link via USA Today). The next round of qualifying games begins in September.

Clark Crum contributed to this post.

And-Ones: NCAA, G League, Porter, World Cup

If Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy feels strongly about something, he rarely holds back. He showed that on Sunday when he weighed in on NCAA basketball, which is currently the subject of an FBI investigation.

According to an ESPN report, Van Gundy called the NCAA “one of the worst organizations” in sports, suggesting that “they certainly don’t care about the athlete(s).” He also railed against the NBA’s and NCAA’s one-and-done rule, which he notes isn’t consistent with the way other sports leagues operate.

“People that were against [players] coming out [of high school] made a lot of excuses, but I think a lot of it was racist. I’ve never heard anybody go up in arms about [minor league baseball or hockey],” Van Gundy said to reporters. “They are not making big money, and they’re white kids primarily and nobody has a problem.

“But all of a sudden you’ve got a black kid that wants to come out of high school and make millions,” Van Gundy continued. “That’s a bad decision, but bypassing college to go play for $800 a month in minor league baseball? That’s a fine decision? What the hell is going on?”

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • It’s time for elite high school prospects to start consider playing in the NBA G League instead of heading to the NCAA, says Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. While playing in the G League isn’t as “glamorous” as playing for a program like Duke or Kentucky, and the standard $25K salary is modest, players would be able to legally accept money from agents and shoe companies before being drafted, Spears notes. Players would also get a chance to play in NBA systems with NBA rules, and would face a higher level of competition in the NBAGL than in an average NCAA game.
  • More than 10 high-ranking NBA executives told ESPN’s Jeff Goodman that they’d advise top prospect Michael Porter Jr. to play for Missouri down the stretch, assuming he feels ready to return. Viewed as a probable lottery pick in the 2018 draft, Porter has been cleared for full contact after recovering from back surgery, but isn’t a lock to return to the court this season. “If he’s healthy, he’s not going to slide down too much even if he doesn’t play well,” one GM said. “Everyone’s seen him. And if he plays well, I think he could move all the way up to the second spot in the draft.”
  • Twelve international teams have already secured their spots in the second round of qualifying for the 2019 Basketball World Cup, per an AP report (via USA Today). The United States can assure itself of a spot in the second round by defeating Puerto Rico on Monday.
  • Former Nets and Suns forward Cory Jefferson, who was playing in Italy earlier this season, has returned stateside and caught on with the Texas Legends, the Mavericks‘ G League affiliate, as Nicola Lupo of Sportando details.

And-Ones: Redick, Ariza, T. Robinson, J. Young

CAA Sports has picked up a pair of big new NBA clients, according to Liz Mullen of SportsBusiness Journal, who reports (via Twitter) that Sixers guard J.J. Redick and Rockets forward Trevor Ariza have signed on with the agency. Redick was previously represented by Wasserman, while Ariza was a Landmark Sports client.

Both Redick and Ariza are in contract years, so they’ll be in the market for new deals next July. Redick will be 34 years old at that point and Ariza will be 33, so neither player figures to get a massive long-term deal, but they’re both terrific complementary pieces who should do well in terms of annual salary.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Former NBA big man Thomas Robinson, who is currently playing for Khimki Moscow in Russia, suffered a broken hand and will miss the next three or four months of action, as Emiliano Carchia of Sportando relays. The former No. 5 overall pick, who spent time with six NBA teams, last played for the Lakers in 2016/17.
  • Having joined the Wisconsin Herd as an affiliate player for the Bucks, James Young isn’t one of the 59 players currently on a two-way contract. However, the former first-round pick has outperformed many of those two-way players in G League action so far, putting up an impressive 27.5 PPG in six games for the Herd, with a .536 FG% and 4.2 threes per game. Chris Reichert of 2 Ways & 10 Days takes a closer look at Young, who is looking to play his way back into the NBA.
  • While China is set to host the 2019 Basketball World Cup, FIBA is already close to a decision on the hosts for the 2023 event. According to a press release, the 2023 World Cup will feature multiple host countries, with Argentina/Uruguay and Indonesia/Japan/Philippines as the two finalist groups. A decision is set for December 9.
  • ESPN’s Kevin Pelton takes a deep dive to assess what kind of career Derrick Rose might have had if not for his injury problems.