2019 World Cup

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.

And-Ones: World Cup, Kuzminskas, Trade Deadline

FIBA’s new process for qualifying for the Basketball World Cup may look familiar to fans who follow soccer’s World Cup qualifying process, but it has left many professional players confused and disappointed, writes Marc Stein of The New York Times. As Stein details, the timing of the qualifiers will prevent the top players from participating.

Unlike top soccer leagues, which take breaks during their respective seasons to allow the best international players to represent their countries in qualifiers, there are no such windows for NBA and Euroleague players. As such, Team USA is attempting to qualify for the 2019 World Cup with a squad made up of little-known G League players.

“They will qualify, because they will be very well prepared and play hard,” Spurs assistant Ettore Messina said of Team USA. “But then you have to tell them: ‘Thank you. Now the real players are coming in to go to China.’ How unfair is that?”

For his part, Messina had to give up his role as head coach of the Italian national team because of the new qualifying format — he has been one of the loudest critics of the changes, Stein writes. “Stupid,” Messina said. “That’s the most common word I hear when I talk with people about this — stupid.”

As Team USA prepares for its first qualifying game against Puerto Rico, scheduled for tonight, here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Brian Mahoney of The Associated Press relays a few more perspectives on the 2019 World Cup qualifiers, speaking to several internationally-born NBA players who don’t love the changes.
  • According to Donatas Urbonas (Twitter links), Lithuanian team Zalgiris Kaunas would love to sign free agent Mindaugas Kuzminskas, the Lithuanian forward recently waived by the Knicks. However, while the team says the door is always open for a player like Kuzminskas, it recognizes that its odds of landing him are low.
  • The NBA moved up the trade deadline for 2018 by two weeks to February 8. Danny Leroux of The Sporting News examines how the earlier deadline might affect teams’ plans this season.
  • With a number of NBA draft prospects – including Marvin Bagley III and Miles Bridges – set to participate in the PK80 Invitational in Portland this weekend, Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz of ESPN (Insider link) lay out the players and the matchups worth watching.

USA Basketball Announces Roster For First World Cup Qualifiers

USA Basketball has announced its 12-man roster for the first round of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Americas Qualifiers, bringing back four members of the squad that won gold earlier this year in FIBA’s AmeriCup tournament.

Here’s Team USA’s full 12-man roster:

The squad, which will be coached once again by Jeff Van Gundy, is comprised almost entirely of G League players, since most of the qualifying tournaments take place during the NBA season, preventing NBA players from participating. Team USA’s goal is for Van Gundy’s squad of G Leaguers to qualify for the 2019 World Cup, which will take place in August and September, when NBA players will be free to participate.

The new-look USA Basketball program is off to a good start, having gone 5-0 this summer to win a gold medal at the AmeriCup tournament. Drew, Hearn, Munford, and Warney were all part of that team.

This time around, Team USA will face Puerto Rico on November 23 and then Mexico on November 26. After those contests, the first round of World Cup qualifiers will resume in February before concluding in July. The top three teams in each first-round group will advance to the second round, which begins in September 2018 and concludes in February 2019, so the qualifying process will take some time to play out.

Meanwhile, the G League teams temporarily losing players to Team USA will be permitted one free move per lost player from the available player pool, tweets Adam Johnson of 2 Ways & 10 Days.

17 Players Vying For Spots On USA’s AmeriCup Roster

USA Basketball has begun the process of selecting its roster for the AmeriCup 2017, the first of a series of qualifying tournaments under FIBA’s new format. As Brian Mahoney of The Associated Press details, Team USA doesn’t need to win the AmeriCup to qualify for the next World Cup and Olympics, but it’s a tournament the U.S. must participate in to eventually play in more crucial events.

Because upcoming qualifiers will take place during the NBA season, Team USA is putting together a roster primarily made up of G League players and veterans who have been playing overseas, as we previously learned. With training camp set to begin on Thursday, 17 hopefuls are suiting up for Team USA, with the program poised to eventually pare that group down to a 12-man roster.

Here are Team USA’s training camp participants, via USA Basketball:

Although there are no high-profile names in this group, several players have some NBA experience. Hilliard is currently a free agent, but appeared in 77 games over the last two seasons for the Pistons. Drew, Munford, and Plumlee have all played in at least a dozen NBA games.

Marshall, Morris, and Reggie Williams are perhaps the most notable names on the list, having played regular rotation roles for various NBA teams in recent years. Marshall was a lottery pick in the 2012 draft, while Williams has appeared in more than 200 NBA games since 2010.

None of the players on Team USA’s training camp roster are currently under contract with an NBA club, but Willis – the only player of the group who has yet to play professional ball – has reportedly agreed to a training camp deal with the Pistons.

The club will be coached by Jeff Van Gundy, an international rookie himself, and will eventually participate in preliminary round games in Uruguay later this month. If Team USA wins its group – which also includes Panama, the Dominican Republic, and host Uruguay – it would advance to the semifinals in Argentina in early September.

As Mahoney outlines in his report, Team USA won’t face real pressure to win until November, when the club need a top-three finish in a pool that includes Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Cuba in order to start advancing to later qualifiers. For more in-depth details on how those qualifiers work, be sure to check out FIBA’s breakdowns for the 2019 World Cup and the 2020 Olympics.

And-Ones: JVG, Award Votes, Singleton, Wanamaker

After a decade of rumors about his possible return to the sidelines, ABC and ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy has finally landed a new coaching gig — but it’s not an NBA job. As Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical details, Van Gundy has agreed to coach USA Basketball as Team USA attempts to qualify for the 2019 World Cup.

Last month, we heard that the Team USA roster for the World Cup qualifiers wouldn’t feature NBA players. Instead, USA Basketball will put together a squad primarily made up of G League players. Wojnarowski notes that the roster may also include Americans playing in international leagues. Assuming Team USA qualifies for the 2019 World Cup, which shouldn’t be an issue, NBA players figure to take it from there, while Gregg Popovich will take over for Van Gundy as the club’s coach.

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

  • The NBA has published the full voting results for all of its 2016/17 awards, so if you’re dying to know who gave Isaiah Thomas his only All-Defensive vote, you can find out right here.
  • EuroLeague star Chris Singleton has interviews lined up with two NBA teams, and is poised to opt out of his contract with Panathinaikos if he receives an NBA opportunity, tweets international reporter David Pick. However, Singleton’s teammate Kenny Gabriel will remain with Panathinaikos, having opted to pass on a non-guaranteed NBA offer, per Pick (Twitter link).
  • Pick also provides an update on Brad Wanamaker, reporting (via Twitter) that Brad Wanamaker is putting Euroleague offers on hold in the hopes of securing an NBA deal with the Pelicans or Celtics. Wanamaker, who played for Turkey’s Darussafaka last season, was voted to 2016/17’s All-EuroLeague team.
  • Bobby Marks of The Vertical identifies his top 20 free agents for 2017, with a pair of Warriors topping the list.