Bilal Coulibaly

Olympic Notes: Kawhi, Durant, Coulibaly, Germany

The decision to remove Kawhi Leonard from the roster for the U.S. Olympic team was made by USA Basketball, managing director Grant Hill told reporters this week (story via Tim Bontemps of ESPN). Reports on Wednesday suggested that Leonard’s camp had expressed concerns to Team USA about the forward’s knee, but Hill took responsibility for the move to replace Leonard with Derrick White.

“We just felt that we had to pivot, and not to get into the particulars, in terms of what went into the decision, but we just felt it was in our best interest, but also in the Clippers’ and Kawhi’s best interest, to move into a different direction,” Hill said. “We tried. I think we all tried and we gave it a valiant effort, and unfortunately, we have to move forward.”

Asked directly if Team USA made that call, Hill replied, “We did. Ultimately he was sent home, but we were in conversation with the Clippers on that.”

Another one of Team USA’s forwards – Kevin Durant – is dealing with an injury of his own, but Hill expressed optimism that KD’s calf strain won’t keep him sidelined for much longer. It’s unclear if Durant will actually play in either of the team’s exhibition games in Abu Dhabi, per Marc J. Spears of Andscape (Twitter link). However, it sounds like he’ll return to practice soon.

“Durant will be on the plane, unless you know something,” Hill said. “He has been working, rehabbing, he’s looked great. I think we’re just being cautious and conservative. I think we expect to see him on the court when we’re in Abu Dhabi.”

Here’s more on Team USA and the upcoming Olympics:

  • Team USA looked just fine without Leonard and Durant on Wednesday in an exhibition game against Team Canada. While the U.S. struggled offensively, the team played excellent defense against a strong Canadian roster led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jamal Murray and won by a comfortable 86-72 margin. A panel of ESPN experts shares their takeaways from that game, while Bontemps passes along post-game quotes from head coach Steve Kerr and a handful of U.S. players about their performance.
  • Speaking to Bontemps (YouTube link), Durant pushed back on the idea that he, LeBron James, and Stephen Curry are viewing the 2024 Olympics as a “last hurrah” or “farewell tour” playing for Team USA. “These guys are still playing at an elite level,” Durant said. “I feel like ‘Bron could play four or five more (seasons), he might be here in 2028 in L.A. Steph’s still playing great ball. I’m doing alright too. So I don’t want to look at it that way. I think we’ve still got some good ball in the tank.”
  • Still just 19 years old, Wizards forward Bilal Coulibaly will get the opportunity this summer to represent the French national team at the Olympics in his home country. He tells Sapna Bansil of The Washington Post that he views it as a “once-in-a-lifetime moment” and that he’s enjoying being able to reunite with former Metropolitans 92 teammate Victor Wembanyama. “I forgot how easy it was to play with him,” Coulibaly said. “… Even with the friendly games, he’s been doing his thing, I’ve been doing my thing. We just complement each other very well.”
  • Coming off a gold medal at the 2023 World Cup, Germany has finalized its roster for the Paris Olympics, formally announcing the 12-man group in a press release. As expected, NBA veterans Dennis Schröder, Franz Wagner, Moritz Wagner, and Daniel Theis are among the headliners.

Olympic Notes: France, Japan, Spain, Flagg, Brooks

The host nation for the 2024 Olympics officially confirmed its roster for the Paris games, announcing a 12-man squad headlined by centers Rudy Gobert and Victor Wembanyama of the Spurs and Timberwolves, respectively (Twitter link).

Besides France’s twin towers, other NBA players on the French squad include Clippers forward Nicolas Batum, Wizards forward Bilal Coulibaly, and free agent swingman Evan Fournier. Nando De Colo, Frank Ntilikina, and Guerschon Yabusele are among the other players on the team who have previous NBA experience.

As first reported by Gabriel Pantel-Jouve of BeBasket on Sunday (via Twitter), France’s final two cuts were also former NBA players — guards Elie Okobo and Theo Maledon won’t be on the 12-man roster for Paris.

Here are a few more notes on the upcoming Olympic games:

  • As expected, Japan’s official 12-man roster for the Olympics is headed up by Lakers forward Rui Hachimura and six-year NBA veteran Yuta Watanabe (Instagram link). Former Nebraska Keisei Tominaga, who recently agreed to an Exhibit 10 deal with the Pacers, is another notable name on the 12-man squad.
  • After winning their Olympic qualifying tournament over the weekend, Spain is making just one change for the Olympics, as Johnny Askounis of Eurohoops writes. Veteran wing Alex Abrines, who played in the NBA with Oklahoma City from 2016-19, has been medically cleared to play following an injury and will replace 2024 Spurs second-round pick Juan Nunez for the Olympics. The full roster, which includes Santi Aldama of the Grizzlies and the Hernangomez brothers, can be found right here (Twitter link).
  • Incoming Duke freshman Cooper Flagg said over the weekend that he was “pretty surprised” to be invited to be part of the Select Team for the U.S. training camp in Las Vegas, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN. However, Flagg was the talk of that Vegas camp, earning rave reviews from players and coaches alike, according to Joe Vardon and Sam Amick of The Athletic. Select Team assistant coach Jim Boylen referred to the 17-year-old as “unbelievable,” while teammate Jaime Jaquez said Flagg was “playing out of his mind.” Flagg is a candidate to be the No. 1 pick in the 2025 draft. “He showed no fear,” Jalen Duren said. “He came and worked hard every day. You would think he’s already here, you know what I mean?”
  • After defeating Team USA with the Canadian national team for bronze at the 2023 World Cup, Dillon Brooks is eager to face a more star-studded U.S. in Wednesday’s exhibition game in Las Vegas, writes Sam Amick of The Athletic. “I take it as (just) another game, but me being who I am, I like to make a statement,” Brooks told reporters on Monday. “So I’ll be ready to play. Team Canada will be ready to play, and we’re gonna go balls to the wall and watch the film after and see if we got better.”

Southeast Notes: Heat, Coulibaly, Flowers, Anthony

No matter when the NBA Finals wrap up, the Heat figure to be one of the league’s most active teams on the following day, writes Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. A change in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement gives teams a window to negotiate with their upcoming free agents from the end of the Finals until the league-wide start of free agency on June 30.

For Miami that means a chance to work out new deals with Haywood Highsmith, Patty Mills and Delon Wright before they reach the free agent market. The Heat can also negotiate with two-way players Jamal Cain, Cole Swider and Alondes Williams, who will become restricted free agents if they receive qualifying offers by June 29.

In addition, they can hold talks with Caleb Martin ($7.1MM), Kevin Love ($4MM), Josh Richardson ($3.1MM) and Thomas Bryant ($2.8MM), who all hold player options for next season. As Chiang points out, that gives the Heat an opportunity to get some clarity about what their 2024/25 roster might look like before heading into free agency.

Miami is also permitted to begin negotiating an extension with Bam Adebayo, who will become eligible to sign the deal when the leaguewide moratorium ends on July 6. The Heat can pay Adebayo $165MM over three years with a starting salary of $51.2MM for 2026/27, but Chiang states that he might want to wait for a more lucrative deal next summer.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Bilal Coulibaly is hoping to win a spot on the French Olympic team and compete for a gold medal in Paris, per Chase Hughes of Monumental Sports Network. The Wizards forward was one of 19 players to make France’s preliminary roster, which will eventually be trimmed to 12. Whether he’s in the Olympics or not, Washington has offseason plans for Coulibaly. “He’s got the mindset that this is a massive summer for him,” general manager Will Dawkins said. “Whether he’s playing with us or playing with France, we’ll be involved. We’ll be around and we’ll have a program in place.”
  • The Hornets could have interest in Trentyn Flowers, who raised his stock with an impressive athletic showing at the draft combine, according to Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer. Boone notes that Flowers, who played this season with Adelaide in Australia, has at least 13 pre-draft workouts scheduled. Charlotte holds picks No. 6 and 42, and Boone says there’s still not a clear range of where Flowers might be taken.
  • Cole Anthony was disappointed in his performance after signing an extension with the Magic last summer, relays Jason Beede of The Orlando Sentinel. In his fourth NBA season, Anthony posted career lows with 11.6 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game. “I’m going to work on everything (this summer),” he said. “The biggest thing for me I’m going to work on is just try to take care of my mental health. Whether it’s talking about it, whatever it is, just try to do all I can to have as little distractions on the court next year.”

NBA Announces 2023/24 All-Rookie Teams

The NBA officially unveiled the two All-Rookie teams for the 2023/24 season on Monday (Twitter links). The teams are as follows:

First Team

Second Team

Unsurprisingly, Wembanyama and Holmgren were unanimous selections to the first team (Twitter link). Last year’s No. 1 overall pick, Wembanyama was also the unanimous choice for Rookie of the Year, with Holmgren receiving all but one second-place vote for that award.

The entire first team mirrored the Rookie of the Year balloting, with Miller, Jaquez and Podziemski coming in third through fifth. Lively received the most points for the second team, followed by Thompson, George, Wallace and Jackson.

Jackson is the only All-Rookie member who wasn’t drafted in the first round; he was selected 45th overall in 2023 and initially signed a two-way contract. He was converted to a standard contract in February.

The current youngest player in the NBA, Jackson didn’t start receiving regular minutes until mid-January. The 19-year-old put up some big numbers down the stretch though, including 31 points and 44 points in the final two games of the season.

Jackson beat out Warriors big man Trayce Jackson-Davis for the final spot on the second team by a single point. Jackson actually received fewer overall votes (38 vs. 42 for Jackson-Davis), but earned the nod by receiving five first-team votes, which were worth two points apiece (second-team votes were worth one point each).

A total of 22 rookies received at least one vote. Aside from Jackson-Davis, the other top finishers who didn’t make the cut were Pistons forward Ausar Thompson (35 points), Trail Blazers guard Scoot Henderson (33), and Wizards wing Bilal Coulibaly (14). Ausar is Amen’s identical twin brother.

All-Rookie was one of the awards that didn’t require players to meet the newly instituted 65-game minimum. Jackson, Lively, Thompson, and Wallace didn’t meet that criteria, but they were still eligible for All-Rookie honors.

Olympic Notes: France, Australia, Germany, Brazil

Ahead of the 2024 Olympics in Paris, the host nation has announced its preliminary 19-man roster (Twitter link). As Eurohoops relays, the headliners on France’s squad are big men Victor Wembanyama and Rudy Gobert, the top two finishers in this year’s Defensive Player of the Year vote.

However, there are several more notable NBA names on the list, including Nicolas Batum, Evan Fournier, Bilal Coulibaly, and Ousmane Dieng. Other recent NBAers who didn’t finish the 2023/24 season on a roster include Killian Hayes, Frank Ntilikina, and Theo Maledon.

One player not on France’s roster is veteran guard Mike James. The 2023/24 EuroLeague MVP is an American, but according to a report from L’Equipe (hat tip to, the French Basketball Federation explored the possibility of getting a French passport for James, who has played for AS Monaco in France’s LNB Pro A since 2021. That effort didn’t make any real headway, however.

“We do not have the culture of other nations which use naturalized players in a systematic way,” an unnamed executive told L’Equipe. “But we have a duty to explore all possibilities. In this case, we were asked, we looked at it and quickly established that it was not a question.”

The French national team will have to make seven cuts and set a 12-man roster for this July’s event.

Here are a few more updates related to the 2024 Olympics:

  • The Australian national team has trimmed its preliminary Olympic roster from 22 players to 17, the Boomers announced in a press release. None of the NBA players on the roster – including Josh Giddey, Joe Ingles, Patty Mills, Dante Exum, Matisse Thybulle, and Dyson Daniels, among others – were among the cuts, but potential 2024 first-round pick Johnny Furphy was. The plan is for those 17 Australian players to attend training camp this summer before setting the final 12-man roster.
  • The German national team announced this week that head coach Gordon Herbert won’t continue on in that role after the conclusion of the Paris Olympics (hat tip to Sportando). The two sides are going their separate ways after a fruitful partnership that included a gold medal at the 2023 FIBA World Cup.
  • The Brazilian national team has announced its preliminary roster for this summer’s Olympic qualifying tournament in Latvia. The notable names include veteran point guard Raul Neto, former first-round pick Bruno Caboclo, Warriors rookie Gui Santos, and former NBA guard Didi Louzada. The Brazilians will need to win the six-team qualifier to earn a spot in the Olympic men’s basketball tournament.

Pacers Notes: Nesmith, Haliburton, McConnell, Siakam

Aaron Nesmith (right shoulder soreness) is no longer on the Pacers‘ injury report heading into Game 5 on Tuesday, tweets Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star. Nesmith was listed as questionable for Game 4 before being upgraded to available and logging 24 minutes on Sunday.

Tyrese Haliburton, who is dealing with low back spasms, a right ankle sprain, and a sacral contusion, is once again listed as questionable, Dopirak notes. But like Nesmith, that was Haliburton’s designation before Game 4 as well and he was able to suit up. The star point guard was a +31 in 28 minutes in Sunday’s win, which evened the series at 2-2.

Here are a few more notes on the Pacers ahead of a pivotal Game 5 in New York:

  • T.J. McConnell struggled in Game 3 but has otherwise been one of the Pacers’ most effective players in the series vs. New York, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. The veteran guard has averaged 12.3 points, 6.5 assists, and 1.5 steals in just 21.2 minutes per contest, and Indiana has a +16.0 net rating during his time on the court. “T.J., he’s one of our leaders,” teammate Myles Turner said. “He’s really taken it upon himself to lead that second unit.”
  • With the Pacers/Knicks series now essentially a best-of-three, Fred Katz and Eric Nehm of The Athletic pose five pressing questions for the rest of the series, including whether or not New York has run out of gas and which players could be X-factors in the remaining games.
  • Asked during a an appearance on FanDuel’s Run it Back show (Twitter video link) about his claim in a French-language interview that Pacers forward Pascal Siakam is overrated, Wizards youngster Bilal Coulibaly clarified his comments, but didn’t exactly walk them back. “I just said he’s not overrated, but they were asking me who was the easiest superstar to guard,” Coulibaly said. “And I was like, Pascal, I watched the films and I knew what he was about to do, when he was going left, spinning around, going right. So he was the easiest superstar to guard.”
  • In a story for The Indianapolis Star, Dopirak takes a closer look at the key roster moves the Pacers made in recent years to build a roster that’s just two wins away from securing a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Southeast Notes: Wizards, Schnall, Longstaff, Hawks

The Wizards will have plenty of draft options after landing the No. 2 pick in this year’s lottery, writes Josh Robbins of The Athletic. General manager Will Dawkins, who was inside the lottery drawing room to learn his team’s fate, admitted there was some slight disappointment in not getting the top selection, but he’s confident about adding another valuable piece to the rebuilding process.

“I would say that there’s a lot of optionality at the top of the draft, and there’s probably not the same level of instant gratification that you can see in year one with some of these rookies,” Dawkins said. “But if you really dive down and have some patience and have a forward-thinking outlook, these players are going to be pretty good players in the NBA a few years from now.”

Last year’s selection of Bilal Coulibaly, who Washington traded up one spot to get, indicates that the front office is prioritizing players who understand the game and possess a strong work ethic, Robbins adds. He identifies G League Ignite forward Matas Buzelis, Connecticut center Donovan Clingan, French wing Zaccharie Risacher, French big man Alexandre Sarr and Serbian point guard Nikola Topic as players in this year’s draft class who fit that description.

Coulibaly offered a scouting report on Risacher, whom he faced in France last season.

“Risacher, he’s got a lot of talent, a lot of talent,” Coulibaly said. “I played against him, like, two times last year. A great shot-maker. He can create his own shot. Yeah, a really good player.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • There wasn’t any lottery luck for the Hornets, who had the third-best odds for the top pick but dropped to No. 6 when three teams leapfrogged them, notes Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer. Even though he didn’t get the result he wanted, co-owner Rick Schnall enjoyed his first look inside the lottery room. “It happens really fast and they run it in an incredibly efficient way,” he said. “And your disappointment comes really quickly. But it was interesting and it was good to see who was in the room, watch how the NBA runs it and understand — it might be my last time in there.” Schnall expressed confidence that Charlotte can find a productive player at No. 6 and called the lottery “just another step” in the process of building a competitive team.
  • Assistant coach Josh Longstaff will leave the Bulls to become part of Charles Lee‘s staff with the Hornets, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. He joins former Jazz assistant Lamar Skeeter, who was hired last week.
  • Hawks executive David Starkman, the team’s representative in the lottery drawing room, didn’t know how to react when Atlanta overcame long odds to win the No. 1 pick, per Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. The vice president of player personnel wasn’t familiar with what is considered acceptable behavior inside the lottery room. “I wasn’t sure what the protocol is,” Starkman said. “This isn’t the room to celebrate.” 
  • The lottery win adds $7MM to the Hawks‘ projected team salary and pushes that figure above the first tax apron, notes Bobby Marks of ESPN (Twitter link).

Southeast Notes: Magic, Anthony, Harris, Hornets, Wizards

The Magic worked their way back from a fourth-quarter deficit to weather a Donovan Mitchell 50-point performance and force a Game 7. Josh Robbins of The Athletic writes that everyone in the rotation made an impact, including Cole Anthony, who had a major bounce-back game after scoring five combined points in the past two games.

I thought Cole won us the game today,Franz Wagner said. “He had huge minutes off the bench, making plays on both sides, and that’s what it takes to be successful in the playoffs.

Anthony played most of the fourth quarter with Gary Harris out, scoring nine points and connecting on a crucial put-back play.

I’ve lost a lot of trust with my lack of [quality] play this season,” Anthony said. “It’s been a tough year. But, look, at the end of the day, I’m just here to try and help this team win. That’s the cure-all for everything is a ‘dub.’ And we got a ‘dub’ tonight. Magical.

Orlando hasn’t been able to defeat the Cavaliers in Rocket Mortgage Arena in the playoffs this season. In three games, the Magic are shooting 38% from the field and 25% from beyond the arc in Cleveland. Even still, they’re embracing the challenge.

I can’t wait to go out there and play in Cleveland, a hostile environment, one where we haven’t won one yet, where all the odds are stacked against us,” Suggs said. “It’s just everybody here on this roster, everybody on our bench, a couple family behind the bench against an entire city. And I don’t think none of us want it any other way.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Individual play from Anthony and other players like Markelle Fultz and Moritz Wagner mattered as much as the 75 combined points from Paolo Banchero (27), Franz Wagner (26) and Jalen Suggs (22) did in Game 6, Jason Beede of the Orlando Sentinel writes. The Magic need to continue their “by committee” approach when it comes to Game 7, Beede writes.
  • Even though Harris missed Game 6 with a hamstring strain, he wasn’t far off from returning. “Gary was close,Magic head coach Jamahl Mosley said (Twitter link via Beede). “He’ll come in [Saturday], get a little bit of treatment and we’ll re-evaluate him after that.
  • With a crucial offseason looming, Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer takes a look at which Hornets players might stay or go for the 2024/25 season. While Boone thinks newcomers Tre Mann and Grant Williams played themselves into a role for next year’s team, several projected reserves like Bryce McGowens, Vasilije Micic, Nick Richards and JT Thor could be on the move, either in free agency or via trade.
  • The Wizards had a franchise-worst win percentage this season, but no team has better odds for the top pick in the draft, and Washington’s roster features several intriguing young players. Ahead of a season in which major growth from these players is expected, Monumental Sports Network’s Chase Hughes evaluates what a few of them said they plan to work on this season. “This offseason I’m trying to improve on my shooting, getting my shot up a little bit quicker,” 2023 No. 7 overall pick Bilal Coulibaly said. “Creating my own shot, too, so being able to dribble the ball a little bit more and better. Handle the ball better. That would be a good part.

Wizards Notes: Jones, Offseason, Coaching Search, Coulibaly

Most veteran free agents on rebuilding teams would prefer to play for a contender. Wizards guard Tyus Jones would rather stay put, according to Ava Wallace of the Washington Post.

Jones got a long-awaited opportunity to start for Washington after an offseason trade from Memphis. He started in all 66 games he played, averaging 12.0 points and 7.3 assists per contest.

“From the day I was traded, obviously, knowing that I’m on an expiring deal, just being in the league, anyone who pays attention to the NBA, you know what that can mean sometimes. But without saying what that means, that was never the plan from the front office with me,” Jones said. “They’ve said from the beginning: ‘We want you here. The plan is for you to be here long term, and when we get to that bridge, we’ll cross it.'”

We have more on the Wizards:

  • It will be a busy spring and summer in D.C., Wallace notes in her offseason outlook. The franchise is searching for a head coach, and while they only have two free agents, the Wizards will be evaluating their young roster and looking for ways to accumulate more assets.
  • Speaking of the coaching vacancy, The Athletic’s Josh Robbins reports that the front office plans to spend the next week or so mapping out and refining their search process before they begin the interviewing process. Interim coach Brian Keefe will receive consideration for the permanent position, per Robbins. The front office will focus on candidates who relate well to players and have a player-development focus.
  • Even though he didn’t post eye-popping stats, Bilal Coulibaly had a solid rookie season, Robbins writes in a separate story. Coulibaly played in 63 games until he suffered a season-ending fracture in his right wrist on March 16. Coulibaly showed a willingness to keep the ball moving rather than taking low percentage shots. “If you look back on young wings and young bigs getting on the floor, getting the minutes, getting the experience in Years 1 and 2, through our research, is the most important thing,” Washington general manager Will Dawkins said. “And he was able to get those consistently this year, which is very valuable for his future and predicted success.”

Wizards Notes: Vukcevic, Young Players, Coulibaly, More

Second-round pick Tristan Vukcevic spent much of the 2023/24 season in Europe, but he signed a two-year contract with the Wizards a couple weeks ago. He has been active for three games so far, averaging just 5.3 minutes in those outings. He says he’s still adjusting to the speed of the NBA, according to Bijan Todd of Monumental Sports Network.

It’s a different game, I think,” Vukcevic said. “It’s more fast-paced, less plays. I think Europe is just more, like, textbook basketball, and that’s just something I have to learn. It’s a learning process, the speed, the pace and everything.”

The 21-year-old was thrilled to make his debut last weekend after having a limited role overseas, Todd adds.

It felt amazing. It was kind of unexpected, in a way, but I was very happy to be thrown into the fire and be out there,” Vukcevic said. “I haven’t played since like January, a lot of games in Europe, so I was just happy to play the sport I love.”

Here’s more on the Wizards:

  • Jared Butler and Justin Champagnie are among the young players who have made key contributions in recent games with several rotation regulars injured, writes Chase Hughes of Monumental Sports Network. Both Butler and Champagnie are on two-way contracts with the Wizards, who have won three of their past four games to move ahead of the last-place Pistons.
  • Rookie lottery pick Bilal Coulibaly will miss the rest of the season after fracturing his right wrist. Once the injury heals, the 19-year-old hopes to play for Team France at the 2024 Olympics in Paris this summer, per Josh Robbins of The Athletic (Twitter links). I will, for sure, try to be on the team,” Coulibaly said. “But, yeah, we’ll see. I mean, coaches make their choices, and I totally respect it. So, yeah, we’ll see.”
  • During Wednesday’s press conference announcing that the Wizards reached an agreement to stay in the District of Columbia long-term, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said the team intends to build a new practice facility in the area, as Ava Wallace of The Washington Post relays (via Twitter).