USA Basketball

And-Ones: Ignite, Embiid, Team USA, Remaining FAs, Shengelia

The G League Ignite officially filled out its roster for the 2022/23 season this week, announcing in a press release that seven veteran players have joined the team and will complement the group of young prospects already under contract with the Ignite. Former NBA guard John Jenkins and big man Eric Mika are among the team’s vets.

The Ignite also announced that they have a new general manager, having named Anthony McClish to fill the role. McClish, who worked as a consultant for the Ignite for the last two seasons, was previously the general manager of the Stockton Kings, Sacramento’s G League affiliate.

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

  • Joel Embiid revealed this week that he was sworn in as a U.S. citizen earlier this month, per Dan Gelston of The Associated Press. The Sixers star is a native of Cameroon who also has French citizenship, so he’ll have no shortage of options for which country he wants to represent if and when he competes in future international competitions.
  • Team USA is on the verge of losing its No. 1 international basketball ranking for the first time since FIBA created the rankings 20 years ago, observes Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Spain is poised to take over that top spot if the U.S. loses any of its next four World Cup qualifying games, says Vardon.
  • ESPN’s NBA analysts have weighed in on the best landing spots for some of the top remaining NBA free agents, including Jeremy Lamb, Hassan Whiteside, and Eric Bledsoe.
  • Tornike Shengelia, who appeared in 45 NBA games from 2012-14 for Brooklyn and Chicago, initially thought he might return to the league this offseason, but ended up signing a new contract with Virtus Bologna in Italy instead, as Cesare Milanti of Eurohoops writes. Shengelia has become a star in Europe, winning titles in 2020 (Liga ACB), 2021 (VTB United League), and 2022 (EuroCup).
  • ESPN’s Kevin Pelton (Insider link) unveiled his stats-based win projections for the 2022/23 season, and they look quite different from the general consensus. Among Pelton’s most interesting projections: the Pelicans moving up to third in the West while the Warriors slip to eighth, and the Bulls falling to 12th in the East.

And-Ones: Russell, Noel, Paul, Team USA, Baker

Bill Russell‘s No. 6 will be retired throughout the league and another Hall of Famer, Alonzo Mourning, said it was much-deserved honor, Marc J. Spears of Andscape writes.

“We still need to celebrate his name, because he paved the way during a time where he had to deal with so many different obstacles,” Mourning said. “Not just on the court, but off the court. He paved the way for all of us.”

Mourning and Jerry West were on stage at the Hall of Fame’s annual ceremony over the weekend to honor Russell before the Class of 2022 was inducted.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Pistons center Nerlens Noel‘s lawsuit against agent Rich Paul is headed to arbitration, Michael McCann of Sportico reports in a subscribers-only article. Noel sued Paul last August, alleging that the agent’s negotiating tactics during 2017 cost him a four-year, $70MM extension with Dallas.
  • USA Basketball wound up with the bronze medal in the AmeriCup by defeating Canada 84-80 (Twitter link). Former NBA forward Gary Clark led the way with 18 points. Argentina, having defeated Team USA in the semifinals, earned the gold medal with a victory over Brazil.
  • The G League Lakeland Magic acquired the returning player rights to forward Robert Baker from the Stockton Kings in exchange for a 2022 second-round pick, JD Shaw of Hoops Rumors tweets. Baker, 24, appeared in 26 games with the Stockton Kings last season and one Summer League game with the Thunder.

And-Ones: Korkmaz, Turkey, Popovich, France, Team USA

Sixers guard Furkan Korkmaz was attacked in the hallway of the locker room after being ejected in Turkey’s game against Georgia, the Turkish team alleged (link via Semih Tuna of EuroHoops). The Turkish federation vice president, Omer Onan, is now threatening that the team will leave the EuroBasket if proper action isn’t taken.

“While Furkan Korkmaz was walking in the hallway to the locker rooms with our trainer, Georgia’s players who were not in the active roster attacked him together with the ejected player [Duda Sanadze] and the police,” Onan explained in a lengthy statement. “There should not be an attack on the player that goes to the locker room. At the end of the match, 30 policemen each pushed us into a fight. We got into a fight with Georgia’s official police. I am calling out to FIBA and I have also told FIBA’s officials.

“Let no one deceive themselves or think that we are stupid. They will bring us all the camera footage from that corridor minute by minute without anything missing. If those cameras do not come to us, we will leave this tournament. Wherever you look it, there is nothing to hold onto. The non-competing player, (Toko) Shengelia, and three people sitting on the bench went to the locker room. At the end of the match, the police were in front of our locker room. Supposedly they were protecting us but they pushed us all the time. We were going to hit each other with our fists.”

It’s unclear what injuries — if any — Korkmaz sustained. The 25-year-old was drafted by Philadelphia with the No. 26 pick in 2016. He’s spent his entire career with the franchise so far, averaging 7.6 points in 67 games this past season.

Here are some other odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Legendary Spurs coach Gregg Popovich believes the NBA and European basketball are becoming more similar, Emiliano Carchia of Sportando writes. While the quote has been condensed, Popovich did shine light on the matter. “Ten years ago, American basketball was mainly made up of threes and dunks, and with the arrival of basketball on European TV, I think everyone was very excited by this,” he said. “In Europe, on the contrary, basketball was played based on fundamentals, movement, a basketball where players move with the ball and without the ball. I think the two worlds have been apart for a while, but now we are getting closer.”
  • France managed to survive Hungary’s comeback and win on Sunday, as relayed by EuroHoops. The team was led by Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert, who finished with 15 points and nine rebounds, plus played his usual stellar defense.
  • Team USA’s game against Venezuela on Sunday was postponed after rain leaked into the gym, according to The Associated Press. America was leading 48-21 at halftime when heavy rain caused multiple leaks and ended the contest early. The game was played in Brazil.

And-Ones: Smith, BIG3, Ujiri, BAL, Mexico

Longtime NBA guard J.R. Smith believes he was blackballed from the league, as Pierce Simpson of Complex relays. According to Simpson, it seems like Smith is mostly remembered for the mistake he made at the end of a 2018 NBA Finals game, choosing to dribble away from the rim without knowing the score.

“Yeah, 100 percent,” Smith said on whether he was blackballed after that. “Anybody can sit here and tell you that that’s a fact.”

Smith played 11 games with Cleveland the following season and briefly played with LeBron James on the Lakers in 2019/20. Since then, he hasn’t played in the NBA. Smith will turn 37 years old next week and never formally announced his retirement, but a return to the league seems highly unlikely at this point.

Here are some other notes from around the basketball world:

  • The BIG3 has relieved CEO Chris Hannan of his duties, according to ESPN’s Marc J. Spears (Twitter link). Ice Cube, the co-founder of the league, has been named CEO in his place. Jeff Kwatinetz (another co-founder) will serve as the league’s president.
  • Raptors president Masai Ujiri believes the Basketball Africa League (BAL) can produce NBA-level talent, but it’ll need time to grow, Leonard Solms writes for ESPN. Ujiri has remained active with the NBA’s work in Africa. As Solms notes, former BAL players Anas Mahmoud and Evans Ganapamo earned invites to play in the NBA’s Las Vegas Summer League — Mahmoud in 2021 with Toronto and Ganapamo in 2022 with Milwaukee — but neither player has earned a roster spot in the NBA.
  • Mexico surprised Team USA in their AmeriCup opening game, winning the contest 73-67, as detailed by The Associated Press. Mexico was led by Paul Stoll, who finished with 15 points and nine assists. Stoll went undrafted in 2008 and has played his entire career internationally.

And-Ones: McCaw, Cole, LeBron, D. Whitehead, League Pass

Team USA isn’t filled with stars for this summer’s competition, but their absence could help players like Patrick McCaw and Norris Cole get another shot at the NBA, writes Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. They’re part of the American team participating in the FIBA AmeriCup tournament, which begins Friday in Brazil.

“I think it’s more about representing the USA for me right now,” said McCaw, who played for three teams in five years and won championship rings in his first three NBA seasons. “I want to make it back to the NBA. I know that’s a process. And I know one day, whenever, next week, next month, next year, when it’s supposed to happen, it’ll happen. But right now, I’m just focusing on this USA, wearing these three letters, giving my all to this team and representing the United States of America.”

The odds may be even longer for Cole, who went to the NBA Finals with the Heat during his first three seasons in the league. Cole has been out of the league since 2017 and has been trying to revive his career with a long list of overseas teams.

“I still have the ability,” said Cole, who will turn 34 in October. “God has still blessed me with the ability. I still have the fire, the hunger and I still feel like I have something to prove, things that I would like to accomplish as a player. That feeling of winning a championship, the mission, the goal, the work to try to get to that point again, that’s what drives me as a competitor. And I want that feeling again.”

There’s more news from around the basketball world:

  • LeBron James talks to Chris Ballard of Sports Illustrated about his desire to eventually play in the NBA with his teenage sons. Bronny is a high school senior and will be eligible for the draft in 2024, but Bryce is only 15 and can’t get to the league until 2027, raising questions of whether LeBron has that many years left. “I feel like I could play for quite a while,” he said. “So it’s all up to my body, but more importantly, my mind. If my mind can stay sharp and fresh and motivated, then the sky’s not even a limit for me. I can go beyond that. But we shall see.”
  • Duke’s Dariq Whitehead, projected as a top-10 pick in next year’s draft, had surgery on Tuesday for a fracture in his right foot, per Myron Medcalf of ESPN. Whitehead is out indefinitely and the school says he will return sometime “this fall.”
  • The NBA has reduced the price of League Pass by more than half for the upcoming season, according to Jacob Feldman of Yahoo. The standard price has been cut from $230 to $100, and the premium package has fallen from $280 to $130.

International Notes: Brown, Basketball Without Borders, World Cup

Former NBA wing Anthony Brown has agreed to terms on a deal with Russian club Unics Kazan, writes Alessandro Maggi of Sportando. A former EuroLeague club, Unics Kazan now competes in the VTB United League.

After being selected with the No. 34 pick by the Lakers in 2015 out of Stanford, Brown bounced the NBA and G League for several seasons. He suited up for the Lakers and their NBAGL affiliate, at the time called the Los Angeles D-Fenders (now the South Bay Lakers), the Magic and their affiliate team the Erie BayHawks/Lakeland Magic, the Timberwolves and their NBAGL club the Iowa Wolves, and the Pelicans. In 41 total NBA games, the 29-year-old has averaged 3.9 PPG and 2.5 RPG across 18.6 MPG.

Brown first headed overseas in 2018, and has since suited up for teams in Serbia, France, Spain, Turkey and Israel. While playing for Maccabi Rishon LeZion in Israel Super League competition last season, the 6’7″ swingman posted averages of 16.0 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.4 APG and 1.0 SPG, with a shooting line of .465/.396/.821.

Here are more international basketball odds and ends:

  • Several NBA players and coaches will head overseas to take part in a Basketball Without Borders camp set for Cairo, Egypt, per a league press release. The event will run from this Sunday, August 28, through next Wednesday, August 31. Sixty-four of the best boys and girls hailing from 26 African nations, aged 18 and under, will travel to the camp. Jazz center Udoka Azubuike, Magic center Mohamed Bamba, Celtics guard Malcolm Brogdon and forward Grant Williams, and retired Hall of Fame center Dikembe Mutombo will be among the camp’s coaches, with Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups, Pelicans head coach Willie Green, Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr., Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch, Bucks associate head coach Charles Lee, and Hornets athletic trainer Quinton Sawyer also participating. The camp’s roster of directors will be pretty star-studded as well, led by Raptors president Masai Ujiri, Cavaliers GM Mike Gansey, and Clippers scout Lance Blanks.
  • With almost exactly one year to go before the 2023 FIBA World Cup tips off, Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press checks in on USA Basketball as the organization ramps up its preparation for the event. The first games in next year’s competition are scheduled to be played on August 25, 2023. Fielding a lineup that features G League and international-caliber American players, Team USA currently has a 6-1 record in the World Cup qualifiers. Next year, Steve Kerr will coach Team USA, featuring a likely-star studded roster. This year, that task falls to former Bulls head coach Jim Boylen. “We’re learning a lot because the NBA game has changed over the last seven or eight years, too,” Sean Ford, the U.S. men’s national team director, said. “There’s much more shotmaking. It’s just unbelievable, incredible the amount of 3-point shots that are taken, the freedom of movement, the flow of the game. But the international game has stayed the physical way.” 
  • Former Thunder swingman Terrance Ferguson has made the jump to overseas play, signing on with Polish team GTK Gliwice. Get full details here.

Team USA Announces Camp Roster For AmeriCup

At the same time that 24 European nations will be competing in this year’s long-awaited EuroBasket tournament, Team USA will be going for gold in the 2022 AmeriCup, another event that hasn’t taken place in five years. The U.S. team won the 2017 AmeriCup and was preparing to defend its title in 2021 before the event was pushed back a year due to the delay of the Tokyo Olympics.

With the 2022 AmeriCup around the corner, Team USA has announced the 15 players who will take part in training camp from August 23-27 in Las Vegas before the squad chooses a 12-man roster for the September event. Those 15 players are as follows:

While not every player on Team USA’s training camp roster has NBA experience, many do, including Meeks (539 regular season games), Cole (360), McCaw (199), Clark (170), Johnson (103), Mason (103), and Pargo (86). Sword, Cheatham, Lamb, and Zimmerman have also made brief NBA appearances.

The U.S. team will be coached by Jazz assistant Alex Jensen.

The AmeriCup, also known as the Americas Basketball Championship, used to be part of the qualifying process for the Olympics and the FIBA World Cup, but now it’s a stand-alone event.

This year’s tournament will take place from September 2-11 in Recife, Brazil. Sixteen teams have been divided into four groups of four teams apiece. After each team plays three round robin games within its group, the top two teams in each group – along with the two best third-place teams – will move onto the quarterfinals.

Team USA will be seeking its eighth overall AmeriCup gold medal and its first back-to-back golds since winning the event in 1997 and 1999.

Team USA Sets Roster For August World Cup Qualifiers

Team USA will play a pair of qualifying games for the 2023 World Cup this month, squaring off against Uruguay on August 25 in Las Vegas and then facing Colombia on August 29 in Barranquilla, Colombia.

USA Basketball issued a press release today announcing its 12-man roster for those qualifying games. The following players will be representing the U.S. on a club led by head coach Jim Boylen:

McClung is the only member of the 12-man group who is currently under contract with an NBA team, having signed a training camp contract with the Warriors last month. However, everyone on the roster except for Ellison has appeared in at least one NBA regular season game.

Galloway and Jenkins are the most experienced NBA veterans on the roster. Galloway has 452 regular season games for seven teams under his belt, while Jenkins has made 171 appearances for five clubs.

Team USA has a 5-1 record through the first three qualifying windows, putting the squad in a tie for first place with Brazil atop Group F. After this month’s games, the remaining two qualifying windows are scheduled for November and February — teams will end up playing a total of 12 qualifying contests apiece.

The 2023 World Cup will take place in the Philippines, Japan, and Indonesia from August 25 to September 10 next year. Assuming its team qualifies – which looks like a pretty safe bet – USA Basketball is expected to send a roster of more accomplished NBA veterans to the event.

Kevin Love Stung By Criticism From Colangelo

Following heavy criticism from his experience with USA Basketball prior to the Olympics, Kevin Love finally spoke out on the subject in an interview with Taylor Rooks posted on Twitter by Bleacher Report, and said some people “threw me under the bus.”

The Cavaliers power forward said he was still recovering from a calf injury when he committed to play. Love eventually withdrew from Team USA before the squad headed to Tokyo.

“I was not able to be in the best shape I could have been because I couldn’t fully run yet with my calf, I couldn’t really push off,” he said. “I still could really shoot the ball, I could space the floor, I could rebound but as far as switching one-through-five and how they wanted to play, it just wasn’t appropriate for me.”

Jerry Colangelo, the former managing director of USA Basketball, criticized the 2012 gold medalist last summer for not being in shape when he showed up to camp.

“I didn’t think Kevin Love was going to play. I wasn’t even sure he had much left to play,” Colangelo said. “He reached out to us and said he was in shape and said he felt he owed us. And on the basis of that, we’re looking at someone with international experience who at one time was a heck of a rebounder and could still shoot the ball. You know, being like a 12th man on a roster. Well, it didn’t work out. He wasn’t in shape. And he was way behind as it turned out. So you move on. Call it a mistake.”

Love said those comments stung.

“People that I’ve had relationships with throughout USA basketball for that long, threw me under the bus. And I didn’t like that,” Love said. “I felt that I did the right thing by coming to the landing spot and landing point that I eventually got to. I just thought it was very unfair and coming from this elite fraternity that we have in our 450 players. You would think, like, you take care of each other. … I hope I’m a part of that family from here on out.”

And-Ones: Antetokounmpo, Hill, Blakeney, Ukraine

Managerial members of the Greek national team are expected to meet this week with the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo and Thanasis Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee to discuss their participation in this summer’s EuroBasket, according to Johnny Askounis of Eurohoops.net. Both have a history of playing for the national team.

Greece will participate in 2022 EuroBasket this September.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Team USA managing director Grant Hill doesn’t expect star players to make multi-year commitments to USA Basketball, according to Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Hill said it’s unrealistic to expect current players to give up two consecutive summers to play for the team. Team USA, under Hill, also won’t hold a training camp this summer, another break from tradition. “There’s the notion that we (should) demand or expect two-year commitment from guys, but I’m not sure that necessarily works in this day and age,” Hill said. “People’s willingness and commitment to give two consecutive years to Team USA has changed, so we have to be able to adapt to the times. There’s been a considerable amount of interest from players who have already been a part of this, players who have already won gold medals in recent cycles, and then obviously, young players who want to be a part of this. I’m confident we’ll get the job done.”
  • Former Bulls guard Antonio Blakeney has signed with Hapoel Be’er Sheva in Israel, JD Shaw of Hoops Rumors relays (Twitter link). Blakeney played 76 games with Chicago from 2017-19. He began this season in Bahrain.
  • Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may force western sports leagues to reconsider their overseas partnerships, according to Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic. Just as athletes and leagues became more involved in social justice issues in recent years, there may be more of a consideration regarding human rights in choosing which countries they will market and operate their sports and products.