USA Basketball

And-Ones: Boylen, Team USA, Stephenson, Exum, More

USA Basketball has announced that former Bulls head coach Jim Boylen will coach Team USA during November’s qualifying games for the 2023 FIBA World Cup, which will take place in the Philippines, Japan, and Indonesia. The U.S. team will face Cuba on November 28 and Mexico on November 29.

While NBA players make up Team USA’s roster in the World Cup itself, the qualifiers take place during the NBA season, so the roster is typically made up of G League veterans. After November’s games, the next round of qualifiers will take place in February.

Jeff Van Gundy coached the qualifying team leading up to the 2019 FIBA World Cup before handing things off to Gregg Popovich for the World Cup itself. USA Basketball has yet to announce Popovich’s successor, but Steve Kerr has been identified as a frontrunner. If Kerr gets the job, he’d coach the 2023 team in the World Cup, assuming Boylen’s group clinches a spot in the event.

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

  • NBA veteran Lance Stephenson, who last played in China, has signed an NBA G League contract and will be draft-eligible on October 23, our JD Shaw reports (via Twitter). Stephenson’s last stint in the NBA came during the 2019/20 season with the Lakers. He has appeared in more than 500 career regular season games.
  • The NBA announced on Tuesday that this season’s opening-night rosters feature a total of 109 international players from 39 countries. That includes a record number of players from Canada (18) Germany (seven), and the Bahamas (three). Appropriately, the Raptors lead the league with 10 international players.
  • Within his in-depth look at the players who did and didn’t sign extensions this offseason, ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) notes that Wizards guard Bradley Beal and Bulls guard Zach LaVine remain extension-eligible, but would be able to maximize their future earnings by waiting until free agency to sign new deals.
  • Dante Exum, who was waived on Saturday by the Rockets, owns a minority stake in the South East Melbourne Phoenix, and the NBL team’s general manager indicated it would love to him as a player. “If and when Dante decides that the NBL is the right move for him, we of course will do whatever we can do to make that as easy for him as possible,” GM Tommy Greer said (link via NBL.com.au).

Kerr Considered Favorite To Succeed Popovich As Team USA Coach

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr has emerged as the frontrunner to replace Gregg Popovich as the head coach of Team USA, league sources tell Marc Stein of Substack. Popovich, the Spurs‘ head coach, is stepping down from his position with USA Basketball following his team’s gold medal victory at the Tokyo Olympics.

USA Basketball is undergoing some changes this year, with Grant Hill recently succeeding Jerry Colangelo as the managing director of the program. Naming a new head coach is the first major move that Hill will have to make as part of his new role. He said earlier this month that he hopes to finalize the decision before the start of the NBA regular season on October 19.

As Stein writes, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is viewed as another strong candidate for Team USA’s head coaching position, but Kerr has more international experience, having served as an assistant to Popovich during the 2019 FIBA World Cup as well as the Tokyo Olympics. Spoelstra was involved in the lead-up to the Olympics as well, coaching the U.S. Select Team, but he wasn’t part of the group that traveled to Tokyo.

Kerr’s experience coaching several star players in Golden State and competing in five consecutive NBA Finals makes him a natural fit to manage Team USA’s star-studded rosters and to handle the pressure of international competitions. He also recently confirmed that he’d have interest in the job.

“Of course I’d be interested. I mean, who wouldn’t be? I’ll leave it at that,” Kerr told Tim Kawakami of The Athletic in August. “I have no idea how it will all transpire; there are a lot of great candidates out there. And if I were to be considered, that would be an honor.”

Eastern Notes: Martin-Garrett, Spoelstra, Bucks, Noah

The top-heavy Heat could benefit from their two-way players proving their NBA mettle sooner rather than later. Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel wonders if either of their two two-way players, guards Caleb Martin or Marcus Garrett, could find their way onto Miami’s 15-man roster by the end of the year.

Because of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, two-way player rules no longer have restrictions on how frequently two-way players can practice or travel with their NBA clubs. Winderman thinks Garrett will see more run with the Heat’s G League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, but that Martin could carve out a fringe rotation role at the next level.

The 6’5″ Martin played his first two years with the Hornets, and holds career averages of 5.3 PPG, 2.5 RPG and 1.3 APG, with shooting splits of .391/.315/.682.

There’s more out of the East:

  • Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra could be a finalist to succeed Team USA head coach Gregg Popovich in future international competitions, opines Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Spoelstra coached the Select Team, comprised of young up-and-coming American players, who faced off against Team USA ahead of their gold medal run this summer.
  • The Bucks could look to more carefully manage the minutes of Olympic champions Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton, coming off the club’s championship run, writes Eric Nehm of The Athletic in an extensive mailbag. Nehm anticipates that second-year forwards Jordan Nwora and Mamadi Diakite, as well as reserve point guard George Hill, will benefit the most from the resting of Holiday and Middleton.
  • Retiring former Bulls All-Star center Joakim Noah will be celebrated by Chicago during an October 28 Bulls-Knicks contest. The Knicks are led by Noah’s former Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, and feature his former Chicago teammates Derrick Rose and Taj Gibson, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. The Bulls are currently led by Noah’s old college coach, Billy Donovan, with whom Noah won two straight NCAA titles with the University of Florida in 2006 and 2007. Noah was a two-time All-Star and the 2014 Defensive Player of the Year while with the Bulls.

And-Ones: USA Basketball, Mayo, Mejri

Grant Hill has taken over as USA Basketball’s managing director and one of his first tasks is to find a replacement for coach Gregg Popovich. Hill told The Undefeated’s Marc Spears that he plans to hire a new coach before the NBA season begins on October 19.

Candidates that have previous experience with USA Basketball will have the upper hand, according to Spears. That group would include Steve Kerr, Lloyd Pierce, Jay Wright, Doc Rivers, Nate McMillan, Monty Williams, Tom Thibodeau, Erik Spoelstra and Jeff Van Gundy.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Former NBA guard O.J. Mayo has reached an agreement with Russia’s Unics Kazan, Sportando relays. Sport-Business.ru was first to report the news. Mayo was banned by the NBA in 2016 for violating the league’s drug program. Mayo has recently played in China.
  • Former Mavericks big man Salah Mejri has reached an agreement with Al Jahra in Kuwait, according to Sportando. Mejri appeared in 204 games with Dallas from 2015-19.
  • In case you missed it, Jarrell Brantley is expected to sign with a Russian team after being waived by the Jazz. Get the details here.

And-Ones: 2023 World Cup, Offseason Grades, M. Miller

The draw for the 2023 FIBA World Cup qualifiers took place on Tuesday. According to a press release from FIBA, Team USA’s qualifying group in the Americas event will include Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Cuba.

The 2023 World Cup will take place in the Philippines, Japan, and Indonesia two years from now, while the first qualifying matches will take place in November 2021. During the qualifiers for the 2019 World Cup, Team USA fielded a team made up of G League standouts, since those events overlapped with the NBA season. That roster made up of NBAGL vets put up a 10-2 record in qualifying games, so I’d expect a similar approach this time around.

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

  • In a pair of Insider-only stories for ESPN.com, Kevin Pelton handed out offseason grades for all the teams in both the Eastern Conference and Western Conference. The Hawks and Wizards were the two teams to earn an A, while the Cavaliers and Pelicans were the only two to receive a D.
  • Former Raptors forward Malcolm Miller has signed with Italian team Vanoli Cremona for the 2021/22 season, the club announced in a press release. Miller appeared in 53 total games across three seasons with Toronto from 2017-20 and was a member of the championship squad in 2019.
  • Although the NBA’s 2021/22 schedule will still include some MLB-style two-game sets between the same teams in the same arena, there will be just 23 of them this season, compared to 84 in 2020/21, writes Marc Stein (subscription required). As Stein explains, not playing in front of fans last season – along with a desire to reduce travel – made those sets a logical addition to the schedule, but the league was less motivated to include them this time around.

Olympic Notes: Tatum, Durant, Holiday, P. Gasol

Team USA has one Olympic loss already and now that the medal round is here, another defeat would end its gold medal hopes. The Americans will face Spain in the quarterfinals and Celtics forward Jayson Tatum could be the key to advancing, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic.

Spain captured the FIBA World Cup in 2019, but Tatum played in just two games after being injured early in the tournament. He’s fully healthy now and has gotten over a slow start in the Olympics, scoring 27 points in Saturday’s rout of the Czech Republic.

“Our confidence never wavered,” said Tatum, whose team lost a pair of exhibition games in Las Vegas, then dropped its Olympic opener against France. “We understood that it wasn’t gonna be easy. We didn’t have our full team until four days ago, five days ago, so we knew that we had a lot of challenges ahead of us. And we also know that we would continue to get better every day. We would get better from each game, each practice, just the more time that we spent together, we were never going to be the same team, from day one, that we are now. And hopefully, we’re better this time next week than we were today.”

There’s more from Tokyo:

  • Kevin Durant reached a milestone Saturday, passing Carmelo Anthony as Team USA’s all-time leading scorer in Olympic competition, Vardon adds in a separate story. Durant, who is seeking his third gold medal, now has 354 total points. “It is special to do something like that,” he said. “Scoring is something I worked on my whole career and something I’ve expanded my whole career, and being able to consistently do it is pretty cool.”
  • The U.S. didn’t have a pure point guard until Jrue Holiday joined the team, says Jim Souhan of The Star Tribune. Holiday was busy with the playoffs during training camp and exhibition play and didn’t leave for Japan until after the Bucks’ championship parade. “His entry onto the team, late as it was, has had an immediate effect, because he garners so much respect from his teammates,” coach Gregg Popovich said.
  • After undergoing surgery for a stress fracture in his left foot, Pau Gasol was determined not to let it end his career, writes Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. The 41-year-old has battled back and is playing an important role for Spain. “I love the game,” Gasol said. “I wanted to finish my career playing. I had such an incredible, extraordinary career that I didn’t want the injury to finish it for me.”

And-Ones: Colangelo, Love, Irving, 2022 Draft, Bleijenbergh

Jerry Colangelo, managing director of USA Basketball, admitted that adding Cavaliers big man Kevin Love to the 12-man roster was a mistake, Joe Vardon of The Athletic reports. Speaking to reporters this week, Colangelo was blunt in his assessment of Love, stating that the 2012 gold medalist was not in shape when he showed up to camp. Love eventually withdrew from Team USA before the squad headed to Tokyo.

“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.”

We have more from the basketball world:

  • Nets guard Kyrie Irving has fired Roc Nation as his representative, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. It’s unclear why Irving, who can opt out of his contract after next season, made the move. He did rip Nike on social media for its shoe design and marketing of the upcoming Kyrie8 brand.
  • Just hours after the completion of this year’s draft, Jonathan Givony of ESPN released his 2022 mock draft. Gonzaga big man Chet Holmgren heads the list, followed by Duke’s Paolo Banchero and the G League Ignite’s Jaden Hardy.
  • Belgian guard Vrenz Bleijenbergh was a candidate to be a second-round pick, but went undrafted on Thursday. Bleijenbergh explained on Twitter that none of the teams interested in selecting him were willing to offer a guaranteed contract and thus, he couldn’t get out of his European deal. “I had multiple teams offering me two-way deals. But because of my contract in Europe, I wasn’t be able to sign them, it was against the rules,” he wrote. “The only option was a guaranteed contract, I didn’t receive it. It really hurts, I was really close.”

Olympic Notes: Team USA, Ewing, Popovich, Durant

Losses by Team USA in international competition are no longer surprising, so head coach Gregg Popovich bristled when that word was mentioned after his team fell to France this morning in its Olympic opener, tweets Ben Golliver of The Washington Post. France took control of the game late, finishing with a 16-2 run to claim an 83-76 victory that snapped a 25-game Olympic winning streak for the United States.

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

France was led by Celtics guard Evan Fournier, who scored 28 points and hit a three-pointer with a minute left that gave his team the lead for good. Fournier will become a free agent next month, but first he wants to enjoy the Olympic experience.

“They are better individually,” he said of the Americans, “but they can be beaten as a team” (Twitter link).

There’s more on the Olympics:

  • The loss doesn’t come as a surprise to Georgetown head coach Patrick Ewing, who was part of the original “Dream Team” in 1992, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. “It’s harder to play now because of the Dream Team,” Ewing said. “All of the current players grew up looking up to us and watching us dominate the rest of the world. But the rest of the world caught up. There are so many talented players. Some of the NBA’s top players today come from all over the world. It wasn’t like that back then.’’
  • Popovich is a legendary coach in the NBA, but he hasn’t achieved the same success in international basketball, notes Brian Mahoney of The Associated Press. The three teams Popovich has been part of in the Olympics or world championships have earned just one medal, an Olympic bronze in 2004.
  • There’s been plenty of chaos for Team USA in its Olympic preparation, with COVID-19 disruptions and the late arrival of three team members who took part in the NBA Finals, but the players understand that expectations haven’t changed, Golliver states in a full story“Every team wants to beat us,” Kevin Durant said. “Everybody wants to see us lose. A lot of guys dropped out, (and there have been) a lot of circumstances (affecting player availability). I’m sure other teams have seen us lose and feel confident coming into the tournament. We understand what we’re getting ourselves into, and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”

Olympic Notes: LaVine, NBA Participants, Hernangomez, Finals Trio

Zach LaVine was placed in protocols due to contact tracing before he was allowed to go to Tokyo. That development came as a big surprise to the Team USA wing. LaVine was sidelined for 11 Bulls games in April when he tested positive for COVID-19, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun Times writes. “Well I was a little shocked,’’ LaVine said. “Obviously, I didn’t think I could get [the virus]. Obviously, I didn’t. I’m going to have to be careful with everybody including the team and everybody coming over here, so it made sense, and I pretty much had to do my time, jump through a couple hoops to get here.’’

We have more Olympic-related notes:

  • If there are a lot of familiar faces in the Olympic tournament, it’s because there are a record number of current and former NBA participants. According to an NBA press release, there are 49 current players and 16 former players dotting Olympic rosters. The Heat lead the way with four players in the competition.
  • Spain’s basketball federation president claims that Juan Hernangomez won’t play in the Olympics because Timberwolves president Gersson Rosas nixed it, according to a Eurohoops story relayed by Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Hernangomez dislocated his left shoulder this summer but Jorge Garbajosa says the big man has been cleared by Spain’s medical staff. “Juancho wants to play in the Olympic Games, but Juancho won’t be able to play,” Garbajosa said. “We’ve had countless medical meetings and we’ve never received a ‘no.’ We have a received a ‘yes’. … It’s a problem of people – not medical personnel – who have personally decided that Juancho couldn’t play. I’m talking about their president of basketball operations.”
  • Devin Booker, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday arrived in Tokyo on Saturday and their Team USA teammates are impressed by the commitment of the three players who participated in the Finals, Brian Windhorst of ESPN writes. “I have a lot of respect for those guys for not only committing to do this but actually keeping their word,” Draymond Green said. “You’re talking about three true professionals, three extremely competitive guys that wouldn’t be on their way here if this didn’t mean something.”

Olympic Notes: Booker, Middleton, Holiday, McGee, Robinson, Top Players

Devin Booker, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday are expected to be available to play in Team USA’s Sunday morning opener, Brian Windhorst of ESPN writes. The Bucks duo joined Booker in Seattle on Friday to take a private plane to Tokyo. The Finals trio won’t get a chance to practice with the team but coach Gregg Popovich would like to play them right away against France.

We have more Olympic-related news and tidbits:

  • JaVale McGee is a much different player than the man he replaced, Kevin Love, on Team USA. That forces Popovich to alter his frontcourt strategy and McGee may be nothing more than an insurance policy against France, Joe Vardon of The Athletic writes.
  • Heat wing Duncan Robinson claimed on The Long Shot Podcast that he nearly replaced Bradley Beal on Team USA’s roster, as Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald relays. “It basically got to the point where like it started to pick up some momentum and it looked like it was going to happen,” Robinson said. Keldon Johnson was eventually chosen as Beal’s replacement.
  • Many of the other teams in the Olympics could threaten Team USA in its quest for gold and Vardon takes a closer look at the other 11 squads and their chances of knocking off the American contingent.
  • Luka Doncic, Kevin Durant and Damian Lillard head HoopsHype’s Frank Urbina’s Olympic player rankings. Doncic edged out Durant due to the fact he’ll likely put up big numbers for Slovenia. Urbina lists his top 30 players in Tokyo.