Dwight Howard’s License Reportedly Suspended After He Ran 10 Red Lights

Dwight Howard may want to consider working out a carpool with his Houston Rockets teammates after his driver’s license was reportedly suspended.

According to a TMZ Sports report, Howard has been caught running a red light 10 times since 2012. He was ticketed in Florida nine times during a 10-month span and was then busted again this past July. According to Reuters’ Barbara ListonHoward’s license has been suspended since at least Aug. 15 as a result of his failure to pay a $285 fine for a red-light ticket from April.

And that’s not all. According to Liston, the Rockets star’s Orlando court record also contains four speeding tickets, 12 citations for failing to pay highway tolls and another citation for failing to change the address on his license. 

If paying the fine is all it takes for Howard to get his license back, it seems silly that he hasn’t done so already. As Basketball-Reference.com notes, he has made more than $123 million in his career and is due more than $21 million in each of the next three seasons, so one would assume he can afford a $285 fine.

Howard will have to find another way to get around town for now. Hopefully if/when he gets his license back, he’ll have learned to heed traffic lights.

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Ohio amusement park won’t rename a ride ‘King James’ after LeBron James after all

In a story that has “NBA offseason doldrums” written all over it, reports indicate that an Ohio amusement park has decided against renaming a ride “King James” after it offered to do so should LeBron James return and play for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Cedar Point Amusement Park, based in Sandusky, Ohio, and a place apparently […] The post Ohio amusement park won’t rename a ride ‘King James’ after LeBron James after all appeared first on Sportress of Blogitude.

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Minnesota Timberwolves Must Avoid Paying Ricky Rubio After Losing Kevin Love

They say it’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.

By now, the Minnesota Timberwolves know a thing or two about Love and loss alike. But after being cornered into trading away their disaffected star forward to the Cleveland Cavaliers, there’s a very real danger the franchise could overspend in a bid to avoid more loss.

It flirts with said danger on account of point guard Ricky Rubio, the Spanish would-be star Minnesota selected with the No. 5 overall pick in 2009.

To be sure, Rubio‘s situation shares little in common with Kevin Love’s. The 23-year-old has neither the superstar pedigree nor the requisite leverage to force a trade at this juncture.

Moreover, he’s given no indication that he intends to do such a thing.

“I’m loyal,” Rubio recently told Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski. “I want to give them back what they gave me there: a lot of love.”

Unfortunately, that love—not Love—will come at a steep price by all accounts.

The organization has until the end of October to sign Rubio to an extension, but it appears little progress has been made to that end. The chief culprit seems to be a disconnect between Rubio‘s market valuation and his agent’s ambitious agenda.

Back in April, the Star Tribune‘s Jerry Zgoda speculated as much, writing, “Expect Rubio‘s side to push for a contract closer to a maximum salary than the four-year, $44 million extension Golden State’s Stephen Curry received, which the Wolves just might view as beyond their limits.”

Months later, little has changed.

Timberwolves reporter Darren Wolfson told Sportando’s E. Trapani in August that “Rubio is on notice. The Wolves are trying to sign him to an extension, and so far his agent, Dan Fegan, is balking at the idea of a 4-year, $43 million deal.”

“That’s plenty for a player of Rubio‘s caliber,” Wolfson adds. ”It’s a lot more than Atlanta point guard Jeff Teague makes—maybe a better player—and is what Golden State All-Star guard Stephen Curry makes. But Fegan is seeking the five-year max. That’s not happening. The situation is pointing toward Rubio being a restricted free agent next summer.”

In March, Grantland’s Zach Lowe described Rubio as “among the most divisive players in the league now, in part because of the sense that his agent, Dan Fegan, is going to demand an eight-figure extension that Rubio does not yet deserve.”

Accordingly, restricted free agency wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, especially for the Timberwolves.

Unless Rubio make significant strides this season, it’s unlikely other teams will offer him anywhere near a max deal. Even with the massive deals Chandler Parsons and Gordon Hayward recently signed, the market for a point guard with limited shooting ability is a different story.

The available body of evidence suggests Rubio remains a large step behind someone like Curry. Last season the Spaniard averaged 9.5 points, 8.6 assists and 2.3 steals per contest. There’s a lot to like about the line, but the bigger problem was that 2013-14 was the third consecutive season in which Rubio made well under 40 percent of his field-goal attempts—this time a career-high 38.1 percent.

Zgoda recently tweeted, “[Head coach and team president] Flip [Saunders] also said team will hire a shooting coach for this season. Rubio, [Chase] Budinger & others have been working [with] one based on LA.”

So there’s certainly a chance Rubio emerges as a much-improved shooter at some point this season, but it’s hard to imagine him approximating Curry’s production or efficiency.

The Golden State Warriors floor general averaged 24 points and 8.5 assists per game last season, converting on 47.1 percent of his field-goal attempts in the process. Rubio has a long way to go before putting up those kinds of numbers.

In turn, a deal that pays Rubio somewhere on the order of $10 million annually would seem nothing short of generous.

Exploring the free-agent market next summer may reveal as much.

In the meantime, Minnesota should resist the urge to overpay. Tempting as it may be to lock up a franchise cornerstone (shortly after losing another), Rubio is far more replaceable than Love. 

It’s true that teams like the Timberwolves sometimes have to sweeten deals due to the difficulties they have attracting external talent. Rubio‘s qualified commitment to the franchise may even indicate that now’s the time for such a loyalty bonus.

Until the Timberwolves start winning, money is all they have to offer.

“I like Minnesota,” Rubio explained to NBA.com’s Scott Howard-Cooper in June. “But I want to win too. Of course when a big guy like [Love] leaves you’re thinking about what’s going to be happening with the team. Are we going to lose a lot?”

“Before I came to Minnesota, the season before they won like 17 games,” Rubio continued. “I was a little scared when I went there. I’m coming from Europe, where I was playing in Barcelona. I think we lost six games or seven games in two seasons, and every loss was a disaster. I don’t want to go through a process like every win is something special.” 

Wins may indeed be special this season, which could certainly lead Rubio‘s eyes to begin wandering.

There haven’t been any ultimatums thus far, though. In fact, Rubio has attempted to distance himself from the contract process.

“It’s something I’m not worried about,” Rubio told reporters in April. “It’s something my agent is going to talk [about] with Flip. It’s something I don’t have to be worried [about]. I just worry about playing.”

Soon enough, however, he may be worried about playing for a raise over the $5,070,686 he’s scheduled to make this season, according to Basketball-Reference.com. Unless his camp reaches an understanding with Minnesota, the campaign ahead reasons to be something of a league-wide audition.

An audition Saunders and Co. will watch closely.

In the event Rubio discovers a jump shot and transforms himself into a well-rounded scoring threat, the organization will happily reward him financially. But the Timberwolves would be well-served by allowing the market to make that determination.

They’ll have the right to match any offer Rubio receives next summer, so there’s little need to pre-empt that process with a potentially inflated extension.

This is no time for impulse buys.

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After Tough Playoffs, Mario Chalmers Promises a Major Comeback for Heat

MIAMI — It had been nearly a month since his downward spiral had finally stopped, only because the NBA season had cruelly ended. Even after enduring enough recrimination and ridicule to last any athlete a dozen lifetimes, Mario Chalmers still couldn’t stop blaming himself.    

“I just needed to be by myself,” Chalmers told Bleacher Report last week, following a morning workout at AmericanAirlines Arena. “I just needed to get away. That was the main thing.”    

Yet, for a while, the only place he went was deeper inside his own head.      

“To be honest, I sat in the house and pouted,” Chalmers said. “I felt like, for us to have the opportunity to accomplish a three-peat like that, and not being able to perform to the best of my ability, not being able to be there for my team. … I just felt like I let people down. Especially with it being my contract year, I feel like I let myself down along with the Heat organization.”

What Chalmers had done, after a solid regular season as the Miami Heat‘s starting point guard, was completely come apart in the NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs, to the point that head coach Erik Spoelstra pulled him from the starting lineup for Game 5 in San Antonio.

That came after Chalmers had started in his last 280 regular-season or playoff appearances, dating back to Game 6 of the 2011 NBA Finals. That came after Chalmers had made his name, as a collegian and as a pro, for self-assurance that at times exceeded, but also enhanced, his abilities. 

“You know, for the first time in my career, I felt like I wasn’t…yeah, my confidence wasn’t there,” Chalmers said. “Going through that whole San Antonio series, I just felt like in the playoffs I kept getting worse and worse every round. I just couldn’t figure it out.”

Even as others—coaches, teammates, family, friends, reporters—had all the answers. 

“Yeah, that’s the worst thing, because you never know,” Chalmers said. “Everybody in my ear, talking about ‘We need you, we need you to do this, we need you to do that.’ And then when it comes to the game, I didn’t feel involved. Like, you all talk about how y’all need me, but y’all didn’t put me in position to do anything. In previous years, if I was in that position, I would make sure I would go get the ball, I would put myself in position to score. I felt like this year, we all just took too much of a back seat in the Finals.”

And after it was over, after he’d averaged 4.4 points, 3.2 fouls and 2.0 turnovers while shooting 33.3 percent from the field in the Finals, he struggled to find anything or anyone to move him forward.

Then, at last, someone did.

“It was actually my son, really,” Chalmers said. “He was with me that whole time. I would do some stuff with him, and then I would just go sit down somewhere. And he came to me and was, like, ‘Dad, don’t worry about it, let’s go play basketball, I’ll beat you.’ Just being around your kids, that just brings a smile to your face. That triggered me in my mind, like, it’s not the end of the world. You win some, you lose some. You’ve still got the bigger picture, and you’ve still got another year to come back and get better.”

So did he let Zachiah win?

“Nah, I didn’t,” Chalmers said, laughing. “I think he only scored one point. I kind of took it out on him a little bit.” 

Still, even as Chalmers’ psyche was recovering, his future remained uncertain. His contract had expired on June 30 and, after playing six seasons in Miami—the last three for a total of $12 millionhe was hardly guaranteed to return. At the start of free agency, it actually seemed like a longshot, and not only to Heat fans who had seen first-round draft pick Shabazz Napier added to Norris Cole on the team’s point guard depth chart.  

“I didn’t think I’d be back,” Chalmers said. “I didn’t think that at all. I didn’t even think the Heat would want me back, to be honest. That’s how I felt like my playoff performance was, that they didn’t want me back, they wanted to go another direction. So that was in my mind, too, but I was, like, if it happens, it happens.”

He received some encouragement from Heat general manager Andy Elisburg, who called to say that the team still considered him part of the family and still had an interest in retaining him. They just needed to see how LeBron James‘ free agency played out, and they’d come back to him. ”I at least knew that one team wanted me right now,” Chalmers said. “So that was a good thing.” 

Uplifted by that knowledge, Chalmers tried to show the world that he’d shaken off his stupor, posting Instagram video evidence of strength and fitness training, announcing he had “sat around long enough,” and sharing his signature line for the summer: “Minor setback for a major comeback.” 

That was July 10.

That night, James flew back from Las Vegas to Miami with Dwyane Wade, still seemingly up in the air about whether he’d sign with the Heat or Cavaliers. Early the next afternoon, Sports Illustrated published James’ “Coming Home” essay.

Two nights later, Chalmers agreed to a two-year, $8.3 million contract with the rapidly reworked Heat. Pat Riley added him back to a roster thatby week’s endwould officially include Danny Granger, Josh McRoberts and Luol Deng to supplement the re-signed Wade, Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem and Chris Andersen. 

And, after signing the contract, Chalmers’ own workload intensified, chronicled with frequent Instagram posts that often referenced “the grind.” They were for himself, and for the public. 

“[I was] just saying that I didn’t give up on myself,” Chalmers said. “I didn’t quit. A lot of people doubted me, a lot of people still doubt me. But I believe in myself. And I’ve got a good organization that believes in me too.”

He hopes to reward that organization with stronger play from start to finish this season, due in part to a reshaped body. After initially joining James and Wade in trying to follow now-former teammate Ray Allen’s paleo diet, Chalmers felt irritable without all of the carbohydrates, especially as he intensified his workouts.

But even after altering his eating regimen somewhat, he insists he’s already close to “tip-top shape.” Chalmers has been training at the P3 sports training complex in Santa Barbara and noted he was “getting back to the basics” with Wade, Cole, McRoberts, Udonis Haslem and others during three strenuous but enjoyable days at Indiana University.

Chalmers returned from California early so he should lead the Heat’s young players in their team’s practice gym.

He’s also adopted a healthy attitude, as it relates to his reshaped role, one that he characterizes as “a jack of all trades.”

Pat Riley, in a video address to fans, called Chalmers “a player that we feel very confident about, back at starting point guard.” Still, Chalmers recognizes that—with two other point guards on the roster and no established backup for Wadehe might need to return to his Kansas roots, spending some time at both spots. Spoelstra and Riley have each told him separately that he will have the ball in his hands more, with more opportunities to score. 

“I feel like I’ve finally got a chance to shine, show my real game,” Chalmers said. “Me, CB, D-Wade and the rest of the guys, we’re going to pick it up, we’re still going to play Miami Heat basketball, and we’re still gonna be a competitor.”

He says confidence is no longer an issue.

“Fresh season,” Chalmers said. “Fresh start. Got a fresh team. You know, everybody [is] forgetting about us right now. That’s when we shine, when people forget about us.”

He has made this point often on Instagram as well, warning the pundits to “keep sleepin on the Heat,” promising fans that ”we will b back heat nation,” taunting the doubters with “u want some come get some.” He has even continued to use the #heatles hashtag, even though only six players remain from the 2013 champions, and though he recognizes the Heat aren’t the NBA’s most hunted team anymore.

They were for a while. Hunted and, by some, hated. Like few teams in NBA history. 

“Four years,” Chalmers said. “And now we’re the forgotten team. So it’s good. We all accept it. I’ve talked to D-Wade several times, I’ve talked to CB several times. We’re ready.”

Wade and Haslem have been with the Heat since 2003, Chalmers since 2008, Bosh since 2010. He references the song “Seen It All“ by Jay-Z and Young Jeezy, as consistent with their circumstances: “There’s nothing new that we don’t know, that we don’t know what to expect and we don’t know what to put in to get out. So we’re ready for it.”

And while he speaks of a “totally different energy” and acknowledges “there’s a lot of emotions going around right now,” he doesn’t mean those as digs at the departed James. That probably needs to be made clear, after some of his recent, cryptic Instagram posts have been interpreted that way.

Chalmers laughs at those assumptions. 

“I mean, I’ve never, ever taken a shot at anybody on Twitter without saying their name,” Chalmers said. “I’m the type of person, if I’ve got something to say, I’m going to say it to your face. So all this stuff that they’re trying to break up between me and ‘Bron or whatever—I mean, I’ve talked to ‘Bron five or six times during the summer. That’s still going to be my big brother. We’re always going to be friends. On the court, we’re going to go at each other, we’re going to compete and we’re going to try to draw blood. But off the court, we’re still going to be friends, it’s still going to be a brotherhood. It’s just basketball stuff.”

So, what about the post on Aug. 23, vaguely referencing loyalty and royalty?

“That wasn’t even about him,” Chalmers said. “He’s from Cleveland, so that’s his loyalty. It’s nothing. None of my tweets, Instagram posts have been about anybody. I just like rattling people’s brains, make them think something.”

He smiles. But he is serious, and unambiguous, about something else:

How he’ll respond from his playoff setback. 

What does he say to those who don’t expect a major comeback?

“Just watch,” Chalmers said, smiling. “Just watch. I’m not gonna say nothing else. I’m not gonna toot my own horn or nothing. Just watch.” 

 

Ethan Skolnick covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @EthanJSkolnick.

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Mario Chalmers, After Tough Playoffs, Promises a Major Comeback for Heat

MIAMI — It had been nearly a month since his downward spiral had finally stopped, only because the NBA season had cruelly ended. Even after enduring enough recrimination and ridicule to last any athlete a dozen lifetimes, Mario Chalmers still couldn’t stop blaming himself.    

“I just needed to be by myself,” Chalmers told Bleacher Report last week, following a morning workout at American Airlines Arena. “I just needed to get away. That was the main thing.”    

Yet, for a while, the only place he went was deeper inside his own head.      

“To be honest, I sat in the house and pouted,” Chalmers said. “I felt like, for us to have the opportunity to accomplish a three-peat like that, and not being able to perform to the best of my ability, not being able to be there for my team…. I just felt like I let people down. Especially with it being my contract year, I feel like I let myself down along with the Heat organization.”

What Chalmers had done, after a solid regular season as the Miami Heat‘s starting point guard, was completely come apart in the NBA Finals against the Spurs, to the point that Erik Spoelstra pulled him from the starting lineup for Game 5 in San Antonio. That came after Chalmers had started in his last 280 regular season or playoff appearances, dating back to Game 6 of the 2011 NBA Finals. That came after Chalmers had made his name, as a collegian and as a pro, for self-assurance that at times exceeded, but also enhanced, his abilities. 

“You know, for the first time in my career, I felt like I wasn’t…yeah, my confidence wasn’t there,” Chalmers said. “Going through that whole San Antonio series, I just felt like in the playoffs I kept getting worse and worse every round. I just couldn’t figure it out.”

Even as others—coaches, teammates, family, friends, reporters—had all the answers. 

“Yeah, that’s the worst thing, because you never know,” Chalmers said. “Everybody in my ear, talking about ‘We need you, we need you to do this, we need you to do that.’ And then when it comes to the game, I didn’t feel involved. Like, you all talk about how y’all need me, but y’all didn’t put me in position to do anything. In previous years, if I was in that position, I would make sure I would go get the ball, I would put myself in position to score. I felt like this year, we all just took too much of a back seat in the Finals.”

And after it was over, after he’d averaged 4.4 points, 3.2 fouls and 2.0 turnovers while shooting 33.3 percent from the field in the Finals, he struggled to find anything or anyone to move him forward.

Then, at last, someone did.

“It was actually my son really,” Chalmers said. “He was with me that whole time. I would do some stuff with him and then I would just go sit down somewhere. And he came to me and was, like, ‘Dad, don’t worry about it, let’s go play basketball, I’ll beat you.’ Just being around your kids, that just brings a smile to your face. That triggered me in my mind, like, it’s not the end of the world. You win some, you lose some. You’ve still got the bigger picture, and you’ve still got another year to come back and get better.”

So did he let Zachiah win?

“Nah, I didn’t,” Chalmers said, laughing. “I think he only scored one point. I kind of took it out on him a little bit.” 

Still, even as Chalmers’ psyche was recovering, his future remained uncertain. His contract had expired on June 30 and, after playing six seasons in Miami—the last three for a total of $12 millionhe was hardly guaranteed to return. At the start of free agency, it actually seemed like a longshot, and not only to Heat fans who had seen first-round draft pick Shabazz Napier added to Norris Cole on the team’s point guard depth chart.  

“I didn’t think I’d be back,” Chalmers said. “I didn’t think that at all. I didn’t even think the Heat would want me back, to be honest. That’s how I felt like my playoff performance was, that they didn’t want me back, they wanted to go another direction. So that was in my mind, too, but I was, like, if it happens, it happens.”

He received some encouragement from Heat general manager Andy Elisburg, who called to say that the team still considered him part of the family, and still had an interest in retaining him. They just needed to see how LeBron James‘ free agency played out, and they’d come back to him. ”I at least knew that one team wanted me right now,” Chalmers said. “So that was a good thing.” 

Uplifted by that knowledge, Chalmers tried to show the world that he’d shaken off his stupor, posting Instagram video evidence of strength and fitness training, announcing he had “sat around long enough,” and sharing his signature line for the summer: “Minor setback for a major comeback.” 

 

That was July 10.

That night, James flew back from Las Vegas to Miami with Dwyane Wade, still seemingly up in the air about whether he’d sign with the Heat or Cavaliers. Early the next afternoon, SportsIllustrated.com published James “Coming Home” essay. Two nights later, Chalmers agreed to a two-year, $8.3 million contract with the rapidly reworked Heat, with Pat Riley adding him back to a roster thatby week’s endwould officially include Danny Granger, Josh McRoberts and Luol Deng to supplement the re-signed Wade, Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem and Chris Andersen. 

And, after signing the contract, Chalmers’ own workload intensified, chronicled with frequent Instagram posts that often referenced “the grind.” They were for himself, and for the public. 

“[I was] just saying that I didn’t give up on myself,” Chalmers said. “I didn’t quit. A lot of people doubted me, a lot of people still doubt me. But I believe in myself. And I’ve got a good organization that believes in me too.”

He hopes to reward that organization with stronger play from start to finish this season, due in part to a reshaped body. After initially joining James and Wade in trying to follow now-former teammate Ray Allen’s paleo diet, Chalmers felt irritable without all of the carbohydrates, especially as he intensified his workouts. But even after altering his eating regimen somewhat, he insists he’s already close to “tip top shape,” after training at the P3 sports training complex in Santa Barbara; “getting back to the basics” with Wade, Cole, McRoberts, Udonis Haslem and others during three strenuous but enjoyable days at Indiana University; and returning from California early so he should lead the Heat’s young players in their team’s practice gym.

He’s also adopted a healthy attitude, as it relates to his reshaped role, one that he characterizes as “a jack of all trades.” Pat Riley, in a video address to fans, called Chalmers “a player that we feel very confident about, back at starting point guard,” but Chalmers recognizes that—with two other point guards on the roster and no established backup for Wadehe might need to return to his Kansas roots, spending some time at both spots. Spoelstra and Riley have each told him separately that he will have the ball in his hands more, with more opportunities to score. 

“I feel like I’ve finally got a chance to shine, show my real game,” Chalmers said. “Me, CB, D-Wade and the rest of the guys, we’re going to pick it up, we’re still going to play Miami Heat basketball, and we’re still gonna be a competitor.”

He says confidence is no longer an issue.

“Fresh season,” Chalmers said. “Fresh start. Got a fresh team. You know, everybody [is] forgetting about us right now. That’s when we shine, when people forget about us.”

He has made this point often on Instagram as well, warning the pundits to “keep sleepin on the Heat,” promising fans that “we will b back heat nation,” taunting the doubters with “u want some come get some.” He has even continued to use the #heatles hashtag, even though only six players remain from the 2013 champions, and though he recognizes the Heat aren’t the NBA’s most hunted team anymore.

They were for a while. Hunted and, by some, hated. Like few teams in NBA history. 

“Four years,” Chalmers said. “And now we’re the forgotten team. So it’s good. We all accept it. I’ve talked to D-Wade several times, I’ve talked to CB several times. We’re ready.”

Wade and Haslem have been with the Heat since 2003, Chalmers since 2008, Bosh since 2010. He references the song ‘Seen It All‘ by Jay-Z and Young Jeezy, as consistent with their circumstances: “There’s nothing new that we don’t know, that we don’t know what to expect and we don’t know what to put in to get out. So we’re ready for it.”

And while he speaks of a “totally different energy,” and acknowledges “there’s a lot of emotions going around right now,” he doesn’t mean those as digs at the departed James. That probably needs to be made clear, after some of his recent, cryptic Instagram posts have been interpreted that way.

Chalmers laughs at those assumptions. 

“I mean, I’ve never, ever taken a shot at anybody on Twitter without saying their name,” Chalmers said. “I’m the type of person, if I’ve got something to say, I’m going to say it to your face. So all this stuff that they’re trying to break up between me and ‘Bron or whatever—I mean, I’ve talked to ‘Bron five or six times during the summer. That’s still going to be my big brother. We’re always going to be friends. On the court, we’re going to go at each other, we’re going to compete and we’re going to try to draw blood. But off the court, we’re still going to be friends, it’s still going to be a brotherhood. It’s just basketball stuff.”

So, what about the post on Aug. 23, vaguely referencing loyalty and royalty?

“That wasn’t even about him,” Chalmers said. “He’s from Cleveland, so that’s his loyalty. It’s nothing. None of my tweets, Instagram posts have been about anybody. I just like rattling people’s brains, make them think something.”

He smiles. But he is serious, and unambiguous, about something else:

How he’ll respond from his playoff setback. 

What does he say to those who don’t expect a major comeback?

“Just watch,” Chalmers said, smiling. “Just watch. I’m not gonna say nothing else. I’m not gonna toot my own horn or nothing. Just watch.” 

 

Ethan Skolnick covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @EthanJSkolnick.

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Is Kyrie Irving Now the Face of Team USA After FIBA World Cup MVP Performance?

So much of the talk during Team USA’s pre-FIBA training camp concerned how head coach Mike Krzyzewski would construct a team perfectly suited to stop Spain’s formidable frontcourt for when—not if—the two sides met in the final.

But with upstart Serbia crashing the final in Spain’s stead, it was Kyrie Irving who proved he’s perfectly suited to become the face of Team USA’s future.

Irving was electric in Sunday’s gold-medal game, tallying 26 points on 10-of-13 shooting (including a perfect 6-of-6 from distance) in a 129-92 blowout win, helping Team USA secure its fourth-straight first-place finish in international competition.

The performance earned Irving honors as the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, capping off a year in which the 22-year-old star captured the NBA All-Star Game’s MVP award and signed a five-year, $90 million extension with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

After falling behind 15-7 in the early going, Irving and backcourt mate James Harden took control, scoring 13 of their team’s next 15 points en route to a 35-21 first-quarter lead from which Serbia would never recover.

Harden was equally unguardable, registering 23 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the floor on a night when eight Team USA players finished in double figures.

Playing without Team USA staples LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony, Krzyzewski was forced to rely instead on a kind of leadership-by-committee.

Irving’s emergence might change that equation.

To be sure, there were plenty for whom FIBA will surely serve as a springboard to stardom, with Kenneth Faried and Anthony Davis—key to Krzyzewski’s strategy of employing disruptive, hyper-athletic defenders in the frontcourt—being the most notable examples.

Irving, however, represents something even more crucial: a young, explosive floor general tailor-made for the international game.

For an NBA player who’s struggled at times with shot selection and decision-making, Irving was a paragon of poise during Team USA’s golden run, registering 50 percent or more from the floor over the course of the tournament and finishing with an astonishing 60.9 percent clip from three-point range.

That’s music to James, Kevin Love and the rest of the Cavaliers’ ears, who are already seen by many as the undisputed favorites heading into the 2014-15 NBA season.

To Team USA, it’s merely the opening salvo to what could be a years-long masterpiece by its new backcourt maestro.

Indeed, even in the wake of Paul George’s gruesome injury—a tragedy that sparked heated debate within NBA circles about the costs and benefits of players participating in international competition—Cavs general manager David Griffin was quick to acknowledge the bona fide boon of one of his best players testing his talents on a global stage.

“Kyrie Irving’s getting the most important game action of his life right now,” Griffin recently told the Northeast Ohio Media Group’s Chris Fedor. “He’s getting better literally every day. He showed up trying to make that team and he appears to be at least the part-time starter now. He’s earning his stripes when it matters. It’s going to be enormously valuable to us.”

Of course, given the NBA’s wealth of point guard talent, Irving’s place is by no means guaranteed. Just ask Derrick Rose, whose much-publicized FIBA return was beset by disappointing showings and growing concerns over the 25-year-old’s long-term effectiveness.

Meanwhile, Damian Lillard and John Wall—two of Krzyzewski’s final training camp cuts—are sure to have their voices heard in the years ahead.

Good thing, then, that Irving is about to receive a basketball education of a different sort: playing understudy to two of the game’s best basketball minds.

Between James and new head coach David Blatt—himself a veteran of the international circuit—Cleveland has a chance to rewrite the offensive record books. And while James is sure to remain in his role as five-tool playmaker, it’ll be Irving whose game stands to benefit the most.

That, in turn, only solidifies Irving’s hold on Team USA’s reins—especially if James and Durant bowing out of FIBA portends an end to their respective gold-medal gambits.

In a framework that prioritizes guard play, Irving’s skill set—a point guard’s handle with a shooting guard’s touch—is the kind of asset around which Team USA president Jerry Colangelo can comfortably build.

With the Brazil Olympics a mere two years away, Team USA is sure to keep one eye trained squarely on Irving, to gauge whether playing alongside James and Love helps or hinders his growth and development.

If his performance at FIBA is any kind of hardwood harbinger, however, Irving is fast figuring out the difference between being a team’s most statistically explosive player and its most steadily valuable.

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Building the All-FIBA World Cup Teams After Semifinals

Global dominance, at least in the basketball sense, is within grasp for the two teams left standing at the 2014 FIBA World Cup.

Following Serbia’s 90-85 victory over France on Friday, the heavily favored Team USA now knows what awaits it in Sunday’s championship clash.

So with this tournament bearing down on the final stretch, it’s time to spotlight the biggest and brightest players of all the last two weeks with three All-FIBA World Cup teams.

Whittling down this talented player pool to only 15 wasn’t easy, but a number of elements made it possible. Statistics factored heavily into the selections here, as is often the case with any basketball honor.

However, volume numbers weren’t the only determining factor. Efficiency mattered, as did value and impact to a team. While the disparity of skill levels made it tough to place a heavy premium on team success, it wasn’t completely discarded, either.

The eye test, a critical component of any subjective selections, played its own part in the process, too.

With all but two games in the books, here’s how the all-tournament team shakes out. 

Begin Slideshow

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FIBA World Cup 2014: Championship Schedule, Predictions After Semifinal Results

The United States and Serbia successfully navigated the 2014 FIBA World Cup’s 24-team bracket to earn seats in Sunday’s final.

Team USA applied a scorched earth tactic against its helpless foes, decimating the competition in a pile of routs. Serbia, meanwhile, needing a gripping close call against France to become the underdog in this tale. Anyone facing the U.S. will succumb to acting out that role.

Will the mighty favorite impose its will once again, or can Serbia shock the world during the World Cup’s curtain call?

 

Final Preview: United States vs. Serbia

It’s not the championship clash everyone expected, but the United States will still fight for the gold. Instead of facing Spain’s Gasol brothers and Serge Ibaka, Team USA must combat the surging Serbians, who ride into this matchup with a wave of good will.

Despite allowing 39 fourth-quarter points against France, Serbia salvaged a 90-85 victory during an incredible semifinal showdown. Nicolas Batum went off with 35 points for France, including eight three-pointers, but Milos Teodosic led the way for Serbia with 24 points.

NBA.com’s John Schuhmann believes the U.S. should circle Teodosic’s name upon crafting a game plan for Sunday’s final.

First, we should probably figure out who he is. The 27-year-old has played for CSKA Moscow since 2011, and he’ll remain there for three more years. USA Today‘s Adi Joseph said the 6’5″ guard could hold his own in the NBA if he wanted to.

His 24 points marks a FIBA high, but just barely after recording 23 in a quarterfinal victory over Brazil. He is now averaging 14.0 points and 4.1 assists per contest, both team bests.

Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving are scoring dynamos, but neither will ever get mistaken for Gary Payton guarding the perimeter. Team USA’s offensive-minded point guards will have their hands full against a premier international scorer, who will need to manufacture another huge performance for Serbia to stand any chance.

Mike Krzyzewski might not admit it, but there’s probably a binder sitting in his trash can with notes on Spain, Team USA’s anticipated opponent. Yet he said after dismantling Lithuania that anything is possible, even his star-laden squad losing. Per USA Today‘s Sam Amick.

I’m not surprised about anything in international competition. All these teams are good. That’s why we haven’t mentioned anybody that we might play, because we don’t know if we might play. That’s the very first thing. We can lose. If we feel we can lose, we feel anybody else can lose because there’s so many good teams.

Yet anyone not needing to keep up appearances with reporters will say otherwise. The U.S. has averaged 20 more points per game than Serbia, who has actually boasted on of the tournament’s premier offenses. Even without LeBron James and Kevin Durant, Coach K’s club is faster and stronger than everyone else.

Courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info, the nation has built up quite the international winning streak after a surprising exit eight years ago. 

It’s anyone’s guess who will provide the heavy lifting in Sunday. In the semifinals, Klay Thompson snapped out of a funk to post 16 points on the strength of five three-pointers. Although revered as one-half of the Golden State Warriors’ Splash Brothers, the shooting guard also brings defensive tenacity otherwise lacking from its backcourt.

James Harden, often mocked for his defensive limitations, acknowledged Thompson’s superior defensive acumen to NBA.com’s Sekou Smith.

“He’s been a lockdown defender for us, no doubt,” Harden said. “Scoring is never going to be a problem for him. It’s not an issue for this team. So it says something when you see guys working hard on defense and trying to make an impact any way they can.”

Although not the Team USA’s most star-studded iteration, the attention to detail has served the squad well. Rather than loading up on the biggest names, Jerry Colangelo assembled a well-rounded roster where everyone—well, maybe not Mason Plumlee—serves a purpose.

Team USA will take care of business with another decisive victory.

Prediction: United States 98, Serbia 77

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WATCH: Coach K breaks up skirmish after Team USA win

After Team USA’s win over Lithuania in the 2014 FIBA World Cup, coach Mike Krzyzewski broke up a scuffle between the two teams. We still aren’t positive as to why the fight broke out but it could have branched from earlier in the first half when Demarcus Cousins almost punched Lithuania’s Jonas Valanciunas after taking an elbow to the throat. The fight was unexpected and Coach K definitely had a sense of urgency in protecting his players.

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Mykhailiuk lands at Kansas after World Cup ouster (Yahoo Sports)

In the course of a week, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk went from playing against some of his biggest heroes on the U.S. Mykhailiuk may be the most tantalizing enigma in college basketball this season. ”His skill level, knowledge and aptitude for the game are way beyond his years,” Kansas coach Bill Self said.

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