Danny Ferry Takes Leave of Absence: Latest Details, Analysis and Updates

Atlanta Hawks general manager Danny Ferry will take an indefinite leave of absence in the aftermath of the controversy over racist comments he made about free agent Luol Deng, as reported by Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Vivlamore also tweeted out the news Friday:

Hawks CEO Steve Koonin made the announcement in a statement, via Vivlamore:

This afternoon, Danny Ferry requested, and I have approved, taking an indefinite leave of absence, effective immediately. This has been an incredibly difficult time for him and his family and it is my hope that this time away from the Hawks organization allows him the privacy he needs to listen to the community, to learn about his mistakes, and to begin the long process of personal healing. As a human being, manager and friend, I wish him well as he undergoes this process.

While the issues related to race are deeply troubling, at the heart of this dispute is an unfortunate disagreement amongst owners. That said, we have taken several steps to address what we can do as an organization to be better and stronger, including working with a diversity consultant to examine us and to train us to ensure something like this never happens again, we are committed to hiring a Chief Diversity Officer, and we have and will continue to meet with community leaders in an ongoing way to ensure our values reflect the community in which we play and work. The process of selling the team, which is to remain in Atlanta, is already underway.

Effective immediately, our Head Coach, Mike Budenholzer, will assume oversight of the basketball operations department. He will report directly to me.

I am deeply saddened and embarrassed that this has put a blemish on our team and our city, which has always been a diverse community with a history of coming together as one. We should build bridges through basketball, not divide our community or serve as a source of pain. 

Ferry, who has claimed he was reading from a report, made the offending statements during a conference call in June. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution also obtained the audio recording at the center of the controversy, which can be heard below.

The recording is only a part of what was a longer call, and Ferry does not specifically mention that he is reading from a background report on this tape. The rest of the recording was reportedly lost.

What’s more, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution provided a PDF document of the Hawks’ scouting report on Deng, which also contained racist remarks regarding the free agent.

Regarding the controversy, NBA commissioner Adam Silver recently said Ferry should keep his job.

ESPN.com noted that Ferry made the following comments when referring to Deng and the scouting report: “Has a little African in him. Not in a bad way, but he’s like a guy who would have a nice store out front but sell you counterfeit stuff out of the back.” Ferry also stated Deng was “two-faced” in referring to his report.

Before Ferry took leave, Koonin said that he would be disciplined but not lose his job. While the actual punishment was not specified, a law firm did undertake a three-month investigation into Ferry’s comments and reportedly went through 24,000 documents, conducted 19 interviews and read Ferry’s previous emails.

No other negative information was found regarding Ferry during that probe.

Ferry also called Deng to apologize, and the forward commented on the situation himself Tuesday.

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Elton Brand Re-Signs with Atlanta Hawks: Latest Contract Details and Analysis

The Atlanta Hawks have re-signed one of the top veterans still on the market in power forward Elton Brand. The sides agreed to a one-year, $2 million deal on Wednesday.

Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowksi had the news:

Brand, 35, has averaged 16.6 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks over the course of his 15-year career, but his production has dropped significantly in the past few seasons. Still, he provided 5.7 points and 4.9 rebounds in an average of 19.4 minutes per game last year.

While he is getting up there in age, he explained to Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he does not consider his career over:

“It has. It’s sad because I’ve been doing it for a long time and I love it. Body feels good and I didn’t miss any games because of injury so as long as I can still compete and help out a team, hopefully this team, we’ll see.”

Vivlamore noted that there was competition for the veteran’s services:

Meanwhile, NBA analyst Chris Palmer explained why this would have been a good move for the Los Angeles Lakers:

In the end, Brand decided to remain in Atlanta. They will now get an experienced frontcourt player who can provide solid defense off the bench as well as consistent points near the basket.

Although the two-time All-Star is no longer an impact player in the lineup, his addition to the rotation will certainly lead to a few more wins over the course of the season.

In addition to the production Brand will provide on the court, the veteran will provide plenty of leadership for the young players already on the roster. Considering he has had four seasons of averaging at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in his career, he is someone who can be a mentor.

This relatively cheap signing represents very little risk for the organization and should pay off in a big way during the 2014-15 season.

 

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Serbia vs Spain FIBA World Cup 2014: Game Grades, Analysis for Orlovi vs La Roja

Serbia hung in the best they could against the undefeated Spaniards through much of the game, but Spain’s dominance on both ends was enough to defeat the Serbs, 89-73, to wrap up the group phase. 

It was a chippy game towards the end, with Serbian coach Sasha Djordjevic being ejected after being assessed his second technical foul in the fourth. Referees and players from both sides got into it, but all parties seemed cordial by the final buzzer.

On the floor, Spain put on a clinic through most of the way, playing their aesthetically pleasing brand of high-pace, wide-open basketball while featuring their glut of NBA big men whenever possible. Serbia did its best to compete, and did so valiantly. But the Spanish talent won out, and it was evident in the final score.

 

Serbia Grades:

Bogdan BogdanovicB

Stefan MarkovicC-

Milos Teodosic: C

Miroslav Raduljica: B

Nemanja Bjelica: A-

Rest of Team: D

 

Spain Grades:

Ricky Rubio: A-

Pau Gasol: A-

Marc Gasol: A

Serge Ibaka: B-

Juan Carlos Navarro: B+

Rest of Team: B+

 

Bogdan BogdanovicB

Just 22, it’s clear to see why Bogdan Bogdanovic was drafted in the first round of this year’s NBA Draft. The 6’6″ guard finished up with eight points, two rebounds and four assists on three-of-seven shooting. He made a pair of threes and helped keep Serbia within striking distance through most of the first half. 

His four dimes led the team, and he was one of the only Serbian players capable of creating offense for himself. He launched five threes over his 24 minutes, and he was visibly forcing some shots as the Spain lead ballooned. The individual skills are clearly there for Bogdanovic, who currently plays for Fenerbahce Ulker, but Serbia just doesn’t have enough talent to compete with a team like Spain.

 

Stefan Markovic: C-

Stefan Markovic did a decent job of setting teammates up most of the way, but either the Spain front line was able to gobble up any close attempts, or Serbs just weren’t able to convert. By the time he started forcing action once the Spain lead inflated, he did more harm than good.

He connected on two of his four shots for four points and rounded out the score sheet with three assists and two rebounds. Markovic had a good feel for his teammates most of the way, but Spain’s intensity on both ends was just too much to handle. He became sloppy as the game went on and the pressure mounted, resulting in a pair of turnovers and a team-worst minus-23 plus-minus rating.

 

Milos Teodosic: C

Averaging 11 points and five assists going into Thursday’s game, Milos Teodosic has been a good all-around contributor thus far for the Serbs. But with the active Spain defense blowing most plays up before they can even start, Teodosic‘s impact was minimal. 

He struggled shooting, going four-of-eight from the field, draining two of his five three-pointers. He racked up a pair of assists but turned the ball over just as many times. With Ricky Rubio, Jose Calderon and Juan Carlos Navarro on fire in the backcourt all game long, Teodosic clearly lost the head-to-head battle Thursday.

 

Miroslav Raduljica: B

With 14.5 points on average entering Thursday, Miroslav Radjulica was Serbia’s leading scorer. The seven-footer put up 13 points and four rebounds Thursday, though Spain’s versatile talent’s near the rim made Raduljica pay time after time on both ends of the floor. 

The Serbian team neglected the inside game much of the way, and finally began featuring him towards the end of the third quarter. By then, of course, it was too late. He was active in the screen game, but whatever impact he may have had against an inferior opponent was wiped out by the Gasols and other Spanish bigs.

 

Nemanja Bjelica: A-

As dominant as Spain was, they let Nemanja Bjelica slip through the cracks through most of the game. He finished the game leading Serbia in points and rebounds with 19 and 10, respectively. 

The 6’10″ forward made six of his 14 shots, and was a rare Serbian to find success inside the arc.

 

Rest of Team: D

Serbia has plenty of size on their bench, but nobody was quite able to contend with Spain’s dominance down low. Nikola Kalinic was extremely ineffective over his 12 minutes, scoring just one point while grabbing two rebounds and turning it over once. Vladimir Stimac didn’t get a chance until the waning moments of the third, but looked effective over his nine minutes. He shot three-of-six from in close for six points and grabbed three boards. Serbia was plus-seven with him on the floor in the second half.

 

 

Ricky Rubio: A-

In his 101st career game for the Spanish national team, Ricky Rubio played like a veteran despite his still-raw age of 23. He produced 12 points of his own—including an uncontested 15-footer in the first half to begin to bury Serbia. His six assists led the team, as did his plus-33 plus-minus rating. 

He worked well with the bigs, featuring both Gasol brothers early and often, and constantly kicked out to his guard peers in transition. Rubio is still searching for his niche in the NBA, but he’s one of the best point guards to suit up in international play today.

The most surprising part of his game Thursday was that he received a technical foul late in the fourth. He’s gotten T’d up just six times over his three NBA years.

 

Pau Gasol: A-

Pau Gasol ended with the most offensive output for Spain, going for 20 points on six-of-11 shooting, including a perfect eight-of-eight from the line. Rubio was able to find him in his favorite spots, and when he was challenged by Raduljica or other Serbian bigs, he was quick enough to simply beat them to the rim. 

He only grabbed four rebounds and had one assist, but with the way he was excelling with the ball, and with the way his teammates were performing around him, Gasol provided Spain with all they needed from him. 

 

Marc Gasol: A

With his brother beside him in the paint, and several creating guards along the perimeter, Marc Gasol thrived from start to finish. He finished shooting five-of-six, going for 11 points and leading the team with eight rebounds. He had two assists and even drilled an impressive three-pointer when Spain were making their early, energizing push in the first quarter.

Along with his brother, the team’s guards were able to find him in spots to thrive, and the Serbian bigs stood no match. The one-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year had no problem handling them on the other end, either, and swatted a block along the way.

 

Serge Ibaka: B-

Ibaka wasn’t featured as much as the rest of the team’s NBA bigs, but the 24-year-old still finished with four rebounds and a block, though he wasn’t much of a factor offensively. His most noticeable offensive glimpse came in the second half when he clumsily pulled up for a transition three on the wing. It ended with a rebound that clanked out to nearly mid-court. Spain was actually minus-nine with him on the floor.

 

Juan Carlos Navarro: B+

 

The one-time NBAer finished as the second-leading scorer for Spain with 15, and connected on five of his seven attempts, including three of his four three-pointers. He handed out a pair of assists and pulled down two rebounds on the defensive end. Rubio had no problem finding him in transition, and he fit right into the fast-paced, wide-open Spanish attack.

 

Rest of Team: B+

Jose Calderon and Rudy Fernandez both contributed positively for Spain. They combined for 17 points, two assists and two rebounds, with Fernandez thriving in the fast break. With Rubio playing so well, Calderon wasn’t relied on for much through the first three quarters. Sergio Llull played plenty of minutes but didn’t fair particularly well with the ball, shooting 2-of-7. 

Sergio Rodriguez, one-time NBA point guard and reigning Euroleague MVP, finished with two points and an assist over 15 minutes without a field goal.

 

Coming Up Next:

With group play finished up, Spain has finished first and Serbia fourth in Group A. Both teams move onto Madrid to play in the Round of 16. Serbia will take on Greece while Spain will face Senegal.

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Earl Grant to College of Charleston: Latest Contract Details, Analysis, Reaction

Longtime assistant men’s basketball coach Earl Grant is getting his shot to helm his own team, taking over as head coach for the College of Charleston.

CofC.edu’s Mike Robertson reported the news of Grant’s hiring on Tuesday, relaying a message from the school’s president, Glenn McConnell. The following is an excerpt from McConnell’s official statement:

First and foremost Earl is a very impressive leader and a teacher. His positive attitude, strong work ethic and vivacious personality will have a lasting impact on our players, students, alumni and the entire college community. I am positive that his vast energy and desire for excellence will propel the College of Charleston basketball program to new heights. 

He is well known for his many years as an exceptional recruiter, both in evaluating talent and developing relationships. His integrity will help us recruit elite student-athletes who will win championships and make us proud both on and off of the court. He can bring us instant success in the upcoming recruiting season and have an immediate positive impact that will pay dividends for years.

ESPN’s Andy Katz observed Sunday how Grant would go on to become the latest in Clemson’s coaching tree to take over another program:

Grant was an assistant for the Tigers for five previous seasons primarily under Brad Brownell. Before then, he was an assistant at Wichita State and worked with Gregg Marshall, who just guided the Shockers to an undefeated regular season in 2013-14.      

The Cougars are indeed getting a coach in Grant with an excellent pedigree, if not any head coaching experience. 

Grant’s predecessor, Doug Wojcik, was fired amid allegations of verbally abusing players, and that may have contributed to the squad’s poor performance in 2013-14, when they posted a meager 14-18 record.

What should make Charleston fans excited about Grant is that has a reputation for luring talent on the recruiting trail and developing it in college. At the beginning of July, Wojcik wasn’t recruiting. That is a needed change.

According to ClemsonTigers.com, Grant worked mostly with point guards during his most recent assistant stint. Guard play tends to be crucial in the NCAA tournament, and the reigning national champion Connecticut Huskies can attest to that. UConn coach Kevin Ollie, a former NBA point guard, helped mold Shabazz Napier into a stupendous championship leader who became a first-round draft pick.

That’s not to say Grant will replicate such a massive feat at Charleston, but the general principle is similar. It will likely take time for Grant to establish himself, though, given that the Cougars have had little success in recent years.

At least the future looks far brighter for Charleston, as Grant has a great opportunity to establish himself in the mid-major Colonial Athletic Association and bring plenty of positivity to a program that needs it at the moment. Look for the Cougars to upgrade their talent and contend for the CAA title within the next few years.

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Spain vs. Egypt FIBA World Cup 2014: Game Grades, Analysis for La Roja, Pharaohs

Coming off a dominant performance against Iran, Spain showed once again why it’s a FIBA World Cup contender with a 91-54 win over Egypt on Day 2.

Not only did Spain have home-court advantage as host, it had an undeniable edge in size, quickness and just about every major statistical category.

The team jumped out to a 15-2 lead halfway through the first quarter, and while Egypt put together a much better second period, Spain was intent on dominating the entire second half.

 

Spain Grades

Pau Gasol: B

Marc Gasol: B+

Serge Ibaka: A

Rudy Fernandez: A-

Rest of Team: B+

 

Pau Gasol: B

Following Day 1 of the FIBA World Cup, Pau Gasol was the leading scorer and leading efficiency-per-game player of the entire tournament, according to FIBA.com.

Against Egypt, he wasn’t able to reproduce the production that earned him those accomplishments, but he shot well when given the opportunity, which is all Spain needed.

Finishing with 12 points, the new Chicago Bulls big man knocked down 63 percent of his shots. He only managed to grab three rebounds in more than 19 minutes, however, but we’ll give him a pass because his team won that category by 15.

 

Marc Gasol: B+

Marc Gasol entered this contest following a 15-point, 10-rebound performance against Iran. If we’re holding him to that standard, he didn’t have nearly as solid a showing as fans would have liked.

That said, the big man’s role was slightly reduced because of Serge Ibaka‘s return, and quite frankly, he did what he needed to do to intimidate Egypt’s interior players—something that won’t go in any box score. This won’t go down as a memorable performance, but there was nothing wrong with it, either.

 

Serge Ibaka: A

Before the contest began, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann reported that Ibaka was warming up and looking OK after missing Saturday’s competition against Iran.

As it turned out, we saw that for ourselves as soon as he entered the game with a putback slam and a blocked shot late in the first quarter.

Throughout the contest, Ibaka helped spread the floor with his mid-range jumper, but people will remember this one for how often he was soaring above the rim for dunks and rebounds.

In just under 21 minutes, the big man finished with 18 points on 67 percent shooting while bringing down eight boards in the process.

 

Rudy Fernandez: A-

You could see how hard Fernandez was going to play from the opening tipoff. The ball went up, Spain masterfully tipped the ball away from the defense and Fernandez was off to the races for a quick attempt at a transition bucket.

Unfortunately for Fernandez, the rock didn’t drop, as international rules allow defenses to knock the ball off the rim.

However, this was hardly a bad omen for Spain, as Fernandez used his energy to score 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting (2-of-2 from deep) and collect two steals and a block along the way.

 

Rest of Team: B+

When looking at the rest of the roster, there were very few actual poor performances—Jose Calderon’s 0-of-4 shooting in nearly 15 minutes is the exception.

That just proves what kind of level this team is playing at, and it proves that it will contend deep into the World Cup.

During the matchup against Egypt, guys such as Sergio Llull and Sergio Rodriguez played with relentless energy and made plays on both ends that won’t go down in the box score, although numerous players fit that category at different times of the contest.

Three-point shooting was a problem in this one, as the team went just 7-of-25; however, the team nailed 61 percent of its two-pointers, according to FIBA.com, and pushed the tempo to an unmatched level from the onset of the competition.

 

Egypt Grades

Ibrahim Elgammal: B

Amr Gendy: C-

Moustafa Elmekawi: C

Ramy Ibrahim: D-

Rest of Team: D-

 

Ibrahim Elgammal: B

In spite of being down 42-24 after the second period, Egypt had one bright spot at halftime: Ibrahim Elgammal.

The 6’2″ perimeter player came alive in the second quarter, accumulating eight points by the half. His unwillingness to concede early is what made the second period competitive (14 points for Egypt, 16 points for Spain), and he ultimately went on to finish with 16 points, four rebounds and three assists.

 

Amr Gendy: C-

Although Gendy wasn’t quite the silver lining Elgammal was by the end of the first half, he was something of the sort in the first quarter.

When Egypt was struggling to put the ball in the basket early, Gendy was the only consistent option. In fact, he had half of his team’s points until the 8:25 mark of the second quarter.

The only problem is that at that point he only had six points, meaning Egypt only had 12, and he wouldn’t score again the rest of the way.

 

Moustafa Elmekawi: C

Admittedly, you have to search for small details when looking for positives from Egypt’s performance. But that’s what basketball is often about during learning experiences.

When it comes to Elmekawi, the 6’8″ guard was aggressive at the rim in the first quarter. He wasn’t able to do much against the size of Spain, but his footwork was decent, and he threatened points down low despite only scoring six on the night.

 

Ramy Ibrahim: D-

If you think we’ve been generous with Egypt’s grades up to this point considering the final score, you might be right. But that’s about to change as we discuss Ramy Ibrahim.

At 6’9″, the power forward is tied as Egypt’s tallest player, yet nearly half of his total shots were from behind the arc.

He did manage to pull down seven rebounds, but having shot 0-of-7 on the night for zero points, his size may have been better utilized if he’d been aggressive in trying to draw fouls in the paint.

 

Rest of Team: D-

In the first quarter alone, we saw Egypt shoot 0-of-8 from behind the arc. The team found slight success when it attacked the rim, but the problem is that it just didn’t have the confidence to approach the bigs of Spain.

By the end of the game, Egypt had shot just 34 percent from the field and 16 percent from downtown.

We won’t give the rest of the roster an F because there were stretches where attacking the rim seemed like an actual goal, but virtually everything else was tough for fans to swallow. 

 

Coming Up Next

Both of these teams play again on Monday, Sept. 1. Spain will take on Brazil, while Egypt will face France.

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France vs. Brazil: Game Grades, Analysis for FIBA World Cup 2014 Matchup

The 2014 FIBA World Cup got underway for Brazil and France, with the two teams facing each other in Group A action. It was a close affair, with Brazil taking a lead midway through the second quarter and not relinquishing it in its 65-63 victory. France, for its part, was able to keep things close after trailing by 10 partway through the third quarter, but it was never able to come all the way back.

Brazil Grades

Marcelinho Huertas: A

The Brazilian point guard was the most effective player on the court. He had good ball movement, finding teammates for five assists. On top of that, he also got in on the scoring action, notching a game-high 16 points and spreading the floor by hitting two of his three-point attempts, which helped open up the paint for Brazil’s frontcourt.

He had a nice fourth quarter for Brazil. On one possession he hit a three-pointer, extending the lead to eight. Then a few possessions later he worked a nice give-and-go with Nene.

 

Anderson Varejao: B+

Varejao did what he does best, which is rebound the ball. He had a game-high nine rebounds, including five on the offensive glass in the victory. On top of that, he blocked one shot and got a steal for the Brazilians, as he was one of its most effective players in the paint. While he was only 2-of-8 shooting from the field, he was effective in getting to the charity stripe for a game-high six attempts. 

 

Tiago Splitter: B

Like Varejao, Splitter did his best work in the paint. The center was a pest, especially matched up against NBA teammate Boris Diaw. He recorded six points, three rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block in a well-rounded effort. 

 

Leandro Barbosa: C

Barbosa finished the game with eight points and two rebounds. He wasn’t the most efficient in getting his points, as he only made two of his nine field-goal attempts. However, both of them were three-pointers, which helped to spread the floor and allow Brazil’s frontcourt of Splitter, Varejao and Nene to work.

 

Marquinhos Vieira: B+

Other than Huertas, Vieira was the only other Brazilian in double figures. He finished the game with 10 points. He also brought down six rebounds and nailed one of his two three-point attempts in his team-high 26 minutes of action.  

 

Rest of Team: B

Brazil also got solid efforts from the rest of its team. Nene had a nice game with five points and eight rebounds while shooting guard Raulzinho Neto notched six points, three rebounds and one steal in 17 minutes of action.

 

France Grades

Boris Diaw: A

Diaw was far and away France’s best player. He had a well-rounded game, scoring 15 points, grabbing six rebounds and dishing out six assists. He was also effective on defense, blocking one shot and recording one steal.

Perhaps his most memorable play came at the end of the game when he cut Brazil’s lead to one with only one minute and twenty seconds remaining. Yet he also had a nice coast-to-coast lay-in in the third quarter to get France within five at the start of the fourth.

 

Nicolas Batum: A

As he’s known to do for the Portland Trail Blazers while playing stateside, Batum was solid on both ends of the floor. No sequence displayed that better than one at the beginning of the third quarter. On the offensive end, Batum hit a corner three-pointer. Then on Brazil’s ensuing possession, he blocked a Tiago Splitter shot while coming over as a help defender.

Batum finished the game with 13 points, four rebounds and one assist in a game-high 31 minutes of action.

 

Mickael Gelabale: C

Gelabale was third on the team in scoring, finishing the game with seven points in 24 minutes. He also added two rebounds, one assist and hit his only three-point attempt of the game, as well as three of his five total field-goal attempts. 

 

Rudy Gobert: C-

Gobert‘s best work came in the paint matched up against Splitter. He did a solid job dissuading shots, as he finished with two blocks. He also tallied six points on 3-of-5 shooting to go along with three rebounds.

However, the center also committed a game-high four personal fouls in his 18 minutes of action. That’s saying something since the officials largely let the teams play, with many questionable sequences that would normally be called a foul.

 

Antoine Diot: C

Diot was a pest on defense for France, finishing the game with two steals as well as deflecting another pass. However, he wasn’t very active on offense, only scoring four points and taking four attempts in almost 19 minutes of action.

 

Rest of Team: D

France didn’t get much from the rest of its team. Evan Fournier, another NBA player, didn’t score any points or record any rebounds. His best play was using a foul to give in the closing seconds of the first half, which prevented Brazil from scoring on a fast-break opportunity.  

 

Coming Up Next: 

Both teams return to the court in short order. France takes on Serbia on Aug. 31 at 9:30 a.m. ET, while Brazil faces Iran on Aug. 31 at 12 p.m. ET. 

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USA vs. Finland FIBA World Cup: Game Grades, Analysis for Team USA vs. Wolf Pack

Following a summer full of anticipation, Team USA has finally kicked off the 2014 FIBA World Cup with a commanding 114-55 win over Finland. The tournament won’t be won because of a single good game, but the showing we saw Saturday was emblematic of what we expect to see moving forward.

As efficient as the offense was for the star-laden group of NBA players, the defensive performance is what deserves the most recognition. Finland didn’t score a single field goal in the second quarter, which translates to bad basketball no matter what country you’re from.

To Finland’s credit, the underdogs kept things close for the first five minutes of the game, but a 20-8 U.S. run to close out the first quarter was too much to recover from. Team USA went into the second period with a 15-point lead, and it never looked back, taking Game 1 of the tournament in blowout fashion.

 

Team USA Grades:

James Harden: B+

Anthony Davis: A

Derrick Rose: A-

Klay Thompson: A

Rest of Team: B+

 

James Harden: B+

Before the FIBA World Cup officially began, USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo sang Harden’s praises. “Harden is kind of a natural leader and he seems to be willing to accept that role,” Collangelo said, via Michael Lee of The Washington Post

As it turned out, Harden was in fact that leader in Game 1 of the tournament. He came out playing efficient basketball and was the team’s leading scorer after the first quarter. His production slowed down once the game got out of hand and he was able to rest, but his seven early points and hustle on defense (he finished with four steals and one block) helped spark the team’s blowout performance.

 

Anthony Davis: A

Anthony Davis used Game 1 of the FIBA World Cup as a personal showcase. He’s the next great superstar of the NBA, and he reminded fans across the world of that fact in just 14 total minutes.

In approximately nine first-half minutes, Davis recorded 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting, and he did it while utilizing his athleticism in face-up situations. He’d go on to finish with 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting, and while his defense didn’t stick out as much as you might have expected it to on the box score, he was as menacing as ever when it came to shooing people away from the paint and adjusting shots at the rim.

 

Derrick Rose: A-

Kyrie Irving may have earned the starting spot entering this contest, but Derrick Rose reminded us why he’s on the roster when he came in off the bench: energy, athleticism and blinding quickness.

Although people will talk about Rose’s explosiveness on offense, his efforts on defense are what should have everyone raving over his performance. Along with 12 points in nearly 23 minutes, he collected one steal and blocked two shots. He was also a plus-45 in the plus-minus category (game high), according to FIBA.com.

 

Klay Thompson: A

Against Finland, Klay Thompson did what Klay Thompson does. He shot threes, and he shot them at an extremely efficient rate.

Along with going 4-of-7 from deep, Thompson played well defensively (are you seeing a theme among Team USA’s top performers?). You wouldn’t know it by looking at the box score, but his rotations were quick, and that was the perfect complement to his 70 percent shooting from the field.

 

Rest of Team: B+

Simply put: When your team shoots 59 percent from the field while only allowing its opponents to shoot 28 percent, there aren’t going to be many (if any) bad grades.

Games like this are important for Team USA because it creates cohesion on both ends of the floor. Blowouts allow the entire roster to make an appearance, which is crucial because both chemistry and experience will be more important as the tournament progresses.

Of “the rest,” give Kenneth Faried and Rudy Gay a ton of credit. Faried played above the rim with high energy the whole way, and the two combined for an efficient 8-of-12 shooting. The team didn’t see much out of the bottom of the rotation until garbage time, but the only disappointing surprise was Steph Curry’s 0-of-5 three-point shooting.

 

Coming Up Next:

Team USA’s next contest is against Turkey on Sunday, Aug. 31. Turkey is coming off a 76-73 win over New Zealand.

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Leandro Barbosa to Warriors: Latest Contract Details, Analysis and Reaction

At 31, Leandro Barbosa may not be the player he once was, but the Golden State Warriors saw a value in bringing him off the bench and adding depth to the squad this season.

ESPN.com’s Marc Stein first reported the details and added another team that was in pursuit of the 2-guard:

Brazil guard Leandro Barbosa has reached an agreement to sign with the Golden State Warriors for the upcoming season, ESPN.com has learned.

With the Miami Heat also in pursuit, Golden State has secured a commitment from Barbosa on a one-year deal at the veteran minimum, according to NBA front-office sources.

Asked about his free agency status recently, Barbosa had a simple response via Stein: ”Man, I’m just really focused on this World Cup.”

After being a major contributor for the Phoenix Suns from 2003 to 2010, during which he was named the 2006-07 Sixth Man of the Year and averaged double-digit points per game in four different seasons, Barbosa has bounced around the league.

Since 2010, he has played for the Toronto Raptors, Indiana Pacers, Boston Celtics and even Esporte Clube Pinheiros of Brazil in 2013 before returning to the Suns in January last year.

The Brazilian Blur averaged 15.9 points and 3.1 assists in eight games while with EsporteWhile he only appeared in 20 games for the Suns, he averaged 7.5 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 18.4 minutes per game. 

Still, many folks have fine memories of his early days with Phoenix, including Mike Wise of The Washington Post:

While Barbosa is past his prime at this stage in his career, he still can provide an injection of scoring off the bench in limited minutes. Additionally, he offers the Warriors another guard comfortable handling the rock in the backcourt, along with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Shaun Livingston and Brandon Rush.

Barbosa is an experienced player who has generally been popular with his teammates, coaches and fans alike in the past. In 2012, longtime Sports Illustrated journalist Jack McCallum talked to Justin Barrasso of WEEI.com about how beloved Barbosa was in his Suns days:

There was nobody who didn’t like LB. LB was loved. He had a kind of innocence about him, and a real work ethic with the way he approached everything. He looked at himself as kind of an open book whereas a lot of guys who come into the NBA—guys without LB’s ability or talent—think they know everything, but LB was never like that.

So no, his signing isn’t one of the sexier news pieces in the NBA’s free-agency period. Still, Barbosa could end up being an important contributor, and perhaps quite the popular teammate, too.

A career 39 percent three-point shooter and 46 percent shooter from the field, Barbosa has always had the stroke to be a reliable scorer. His efficiency will provide a boost offensively whenever he’s on the court.

 

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Shannon Brown to Heat: Latest Contract Details, Analysis and Reaction

Continuing to bolster their rebuilt core around the margins, the Miami Heat and free-agent guard Shannon Brown agreed to a one-year, $1.3 million contract Wednesday.   

Priority Sports, Brown’s agency, announced the move on its Twitter account, and USA Today’s Sam Amick provided the details:

Brown, 28, spent most of last season as a free agent after being released by the Washington Wizards. He did not link up with a team until February, signing four different 10-day contracts with the Spurs and Knicks before finishing out the campaign in New York. The high-flier averaged 2.2 points and 1.0 rebounds per game while shooting 36.4 percent from the floor.

The Knicks waived Brown in July, choosing not to pick up their second-year option on his contract. His signing comes as a bit of a surprise given the relative lack of interest Brown had received on the open market since his release.

The Heat are nevertheless a natural fit, as Pat Riley has been looking to bolster his wing depth. Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reported earlier this week that Riley and Co. had expressed interest in Chris Douglas-Roberts, Leandro Barbosa, Jordan Crawford and Jordan Hamilton. Douglas-Roberts and Hamilton, the latter of whom signed with Toronto, both worked out for the team in Miami.

Prior to signing Brown, the Heat had no one on their depth chart listed behind Dwyane Wade at shooting guard. With Wade a near-guarantee to miss 10 or more games next season, that was obviously a less-than-ideal situation. Brown is nowhere near an adequate replacement for a healthy Wade in the event of an injury, but there is some hope his lost 2013-14 campaign was a fluke.

An elite athlete with some interesting off-the-bounce creation skills, Brown averaged 10.7 points per game during his two seasons with Phoenix as a part-time starter and sixth man. He excelled in the Suns’ uptempo system and even flashed an improved outside shot in 2011-12 before descending back to earth a year later.

In five games with the Knicks’ summer league team in Las Vegas, Brown averaged 7.4 points per game and seemed to relish in getting back on the floor.

“I thought coming to Summer League would give me a chance to get back in the groove a little bit of actually playing basketball,” Brown told Bleacher Report’s Josh Martin.

The Heat are unlikely to be finished adding pieces even with Brown in the fold. Their roster desperately needs help in the defensive middle, and they might look into another wing player for further Wade insurance. The development of 2013 second-round pick James Ennis will probably play a large factor in how Riley chooses to move forward. Ennis signed a three-year deal this summer but it comes with only $200,000 in guarantees.

In the first year of the post-LeBron era, the Heat remain an interesting team in general. Faced with the prospect of blowing up the franchise, Riley shifted gears and chose to tread water. Signing the likes of Luol Deng, Danny Granger and Josh McRoberts should help keep them well inside the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Should Brown come to South Beach and perform at Phoenix levels, he’ll do nothing but help the cause. If next season proves a repeat of the last, Miami’s wing depth will start looking awfully shaky.

 

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Andrew Wiggins to Timberwolves: Latest Trade Details, Analysis and Reaction

Andrew Wiggins’ time with the Cleveland Cavaliers lasted all of two months. As expected, the Cavaliers agreed to a blockbuster trade with the Timberwolves on Saturday, sending Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, a first-round pick and a trade exception to Minnesota in exchange for All-Star forward Kevin Love. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported the deal:

The Timberwolves confirm the transaction and provide Flip Saunders’ comments on the new-look Timberwolves:

Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune has more from Saunders:

The deal had been the NBA‘s worst-kept secret for the last month. Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Aug. 6 that the two sides had agreed on the principals. The deal could not officially be agreed upon until Aug. 23, when 30 days would have passed since Wiggins signed his rookie contract. 

Wiggins was the No. 1 overall selection in June’s NBA draft. Expected to be the next cornerstone alongside Kyrie Irving in the post-LeBron era, the former Kansas star’s fortunes flipped on a dime when LeBron James announced his surprise return to the Cavs.

While James talked openly about wanting to mentor young players in Cleveland, Wiggins’ name was conspicuously left out and rumblings began to surface about the four-time MVP orchestrating a Love-for-Wiggins deal. Wojnarowski reported James personally reached out to Love in hopes of luring him to Cleveland.

Initially, the Cavaliers balked at including Wiggins in any trade talks. Head coach David Blatt told reporters at Las Vegas Summer League that Wiggins would not be traded, a refrain that was also told to Wiggins in private

“There’s no reason or cause for worry on his part because Andrew’s not going anywhere, as far as I know and as far as the club has expressed,” Blatt said.

Wiggins played through Summer League and was impressive for the most part, averaging 15.5 points and 3.5 rebounds on 40.5 percent shooting. He at once flashed his elite athleticism and promise as a defender while highlighting some of the reasoning behind this move. His jumper was inconsistent at best from long range, he occasionally drifted offensively and looked like player one or two years from making a difference.

With LeBron having re-upped for just two years—despite his protestations of long-term commitment—the Cavs were under the gun to make a move. Using Wiggins as a trade chip for Love is the type of win-now move that should make Cleveland the Eastern Conference favorite.

Love doesn’t turn 26 until September and is coming off one of the best offensive seasons for a big man in recent history. He became the first player since the ABA-NBA merger to average 26 points, 12 rebounds and four assists per game while establishing himself as the league’s premier stretch 4. He made 37.6 percent of his 505 three-pointers—a number that was nearly double his previous high for attempts in a season.

Synergy Sports Technology (subscription required) measured that Love ranked 93rd percentile in points per possession. He ranked in the 72nd percentile or better in all but one (isolations) of their 11 categories. Combining Love, James and Kyrie Irving gives Cleveland the best offensive trio in the league since the first season of Miami‘s Big Three.

That said, the deal also involves losing Wiggins—a move that might come back to haunt the Cavs a half-decade down the line. While his freshman season was a slight disappointment given his considerable hype, Wiggins has enough talent to be the NBA’s best two-way player someday. He’s a devastating on-ball defender, athletic enough to become a perennial dunk contest winner and has the tools to develop his three-pointer and dribble moves.

The Wolves are getting a player they can combine with Zach LaVine to create the league’s most athletic wing pair. Alongside Ricky Rubio, still just 23 years old, Minnesota will be captivating to watch in the open court. Rubio is up for a contract extension and shooting is going to be a problem when the three play together, but Flip Saunders has a promising roster in place. 

It’s a risk the Cavs had to take. After Paul George‘s gruesome injury at the Team USA scrimmage, the Eastern Conference is a two-team race between Chicago and Cleveland. The Cavs instantly become the favorite and a team that can sleepwalk its way to a 5-win regular season.  

These are the Cavs James apparently envisioned when he came back to Cleveland. Let’s see what he does with his newer, younger Big Three.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter. 

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