Anthony Davis’ Showing Against Brazil Is Preview of What’s to Come in 2014-15

Imagine how good Anthony Davis will be when the games actually matter.

The New Orleans Pelicans star was the player of the game in Team USA’s 95-78 win over Brazil on Saturday night. The national team is participating in a series of exhibitions in preparation for the 2014 FIBA World Cup. Davis led the U.S. in scoring with 20 points. He also added four blocks, per USA Basketball:

“Anthony played great for us,” said Derrick Rose after the game, per Steve Silverman of USAB.com. “And when you see him diving, hustling and throwing himself all over to make a play, that’s really something. I’m so happy for him to contribute like that. It means a lot for this team.”

You can see a small sampling of his highlights below.

As NBA Tonight‘s Cassidy Hubbarth tweeted out, Saturday’s showcase only whet the appetites of basketball fans everywhere. The regular season can’t get here soon enough so we can watch Davis really grow into a beast:

It’s not crazy to call the 21-year-old one of the most exciting players to watch in the NBA. You don’t see too many guys nearing 7 feet tall physically able to do the things he can do. On more than one occasion last year, Davis started a fast break for the Pelicans with a block in the paint. Then he’s one of the first guys down the floor to finish off the break with a thunderous dunk or a quick lay-in.

You can see an example of this from from a 2013-14 game against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Davis’ repertoire is his mid-range shooting. From his first to second year, he developed a very good mid-range jumper. You can see the evidence of this below, courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.

Usually, when you see a big man expanding his shooting zone and taking more shots from one year to the next, his percentages will only increase slightly if not actually drop. Davis, on the other hand, increased his shooting percentage from 10-to-16 feet by .058 and from 16 feet to the three-point line by .108.

It’s hard to believe that anybody doubted this kid when he came out of Kentucky. The term transcendent is used a little too frequently, but he has the potential to be a transcendent big man in the league.

To be fair, how many people foresaw this kind of accelerated improvement offensively? His defense was never really in question. The hope was that Davis would add a little muscle and refine his shooting, but to see it happening this quickly is incredible.

All of this and he doesn’t turn 22 until March. Davis isn’t even beginning to approach the peak of his powers.

The only road block that could stand in his way is the New Orleans supporting cast. The Pelicans aren’t a terrible basketball team, but they lack that one star player who could pair up with Davis and make the franchise a serious contender.

ESPN.com’s NBA forecast had N.O. as the 10th-best team in the Western Conference. Davis also received 10 Most Valuable Player votes, which put him sixth.

Considering the leap he made in 2013-14, it’s scary to think where Davis could be in 2014-15. He may not win an MVP, but few players are better cornerstones for their respective franchises.

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FIBA World Cup Schedule 2014: Complete Preview for Preliminary Round of Tourney

The 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup gives fans of international basketball the opportunity to watch their favorite nations in action outside of Olympic play.

Hosted by Spain, the 2014 FIBA tournament is going to be filled with excitement. The Spanish team is loaded with talent, evidenced by its silver medal in the 2012 Olympics. Its main competition is the United States, a team that won gold in the Olympics and also won 2010′s installment of this tournament against host nation Turkey.

The two teams have plenty of history, and they’ll enter the tournament as likely favorites to take home the top spot. Before group play gets underway, we’ll have to get through the preliminary rounds. The entire preliminary schedule can be found below.

 

Preliminary Round Schedule

Preliminary schedule is courtesy of NBA.com.

 

United States

Kevin Durant has pulled out of the FIBA tournament, and Paul George will miss out on the tournament because of a terrible injury he suffered in a scrimmage. Regardless, this team is poised to dominate in Spain.

Of course, it won’t be easy. Team USA’s schedule is a grueling one, and that even includes its pre-tournament tuneups. Nick Gallo of NBA.com broke down the team’s itinerary:

The United States’ training in Las Vegas ends on August 1st with the USA Basketball Showcase at 8:00 p.m. CDT. The team will then travel to Chicago, Ill. For two more days of training and an exhibition game against Brazil on August 16th at 8:00 p.m. CT. From August 18th-22nd, the United States squad will be training in New York City, squaring off against the Dominican Republic on August 20th and Puerto Rico on August 22nd in two more exhibition games before departing for Spain. Training camp concludes for the Untied States in Gran Canaria, Spain with two days of practice and a final exhibition tune-up against Slovenia on August 26th.

That’s a lot of basketball, but the tuneups will be necessary for success in this tournament. Basketball is a game of consistency, and it’s hard to find consistency if you aren’t playing consistently. Makes sense.

Team USA’s exhibition against Brazil is Saturday evening, and head coach Mike Krzyzewski has already named four of his five starters for the game, tweets NBC’s Kurt Helin:

The other spot won’t be occupied by DeMarcus Cousins, as SportsCenter tweeted that he won’t play in the contest:

Even without Durant, George and now Cousins (for at least one game), the United States have the weapons to make noise. Just look at the four listed in the starting lineup. Derrick Rose, Stephen Curry, James Harden and Anthony Davis are a scary quartet on the floor.

This lineup might be fluid during exhibition games as Coach K works out the kinks with his roster, but there are multiple candidates to start games on this stacked roster.

 

Spain

The Spanish team is loaded with talent.

Serge Ibaka, Pau Gasol and Marc Gasol are the three headliners. This frontcourt is absolutely dominant in every facet of the game, so it will be interesting to see how teams combat these big bodies.

Veterans like Jose Calderon, Rudy Fernandez and Juan-Carlos Navarro are also set to play well. They’ve proved themselves in international competition in the past, making them candidates to help keep the offense flowing efficiently.

Ricky Rubio is the X-factor for the Spanish. Everyone is aware of his incredible passing ability. It’s that ability that’s going to help Spain confuse opposing defenses and get easy baskets, so in that regard, Rubio is a plus.

But then there’s Rubio‘s ineffective jump shot.

Rubio isn’t a good shooter. The whole world knows it. Sometimes he himself doesn’t, however. Rubio tends to lean on that jumper a bit too much, and if he does that in this tournament, Spain will lose a good amount of their dominance.

Playing in front of their home fans gives Spain an edge, but there is certainly something playing against them. If Rubio realizes that he needs to dish before shooting, Spain can challenge the United States.

 

Follow Kenny DeJohn on Twitter: @KennyDeJohn_BR

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Eastern Conference preview: Bulls or the Cavs?

In the East, you only have two teams locked in playoff positions the Bulls and the Cavs. Either are 1st or 2nd seed, those are interchangeable. I don’t think any other teams can catch them. But here is where it gets interesting. With the Paul George injury, the whole Eastern Conference is now split open. The post Eastern Conference preview: Bulls or the Cavs? appeared first on Route 4 Sports.

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NBA Draft 2014: Full First-Round Order and Preview of Selection Process

In the days remaining before Thursday night’s 2014 NBA draft, anyone attempting to forecast the proceedings is only preparing for inevitable disappointment.

If the results were uncertain, news of Joel Embiid‘s injured foot only adds to the unknown. Judging players based on their footwork, length, quickness, agility, shooting, teamwork and basketball IQ, among countless other skills, is hard enough; now teams picking near the top need to weigh a health risk as well.

This news springs the No. 1 pick back in the air, a selection that holds a ripple effect over the entire first round, the order of which is shown below. 

 

When: Thursday, June 26

Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York)

TV/Live Stream: ESPN, WatchESPN

 

Draft Preview

Anyone who thinks they figured out the draft better think again.

Just when the early picks began to form in line, injury news surrounding top center Embiid has thrown everything firmly into chaos. Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski broke news of the Kansas standout needing surgery to repair his fractured right foot.

His timetable to return is set for four to six months, which means he could be ready for the beginning of the 2014-15 season with a speedy recovery. Yet the Cleveland Cavaliers have to feel queasy about investing the future of their franchise in somebody who might be able to play next season, especially with Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker available.

Worries about a back injury that forced him to sit out the NCAA tournament already raised some questions, but this added blow could vanquish him from top-pick consideration. In his latest mock draft, Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman now has Embiid going No. 6 to the Boston Celtics. At that point, he’s a risk worth taking for a team looking to hit a home run to expedite the rebuilding process.

Director of player personnel Austin Ainge gave a vague answer when posed with that scenario by The Boston Globe‘s Baxter Holmes. 

Draft night typically spawns a few trades, and this year is likely to be no different. There’s, of course, the Kevin Love factor, which could motivate a team such as Boston to part with precious picks for the star forward, who will become a free agent next offseason. 

Last year, the Philadelphia 76ers were highly active on draft night, trading Jru Holliday to the New Orleans Pelicans for Nerlens Noel’s draft rights. Wojnarowski noted that they are looking at point guards Dante Exum and Marcus Smart, which has people wondering what happens with Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams.

There’s talk of the Los Angeles Lakers hotly pursuing the young point guard. ESPN’s Ryen Russillo plotted out a scenario that makes no sense for Philadelphia.

Why trade a 22-year-old who averaged 16.7 points, 6.3 assists and 6.2 rebounds per game last season? Especially when the 76ers already pick twice in the top 10? Basketball Insiders’ Eric Pincus denied the latest string of chatter.

Philadelphia’s energy would be better spent calling Cleveland to move up to the No. 1 pick, where it can then select the team’s top target, Andrew Wiggins. Now that Embiid is hurt, the Cavaliers may be more willing to part with the top selection. If they still want the 7-footer, picking him at No. 3 would draw less pressure than taking him first, and they can also milk the No. 10 selection out of the deal.

Whatever happens, it’s sure to be an entertaining night at Barclays Center. Even though the event will take place in their home arena for the first time, Brooklyn Nets fans may want to stay home since their team doesn’t have any draft picks.

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Baylor-Wisconsin Preview (Yahoo Sports)

Baylor's Kenny Chery passes the ball during practice at the NCAA college basketball tournament Wednesday, March 26, 2014, in Anaheim, Calif. Baylor plays Wisconsin in a regional semifinal on Thursday. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Baylor and Wisconsin have never met in a men’s basketball game, and the unpredictable Bears have little in common with the disciplined Badgers at first glance. Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan and Baylor’s Scott Drew both recognized one big similarity as their teams prepared for their matchup just down the street from Disneyland. Sixth-seeded Baylor (26-11) and second-seeded Wisconsin (28-7) went through workouts Wednesday at Honda Center before they play Thursday for a spot in the West Regional final. While the building is unfamiliar, the stakes are not: The Badgers are in the Sweet 16 for the third time in four years, while the Bears have made it three times in the last five.


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UCLA-Florida Preview (Yahoo Sports)

UCLA head coach Steve Alford watches his team work out during practice at the NCAA college basketball tournament, Wednesday, March 26, 2014, in Memphis, Tenn. UCLA plays Florida in a regional semifinal on Thursday. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Scottie Wilbekin has defended the 6-foot-6 Harrison twins of Kentucky and seen his share of tall guards during his four seasons at Florida. Yet nothing really has prepared the Southeastern Conference player of the year for UCLA’s Kyle Anderson. The sophomore plays point guard for UCLA despite being 6-9, tall enough to play forward or center on any other team. Anderson can stretch his arms out 7-3, allowing him to simply pass over or around any defender in his path helping the Bruins average 81.5 points a game.


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Trail Blazers at Magic game preview

The slumping Portland Trail Blazers came up just short against the two-time defending champs, but they appear to have a good chance to regroup before leaving Florida.
With LaMarcus Aldridge likely out again, Portland tries to hand the last-place Orlando Magic a season worst-tying 10th consecutive defeat Tuesday night.
The Trail Blazers (45-26) are hoping to avoid their eighth loss in 11 games after falling 93-91 at Miami on Monday. Portland stormed back from 17 down in the fourth quarter, but Damian Lillard’s potential game-tying layup with just over a second to go was blocked.
“We’re tired of losing close games, but you can’t help it to be proud of the way we competed,” said coach Terry Stotts, whose team was held to 37.8 percent shooting. “It would have been easy to fold things up, but that’s not in our DNA.”
Lillard finished with 19 points while shooting 3 of 15, including 1 of 8 from 3-point range. The Blazers were outscored 52-26 in the paint without Aldridge, whose st

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No. 1 Florida vs. No. 4 UCLA: Sweet Sixteen Preview

The top-seeded Florida Gators go head-to-head in a Sweet Sixteen matchup with the fourth-seeded UCLA Bruins.

The Gators, led by Scottie Wilbekin, scored 21 points on 9-of-15 shooting in the win over Pittsburgh.

With the help from Jordan Adams, UCLA was able to write up a convincing win over Stephen F. Austin.

See who our experts think will win and how far that team will go!

Who do you think will win? Let us know in the comments below!

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Trail Blazers at Heat game preview

TV: Sun Sports
Time: Pregame coverage begins at 7 p.m.
There’s plenty of frustration circling around the Miami Heat, who are watching their chance to grab the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed slip away in a stretch where they’re struggling to get stops.
The Portland Trail Blazers are having even deeper issues on the defensive end.
A banged-up LeBron James will try to help the Heat climb out of their funk Monday night against the Trail Blazers, who will play a sixth straight game without LaMarcus Aldridge as they try to solve their road woes.
Indiana has dropped six of its last 11 games, leaving the door open for Miami (47-21) to steal home-court advantage throughout the East playoffs, but it hasn’t been able to take advantage. The Heat’s 105-95 loss at New Orleans on Saturday was their seventh in 11 games, the last three of which have come to clubs that will be home for the postseason.
“Our locker room is angry,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We’re not accustomed to this ty

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Heat at Pelicans game preview

Game time: 8 pm ET
TV: Sun Sports Florida
LeBron James had a tame return after a one-game absence for the Miami Heat due to back spasms.
Anthony Davis, meanwhile, continued his surge after a one-game absence for the New Orleans Pelicans due to an upper respiratory infection.
Two of the NBA’s most electrifying talents will be on the court together for the third time Saturday night when the visiting Heat look for a sixth straight win in this series.
There’s little question that James is the gold standard in the league as he searches for a third straight NBA title. After he sat out Wednesday’s 101-96 loss at Boston, James wasn’t his usual high-scoring self two nights later with 15 points, seven assists and six rebounds in a 91-86 home win over Memphis.
“It was one of those grind-out, playoff-type games,” James said. “No matter what happens, you just have to try to make plays to help you win.”
James didn’t reach double digits in scoring until his jumper 1:03 into the fourth

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