NBA 2K15: Round Up of Reviews and Analysis of Acclaimed Video Game

It’s rare when critical acclaim and fan anticipation for a video game line up perfectly. You can count on one hand the number of sports simulations that elicit—and warrant—a better reaction than the NBA 2K series. The release of NBA 2K15 has proved, once again, that this game is operating on another level. 

The things that 2K Sports continues to do to avoid its NBA series from getting stale continue to astound. Considering that this is the 15th year that developer Visual Concepts has been working on this game, it’s impressive how fresh this year’s version feels. 

Even though you have been immersed in all the goodness that NBA 2K15 has to offer, we want you to appreciate all the intricacies of your experience. Therefore, we have rounded up some of the reviews and analysis for the game to tell you what you’re getting. 

 

The One Big Criticism

When you scour the Internet for reviews of NBA 2K15, they are nearly unanimous in praise for the basic essentials.

Mike Mitchell of IGN praised so much of 2K15 that you would never know there was anything wrong with the game at launch:

It’s an absolutely beautiful game to look at, and its controls are as tight as they’ve ever been. Some features are vastly improved from last year, and fortunately most of those continue to work when the servers don’t. It’s a shame that the best game modes won’t always be accessible, because this could’ve been an amazing basketball game. It still could be, if 2K can fix it. But if you buy it right now, you can expect a great offline experience.

The last part of the review is where the concerns are coming from people buying the game. On Twitter, 2K Support did address some of the problems for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One:

It is nice to have your name back and a face that doesn’t look like something that was beaten with a hammer on The Walking Dead, but the fact that so much of the online experience remains an issue is concerning. 

While MyCareer and MyGM are great game modes that you don’t need to be online to use, that’s only a small part of the gaming experience in today’s world. Hopefully, 2K Sports is able to address all the problems soon because this is a game that deserves to be enjoyed without annoying bugs. 

 

Now, The Positives

With the negative out of the way, let’s examine what makes NBA 2K15 worth the time. As Mitchell noted on IGN, everything about the game still looks and feels great. There isn’t a better-looking sports video game on the market, which is quite impressive. 

As a fan of the genre for as long as I’ve played video games, one thing that’s always irritated me is how developers have so often struggled to capture the mood and feel of what it means to be at a sporting event. Anyone can put together a simulation of what happens on television, but the best games bring the experience to life. 

Not surprisingly, some of the best sports games have come along in the last 10 years (Madden 2005, MLB: The Show, NHL 09 and 10, NBA 2K series) as technology has allowed developers more freedom to bring more flair to the proceedings. 

Josiah Renaudin of GameSpot gave NBA 2K15 9/10 and highlighted how good and crisp 2K Sports has made the action on the court:

Where players stuck unrealistically close to one another in past games, 2K15 adds much more natural spacing between bodies both on and off the rock. Smart ball handling leads to more distance to take a shot, and that puts a greater onus on the defensive player to read and predict the direction of his matchup’s drive. 2K Sports took significant technical strides with last year’s NBA release, but it’s the reinvented movement system and improved physics that make 2K15 such a success.

All you want as a gamer is something that treats you like a smart fan. If a game doesn’t control well, with players moving spastically when you barely touch the analog stick, that’s insulting to what we know games should be like. 

Being able to handle the ball and actually pass the way LeBron James does, or fight for positioning under the basket like Dwight Howard does is what makes next-gen systems worth the price of admission. 

Bleacher Report’s resident video game expert Brian Mazique, whose video review is embedded above, also praised 2K Sports in a written review for building a game that takes the time to show players developing and regressing as they would in real life:

Once the season starts, there’s a whole new brand of fun in store. If you’re playing a franchise in MyLeague or MyGM, players will age and decline in skill level. Young players will peak and then regress.

This isn’t a new concept, but the manner in which it happens in NBA 2K15 is the most authentic I’ve ever seen in a basketball game. OnlyMLB The Show’s outstanding franchise mode even comes close.

Players not only see their numbered attributes drop, but they also see a decline in their skill badges.

Again, this is all about the minute details of real life that we tend to take for granted in a video game. There’s no logical way a player will be rated a 97 at age 26 and increase that rating to a 99 at age 35. The human body doesn’t work that way, so players must adapt to what they are physically capable of. 

Even though the bugs that prevent NBA 2K15 from being a complete transcendent video game experience are still being worked out, there are still enough great things working for the series that you should be happy right away until all the kinks are fixed. 

 

If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter. 

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The Good, the Bad and the Interesting from Monday’s Round of NBA Media Days

NBA media day is what you’d get if a trade show, speed dating and a self-actualization seminar mashed themselves together and blasted out every second of the results on Twitter. But it’s also the first chance most fans get to see their favorite teams and players ahead of the upcoming season.

And that’s exciting.

Questions about starting lineups get answered. New uniforms get their first round of praise or criticism. Hairstyles delight and mortify the public.

There’s a lot going on, so try to keep up.

 

The Good

It’s easy to get cynical about media day. At root, it’s largely about pitching a product and selling thirsty fans on optimism they shouldn’t necessarily buy. Not everybody is a playoff contender, and not everybody is in the best shape of his career, but that’s pretty much all you hear on days like Monday.

Still, there was one thing that even the prickliest cynic couldn’t roll his eyes at during media day: Paul George, he of the horrendous offseason injury, showing up and standing up.

That’s fantastic, no matter how you feel about the Indiana Pacers. Don’t expect PG to see the floor this year, but do feel free to give in to the good vibes you’re experiencing right now.

You know what else is good? Physical fitness.

Anthony Bennett and Shabazz Muhammad got after it this summer, and the Minnesota Timberwolves have to be ecstatic about that.

Derrick Rose is supposedly fit, but in yet another “nothing to see here” moment, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau cautioned everyone about judging Rose before he hits the floor regularly:

And the New York Knicks should be similarly enthused that Carmelo Anthony sought out advice on the upcoming season from some of the greats:

If Melo takes a few sips from that bottle, he could reach a new, frightening level of offensive production this season. And while it’s great that Anthony is humble enough to accept input, don’t worry about his overall confidence level.

Turns out it’s still pretty high:

 

The Great

Presented without comment:

OK, presented with brief comment. I wasn’t sure it was possible for Steven Adams to become even more likable. He is already sneakily skilled, immune to elbows and one of the orneriest instigators in the game. Now we have that ‘stache.

This man is a hero.

As is Lance Stephenson, for giving the most Lance Stephenson response imaginable when asked what he’d do in a potential matchup with his new boss:

Born Ready is his authentic self at all times. Strongly approve.

Also unable to hide his true feelings: Rajon Rondo, slinged-up because of his broken hand and failing miserably at selling his happiness in Boston:

This is going to end badly, but it created one of the better media day moments.

Another came from Los Angeles Lakers rookie Julius Randle, whose comment signaled two positives in Los Angeles:

First, Kobe Bryant is raring to go. Second, Randle, just a rookie, has already learned to never say a cross word about the Mamba. He knows where his bread’s buttered.

 

The Bad

We all knew the Indiana Pacers would struggle without George and Stephenson, but there’s just something about seeing their replacements, Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Miles, that drives home the sads.

These two are established NBA players who can help a team in the right (read: very, very limited) situation. As starting wings on a club that has made the Eastern Conference Finals two years running, they’re kind of a bummer.

Buckle up, Indy fans. Or don’t, actually. Get out of the car altogether. It’s headed for a cliff this year.

Dwight Howard is the same:

James Harden says he’ll be different:

We shall see…

 

The Weird

Get a good look at Alexey Shved’s Philadelphia 76ers jersey because you may never see anything like this again.

Not just because you’re unlikely to glimpse another No. 88 in the NBA, but also because you probably won’t see a Sixers game on national TV all season.

You’ll likely see the Memphis Grizzlies in the playoffs, making Vince Carter’s new jersey less of a rarity than Shved’s. But on a day filled with players donning new uniforms, I’m not sure anybody’s felt stranger than Vinsanity’s.

Does not compute.

What also doesn’t compute: billionaires and executives beefing. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey have been sniping at one another’s organizations lately, and media day provided another opportunity for them to take shots.

Cool it, fellas. This is supposed to be about the players.

Closing out the weirdness, we have JJ Redick opining on the miracle of child birth:

This is weird, but it’s not inaccurate. Babies really do look like aliens.

 

The Odds and Ends

Media day isn’t just about hearing everyone’s inflated expectations and/or boasts about being in the best shape of their lives. It’s also about witnessing a few crimes against humanity…or fashion anyway.

I think we’d all like to see Victor Oladipo take a step forward this season. But first, he needs to take a step back. Into the locker room. Where he should set that sleeved abomination on fire.

Oladipo still broke even on the day because of this shot:

Note that this happened before he put on that awful getup. Not a coincidence.

And while it might seem arbitrary to praise Adams’ killer whiskers while calling out Martell Webster for this nonsense, well…it is arbitrary. But I just don’t understand this one:

Disregard the preceding comment. Marcin Gortat cleared everything up:

Makes perfect sense now.

And finally, Mo Williams is awarded 10,000 honesty points:

On a day filled with inflated hopes and a whole lot of over-the-top bluster, this feels like an appropriately ironic place to end.

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The Good, the Bad and the Interesting from Friday’s Round of NBA Media Days

The NBA is back…sort of.

Training camps across the league are nearly underway, but before the best and brightest ballers on planet Earth get back to the business of playing basketball, they’ll have to spend some quality time sitting at podiums, answering inane questions and mugging for the cameras.

That is to say, it’s time for media days.

Five teams—the Brooklyn Nets, San Antonio Spurs, Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers and Sacramento Kings—got a head start to their festivities on Friday before preparing for their respective preseason trips overseas as part of the NBA’s Global Games. The rest of the Association’s scrum-taculars will get going in earnest next week.

For now, let’s have a look at some of the highlights, lowlights and erstwhile lights from the opening day of the NBA’s pre-preseason.

 

Brooklyn Nets

The Nets were the first to fling open their doors at 10:30 a.m. ET. Not surprisingly, the offseason coaching change—more specifically, Jason Kidd’s decision to bolt for the Milwaukee Bucks’ gig—was the topic du jour.

With Kidd gone, Joe Johnson took the opportunity to question his old coach’s practice regimens, particularly comparison in those of Brooklyn’s newest headmaster (via ESPNNewYork.com’s Mike Mazzeo): 

He also noted how the front door at the Barclays Center might as well be a revolving one, in so many words (via Newsday‘s Rod Boone):

Johnson’s Rolodex of former Nets coaches pales in comparison to that of Brook Lopez, who’s seen way more turnover in that department in his six NBA seasons (via Boone):

And who characterized Kidd’s exit as, well, “quick” (again, via Boone):

Apparently, Alan Anderson was late to Kidd’s departure party (more Boone):

As far as Kidd’s replacement is concerned, Lionel Hollins didn’t seem to fear that his job would be at all jeopardized by his star point guard, Deron Williams (via The Record‘s Andy Vasquez):

For what it’s worth, D-Will insisted he feels better after offseason ankle surgery, though the best may have to wait for now (via Vasquez):

Johnson, it seems, has sought out less invasive means to keep his body in order (via Nets Daily’s Tom Lorenzo):

Kevin Garnett, who needs all the help he can get to stay healthy, seemed unburdened by expectations heading into what will be his 20th NBA season (via the New York Daily News‘ Stefan Bondy):

Like his teammates, Garnett was confused by the whole Kidd fiasco (via Vasquez):

Though, he’d never confuse a pair of “Wallies” when he sees them (via the Brooklyn Nets):

The real confusion of the day seemed to surround a newcomer to the roster: Bojan Bogdanovic, pictured here as Andrei Kirilenko (via Lorenzo):

There’s the Croatian sensation we all (don’t really) know and (aren’t sure yet if we) love (via Lorenzo):

 

San Antonio Spurs

Right around noon, the defending champions took to the floor at their practice facility, partly to show off their shiny, new banner (via the San Antonio Express-News‘ Dan McCarney):

As expected, Gregg Popovich’s snark was already in midseason form (via Dan McCarney): 

As was his facial hair (via Bleacher Report NBA):

Pop didn’t waste much time invoking his military background, however unintentionally (via Basketball Insiders’ Yannis Koutroupis):

He also was not slow in weighing in on Boris Diaw’s physique (via the Express-News‘ Jeff McDonald):

With regard to matters of actual basketball consequence, Pop clarified what it will take for Kawhi Leonard to translate his excellence as a Finals MVP into being a focal point of the Spurs’ operation.

Popovich said (via McCarney): 

I’m probably going to talk to him more about consistency now. He’s reached a certain level and if you look at those last three games he played they were pretty special. But to be in that top echelon of players in our league it’s a huge responsibility to have to come and do that every night.

The Duncans, the Durants, the James-es and all those kinds of guys do it night after night after night and it’s a huge responsibility.

Leonard, on the other hand, insisted it was more a matter of opportunity. “In the Finals I’m playing 35 minutes a game, so I’m on the floor more and able to score the ball more and get more rebounds,” Leonard explained. “So I’m going to have to get consistent minutes to play at a consistent level like that. I’ve been trying to (be a dominant player) since I’ve been here.”

Certainly, Leonard is capable of dominating two balls at once, at the very least (via the San Antonio Spurs):

Granted, the seemingly slow expansion of Leonard’s role in San Antonio probably has something to do with his teammates, as well. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have carried the Spurs’ star torch for well over a decade, and if last season’s triumph is any indication, they’re not ready to let up just yet.

Duncan, of course, is at the forefront of that success. His decision to return for his 18th season as a pro wasn’t so easy (via McCarney):

You wouldn’t know it by watching him pass the ball in front of a green screen, though (via the Spurs):

Whenever The Big Fundamental decides to call it quits, he’ll be ready to fill his free time with all manner of classic retirement hobbies (via ESPN San Antonio):

Ginobili certainly wasn’t ready to retire after the 2013-14 season. In fact, he was miffed about the Spurs’ refusal to let him represent Argentina at the FIBA Basketball World Cup. Ginobili, though, said he’s hashed out his frustrations with Pop and general manager R.C. Buford (via McCarney):

On a lighter note, Ginobili had nothing but praise for the team’s most notable offseason addition: assistant coach Becky Hammon (more McCarney):

Better yet, the Spurs have beefed up their facilities somewhat to make Hammon, the NBA’s first full-time female assistant coach, feel more at home (even more McCarney):

In other news, Danny Green’s swapped out his No. 4 jersey for No. 14, which he wore in high school (via the Spurs):

And Matt Bonner is the star of a comic book series, though the demands of his basketball life prevented him from hawking it himself (via Josh Kunkel):

 

Miami Heat

At the same time, the Spurs’ most recent victims (i.e. the Heat) unveiled their LeBron James-less roster to the media. All of the players, including summer signee Josh McRoberts, sported jerseys adorned with tags reminding them of the franchise’s three championship triumphs (via The Associated Press’ Tim Reynolds):

For head coach Erik Spoelstra, media day served as a surprising milestone of sorts in his lengthy relationship with the franchise (via NBA TV’s Kristen Ledlow):

Beyond that, Spoelstra insinuated that the situation at point guard between Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole and rookie Shabazz Napier is anything but settled (via The Palm Beach Post‘s Jason Lieser):

And for those keeping score at home, Spoelstra barely mentioned the “L” word during his press conference (via the Sun-Sentinel‘s Ira Winderman):

Chalmers took certain strides to avoid referencing his former teammate, as well (via Winderman):

Rio, though, wasn’t shy about showing off his new hair or his rendition of the Shmoney Dance (via the Heat):

Dwyane Wade wasn’t quite so reluctant to discuss his buddy Bron-Bron’s departure (via Winderman):

The Heat may be different, but Wade won’t be, at least as far as his outside shot is concerned (via ESPN’s Tom Haberstroh):

That hasn’t kept Wade from shifting his expectations for others. He suggested that he’d like to see a Chris Bosh who’s familiar in some respects but foreign in others (via the Miami Herald‘s Joseph Goodman):

Like Wade, Bosh made clear that the team is ready to move on—or should be, seeing as how James isn’t coming back (via Sun Sports’ Will Manso):

Even without James, Bosh didn’t think the Heat’s standing in the Eastern Conference should be affected all that adversely (via Jason Lieser):

James’ absence wasn’t the only elephant in the room, though. Luol Deng‘s unfortunate involvement in the recent Atlanta Hawks fiascos came up, as well. To his credit, Deng took the high road after having his integrity brought into question on account of his ethnicity (more Winderman):

In the “odds and ends” category, Birdman isn’t the only nickname by which Chris Andersen goes (via Joseph Goodman):

Also, NOOGIE! (via the Heat):

 

Cleveland Cavaliers

Shortly after mid-day, the Cavaliers tipped off their new day at the team’s practice facility in Independence, Ohio. New head coach David Blatt opened the proceedings with, among other things, a reference to a musical legend (via The Washington Post‘s Michael Lee):

Blatt also deflected suggestions that Cleveland’s success is about its loaded stock of stars rather than the aptitude of its entire team (via ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Dave McMenamin):

The coach made sure to quip about the 300-or-so members of the media who were on hand for the Cavs’ unveiling (via the Northeast Ohio Media Group’s Chris Haynes):

Blatt wasn’t exactly kidding, either (via the Cavaliers):

Blatt’s partner at the podium, general manager David Griffin, took the opportunity to praise LeBron James for his efforts on behalf of the Cavs this summer (via Bleacher Report’s Ethan Skolnick and Haynes):

And then, the man of the hour stepped to the front of the room in his wine-and-gold jersey to talk about his return:

Among the highlights, James had only positive things to say about being a Cavalier again (via McMenamin):

James also insisted that he underwent his Paleo-inspired weight loss for personal reasons rather than professional ones (via Pro Basketball Talk’s Brett Pollakoff):

But size isn’t the only thing that’s changed about James since his last go-round in Rock City. His verbiage has also taken on a decidedly different tone (via Skolnick):

That more patient approach, inspired by two titles in four trips to the Finals with Miami, has James thinking month-to-month nowadays with his team (via McMenamin):

Having James around will be an adjustment for everyone in Cleveland, including Kyrie Irving. The reigning All-Star MVP probably won’t mind, so long as he still gets his fair share of looks (via Michael Lee):

Ditto for Dion Waiters (via USA Today‘s Jeff Zillgitt):

Mike Miller figures to be among those who’ll get plenty of good looks, thanks to James. The veteran marksman, who spent three seasons with LeBron in Miami, had nothing but the highest praise for the four-time MVP (via Zillgitt):

Perhaps that’s because Moondog, one of the Cavs’ official mascots, seemed to put Miller in a rather chipper mood (via the Cavaliers):

It seems safe to assume that Miller wouldn’t be anywhere near Cleveland if not for James. Shawn Marion, another of the Cavs’ elder additions from the offseason, spelled it out rather plainly (via McMenamin):

Though Marion did say that there was more to his own decision than James’ (via ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne):

For Anderson Varejao, James’ lone remaining teammate from his first stint in Cleveland, it seemed as though LeBron had never left for Florida (via Jeff Zillgitt):

Irving might need some help, both figuratively and literally, getting on the level of his new superstar teammates (via 19 Action News’ Tony Zarrella):

Here’s how the Three Amigos looked from the front, sans soapboxes (via CNN’s Rachel Nichols):

And here’s a selfie featuring Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson (via Tristan Thompson):

Also, THIS JUST IN: LeBron can do amazing things with a basketball (via the NBA): 

 

Sacramento Kings

And now, a quick jaunt through the Kings’ media day, which didn’t start until 5 p.m. ET (via the Kings):

This season, the Kings will be wearing a patch on their jerseys to mark their 30th year in Sacramento (via KXTV’s Bryan May):

Derrick Williams marked the occasion by adding some tattoos to his collection and growing a fresh set of dreadlocks (via the Kings):

DeMarcus Cousins took fans behind the scenes (via the Kings):

That was before assuming his position behind a wall of reporters (via KHTK Sports’ Deuce Mason):

New starting point guard Darren Collison discussed his goals for the upcoming season (via the Kings):

Rookie center Sim Bhullar, the NBA’s first signee of Indian descent, made people look small (via KHTK Sports’ Carmichael Dave):

Including his own teammates (via The Sacramento Bee‘s Jason Jones):

And general manager Pete D’Alessandro explained how the Kings landed backup point guard Ramon Sessions (via Jones):

 

For more media day fun, find me on Twitter!

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How San Antonio Spurs Should Round out Championship Roster

The San Antonio Spurs elected to keep things simple this summer, quietly reassembling a roster that’s thus far identical to the one that quickly dispatched the Miami Heat in last season’s NBA Finals.

In addition to inking head coach Gregg Popovich to a multiyear extension, the organization extended point guard Tony Parker and re-signed free agents Boris Diaw, Patty Mills and Matt Bonner. In a bid to maintain the corporate knowledge that’s gotten the franchise this far, general manager R.C. Buford avoided any impulse to prematurely shake things up with an eye to the future.

That plan almost certainly owes much to Tim Duncan’s decision to put off retirement for at least another season.

So long as Duncan continues anchoring San Antonio’s interior presence, the remaining piece to the puzzle consists primarily in surrounding him with high-IQ players who can pass and shoot the ball. 

Parker—now 32—will still be the club’s offensive engine, and Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard is poised to take another step forward in his rapid ascendance.

By all accounts, the Spurs are well-positioned to vie for another title. Though much has changed around the NBA landscape, Popovich’s squad supplements its talent with unrivaled chemistry, depth and discipline.

That said, Buford and Co. now have some decisions to make.

With just one open roster spot, speculation about the team’s final piece has surfaced with a number of names mentioned as possibilities.

The most familiar of those names is still deciding whether he’ll retire or play another day.

ESPN.com’s Marc Stein suggested via Twitter in August that the, “Reigning champs, I’m told, [are] trying to barge into Ray Allen sweepstakes.”

Stein quickly proceeded to note that, “Ray Allen himself, mind you, has been saying for weeks that he’s still deciding whether or not to play next season, let alone choose where.”

Indeed, Allen and his camp have been persistent in their declarations that there’s nothing to see here, at least not yet.

“As Ray has previously stated, he is taking this time to make a decision whether or not he will play next season,” agent Jim Tanner said in an August statement, per USA Today Sports. “Any reports otherwise are false.”

Allen himself echoed that sentiment.

“It’s August, and I don’t want to rush to judgment,” Allen said, according to the Hartford Courant‘s Dom Amore. “I want to get to September and see how I really feel.”

Now that it is September, we may be closer to some news. If the Spurs can dissuade Allen from joining close friend LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, that would instantly resolve any outstanding questions about how Buford should complete his roster.

Though San Antonio’s wing rotation is well-stocked with shooters (including Danny Green, Manu Ginobili and Marco Belinelli), no team is too deep to make room for an icon like Allen. The 39-year-old may be coming off a career-low 9.6 points per contest, but he still converted on 37.5 percent of his three-point attempts.

Allen certainly can’t carry a significant load, but he’s the kind of specialist who rises to the occasion—as the Spurs themselves traumatically learned in Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals.

While adding an accomplished veteran like Allen ranks as San Antonio’s ideal scenario, it probably isn’t the most realistic.

The organization has already signed a trio of roster long-shots: Bryce Cotton, JaMychal Green and, most recently, San Diego State forward Josh Davis. 

Unless one of those guys makes a strong impression during training camp, odds are the Spurs look elsewhere.

Earlier this month, Sporting News’ Sean Deveney reported that, “Free-agent forward Earl Clark, who followed up a breakthrough year with the Lakers by bouncing between the Cavaliers and Knicks last year, will be working out this week for the defending champion Spurs, a source told Sporting News.”

Still only 26, Clark has bounced around the league since the Phoenix Suns selected him with the No. 14 overall pick back in 2009. He showed some potential during his 2012-13 campaign with the Los Angeles Lakers, but he’d likely struggle to establish himself as anything more than a third-string forward in San Antonio.

Meanwhile, Stein reported amidst FIBA World Cup play that the “Spurs have expressed interest in signing Mexico star center Gustavo Ayon, ESPN.com has learned.”

Stein also notes that, “San Antonio remains determined to re-sign Australian center Aron Baynesbut has identified Ayon as both a potential Baynes replacement or a possible addition to the roster even if a new deal with Baynes is worked out.”

It’s not entirely clear how the team would make space for both Baynes and Ayon, but the big takeaway is that there’s a good chance the Spurs carry another seven-footer on the roster before all is said and done. One way or the other, it makes sense to add some depth behind Duncan and Tiago Splitter—especially with Diaw limited primarily to playing the 4 spot.

Baynes was used sparingly last season but made the most of his limited minutes with hard picks and tenacious rebounding. He even made 14 appearances in the playoffs, including some quality minutes against the Portland Trail Blazers and Oklahoma City Thunder.

His presence was a reminder that the bottom of the rotation matters, especially on a team that spreads its minutes around.

But important as these little things are, there’s a strong case to be made for punting this decision down the road a few months. Unless someone like Allen jumps at an opportunity to join the reigning champions, preserving an open roster spot makes a lot of sense.

Recall that San Antonio signed Diaw in March of 2012 after the veteran was waived by the then-Charlotte Bobcats. Buford could take a wait-and-see approach, surveying the free-agent landscape once teams have had the opportunity to waive or buy out what they consider excess baggage.

The Spurs have a way of reclaiming those lost causes.

Alternatively, some extra depth in the middle (in the form of Baynes or Ayon) couldn’t hurt. Another point guard to ease the blow of Mills’ months-long recovery from shoulder surgery might make sense, as well.

For the Spurs, these kind of decisions are something of a luxury. A title-worthy core is already in place, and the options for supplementing that core aren’t half bad. 

The rich appear destined to get a tiny bit richer.

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Brazil vs. Argentina: FIBA World Cup 2014 Round of 16 Score and Twitter Reaction

A close contest was expected between Brazil and Argentina in Sunday’s single-elimination clash at the 2014 FIBA World Cup, and the score remained even through two quarters. However, a surging Brazil team ultimately shocked the Argentinians, dominating the second half to win by a score of 85-65.   

FIBA tweeted the game’s end result:

Heading into the game, Argentina was ranked third in the world—just behind the United States and Spain—but the No. 10-ranked Brazilians displayed their size and earned the victory by remaining aggressive in the paint.

Early in the contest, the Argentinians were sticking to the outside more than expected. The team was settling for jumpers and three-pointers rather than challenging Brazil on the inside. For a moment, it looked as though the game plan would work, as Argentina’s Pablo Prigioni was knocking down some serious buckets from behind the arc.

The first quarter ended with Argentina up 21-13, as Brazil couldn’t seem to find any kind of consistency on the offensive end of the court. HoopsHype tweeted some unfavorable stats for the Brazilian team early in the game:

In the second quarter, the tables began to turn in Brazil’s favor. The Argentinians continued to shoot from the perimeter, but with far less success than they had in the first. Meanwhile, Brazil became more aggressive on the inside, as Raulzinho Neto led the charge with a flurry of layups.

At the break, Argentina’s lead dwindled to just three points.

Brazil was feeling it in the third quarter. With a great deal of confidence and momentum on its side, the team continued to attack both on the interior and from the outside, as Anderson Varejao dominated in the paint and Marquinhos Vieira began to heat up from three-point range.

With just 10 minutes remaining in the game, the Brazilians were suddenly up by eight, and the Argentinians found themselves on the brink of elimination. Eurohoops.net tweeted the game’s current situation:

The situation remained the same throughout the fourth quarter. Brazil continued to attack on the inside, hitting high-percentage shots and increasing its lead. This forced Argentina into more wild attempts from the perimeter—most of which were missed.

By the end of the game, Argentina took a whopping 29 three-point attempts, connecting on 10 of them. Meanwhile, the team’s inability to drive to the basket forced it to settle for far too many jumpers, resulting in hitting just 12-of-27 attempts from close range.

Both teams fought hard until the game’s bitter end. Fran Fraschilla of ESPN.com tweeted his thoughts:

On the other hand, Brazil shot an impressive 53.3 percent on the day thanks to its presence on the interior. The team won the rebound battle in decisive fashion, pulling down 39 boards to Argentina’s 26, and recorded 36 points in the paint—Argentina racked up just 18.

Neto was on fire on Sunday. He led the game with 21 points while hitting nine of his 10 shots. Varejao and Vieira were enormous presences on the inside. They combined for 21 points and 15 rebounds while coming up big on defense as well.

The San Antonio Spurs tweeted their own Tiago Splitter’s final stats:

Splitter spoke about his team’s mentality and how meaningful the contest was after the game, via Euroleague Basketball:

Argentina saw a nice performance come from guard Prigioni. He connected on three of his four three-point attempts and totaled a team-high 18 points while collecting four boards and three assists. HoopsHype tweeted what the result could mean for Argentina:

With the win, Brazil moves on to face Serbia in the quarterfinals. The Serbians dismantled Greece on Sunday, winning by a score of 90-72 due to the fantastic 21-point performance from Bogdan Bogdanovic.

Like Brazil, Serbia has some great size on the interior, but the team also has the shooting ability to remain efficient from the perimeter. There are plenty of similarities between these two teams, so expect to see some compelling basketball when they face off on Wednesday.

 

All statistics courtesy of FIBA.com.

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Turkey vs. Australia: FIBA World Cup 2014 Round of 16 Score and Twitter Reaction

Turkey mounted a late comeback after trailing for much of the 40 minutes, furiously battling back to defeat Australia 65-64 on Sunday and advance to the 2014 FIBA World Cup quarterfinals.

Sinan Guler and Emir Preldzic led the way for Turkey, both amassing a game-high 16 points. Ender Arslan added 11 more as the only three Turkish players in double figures.     

The Turks were beaten soundly on the boards, with Australia posting a 44-30 advantage in the rebounding battle. But Turkey was able to negate it with strong outside shooting—the team shot 9-of-22 from the three-point arc.

Australia was led in scoring and on the glass by forward Aron Baynes‘ 15 points and seven rebounds, while guard Matthew Dellavedova added 13. But despite spreading the ball around with 15 team assists, the Australians couldn’t overcome a 14-turnover performance.

Turkey will advance to face Lithuania in the quarterfinals.

Brian Mahoney of The Associated Press summed up the result:

Some of the most notable NBA names were rare contributors on Sunday. Omer Asik was among them, hitting his only shot from the field with four points and three rebounds as Turkey’s starting center.

Dante Exum also made an anticipated appearance for Australia, but it was short-lived. The Utah Jazz rookie missed his only shot attempt of the night, grabbing two rebounds as his only real impact.

When Australia’s run ended after the game, Andy Bailey of Bleacher Report saw the positives for Exum:

Australia controlled the tempo early on, jumping out to an 18-15 lead after the first quarter.

But Turkey had little trouble hanging around as the first half wore on, cutting the deficit to just one point at halftime.

The Australians began pulling away in the second half as much as any team would in this affair, escaping for a double-digit lead midway through the third when Baynes connected on a two-handed dunk. 

But when the fourth quarter came around, the Turks continued to trim the deficit closer and closer off big performances from Preldzic and Guler

Turkey was down, but never looked to be out when Australia was pulling away in the second half. Instead, the Turks continued executing what was working for them and got the tough baskets to make it a one-possession game down the stretch.

And when the time came, Preldzic hit the dagger with just seconds left to guarantee the win, as John Hobbs of TalkBasked noted:

With only five seconds left to muster a late winner, Australia wasn’t able to draw up a buzzer-beater and saw its World Cup run end in heartbreaking fashion.

Alexander Chernykh of Sports.ru captured the anguish of Australian fans:

The result was especially noticeable after the controversy that came about during the end of the group stage. Australia had to deny tanking to avoid Team USA in its group-stage finale against Angola, per The Guardian, via the Australian Associated Press

“We always, as Australians, compete the right way,” head coach Andrej Lemanis told Australian AP. “People will make up their own minds. There’s always going to be speculators. I can’t control what people think.”

In the end, Australia won’t have to worry about facing Team USA at all after being eliminated by the Turks. After early aspirations of winning Group D, Australia ends play in the FIBA World Cup 3-3. 

As for Turkey, its run in Spain will continue after impressing in Group C with three wins and two losses. They might not get it done in convincing fashion, but the Turks head into the quarterfinals with plenty of momentum as they gear up to play Lithuania.

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Brazil vs. Argentina: Live Score, Highlights for FIBA World Cup 2014 Round of 16

We’re on to the elimination round of the 2014 FIBA World Cup, and Brazil and Argentina compete Sunday at 4 p.m. ET for a bid to a quarterfinal matchup against Serbia. 

Argentina has been led by Indiana Pacers forward Luis Scola, who has averaged 21 points and nine rebounds per game over the tournament. Facundo Campazzo and Pablo Prigioni have handled the point guard duties effectively, averaging 5.0 and 4.4 assists, respectively. 

Brazil has staggered their scoring well, with six players posting at least eight points per game. Leandro Barbosa, at 31 years of age, has led the team in scoring with 13.6 a game, while Anderson Varejao has been the squad’s leading rebounder with 7.6 per contest. Marcelinho Huertas has put on a beautiful passing display over his five games, dishing five or more assists in three games. 

Argentina will need to compete with Brazil’s glut of NBA-caliber big men in Varejao, Nene and Tiago Splitter. The Argentines have shot well from along the perimeter, but the difference today could come from inside the arc, where Brazil has asserted themselves thus far.

You can catch this one at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN3. Be sure to follow along here through the final horn for live updates. 

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Serbia vs. Greece: FIBA World Cup 2014 Round of 16 Score and Twitter Reaction

Led by Bogdan Bogdanovic and a balanced offensive attack that saw five players score double-digit points, Serbia pulled off the upset of previously undefeated Greece on Sunday, winning 90-72.     

The Serbians torched the Greeks from behind the arc, finishing 9-of-18 from three and shooting 54.2 percent from the field in an impressive offensive display. 

Bogdanovic paced the Serbians with 21 points (4-of-7 from three) while Miroslav Raduljica (16 points, six rebounds), Milos Teodosic (13 points, five assists), Nikola Kalinic (12 points), Nenad Krstic (10 points) and Nemanja Bjelica (eight points, 10 rebounds) all contributed in a big way.

The man of the game, Bogdanovic, summed up the performance afterward, via Euroleague Basketball on Twitter:

Here’s Bogdanovic making his comments, via Sportnado:

It was the sort of breakthrough performance that folks had expected but yet to see, as Eurohoops tweeted:

Kalinic also spoke about the result:

Bjelica’s presence down low was also huge for Serbia, as Rafael Uehara of Hoop365 noted:

It was a true team display from Serbia, and one that Greece could simply never match. Nick Calathes led the team with 14 points while Georgios Printezis and Nikos Zisis each scored 12 for Greece, but it simply wasn’t enough to hang with the Serbians.

Greece’s 14 turnovers and the fact that they were far less efficient from three (37.5 percent on 9-of-24 shooting) than Serbia certainly didn’t help the country’s cause.

For a team that had yet to lose, the showing surely had to be a major letdown. In the end, the team’s deficiencies simply overshadowed its strengths, as Uehara noted:

Interestingly enough, Greece had the only two blocks in the game and matched Serbia in rebounds. But stats don’t always tell the full story, and in this game Serbia was simply the more fluid, efficient team.

Still, Serbia’s next test will far more difficult, as it awaits the winner of the Brazil vs. Argentina matchup. Either of those teams will be favored against the Serbians, though after the performance vs. Greece, Serbia will be a confident bunch.

If they can play the sort of team basketball they showed against Greece, they’ll be a very difficult out for whichever South American team they face.

 

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Biggest Takeaways from Saturday’s FIBA World Cup of Basketball Round of 16 Play

After the first day of elimination-round competition at the 2014 FIBA World Cup, four teams survived the round of 16, while eight others will attempt to do the same on Sunday.

The United States, France, Slovenia and Spain all advanced to the quarterfinals on Saturday in their first contests since preliminary-group play. There were no surprises so far, but the toughest matchups await—including a potential meeting between Team USA and Spain in the Final.

The U.S. has yet to be tested during tournament play, and its win over Mexico was no different. The 86-63 victory actually looks closer than it was thanks to a strong fourth quarter by Mexico. 

Meanwhile, Croatia’s late-game run was almost enough to upset the French (who prevailed 69-64), and Slovenia bested the Dominican Republic by a modest 10 points.

But Spain continued to mirror the United States’ dominance with an 89-56 victory over Senegal. With the Spaniards and Americans blowing opponents out left and right, their eventual meeting in the Final may be all but certain by now.

In the meantime, here’s what we can take away from Saturday’s action.

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Spain vs Senegal: Live Score and Highlights for FIBA World Cup 2014 Round of 16

Spain and Senegal are squaring off in a round of 16 game at the FIBA World Cup. 

Keep it locked here on Bleacher Report throughout the game for real-time updates, highlights and analysis of all things Spain-Senegal. 

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