Kobe Bryant says USA will no longer cakewalk to gold: “The days of 1992 are over”

 nba.nbcsports.com  09/13/2019 21:00:41 

It’s been the common refrain from American basketball observers in the wake of the USA finishing out of the medals  seventh or eighth, actually, depending on Saturday’s game against Poland  in the FIBA World Cup in China:

The USA didn’t send their best team, and the rest of the world is too good at the game now for America to get away with that.

Kobe Bryant said this is nothing new and American audiences had better get used to it.

“I hear that a lot  did we send the best possible team that could come out here. The Redeem Team, we needed a helluva fourth quarter to beat Spain, and we still needed a really late push to beat Spain in the gold medal match,” Kobe said of the 2008 USA Basketball team he was on with LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, and other stars. “Put the best players that you think are gonna make the best U.S. team out on the floor  its still not gonna be a cakewalk.

“The days of 1992 are over.”

That 2008 Redeem Team was an alignment of the biggest stars in the game at the time, fueled by Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski taking over USA Basketball after the USA took bronze in the 2004 Olympics, then finished out of the running at the 2006 World Championship (which FIBA now calls the World Cup because it desperately wants to be like its soccer counterpart). The USA won gold at every major international tournament between 2008 and 2016, but this World Cup was different, with many of the USA’s top players choosing not to come.

Kobe said he understood why many elite players chose not to come to China this year, as some dealt with injuries, while others tried to navigate recovery and moves to new cities (or teams that underwent a roster overhaul). It’s a big commitment to come.

Kobe was in Beijing during this World Cup’s final four  Argentina and Spain will face off for the title on Sunday  as an ambassador of the sport. At his press conference (attended by Rachel Thompson of NBC Sports) the questions about Team USA kept flowing, but his answer was always in the same vein  the world is changing and the USA needs to adapt to that reality.

“Its not a matter of the rest of the world catching up to the U.S., the rest of the world has been caught up for quite some time,” Kobe said. “Its to the point where us in the U.S. are gonna win some, gonna lose some, theres just great basketball being played. Whether its Redeem 2, no matter what team it is, its not gonna be easy.”

After this showing, expect many of America’s top players to sign up to come to Tokyo next summer for the Olympics. Guys did not want to commit two summers in a row to Team USA, and guys will always choose the Olympics  still a huge deal in America  over the often overlooked World Cup.

Just don’t expect it to be easy for those guys to win gold, either.

Kemba Walker is now a member of the Boston Celtics, and that team is hopeful they can reach the Eastern Conference Finals and perhaps beyond next season.

Walker decided to walk away from the Charlotte Hornets and a potential opportunity for a supermax deal. Or at least, that’s what we thought.

We got word earlier this summer about the reported amount that the Hornets had offered Walker, and that it was significantly less than the supermax deal available to him.

In a new interview with Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer, Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak has said that there were several factors that led to the team not offering Walker the supermax.

First and foremost? The Hornets were surprised when Walker actually qualified for it.

Via Charlotte Observer:

Kupchak told the Observer the Hornets were somewhat blindsided by Walker making All-NBA, and thus becoming supermax-eligible. He said while Walker didnt demand the full supermax, the wide gap between what the Hornets could justify paying and Walkers growing status changed the dynamic.

&

We had great years with him, and we didnt get into the playoffs, Kupchak said. What makes us think that next year (would) be different?

Ive got to step back and look at where weve been and where were going. Chart out a course that gives us the best chance to build something that is sustainable for more than a year or two.

Kupchak went on to say that he did not trade Walker leading up to the February trade deadline in 2019 because the offers for the star point guard just weren’t that interesting.

Almost every offer revolved around draft picks. It was always lottery-protected, said Kupchak.

For now, it appears that at least one person has been honest with us about how the Hornets handled and thought about Walker. While it would have been nice to keep the player many consider the best in team history, the results around him we’re not up to par. Of course, that was largely due to the roster construction around Walker, which Kupchak will try to fix in the coming seasons.

Walker will be happy to be at the top of East next season, and the Hornets appear ready to rebuild.

We knew Zion Williamson was strong but…

Damn. He broke the club at the Pelicans’ team golf outing this week.

I’m surprised the ball didn’t explode into 1,000 pieces when he hit it.

Don’t spoil the magic. Sure, we all know that does happen to clubs now and again, even good Callaway ones. I don’t want to hear it.

He broke the club with his swing.

As a side note: the Pelicans are going to be so much fun to watch this season.

The Houston Rockets had their chance to head to the NBA Finals a couple of years ago. They were up on the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals in 2018 before Chris Paul injured his leg. Now Paul is gone, and in his place is Russell Westbrook.

But does that make them any more of a favorite to make it to the Finals?

The Rockets are certainly hoping so, and it appears that owner Tilman Fertitta knows this is a big opportunity. For once it’s the Warriors who are entering the season banged up, and Houston finally has an opening.

Via Yahoo!:

“I think we put ourselves in the position that if we don’t win it in the next three or four years, we probably aren’t going to win one in the next 10 years,” Fertitta told Yahoo Sports in an interview to promote his debut book titled Shut Up And Listen, which hits all major bookstores on Tuesday. “This is our window, and we need to seize the opportunity.”

This is completely reasonable. Most teams get a championship window in the 2-to-4 year range, and although Fertittas estimation might be a little generous, now is the time for the Rockets to strike while the iron is hot.

It’s not as though James Harden and Westbrook will have any less competition out west. Several teams bolstered their rosters, and of course the Los Angeles Clippers are now the favorites to take over the reins in California.

Fertitta is right, however. If there was a time to count out the Warriors at season’s start, 2019 would be it. They best get to winning some games early.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban oversaw an organization with a sexual-harassment problem. He said hed cross the street if he saw a black kid in a hoodie late at night. He praised former Clippers owner Donald Sterling years after Sterling’s racist and sexist practices had come to light.

Now we’re hearing Cuban  in a page straight from Sterling’s playbook  heckled his own player during games.

Lamar Odom had a miserable 2011-12 season in Dallas. He handled personal issues by abusing drugs, played poorly and even later apologized to Cuban. In his new book, Odom details Cuban’s profane heckles.

Odom said Cuban also once went beyond verbal degradation.

Odom, via D Magazine:

During one homestand, I was having possibly the worst game of the season. Head coach Rick Carlisle subbed me out, and I looked for a seat near the coaches, but none were available. So I went down to the only open seat at the end of the bench. Right next to Cuban.

Cuban extended his right foot and kicked my shin. Come on, motherf[]er! he shouted.

I was stunned. This wasnt a tap. I felt it. That was the last straw. It was painfully clear he did not respect me as a man.

This might get brushed off because it was so long ago and because Odom has become gossip-page fodder. Reality-TV stars generally don’t get taken seriously.

But the NBA should investigate Odom’s claim.

Look at the wrath Warriors minority Mark Stevens (rightfully) received for pushing Kyle Lowry during the NBA Finals. We now recognize that as inexcusable, and this sounds even worse.

Maybe Cuban remembers the story differently. He deserves a chance to defend himself.

But this should receive deeper attention.

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