Don't expect Durant, Team USA to take Spain lightly


Don't expect Durant, Team USA to take Spain lightly

Few things motivate better than fear of losing, be it income or health or life or family or even a sporting event.

The United States men’s basketball team, fearing embarrassment on an international scale, reached that point Wednesday in Rio de Janeiro and responded in spectacular fashion.

No one delivered more spectacularly than Warriors forward Kevin Durant.

Bringing a level of intensity not seen in previous games of these Olympics, Durant attacked his first bucket. Breaking a couple Argentine ankles in the process, he scored seven seconds after tipoff and fired in 13 points in a practically perfect first quarter that launched Team USA to a 105-78 victory over Argentina.

That sent the Americans into a semifinal game Friday against Spain, which is superior to Argentina and, therefore, good enough to increase the fear factor.

"We've always felt Spain, they'd have a gold-medal chance, and why wouldn't we think that?" Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski told reporters in Rio. "The last two gold-medal games we've played were against them and they were great, great games."

If Team USA applies itself as it did Wednesday – and as it failed to do in the three previous games – Durant and his teammates will be just fine. They’ll banish Spain by double digits and prepare for the winner of the Serbia-Croatia semifinal on Sunday.

“We knew we had to raise our level,” Pacers star Paul George said afterward. “How we were playing wasn’t good enough. We did a great job defensively of getting stops, forcing turnovers, getting out on the fast break. That’s where our game has been lost, the fast break game.”

With the abundance of talent on Team USA, it’s about staying focused and displaying energy, especially on defense.

If the win over Argentina is any indication, Durant is poised to ensure that. The best player on the team came to play, play hard, and was willing to live with the result.

“I just didn’t care about the outcome of the game,” Durant said. “I was telling myself before I left my room today that I’m at my best when I don’t care if we win or lose. It might be different for other players but, for me, I’m (freer) and more aggressive in games and it’s more fun for me if I don’t care about the outcome.

“I know if I go out there and be who I am, the outcome will dictate itself. I just tried to play and be free out there and not worry about anything and tonight Coach put me in great positions all night and my teammates were supporting me and I just tried to be aggressive for them and play my game.”

Durant totaled a game-high 27 points (9-of-13 shooting, 7-of-9 from deep), seven rebounds and six assists.

So now it’s on to Spain, which features four NBA players, including Spurs big man Pau Gasol and Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio. That qualifies as enough of a threat for the men of Team USA to shed any semblance of overconfidence.

Two more wins will keep the promise of gold. After truly casual performances against Australia, Serbia and France, the victory over Argentina indicates Team USA can smell it now.

“I don’t want to say the team was different,” Cavs guard Kyrie Irving said of the quarterfinal win. “I just think the magnitude of what was at stake was a lot higher. We understood that, and we understand that we have to play our best games now.”

That they do. And fear of defeat makes it a lot easier to dig deep and do that.

It's official -- Steph Curry will return vs Hawks, Dennis Schroder awaits him


It's official -- Steph Curry will return vs Hawks, Dennis Schroder awaits him

OAKLAND -- At a time when the Warriors could use a boost, they’ll get Friday night when Stephen Curry rejoins the lineup as they face the Atlanta Hawks.

The Warriors (53-18) have been shorthanded for two weeks, and still they’ll be without three of their four All-Stars. Curry’s return after a six-game absence, however, will send a jolt of energy through the team and the crowd at Oracle Arena.

The Hawks (21-51), in full rebuild mode, have lost 10 of 13 since the All-Star break, including a 105-90 loss to the Kings on Thursday night in Sacramento before the lightest NBA crowd of the season due to protests in the wake of a police shooting.


Warriors by 9


Stephen Curry vs. Dennis Schroder: Under normal circumstances, this is worthy of attention, but it’s particularly intriguing with Curry making his return. Schroder, who rested Thursday night, is a defensive pest, the type of player whose presence lights a fire under opponents. Not that Curry needs it. He’s downright anxious to get back on the court.


Warriors: F Omri Casspi (R ankle sprain) is listed as questionable. F Kevin Durant (R rib cartilage injury), F Draymond Green (pelvic contusion) and G Klay Thompson (R thumb fracture) are listed as out.

Hawks: G Kent Bazemore (R knee bone bruise), F De’Andre Bembry (abdominal strain), G Antonious Cleveland (L ankle surgery rehab), F/C John Collins (L ankle sprain), G Malcolm Delaney (L ankle sprain) and G Jaylen Morris (L ankle sprain) are listed as out.


Warriors: 6-4. Hawks: 2-8.


Sean Wright (crew chief), Kevin Cutler, Rodney Mott


The Warriors prevailed in the first of two meetings this season, 114-109 on March 2 in Atlanta. They swept the two-game series last season and are 6-1 against the Hawks in the Steve Kerr era.


DEFENSIVE INTENSITY: Green’s absence robs the Warriors of their best defender and emotional leader. How do they compensate? That’s going to be tough. Expect Jordan Bell (who will start) and Kevon Looney to handle most of the minutes at PF. They’re capable and willing defenders, but neither has Green’s savvy.

THE GIFTS: Though the Warriors, even without a full roster, are much the better team, those circumstances have guaranteed nothing this season. They have a tendency to keep games close by committing costly turnovers. The Hawks are second in forcing turnovers (15.5 per game) and third in points off turnovers (18.2).

THE GUARDS: Curry’s return gives the Warriors a fourth guard, with three PGs (Quinn Cook, Shaun Livingston, Curry) and SG Nick Young. Because Curry and Quinn Cook are capable of playing off the ball, there will be several variations. Any two can be paired as a duo. The coaching staff gets to satisfy its desire to experiment.

Former agent Christian Dawkins to blame? Jordan Bell knows 'exactly what happened'


Former agent Christian Dawkins to blame? Jordan Bell knows 'exactly what happened'

So here's a story for you:

At 9:25pm on April 16, 2017, The Vertical's Shams Charania sent out the following tweet:

This angered Jordan Bell, who soon thereafter tweeted twice:

So what actually went down? It turns out that former agent Christian Dawkins -- who is a key figure in the FBI's investigation into corruption in college basketball -- may have been responsible.

Bell explained everything to Logan Murdock on the Planet Dubs Podcast.

"I was mad ... I know exactly what happened. One of the agents I met with -- the one who got in trouble. What's his name? Dawkins or whatever. Something like that. When I met with him, he was throwing me shade -- he acted like he didn't know who I was. 

"We had dinner and he's on his phone like not really paying me attention. I'm like, 'Why am I meeting with you?  You're wasting my time.' ... I kid you not, he didn't read over his (research). It had all of the top power forwards, big guys in the draft. And he was like, 'Let's just look at this.'

"And he's looking at it, and he was like, 'Oh! You're Top 3 in everything!' And he started getting excited and I was like, 'I'm cool. I'm done with this meeting.'"

Bell then explained how one of his coaches at Oregon tried to teach Bell a lesson.

The coach wanted Bell to "be a man" and contact all of the agents that he was for sure not going to sign with to let them know.

Bell didn't want to do that because he wanted to announce he was declaring for the draft on his own terms, without any information potentially leaking to the media.

But the Warriors rookie took the coach's advice and texted Dawkins to say he was going in a different direction.

"And I kid you not, like an hour later, I get an (alert) -- I'm upstairs at my coach's house -- 'I hear Jordan Bell declares for (the draft)' and I just started screaming...

"... I feel like I have to go (to the NBA) now ... when that happened, I was like, 'I really want to go back now just to prove him wrong, just to make him lose all credibility."

Bell quickly came to his senses, and at 10am on April 18, 2017, he retweeted the following message:

Interestingly -- the last line of The Vertical's story that broke the news regarding Bell reads:

Bell is projected to be the No. 38 overall pick in The Vertical’s latest mock draft by Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.

The Warriors paid the Bulls $3.5 million for the rights to Bell at... No. 38 overall.

Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller