Blackhawks

Durant, Iguodala shine while Paul sits with injury

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Durant, Iguodala shine while Paul sits with injury

LAS VEGAS With a day to ruminate on Thursday nights proceedings, here are some random thoughts on Team USA following its slaughter of the Dominican Republic in its exhibition opener:
LAS VEGAS With a day to ruminate on Thursday nights proceedings, here are some random thoughts on Team USA following its slaughter of the Dominican Republic in its exhibition opener:
FIRST THE BAD NEWS
While the game wasn't competitive in terms of the Americans' hopes in London, obviously forward Blake Griffins knee injury, which will sideline the All-Star throughout the Olympics (he will reportedly be back for Clippers training camp) put a damper on things, even if it happened at the previous day's practice. However, the naming of Anthony Davis as Griffins replacement eases some of the worries about the squads big-man depth. The strong performance of the No. 1 overall pick Thursday doesnt hurt either.
While Davis isnt the uniquely explosive athlete Griffin is (who is?), Davis length, shot-blocking ability and perimeter skills should come in handy, as he displayed the ability to step out and knock down long-range shots.
Although it certainly wasnt as serious as Griffins situation, starting point guard Chris Paul -- ironically, Griffins teammate -- was held out of the second half of the game due to a minor thumb injury suffered earlier in training camp.
When asked about it, Paul took a humorous approach, saying, Coach K was tripping, to tell you the truth. I wanted to play, but he wouldnt let me. It is what it is. Weve got a lot of games left.
KD THE MVP? NOT SO FAST
As formidable as the teams starting unit -- Paul with Kobe Bryant in the backcourt, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony at the forwards and NBA Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler at center -- the evenings best player was clearly three-time league scoring champion Kevin Durant. The Thunder small forward put on a ridiculous shooting clinic and while his offensive firepower coming off the bench is a luxury, how long will it be until he replaces Anthony, a team captain, in the starting lineup?
But as well as Durant played, 76ers swingman Andre Iguodala was awarded the games MVP. With his combination of stifling defense and surprising outside marksmanship Thursday, the Springfield, Ill., native proved that he was worthy of being on the team. One of Team USAs final additions, Iguodalas selflessness is invaluable and hes one of the few players on the squad that doesn't need the ball to be effective.
'TALL' ORDER FOR TEAM USA
No one will confuse this team with past U.S. powerhouse squads, simply because of its lack of size (the Dominicans, led by Hawks star Al Horford, often had a size advantage) but the teams versatility and ability to press defensively makes it a scary foe for future opponents.
Our pressure is ridiculous. The amount of ball pressure we can put on guys with me, D-Will Deron Williams and Russ Russell Westbrook, then Kobe and all those guys, said Paul. Were so versatile. We have shooters, we have athletes, we have defenders. Weve just got to go out there and make sure we play the game the right way, and as long as we do that, well get all the shots we want. Our biggest thing is going to be to defend.
NOBODY'S PERFECT
Team USAs debut wasnt flawless, if one wants to nitpick. Of all players, Bryant seemed a bit out of sync offensively. He took multiple high degree-of-difficulty shots as if he were at the Staples Center instead of UNLVs campus, where the Vegas crowd seemingly egged him on. Also, while its intriguing to see the versatile James line up at center on occasion. One has to wonder how that lineup would fare against massive teams such as Spain, which features the Gasol brothers -- the Lakers Pau and the Thunders Marc, both 7-footers -- and Oklahoma Citys Serge Ibaka, the leagues leading shot-blocker. And of course, the Dominicans led at one point in the early going, 4-2, something the original Dream Team never let happen back in 1992.
GOING TO TOWNS
Aside from Horford, the player on the John Calipari-coached Dominican republic team with the most professional potential may have been Karl Towns, Jr. Towns, a 6-foot-10 forward from New Jersey, entered the contest late and showed off his scary skills with a three-pointer, not an uncommon occurrence for the big man. A smart move by Calipari to add the youngster for future recruiting purposes; Towns just completed his freshman year of high school, where he won a state title at the alma mater of Lakers center Andrew Bynum and former Bulls guard Jason Williams.
FINAL WORD
For a debut performance, it was a strong showing and fans likely can look forward to even better play as the team continues to gain chemistry.
Practice is always one thing. The game is always the best indication of how youre going to feel, Pau said. That first couple of minutes, everybody was winded out there, too. I think it has something to do with everybody being so anxious and playing so hard and once everybody got that second wind, it wasnt too bad.

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

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USA TODAY

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Adam Burish and Pat Boyle discuss which Blackhawks could be on the trading block and what players are building blocks for the Hawks future.

Burish also shares a couple memorable trade deadline days and his “near” return to the Blackhawks in 2012. Plus, he makes his bold trade deadline prediction for the Hawks.

Listen to the full Blackhawks Talk Podcast right here:

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Andre Dawson talks about his Cubs reunion

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Andre Dawson talks about his Cubs reunion

Carmen DeFalco (ESPN 1000) and Jordan Bernfield join Kap on the panel. Anthony Rizzo returns to the Cubs after an emotional weekend home while Tom Ricketts expects another World Series parade. Plus Hall of Famer Andre Dawson joins Kap to talk about his Cubs reunion and how the current crop unsigned free agents compares to his experiences with collusion.