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The biggest team they'll ever be on

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The biggest team they'll ever be on

LONDON (AP) -- The U.S. men's Olympic basketball team is favored to win again, and some think it's a matter of the players just showing up.

If that's the case, they could be in real trouble.

Showing up anywhere has been difficult for the Americans, whose traveling woes have nothing to do with a call by the referee.

Friday they arrived nearly 20 minutes after the scheduled start for their opening press conference, making anxious photographers wait extra long for that first click when LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and the rest of the reigning gold medalists walked in.

"Two days we've had nothing but issues with transportation. No one's fault in particular, just general," USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said. "We've been through so many neighborhoods, when this is over we're going to be able to do a little history on the city of London."

The bus carrying the U.S. team Friday drove to the wrong gate, which when the heightened security is factored in at an Olympics venue, may as well be the wrong city. The team had a similar problem on its first trip to see the basketball arena Thursday, along with going to the wrong place after its arrival in London from Barcelona, Spain.

U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski joked that he wants his team to be as consistent with its shooting as the team's bus drivers have been with their loss of direction.

"So far we've gotten lost on every one of our bus trips, so right now it feels chaotic," he said.
They'll hope to have an easier time figuring out the route to the gold medal podium.

Before arriving in London, things had been going more smoothly for the Americans. They fit in five exhibition victories around the casinos of Las Vegas, a meeting with President Barack Obama in Washington before taking a day off to enjoy the sun and shops of Spain on Wednesday.

U.S. guard Russell Westbrook looked like he had just come from Barcelona, wearing shower shoes along with his U.S. basketball warmup suit.

The Americans aren't quite the megastars they were four years in Beijing, where basketball was wildly popular. Still, they're different than almost all the other athletes here, that being reinforced when the communications official reminded media that the press conference time shouldn't be used for player autographs or personal photos.

But the players are trying to act like regular Olympians, touring the athlete's village Thursday and meeting fellow American competitors such as sprinter Tyson Gay and swimmer Jason Lezak.

"It got crazy, it got hectic, but in a fun way," forward Carmelo Anthony said. "Everybody wanted pictures. We was out there just having fun, mingling with the other athletes, not just from the U.S. but from other countries. It feels good to be loved around the world."
Chris Paul said it's a mutual lovefest.

"I was explaining to (Westbrook) and (Kevin Durant) what's so cool about the Olympics is they are on the biggest team you'll ever be on," Paul said. "You see all the athletes with USA T-shirts on ... we're all teammates."

They begin play Sunday against France, a medal contender led by Spurs All-Star Tony Parker that features six NBA players, trailing only the U.S. for most in the field. The French are in a group of teams along with Spain, Argentina and Brazil -- all of whom lost to the Americans in exhibition play -- who could challenge a U.S. team that believes it's better than it was in 2008 but recognizes that its opponents are, too, and won't take anything for granted.

"I think there's always a target on our back and every team, their biggest game is against us," swingman Andre Iguodala said. "I feel like some teams are happy with just losing by less than 10. We had exhibition games where teams, they lost, but they were just happy it wasn't a 50-point game. And then sometimes even back home, like, we can't be arrogant. We have to be humble and we have to go in every game, play hard, play respectful, because anything done the wrong the way on our end will be blown out of proportion. So we're kind of, that microscope has been put on us."

The Americans were never threatened in 2008 until the gold-medal game, when they pulled away in the final two minutes to beat Spain by 11. They had some difficult stretches in exhibition play, trailing Brazil and Spain after one quarter and having a 20-point lead cut to four in the final minutes by Argentina, so they aren't assuming a simple path back to gold.

"I don't think anything's going to be easy," guard Deron Williams said.

Not even the bus rides.

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Fixing their 'Swiss cheese' defense now a top priority for the Caps

Fixing their 'Swiss cheese' defense now a top priority for the Caps

Heading into the 2017-18 season, defense was a question mark for the Capitals. That question mark grew even bigger with Matt Niskanen on LTIR. Now, in the wake of an 8-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers and with Niskanen out until at least early November, Barry Trotz knows the team needs to fix the blue line and they need to do it fast.

“We've got to be better,” Trotz told reporters after Tuesday’s morning skate. “But there’s areas of our game that we can be better. We can be better in our own zone. We can take care of business defensively. That’s got to be our security blanket. We had too many holes in our d-zone. It was like Swiss cheese.”

RELATED: TROTZ HAS SHUFFLED THE DEFENSIVE PAIRS. WHAT DO THEY LOOK LIKE NOW?

The team’s first response to Niskanen’s injury was to recall Madison Bowey, a player who impressed in training camp and who likely would have started the season on the team if not for a salary cap crunch and his waiver exempt status.

Bowey’s first game did not go well with the lasting memory being a highlight reel deke Jakub Voracek delivered to turn Bowey around before setting up another Philadelphia goal.

Trotz took ownership of Saturday’s game saying the team did not “insulate” Bowey very well in his NHL debut.

The problem is that it will difficult to insulate him or anyone on the Caps’ defense given how thin the blue line currently is. Washington’s defense currently features two rookies in Bowey and Christian Djoos and Bowey is only one of three right-handed shots. Plus, both Bowey and Djoos are likely better options than either Taylor Chorney or Aaron Ness so it will be tough to take either rookie out of the lineup.

MORE CAPITALS: HOW TO WATCH CAPS-LEAFS

Given Washington’s salary cap constraints as they are right back up against the cap when Niskanen returns from injury and his salary is back on the books, it will be difficult for the Caps to make any sort of trade to bring in outside help. Many may point to goalie Philipp Grubauer as a trade chip, but his salary cap hit is only $1.5 million and you can subtract $650,000 from that as the team would have to recall Pheonix Copley to serve as backup. What kind of help can you really get with less than $1 million to play with?

If the team is going to turn things around and shore up its defense, it will mean improving from within.

Said Trotz, “We're in this for the long haul with our defense.”

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Wizards vs. Sixers: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

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Wizards vs. Sixers: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

John Wall, Bradley Beal and the Washington Wizards battle Joel Embiid, Markelle Fultz, Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch…

WASHINGTON WIZARDS VS. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 7:00 p.m.
TV: ESPN (coverage begins at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington)
Live stream: WatchESPN.com
Radio: 1500 AM

Three things to watch...

It all begins

The long, crazy, unprecedented NBA offseason is officially over. It's time to watch some Wizards basketball. This year Washington enters the season with the highest expectations they have had in a while. Coming off their best season since the 1970s, a year in which they won 49 games, their division and reached the second round of the playoffs, the goal is to go further. They want to win more than 50 games and reach the Eastern Conference Finals or beyond.

John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and Markieff Morris are all coming off the best seasons of their careers and will hope to take another step. Marcin Gortat will look to continue being a double-double machine. Ian Mahinmi will hope for better health. Kelly Oubre, Jr. will seek a breakout season. And their new-look bench will try to improve on last year's group. The Wizards have the tools to be one of the best teams in the NBA, but they have to stay healthy and prove it now that the rest of the NBA knows what they are capable of.

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A different Wall?

Wall made All-NBA for the first time last season, but there are many reasons to believe the best is yet to come. Wall earned that honor despite sitting out much of last offseason following two knee surgeries. This summer he was healthy and benefitted because of it. He was able to focus on his conditioning like never before and reported in fantastic shape. Now he has his sights on the MVP award and first team All-Defense. We get to see the new version of him on Wednesday night.

Wall, of course, is still finding motivation in the littlest of things. He took issue this summer with ESPN not ranking him in the top 10 among NBA players. And on Tuesday he tweeted what seemed to be a gripe with ESPN not including him in their tweet welcoming back the NBA. Wall, again, appears to be on a mission and the rest of the league should watch out, perhaps especially if you're a rookie point guard getting a lot of hype. While we're on the subject...

[RELATED: HOW MAHINMI LOST WEIGHT, WHY HE LOVES D.C.]

High profile NBA debuts

The Sixers will have two, not one, but two No. 1 overall picks making their NBA debuts on Wednesday night. It's not often you see that and it's a big reason why this one is slated for a national TV audience, that and because big things are expected of Joel Embiid. Markelle Fultz was the top selection in 2017 and will be playing his first game in his own backyard. He grew up in nearby Upper Marlboro, Md. and went to DeMatha Catholic. He won't start, but this is a huge night for him. He is playing his first game on ESPN at home and against Wall, one of the game's best point guards. No pressure, kid.

The other No. 1 pick is Ben Simmons, whom the Sixers took in the 2016 draft. He missed all of last year with a foot injury but is back and ready to remind us of why he went first overall. Simmons had a tremendous preseason and showed off his rare talents as a 6-foot-10 guy who can run the floor with anyone and pass like a point guard. He is going to make an impact in this league, but we don't know exactly what type of player he will be. Watching his debut should be fascinating.

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