NBA

As Olympics draw near, you must read this piece on USA Basketball

As Olympics draw near, you must read this piece on USA Basketball

As another Olympics draws near and if you have any interest in basketball, I want to highly recommend you take a look at this exhaustive piece that NBC has put together -- an oral history of the rebuilding of the USA Basketball system.

You probably won't get through the whole thing in one sitting -- it's a very long read. But I'm going to tell you I think it's worth your time. It took some relatively embarrassing defeats to put this country's national team program back on track and this is the story of how it all went together, including a look at a couple of mismatched teams and coaches that caused serious changes in the way we chose our national teams.

A lot of this is inside stuff and candid commentary, including this about that disastrous, mismatched team that Larry Brown tried to coach:

(Stu) Jackson: Larry Brown was consulted on the team and I can remember in some specific situations, some concerns about certain players were expressed and about their addition to the team. But, I can tell you that those additions to the team would not be made without the understanding that a coach would support the team that he was given.

"To me, it was simple: They picked the wrong coach at the time."

Stephon Marbury

You really need to read this, if for no other reason than to get to the very end in order to find out which player has the chance this year to become the most decorated USA Olympic basketball player of all time.

NBA needs to find a more realistic approach to banned substances, marijuana

usatsi_13792755.jpg
IMAGN

NBA needs to find a more realistic approach to banned substances, marijuana

There’s an in-depth story today by NBC Sports' Tom Haberstroh and Monte Poole about the use of marijuana by NBA players and I assume, that with recreational use of weed legal in Oregon, there will be a lot of people interested in giving it a read.

I’m sure that one of the big headlines to come out of the story will be the assertion that “50-85 percent” of the players in the league are using -- either recreationally or medicinally -- some form of the drug.

I would have no idea if that is true or not, but I would guess it to be more toward the low side of that estimate. My personal experience with people passionate about something -- from heroin, to Diet Coke, to weed, to soccer,  to cocaine, to baseball, to country music -- is that they will tell you that everybody is doing it. That they are but a small part of a bigger movement.

It’s just kind of how we are.

But, whatever. I’ve never been too concerned with what people do in their personal time to make themselves feel better, or happier or healthier. I mean, I watch pro wrestling to relax. Do your thing.

But I have criticized NBA players -- Trail Blazers, in fact -- for using drugs that have gotten them suspended by the league or their team. You take the big check to perform and that means you have to abide by the workplace rules. If you do not, your team and its fans pay the price for your selfishness by not having you available to play during a suspension.

In the NBA, use of marijuana is prohibited. Do I think that’s outdated? Yes, especially in states where use is legal.

And I would back anybody trying to get those NBA rules changed or softened. People seem to find pain relief in some forms of marijuana and I would support allowing its use.

It seems to me that in today’s world, NBA regulation of prescription drugs, opiates and the like, is much more important.

And really, my guess -- and it’s just a guess -- is that the NBA has already relaxed its stance on weed. You just don’t see or hear about players running afoul of drug tests for anything but PEDs these days.

The league is either ignoring positive marijuana tests, using outmoded forms of testing that are easily defeated or just not testing for it -- particularly if “50-85 percent” of the league’s players are using.

Somebody would get caught once in a while, right?

I would urge the NBA to get on board with major-league baseball and find a more realistic approach to banned substances. The league that fancies itself as a leader in social issues is way behind.

Mark your calendars: The BIG3 is coming to Portland

usatsi_13225362.jpg
usati

Mark your calendars: The BIG3 is coming to Portland

Basketball fans in the Northwest will be treated to quite the experience this summer thanks to Ice Cube and the BIG3.

The league announced its season-four schedule Wednesday and it's highlighted with an August 22nd stop in Rip City. 

This marks the first time in the league's history that they will be playing in Portland and just the second time they have made a stop in the Northwest. The previous occurrence was in 2017 in Seattle.

However, this will be no ordinary stop for the BIG3 - Moda Center will play host to the league playoffs!

The BIG3 will play its entire playoff bracket in Portland before moving to Detroit the following weekend to play the BIG3 Championship Game. 

Former Trail Blazers star Clyde Drexler, now the commissioner of the BIG3, is looking forward to the league returning to the Northwest and debuting in the city he once called home:

We're so excited to bring the BIG3 back to the Pacific Northwest with the best professional FIREBALL3 players in the world! With all of our star players, co-founders with an amazing knack for entertainment, and Hall of Fame coaches, you’ll be greatly impressed with not only the quality of play and intensity, but just how much fun our festivals are! The BIG3 is a sports lovers delight and a fan favorite!

Drexler isn't the only former Blazers star excited about the return to Portland. Former No.1 overall pick Greg Oden is also looking forward to being back inside Moda Center.

In fact, the BIG3 has a lot of connections to the Northwest: 

- Former Trail Blazers center and No.1 overall in the 2007 NBA Draft, Greg Oden plays for the Aliens

- Former SuperSonics and Oregon State star Gary Payton coaches the 3 Headed Monsters

- Current Trail Blazers assistant Jannero Pargo plays for the Triplets

- Former Trail Blazers forward Qyntel Woods, the 21st overall pick int he 2002 NBA Draft, plays for the Trilogy 

- Former Seattle SuperSonics forward Rashard Lewis plays for the 3 Headed Monsters

- Former Washington Huskies point guard and Seattle native Nate Robinson plays for Tri-City

- Seattle native Jason Terry plays for the Trilogy 

Tickets for the event have yet to go on sale, but they're sure to sell out fast when they do!

Rising Stars Reunion: Gonzaga’s Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke reppin' Team World with plenty of dunks

usatsi_14042065.jpg
USA Today Images

Rising Stars Reunion: Gonzaga’s Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke reppin' Team World with plenty of dunks

That was fun!

The 2020 NBA Rising Stars Game is now in the books. 

There were plenty of high-flying slam dunks, while Team USA put on quite the offensive clinic in the second half against Team World.

For two of the World players it was a fun night to be back on the same team.

Gonzaga’s Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke were reunited Friday night with Hachimura representing Japan and Clarke representing Canada. 

But let’s be honest, the duo was really reppin’ the Zags.

Hachimura started out the game with a bang. He had three dunks within the first two and a half minutes.

It was obvious that Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic enjoyed playing with the Gonzaga duo. Doncic found both Hachimura and Clarke down low on multiple occasions. 

Rui had plenty of fans in attendance as he made history. The cheers were heard throughout the broadcast whenever he made a big play at the United Center in Chicago.

It was the first time in All-Star history that a Japanese player played in the Rising Star Game.

And, he didn’t disappoint.

Hachimura finished the game with 14 points on 7-of-11 shooting to go along with seven rebounds and four assists.

Luckily for Hachimura, he was healthy enough to play.

After missing 23 games with a groin injury this season, Hachimura returned to action with the Washington Wizards last week.

The rookie forward started out averaging 13.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game during his first 25 NBA games.

Hachimura was held out for the second half of December and all of January with the injury.

But now that he’s back, he hasn’t skipped a beat.

In the five games since returning, Hachimura has averaged 13.6 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, while shooting 51.9% from the field and 42.9% on 3-pointers.

As for the Memphis Grizzlies big man, Clarke has been a big key off the bench for the young Memphis squad.

Clarke was getting out and running in the Rising Stars Game and he was getting rewarded on the break. His teammates were finding him and he made sure to throw down plenty of his own jams. 

He also had this nice putback dunk:

 

Clarke was the second leading scorer for Team World with 22 points. He also pulled down eight rebounds and dished out two assists.

This season, Clarke is averaging 12.3 points and 5.7 rebounds on a Memphis team that sits in the eighth spot out west with a 28-26 record.

And boy has Clarke been efficient. He is shooting 62.3 percent from the field.

His impressive FG percentage doesn’t phase Gonzaga fans. Clarke shot a whopping 68.7 percent. 

The final two minutes of the Rising Stars Game turned into a dunk competition and Clarke was a big participant.

He made one of his two attempts.

Everyone in attendance at the United Center was looking for Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson to throw it down. And even though he didn’t make any of his three attempts in that last minute, he still put on a show as expected.

Even though Team World lost to Team USA, 151-131, there's no doubt that Hachimura and Clarke enjoyed starting on the same team together once again. 

Trail Blazers Pregame Notebook: Simons will play against the Pelicans

Trail Blazers Pregame Notebook: Simons will play against the Pelicans

Before the Trail Blazers and Pelicans tip-off at 5:00p.m. tonight on NBC Sports Northwest and on the 'MyTeams' App, Blazers head coach Terry Stotts gave us an injury update on Anfernee Simon  (concussion).

“He is available and will play,” Coach Stotts said.

Simons suffered a concussion early in the team's loss to the Utah Jazz on Friday and missed the teams win over the Miami Heat on Sunday. 

The Blazers need him, as the injuries have started to pile up. 

The Blazers were already without Jusuf Nurkic (broken leg), Rodney Hood (torn Achilles), and Zach Collins (dislocated shoulder), but now sprained ankles have Nassir Little and Mario Hezonja on the sideline. 

In need of reinforcements, the Blazers recalled Jaylen Hoard and Moses Brown from the G-League's Texas Legends on Tuesday. 

With new additions come new challenges. 

"The toughest part is from an offensive standpoint," said Stotts. "They're running different plays and doing different things with their G-League team. Coming back... just remembering what to do on the offensive end, that's probably the biggest challenge for them."

Hopefully, they remember it all pretty quickly, cause the Blazers are low on bodies and could need them tonight. 

HEAR FROM COACH STOTTS HERE:

BLAZERS INJURY REPORT:

Portland G Anfernee Simons (concussion) is available; F Mario Hezonja (left ankle sprain), F Nassir Little (left ankle sprain), F Rodney Hood (left ruptured Achilles tendon), F Zach Collins (left shoulder dislocation), and C Jusuf Nurkic (left leg fracture) are out for tonight’s game at New Orleans. (edited) 

PELICANS INJURY REPORT:

Zion Williamson (left ankle sprain) is probable; Brandon Ingram (right ankle sprain) is questionable; Darius Miller (right Achilles surgery), Kenrich Williams (right lower back soreness), Zylan Cheatham (Two-way) and Josh Gray (Two-way) are out.

 

Trail Blazers tie NBA record for threes made in a quarter in win

Trail Blazers tie NBA record for threes made in a quarter in win

When you’re hot, you’re hot!

The Trail Blazers shot their way from three-point range to a win over the San Antonio Spurs Thursday night, 125-117. 

They did so by exploding with a 39-point fourth quarter led by Gary Trent, Jr. who had 12 points in the final stanza. 

Portland outscored the Spurs by 14 points in the fourth and they did it with a near perfect sheet from distance.  

In the win, the Blazers converted nine of their 10 three-pointers and matched an NBA record in the process. 

Portland was 9 for 27 (33%) entering the final quarter. Then, they unloaded!

In all, five players converted from three for the Trail Blazers. 

Their lone miss came from Carmelo Anthony with 5:16 to play in the fourth quarter. 

Trent, Jr. was a perfect 4 for 4 in the fourth. He finished 6-7 from distance in the win, which ties a career-high. He initially set that record back on January 23rd vs. Dallas. The second-year guard/forward is averaging 39.4% from three this season. 

“Whenever you get out there and make plays, knock down shots, you get in a good groove and feel good about yourself and continue to keep pushing,” Trent said postgame. 

The Trail Blazers will have to continue to push as they travel to Salt Lake City for a game Friday night against the Utah Jazz. Tip-off is at 7:30pm on NBCSNW.  

Blazers-Pacers honor Kobe Bryant with 24 and 8 second violations

Blazers-Pacers honor Kobe Bryant with 24 and 8 second violations

The NBA and sports world is mourning the loss of a Kobe Bryant Sunday. 

The news left the world shocked and stunned. 

Gone too soon, how do you honor the life and legacy of the Black Mamba. 

The emotion overtook some players.

"The best thing you can do is go out and play the hardest game you've ever played," NBC Sports NW Trail Blazers Insider Dwight Jaynes said pregame. 

But, on the court, in addition to moments of silence, the players took it upon themselves to pay tribute by running out the 24 second shot clock to begin the game.

The Trail Blazers and Pacers did the same and added an 8 second backcourt violation, honoring the two numbers Kobe Bryant wore during his career. 

And now, we play basketball. 

 

In shock, Gary Payton reflects on losing his brother, Kobe Bryant

74d487f1e69c1dbb902a52e2749900be.jpg
IMAGN

In shock, Gary Payton reflects on losing his brother, Kobe Bryant

The sports world is grieving, mourning the loss of Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash Sunday morning. 

Everyone is collectively in shock. 

For those who knew him personally, who were able to play alongside him, share a locker room with him, it’s even more devastating. 

One of those individuals is former Oregon State Beavers point guard and NBA champion Gary Payton. 

Payton was teammates with Kobe during the 2003-2004 season when the then unrestricted free agent joined the Lakers along with Karl Malone. Payton played in all 82 games during the regular season, where he averaged 14.6 points with 5.5 assists and 1.2 steals. 

It was during that season that Payton developed an incredible bond with the young Black Mamba. 

“When I was with him, we got really close, Payton said on ESPN via a telephone interview. “I was the one with him all the time. We got to share a lot of stuff. He opened up to me a lot. We got to be close. That’s why he became a little brother to me.”

Payton, who was 35 at the time of joining the Lakers, was ten years Bryant’s senior. 

Kobe was accused of sexual assault in the summer of 2003, a complaint that was filed by a 19-year-old hotel employee. Bryant’s reputation at that time was tarnished. He lost endorsement deals. His circle shrunk. Payton was one of those people in it.

“It was amazing to see what kind of guy he was,” Payton said. “I found out what was really in his heart. Not just being a competitor…”

So, when news swirled about Bryant’s death, Payton was in disbelief. 

“It was just so shocking,” Payton said, holding back tears. “That was my young fella. That was my young fella. It’s just crazy. I’m sitting here now just in shock. That was my brother. That was my brother.”

Sporting events around the world pay tribute to Kobe Bryant

usatsi_13960609.jpg
USA Today Images

Sporting events around the world pay tribute to Kobe Bryant

News of Kobe Bryant being killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday sent shockwaves across the globe.

While the news broke, many big sporting events were soon beginning or already underway. The Denver Nuggets held a chilling moment of silence ahead of their game against the Houston Rockets, while Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson led a moment of prayer in the locker room ahead of the NFL Pro Bowl.

Let’s take a look at how sporting events around the world paid tribute to the Los Angeles Lakers legend.

At the NFL Pro Bowl in Orlando, Florida, Packers wide receiver Davante Adams caught a touchdown and then signaled “24” to the cameras and pointed to the sky. Russell Wilson reportedly led players in prayer, while Drew Brees discussed the impact Bryant had on the world.

In France, Neymar paid his respects to Black Mamba when he scored his second goal for Paris Saint-Germain against Lille on Sunday. He flashed the No. 24 with his hands.

In a storied Civil War clash between the Oregon State Beavers and Oregon Ducks women’s basketball team in Corvallis, Oregon, the two teams came together for a moment of prayer before the game.

Ducks star Sabrina Ionescu mourned the loss of her friend and mentor. She was seen wearing Nike’s with the words “Forever 24.

 

In Denver, Colorado, the Nuggets and Rockets held a moment of silence to mourn the loss of Kobe. 

Fans of the Lakers legend fled to the Staples Center in Los Angeles to gather and remember one of the greatest athletes of all time.

CBS’ Jim Nantz struggled to hold back emotions when he opened up Sunday’s broadcast of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego. Several reports suggest Tiger Woods was informed of his friend’s passing during the middle of his round.

A renaissance man who happened to play basketball, Kobe Bryant was taken too soon

A renaissance man who happened to play basketball, Kobe Bryant was taken too soon

Each generation of sports fans has its icon. For my generation, it was probably Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle, depending on whether you lived on the east coast or west coast.

But for a more recent generation, it was certainly Kobe Bryant. He was that group’s Michael Jordan or Jimmy Brown or Muhammad Ali.

He was a terrific basketball player, an all-time great, as everyone surely knows. But he was much more. He was a renaissance man. Educated for a time in Europe, where his father was playing professional basketball, Bryant was one of those people who was quite accustomed to being the smartest person in the room -- even though he entered the NBA directly out of high school.

In Portland and against the Trail Blazers, he played the part of the leader of the evil empire -- his Los Angeles Lakers. He played it well, too. A fiery competitor who did incredible things when his team needed them, he was often loudly booed in Moda Center.

But that was all part of the script. And you have to know that -- like Michael Jordan -- Bryant always saw that as a sign of respect.

For me, he was one of the most approachable superstars.

A ready smile and an intelligent response is what I usually expected from him -- and what I usually got.

I can recall during Damian Lillard’s rookie season how Bryant went out of his way to praise Lillard for his play and his competitive spirit. Not because it was the answer the hometown media were looking for, but because he believed it.

I will say this with all due respect for every player in the NBA -- basketball players come and go. But the likes of Kobe Bryant are so rare, so special. And his loss is a big loss to the basketball world.

He was as tough a competitor as you’d ever want to meet, but from my dealings with him, a brilliant, kind man with a real sense of his role and responsibility in the world.

And he lived up to that responsibility until today, when we were robbed of his presence way too soon.