Why is Gregg Popovich escaping criticism for Team USA failure?

Why is Gregg Popovich escaping criticism for Team USA failure?

The U.S. men’s basketball team dropped its second straight game at the FIBA championships and the excuses are flying.

Of course, the No. 1 alibi is that we didn’t send our best players. And that’s true. The best of the NBA would rather wait for a chance at an Olympic medal than waste a summer chasing a championship that didn’t even find its way to network television in this country. And I don’t blame them.

But it’s not as if we didn’t send very good players to China for this tournament. Only Mason Plumlee on this roster was not an NBA starter and there was a projected NBA payroll of $265 million for these guys.

Sorry, but no other team over there could feature talent of that magnitude.

So let me take a different path of trying to explain this problem. For one thing, doesn’t it seem that very few of our international teams have enough outside shooting to take advantage of the international three-point line? For years, other countries have sagged off in some form of zone defense as our teams struggled to make outside shots and couldn’t execute zone-breakers that some high-school teams can handle.

Yes, I think the selection process has been flawed for a long time, still enamored with spectacular dunkers and drivers, rather than pure shooters – even if they aren’t among the league’s high-priced endorsers.

And one other thing, how does Gregg Popovich escape unscathed? Why is there never any criticism of how he handled the team’s preparation or roster? Apparently Pop the Great is above all that.

He certainly couldn’t find many answers with this team, other than using smaller and smaller lineups. I don’t think Team USA was prepared for the situation. And that usually falls on the coach, doesn’t it?

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


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

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.

Sports world in shock, disbelief to learn news of Kobe Bryant's death

Sports world in shock, disbelief to learn news of Kobe Bryant's death

News broke Sunday that Los Angeles Legend Kobe Bryant has been killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas. He is believed to be one of at least four people traveling in the private helicopter and reports suggest there are no survivors. TMZ first reported the news.

Bryant played his entire 20-year career with the Lakers, winning five NBA championships. He was named NBA All-Star 18 times and retired after the 2016 season. 

The inital reaction from the sports world was shock. The 41-year-old has had an impact on players across every platform and in countries around the world. 

Here’s a look at how athletes reacted to the sad news about Black Mamba:

Stay locked into NBCS Northwest for more on this breaking news. 

Kobe Bryant dies in a helicopter crash

USA Today Images

Kobe Bryant dies in a helicopter crash

Former Los Angeles Laker and five-time NBA Champion Kobe Bryant died Sunday in a fatal helicopter crash in the Los Angeles area that killed four others.

A call for a downed helicopter in Calabasas went out at 10:01 a.m. local time, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. People who were out mountain biking in the area and reported the downed helicopter.

The news was first reported by TMZ.   

Investigations are ongoing.

"Unfortunately there were no survivors," Los Angeles County Fire Captain Tony Imbrenda told reporters Sunday.

Kobe was 41. He and his wife Vanessa have three daughters.

According to reports, Bryant was flying from his Newport Beach home to Staples Center when a helicopter carrying Bryant and multiple others caught fire.

"We're still in the early phase of this," LA County Fire Department officials said at the scene, via CNN. "We just know there were multiple fatalities."

Kobe’s death came just a day after LeBron passed him for third All-Time in NBA scoring,
More information to come as it is made available. 



Those around the NBA have helped Delonte West in the past, but now he may need them more than ever

Those around the NBA have helped Delonte West in the past, but now he may need them more than ever

The NBA made a lot of news over the summer as the league pressed forward with new mental health initiatives. 

The league was trying to be forward-thinking with its approach to mental health and announced prior to the 2019 season that all teams would be required to have a licensed mental health professional on staff. 

It was a big step forward for the league and in line with a program set forth by the NBA Players Association in 2018. 

In recent years, high profile players have come forward with their struggles with mental health, helping to normalize these issues. DeMar DeRozan, Channing Frye, and most notably Kevin Love have all shared their stories. 

NBC Sports even produced a touching documentary over the summer titled "Headstrong: Mental Health and Sports." The documentary chronicled numerous athletes and their battles with depression and other mental health issues.

Here at NBC Sports Northwest, we did our own vignettes to help support the series, where Channing Frye was kind enough to share his story with us.

Frye's story is a feel-good one. He has recovered to the best of his ability and is now using his struggles as a way to help those in need. But coming through the other side of the dark tunnel is not always the ending we get. 

This is where we are today. 

Monday afternoon, a video circulated around the internet of former NBA star Delonte West being beaten in the middle of the street and incoherently yelling at police officers with his hands handcuffed behind his back.

He was shirtless, disheveled, and presumably homeless. The video was shocking and saddening. A man once on top of the NBA world sharing the court with NBA greats had reached the lowest of lows.

I share the video below not to poke fun at West, like so many trolls decided was a good idea on social media. I do it, though it may be uncomfortable to watch, to bring awareness to just how crippling mental health issues can truly be. 

[Langugage Disclaimer-- This video is not suitable for all audiences]

People on social media want to point to drugs and alcohol, or any other scapegoat, but those aren't the true issue.

Mental health is.

And West has a long document battle with it.

In 2008, West had an altercation with a referee during a team scrimmage, an incident that prompted him to get help for depression and a "mood disorder" he had been battling for years. 

Via a 2008 ESPN article:

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Delonte West contemplated quitting before leaving the team's training camp to seek help for depression and "a mood disorder" he has been battling his entire life.

West, who recently signed a two-year contract with Cleveland, said he removed himself from the team to "get my thoughts back together." He missed three preseason games during his absence from Oct. 4-15.

"I felt a feeling of anger and I just wanted to throw it all away and quit the team," he said.

The 25-year-old candidly discussed his condition following practice on Friday. West said he had been troubled by his behavior toward a high school referee during a scrimmage at the Cavs' training facility on Oct. 3. West took out his frustrations on the official, and said the incident was a warning signal for him to seek treatment to combat an illness that has troubled him for years.

"I needed help," he said.

West went on to have a great season with Cavs, but the wheels started to fall off shortly thereafter. He was arrested and pled guilty to two counts of weapons possession and was sentenced to eight months of home detention.

He signed with the Mavericks in December of 2011, was suspended twice for "conduct detrimental to the team," and was waived in October of 2012. He never played in the NBA again. 

Now, instead of making headlines for his skills on the hardwood, he makes headlines sitting on a concrete sidewalk. 

As West falls deeper into the abyss, the NBA sits idle. Will they offer a helping hand? They should...but their record shows otherwise.

Take Royce White, drafted by the Houston Rockets in 2012. White had battled anxiety his entire life. It was well documented. This anxiety led to a severe fear of flying. He struggled with the rigors of the NBA travel schedule and never played a single game with the Rockets. White says the league wasn't ready to help someone with a mental health issue.

In an interview with the Star Tribune, White said, "I said at [age] 21 to the NBA that I think mental health is the most important issue of our time and that the mind is the start and finish...Not only did they not have a response or argument — as if there’s a defensible argument — but the fans that are endeared with the game of basketball and sport, in general, provided an argument for them.” 

White was eventually cut by the Rockets for failing to fulfill his contract. The once-promising star never played a single game in the NBA.

The NBA failed White, but in the time since it has been much more accommodating to its players and their battles with mental health. However, the focus tends to be on players currently in the NBA. What about players from the past?

If the NBA really wants to be progressive they need to not only help players when they are in uniform and making the league billions of dollars, but they need to also help them long after they decide to hang up the sneakers. 

White and West are just two of the former players that could use the NBA and its resources. Who's to say there aren't countless more that have fought their battles in private, thinking they had no one to lean on? 

Just simply being there can be the difference between life and death. 

Delonte West needs help.

He needs help that very few can provide. The NBA has the capability to be a savior.  The league has been the for the West in the past, and will hopefully continue to be there when he needs then the most. 

I leave you with this, a message from West's former teammate and close friend, Jameer Nelson. 



Al-Farouq Aminu has surgery, could be done for season


Al-Farouq Aminu has surgery, could be done for season

Former Trail Blazers forward Al-Farouq Aminu underwent successful surgery Tuesday to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee, the Orlando Magic announced.

He will be reevaluated in approximately 12 weeks.

Aminu tore his meniscus at the end of November and was sidelined when the Magic came to Portland on December 20th. He suffered a setback in last month and ultimately opted for surgery.  

Reportedly, Aminu could be sidelined for the remainder of the season depending on how he responds to treatment. The 12-week timeline pushes his return to the beginning of April. If the Magic are far out of playoff contention, it wouldn't make sense to bring him back.

How David Stern will be remembered in the Pacific Northwest


How David Stern will be remembered in the Pacific Northwest

The passing of former NBA Commissioner David Stern naturally brings about reflections on his impact on his league and on the Pacific Northwest.
And it must be said that for all Stern did to make the NBA a major factor on the world’s sports stage, there are memories of his tenure in this part of the country that are not positive.
In Seattle, he is blamed, in part, for the Sonics leaving Seattle. Stern engaged in a public feud with various government officials there and alienated taxpayers with his insistence on a new arena for the team. And there is still plenty of bitterness to this day, of course, about that franchise’s move to Oklahoma City.
Stern got off on the wrong foot with Trail Blazer fans in his first year as commissioner. In 1984, he levied a shocking $250,000 fine against the franchise – at that point the largest fine in league history – for allegedly tampering with then-draft prospects Patrick Ewing and Hakeem Olajuwon.
There are some who have also blamed Stern over the years for Portland’s failed attempts at playing host to the NBA All-Star Game, although it has never been established that he had anything to do with that.
Stern ruled the league with an iron hand, but his legacy will always be guiding the league from a big-league afterthought to a rising power. When he took over as commissioner, the league was still having playoff games tape-delayed by major TV networks, not paying large player salaries and overall, not generating big revenues. When he came to power, the NBA was generating revenue estimated at around $160 million a year and when he retired, that figure was up to an estimated $5.5 billion.
He also spearheaded the movement to make the game more international in scope, with all the profits and attention that went with it. The league fought behind the scenes for its players to be eligible for the Olympics and world championships and that was credited with eventually sparking the influx of foreign players into the league – beginning, of course, with the first Dream Team.
He also pioneered a marketing tactic that put more attention on individual superstars, rather than teams.
It wasn’t so much the Lakers vs. the Celtics, anymore, but Bird vs. Magic. And that tactic didn’t always sit well with Portlanders, either – but perhaps it would have had the team picked Michael Jordan or Kevin Durant in the draft.
On a personal level, Stern tended to look at me with a degree of wariness and skepticism – because I was often asking him questions about the location of his All-Star Game and the perceived big-market bias by his referees. This magnified after Kerry Eggers and I broke what became a major story about NBA referees being investigated by the IRS for cashing in first-class airline tickets and not paying income taxes on the money they earned from that.
But I do believe he was always fair with me and I was stunned when, on my very first day as a radio talk-show host early in this century, he called on-air from his limo in New York to wish me luck with my new job.
There is little doubt that he will go down in history as one of the great commissioners and leaders of any sports league. People within the league often called him “King David” or simply “the dictator” but there is no question that, on the whole, he led the league in the right direction.
And all NBA cities should forever be grateful for that.