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Team USA basketball cruises past China in Olympic opener

Team USA basketball cruises past China in Olympic opener

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) -- Kevin Durant and this new-look U.S. Olympic basketball team look just as dominant as the ones who slammed and jammed their way to the last two gold medals.

Durant picked up right where he left off in the 2012 Olympics with 25 points, and the Americans routed China 119-62 on Saturday in their opening game.

The new Golden State Warriors star scored 30 points four years ago in the gold-medal game, when the Americans held off Spain for the championship. Only he and Carmelo Anthony returned from that team, but the new guys were plenty ready for their Olympic moment.

DeMarcus Cousins added 17 points and Paul George 15 for the U.S., which is a heavy favorite to win a third straight gold and won't change any opinions after this performance.

Tougher competition might come later, but it should be an easy start for the Americans. They play again Monday against Venezuela, another team they beat easily in exhibition play.

Anthony finished with nine points and made by history becoming the first U.S. male to play basketball in four Olympics. He will become the first three-time gold medalist on the men's side if the U.S. wins.

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The 32-year-old veteran tied LeBron James and David Robinson by playing in his 24th game in the Olympics.

The Americans beat the Chinese twice in exhibition play by scores of 106-57 and 107-57, and this one was even less competitive.

Former NBA lottery pick Yi Jianlian had 25 points to open his fourth Olympics. No other players were in double figures for the Asian champions.

Durant, Anthony, Cousins, Kyrie Irving and Klay Thompson started the game for the Americans, and all 12 players scored.

The Chinese got on the board first with a pair of free throws, and it was tied at 4 after a basket by Yi. Then it was nine straight points for the Americans, who closed the first quarter with a 26-6 burst to lead 30-10.

DeAndre Jordan shook the backboards inside Carioca Arena 1 with some of his powerful dunks, DeMar DeRozan had a couple, and in case the dunks were too easy, Irving knocked in four 3-pointers in the second half for his 12 points.

There were flags waving and fans singing, the festive scene in the stands more interesting to watch than the game that wasn't competitive after the first few minutes.

The U.S. was favored by about 50 points, so it wasn't supposed to be close.

If the Americans keep playing like this, the Olympic competition may not, either.

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Gilbert Arenas set to return to D.C. in June as part of the BIG3

Gilbert Arenas set to return to D.C. in June as part of the BIG3

Any Wizards fans looking to watch professional basketball over the summer should circle July 11 on their calendar.

Former Wizards star Gilbert Arenas returns to Capital One Arena on that Saturday, as part of the Enemies of the BIG3.

The BIG3 announced their schedule for the 2020 schedule on Wednesday, and all 12 teams will play in Washington, D.C. during the third week of the season.

Arenas, who joined the league last year as a member of the Enemies squad, did not play in the nation's capital last season. The Enemies did not make playoffs in their first season of the BIG3.

Other former Wizards players in the BIG3 include Rashard Lewis, Drew Gooden, DeShawn Stevenson, and Mike Bibby among others.

The fourth season of the BIG3 kicks off June 20 in Memphis, Tenn.

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GM Tommy Sheppard so far proving he is good at exactly what Wizards need

GM Tommy Sheppard so far proving he is good at exactly what Wizards need

There is an argument, and I've made it before, that John Wall's contract and injury situation combine for one of the biggest roster-building obstacles in NBA history. Never before has a player making as much money as he is suffered an injury as serious as his ruptured left Achilles. He takes up 35% of the salary cap, is not playing this season and has no guarantees of returning to his All-Star form once he comes back.

Even if Wall does return to his prime form, and there's reason to be hopeful he can, his contract includes a lot of money for the Wizards to work around. And that has created a scenario where making small moves count matter even more than they otherwise would.

The Wizards have to maximize all of their other resources, much like the Brooklyn Nets did when they ultimately overcame the disastrous 2014 trade with the Boston Celtics that left them paying a debt of high first-round picks for years. Brooklyn worked around their draft pick blackhole by hitting on late-round selections plus minor signings and trades. And they built a foundation along the way that made them surprising heavyweights in free agency. 

The Wizards have plenty of work to do, but first-year general manager Tommy Sheppard is already proving his worth in peripheral transactions, the types that turned the Nets around. They may be less-heralded acquisitions, but they can also become major separators between GMs.

Sheppard has been running the Wizards front office for less than a calendar year, yet he already has an impressive list of marginal moves. Just recently he turned Isaiah Thomas, who was a glaring detriment on the defensive end, into Jerome Robinson, the 13th overall pick just 20 months ago.

Last offseason, his first as GM, he flipped Aaron White, a former second-round pick who was stashed in Europe, for Davis Bertans, who has become one of the best shooters in the NBA. He also turned cap space into Moe Wagner and Isaac Bonga, two guys with intriguing potential. Wagner, in particular, has emerged as a building block.

There are other minor moves Sheppard has made that stand out as good ones. He may have found something in Garrison Mathews, a rookie on a two-way deal who can light it up from three. Anzejs Pasecniks and Gary Payton II have been nice surprises as end-of-the-roster guys. And signing Ish Smith for less money instead of retaining Tomas Satoransky has proven to be a smart decision.

Sheppard continues to nail the smaller moves but he has also hit on some of the bigger ones. He drafted Rui Hachimura ninth overall in June and he has exceeded expectations thus far. Sheppard also re-signed Bradley Beal to a contract extension in October, a move few saw coming.

What will ultimately write the story of Sheppard's tenure as GM are decisions even bigger than those. There will also be some level of luck between the draft lottery, injuries and other factors.

But the best signs for what the Wizards should hope they get from Sheppard are already there. They need someone who can maximize all roster-building opportunities and work within the tight space of their remaining salary cap.

So far, Sheppard has done just that.