Posted on: July 26, 2010 12:28 pm
Edited on: July 26, 2010 9:33 pm
Posted by Royce Young
Cuts are expected today for Team USA and Jerry Colangelo says right now he plans on taking 15 players to training camp. Currently though, there are 19 guys on the roster, so four appear to be getting the rest of the summer off.
So, the obvious question i s: Who's likely to be in and out? And not only that, who's looking good for the final roster as well?
Kevin Durant - I'm going to write something here just because everybody else is. But we know this is KD's team and he did nothing Saturday night to make you think otherwise. Not only did he score at his typical high-efficiency clip (28 points on 10-17 shooting) but he also showed off some excellent passing skills. He's the only guy that's a confirmed lock at this point.
The Almost Locks
Derrick Rose - The competition is pretty fierce between Rose, Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo and Chauncey Billups. Deciding not only who makes the final cut will be tough, but who plays? Right now Rose has the upper hand because of reputation and also he's played well thus far in Vegas. But a poor week and he could easily slip down into the maybe section.
Chauncey Billups - Billups will likely make the final roster by default. He's the elder statesman of the team and with so many guys around 21 or 22, having an "OG" (Old Guy) as they're calling him, isn't a bad thing.
Rudy Gay - Other than Durant, Gay was the most impressive player Saturday. He netted 23 on 7-11 from the floor and really showcased his athleticism. Gay has an extremely good chance to not just make the final roster, but to have a big impact in Turkey as well.
Tyson Chandler - Coming in, Chandler was a total bubble guy. Now he's not only almost a guarantee, but probably the US's starting center. He's been more aggressive in the paint than anyone else and with Team USA lacking size, Chandler is a perfect piece to set up in the middle to defend the rim. Plus, with FIBA rules allowing players to knock the ball off the rim, Chandler could be an absolute force.
Rajon Rondo - The problem with Rondo is that he's one dimensional. Westbrook, Rose and Billups can conceivably slide over to the 2, but Rondo is locked into the point guard position. If David Lee doesn't get hurt and Amar'e Stoudemire were available, Rondo might be on the block. But as of today, it's looking good for Rondo.
The Looking Goods
Kevin Love - Love has a lot of value to this team because he can rebound, set screens and pass. Plus with the shortened 3-point line, he could be an absolute deadly pick-and-pop candidate. He's not a lock yet because he's hasn't performed especially well so far, but he's likely to make the at least the first cut.
Brook Lopez - Lopez is currently suffering from mono, so not only does that explain his lackluster performances, but it puts him in jeopardy of missing the games. The US needs his size badly and that's why he still has a great shot at the team.
Russell Westbrook - In the scrimmage, Westbrook was a menace. He's like a ball-hawking safety that's always looking to jump a route. He's the Ed Reed of the NBA. And because of that, he has a nice shot at the roster as a stopper to come in and frustrate someone like Ricky Rubio. Westbrook is a physical guard that beats up a lot of opponents. With the hand-checking rules, Westbrook could get downright nasty.
Stephen Curry - Team USA needs a shooter and nobody's stroke has been better. Well, other than Durant's. But Curry can play both the point and shooting guard, but his job will be to step on the floor and knock down treys.
Lamar Odom - Odom is a versatile power forward that can do it all for Team USA. Which is something it needs with the injuries and issues the team has had up front. However, Odom isn't a guarantee at this point because he admittedly came in to Vegas in poor shape and hasn't looked wonderful. But everyone knows what he's capable of so he'll likely be there.
Andre Iguodala - Iguodala may not make the final cut because of a logjam at the 2 and 3, but he's played well enough to at least get to camp. He's an above average wing defender and fits in well with Team USA's up-tempo approach.
Danny Granger - Granger has the unfavorable position of being behind Kevin Durant and Rudy Gay. However, Durant and Gay might be spending a healthy amount of time at the 4, meaning Granger could slip in and play small forward. He's shot the ball well and scored at a high clip thus far. He's competing basically against Andre Iguodala and right now, Iguodala's defense gives him a slight edge.
Gerald Wallace - Thus far, Wallace hasn't impressed much offensively. But really, he rarely does. He makes his mark by playing harder than everyone else, playing defense and just scoring tough buckets. There's a plethora of small forwards on the roster, but having an extra ace defender is never bad. Wallace may make this cut, but he'll be in a battle with Granger and Iguodala for the final 12.
Jeff Green - Green has been pretty meh so far. His 3-point shot has been inconsistent, he hasn't hit many jumpers and he hasn't rebounded exceptionally well. Yet because of the team's situation, he fits in well. He's versatile, can play multiple positions and can be a very solid offensive player. He might not see quality time, but he's worth having.
The Four on the Block
Eric Gordon - The US was looking for a shooter to stretch the zone defense international teams love to play a la Michael Redd in 2008 and basically, it was a competition between Gordon and Curry. And so far, it looks like Curry has the upper hand. Gordon has shot the ball well, but Curry's stroke is so pure that it's hard to picture it going flat under the pressure in Turkey. Gordon's is a beautiful thing, but a little more inconsistent.
Tyreke Evans - A tweaked ankle is all that's keeping Evans out. He was likely a lock for this roster, but because of a sore ankle he's missed most the practices plus the scrimmage. For shame.
JaVale McGee - McGee is a darkhorse just because he's seven feet tall and is a center. Team USA needs that sort of thing badly. But right now, he's just too unpolished to go in front of someone like Kevin Love or Brook Lopez. McGee has shown some encouraging flashes of brilliance, but he's just not ready.
O.J. Mayo - A player like Mayo is going to undeservedly get left off this roster and it's just because of the supply of backcourt players. Team USA is ultra thin up front, so Coach K and company are more likely to take someone like Gerald Wallace or Jeff Green who can play on the front line than stack another guard onto the already full backcourt.
Posted on: July 7, 2010 1:58 pm
Edited on: July 7, 2010 2:17 pm
They finished one and two in the MVP voting last season. They finished one and two in scoring. They’re two of the game’s biggest stars, captains of their teams and the faces of their franchises. Yet, I don’t know if Kevin Durant and LeBron James could really be much more different.
No lights. No cameras. No fanfare. Just a simple, humble announcement and a thank you. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with the way LeBron is going about this, but there’s certainly something refreshing in the way KD did.
I even love the fact that Durant had a typo in his tweet. It was genuine and we know it came from him. Some PR specialist didn’t type that for him. He wrote it himself, and wrote it from the heart. Later, Durant followed up with this tweet :
First time i cried n a while..Seat Pleasant we #outchea , RIp Chucky, we doin wat we dreamed about..i swear i love all my bros!! yessir!!!
Seat Pleasant, Md. is his hometown. Chucky is for his AAU coach Charles Craig who was killed at the age of 35, which is the reason KD wears No. 35. Talk about keeping it all in perspective.
And not only that, but KD pledged his commitment to the Thunder by not insisting on a fourth-year opt-out clause. Most players take the opt-out. Heck, that’s what LeBron is using right now to play this free agency game. But Durant felt compelled to show loyalty to the Thunder because they showed it to him when they arrived on his door a minute after the negotiation period began.
Read that again. Durant chose not to put a clause in his contract that would likely have made him more money down the road, because he wanted to show appreciation to his franchise. Are we still talking about professional sports here? I mean, this is almost unprecedented. But that’s the thing, KD is different .
This is the guy that chose Nike over Adidas even though Adidas offered more money because he’d always worn Nike’s growing up and he said they just fit better. We’re talking about a guy that used to work the scorer’s table at UT during intramural games . We’re talking about a guy that attends his team’s draft in New York City just to show support. We talking about a guy that watches from the bench at summer league. Summer. League. Yesterday, OKC capped a 10-2 run to take the lead against Charlotte. The first off the bench giving high fives? Kevin Durant. We're talking about that kind of guy.
I just can’t help but find it slightly ironic that on a day LeBron tries to grab everyone’s attention with a one-hour television special , Kevin Durant completely upstages him by humbly announcing his extension with a typo on Twitter. Similar ability, different in personality I suppose.
You can try your darndest to win folks over with brilliant marketing and PR, but most times, genuine just wins out. KD didn’t expect this kind of reaction. It’s just who he is. And here’s to hoping, for the sake of sports fans everywhere that are tired of egos and greed, that KD never changes.
Posted on: July 7, 2010 1:55 pm
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Posted on: July 7, 2010 11:08 am
Edited on: July 7, 2010 12:00 pm
Wouldn't you know it, right after Matt Moore writes about athletes controlling their own messages and announcements , Kevin Durant goes and alerts the world via Twitter of his extension. KD tweeted at about 9:40 a.m. CT :
"Exstension for 5 more years wit the #Thunder....God Is Great, me and my family came a long way...I love yall man forreal ."
And it didn't even take a one-hour special to do it.
Obviously Durant can't officially sign with Oklahoma City until July 8, and terms are not available right now, but I'm sure this was for nothing less than the maximum amount. (UPDATE : Reports are five years, $85 million.) Durant is the youngest scoring champ in NBA history, finished second in last season's MVP voting, led the youngest team in the league to 50 wins, scored 25 points or more in 29 consecutive games (only second to Michael Jordan in the modern era), nearly went 50-40-90 in percentages and is an all around swell person. Yeah, this was kind of a no-brainer.
Durant has been adamant about wanting to stay with the Thunder since last summer. Many questioned it, but as most should know by now, KD is an honest guy that's not out blowing smoke. He's not into playing games or using the media. He wanted to stay with the Thunder and he signed a long-term extension to prove it.
Also, as Marc Stein reports, KD's agent Aaron Goodwin said Durant didn't insist on an opt-out clause after the fourth year because he wanted to "respond to OKC's proactive offer with the fullest possible commitment." How's that for outstanding? Not only does Durant announce this in the most humble way possible, but he commits as much as he can to his franchise out of respect of their offer. KD is just a different breed of superstar man.
The big question has been answered for the Thunder. The centerpiece is there for the next five years. Sam Presti is a great general manager, but this one didn't take a lot of genius to pull off. But now the focus turns to Jeff Green and his contract situation. Durant is in place, now where will the other long-term pieces fall around him?