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DeMar DeRozan Makes The Cut For Team USA

USA Basketball National Team Managing Director Jerry Colangelo announced Friday night the 12 players who will represent the United States at the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain. They are:

DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings)
Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)
Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans)
DeMar DeRozan (Toronto Raptors)
Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons)
Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets)
Rudy Gay (Sacramento Kings)
James Harden (Houston Rockets)
Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Mason Plumlee (Brooklyn Nets)
Derrick Rose (Chicago Bulls)
Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors)

Kyle Korver, Chandler Parsons, Gordon Hayward and Damian Lillard will not be joining their National teammates in Spain.

The only slight surprise was Colangelo decided to keep all three young centers, Cousins, Plumlee and Drummond and let the stretch four Parsons go, but this was really a decision about which 11th and 12th man to bring along rather than deciding about rotation players.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

DeRozan and Hayward

DeRozan, Drummond, Hayward, Lillard Sit As USA Decides Cuts

Team USA got their act together in the second half and rolled over Puerto Rico 112-86 at Madison Square Garden, however, the bigger story is who USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo will decide to keep from the remaining 16 players to get down to the FIBA mandated 12 man roster. It had to be tough for Raptors DeMar DeRozan, Pistons Andre Drummond, Jazz Gordon Hayward and Trail Blazers Damian Lillard to sit out knowing the preference has always been to leave for Spain on Saturday with the roster decisions already made.
 

 

Team USA started out this game flat and let guards Jose Juan Barea and Carlos Arroyo take it to them. Tied at the end of the first quarter and up by five at the half only because of a long range buzzer-beating three-pointer from Klay Thompson, Team USA didn’t look very much like the team from their first two exhibition games.

 

 

James Harden still looks decidedly uncomfortable as a starting small forward playing with two point guards. He might be the guy Coach Krzyzewski is hoping will become a leader, but Harden still hasn’t figured out how to lead without the ball in his hands. How he’s played thus far doesn’t really change much, however, Harden is a lock to be in the rotation for Team USA at the World Cup.

Kyle Korver still gets called a lock by a lot of media, but tonight’s game typifies what to expect from a specialist three-point shooter on a team loaded with more talented players. Korver was 0-0 shooting with a personal foul in just over 3 minutes in the first half and 0-1 shooting with a personal foul in just under 3 minutes in the second half. As talented a long range threat as Korver is, he doesn’t have a role on this team. The Splash Brothers have the deep threat needs covered.

Cousins may have played himself off the roster. About the only things Colangelo is going to learn about his players from these exhibition games is which ones can handle the pressure of playing for their national team and can accept the role required of them. Cousins looked decidedly flustered against Puerto Rico.

 

 

The decisions Colangelo has in front of him are not easy and the players he selects as the 11th and 12th players will not be expected to play much – if at all, but who gets those spots still sends a strong message. Those are the players Colangelo wants to get some international exposure for future Olympics and World Cups, so it matters.

Mason Plumlee and Chandler Parsons got their chance to play against Puerto Rico and join the games four DNP-CDs in a group waiting to hear who’ll be on the plane to Spain and who’ll be left behind. If they take the news the right way, it’ll be a win either way.

 

 

What applies to the Raptors DeRozan applies equally to any player invited to workout with Team USA. It’s a great experience and should make one a better player down the road no matter what Colangelo decides to do on Friday night.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 
 

Note: Team USA outscored Puerto Rico 60-39 in the second half led by Stephen Curry who added 15 points after the break for a game-high 20 points in 18.4 minutes on 6-7 shooting – best player on the court. Derrick Rose played 13.5 minutes and unless he bows out on his own, he’s on the team.

Team USA exhibition game stats can be found here.

Update:

 
 

Valanciunas and Haddadi

Hamed Haddadi Tries Hard As Iran Loses To Lithuania 80-67

Former Memphis Grizzlies, Toronto Raptors and Phoenix Suns center 7’2 Hamed Haddadi tried as hard as he could to keep Iran from outright embarrassment as they were losing 80-67 to the far superior team from Lithuania, but this game was never as close as the final score would indicate.

Head Coach Jonas Kazlauskas didn’t even start his two NBA players, Raptors Jonas Valanciunas and Rockets Donatas Motiejunas, and four minutes in, all five of his starters had scored and run up a 10-3 lead. By the time Valanciunas and Motiejunas were subbed in, the game had taken on a practice scrimmage feel. Lithuania shot 10/18 in the first quarter as they ran up a 21-11 advantage and Iran’s defense largely consisted of hoping Lithuania would miss.

Midway through the second quarter Iran’s coach was looking blankly at the court and could be heard saying things like: “Simple sets”, “Try to play defense” and “Stay man-to-man” and his admonishments must have had some impact or maybe the Lithuanian players were just having trouble staying focused, but Iran went on a 9-0 run to get back to within 4 points. The push was short-lived, however, Lithuania could score and defend any time they put their minds to it.

Throughout this game there were periods where Haddadi showed why NBA teams were reluctant to give up on the very big center. He has soft hands and can catch and finish at the rim. He had his moments as he drove into Valanciunas a forced a shot over the big Lithuanian center and later faked him out with a nice up-and-under move. Haddadi worked hard at both ends of the court using his size effectively and he picked up the 12 point 10 rebound double-double in 27.5 minutes.

In under 18 minutes, both Valanciunas and Motiejunas scored 8 points. Martynas Pocius led Lithuania with 12 points.

Nikkhah led Iran with 15 points on 5-14 shooting and Iran’s performance could be summed by the team’s final two shots of the game. Kazemi Naeini (8 points, 6 rebounds) missed the uncontested dunk after a nice move to get open and Jamshidi (12 points) missed the three on no one fast break layup attempt in the final 10 seconds.

Lithuania v Iran 8-22-2014

After a hard fought battle against Brazil on Thursday, this must have felt like a day off for the Lithuanians.

Lithuania plays Slovenia on Saturday.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

Valanciunas and Splitter

NBA Big Men Battle As Lithuania Defeats Brazil 64-61

NBA big men Raptors Jonas Valanciunas and the Rockets Donatas Motiejunas with Lithuania would battle Cavaliers Anderson Varejao, Wizards Nene Hilario and the NBA Champion Spurs Tiago Splitter representing Brazil in a friendly exhibition tune-up on Thursday with significant implications for the FIBA World Cup in Spain at the end of the month. This game could have gone either way, but it was Lithuania that took control in the second half to pull out the difficult 64-61 victory.

In what has become a disturbing pattern, Lithuania started off slow and put out a less than an acceptable effort in the first half. It was almost like playing all those relatively easy friendly games before Brazil had left them unprepared for what they were about to face. Valanciunas in particular got off to a slow start and Head Coach Jonas Kazlauskas subbed out his starting center early on with Lithuania trailing 11-7.

Lithuania escaped the first quarter behind 22-18, but immediately gave up a 10-0 run to get themselves into a deep hole. As has been the case in previous contests, it was their inability to defend the three-point line that was the biggest problem compounded by 11 first half turnovers on 5 steals by Brazil. Rafael Hettsheimeir had 9 points on 3-3 three-pointers and Nene was 3-4 from the field for 9 points. Valanciunas was kept under wraps going 0-1 shooting for 1 point and 2 rebounds in 9.5 minutes. In a matter of just a few seconds during the second quarter, the big man was rejected by Nene at one end and then scored over by Varejao at the other to sum up how his first half of play had gone. With a 38-25 lead at the half, it looked like Brazil was going to win in a rout.

Someone must have sent the Lithuanians a wakeup call during the halftime as they came out after the break like a completely different team. Tired of being pushed around, Valanciunas aggressively backed two dribbles into Splitter before turning into his body and forcing the ball up through Splitter’s arms to draw the two-shot foul. On the next play Valanciunas hit the short turnaround jumper over Nene to cut the deficit to less than 10 points for good. Lithuania outscored Brazil 21-14 in the quarter to pull to within 6 points. Big men Valanciunas, Motiejunas and Krzysztof Lavrinovičius had 4 points each to take back some measure of control in this game.

Despite the exhibition status of this contest, Brazil wasn’t about to surrender the win easily. Valanciunas finished two pretty plays at the rim to close the gap to 57-54 with 5:19 left in the game, but couldn’t finish the running hook shot that would have pulled Lithuania to within 1 point on the next play. With 2:47 left, Valanciunas missed the layup and then got flat out beat by Nene on a baseline move that put Brazil up 59-54. A three-pointer brought Lithuania back to within two points and an undeterred Valanciunas got into a wrestling match with Splitter on the next play that earned him a trip to the free throw line where he went 2-2 to tie the game at 59-all.

After Nene failed to re-take the lead going 0-2 from the free throw line, Mantas Kalnietis hit his second shot of the game to put Lithuania ahead to stay 62-59. Nene and Motiejunas traded baskets to make the score 64-61. To make things interesting with 5.5 seconds left, Motiejunas bricked 2 free throws, but stole the ball back on a bad pass to end the game.

Valanciunas and Jonas Maciulis led Lithuania with 11 points each and Motiejunas had 10 points and a game-high 8 rebounds. Brazil was led by Hettsheimeir with 14 points on 4-7 from three-point range. Nene had 13 points, Splitter had 11 points and Varejao ended up with just 2 points.

Lithuania turned the ball over 22 times on 9 Brazilian steals, but out-rebounded Brazil 37-28. In a game with two completely different, but equal and opposite halves, it came down to Lithuania hitting on 14-17 free throw attempts to 10-17 for Brazil.

Lithuania v Brazil 8-21-2014

Lithuania plays again on Friday against Iran.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

Valanciunas and Motiejunas

Valanciunas And Lithuania Face Off Vs. Brazil Today

Lithuania has had their way through 10 friendly exhibition games and no one has been able to stop the Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas, but today the big man and his team face off against a group of players from Brazil expecting to be in the Final Four of the World Cup that starts in just over a week.

Valanciunas and Donatas Motiejunas will be tested by the likes of Nene, Anderson Varejao and Tiago Splitter and Leandro Barbosa will be more than a handful for the Lithuanian guards.  While their respective head coaches may hold something back, this game will hold meaning later in September.

Catch all the action on Sportotv starting now!

DeMar DeRozan interview by Paul Saini (Fylmm.com) cropped

DeMar DeRozan 13/5/6 Leads USA To Easy Win Over Dominican

DeMar DeRozan came off the bench for Team USA to lead the second unit and his team with a team-high 13 points, 5 rebounds and a game-high 6 assists in an embarrassingly easy 105-62 win over a grossly overmatched Dominican Republic team. Rudy Gay also scored 13 points off the bench.

With cuts on the immediate horizon for Team USA, there is a temptation to try and read something into tonight’s individual performances, but that would be a huge mistake. Team USA wasn’t challenged at any point during this game and the hardest part for their players was to remain disciplined and continue to play team basketball rather than merely showing off against a group of players that had no chance of stopping whatever Team USA chose to do. USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo and Coach Krzyzewski didn’t learn anything about their players that they didn’t already know.

Derrick Rose sat out Wednesday’s game and the continuing knee soreness has to be raising concerns – not for Team USA, but rather for the Chicago Bulls. Rose can help Team USA, but Kyrie Irving got the start in his place, shot 5-5 for 12 points, and the Team didn’t really look any different. Damian Lillard can easily fill in as the third point guard, so the decision about whether Rose goes to Spain or stays home is really between him, his coach and his doctors.

Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kenneth Faried and Anthony Davis remained in the starting unit and Klay Thompson stayed in the sixth man role so these decisions appeared to have been confirmed.

DeRozan reaffirmed his usefulness to Team USA off the bench as both a facilitator and a scorer and the longer he was in the game, the more the second unit’s offense seemed to flow through him. His 6 assists was a team high.

While the Dominican Republic didn’t provide much – if any – resistance, their lack of size without Al Horford made assessing Team USA’s big men even more difficult. The 7’ Karl-Anthony Towns is only 18-years-old (Kentucky), but he got a chance to try and guard the Team USA centers for 10 minutes, so take what was witnessed in this game with a huge grain of salt. The Dominican’s only NBA player is the 32-year-old Francisco Garcia and this team just split a pair of games with the University of Kentucky. Kentucky vs Dominican Boxscore (Game 2, 63-62).

Garcia scored 14 points for the Dominican Republic on Wednesday.

Next up for Team USA is Puerto Rico and they recently lost to the Dominican, so get ready for another meaningless contest that will provide no useful information to Colangelo and Krzyzewski. Team USA might not want to announce any decisions on cuts before they have to, but they already have all the useful information available.

A boxscore for this game is available from the Team USA website.

Anyone who suggests Colangelo and Krzyzewski are making decisions based on either of these two games in New York is blowing smoke.

Chandler Parsons, Kyle Korver and Mason Plumlee were DNP-CD – read into that what you will.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

Will DeMar DeRozan Make Team USA? Who Gets Cut?
The Toronto Raptors All-Star wing DeMar DeRozan survived the first round of cuts for Team USA, however, the final roster is limited to 12 men and those cuts are expected to be made before the Team leaves after Friday night’s game in New York to play their final friendly exhibition contest against Slovenia in Spain just ahead of the World Cup on August 30. So the question becomes, who gets cut?

photo credit Paul Saini Fylmm.com

 

DeMar DeRozan 1

Will DeMar DeRozan Make Team USA? Who Gets Cut?

The Toronto Raptors All-Star wing DeMar DeRozan survived the first round of cuts for Team USA when USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo, Coach Krzyzewski and their staff took the roster down to 16 players at the beginning of August. However, the final roster is limited to 12 men and those cuts are expected to be made before the Team leaves after Friday night’s game in New York to play their final friendly exhibition contest against Slovenia in Spain just ahead of the World Cup on August 30. So the question becomes, who gets cut?

On August 4, the Team USA roster looked like:

Guards: Damian Lillard, Derrick Rose, Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving.

Wings: Klay Thompson, DeMar DeRozan, James Harden, Gordon Hayward and Kyle Korver,

Bigs: Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Chandler Parsons, Kenneth Faried, DeMarcus Cousins, Mason Plumlee and Andre Drummond.

Since then Kevin Durant bowed out and was replaced by Rudy Gay.

There is a developing consensus that the starters against Brazil: Derrick Rose, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kenneth Faried and Anthony Davis have made the team and the sixth man Klay Thompson will get the nod because of his chemistry with Curry, however, the other six spots on the roster remain up for grabs.

Everyone has been promised to play in at least one exhibition game and if Saturday’s DNP-CD players DeRozan, Drummond, Hayward and Cousins play against the Dominican Republic on Wednesday and Lillard and Korver get another chance after very short minutes against Brazil, Team USA could be ready to pare down the roster to 12 or 13 in time for Thursday’s practice.

It is assumed Lillard will be the odd man out among the point guards, however, that shouldn’t be considered as carved in stone before Wednesday’s game and if Rose’s knees are still sore, Lillard could tag along as a 13th man right up until Team USA has to submit their final roster on August 29.

There is an obvious competition between Cousins, Drummond and Plumlee to fill a big man role in the middle of the court to provide some size if needed against the biggest threat to Team USA’s pursuit of Gold. Spain will throw out Pau and Marc Gasol in the starting lineup with Serge Ibaka coming off the bench and that represents a lot of very good and very experienced FIBA-comfortable bulk under the basket. There is no possible way Krzyzewski would want to be relying on the very young and inexperienced Drummond or Plumlee to check either Gasol brother. Team USA has to be seriously hoping Cousins can bounce-back from his minor knee injury quickly – Wednesday would be nice.

Plumlee played reasonably well in 15 minutes against Brazil and Drummond would have to at least match that to stay in contention, but it’s hard to see how Team USA would bring over either player to Spain except as a 12th man.

The only reason for bringing Korver along is if the Team brass believes they have a shortage of legitimate three-point threats, but they really don’t. This team has plenty of shooters and good ones at that. The Splash Brothers got this covered.

DeRozan, Hayward and Parsons were lumped together earlier by Colangelo and at least one of them should be concerned about not joining this group in Spain. Gay should be placed in here as well.

As the standout player from the Blue and White scrimmage, DeRozan should have the edge if he can maintain that level of play in an exhibition game. DeRozan isn’t known as a three-point shooter, but in the packed-paint of FIBA basketball, Team USA could use his ability to get open and make shots in the midrange. On a team with limited international experience, bringing back former Team USA member Gay just makes sense and if one was forced to choose between Hayward and Parsons, the more versatile Parsons is also the better shooter.

It is possible all four players from this group make the roster as this scenario would provide the most flexibility for Coach Krzyzewski against international rosters that can create matchup issues for anyone. It could come down to which player Colangelo wants to bring over as a 12th man for exposure to the international game.

If Lillard and Korver are out, the real decision should come down to which one of Drummond, Plumlee or Hayward makes the team to bring the final tally to 12 players.

Two games in New York over three days should be more than enough for Colangelo and company to decide who gets cut from Team USA, however, except for the players waiting the hear, the pressure really isn’t on and it’s likely the decisions have already been made. This team has more than enough talent to legitimately believe that Gold in Spain is theirs to lose no matter which 12 players make the trip.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 
 

Check out:

Eurobasket Predicts Spain To Defeat Team USA At World Cup
Spain features 6 NBA players: Ricky Rubio, Jose Calderon, Victor Claver, Serge Ibaka, Pau Gasol and Marc Gasol. They also carry 4 teammates from Real Madrid: Sergio Rodriguez, Sergio Llull, Rudy Fernandez and Felipe Reyes. Plus teammates Juan Carlos Navarro and Alejandro Abrines from FCB Regal. Both home court and team chemistry will be with the Spanish side.

 
 

Jonas Valanciunas 2 by Paul Saini  (Fylmm.com)

Valanciunas And Jankunas Lead Lithuania Past Slovenia 80-76

Even without the Phoenix Suns starting point guard Goran Dragic, Slovenia appeared to have the answer to solve unbeaten Lithuania, but eventually the Toronto Raptors Jonas Valanciunas and the FIBA veteran Paulius Jankunas with 14 points each managed to lead their team to the 80-76 victory.

This would be Lithuania Head Coach Jonas Kazlauskas’ 100th victory since taking over the National team.

Lithuania started out this game ice-cold from the field, playing subpar defense and only a pair of and-one plays and a couple of free throws by Valanciunas for 8 relatively easy points kept them in this contest early on. The Lithuanians shot 33.3 percent from the field in the opening quarter while Slovenia scored easily at a 66.7 percent clip to take a 22-17 lead.

Things only improved slightly from a scoring standpoint for Lithuania in the second quarter as Kazlauskas kept Valanciunas on the bench and his team managed to score 19 points on 5-11 shooting from the field. Slovenia remained in control, adding 20 points and still shooting over 51 percent for the half.

Slovenia had been able to neutralize some of Lithuania’s advantage on the inside by stretching the floor and firing long range three-point shots with the 6’9 31-year-old veteran Miha Zupan doing much of the damage. Valanciunas struggled constantly covering the Slovenian three-point threats on the perimeter at least as much as Slovenia did trying to cover him in the post.

Where Lithuania could only manage to create assisted field goals twice in each of the first two quarters and could neither find the open man nor even simply make the easy play, everyone on Slovenia was sharing the ball. Not having their star point guard wasn’t a problem as Slovenia racked up 10 first half assists and was obviously the better team up to this point in the game.

Valanciunas came out to start the second half and made his impact felt in the paint once again. An emphatic slam brought Lithuania back to within 4 points a couple of minutes in and the pairing of Jankunas and Valanciunas led Lithuania to a 21-12 quarter that gave their side the lead and broke the momentum of their opponent.

Lithuania shot 60.8 percent from the field and held Slovenia to just over 41 percent in the second half to reverse their first half fortunes, however, Slovenia refused to go quietly and with the game winding down Edo Muric made back-to-back three-pointers to close to within 2 points twice in the dying seconds. Down the stretch, it was Lithuania’s point guard Mantas Kalneitis who finally came through with 13 second half points.

Slovenia hoisted 32 three-point attempts and moved the ball well, racking up 17 assists and exposing the weakness of Lithuania’s perimeter defense. Lithuania shot the ball poorly from deep, connecting on just 4-15 long range attempts, but made up for it at the free throw line going 30-35.

The veteran Zupan, who was deaf at birth, led Slovenia with 18 points on 4-5 shooting from three-point range. However, it was their 21-year-old shooting guard Klemen Prepelic that stood out with 17 points and 8 fouls drawn on Lithuania and the 22-year-old forward Muric’s heroic shots at the end.

Former Raptors big man Uros Slokar scored 4 points in just under 9 minutes before fouling out.

It wasn’t a pretty victory for Coach Kazlauskas’ milestone, however, his team did up their intensity in the second half just enough to get the job done.

 

Lithuania v Slovenia 08-18-2014

Lithuania plays again on Thursday against a much tougher opponent – Brazil.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

TOR_Valanciunas_Jonas

NZ Tall Blacks Overwhelmed By Jonas Valanciunas

New Zealand Tall Blacks had unbeaten Lithuania on the ropes through three-quarters of Sunday’s friendly exhibition game, taking a 23-18 first quarter lead and milking it for a 58-55 advantage going into the final period. However, the fourth quarter belonged to the Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas who took control of the game and overwhelmed a very effective Tall Blacks defense to help Lithuania escape with the 85-79 victory.

Head Coach Jonas Kazlauskas had given his leading scorer, Donatas Motiejunas, from Saurday’s win over Greece the game off and was relying on significant minutes from the veteran twin brothers Darjušas and Krzysztof Lavrinovičius.

While at 34-years-old Darjušas is still an effective stretch four and scored 12 points even though he shot just 1-5 from three-point range, Krzysztof’s offense is suspect (3 points) and between them they only managed to grab 1 rebound over 33 minutes combined. Not surprisingly, Lithuania was getting hammered on the boards.

Only a huge 15 point fourth quarter from Valanciunas that included 11 points in a row gave Lithuania the lead. The young center shot 6-6 from the field and 7-10 from the free throw line.

New Zealand was led by 33-year-old forward Kirk Penny with 26 points and 7 boards.

Still unbeaten in friendly competitions this summer, Lithuania plays Slovenia on Monday.

Game stats

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

TOR_DeRozan_DeMar

DeRozan, Drummond, Hayward, Cousins All Sit in Team USA Win Over Brazil

Team USA pulled out the 95-78 friendly exhibition game win over Brazil at the United Center in Chicago 95-78 by winning the first quarter 29-15 and the fourth quarter 27-15, but for many people watching on ESPN or catching the game on-line, the bigger story was who wasn’t playing.

DeMar DeRozan, Andre Drummond, Gordon Hayward and DeMarcus Cousins didn’t see a second of court time as DNP-CD. Except for Cousins who was resting a (hopefully) minor injury, not playing in these friendly exhibition games leading up to the tournament in Spain does not bode well for making the team.

Damian Lillard only played 1:47 and Kyle Korver was inserted for just 3:18 as the starters Stephen Curry, Derrick Rose, James Harden, Kenneth Faried, Anthony Davis and sixth man Klay Thompson received the bulk of the minutes.

 

 

View the complete boxscore here.

Team USA plays at Madison Square Garden on August 20 against Dominican Republic and on August 22 versus Puerto Rico before heading overseas for their final friendly exhibition game before the tournament against Slovenia in Gran Canaria, Spain on August 26.

The DNP-CD players from Saturday against Brazil will need to see some court time in these friendlies to have a chance of making the final Team USA roster for the World Cup.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

Valanciunas and Motiejunas

Motiejunas And Valanciunas Pace Lithuania To Win Over Greece

The Houston Rockets stretch power forward Donatas Motiejunas and Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas provided the inside out offense and twin towers defense that held Greece at bay in the first half as Lithuania cruised to an easy 86-67 victory in what looked like a high intensity friendly exhibition game early on.

Valanciunas opened the scoring at the rim on a nice feed from Mantas Kalnietis and with Lithuania’s big center controlling the paint, Motiejunas was free to roam for open jumpers. The Greeks did find something of an answer for Valanciunas in their 32-year-old 7’1 280 lb center Andreas Glyniadakis who was physically strong enough and experienced enough to box out Valanciunas, however, Lithuania was in complete control with their two young big men on the court and took a 39-35 lead into the half. Motiejunas had 12 points at the break and Valanciunas had 8 points.

Lithuania’s veteran stretch center Darjušas Lavrinovičius was quietly having an impact as well with 6 points in limited minutes and Head Coach Jonas Kazlauskas must have noticed something about the Greek defense (or he just wanted to experiment) as he sat both his young bigs to start the second half to play his version of small ball with Lavrinovičius manning the middle. The ploy worked better than anyone could have anticipated from watching the first half as the faster paced Lithuanian lineup demolished the Greek defense running up a 20-6 advantage before Kazlauskas went back to his starting big men. Lavrinovičius scored 8 more points to finish with 14 points in 12.5 minutes in a change of pace role that should prove difficult to adjust to when the World Cup starts in a couple of weeks.

The two teams essentially traded baskets the rest of the way.

Prior to the game Coach Kazlauskas had mentioned Valanciunas was playing on a sore heel, however, there were no adverse effects noticeable as the big man set screens and showed out to the three-point line on defense with his usually efficiency. Valanciunas was restricted to just over 21 minutes in this game and there really wasn’t any need for him to have played even that long. The Raptors center had 14 points and 6 boards and made a pretty high-low play in the second half feeding an open Motiejunas as he arrived at the rim.

Where Motiejunas was having a great night playing off of Valanciunas and finished with a game-high 18 points and 7 rebounds on 6-10 shooting from the field, it wasn’t nearly as easy for him once the Greek defenders did not have to worry about guarding Valanciunas inside. The style of play Motiejunas has been thriving in with Lithuania should put him in very good stead when he gets back to Houston and can play off the All-Star Dwight Howard’s dominance in the post.

Greece was led by the one-time Raptors draft asset Giorgos Printezis. The 29-year-old 6’9 stretch power forward had 14 points and was 2-3 from three-point range. Printezis draft rights were recently acquired by the Atlanta Hawks from the Thunder.

 Lithuania v Greece 08-16-2014

 

Lithuania plays again on Sunday versus New Zealand.  The World Cup opens in Spain on August 30.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

Jonas Valanciunas by Robertas Dačkus with permission (2)

Raptors Jonas Valanciunas Hurts His Foot

The Toronto Raptors Jonas Valanciunas has joined his National team in Lithuania as they prepare for the upcoming 2014 World Cup in Spain that starts at the end of the month.  It represents a chance for the big man to work on his game in a competitive atmosphere, but as the devastating injury to the Pacers Paul George reminds everyone, playing in competitive games comes with risks.

Apparently Valanciunas has been playing on a sore foot according to Basketnews.lt. Lithuanian Head Coach Jonas Kazlauskas: “Valanciunas sore heel, but the problem is not serious”

Valanciunas is working with his doctors and the team doesn’t anticipate any problems, however, those assurances are not going to carry a lot of weight with Raptors fans who remember former Raptors player and Lithuanian National team star Linas Kleiza.
 

 

It might behoove the Raptors to have some of their medical staff pay a visit to Lithuania if for nothing more than to assure themselves their star center really is okay to play.

 

Unlike the US where the National team can find adequate replacements in the event of an injury, other National programs do not have the depth to make up for the loss of a player like Valanciunas. There can be tremendous pressure felt by young stars to play for their National team even when they might be better off resting.

The standard when playing for one’s National team shouldn’t be whether or not one would play through the injury with your club team in the NBA or elsewhere. The standard should be whether or not one would rest the injury until it felt 100 percent better while training in the summer or continue to work through it.

Hopefully Valanciunas’ sore heel really is a minor issue, but if the the Raptors want to protect their investment, they should go see for themselves.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

Cory Joseph scrum

Joseph And Nicholson Help Canada Crush Angola 89-65

Canada came out hot for their final game in Europe this summer led by Magic forward Andrew Nicholson who hit two early three-pointers to help Canada take a quick 13-4 lead over Angola and finish with a 21 point 10 rebound double-double on route to a crushing 89-65 victory. The Spurs Cory Joseph achieved the challenging 12 point 11 assist double-double from the usually stingy FIBA dime counters.

It was a game of runs that saw Angola tie Canada at 15-all only to watch their opponent reclaim the lead 23-17 by the end of the first quarter. The Canadians firing on all cylinders were hitting on 64.7 percent of their shots to just 36.8 percent from the Angolans to start the game. It was a shooting pace Canada could only maintain for so long, but Angola’s runs always seemed to fall short as the Canadians rebuilt their lead.

After getting back to a 9 point lead for a second time, Canada let Angola close the gap to 3 points midway through the second quarter, but they used a 7-1 run over the final minute 20 seconds to go into the half up 49-39 and Angola was done.

Nicholson led Canada after 20 minutes with 13 points, hitting on 3-4 three-point attempts and Brady Heslip had 11 points on 3-5 three-pointers. Canada was still shooting 60 percent from the field and 6-12 from deep. The only thing keeping Angola in the game was the free throw line where they were 11-12 and had 6 more points than the Canadians. The 24-year-old 6’10 Valdelicio Joaquim was leading Angola with 13 points on 3-8 shooting from the field and 7-8 from the charity stripe.

In the third quarter Canada ran the lead up to 62-41 before Angola responded and it was their 33-year-old veteran big man Joaquim Gomes who stepped up with 8 points in the quarter. Gomes has been on the National team since 2002 and seemed to take it upon himself to stop the bleeding. Canada went into the final quarter up 66-53, but it could have been much worse.

The game continued to get away from Angola in the fourth quarter as Canada picked them apart led by 9 assists from Joseph. Heslip netted 11 more points in the quarter as Canada outscored Angola 23-12 over the final 10 minutes. Only Gomes was able to put up much resistance offensively as he added 6 more points.

Heslip led all scorers in this game with 22 points and 6 made three-pointers. Philip Scrubb added 11 points and the Lakers Robert Sacre chipped in 12 points and 6 rebounds.

Angola was led by 21 points from the veteran Gomes who shot a solid 8-10 from the field and 3-4 from three-point range, however, his team was held 38.3 percent shooting and everyone else shot 1-15 from deep. Joaquim only scored 2 more points in the second half to finish with 15 points.

Canada ended the day shooting 49.3 percent from the field and nailed 10 more three-pointers than Angola by going 14-36 from deep. A major factor was the 22 assists dished out by the Canadians to just 8 dimes for Angola.

Angola was missing high scoring veteran wing Carlos Morais from the lineup. Morais was a training camp invite with the Toronto Raptors last year.

The Canadians will return home on Wednesday after winning 5 games of their 11 friendlies in Europe.

 

Canada v Angola 8-12-2014

See the complete boxscore here.

 

From Canada Basketball

“What a great way to finish off our tour. We played very well both offensively and defensively keeping the African champions frustrated. Our players grew, competed, learned the international game, and kept getting better as our tour went on.”

“I’m really pleased with the fact that we competed with some very good teams. We are still a very young international team and these 11 games were very helpful in our development.”

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

Jonas Valanciunas interview by Paul Saini (Fylmm.com) cropped

Raptors Jonas Valanciunas Dominates Australia in 91-78 win

The Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas made life miserable for Australia in the first half and Lithuania coasted to an easy 91-78 win in a friendly exhibition game on Monday. Australia was hoping for a better result.

The Aussies had no answer for the young Lithuanian big man who is coming into his own with his National team in just his first two games of the summer. When Australia took away the passing lanes into the post or doubled or even triple-teamed the big man, the Lithuanian guards and wings found the driving lanes wide open for easy baskets.

Single coverage on Valanciunas quickly became an even worse option. Midway through the first quarter Australia tried to go one-on-one against Valanciunas as they were down 13-7, however, the move backfired as the big man scored 7 of Lithuania’s next 9 points on a couple of nice post moves for hook shots and going 3-4 from the free throw line. Australia even tried overpowering Valanciunas with the Raptors rookie big man of 2008, the 6’10 280 lb Nathan Jawai, but Jawai couldn’t budge him in the post and couldn’t stop him at the other end. Jawai finished with no points, 2 rebounds and a couple of travelling calls.

Lithuania finished the first quarter up 24-15 and completely in control.

It was more of the same in the second quarter. Valanciunas subbed back in after a couple of minutes and after 6 quick and easy points, the Aussies went back to denying him the ball and living with the open shots and driving lanes for everyone else. Lithuania poured in 31 points during the 10 minute quarter and Valanciunas had 15 points and 6 rebounds at the half. The edge was already off of this game as it had become obvious Australia was overmatched. A 55-42 Lithuanian lead at the half stood up the rest of the way.

Valanciunas finished tied with a game-high 19 points and had a game-high 8 boards. Kalnietis had 12 points and 7 assists, Kuzminskas contributed 11 points and the Houston Rockets Donatas Motiejunas finished with 10 points and 7 rebounds.

Former Rockets, Hornets and Raptors player from the 2009-2011 seasons David Andersen led Australia with 19 points and 5 boards. The Cavaliers Matthew Dellavedova had 8 points and 6 assists. The Spurs Aron Baynes had 9 points and the soon-to-be Jazz rookie Dante Exum had 5 points and 4 assists.
Lithuania v Australia 8-11-14
Lithuania isn’t known for the strength of their guard play, however, their veterans were more than a match for the young Aussies on the other side.

Lithuania will now return home to continue preparations for the World Cup in Spain.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

photo credit Paul Saini Fylmm.com

Cory Joseph close up

Spurs Cory Joseph Leads Canada Past Turkey 72-66

The San Antonio Spurs backup point guard Cory Joseph  has been doing it all for Canada on Team Canada’s European tour this summer and he did it again on Sunday leading the Senior Men’s National Team past Turkey 72-66 with a game-high 19 points.

Without many of their future stars available, Joseph was expected to bring leadership to a young team and he was ready for the task.

“I definitely put a lot on my shoulders as a point guard and as a leader,” Joseph told Pro Bball Report. “I have to lead this team. I feel that I can be that extension of the coach on the court and I am just trying to lead this team to get Ws. I am comfortable in the role. I have been doing it all my life in other programs.”

  On Sunday Joseph shot 9-13 from the field, collected 4 rebounds and dished a team-high 3 assists and it was his scoring that kept Canada in this game.

Long time Team Canada veteran Carl English has also been providing some leadership as well. He came through in a starting role once again with 12 points on 3-6 shooting from three-point range, 9 boards and he also handed out 3 assists.

The Lakers center Robert Sacre had a double-double 13 points and 11 rebounds to go with 2 steals and 2 blocks as he held the Pelicans Omer Asik to just 12 points and 6 boards. Magic forward Andrew Nicholson chipped in 12 points and 2 three-pointers.  

 

Canada vs Turkey 8-10-2014

See the complete boxscore here.

Canada plays their final game in Europe on Tuesday in Seville, Spain against Angola.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

Jonas Valanciunas in scrum

Raptors Valanciunas With 20 Points 11 Rebounds For Lithuania

The Toronto Raptors Jonas Valanciunas didn’t arrive in Lithuania until Thursday and in his first game this summer for his National team against Finland on Saturday he dominated the paint putting up a beastly game-high 20 points and 11 rebounds in Lithuania’s 83-66 blowout victory.

It didn’t start out smoothly for the 22-year-old center as Finland raced out to an 8-0 lead while Valanciunas and his teammates looked befuddled by the Fins, however, it was Valanciunas that scored first for Lithuania to start the comeback and as he started to look more comfortable, he pulled in 5 boards before being subbed out. The first quarter ended 18-13 for Finland.

Lithuania tied the game and took the lead early in the second quarter and the game was back-and-forth for the next 10 minutes. Valanciunas subbed in midway through and quickly scored as he started to dominate inside. Valanciunas went 4-4 from the free throw line and added two powerful dunks to score 10 points in the quarter and help Lithuania go into the half up 40-39.

As has often been the case with Lithuania this summer, they started the game slow and finished strong. In the third quarter Lithuania dominated Finland 29-16 to take control of the match. Valanciunas finished strong scoring 7 more points in the fourth quarter before he sat down. The Fins had no answer for him in the post but to foul him.

Gerald Lee, who played four years at old Dominion, scored 20 points for Finland. The 26-year-old Lee averaged 15.5 points per game in the Eurocup for Ploiesti this past season.

It was a good start for Valanciunas as he helps his teammates prepare for the upcoming World Cup in Spain on August 30th. However, Valanciunas still has a lot to work through before the games start to count, FIBA is very different from what he has become accustomed to in the NBA.

Boxscore

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

Jonas Valanciunas by Robertas Dačkus with permission (2)

Raptors Jonas Valanciunas Expected To Play Vs. Finland

The Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas is expected to suit up for Lithuania on Saturday and play his first game of the summer with his National team according to Basketnews.lt

The game against Finland will be carried by Sportotv.lt and can be watched for free starting at 12 noon ET.

TOR_Gay_Rudy

Kings Rudy Gay To Join Team USA Tryouts

The Sacramento Kings Rudy Gay has been traded twice in two seasons with up then down and back up results, however, he has been with Team USA before and with the withdrawal of Kevin Durant and the loss of Paul George to injury, Gay brings scoring and size to the the small forward position if he can make the team.

Before Gay was traded by the Toronto Raptors last December, it looked liked his game was in free fall. Gay was taking an inordinate number of shots and bricking his way towards a career worst 38.8 percent shooting from the field. Post trade he found his stroke and averaged 48.2 percent shooting with the Kings.

Over his 8 NBA seasons, Gay has averaged 18.2 points and 5.8 rebounds and shot 45.1 percent from the field. He has a very legitimate chance of making the USA team heading to Spain for the World Cup on August 30th.

Gay joins the 15 other players trying to make the 12 man roster.

Jonas Valanciunas 2 by Paul Saini  (Fylmm.com)

Jonas Valanciunas Rytas Coach Liked Him Better Before

The Toronto Raptors Jonas Valanciunas has joined his National teammates in Lithuania and got into a practice session on Thursday, however, the former Head Coach of Lietuvos Rytas (Valanciunas’ former club team) Rimas Kurtinaitis liked him better before he went to the NBA.

 

 

Valanciunas has gotten bigger and stronger since coming over from Rytas two years ago. Whether or not that hurts his performance in FIBA competitions is questionable, but the Raptors are looking to develop a center for the NBA.

 

 

Pau and Marc Gasol

Too Much Pau And Marc Gasol For Canada And Cory Joseph

It was just too much Pau Gasol and Marc Gasol for Team Canada to handle and even a great game from the Spurs Cory Joseph wasn’t going to stop Spain from easily winning this contest. Spain raced out to a 16-5 lead in the first 5 minutes and never looked back in the 82-70 win that somewhat disguised just how dominant the Spanish team was on Wednesday in Coruna, Spain.

The four Spanish big men of Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka and Felipe Reyes scored 62 points while shooting 62.8 percent from the field as they outmuscled the Canadians whenever they chose to and completely dominated the contest at both ends of the court. The only thing slowing Spain down at all was the extremely poor shooting from their guards and wings who had absolutely no reason to not be feeding the ball to one of their big men on every play.

Pau Gasol and Ibaka combined to shoot 4-5 from three-point range while the rest of the team bricked 1-14. Even the two-point shots were not falling for the guards and wings as the four big men shot 18-30 while everyone else combined for a terrible 5-18.

Starting NBA point guards Jose Calderon (1-5 shooting) and Ricky Rubio (1-9 shooting) combined to score just 9 points for Spain.

Pau Gasol led all scorers with 20 points in less than 20 minutes. Marc Gasol and Ibaka contributed 15 points each and the veteran FIBA star Reyes scored 12 points in 12.5 minutes.

Canada deserves credit for not giving up in this contest as Spain enjoyed a 22 point lead midway through the second quarter and put this game on cruise control from there. It could have easily become an ugly blowout, but the overmatched Canadians outworked the more talented Spaniards to make a game of it.

Joseph came up huge with 19 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, a steal and a block as Head Coach Jay Triano made the unusual move of keeping his starting point guard in the game for over 33 minutes.

The Celtics Kelly Olynyk had his hands full guarding Spain’s big men and fouled out in 17.3 minutes after collecting 8 points and 8 boards. Magic forward Andrew Nicholson gave Canada a much needed stretch-four as he made 3-9 three-point attempts for 13 points. Cavaliers hopeful Dwight Powell had 8 points and 8 rebounds in 13.7 minutes before picking up his fourth foul.

Canada was charged with 24 personal fouls to just 14 by Spain and that accurately reflected just how much trouble the Canadians were having trying to contain their more skilled and experienced opponents.

Guard Brady Heslip continues to show he can bring scoring punch off the bench as he netted 11 points for Canada.

There was a big crowd in Coruna to watch Canada face off against their National team and this was a great test for the Canadians as they continue to prepare for next summer’s important Olympic qualifying tournament.

 

Canada vs Spain boxscore 8-6-2014

Canada vs Spain boxscore 8-6-2014

   

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.