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#pounditWednesday, July 28, 2021

Basketball

Argentina coach has extremely high praise for Luka Doncic

Luka Doncic

Luka Doncic led Slovenia to a win at the Tokyo Olympics on Monday with one of the best international game performances you will ever see, and even the opposing coach was in awe.

Doncic scored 48 points in Slovenia’s 118-100 victory over Argentina. He fell just seven points shy of the Olympic record of 55, which was set by Brazilian Hall of Famer Oscar Schmidt in 1988. After the game, Argentina head coach Sergio Hernandez told reporters that Doncic “just destroyed us.” Hernandez had extremely high praise for the Dallas Mavericks star.

“He is the best player in the world, including the NBA,” Hernandez said, via Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News. “If there was any doubt in my mind, it is there no more.”

Hernandez added that Argentina tried everything they could to stop Doncic but that the 22-year-old is “not a normal player.”

While most people would probably consider one of LeBron James, Kevin Durant or Giannis Antetokounmpo to be the best player in the world, Doncic certainly stated his case. Keep in mind that international games are only 40 minutes as opposed to 48 like in the NBA. Doncic scored 17 points in the first quarter alone. His 48 points were more than the entire Team USA starting lineup had combined in Sunday’s loss to France.

We saw some awesome reactions on Twitter after Doncic’s amazing Olympic debut. All eyes will be on him going forward in the tournament.

Twitter reacts to Luka Doncic’s insane Olympic debut

Luka Doncic

Luka Doncic made his Olympic debut on Monday, and to say he put on a show would be an understatement. The Dallas Mavericks star nearly set an Olympic scoring record while leading Slovenia to a 118-100 win over Argentina.

Doncic scored 48 points in 31 minutes. The point total is the second-most ever in an Olympic game, as he fell just short of the 55 points Brazilian Hall of Famer Oscar Schmidt scored in 1988. Doncic also had 11 rebounds and 5 assists.

The scoring output from Doncic was absolutely insane no matter how you look at it. He had 17 points in the first quarter alone. Keep in mind that quarters are only 10 minutes in the Olympics as opposed to 12 in an NBA game. The reactions on Twitter were as good as you’d expect.

Doncic’s 48 points were more than Team USA’s entire starting lineup had combined in Sunday’s loss to France. As you might imagine, the Twitter reactions for the American team were a lot different (see them here) than the ones we saw with Doncic.

Doncic is now a perfect 14-0 in international competition with Slovenia. That is hardly a coincidence.

Look: Jordan Clarkson visits Manny Pacquiao for ‘Filipino Legends’ photo

Manny Pacquiao

There was some Filipino Pride at the Wild Card Boxing gym in Hollywood, Calif. on Saturday.

Jordan Clarkson was among the notable people who visited Manny Pacquiao at Wild Card Boxing. Pacquiao tweeted a photo and captioned it “Filipino pride.”

Clarkson called Pacquiao “the goat” and “legendary.”

In addition to Clarkson, some Black Eyed Peas members also visited Pacquiao.

Clarkson is half-Filipino and has competed on the country’s behalf in international competition since 2018. The 29-year-old NBA player is extremely popular in the Philippines. Though no athlete is better known than Pac-Man, who is also a senator in his native country. Pacquiao is training for his August fight against Errol Spence. The 42-year-old Pac-Man has won three straight fights but has not fought since 2019.

Draymond Green calls out Warriors social media for leaving him out of Instagram post

Draymond Green

Draymond Green basically runs on a lack of respect. Sometimes, he even finds it from his team’s social media folks.

The Golden State Warriors posted a slideshow of notable shots from rookie photoshoots over the years. The images included those of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, as well as more recent rookie portraits from Jordan Poole and Eric Paschall. Notably missing was Green — notably to him, anyway, because he called it out in the comments.

Green is definitely among the core members of the Golden State dynasty who, like Curry and Thompson, has been with the team since entering the NBA. This clearly wasn’t about that, though. They were trying to spotlight some cool pictures. It’s why Curry and Thompson were featured alongside the likes of Jordan Bell.

Hey, whatever motivates Green, the Warriors are probably fine with it. That said, Green’s mood seems like it might be dictated more based on what the Warriors do with their roster this offseason.

Warriors only willing to trade draft picks for Bradley Beal?

Bradley Beal

The Golden State Warriors are not opposed to trading their two first-round picks to acquire a star player, but it sounds like they may only have one specific star player in mind.

Bradley Beal has publicly pledged his allegiance to the Washington Wizards on multiple occasions, but there have been signs recently that the three-time All-Star could ask for a trade. The Warriors are said to have interest, and they may be able to use their two lottery picks — No. 7 and No. 14 overall — to swing a trade for Beal. If they cannot, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski says they are content to use the picks.

During his NBA Draft special with Zach Lowe on Sunday, Wojnarowski indicated that Beal is the only star player the Warriors plan to pursue.

“Golden State’s going to wait and see how it goes with Bradley Beal,” Woj said. “But short of Bradley Beal being available, I expect Golden State to use those picks at No. 7 and No. 14 this week.”

Lowe added that the Warriors using their two first-round picks on players that will be on their roster next season is the “likeliest scenario.”

Of course, that could be posturing. The Warriors don’t want to look desperate leading up to the draft, especially with one report already claiming their star players want them to make a big trade.

Beal, 28, averaged 31.3 points per game this season and narrowly lost the scoring title to Stephen Curry. He may have a specific team in mind that he would like to play for, but we’d guess he would welcome a trade to Golden State.

Damian Lillard explains how facing foreign NBA players internationally is ‘completely different’

Damian Lillard

The USA men’s basketball team is expected to win every game it plays in the Olympics, which is why Sunday’s loss to France in the opening game was so jarring. The talent gap is clear, even though France has solid NBA players in its own right.

USA guard Damian Lillard pointed out after the game, however, that playing these players internationally is very different than facing them in the NBA. Lillard said these international players have more freedom and comfort playing internationally, and seem to raise their game at that level.

“And you know who we see each night sometimes in the NBA, they are completely different when they play for their countries,” Lillard said, via Eurohoops. “They got more freedom, and the comfort level is obvious. So we put ourselves in a dogfight, and they made plays to win it.”

The French have one of the NBA’s best defenders in Rudy Gobert, as well as a solid starter in Evan Fournier. Still, few are going to feel that even playing at a higher level, players like that should be able to lead their team to a win over the Americans. Everyone knows that. So do the players, some of whom apparently feel that the coach isn’t getting the most out of them.

Team USA can still advance to the knockout stage with wins over Iran and the Czech Republic, two teams they are expected to beat handily. Still, the questions are mounting at this stage, and even if Lillard is right, it hardly explains everything.

Former ‘Dream Team’ star thinks rest of world has caught up to Team USA

Patrick Ewing

Team USA has looked anything but invincible so far at the Tokyo Olympics, and one of their former stars can’t help but notice how different the international basketball landscape looks nowadays.

Georgetown head coach Patrick Ewing, who starred on the legendary 1992 “Dream Team,” said this week that he thinks the rest of the world has caught up to the United States.

“I’m rooting for Coach [Gregg] Popovich and the US Team,” Ewing told Marc Berman of the New York Post. “It’s an unfortunate time we’re living in, losing players to COVID-19 protocols. It’s harder to play now because of the Dream Team. All the current players grew up looking up to us and watching us dominate the rest of the world. But the rest of the world caught up.

“There are so many talented players,” added Ewing. “Some of the NBA’s top players today come from all over the world. It wasn’t like that back then.”

Ewing’s comments actually came before Team USA lost on Sunday in their group stage opener to France. They had already lost two exhibition contests to Nigeria and Australia prior to that. That is obviously a far cry from 1992 when the “Dream Team” went undefeated through 14 total games with no opponent even coming within 30 points of them.

Of course, Team USA has already looked vulnerable in subsequent years, most notably in 2004 when they had to settle for the bronze medal at the Athens Olympics. But Ewing is not the only “Dream Team” member who thinks that their team was far superior to any USA Basketball team since.

Lakers could target Ricky Rubio?

Ricky Rubio

Pau Gasol had an excellent career with the Los Angeles Lakers, and now they could be trying to acquire one of his countrymen.

Adrian Wojnarowski said Saturday on ESPN’s “Woj & Lowe Free Agency Special” that veteran guard Ricky Rubio may be an option for the Lakers if they lose Dennis Schroder in free agency, per Dunking With Wolves.

Rubio, who is still only 30, averaged 8.6 points and 6.4 assists per game last season for the Minnesota Timberwolves. He has failed to find a home over the last few seasons, making four different stops since 2017.

Granted, Rubio is under contract for $17.8 million next year. That means the Lakers would have to work a trade for him. His shaky outside shooting may not make him the best fit either next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

But we know the Lakers are interested in bringing in another playmaker. On an expiring contract, Rubio could be a very attainable option for them.

Ben Simmons reportedly receiving trade interest from these teams

Ben Simmons

A Ben Simmons trade still does not appear imminent, but the Philadelphia 76ers guard has been attracting interest from at least five teams.

According to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, the Cavaliers, Pacers, Timberwolves, Kings, and Raptors have all showed interest in Simmons. Notably, these teams are all interested in Simmons as a playmaking forward, not as a guard.

The Sixers are said to have not made any significant traction on a Simmons deal, as no interested team has been willing to part with the sort of All-Star caliber player the team wants as part of any trade. However, executives around the league overwhelmingly believe Simmons will be dealt prior to the start of next season.

Philadelphia has made its asking price clear for Simmons, and they’re not compromising so far. They don’t have any real need to. The 25-year-old is still an elite defender, and a creative team could have plenty of use for him despite his flawed offense.

Team USA players reportedly frustrated with Gregg Popovich’s offense

Gregg Popovich

Team USA Basketball lost to France in their first official game of the Olympics on Sunday despite being a huge favorite. That has led to even more questions about whether Gregg Popovich is the right person to lead the team, and there may be some frustration with the coach’s system.

USA blew a late lead against France to lose 83-76 in their first game of group play. Several players, including Kevin Durant and Damian Lillard, had poor shooting nights. According to Joe Vardon of The Athletic, players were grumbling on their way back to the locker room about “running the San Antonio offense.”

Vardon also said Popovich is “horrified” by his own coaching record with Team USA, which is now 6-3 in games that count. Team USA went 73-3 in meaningful games from 1996 through 2016.

There was no need to panic after Team USA lost exhibition games to Nigeria and Australia, and the same holds true now. They can advance to the knockout stage with wins over Iran and the Czech Republic, and they are heavily favorite in both games. Still, the pressure is mounting.

Popovich said he was more “disappointed” by Sunday’s loss than “surprised.” He has repeatedly accused the media and fans of underestimating Team USA’s opponents and not giving them enough credit.

It doesn’t matter what you want to call it. Team USA has by far the best collection of talent in the world, and for some reason that is not translating to quality play. Popovich had said the team’s offense will be based on “concepts” rather than set plays because of the limited preparation time, but apparently that is not working for players.

Durant didn’t sound all that concerned after Team USA’s two exhibition losses, as he felt they were easily explained. Popovich will have even more explaining to do if it happens again.