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Sacramento Kings sign Casspi, Hollins (The Associated Press)
(Thu, 18 Sep 2014 15:49:55 PDT)
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- The Sacramento Kings have signed forward Omri Casspi and center Ryan Hollins.

Wolves GM optimistic, won't rush Rubio extension (The Associated Press)
(Thu, 18 Sep 2014 15:04:29 PDT)
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- With dust finally settled after the blockbuster Kevin Love trade that changed the face of the Minnesota Timberwolves, the franchise has one big move still to address before the start of the season.

Rockets acquire Jason Terry, picks from Kings (The Associated Press)
(Wed, 17 Sep 2014 13:20:06 PDT)
HOUSTON (AP) -- The Houston Rockets have acquired Jason Terry and draft picks from the Sacramento Kings in exchange for Alonzo Gee and Scotty Hopson.

Rockets acquire Jason Terry from Sacramento Kings (The Associated Press)
(Wed, 17 Sep 2014 13:06:25 PDT)
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- The Houston Rockets have acquired guard Jason Terry from the Sacramento Kings for two second-round draft picks and guard/forward Alonzo Gee.

NBA's Howard has driver's license suspended for not paying fine : court records
(Tue, 16 Sep 2014 18:33:44 PDT)
By Barbara Liston ORLANDO Fla. (Reuters) - The Florida driver's license of Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard has been suspended for his failure to pay a fine for running a red light, court records show, but the team said on Tuesday he was playing basketball in Texas the day of the alleged infraction. According to the court records, Howard's license had been suspended since at least Aug. 15 for his nonpayment of a $285 fine for running a red light in Winter Park, Florida, on April 14. ...

US basketball reigns in Spain, awaits Rio Olympics (The Associated Press)
(Mon, 15 Sep 2014 09:49:04 PDT)
The Americans had embarrassed themselves at home in the 2002 world championship, and when they haphazardly put together their team for the 2004 Olympics, nobody should have been surprised if they lost. Now the Americans run perhaps the most stable program in the world, gold medalists at both the men's and women's, senior and junior levels. Yet Mike Krzyzewski will prepare as if their opener in Rio de Janeiro is as uncertain as the one in Athens. ''I think we can lose our next game,'' Krzyzewski said.

Jeremy Lin poses as wax figure at Madame Tussauds, freaks fans out (Video) (Ball Don't Lie)
(Wed, 10 Sep 2014 10:57:54 PDT)
We've not seen Jeremy Lin play basketball in earnest for the Lakers, but the recently acquired guard has already perfected the Los Angeles art of constantly creating media attention. Lin appeared in yet another viral video — this time posing as a wax figure in San Francisco's Madame Tussauds museum. The famed wax museum recently revealed a lipid Lin  in its branch closest to the 26-year-old's roots as both a prep and NBA player — at Palo Alto High and on the Golden State Warriors, respectively. But fans who came to see his faux doppelganger were instead treated to the real thing scaring the daylights out of them. Ever since the Houston Rockets traded him to the Lakers along with a first-round pick in exchange for, well, not much , this summer has seemingly seen an endless string of shenanigans involving Lin. First, there was " Jeremy Lin Goes Hollywood ," a YouTube video poking fun at his decline since the days of Linsanity. Then, there was a pair of Instagram videos featuring Lin  posterizing his mom and smashing cake in her face . For the time being, Los Angeles seems like a fitting landing spot for Lin, a likable kid enjoying Hollywood's backyard, but the act may wear thin if his basketball skills don't match his comedic chops. Kobe Bryant has grown tired of far better players than Lin clowning around to the detriment of team success. Related Video:

US beats Dominicans 106-71 at basketball worlds (The Associated Press)
(Wed, 03 Sep 2014 16:00:37 PDT)
They were expected to be in Barcelona. The Americans wrapped up the No. 1 seed in their group Wednesday, improving to 4-0 at the Basketball World Cup with a 106-71 victory over the Dominican Republic. Kenneth Faried, whose shooting percentage dropped after he missed three shots, scored 16 points for the U.S. DeMarcus Cousins came off the bench and added 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting.

Tracy McGrady works out with Kobe Bryant as test for possible comeback (Yahoo Sports)
(Tue, 02 Sep 2014 19:46:50 PDT)
The chances of Tracy McGrady playing again in the NBA aren't great, but he worked out recently with Kobe Bryant.

AP Source: Rockets reach agreement for Terry (The Associated Press)
(Sun, 31 Aug 2014 18:06:00 PDT)
A person with knowledge of the deal says the Houston Rockets will acquire guard Jason Terry in a trade with Sacramento. The Rockets will also receive two second-round draft picks and send guard/forward Alonzo Gee to the Kings, along with at least one other non-guaranteed contract. The 36-year-old Terry started last season with Brooklyn and averaged only 4.5 points in 35 games. He was traded to Sacramento at the trade deadline and didn't play the rest of the season as he recovered from a left knee injury.

Down at half, US beats Turkey in basketball worlds (The Associated Press)
(Sun, 31 Aug 2014 15:51:33 PDT)
They figured it would be simple, that they would just beat up on Turkey like they did Finland a night earlier. ''I guess we felt like last night's game was pretty easy and tonight was going to be the same way, but Turkey came out and they gave us their punch from the beginning,'' forward James Harden said. A night after crushing Finland by 59 in its biggest rout ever while using NBA players in the former world championship, the Americans couldn't take control against Turkey until early in the fourth quarter after compiling a 17-1 run. ''So we've got to come out ready to play no matter who we're playing against.'' The Americans trailed 40-35 at halftime and Turkey led by six early in the third before the Americans could finally get the game into the quicker tempo they prefer and pull away to win the rematch of the 2010 gold-medal game in Istanbul.

Sources: Kings trading Jason Terry to Rockets (Yahoo Sports)
(Sun, 31 Aug 2014 14:24:12 PDT)
The Kings will receive non-guaranteed contracts from the Rockets in return for veteran guard Jason Terry.

Jerry Colangelo says James Harden is the leader of Team USA (Ball Don't Lie)
(Wed, 27 Aug 2014 19:12:18 PDT)
There is little doubt that Houston Rockets All-Star guard James Harden is an extremely talented basketball player — guys don't make the All-NBA First Team by accident, no matter how controversial there selections prove to be. But Harden gets the sort of criticism that most elite stars don't receive. Harden's lackadaisical and often just horrible defense has been extensively documented, and it doesn't help that he also occasionally makes ill-considered comments about his teammates and mocked at least one very respected member of the media . There's a not uncommon belief that Harden doesn't really get what it takes to be the top dog on a title contender, which makes it a bigger deal than usual when he, like many athletes before him, overestimates his standing in the sport . Although Harden turned 25 years old just this Tuesday, he is one of the most experienced players on Team USA as it heads into Saturday's opening game of the FIBA World Cup of Basketball in Spain. As such, Harden sees himself as a leader. If that appears a bit presumptuous of him, then please consider that USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo believes Harden is taking well to the role. From Michael Lee for The Washington Post (via EOB ): “Right now, I think I would look to Harden as that leader,” USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said as his team continues to prepare for the tournament in which the winner earns an automatic berth in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. “Harden is kind of a natural leader and he seems to be willing to accept that role. And you can just kind of feel it and sense. He’s the one.” [...] Colangelo said Harden has been one of the team’s most vocal players and has helped elevate practices with his effort and tenacity. “I don’t know if he’s been waiting [to lead]. It’s evolved,” Colangelo said. “He came in as a pretty high draft pick. Got off to a great start in Oklahoma City. Whether he was disappointed or surprised by what transpired, he found himself in another uniform and that’s part of life in pro sports and the NBA, and I think he’s adjusted to that and his numbers get bigger and he’s being recognized more and more as the player he is. And this is a great platform for him to come out as a leader.” [...] “This is a different platform,” Harden said. “A platform that I haven’t really been on before, but I think most of us haven’t been on it, either. I think we’re all kind of figuring it out together. That’s what’s going to be so special about this team. We figure it out together and we come out with a gold medal, it makes it that much more special.” Lee notes elsewhere that Harden is one of just two players on the 2014 roster to have also played on the 2012 Olympic team — Anthony Davis is the other — so it makes sense that he would be seen as something of an elder statesman. It's possible to argue that Harden earned the role by default after the withdrawal of Kevin Durant and in the absence of players like Kevin Love, but there seems to be little doubt that the Rockets star is occupying the role for Team USA right now. That's notable in itself, if only because NBA fans haven't been conditioned to think of Harden as the sort of guy who is capable of leading a roster of stars (diminished or not) in a major international tournament. We're not sure he's ready to represent Houston on a major stage, let alone the most powerful basketball country in the world. Colangelo's praise is important, but it's also true that it's his job to talk up the positive qualities of the national-team experience in order to convince fans and prospective players that the squad represents the best of America. If an increasingly vulnerable Team USA fails to win gold in the World Cup, it's easy to see public opinion on Harden turning increasingly sour, if only because leadership and championship-readiness are often defined in terms of what someone did most recently. Anything less than convincing victory will suggest that Harden lacks what it takes to lead the national team. In other words, it would be prudent not to declare any certainty about Harden's leadership ability, because it's at least partially dependent on the result of the World Cup. Plus, even if Team USA does develop into a dominant squad that wins every game convincingly, Harden will face a whole new challenge with the Rockets this fall. To paraphrase a cliche, the true test of a leader — or maybe just the true test of a leader's reputation — comes when the going gets tough. - - - - - - - Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at efreeman_ysports@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @FreemanEric

Rockets sign forward Tarik Black (The Associated Press)
(Wed, 27 Aug 2014 16:01:32 PDT)
HOUSTON (AP) -- The Houston Rockets have signed forward Tarik Black, who played on their summer league teams in Orlando and Las Vegas.

Oklahoma City trades C Thabeet to 76ers (The Associated Press)
(Tue, 26 Aug 2014 16:04:47 PDT)
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- The Oklahoma City Thunder have traded center Hasheem Thabeet and cash to the Philadelphia 76ers for a protected second-round draft pick in 2015 and a trade exception.

Clippers ship Dudley to Bucks for Delfino, Raduljica
(Tue, 26 Aug 2014 16:02:32 PDT)
The Los Angeles Clippers traded forward Jared Dudley to the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday in an NBA deal for Argentine forward Carlos Delfino and Serbian center Miroslav Raduljica. The trade also netted the Bucks a 2017 first-round NBA Draft pick from the Clippers while shipping a 2015 second-round selection to the Clippers.

Big names missing in final U.S. roster for Spain
(Sat, 23 Aug 2014 10:37:40 PDT)
(Reuters) - The United States team will travel to Spain without some of the sport's biggest names to defend their title at the Basketball World Cup after a selection process described as one of the "most difficult" in recent years. With marquee players LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Kevin Love opting out of selection and All-Star Paul George hurt, the U.S.

USA Basketball announces World Cup roster (Yahoo Sports)
(Fri, 22 Aug 2014 22:54:28 PDT)
Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard was among the final players cut.

Thaddeus Young's headed to the Wolves, as Flip Saunders celebrates a win by betting on himself (Ball Don't Lie)
(Fri, 22 Aug 2014 13:33:02 PDT)
As the Philadelphia 76ers have floundered for the past two seasons — first accidentally (thanks, Andrew !) and then on purpose (thanks, Sam !) — a certain segment of NBA obsessives have wished for a better fate for Thaddeus Young. The long-tenured Philly forward — a perpetually underrated two-way player whose ability to handle multiple frontcourt assignments, contribute offensively without needing the ball in his hands and generally fill gaps — seemed tailor-made for a squad contending for something meaningful, as opposed to toiling on a team that forced us to reconsider the very definition of "meaningful" in the NBA. Well, he's not going to get that just yet, but at least he won't experience the literal inability to remember the last time his team won . (At least, we don't think he will.) After weeks of rumors and educated guessing, the firm reports came down Thursday, first from Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and then from Yahoo Sports NBA columnist Adrian Wojnarowski : Thad's heading to the Twin Cities. Young will join the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, guard Alexey Shved and a 2015 first-round draft pick. That pick originally belonged to the Miami Heat, who sent it to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2010 sign-and-trade that brought LeBron James' talents to South Florida. The Cavs will send it to Minnesota as part of the larger, more-ballyhooed and much-discussed Kevin Love-for-Andrew Wiggins deal expected to be finalized on Saturday; Minny will redirect it to the City of Brotherly Love once that goes down. The pick Philly's getting is protected through the top 10 in the 2015 and '16 drafts before becoming unprotected in 2017. (The Wolves will also receive a "trade exception believed to be worth at least $4 million," according to Zgoda .) We all understand the attraction for Philly at this point — they'll gladly take a draft pick Tuesday for an actual player today. (Photoshop idea: Sam Wimpy ? Nah, forget it.) As you've probably heard, the Sixers are in the business of being bad, young and inexpensive now while stockpiling as many future assets as possible, in the interest of making a grand worst-to-first-style turnaround in a few years' time. This wasn't always Philly's plan, though; in fact, the Sixers still owe a first-round pick thanks to the pre-Hinkie regime's 2012 draft-night trade with the Heat for Arnett Moultrie. (That hasn't worked out so hot .) Miami shipped that Philly pick to the Boston Celtics as part of the three-team deal that sent Jordan Crawford to the Golden State Warriors back in January , meaning Danny Ainge and company get the 76ers' selection if Philly makes the playoffs. (I know, I know, but bear with me.) Trading away the guy who led last year's "successful" 19-63 Sixers in minutes, points, rebounds and steals in exchange for a pair of players who couldn't stick in Rick Adelman's rotation ought to help lock down a lottery finish, no matter how good Nerlens Noel looks alongside reigning Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams. In the process, Philly snags a pick that could land higher than some expect if the retooled Heat stumble in acclimating to life after LeBron.

Dunk History: The joy of hearing Scottie Pippen posterize Patrick Ewing (Ball Don't Lie)
(Fri, 22 Aug 2014 11:05:00 PDT)
As the summer wears on, with training camps and preseason play still off in (what feels like) the distant future, we turn our attention to the past. Join us as we while away a few late-summer moments recalling some of the most scintillating slams of yesteryear, the most thunderous throwdowns ever to sear themselves into our memories. This is Dunk History . Today, Kevin Kaduk , overlord of these here Yahoo Sports Blogs, celebrates Scottie Pippen's ravaging of Patrick Ewing during Game 6 of the 1994 Eastern Conference semifinals. I heard my favorite dunk in basketball history hours before I ever saw it. It may seem a crazy notion in this age of pirated live streams, sanctioned apps and instantly distributed GIFs, but there was a time when there were actual barriers to watching NBA playoff action as it unfolded. Laptops were a rarity. Tablets and smartphones were more than a decade away. Heck, even simply being in a suburban Chicago home with a television set didn't guarantee you a chance to see the dynasty-era Chicago Bulls play each and every game. Back in 1994, roughly 37 percent of American households didn't own a cable subscription. Among them were my neighbors, who had two boys who needed a sitter (e.g., me) from time to time. It was a good gig in that I loved playing goalie in their endless games of driveway hockey and getting paid a few dollars an hour for it. It was not a good gig in that it provided no way to watch Game 6 of that spring's legendary Eastern Conference semifinals between the Bulls and New York Knicks. And so, with Scottie Pippen and the Bulls facing elimination after the "Hue Hollins game" at the Garden, the three of us settled in front of the stereo and tuned in Neil Funk and Tom Boerwinkle's call on 670.  There have been plenty of odes written to the pleasures of baseball on the radio. Listening to football in the car is acknowledged as an acceptable substitute if you're on your way home from church or running out to pick up food. Listening to a basketball game, however, remains an underrated joy. Without the static starting points of baseball and football plays, the exercise forces you to use your imagination a lot more for basketball's free-flowing action. And unlike the chaos of hockey, the sport's playbooks provide just enough definition that you don't have to do all the heavy lifting. Listening to a basketball game on the radio remains a decent way to quicken a long drive or provide company while cleaning a garage.  On that day, though, we did nothing but sit and listen. We didn't have to create any tension or sense of drama on our own as Funk began to call the action with his clipped cadence. " Scottie ... ahead to Horace... kicks out to Toni ... Kaboom!" "Starks ... into Ewing .. Six-footer ... And the Bulls lead is down to four." The noise from condemned Chicago Stadium — which needed two Bulls victories to delay the old building's shuttering — was constant through our speakers, though you could sense a certain reserve for much of the first half. The Bulls and Knicks had faced off the previous three springs, with Michael Jordan and Co. prevailing in each alley fight. Now it was Chicago being put to the test, its streak of three straight titles hanging in the balance. While it wasn't the same team with Jordan shagging flies in Birmingham, the enthusiasm around Chicago remained high, and the thought of elimination at the hands of New York caused just as much dread. Pippen had stepped out of Jordan's shadow to lead the Bulls to 55 wins and a first-round sweep of the Cleveland Cavaliers with an MVP-caliber performance. (He'd finish third in Most Valuable Player voting, behind winner Hakeem Olajuwon and runner-up David Robinson.) Number 33 in red and black remained the center of attention in the Knicks series, for better or for worse. His 1.8 seconds of pouting at the end of Game 3 marred his reputation (even with Toni Kukoc nailing the game-winner in his absence) and he rebounded with a 25-point, eight-rebound, six-assist effort in a Game 4 win that tied the series. Pippen was then involved in one of the most debatable fouls in NBA history, as Hollins blew a late whistle on the Bulls forward, sending Hubert Davis to the line for two free throws that put the Knicks on the brink of advancing to the conference finals. There was no way the Bulls were going to close the old Stadium with a loss, though. We sat and listened as they took an early 6-4 lead in Game 6, and then built on it as the free-throw advantage turned the Bulls' way on their home court. Chicago built an 11-point halftime lead, but their inability to close out the games at Madison Square Garden still left a nagging feeling the Bulls might blow it. Until it happened. I wish a simple Internet search would call up a replay of Funk's call of the action — you can hear the TV call with Johnny "Red" Kerr in the clip above — but if a version exists online, I've yet to find it. That's OK, though. I can still remember the roar that came through that speakers, a rush of noise that painted a clear picture. Pippen had just come off a fast break to dunk over Patrick Ewing in the lane, and the 18,676 fans lucky enough to be at Chicago Stadium threatened to send it into orbit, where it'd definitely avoid the wrecking ball. The Bulls lead had reached 17, the series was going seven games, and it was already clear we'd be talking about this dunk for the rest of our lives. *Indeed, there were several articles written when the 20th anniversary of Pippen's dunk rolled around on May 20. It'd take until the evening news for me to see a clip of the dunk, but those of you with the ability to watch from home knew what immediately followed. Pippen came down over Ewing, forcefully pushing him to the ground with a shove that drew a technical. He then marched over to Spike Lee, had his say with the roadtripping Knicks fan and proudly strode the other way. Meanwhile, the cathartic roar continued through those speakers. It was like nothing I'd ever heard before, and maybe since. At some point, I realized that all three of us were standing. The boys hopped up and down. I felt the need to call someone. I didn't, because there was no way I could stop listening to that stereo. In years to come, replays of the dunk and pictures would familiarize me with every little detail. From the quick passes of B.J. Armstrong and Pete Myers to reading Scottie's lips in his exchange with Lee ("Sit your a** down!") to appreciating the just-before-it-happened looks of the other players in the frame of Nathaniel Butler's poster-worthy photo. Seriously, does it get any better than this?

Jeremy Lin gets Madame Tussauds wax figure, which is nice, and shoves cake in mom's face, which isn't (Ball Don't Lie)
(Thu, 21 Aug 2014 12:27:02 PDT)
The San Francisco branch of renowned international wax museum Madame Tussauds unveiled its newest addition on Thursday — newly minted Los Angeles Lakers point guard Jeremy Lin, who played his high school ball about 45 minutes outside the city in Palo Alto, Calif., and began his NBA career with a brief stint on the Golden State Warriors' bench during the 2010-11 season. Let's join Lin in taking a look at Jeremy on wax, which is word to Stone Gossard : Jeremy Lin... Meet Jeremy Lin. The unveiling of his wax figure at #MadameTussauds in #SanFrancisco @Lakers pic.twitter.com/K2eMgEUIjo — Jaime Maggio (@jaimemaggio) August 21, 2014 It looks ... well, an awful lot like the Lin figure that previously appeared at the Madame Tussauds location in Beijing , with the Houston Rockets' red uniform swapped out for L.A.'s familiar purple and gold and without the ball Lin's supposed to be dunking going through the basket. (This feels like a bad omen for the offensive potency of the 2014-15 Lakers.) Lin had to meet with Madame Tussauds' artists "for detailed measurements to ensure that the final product would be a realistic likeness of the 25-year-old point guard," according to Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times . I bet if you ask him, though, he'll say that the figure should probably be a little more muscular; this is the offseason, after all, and everybody's putting on 15 pounds of muscle. (Shouts to Lang .) Lin joins such luminaries as Hall of Fame San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana, tennis superstar Serena Williams, boxing legend Muhammad Ali and noted golf enthusiast Tiger Woods in the ranks of sports figures on display at Madame Tussauds' Fisherman's Wharf museum , which is neat. He should savor the flavor of the celebratory unveiling, though; if the introduction of his former New York Knicks teammate Carmelo Anthony's wax figure is any indication, folks are about to start cracking on Lin's defensive shortcomings pretty darn quick. (Then again, maybe folks will direct any like-he-was-standing-still goofs toward another Lakers point guard .) As Pincus notes in his report, Lin's just two days shy of his 26th birthday, which makes the Madame Tussauds honor a decent little pre-birthday present. It also, however, means that he's two days closer to potential retribution for his recent unkindness to his mom, whose birthday celebration included an uncalled-for trip to Dessertinthefaceburgh: Hey, Jeremy Lin? Can you be cool to your mom for like a second ? Come on, dog. If you don't start shaping up, you're going to have to answer to Grandpa , and I know you don't want that. Apparently, young Mr. Lin made amends at Madame Tussauds: "Thanks to the SF Madame Tussauds Wax Museum for helping me patch things up with my mom hahah," Lin wrote in the caption to his Instagram post . "Fyi she wasnt actually upset when she got pied," he added, before wrapping up with the hashtag #itsfamilytradition. A likely story, Jeremy. We'll let it slide this time, we suppose. (Glad they put the ball in there, too.) - - - - - - - Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YourManDevine Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL , "Like" BDL on Facebook and follow BDL's Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more.

US routs Dominicans in exhibition as Rose rests (The Associated Press)
(Wed, 20 Aug 2014 19:20:17 PDT)
Derrick Rose heard the fans chanting his name, and yes, he would've loved to give them what they wanted. ''Just trying to protect myself, just knowing that this is a long, long schedule and this is the most basketball I'll be playing in two years,'' Rose said. ''I want to be out there, but at the same time my health is the No. 1 issue right now.'' With Rose sitting out, Kyrie Irving started and made all five shots, scoring 12 points as the U.S. James Harden also scored 12 in limited playing time for the Americans, who used their subs for most of the second half.

James Harden says he's 'the best all-around basketball player in the NBA,' sets high expectations (Ball Don't Lie)
(Wed, 20 Aug 2014 13:41:13 PDT)
Confidence can be an athlete's best friend. Given the often razor-thin margins separating the athleticism and skills of players at the NBA level, a healthy self-regard can be the difference between a just-missed chance and a roster spot, between a flubbed audition for bigger minutes and a rotation place seized, between being viewed as steady enough and perceived as an emerging star. And when things look grim, the shot clock's winding down and the roosters are crowing and the cows are spinning circles in the pasture , believing you'll make the shot can be nearly as important as keeping your elbow in and following through. James Harden, like many other top-level NBA superstars, clearly does not lack for confidence. The Houston Rockets All-Star joined several fellow NBA luminaries — Team USA teammates Stephen Curry and Anthony Davis, and former Oklahoma City Thunder teammate Kevin Durant — on Tuesday for an event promoting "NBA 2K15," the forthcoming new installment of the successful annual basketball video game. As part of the event, Harden and his pals sat down to answer questions about a variety of topics — favorite songs, gaming habits, prospective NBA rule changes, how their electronic avatars compare to their flesh-and-blood selves, etc. In answering one question, Harden offered not only an evaluation of the talents of his All-Star pals, but also a very generous estimation of his own: ?"I'm the best all-around basketball player in the NBA," Harden said. "Steph Curry would probably be the best shooter, pure shooter, in the NBA. KD would probably be the best scorer in the NBA, and Anthony Davis would probably be the best shot-blocker in the NBA." Well, then. Harden struck a similar note during a recent interview with ESPN.com's Scoop Jackson : Scoop: Bottom line, you are on this [U.S. national] team and a lot of players aren't, but in your mind, who is the best basketball player alive right now? Harden: Myself. Scoop: That's what I was about to say, "including you." You made that sound like it was an easy answer. Harden: It is. Myself. There are plenty of ways to poke holes in this, if you're so inclined — starting, of course, with those not-so-nice mixtapes of Harden playing lackadaisical defense . There are two sides to the court, after all, and if you're going to call yourself the best all-around player in the NBA and the best basketball player alive, you've got to play both of them. At this stage in his development, Harden just doesn't D up frequently enough, or at a high-enough level when he is committed to the task, to merit serious consideration alongside the likes of more consistently elite two-way performers like LeBron James, Paul George and Chris Paul, or Durant, who isn't necessarily a stopper himself, but whose unparalleled offensive gifts and metronomic production vault him to a different level, into the sort of rarefied air where you win MVP awards . Harden's not there right now. (For what it's worth, Harden did offer a hedge in his conversation with Jackson , saying that he's "still trying to catch guys like LeBron, KD and Kobe [Bryant] ... That's something I get to look forward to every single day to motivate me.") Here's where we focus on the phrases "at this stage in his development" and "right now" and where we take a deep breath to remember that James Harden is A) six days shy of his 25th birthday and B) just two years removed from coming off the bench in Oklahoma City. He's not a finished product yet, because of course he isn't. Two years back, the hirsute lefty responded to his first crack at starting by averaging 25.9 points, 5.8 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game, making his first All-Star team and leading the Rockets to their first playoff berth since 2009. Last year, he responded to the ramped-up expectations that came with the addition of Dwight Howard by improving his field-goal and free-throw percentages, bumping up his assist rate while averaging fewer turnovers per minute, turning in a higher Player Efficiency Rating than any other two-guard in the league and rising from the All-NBA Third Team to the No. 1 squad. Maybe we shouldn't give short shrift to the suggestion that he'll respond to rampant criticism of his shortcomings by improving upon them and reaching another level, as Durant, Derrick Rose and Kevin Love did after strong turns for the U.S. in the most recent edition of this tournament, then called the FIBA World Championship, back in 2010. Harden's combination of handle, playmaking, footwork, marksmanship and athleticism make him the game's premier shooting guard at the moment, as well as a rare bird in a historical sense. Only Harden, James, Rose, Dwyane Wade, Oscar Robertson, Dave Bing and Charlie Scott have averaged 25 points, six assists and four rebounds per game for a full season before their 25th birthday, as Harden did last year. That's two Hall of Famers, two sure-fire future Hall of Famers, the youngest MVP in league history and Scott, who made five All-Star teams in the ABA and NBA and put up 25 points, 11 rebounds, five steals and three assists in a championship-clinching victory for the Boston Celtics over the Phoenix Suns in the 1976 NBA Finals. Not bad company. To date, however, Harden's offensive prowess as The Man in Houston has resulted in only individual accolades and a pair of first-round postseason exits. That includes a six-game defeat at the hands of the Portland Trail Blazers this spring in which fellow All-Star Damian Lillard hit the series-clinching shot on a possession where Harden appeared to call for a defensive switch that moved bulldog point guard Patrick Beverley off Lillard in favor of small forward Chandler Parsons. Why exactly that switch happened remains unclear — “We had a certain defensive scheme," Harden said after the game — but what's unmistakable is that for a Rockets team that seems to have struck out this summer to take the next step in a brutal Western Conference, it's going to need its signature stars to turn their weaknesses into strengths. For Harden, that means dialing it up on the defensive end and taking on more responsibility for Houston's fate both on and off the floor. The good news for Rockets fans is that, to hear Team USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski tell it, Harden's doing precisely that in his role as one of the core performers on the U.S. squad that's preparing to compete in the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain later this month. Coach K recently praised Harden's "terrific" maturity and called the former Arizona State standout and 2012 Olympic gold medalist "as good a leader as we've had for this team," especially in the aftermath of losing George to a gruesome injury and Durant to accumulated fatigue . "He is an upbeat guy, smart, and he’s obviously very, very talented," Krzyzewski told media members during Team USA's workouts in New York . "With this group, especially after Kevin left, he has asserted himself even more as an older guy. "I don’t how maturity develops when I’m not around it all the time. I just know that he’s one of the best players in the NBA, and having this responsibility here will only make him better," Krzyzewski added. "These guys get better after playing [with Team USA], because they go to places that they don’t necessarily go to on their own teams, whether it be in a subordinate role at times, a leadership role, the key player, the good talker, or whatever. James checks every box." Harden, for his part, is trying to take advantage of the opportunity to lead the national team, and to develop his own voice as the sort of established elite performer to whom younger, more inexperienced players can look. "Obviously, I’m still learning and have a long way to go, but the first couple of steps is already there," he said. "So trying to be more vocal is part of my leadership role, especially on this team — guys have the talent, but guys are kind of shy and might not want to talk. Coach K had plenty of talks with me, [telling me to] make sure you’re vocal, make sure guys hear you. So that’s what I tried to do." After making no bones about where he sees himself among the ranks of the NBA's best, the whole world definitely hears Harden now. What he says next — with his play in Spain, with his comportment on both ends for the Rockets, and as the tip of Houston's spear come the 2014-15 postseason — ought to tell us an awful lot about whether "best all-around player in the NBA" was mere acting-as-if or simply an ahead-of-schedule pronouncement of the next stop in the rising star's upward trajectory. More Team USA coverage: - - - - - - - Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YourManDevine Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL , "Like" BDL on Facebook and follow BDL's Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more.

National Basketball Association roundup
(Mon, 18 Aug 2014 20:44:48 PDT)
(The Sports Xchange) - The New York Knicks will add Jim Cleamons to new coach Derek Fisher's staff, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday. Cleamons, a longtime NBA assistant, served on former Milwaukee Bucks coach Larry Drew's staff last season. Knicks president Phil Jackson and Cleamons have a long history of working together - first with the Chicago Bulls and then with the Los Angeles Lakers. Cleamons was on Jackson's coaching staff for numerous NBA titles. ...

Who would buy a Dwight Howard Lakers jersey for $100 at LAX? (Ball Don't Lie)
(Mon, 18 Aug 2014 19:35:04 PDT)
The NBA and its associated retail partners sell a lot of merchandise, from the most coveted retro jerseys to those toasters that burn team logos into bread . While many of these items are sold at considerable markup, they rarely reach prices so high as to seem absurd. Plus, when players change teams, the team-specific apparel bearing their names is always put on sale. It was a little bizarre, then, to discover that one store at Los Angeles International Airport is still selling Dwight Howard jerseys from his sole season with the Los Angeles Lakers at a premium price. According to sportswriter Jeff Pearlman, who wrote a book on the franchise's Showtime era published earlier this year, the jerseys are going for close to $100. Here's his tweet: Dwight Howard Laker jersey selling for $100 at LAX. Probably $3 at Marshall's pic.twitter.com/RO23vnHKrs — jeffpearlman (@jeffpearlman) August 17, 2014 Trusted source Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk has said that no one in L.A. walks around in a Dwight Howard Lakers jersey these days, and that makes sense given that Howard was a disappointment with the team and opted to bolt for the Houston Rockets as a free agent last summer. But I think he's ignoring some potential customers for this item. As all Americans know, the free market is a frictionless wonder with absolutely no inefficiencies whatsoever. If someone is selling an outdated Dwight Howard jersey for $100, then surely someone must be willing to pay for it. Who would do such a thing? Here are some suggestions: 1. Tom Hanks in "Cast Away" if he couldn't get through airport customs like Tom Hanks in "The Terminal." 2. A traveler who had all his shirts confiscated by TSA agents. 3. Someone who spent way too much time at the Chili's Too bar during a five-hour layover. 4. A delayed passenger who forgot to use a $100 voucher until right before boarding. 5. An anthropomorphic Skittle. The system works! - - - - - - - Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at efreeman_ysports@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @FreemanEric

U.S. vulnerable without big names: Prigioni
(Mon, 18 Aug 2014 08:38:46 PDT)
By Zoran Milosavljevic BELGRADE (Reuters) - Hosts Spain and several other teams are capable of defeating a United States side missing their biggest names at the Aug. 30-Sept. 14 basketball World Cup, New York Knicks playmaker Pablo Prigioni told Reuters. The 37-year-old Argentina point guard, who joined the Knicks in 2012 from Spanish side Caja Laboral, also announced that he would be quitting the international stage after the 24-nation tournament in order to focus on his NBA career. "Spain and a few other teams now have a chance of beating the United States," said Prigioni at the warm-up event in Belgrade where Argentina were soundly beaten by host nation Serbia and Puerto Rico.

Basketball-U.S. vulnerable without big names - Prigioni
(Mon, 18 Aug 2014 08:00:00 PDT)
By Zoran Milosavljevic BELGRADE, Aug 18 (Reuters) - Hosts Spain and several other teams are capable of defeating a United States side missing their biggest names at the Aug. 30-Sept. 14 basketball World Cup, New York Knicks playmaker Pablo Prigioni told Reuters. The 37-year-old Argentina point guard, who joined the Knicks in 2012 from Spanish side Caja Laboral, also announced that he would be quitting the international stage after the 24-nation tournament in order to focus on his NBA career. "Spain and a few other teams now have a chance of beating the United States," said Prigioni at the warm-up event in Belgrade where Argentina were soundly beaten by host nation Serbia and Puerto Rico.

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