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Kiszla: After embarrassing loss to France, coach Gregg Popovich says we’re stupid to expect USA to

TOYKO – The basketball world no longer fears red, white and blue.

The era of U.S. hoops dominance is dead. And gone. If you don’t accept that sad fact, you’re stupid, according to no less of an authority than Gregg Popovich, a crabby professor brow-beating us with hard truths we’re not ready to accept.

“There’s nothing to be surprised about,” Popovich said Sunday, after a disturbingly uninspired Kevin Durant and his flustered American teammates choked on a seven-point lead late in the fourth quarter and lost 83-76 to France at the Olympics.

“When you lose a game, you’re not surprised. You’re disappointed, but I don’t understand the word surprised. That sort of disses the French team, so to speak, as if we’re supposed to beat them by 30 or something. That’s a hell of a team.”

France ain’t bad.

Center Rudy Gobert plays world-class D and Evan Fournier stuck it to Team USA with 28 points, including a dagger to the heart from beyond the arc that gave France a 76-74 lead in the final minute.

But c’mon now. The French are supposed to be better than us at making croissants, not 3-point shots.

“We were trying too hard to do the right thing, instead of just being who we are: the best players in the NBA,” said guard Damian Lillard, whose two clumsy turnovers contributed mightily to Team USA’s late-game collapse.

This ain’t your father’s Dream Team. LeBron James, Steph Curry and a number of superstars respectfully declined to play for Team USA in Japan after a long 16 months of COVID-19 anxiety and bubble fatigue. But with Durant and Lillard wearing red, white and blue, shouldn’t that be enough to win gold?

Not anymore, bubba.

We got over the fact that Germany and Japan can build better cars than Detroit. But this idea that we can no longer go to sleep at night secure in the knowledge the world’s best basketball is made in the USA? That’s a bummer.

The American men had not lost in Olympic competition since 2004, when Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson and a 19-year-old James were humbled by Argentina in the semifinals. The embarrassment of that defeat caused leaders of the game to re-dedicate Team USA to the relentless pursuit of Olympic excellence. But after bringing home the gold from Beijing, London and Rio de Janeiro, a sense of entitlement and complacency has again seeped into America’s NBA stars, who failed to match the passion and pride brought by Fournier and his French teammates.

““They are better individually,” Fournier said, “but they can be beaten as a team.”

After being outscored 16-2 during the final three minutes, 17 seconds of the final period, the Americans trudged back to their locker room, heads bowed in stone-cold stares at the floor. This team knows it’s in trouble, especially after exhibition losses to Nigeria and Australia exposed defensive flaws and lack of offensive flow during preparation for the Summer Games.

His arrogance pounded out of him by the realization American exceptionalism on the hardwood has been exposed as fraudulent thinking, Popovich has fallen back on being the condescending jerk we’ve all witnessed as the Spurs’ coach during his snarky in-game interviews on TV.

Coach Pop wants everyone in America to know he takes great offense at your belief we should horde basketball gold.

“I think that’s a little bit of hubris,” Popovich said, “as if you think the Americans are supposed to just roll out the ball and win.”

Here’s what I think: Should we accept defeat as part of the game’s evolution around the globe? Never.

When U.S. players no longer possess the healthy hubris to intimidate Nigeria, Australia or France, is it time to freak out? No doubt.

And do we have the right to be ticked at Pop for his team’s sloppy play? Absolutely. His job is to coach ’em up, not put down our hoop dreams.

U.S. basketball superiority is dead. Cry if you wanna.

College basketball recruiting: Top-5 most decorated prospects (and Top-5 hidden gems) in Colorado pr

A total of 26 high school players from Colorado developed into NBA draft picks since 1952, according to CHSAA. But not all were highly recruited going into college. Here is a breakdown of the top-five most decorated recruits — and the top-five hidden gems — in modern Colorado prep history. Recruiting information compiled from


PG Chauncey Billups — George Washington, 1995

McDonald’s High School All-American. … Turned down scholarship offers from Big East and ACC schools to play at CU. … A first-team All-American as a sophomore. … Selected No. 3 overall in the NBA Draft. … NBA Champion and Finals MVP with the Pistons.

PF De’Ron Davis — Overland, 2016

Four-star prospect (No. 40 national recruit). … Signed with Indiana over scholarship offers from Arizona, CU, Texas and many others. … Made 23 career starts with 590 points and 287 rebounds over four seasons. … Signed a professional basketball contract to play in Ireland.

SF Ronnie Harrell — Denver East, 2014

Four-star prospect (No. 84 national recruit). … Picked Creighton over scholarship offers from Arizona State, Kansas State, Washington and others. … Transferred to DU for his senior season. … Averaged a career-high 12.9 points with the Pioneers.

PG Reggie Jackson — Palmer HS, 2008

Four-star prospect (No. 89 national recruit). … Chose Boston College over scholarship offers from Nevada, Wyoming and others. … Earned All-ACC honors as a junior. … Selected No. 24 overall in the 2011 NBA draft. … Tenth-year NBA guard now playing for the Clippers.

PG Dominique Collier — Denver East, 2014

Four-star prospect (No. 91 overall national recruit). … Chose CU over scholarship offers from Arizona, Gonzaga, Iowa and others. …  Made 68 career starts over four seasons. … Named co-Pac-12 Sixth Man of the Year in 2017-18.


SG Derrick White — Legend, 2012

Not recruited by Division-I schools as a scholarship player. … Became a two-time All-American at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs (D-II). … Played his final college season at CU. … Selected No. 29 overall in the NBA Draft. … Averaged a career-high 15.4 points last season for the Spurs.

C Jason Smith — Platte Valley, 2004

Two-star prospect (No. 461 national recruit). … Chose CSU over scholarship offers from Gonzaga, Utah and Wyoming. … Totaled 1,281 points, 683 rebounds and 149 blocks in college. … Picked No. 20 overall in the NBA Draft. … Played for 11 seasons between six different teams.

SG Justinian Jessup — Longmont, 2016

Two-star prospect (unranked national recruit). … Played for Boise State over scholarship offers from Davidson, Pepperdine and others. … First player in school history with at least 1,500 points, 500 rebounds, 250 assists, 250 steals and 50 blocked shots. … Picked in the second round of the NBA Draft.

PG Colbey Ross — Eaglecrest, 2017

Two-star prospect (No. 514 national recruit). … Signed with Pepperdine over scholarship offers from Cal Poly, Northern Colorado and others. … First player in NCAA history with at least 2,200 points, 800 assists and 400 rebounds. … Started in 125 games over four seasons. … A second-round NBA Draft prospect.

C Nick Fazekas — Ralston Valley, 2003

Three-star prospect (No. 236 national recruit) … Picked Nevada over scholarship offers from Marquette, Utah and others. … A three-time NCAA All-American. … Finished college career as school’s all-time leader in scoring (2,464) and blocked shots (192). … Selected No. 34 overall in the NBA Draft.
Japan’s diverse Olympic stars reflect a country that’s changing (slowly)

Japan’s diverse Olympic stars reflect a country that’s changing (slowly)

25/07/2021, USA, Basketball, NBA (Basketball), Article # 30399238

TOKYO — When the Japanese Olympic team marched at the opening ceremony in Tokyo Friday, towering over the rest of the delegation was flag-bearer Rui Hachimura, a rising NBA star who was born and raised in Japan.

His background is evident in his reflexive bow of the head when he greets people, his love of his mother’s beef sukiyaki, even his appearance in an instant-noodle ad featuring a yodeling baby sardine. But he is also helping to redefine what it means to be Japanese.

In an insular nation known for racial homogeneity, Hachimura, 23, is the son of a Japanese mother and a father from Benin. He is tall, as befits a power forward for the Washington Wizards, and Black, as befits the country’s new generation of mixed-race athletes.

At least 35 members of the 583-strong Japanese Olympic team are multiracial. They are considered medal contenders in tennis and judo and will compete in boxing, sailing, sprinting, rugby and fencing, among other sports.

Their ranks include two of the highest-wattage athletes on Team Japan: Hachimura and Naomi Osaka, the tennis champion whose father is Haitian American and whose mother is Japanese. On Friday, Osaka, 23, climbed a flight of stairs etched into a pyramid shaped like Mount Fuji and lit the Olympic cauldron perched on top.

That two of the opening ceremony’s star roles went to multiracial athletes underscores how eager Japan is to present a diverse face to the world. Osaka’s and Hachimura’s popularity in Japan had already been confirmed when Nissin, the instant noodle manufacturer, affixed their faces to Cup Noodle packaging, an advertising honor akin to appearing on a cereal box.

But even as Japan celebrates the accomplishments of its “hafu” athletes — “half,” as in half-Japanese and half-something else — it must still contend with xenophobia in a society whose ideas of nationhood are tied to race.

“My entire existence has been a challenge to those around me of what it means to be Japanese,” said Sewon Okazawa, an Olympic welterweight boxer who is the son of a Japanese mother and a Ghanaian father.

Japan’s growing roster of multiracial Olympians reflects how the country, with its fast-aging population, has had to crack open its doors to immigration, despite a powerful tradition of isolation. Today, about 1 in 50 children born in Japan has a foreign-born parent, according to the nation’s health ministry.

“They are a new spectrum of Japanese,” said Edward Y. Sumoto, the Venezuelan Japanese founder of a Facebook group called Mixed Roots Japan. “There are now Black, brown, blond Japanese.”

For hundreds of years, that was unimaginable. From the 17th century to the 19th, the country kept nearly all foreigners out and nearly all Japanese at home, in one of the world’s most extreme examples of isolationism.

An unspoken hierarchy in Japan prizes paler skin over darker shades. Darker-skinned Japanese endure racist barbs. (Japanese with one parent from other East Asian countries can face bullying, too.)

Okazawa grew up in a snowbound city in northern Japan, reciting Buddhist sutras with his grandmother. He has never been to Ghana and does not speak English. Still, he said, he was recruited to his high school boxing team because a classmate thought he looked the part.

“I forget I’m Black sometimes,” Okazawa said. But, he added: “When I look at myself in the mirror, I don’t look Japanese.”

The country’s sporting establishment has hailed the successes of mixed-race athletes. But their accomplishments are often characterized in the discredited language of eugenics: fast-twitch muscles, explosive reflexes, inherent physical power.

“If you are hafu, people will always compare high performance with some sort of genetic triumph,” Sumoto said. In the nation’s popular culture, Black Japanese are often slotted into limited career categories: athlete, rapper, beauty queen.

In May, after his brother endured a racist attack online, Hachimura said on Twitter that he, too, was subjected to such abuses “almost every day.”

Hachimura learned English only upon going to Gonzaga University in 2016, where he played college basketball. In the United States, as in Japan, few recognized him as Japanese, even though he was the first from his country to be a first-round NBA draft pick.

The Tokyo Olympics were meant to signify a more cosmopolitan Japan. In 2013, when the country bid to host the Games, it deployed Christel Takigawa, a French Japanese television presenter, to make its case to the International Olympic Committee in flawless French. Tokyo, she said, was a hospitable place. She later expressed hope that the Olympics would make the city more international.

One motto of the Tokyo Games is “unity in diversity,” a point made with a fleet of drones that hovered over the Olympic Stadium Friday and formed a giant, shimmering globe, shortly before Osaka lit the cauldron.

But Tokyo itself remains remarkably monochromatic. Only about 4% of residents were born outside Japan, according to the city government — about twice the national figure. (By contrast, more than 35% of London and New York residents were born abroad.)

Marie Nakagawa, a Sengalese Japanese former model, said she felt like an “alien” growing up in Japan. Even today, she regularly endures catcalls from men who say she is a ringer for Osaka, whose racial justice advocacy has forced the country to confront an issue that many here think does not apply to them.

“I hear experts say all the time that things have changed since Naomi Osaka, but the bullies are still the same,” Nakagawa said. “They have not been reeducated.”

In 2019, as Osaka was winning her second Grand Slam at the Australian Open, Nissin depicted her with pale skin and brown hair in a marketing cartoon, prompting accusations of whitewashing.

“It’s obvious I’m tan,” Osaka responded. Nissin apologized.

Takeshi Fujiwara, a sprinter who specializes in the 400 meters, grew up in El Salvador, where his Japanese name raised eyebrows. His mother is from there, and his father is Japanese. Even after Fujiwara competed in the Athens Olympics for El Salvador, the whispers about his nationality continued.

In 2013, he switched his allegiance to Japan and moved to his father’s homeland. The welcome was not immediate, he said, even if people commented favorably on his “macho macho” muscles.

“When I came to Japan, I thought, ‘Hey, I’m here in my country.’ They would say, ‘Hey, where are you from?’” Fujiwara said. “It has gotten better, but we’re still a long way to getting to a place where multiracial Japanese are seen as normal.”

Last month, after undergoing 14 days of COVID-19 quarantine, during which he could not practice and missed the birth of his daughter, Fujiwara came up just short in the Olympic trials. He will not be sprinting in the Games, but he would like to think that he is bringing some benefit to the country.

“I understand Japan was closed for so many years, the traditional mentalities and one of the strongest homogeneous cultures in the world,” he said. “But what Japanese don’t see is that change is for the better in the sense that we’re citizens of the world.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
WNBA stars helping fuel 3-on-3 basketball's golden moment in Olympics

WNBA stars helping fuel 3-on-3 basketball's golden moment in Olympics

25/07/2021, USA, Basketball, NBA (Basketball), Article # 30399047

Olympic 3-on-3 basketball teams are made up of WNBA players who are managing to make an impact in Tokyo despite it being a much different game.
NBA draft preview: Could Nuggets find a sleeper at power forward?

NBA draft preview: Could Nuggets find a sleeper at power forward?

24/07/2021, USA, Basketball, NBA (Basketball), Article # 30399005

Editor’s note: The fourth of a five-part series previewing the Nuggets’ positional outlook heading into the July 29 NBA draft. Today: power forward.

Second-round playoff exit or not, the Nuggets learned an invaluable lesson last season: Michael Porter Jr. is a lethal scorer and a worthy piece of the franchise’s foundation.

Amid his torrent of 3-pointers last season (170, 25th overall in the league), it was easy to forget that outside of a few tantalizing games in the Bubble in 2020, Porter hadn’t yet put it together. And that was to say nothing of his defense, which needs work.

But even in a truncated season, with little time to recover between games and even less time to practice, Porter made seismic strides. His second-half numbers, including more than a month of carrying the reigns as Denver’s No. 2 scoring option, might have warranted All-Star consideration. Over the final 35 games, he averaged 22.3 points on 46% 3-point shooting and 7.5 rebounds per game.

If any position on the Nuggets’ depth chart is in good hands heading into Thursday’s NBA draft, it’s power forward.

Porter’s emergence, Aaron Gordon’s arrival and the slew of veteran big men (Paul Millsap, JaMychal Green and JaVale McGee) all blocked the growth of promising rookie Zeke Nnaji. But with all three reserves potentially facing free agency this offseason, Nnaji has a path to playing time next season. Even in spot minutes, his seamless 3-point stroke stood out. To Nuggets officials, including coach Michael Malone, it was his ability to defend in isolation that had them giddy.

Though the minutes weren’t there for him last season, Nnaji appeared the rare rookie mature enough for a bigger role. His capacity to defend perimeter players or bruising big men will give Denver’s second unit meaningful flexibility.

If Green returns, that would only further help their depth at forward. But here’s the scenario where another forward could come into play. If the Nuggets feel confident in their ability to re-sign Will Barton, the hole at shooting guard becomes less glaring. P.J. Dozier’s healthy return next season also provides some backcourt insurance. In that case, the Nuggets could justify adding frontcourt depth, especially considering that Gordon is entering a contract year.

If they go big, here are their best options.

1.       Kai Jones, 6-foot-10, Texas, sophomore: Rim-running, athletic big man who profiles as a plus-defender in the NBA. Jones has shown hints of a face-up game, but his offense would take years to develop. He’ll need to get stronger, but the framework of an intriguing, change-of-pace NBA player is undeniable.

2.       JT Thor, 6-foot-10, Auburn, freshman: Athletic, switchable defender with excellent size and anticipation. He shot under 30% from 3-point range last season, but his shot is smooth and could translate to the next level. He’s raw but has sleeper potential and might be there for the Nuggets at No. 26.

3.       Isaiah Todd, 6-foot-9, G League Ignite, 19 years old: Todd flashed some legitimate stretch-four skill, nailing 36% of his 3-point looks. Another athletic big man with offensive gifts, Todd needs to get stronger and commit more to the glass. Not as athletic as either Thor or Jones.

4.       Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, 6-foot-9, Villanova, sophomore:  A jack-of-all-trades, Robinson-Earl is going to find himself in the NBA one way or another. He’s too smart a player with too many good qualities not to get a chance. He’s not overly athletic, nor does he have a standout skill, but he defends, switches and is always in the right place on both ends of the court.

5.        Greg Brown, 6-foot-9, Texas, freshman: Brown’s an elite athlete who’s still extremely raw. His athleticism gives him real potential as a versatile defender. Offensively, his game is unrefined – a bit like a young Jerami Grant. Brown could thrive for a team that is willing to wait for his game to develop.
Nuggets free agency primer: What extensions, roster moves could be coming?

Nuggets free agency primer: What extensions, roster moves could be coming?

24/07/2021, USA, Basketball, NBA (Basketball), Article # 30398114

Back in June, it was easy to overlook the post-season remarks of Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly.

He could’ve been toeing the party line or simply couldn’t predict how his roster would shake out in more than a month’s time. But less than a week from the NBA draft, and less than two weeks from the start of free agency, it’s possible Connelly’s initial comments were prophetic.

“Certainly we have a handful of free agents that we’re hopeful we can retain,” Connelly said. “We won’t have real certainty about what our roster might look like until post-draft. We really enjoyed this group. The more guys we can keep the better.”

The Nuggets own the No. 26 pick in next Thursday’s draft. Free agency follows starting on Aug. 2.

While Nuggets’ management is currently deep in their draft preparation, having hosted numerous workouts for various prospects, free agency is also on their mind. What the Nuggets do in the next several weeks could determine how competitive they are next season around reigning MVP Nikola Jokic, rising star Michael Porter Jr., and Jamal Murray, who will miss much of the 2021-22 season as he recovers from ACL surgery.

The answers to these five questions will determine what type of offseason the Nuggets have.

1) Barton and Green coming back? By virtue of Will Barton’s July 17 deadline to decide on his player option, one shoe has already dropped. Barton declined his option, making him an unrestricted free agent. There are all kinds of reasons, beginning with financial security, that Barton may have decided not to exercise his option, but there is mutual optimism between the two sides, according to league sources, that a deal can be reached in free agency. This would be a huge win for the Nuggets, whose lack of backcourt punch was exposed in the playoffs against Phoenix.

JaMychal Green, 31, has the same decision that Barton faced. His deadline to pick up his $7.6 million player option is Monday. Before diving into Green’s decision, consider the rest of the frontcourt. Veteran Paul Millsap was benched for Game 4 of the Phoenix series. By contrast,  Green played nearly 18 minutes per game against the Suns. Deadline-acquisition JaVale McGee barely played at all before Game 4 after playing just seven minutes in the first round against Portland. McGee and Millsap are unrestricted free agents, and Green can become one. All three were subject to frontcourt musical chairs that none of them were happy with. Green, whether he picks up his player option or declines it, is the most logical player to retain. Not only is he younger than the other two, but he’s also the most valuable. It remains to be seen how productive he can be in Denver when not sharing a role with another veteran.

2) How many roster spots are available? This is the trickiest question and the one that will inform how the Nuggets can maneuver in free agency. Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Aaron Gordon, Monte Morris, Michael Porter Jr., Facundo Campazzo, Zeke Nnaji, Bol Bol, P.J. Dozier (non-guaranteed) and Vlatko Cancar (non-guaranteed) account for 10 of the 15 roster spots. If Barton and Green both return, potentially on new deals, that would bump the roster to 12. The Nuggets’ first-round pick, assuming they hold onto it, accounts for 13. Then Connelly and GM Calvin Booth would need to decide how to allocate the last two roster spots. Without Murray for the majority of next season, it would make sense to re-sign Austin Rivers, who proved a valuable pick-up in April. That’d make 14, with the possibility of converting two-way Markus Howard to a standard contract. If all that happened, the Nuggets would have their 15 spots locked in, not counting their two two-way contracts. (Shaquille Harrison, a fourth-year player, is no longer eligible for a two-way contract).

Without salary cap room, the Nuggets’ best mechanism for adding talent this offseason is their mid-level exception, which would allow them to sign a player up to $9.5 million annually. They’ve also got a $5.3 million traded player exception (from the Jerami Grant deal) that would allow them to absorb salary without sending back matching salary. Denver used most of its MLE on Green this past season, and could do so again if he opts out. They could also re-sign him to a comparable extension without using the MLE, saving the exception for another free agent. But that’s why the roster spots are so significant.

3) What’s up with Bol Bol? Speaking of roster spots, the Nuggets need to pick a lane with Bol Bol. He’ll be heading into the second year of his two-year deal, and the Nuggets need to decide what path to take with him. He struggled to get off the bench last season, seemingly passed over by Cancar and Nnaji in the pecking order. Assuming that’s still the case, with Cancar at the Olympics and Nnaji bypassing the chance to play in Tokyo in order to work on his game, Bol doesn’t appear to have a defined role. If the Nuggets needed to open a roster spot, perhaps both parties would welcome a trade sooner rather than later.

4) Is MPJ in line for a max deal? The Nuggets traditionally reward their own as soon as possible, meaning Porter has a good chance at locking in a huge contract this summer. After three seasons in the NBA, two of which he was healthy for, Porter showed tantalizing glimpses of his potential. At 6-foot-10, he shot 44.5% from 3-point range on over six attempts per game. Porter is extension eligible until the start of the season. The Nuggets could offer him some version of a max deal, with various provisions and/or incentives to account for his injury history. It seems far likelier he’ll get a deal this fall rather than wait until next offseason when he’d hit restricted free agency. If they reach a max deal, the Nuggets will have more than $90 million tied up in Porter, Jokic and Murray entering the 2022-’23 season and will be barreling toward the luxury tax ($136.6 million this season).

5) What about Gordon? There’s already a significant sunk cost with Gordon – R.J. Hampton, a future first-round pick and Gary Harris. When the Nuggets traded for him, they thought they’d have two cracks at a title run. Instead, because of Murray’s knee injury, they might only have one. An extension this summer would keep the Nuggets’ core together for at least several years. But if the Nuggets aren’t comfortable paying Gordon, say, $20 million a year, the hybrid forward might play this year out and test free agency next offseason. Before Murray got hurt, Gordon looked like the missing piece. How much will the Nuggets pay to re-create that magic?
NBA free agency lacks star power, but that could change

NBA free agency lacks star power, but that could change

23/07/2021, USA, Basketball, NBA (Basketball), Article # 30397807

The free-agency class of 2021 lacks star power on the surface, unless Kawhi Leonard and Chris Paul decline their player options. Here's what to expect.
Top NBA free agents to watch this offseason

Top NBA free agents to watch this offseason

23/07/2021, USA, Basketball, NBA (Basketball), Article # 30397808

Will NBA superstars Kawhi Leonard and Chris Paul join veteran guards like Mike Conley, DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry and Dennis Schroder as free agents?

					Tate Frazier on if the Bucks should still fire Coach Mike Budenholzer | Titus & Tate

Tate Frazier on if the Bucks should still fire Coach Mike Budenholzer | Titus & Tate

23/07/2021, USA, Basketball, NBA (Basketball), Article # 30397581
After clinching the NBA title, Mark Titus and Tate Frazier discuss the future of Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer and whether they think he should retain the job or be fired.