Kobe Bryant: ‘The Days of the ’92 Barcelona Dream Team Are Gone’

In the midst of USA Basketball’s shortcomings in the FIBA World Cup, Kobe Bryant says the days of American ballers destroying their international competition are long gone.

Things are no longer a “cakewalk” according to Bryant, who points out that his own 2008 Olympic quad had to sweat out its Gold Medal victory.

The Black Mamba adds that global hoops competition will only become more fierce in the coming years, and that Team USA must “respect everybody.”

Per The Athletic:

“Put the best players that you think are going to make the best U.S. team out on the floor, we are still going to have challenges,” Bryant said Friday in Beijing, between World Cup semifinal games. “It’s not going to be a cakewalk. The days of the ’92 Barcelona Dream Team are gone.”

Bryant, 41, was a two-time Olympic gold medalist and an anchor for the 2008 “Redeem Team,” which came here to Beijing and avenged a spate of American hoop embarrassments at the 2002 and ’06 World Cups and 2004 Olympics.

“That was a hell of a team we had,” Bryant said. “We still needed a real late push to beat Spain in that gold medal match.”

This summer, All-Star-caliber players James Harden, Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Kevin Love, Bradley Beal and Andre Drummond backed out of commitments to play at the World Cup. LeBron [James], Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving were never in the mix.

“It’s not a matter of the rest of the world catching up to the U.S., it’s that the rest of the world has been caught up for quite some time,” Bryant said. “And it’s to the point now where us in the U.S. are gonna win some, we’re gonna lose some. And that’s just how it goes.”

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Draymond Green: ‘No One is Going to Want to Play Us in the Playoffs’

“No one” is looking forward to facing the Warriors in next season’s playoffs, according to three-time NBA All-Star forward Draymond Green.

Green says Golden State, though obviously diminished by Kevin Durant‘s free agency exit this summer, “still got a great cast.”

The Dubs will be in survival mode until Klay Thompson eventually returns to action following surgery to repair a torn ACL.

Per NBC Sports Bay Area:

The Western Conference is vastly improved, but those counting the Warriors out of the title conversation should rethink their position. Green knows the Dubs will be dangerous when it’s winning time.

“No pumping up need to be done,” Green said about the Warriors’ upcoming season Thursday on CNBC’s “Power Money.”

“We still got a great cast with obviously Steph Curry leading the charge. We bring in D’Angelo Russel. Got a lot of young talent coming in — Willie Cauley-Stein — I plan on trying to play at the best of my ability this year, and obviously, with Klay [Thompson] coming back around February, no one is going to want to play us in the playoffs, that’s for sure.”

Related Draymond Green: Talk of Warriors Missing Playoffs ‘Crazy to Me’

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Rockets Owner: Title Window ‘Next Three or Four Years’

Rockets team owner Tilman Fertitta believes his team has an NBA championship window in the “next three or four years” to win it all.

Otherwise, “we probably aren’t going to win one in the next 10 years,” says Fertitta.

Fertitta adds that newcomer Russell Westbrook‘s athleticism is an element Houston was “a little short on,” and is confident he can happily co-exist with fellow superstar teammate James Harden.

Per Yahoo Sports:

“I think we put ourselves in the position that if we don’t win it in the next three or four years, we probably aren’t going to win one in the next 10 years,” Fertitta told Yahoo Sports in an interview to promote his debut book titled “Shut Up And Listen,” which hits all major bookstores on Tuesday. “This is our window, and we need to seize the opportunity.”

The Texas billionaire, who is also sole owner of Fertitta Entertainment, the restaurant giant Landry’s and the Golden Nugget Casinos and Hotels, is running his NBA team in the same manner as his other business ventures: audaciously and unwavering.

“This is the time,” Fertitta told Yahoo Sports. “I just re-signed Eric Gordon who is 30 and I’ve got Russell and James and Eric and Clint Capela for the next four years. P.J. [Tucker] is 34 and our two stars are 30. So this is their window. Let’s seize the opportunity.”

Fertitta says he was never concerned about bringing in another ball-dominant guard to pair with Harden.

“No, because I can remember watching Russell Westbrook against us a couple of times last year and I saw how he ran up and down that court and how his athleticism was so superior,” he told Yahoo Sports. “And I think it’s one of the things that we were a little short on.”

Related Rockets Owner: Russell Westbrook and James Harden ‘Wanted to Play Together’

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Lamar Odom Accuses Mark Cuban of Kicking Him During a Game

Lamar Odom alleges that Mavs team owner Mark Cuban kicked him in the shin during a game (and was verbally abusive) in a newly-released autobiography.

Odom—who mainly came off the bench during a disastrous 2011-12 stint in Dallas, averaging career-lows of 6.6 points and 4.2 rebounds in 50 games—writes that veteran teammate Vince Carter held him back from violent retaliation.

Cuban didn’t deny the incident when questioned by a reporter, saying only that he wishes Odom well.

Per The Dallas Morning News:

“During one homestand, I was having possibly the worst game of the season. Head coach Rick Carlisle subbed me out, and I looked for a seat near the coaches, but none were available. So I went down to the only open seat at the end of the bench. Right next to Cuban.

“Cuban extended his right foot and kicked my shin. … I was stunned. This wasn’t a tap. I felt it. That was the last straw. It was painfully clear he did not respect me as a man. I felt the adrenaline rush through my body. In an instant I was transported back to Linden Boulevard, where the slightest act of disrespect could be fatal. As I sprang up, Vince Carter, who was sitting next to me, grabbed my arm tightly and leaned in.

“… What if Vince, who I had the closest connection to on that team, hadn’t been sitting there? What if he had been paying attention to the game and hadn’t seen the incident? I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that Vince Carter saved me from catching a charge and ending my career in disgrace.”

After months of saying how hopeful the organization was that Odom would turn around his season, Cuban’s frustration level hit the breaking point April 7 in Memphis. Cuban went into the visitor’s locker room at halftime and asked Odom, who had played four pitiful first-quarter minutes, a simple question: Was Odom all in or was Odom out?

“I didn’t take kindly to it,” Odom said in his book. “Once again, he didn’t treat me like a man. That’s not how you handle something in front of the entire team. Man, it was heated. I had fantasies about decking him, but that wasn’t the way out. I never played another game for the Mavs.”

Related Lamar Odom: ‘Trade from the Lakers Basically Ended My Career’

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Russell Westbrook Says He and James Harden Will ‘Play Great Off the Ball’

Russell Westbrook is confident that he and fellow superstar teammate James Harden will happily co-exist in Houston next season.

Westbrook says the two dominant offensive machines are “great” at playing off the ball with one another.

Russ adds that he’ll bring a lot more to the table for the Rockets than just scoring and handling the rock.

Per The Athletic:

At the start of the offseason, Harden communicated to the front office that he liked the idea of playing with Westbrook, league sources told The Athletic.

“I think we play great off the ball with each other,” Westbrook told The Athletic.

“We’ve done it in Oklahoma City. Many times in Oklahoma City, James, he closed the game as the primary ball-handler, and I played off the ball. It’s totally fine for me because, like I have said before, offensively and scoring and having the ball in my hands is not the only thing I can do for the game. I do a lot of great things for the game and I look forward to doing that with this team as well.”

Team sources have expressed confidence in that Westbrook and Harden will both implement more off-ball movement into their games, particularly in a half-court setting, and were pleased with Westbrook’s comments during his introductory press conference.

Related James Harden: ‘I Know How to Play With Russ and He Knows How to Play With Me’

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Steve Kerr: Warriors to ‘Re-Imagine Everything and Adapt Accordingly’

The Warriors need to “re-imagine everything and adapt accordingly” until All-Star guard Klay Thompson returns to action, according to head coach Steve Kerr.

Kerr says he’s excited to “implement everything” similar to what he went through during his first year in Golden State.

Kerr adds that he looks forward to a “lot of new beginnings” for the Dubs next season.

Per The Athletic:

“That first year we had to implement everything — that takes time,” Kerr told The Athletic. “It’s exciting, and that’s what we’re going to do with the new group, so that’s really exciting.

“That part excites me. It’s going to be much more similar to Year 1 for my staff.”

Shaun Livingston and DeMarcus Cousins are no longer on the team and Andre Iguodala was traded to try to reshape the roster on the fly. Thompson tore his ACL in Game 6 of the Finals, which is expected to keep him out months.

“Klay being out is really the big change,” Kerr said. “Losing Kevin, Andre, Shaun, obviously, those are huge losses. Losing Klay on top of all that really changes the way we’re going to have to play at both ends. Klay was always an integral part of everything. Movement on offense, but also the guarding of the ballhandler on defense, switching onto bigs. So until he gets back, we’ve got to re-imagine everything and adapt accordingly.”

Related Joe Lacob: Warriors ‘Legitimately Have a Shot’ at Winning the Championship

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Kevin Durant: ‘I Don’t Trust Nobody’ in OKC

The “venomous toxic” reception OKC greeted Kevin Durant with during his first game back in the city as an opponent was deeply hurtful.

Durant says he will “never be attached to that city again because of that.”

KD adds that he considers folks within the Thunder organization “fake.”

Per The WSJ:

“People coming to my house and spray-painting on the for sale signs around my neighborhood,” he recalls. “People making videos in front of my house and burning my jerseys and calling me all types of crazy names.”

At his first game in Oklahoma City as a visitor—February 2017—fans yowled for blood and brandished cupcakes, because Durant was supposedly soft. “Such a venomous toxic feeling when I walked into that arena,” he says. “And just the organization, the trainers and equipment managers, those dudes is pissed off at me? Ain’t talking to me? I’m like, Yo, this is where we going with this? Because I left a team and went to play with another team?”

His mother recalls one particularly appalling piece of video: a Thunder fan firing bullets into a No. 35 jersey. Bullets—after she and Durant and half his extended family relocated to Oklahoma, after they embraced the community, after Durant gave a million dollars to tornado victims.

“I’ll never be attached to that city again because of that,” Durant says. “I eventually wanted to come back to that city and be part of that community and organization, but I don’t trust nobody there. That shit must have been fake, what they was doing. The organization, the GM, I ain’t talked to none of those people, even had a nice exchange with those people, since I left.”

Related Kevin Durant Says He Was a ‘Phony’ in OKC

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