Trans. Sep 15 1:08 ET (Sep 15 1:08 ET ) By Larry Fine NEW YORK (Reuters) - A spate of late withdrawals, a serious injury to Paul George and several marquee names missing appeared to put Team USA under a cloud for the 2014 Basketball World Cup and for future international competition. Instead, a group of sharp-shooting NBA regulars were unbeaten in Spain and produced a 129-92 victory over Serbia in the final to underline the depth the U.S. Stalwarts LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul were missing from the initial training camp, with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love and Blake Griffin bowing out late in the process before Indiana forward George broke his leg in training and could now miss the NBA season.
The NBA regular season schedule came out Wednesday, all 1,230 games. Even with live streaming and an empty DVR ready to be filled up, I’m not going to watch all of them. Nobody will watch all of them. That said, there are some great games coming up. Homecomings and rivalries, plus just matchups of great basketball teams. You can’t watch them all but there are some you can’t miss. Here are my 10 can’t miss games of the NBA season. Houston Rockets at Los Angeles Lakers, Oct. 28 There are sub-plots to watch here, Jeremy Lin playing against his old team and Dwight Howard getting booed again by Lakers fans… but that’s not why any of us will be watching. Kobe Bryant will be back on the court for the Los Angeles Lakers and any time he steps on the court we watch. Right now we will be watching because we’re not sure what Kobe we will see, how much he has left in the tank, but we will watch. He is one of the all-time greats. Cleveland Cavaliers at Chicago Bulls, Oct. 31 You could argue that the first games for these teams are bigger — LeBron James ’ first game at home in Cleveland, Derrick Rose ’s return to the NBA comes in Madison Square Garden — but this is the first of four meetings between the two best teams in the Eastern Conference (on paper) and that is worth seeing. Cleveland has more talent but the Bulls have an identity and players that fit it. To be fair, this game will not mean much if/when these two teams meet in the Eastern Conference Finals, but it’s our first glimpse into what could be one of the best rivalries of the next five years in the NBA. Cleveland Cavaliers at San Antonio Spurs, Nov. 19 LeBron’s last team got smoked by Tim Duncan , Tony Parker , Kawhi Leonard and the gang in San Antonio, so LeBron went out and got some new teammates like Kyrie Irving and soon Kevin Love . This should be interesting, although the Spurs will play their same system and know exactly how to execute it while it’s going to take the Cavaliers some time to figure it out. Milwaukee Bucks at Minnesota Timberwolves, Nov. 26 Once the Kevin Love trade goes down (and it will), this game becomes the first between No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins and No. 2 pick Jabari Parker . Both rookies are in situations where they should get a lot of minutes and plenty of touches. Both are going to get the chance to grow in the spotlight Cavaliers at Thunder at Oklahoma City, Dec. 11 LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant . The two best players on the planet go head-to-head and the best part about these match ups is they often guard each other. It is a true head-to-head matchup. Cleveland Cavaliers at Miami Heat, Dec. 25 LeBron returns to Miami for the first time in a Cavs uniform (this time around, anyway). You can expect he will get a warmer reception than the vitriol thrown at him four years ago when LeBron in a Heat uniform came to play the Cavaliers. Now all of that is forgotten. Miami is going to be a pretty good team and one that wants to keep playing the space and pace offense. We’ll see how LeBron does against it. Golden State Warriors at Los Angeles Clippers, December 25 This is the game to watch on your new 60-inch smart TV you just got for Christmas. This if the final of five games on the Christmas Day slate and it should be a very entertaining one. There will be lobs, dunks and rainbow threes. Stephen Curry vs Chris Paul . David Lee vs. Blake Griffin . Klay Thompson vs. J.J. Redick . This is the game Santa is bringing die hard NBA fans. Cleveland Cavaliers at Minnesota Timberwolves, Jan. 31 Kevin Love returns home to Minnesota. It will be interesting to see how he is received — it won’t be exactly with open arms and a dozen roses, but I doubt the booing will last all game, either. Also in this game, Andrew Wiggins gets a shot at LeBron. Oklahoma City Thunder at San Antonio Spurs, March 25 Well done by the schedule makers putting these two teams against each other a couple times late in the season (they also face off April 7). These might be your two favorites to win the NBA title (not what the bookmakers say, the actual favorites), they were the two best teams in basketball at the end of last season. The interesting question is who Gregg Popovich sits for both of these games. Los Angeles Lakers at Toronto Raptors, March 27 I just hope Steve Nash can play one last game in Canada. Nash is one of the great point guards of all time and the best Canadian player ever, I hope his body lets him play one last game in his home country. -- Kurt Helin, ProBasketballTalk.com
On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Clippers officially transferred ownership from Donald and Shelly Sterling (against the former's wishes, of course) to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Under normal circumstances, the sale would have won headlines for the record $2 billion purchase price. Instead, the focus is mostly on the fact that Sterling, finally an NBA pariah after years of mismanagement and bad behavior, has been removed from ownership following the racist comments that surfaced this April . Months of court cases and vague agreements are now over — the Clippers, at long last, have a new owner. The mood of the day is understandably one of relief. Soon, however, Ballmer will have to distinguish himself for something other than his non-Sterlingness and set a new course and tone for the franchise. To that end, he and the franchise sent an email to fans on Tuesday announcing the beginning of a new era. Take a look at the full message below: To the Clippers Family - You may now have heard that this morning I officially became the owner of your Los Angeles Clippers. So as my first official communication, let me say thank you for continuing to support the Clipper organization. We are now looking forward to an exciting new season and I can't wait to experience the opening tip off with you. Today marks the beginning of a new era in the life of our franchise. It also is the culmination of a dream that I have harbored for many years. To Coach Rivers, to our fantastic players, and most importantly to you, the dedicated fans that make this all possible, I pledge this: I will be hard core in my commitment to give the team the support it needs to be its best on and off the court. And I will do whatever is necessary to provide you, your family and friends with the best game-night experience in the NBA. The Clippers franchise is a true public trust, and my goal is that the Clippers will play an ever-increasing role in the life of our community. We will achieve this goal the same way we will succeed on the court: By waking up every day and figuring out how we can be better - how we can do more - how we can ensure that the Clippers organization is not only winning on the court but also making a real difference in the community. That is the challenge I set not only for myself but the entire Clippers organization. Please join me for our Fan Festival , on Monday, August 18th at the STAPLES Center at 12:30 p.m. to celebrate what promises to be a bright future! Sincerely, Steve A. Ballmer In many ways, this message is a fairly standard reach-out to fans, even if announcing a Monday afternoon fan fest with six days notice could only have been dreamed up by a retired multibillionaire. The difference, of course, is that Ballmer's situation is pretty much unprecedented. On an obvious level, he must inspire faith in the franchise's management after a years of disreputable ownership and more recent controversy. Additionally, most new owners don't take over contending teams. It would make little sense for Ballmer to announce his commitment to building a winning team, because the Clippers already have that squad in place. Instead, he makes it clear that he will turn the Clippers into an organization worth supporting, not just the employer of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. In Ballmer's eyes, he will not have succeeded if the franchise does not represent the community in a respectable fashion. The final verdict on that goal will come in several years, but there's already reason to suspect that achieving it will be difficult. As part of the sale agreement, the Clippers have afforded Mrs. Sterling a number of amenities and luxuries, including two courtside tickets for every home game, "owner emeritus" status and an official designation as "Clippers No. 1 Fan." Aside from the fact that the Sterling-owned Clippers tried to cut ties with the man who was actually their No. 1 fan , the fact is that keeping Mrs. Sterling close to the franchise does little to suggest that the team has turned an ethical corner. While the last few months have cast Shelly Sterling as an acceptable party if only because she was sane enough to want to sell the franchise, she has her own deplorable history of racial discrimination and has enough remaining ties to her husband to raise questions about the suitability of having her sit courtside for any game she chooses. It's nearly certain that Sterling would not have agreed to sell to Ballmer without these concessions, but it's a shame that she has kept any association with the franchise. It's possible that Ballmer himself sees Sterling's involvement as a necessary evil and will create an environment so toxic to her presence that even this notoriously shameless family wouldn't dare show up. Yet the mere existence of this issue indicates just how much work Ballmer has to do to win the public trust. The Sterlings have done enough damage that merely replacing them won't be enough — Ballmer can't expect a hero's welcome just because he's the new guy. As his email says, there's a lot of work to do to make the Clippers a respectable part of the community. We must wait to find out if Ballmer will make the hard decisions required to make that happen. - - - - - - - Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter! 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The National Basketball Players Association has elected Michele Roberts as executive director, making her the first woman to lead a North American pro sports union. The Washington trial lawyer defeated tech industry CEO Dean Garfield and Dallas Mavericks CEO Terdema Ussery in the final vote. ''After all the hours and time (invested by) our executive committee, along with an amazing search committee that helped throughout this process, it's an unbelievable feeling to have the wonderful Michele Roberts now as a part of our team,'' NBPA president and Los Angeles Clippers star guard Chris Paul told reporters in Las Vegas.
In the end, as is usually the case, Kobe Bryant got what he wanted. We hope he’s happy.
The Los Angeles Lakers are in negotiations to bring Byron Scott back into the Laker family as head coach – ESPN was the first to report the interest , which Marc Spears discussed here . The 53-year-old won three championship rings as a Lakers shooting guard during the 1980s, and his final season in the NBA was on a team that featured Bryant in his rookie year. Since then, Scott has had an up-and-down career as a head coach, with some wondering if his final season with the Cleveland Cavaliers would be the last we see of Scott as a leading man.
Patience paid out, apparently, as Scott and the Lakers had shown mutual interest and engaged in several interviews in the weeks since Los Angeles and former head coach Mike D’Antoni decided to part ways on April 30 . Byron had been on Los Angeles’ radar, but it’s anyone’s guess as to whether or not he took it as a slap to the face that Lakers general manager (and former Lakers teammate) Mitch Kupchak waited nearly three months to make a formal offer.
It’s not Scott had much choice in the matter. He spent three disastrous years with the post (and pre)-LeBron James Cavaliers, years that saw the team’s young players show little in the way of player development, running one of the league’s worst defenses along the way. It’s true that he was asked to coach a team in rebuilding mode – even if the Cavaliers owner and general manager at the time refused to go into such a mode following James’ departure – but the abject lack of movement up the standings wore on Scott’s critics.
Scott was well-liked by his players, though, as reportedly he eased off the Pat Riley-styled practices that marked his time as coach of the New Jersey Nets and the then-New Orleans Hornets.
After several years as an assistant, Scott started his head-coaching career by making the daring move of establishing a Princeton-like offense in New Jersey despite the presence of the ball-dominating Jason Kidd. Flanked by a solid core of assistant coaches in Eddie Jordan and Lawrence Frank, Scott’s Nets thrived defensively, making two NBA Finals at the lowest ebb of the Eastern Conference’s bad 15 years off.
Kidd and Scott eventually clashed, and with the Nets working with a mediocre record midway through the next season, the team replaced Scott with Lawrence Frank, who rebounded nicely in New Jersey with the addition of Vince Carter the following season.
Byron was off to New Orleans next, where he worked two miserable years (and the team’s partial relocation to Oklahoma City for a season following Hurricane Katrina) before turning things around with Chris Paul at the helm. After a surprising playoff run in 2008, Scott was awarded the Coach of the Year, but injuries and poor long-term planning turned the Hornets into a middling team before long, and Scott was let go in 2009.
Cleveland gobbled him up just days before LeBron left, and we know how that turned out. Los Angeles, at the moment, offers about as much promise.
The Lakers are in a year-long holding pattern, waiting out 2014-15 in order to hopefully pounce on a veteran free agent to pair with Kobe Bryant as he enters the winter of his career. After missing out on Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James this offseason, the Lakers made a point to trade for (Jeremy Lin) and sign (Carlos Boozer, while Ed Davis and Jordan Hill have player and team options for next summer) contributors who won’t have to be on the books past next season. This isn’t dissimilar to what Dallas has been dealing with over the past few offseasons, but the Lakers’ core isn’t nearly as inspiring in spite of Kobe’s presence.
Scott has no idea what he’ll get from point guard Steve Nash this season, or even if Nash will be around when the season starts, as the Lakers could still use the stretch provision on his contract (as it would potentially limit the team’s cap space next season and in 2016, it isn’t likely). Lin has never found a comfortable long-term setting in his nascent NBA career, Boozer is fading, and Bryant can’t possibly be the same player he once was at his age and after playing just six games in the previous 18 months as he enters 2014-15.
On the surface, Byron Scott seems like an uninspired pick, especially as the team reportedly chose the former Laker over a more celebrated candidate in George Karl . Scott could be a retread who has some success with good players, one that might not be the best coach for Bryant at this point in Bryant’s career, as he looks to protect his aging and surgically repaired legs. Kobe’s a competitor, though, and he’s getting older – and older players want someone they’re familiar with, even if Byron is going to put Bryant through his paces.
Maybe that’s what Kobe Bryant needs at this point in his career, and the glass-half-full outlook could tell you that year and a half off was a needed tonic for his ancient wheels. Maybe Scott, a Lakers legend, has learned quite a bit since his ouster from Cleveland. Maybe he’ll unleash some stellar young assistant who can make a difference. Maybe there’s some magic to be developed between the veteran trio of Bryant, Nash and Boozer, with a dash of Julius Randle’s fantastic potential tossed in.
Or, it could be another snoozer of a season. The Lakers may finally have their coach, but we’re about to relearn that it’s always about the players.
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Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KDonhoops