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First Cup: Monday

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "The final eight seconds of Team USA's 86-85 exhibition win over Spain on Sunday night in Madrid belonged to Kevin Durant. ... Against a Spanish team that is the defending FIBA world champion and considered by many to be this year's favorite, Durant produced a performance that could best be described as his international breakout game. He scored a game-high 25 points on nine of 16 shooting. He pulled down 10 rebounds. He answered Spain when it took its first lead of the game by swishing a driving scoop shot to tie the score at 82-all. Durant exceeded every lofty expectation that was placed upon him entering this summer's games, while kicking the criticism he collected following sub par showings in his first two exhibitions. And after such a stellar performance, with the world watching, there's no telling what we might see next -- as if what we've witnessed thus far hasn't been impressive enough."

  • Andre Inguodala for the Philadelphia Daily News: "It was a good win. The team is a work in progress. Guys are sacrificing for one another. But it's good to be a part of that. We are all trying to be unselfish, working on all parts of our game. The tough thing about playing against international teams is that they've been playing together for years and we've just been together for about 4 months. It's a lot different. They can play a little more physical, there's more fouls. We just have to adjust to certain things, wait for some calls and appreciate the way they play. That's the main thing. ... This whole experience has been a lot of fun. It gives me a chance to be away and have fun and relax while I'm playing ball. I have a lot of free time, so I've been doing a lot of reading. This has been a great experience. It gives us all a chance to showcase our talents with a great coach [Mike Krzyzewski] and have fun with each other."

  • Pete Thamel of The New York Times: "American basketball coaches are rarely credited for their tactics at the international level; they are expected to have the most athletic and talented team. But what made the move to the 2-3 zone so effective was the coaching staff’s understanding of a nuance of international rules. Team USA expected Spain to run a high screen-and-roll for Juan Carlos Navarro, who led Spain with 20 points and prompted Jim Boeheim to say, half kidding, that he had scored on that play on five consecutive possessions. Instead, when the United States went to the zone, Spain had to scrap its play and could not call another timeout because FIBA rules do not allow them in the middle of possessions. 'The good thing internationally is that they can’t take a timeout once they saw the zone,' Boeheim said. 'In college, they could have just called a timeout.' Chauncey Billups said the move 'made them backpedal a little bit,' although Spain’s Fran Vazquez said it did not surprise his team."

  • Jason Quick of The Oregonian: "Trail Blazers guard Rudy Fernandez on Sunday had a chance to give Spain a stunning victory over Team USA, but like the rest of his day, it didn’t go well. Fernandez had a three-pointer in the final seconds blocked by Kevin Durant, preserving USA’s 86-85 victory over Spain in a tuneup before Saturday's start to the FIBA World Championships in Turkey. Fernandez, who is unhappy with the Blazers and is seeking a trade or release from Portland, did little to improve his trade stock in the exhibition in Madrid. Fernandez had five points on 1-for-5 shooting in 23 minutes as Spain’s starting small forward. He was pulled just more than three minutes into the game after a series of shaky possessions. Fernandez returned in the second quarter, playing briefly with Blazers prospect Victor Claver, and was more active, but did not score."

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "As the NBA moves deeper into its power-to-the-player era, the doomsday clock has been set to fast-forward. In Cleveland, true concern about a LeBron James departure did not come until the conclusion of the Eastern Conference finals. In Toronto, abject fear of losing Chris Bosh for nothing in return clearly was not a primary worry until after the midseason trading deadline, based on the relative inaction of the Raptors. Yet both left, and left their franchises high and dry. It is why Hornets fans took notice when word of Paul's unease surfaced in July, even though Paul cannot opt out of his contract until July 2012. It is why Denver now has to consider short-circuiting its season before it even begins, even though Anthony cannot walk until next July. No, Paul and Anthony have not publicly demanded trades, have not voiced any displeasure, have not gone all Rudy Fernandez. So there will be no fines, even though their unspoken statements, because of who they are, clearly resonate. And that's a huge problem for the NBA. Free agency is a reward for persevering through a contract. It is the finish line. That's fine. James did his time in Cleveland. Ditto Bosh in Toronto. But to start pointing to free agency a year or two years out cheapens the intervening seasons, creates an impression of biding time."

  • Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: "The NBA is a copycat league, and there's no doubt Miami's free-agent splash this summer will weigh heavy on the minds of general managers throughout the league. But replicating it might not be feasible on a yearly basis, said Stu Lash, vice president at Lagardere-Unlimited, an agency that represents Dwight Howard and John Wall, among others. 'If you said, 'Could there be more than two or three of those super teams?', probably not, because at what point does the talent level drop off?' Lash said. 'Could there be three? Possibly. If you talk to most experts around the league, or people that have a really good handle on the talent level in the NBA, there's probably eight to 10 guys that are on one level in the NBA, and then there's a dropoff. So it depends on how many very good players there are.' And in the case of James, Wade and Bosh, they share the same agent. They each constructed their previous contracts in similar fashion so they would expire at the same time. And they all knew each other well, a fact Lash said shouldn't be overlooked. 'This is not just three guys that are buddies that have hung out in the nightclub for a couple times or exchanged a couple of text messages,' he said. 'Those guys have spent significant time together. All came in the draft the same year. They've been linked together for a long time.' "

  • Greg Jayne of The Columbian: "Imagine, for a moment, being a 22-year-old millionaire and trying to live up to sometimes-absurd expectations. Trying to make peace with a body that constantly betrays you. Trying to answer the same questions over and over. The answers are never as clear-cut as we would like them to be. We want to know and we want to know now, as Greg if Oden or anybody else can look into the future. Will Oden ever be an All-Star? Will he ever lead the Blazers to championship contention? Will he ever at least serve up an argument that the club was correct to draft him ahead of Kevin Durant? The fact is that the answers might still be years away, despite how desperately we would like to have them immediately. Sometimes it’s best to just let history play out at its own pace. Sometimes it’s best to just let the world flow over you. Oden is what he is, a young man trying to avoid being overwhelmed by expectations, making a difference off the court regardless of what happens on it. And for the time being, we’ll just have to be content with that."

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "There was a bit of concern recently over a Greek article about Suns guard Goran Dragic that had some initial interpretations/translations that Dragic would consider leaving the NBA once his current contract expires after 2012. Our friends over at arizona.sbnation.com have a whole thread on this that you can see here to read how this went from confusion to clarity. It was enough for us to reach out to Dragic by e-mail and it was enough for him to send a mass response -- well, at least Seth Pollack and I got the same e-mail reply from him this evening. Dragic wrote: 'I hope you enjoy the hot Phoenix:) I was a little surprised when I saw your mail:) This news is not correct, because I made a statement that I want to end my basketball carrer (sic) in Europe.so this is a big misunderstanding of the Greek (journalist). In this moment I'm very happy in the NBA and I'm not going to Europe! I am a member of the Phoenix Suns, and my desire is to stay in Phoenix for many years! It was nice to hear from you. Greetings from Europe! EL DRAGON:)' In other words, nothing to see here. Move along. Dragic is under contract through 2011-12 and you would figure the Suns would extend him before that season if he shows any reasonable progress."

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "I think it's funny that some fans immediately put the Pacers in the playoffs after they acquired Darren Collison. Darren Collison is just one piece - a giant piece I might add - but they've still got some work to do if they expect to end their four-year postseason drought. No matter what you thought of Troy Murphy's defensive flaws, the Pacers will have to find a way to make up for the 11.0 rebounds he averaged the past two seasons. Roy Hibbert was second in rebounds at 5.7 last season. That won't get it done. Pacers officials know it, too. As one Pacers official said, 'Rome wasn't built overnight.' ... The blue and gold need a power forward. Coach Jim O'Brien will probably play Danny Granger there at times, but there's no way Granger can play that position on a regular basis for an entire season."

  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: "Spurs forward Matt Bonner was born in Concord, N.H., but considers himself part Canadian. His wife is Canadian, he has a Canadian grandfather, and he has two seasons with the Toronto Raptors on his NBA résumé. According to the Canadian government, however, Bonner will have to wait to formalize his credentials. Bonner's appeal for accelerated citizenship was rejected this past week, a decision which keeps him from representing Canada in the FIBA World Championships later this month. 'For me, I'm asking for dual citizenship regardless of basketball reasons,' Bonner said Saturday from Toronto, where he owns a home. 'My wife is Canadian, my daughter has dual citizenship. We spend a lot of time up here.' Bonner was granted permanent residency status in Canada in 2009."