For USA Basketball, the focus immediately shifts to the Paris Olympics

For USA Basketball, the focus  immediately shifts to the Paris Olympics
Austin Reaves shoots the ball during the FIBA Basketball World Cup game for third place between USA and Canada in Manila on Sunday. (AFP)
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Updated 11 September 2023
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For USA Basketball, the focus immediately shifts to the Paris Olympics

For USA Basketball, the focus  immediately shifts to the Paris Olympics
  • There will be no shortage of options because the Olympics are more appealing to most US players than the World Cup is

MANILA: There was a long flight awaiting USA Basketball on Monday. Manila to Los Angeles, about 13 hours on a chartered jet that didn’t have the Wi-Fi that’s necessary to communicate with the outside world from 30,000 feet. No texting, no emails.

That’s unfortunate. Those were 13 hours where recruiting for Paris couldn’t happen.

The World Cup is over. The US didn’t medal. The world proved again that the Americans, even with NBA players, are vulnerable on the international stage. And now, every bit of USA Basketball’s focus shifts to the Paris Olympics — where the challenge will be even tougher than the World Cup, which again reminded the Americans how much the FIBA game has changed.

“The narrative about USA Basketball and FIBA, and do we need reminders, we’re past that,” US coach Steve Kerr said. “These teams are really good.”

Kerr will be at the Olympics next summer. His staff — Erik Spoelstra, Tyronn Lue and Mark Few — are also committed to the Paris Games. USA Basketball’s team leadership, Grant Hill and Sean Ford, will spend the next few months trying to pick the right 12 players to accompany them to Paris.

The mission won’t change: gold or else. Silver won’t be enough, bronze won’t be enough, a repeat of Manila’s fourth-place finish would be a disaster. The US have gone to the Olympics in men’s basketball 19 times and has won 19 medals, the last four of them gold. On paper, it looks easy. It is not, not anymore. It probably never will be easy again.

“I don’t think as Americans and basketball players that we think that we can’t lose,” said USA Basketball legend Carmelo Anthony, who won four Olympic medals — three gold, one bronze — with the national team. “I think the fear of losing is what drives us and what keeps us going and wanting to win and feeling so bad after losses. We do a great job as an organization at (USA Basketball) as far as respecting the game ... But our players back in America, they know we have to compete.”

And now USA Basketball will find out which ones want to compete on the high-risk, high-reward stage.

Win or lose at this World Cup, the US brain trust knew it was going to have some serious roster decisions to make over the coming weeks and months. Some players from this World Cup team will almost certainly be retained for Paris — Mikal Bridges, Tyrese Haliburton and Austin Reaves clearly showed they fit in the international game, Josh Hart did everything the US asked, and Jalen Brunson and Anthony Edwards are among those who will get strong looks.

“I’ll never say no,” said Bridges, who had a moment that’ll go down in USA Basketball history — an intentional missed free throw and then a game-tying 3-pointer with 0.6 seconds left — to give the Americans a chance in the bronze-medal loss to Canada in Manila. “It’s an honor, every time. Even though the outcome is not what we wanted, I wouldn’t trade these six weeks, seven weeks away for nothing.”

And then it becomes a matter of how many NBA stars that didn’t play this summer will want to play next summer on the bigger Olympic stage and give up six or seven weeks like Bridges and his teammates did this summer.

Stephen Curry has talked about it. Kevin Durant should have an Olympic spot for as long as he wants. If LeBron James wants to play, he’ll play. Bam Adebayo is planning to be in Paris after playing a significant role on the team that won in Tokyo two summers ago, Devin Booker and Jayson Tatum should be there as well, and Draymond Green wants to try to win more gold.

There will be no shortage of options because the Olympics are more appealing to most US players than the World Cup is. More prestige, more attention, brighter lights, bigger stage.

“What we’ve tried to do is really learn what wins a FIBA game,” Kerr said. “We’ve really studied everything about FIBA and the history of US basketball. When we’ve won, what has been the reason. When we’ve lost, what has been the reason. We study all that stuff.”

There is one big wild-card out there as well.

Joel Embiid.

The reigning NBA MVP is, in the international sense, a free agent. If he decides to play, and there’s no reason to think otherwise, Embiid will be wearing red, white and blue next summer at the Paris Olympics. Those are the colors of the uniforms USA Basketball will be wearing. Those are also the colors of the uniforms France will be wearing.

Embiid is a true rarity: He was born in Cameroon, has French citizenship and became a US citizen last year. And he’s never played on a senior national team, so it’s his call.

The Americans want him. The French want him. What he decides will go a long way toward determining who wins gold in Paris.

Let the recruiting begin.


American golfer John Catlin wins 2024 Saudi Open in Riyadh

American golfer John Catlin wins 2024 Saudi Open in Riyadh
Updated 9 sec ago
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American golfer John Catlin wins 2024 Saudi Open in Riyadh

American golfer John Catlin wins 2024 Saudi Open in Riyadh
  • ‘Pretty special to finish back-to-back events holding the trophy,’ Caitlin says
  • Australian Wade Ormsby finishes runner-up with final day 64

RIYADH: American professional golfer John Catlin won the 2024 Saudi Open, presented by the Public Investment Fund, after completing his wire-to-wire victory at Riyadh Golf Club on Saturday.
He finished seven shots ahead of his nearest challenger on 24-under-par.
From the moment he teed off on Wednesday, Catlin was in the groove, and his final round was a procession.
Having shot a men’s course record 62 on Friday, the American followed it up with 66 on Saturday, his fourth consecutive round in the 60s in Riyadh.
It is Catlin’s sixth Asian Tour title and his second in a row, having beaten Spaniard David Puig in a playoff at the International Series Macau in March, and his form was simply too hot for the rest of the field to handle.
“I am tired, but very, very happy,” Catlin said. “I’ve never gone back-to-back like that. It is pretty special to finish back-to-back events holding the trophy. It was just a special week and I feel very lucky to be the champion.
“I hope my victory shows the fans that with hard work and dedication, anything is possible. I have dreamt about being a professional golfer since I was about 8 years old and I just kept putting in the hard work.”
He added: “I never let anything stand in the way of what I wanted to do, and I’d say that to anybody: if you want to follow in my footsteps, you have to put in the hard work and be willing to sacrifice, then great things can happen.”
Catlin was full of praise for organizers of the 2024 Saudi Open, and said he looks forward to defending his title in 2025.
“It was very well organized. The tournament was awesome. From start to finish we were looked after amazingly, and the people were friendly. The hospitality has been great, the food has been awesome — everything about this event is top class and I look forward to coming back in the future.”
Wade Ormsby’s final day 64 saw him finish second, two ahead of Peter Uihlein and Kiradech Aphinbarnrat in third.
The Australian admitted that it just proved impossible to haul in the runaway leader.
Ormsby said: “John had a big lead, it was difficult, you just want to go out and play as well as you can. There were a couple of potential tiny openings there, but he closed the door straight away. I am really happy with the way I played.”
Reigning champion Denwit Boriboonsub finished in style after a disappointing Friday saw his chances of retaining his trophy slip away.
The Thai golfer shot 63, the joint-second lowest round of the week, but enjoyed his time back at Riyadh Golf Club.
The 20-year-old said: “I’ve enjoyed and relished being the defending champion. It helped me a lot with a two-year exemption on the Asian Tour, which relieves a lot of pressure, and winning means a lot. Yesterday wasn’t so good, but I bounced back and I’m very happy with the score.”


Shaheen, Amir star as Pakistan dismiss New Zealand for just 90

Shaheen, Amir star as Pakistan dismiss New Zealand for just 90
Updated 13 min 18 sec ago
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Shaheen, Amir star as Pakistan dismiss New Zealand for just 90

Shaheen, Amir star as Pakistan dismiss New Zealand for just 90
  • Shaheen led the attack with 3-13 while Amir, returning to international cricket after nearly four years, finished with 2-13
  • Spinners Abrar Ahmed, Shadab Khan doubled pressure as New Zealand were dismissed for their second lowest against Pakistan

RAWALPINDI: Shaheen Shah Afridi and Mohammad Amir led a destructive Pakistan attack to bowl out an under-strength New Zealand for a paltry 90 in their second Twenty20 clash in Rawalpindi on Saturday.
Shaheen led the attack with 3-13 while Amir, returning to international cricket after nearly four years, finished with 2-13 as the visitors were bowled out in 18.1 overs after being sent in to bat.
Amir retired from international cricket in 2020 after he was dropped from the team, the second break in his career after he was banned for five years in a spot-fixing scandal in 2010.
Spinners Abrar Ahmed (2-15) and Shadab Khan (2-15) doubled the pressure as New Zealand were dismissed for their second lowest total against Pakistan in the game's shortest format.
Mark Chapman (19), Cole McConchie (15), Dean Foxcroft (13) and Tim Seifert (13) were the only batsmen to reach double figures.
The first of five-match series was washed out after just two deliveries, also in Rawalpindi, on Thursday.
Both teams are preparing for the Twenty20 World Cup to be held in June in the United States and the West Indies.
New Zealand are missing a host of their top players due to playing in the ongoing Indian Premier League, unavailability and injuries.


Pakistan wins the toss and elects to field in 2nd T20 against New Zealand

Pakistan wins the toss and elects to field in 2nd T20 against New Zealand
Updated 20 April 2024
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Pakistan wins the toss and elects to field in 2nd T20 against New Zealand

Pakistan wins the toss and elects to field in 2nd T20 against New Zealand
  • Pakistan retained the same playing XI from the washout that included three debutants — Usman Khan, Irfan Khan and Abrar Ahmed
  • Pakistan wicketkeeper-batter Azam Khan was ruled out of the series because of a slightly torn calf muscle that needs 10 days to heal

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan: Pakistan captain Babar Azam won the toss and elected to field against New Zealand on Saturday in the second Twenty20 of their five-match series.
The first game was rained out Thursday after only two balls could be bowled. Shaheen Shah Afridi had clean-bowled debutant Tim Robinson for a duck and New Zealand was 2-1 before rain denied further play.
Pakistan retained the same playing XI from the washout that included three debutants — Usman Khan, Irfan Khan and Abrar Ahmed. Fast bowler Mohammad Amir returns to action in his hometown after he came out of retirement for this June’s T20 World Cup in the United States and the Caribbean.
Pakistan wicketkeeper-batter Azam Khan was ruled out of the series because of a slightly torn calf muscle that needs 10 days to heal.
New Zealand made one change and brought in all-rounder Cole McConchie in place of Josh Clarkson, who was ill and didn’t travel to the stadium with the team.
Both sides are using the series to prepare for the T20 World Cup.
Michael Bracewell is leading the Black Caps, who are without nine key players competing in the Indian Premier League. The squad was further depleted just before the tour when Finn Allen and Adam Milne were injured in training.
Rawalpindi will also host the third game on Sunday before the series moves to Lahore for the last two games next week.

Lineups:
Pakistan: Babar Azam (captain), Saim Ayub, Mohammad Rizwan, Usman Khan, Iftikhar Ahmed, Irfan Khan, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Mohammad Amir, Naseem Shah, Abrar Ahmed.
New Zealand: Tim Robinson, Tim Seifert, Dean Foxcroft, Mark Chapman, James Neesham, Michael Bracewell (captain), Cole McConchie, Ish Sodhi, Jacob Duffy, Ben Sears, Ben Lister.


Barca coach Xavi hails rivals Madrid ahead of Clasico

Barca coach Xavi hails rivals Madrid ahead of Clasico
Updated 20 April 2024
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Barca coach Xavi hails rivals Madrid ahead of Clasico

Barca coach Xavi hails rivals Madrid ahead of Clasico
  • “When you have won so many times you play with more calm, less desperation, more confidence, they are a very good team,” Xavi said
  • “In the end people say it’s luck, I don’t believe much in luck — I think it’s effort, defensive work, the solidarity they showed, everyone working so hard”

MADRID: Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez praised rivals Real Madrid ahead of their Clasico showdown in La Liga on Sunday.
Los Blancos lead the Spanish top flight by eight points with champions Barcelona needing a victory at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday to stand any chance of retaining the trophy.
After Barcelona crashed out of the Champions League against Paris Saint-Germain and Madrid beat holders Manchester City in midweek, Xavi acknowledged the record 14-time winners’ quality.
“When you have won so many times you play with more calm, less desperation, more confidence, they are a very good team,” Xavi told a news conference Saturday.
“In the end people say it’s luck, I don’t believe much in luck — I think it’s effort, defensive work, the solidarity they showed, everyone working so hard.
“The three up front worked harder than ever, Man City missed some clear chances but that’s football, it’s not luck that Madrid have knocked out the best team in the world twice in three years.”
Xavi said he was not throwing in the towel in La Liga despite Madrid’s significant advantage.
“For us it’s the most important game of the season, we have to win to put pressure on the leader,” he added.
“We have enormous respect for Real Madrid, they’ve lost just one game out of 31, their numbers are extraordinary.
“We don’t have bad numbers in La Liga, we’ve got four points less than when we were leaders last season (at this stage).”
Xavi’s counterpart at Madrid, Carlo Ancelotti, said his team could strike a killer blow in the title race.
“It’s a great chance for us to get closer to winning La Liga, but we know it’s hard because Barcelona are a very competitive side,” said the Italian.
“We are very close if we are capable of winning ... it will be the usual Clasico, a hard-fought, equal game.”
Ancelotti said defender Ferland Mendy was tired after the win over City and was given an extra day of rest, but the rest of his squad was fit, beyond the long-term absentees.
Madrid are aiming to win a league and Champions League double for the fifth time in their history.
“The cake is prepared and we have to put the cherry on top this month,” said Ancelotti. “We’re very well positioned.”


Saudi Arabia beat Thailand to edge closer to AFC U-23 Asian Cup quarterfinals

Saudi Arabia beat Thailand to edge closer to AFC U-23 Asian Cup quarterfinals
Updated 20 April 2024
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Saudi Arabia beat Thailand to edge closer to AFC U-23 Asian Cup quarterfinals

Saudi Arabia beat Thailand to edge closer to AFC U-23 Asian Cup quarterfinals
  • The 5-0 win leaves the Green Falcons top of Group C of the tournament, which acts as qualification for this summer’s Olympic Games in Paris

DOHA: Saudi Arabia on Friday night thrashed Thailand 5-0 to edge closer to the quarterfinals of the 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup.

The win at Khalifa International Stadium leaves the Green falcons top of Group C with a maximum of six points from three two matches.

Iraq, who defeated Tajikistan 4-2 later on Friday, sit in second with three points, with Thailand third on goal difference. Tajikistan, with two defeats, are bottom of the group with no points.

A win or draw for Saudi Arabia against Iraq on Monday will secure top spot in the group and progress to the last eight.

Saudi took the lead against Thailand after four minutes through Ayman Yahoo’s third goal of the tournament, before Ahmed Al-Ghamdi and Abdullah Radif scored in first-half stoppage time to all but end the match as content.

Radif went on to complete his hat trick with strikes in the 52nd and 73rd minutes.

The U-23 Asian Cup, which runs until May 3, also provides a pathway to the men’s football competition at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

The tournament sees 16 nations split into four groups of four teams, with the top two from each progressing to the quarterfinals. The competition also serves as a route to the Olympic Games in Paris this summer, with the winners of the two semifinals both securing automatic qualification.

The two losing semifinalists will contest third place, with the winners also booking a place in Paris, while the fourth-place finishers have a final chance with a play-off against an African qualifier.