Team USA news: Blake Griffin out, Anthony Davis in

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Team USA news: Blake Griffin out, Anthony Davis in

From Comcast SportsNet
LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Anthony Davis was seated on the court, the best players in the world towering above him. The NBA rookie had just been fouled while making a 3-pointer, falling backward toward the U.S. bench, looking up to see the likes of LeBron James and Kevin Durant dancing in celebration. The Americans weren't just giddy over the basket. Their joy was in knowing they can count on the kid in the Olympics. With Blake Griffin heading for left knee surgery that will keep him from London, Davis is expected to join the Americans as they chase another gold medal. He got his first taste of playing with them in a 113-59 exhibition victory over the Dominican Republic on Thursday night, which ended about the time the Los Angeles Clippers were announcing the news about Griffin. "Hopefully he gets back quick and has a great season next year because he deserves it," U.S. teammate Kevin Durant said. "You know he played so hard and he's all about the team, and we're going to string Anthony along and hopefully he comes in and fills a void." Durant had 24 points and 10 rebounds for the Americans, who will add Griffin to at least four other players who were knocked out of the Olympics because of injuries. Griffin returned to Los Angeles on Thursday for further evaluation after reporting discomfort in the same knee that bothered him in the playoffs following Wednesday's practice. The Clippers said he will require arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus, and he should be ready for the start of the NBA season. "We're relieved that this does not affect Blake's ability to be ready in time for training camp," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said in a statement. "Missing out on the Olympic experience will be tough for him to take. I know how dedicated he was to doing that. We're glad we can get this fixed now and take advantage of the available time for him to fully recover." USA Basketball officials said following the game they hadn't been told Griffin would be forced to pull out. Once he does, the Americans will be able to replace him on their 12-man roster. Davis, the national college player of the year who had failed to make the roster Saturday after a sprained ankle forced him to sit out scrimmages, was told to return to Las Vegas. He scored nine points in 10 minutes against the Dominicans, who were led by his college coach, John Calipari of national champion Kentucky. "As far as I know I'm still an alternate. I'm not on the team yet, so got to keep working," Davis said. The Americans love Davis' rebounding and shot blocking, but not his youth. Griffin is older and stronger, and coach Mike Krzyzewski noted he's played against Spain center Pau Gasol in the NBA. Griffin was being counted on to play center and looked sharp earlier in camp, throwing down some of his impressive highlight dunks. "Blake is a proven commodity, and if we don't have him, it's a big loss," Krzyzewski said. "He was playing really well for us." The Clippers, who just signed Griffin to a 5-year, 95 million extension, will see another specialist Sunday, and surgery is expected to be scheduled soon. Once it was determined he was leaving, the U.S. staff told Davis to return from Los Angeles, where he had attended the ESPY awards Wednesday and was scheduled to meet with his agent Thursday. And if he sticks with the Americans, Calipari will have to alter his summer plans after the Dominicans finished one win short of qualifying for the Olympics. "If he's on the team and he makes that trip then I'm probably going to have to make a trip to London, anyway," Calipari said. Davis' defensive talents would be a welcome addition on a U.S. team that has New York's Tyson Chandler as its only remaining center. Players can be replaced on the roster in case of injury any time up to 48 hours before the start of the Olympics. The Americans lost two centers, Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh, to injuries before camp, along with Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade. Chris Paul, Griffin's Clippers teammate, sprained his right thumb on the first day of camp and had been sitting out scrimmages. Despite those losses, the Americans still consider themselves the best team in the world -- and apparently, ever. Kobe Bryant created a stir when he said he thought this young, athletic U.S. team probably would have pulled out a game against the Dream Team, which didn't sit well with his Hall of Fame elders. "I absolutely laughed," Michael Jordan said before playing in a celebrity golf tournament in Charlotte, N.C. "For him to compare those two teams is not one of the smarter things he ever could have done." Bryant wasn't backing down, nor bothered by Jordan's response. "I'm not really tripping," Bryant said. "The fact is they've got (Patrick) Ewing and (David) Robinson, those big guys. I mean it's tough. But if you're asking me if we can beat them one game, hell yeah we can beat them one game. You didn't ask me if we could beat them in a seven-game series. One game, we could get them, no question about it." The Americans believe they can be better than the team that won the gold medal four years ago because of Durant, the NBA's three-time scoring champion who seems even more dangerous in international competition. The 3-point line, just over 22 feet away, is an easy shot for him, and at 6-foot-9 he can play any frontcourt position -- he entered the game the first time for Chandler. Durant set U.S. tournament records two years ago in Istanbul with 38 points in a game and an average of 22.8 for the championship, leading a young U.S. team to its first gold medal in the event since 1994. He has transitioned easily to this veteran squad that returns five players from the gold medalists in Beijing, coming off the bench to shoot 9 of 11 from the field, making 5 of 6 3-pointers in 22 minutes. About the only thing to question about the U.S. were their uniforms, featuring white tops with the pattern of an American flag faded into the back, and shorts that were white in the front and blue in back, making them look like the home team facing one direction and the visitors from behind. The Americans head across the country Friday to continue their training in Durant's hometown of Washington. They will play an exhibition game against Brazil on Monday before finishing their Olympic preparations in Europe. The Dominicans lost former Louisville guard Edgar Sosa to a leg injury in the first quarter. Calipari believed he had a broken foot.

Joe Maddon’s messaging to Cubs before the 2017 campaign

Joe Maddon’s messaging to Cubs before the 2017 campaign

Joe Maddon's Washington itinerary didn't include an hour-long sit-down with Chuck Todd for NBC's "Meet the Press." There would be no rehashing the manager's Game 7 decisions as he stood outside the West Wing, though the second question during the media stakeout involved "last year's team" and how the 2017 Cubs are prepared to defend a World Series title.

"You're already there, huh?" Maddon said to a CNN reporter, minutes after President Barack Obama's final official White House event ended on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. 

But last year's team is gone — preserved now in highlight films and the hearts and minds of generations of Cub fans — even if so many familiar faces will be in Mesa when pitchers and catchers officially report to Arizona on Valentine's Day.

It would be impossible to replicate everything that made the 2016 Cubs so special. Baseball has its own relentless pace and the dynamics are constantly shifting. (Remember when players were passive-aggressively complaining about Maddon's spring-training approach during the final week of a 103-win regular season?) The clubhouse chemistry will inevitably feel different after climbing a Mount Everest of professional sports.

"A mind once stretched has a very difficult time going back to its original form," Maddon said. "We're motivated by it. We want to do it again, of course. There's no question we're trying to do that.

"I'm really leaning on the phrase or the thought of being uncomfortable. I want us to be uncomfortable. I think the moment you get into your comfort zone after having such a significant moment in your life like that, the threat is that you're going to stop growing.

"So I really want us to be uncomfortable. I really want to continue (to see) a pattern of growth and really try to get at them very quickly again."

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Can Jason Heyward recover from one of the worst offensive seasons in the majors last year? Is Willson Contreras ready to be a frontline catcher? Will Javier Baez have to adjust back to being a role player after becoming a playoff superstar? Does Kyle Schwarber in the leadoff spot and Albert Almora Jr. and Jon Jay in a center-field timeshare represent an upgrade over Dexter Fowler?

If healthy, Wade Davis should be a trusted, lower-maintenance closer than Aroldis Chapman, with an advanced approach to pitching and more clubhouse presence. As a staff, the Cubs will have to bounce back from pitching into early November (or not, in the case of the relievers Maddon didn't trust during the playoffs).

As it stands, Jon Lester (33) and John Lackey (38) have already combined to throw almost 5,000 innings in The Show (including the postseason). Jake Arrieta will have to deal with the pressure of playing for his megadeal in his final season before becoming a free agent.

The drop-off after Mike Montgomery — and it's still mostly projected potential with the No. 5 starter — appears to be very steep in an organization that doesn't have any high-end pitching prospects in the upper levels of the farm system.

After painting the bull's-eye on the chest and turning "Embrace The Target" and "Try Not To Suck" into viral T-shirts, a guy who hates meetings is still working on his themes for this campaign.

"I'm really rotating around the thought of authenticity," Maddon said. "I talked about it a lot last year, the fact that I think authenticity has a chance to repeat itself without even trying. It's part of who you are. It's not fabricated. It's real.

"I've talked about our guys a lot the last couple years. I think one of our strongest qualities is the authentic component of our players. So I'm really focusing on that word right now. Again, that's a great word to bring an entire message from (when) you get in front of the group that first day in spring training.

"I kind of just think like authenticity happens. And let's work it from there."

The costumes should be in midseason form with Maddon planning a house party around Tampa's Gasparilla Pirate Festival before driving his RV from Florida to Arizona.

Maddon will turn 63 on Feb. 8 and have to keep evolving, just like his players, who might outgrow some of those gimmicks. But the Cubs are still a reflection of their future Hall of Fame manager.

Amid all the uncertainty in Washington, Maddon wouldn't touch a question about what advice he would give Donald Trump before Friday's inauguration.

"I'm not even going to go anywhere close to that," Maddon said. "I will say this: I have a lot of respect of the office.

"At the end of the day, just have a lot of respect for the office, regardless of your political persuasion. My point would be to encourage people to really respect the office and let's see what we get done here over the next four years."

Bulls' Jimmy Butler voted All-Star Game starter

Bulls' Jimmy Butler voted All-Star Game starter

Jimmy Butler is heading to his third straight All-Star Game, and for the first time he'll be in the Eastern Conference's starting lineup.

CSNChicago.com Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill reported that Butler was voted an All-Star starter.

Butler has been sensational this season, averaging a career-best 24.8 points (tied for the 10th-best mark in the league entering Thursday's games), 6.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists per contest through 41 games. He's shooting 45.2 percent from the field and 34.5 percent from 3-point range.

Butler previously made Eastern Conference All-Star squads in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons, though this is his first time in the starting five.