The United States had a narrow escape at the FIBA World Cup on Tuesday as Gregg Popovich's depleted team beat Turkey in overtime. 

After Turkey missed four consecutive free throws in the final 10 seconds, Khris Middleton made a pair from the line with 2.1 seconds remaining in overtime as USA secured a dramatic 93-92 win.

In doing so, they avoided their first loss in the preliminary rounds at a World Cup since 1998. 

USA had a five-point lead with just under two minutes to play in the fourth quarter but watched Turkey go on a 7-0 run to go up 81-79 on Ersan Ilyasova's tip-in of Cedi Osman's miss with 12.3 seconds left. 

Popovich's team went for the win on their final possession of regulation, with Middleton firing up an effort from beyond the arc. He missed, but Kemba Walker secured the rebound and got it to Jayson Tatum, who managed to draw a foul from Osman while in the act of shooting from behind the three-point line at the buzzer. 

With a chance to seal the game in his hands, Tatum made the first but missed the second and had to drain the third to send it to overtime, where the back-and-forth nature of the game continued. 

Turkey stretched out a five-point advantage to open the extra session before USA rallied to take a 91-89 lead on a Tatum layup with 1:50 to play, but Osman converted a three-pointer a minute later to put the underdogs back on top. 

After a Joe Harris miss, USA got the ball back when Walker drew a charge with 14.6 seconds to play, but Myles Turner turned it over.

Harris was called for an intentional foul, sending Dogus Balbay to the line for two. He missed both, but Turkey still had the ball, so Marcus Smart immediately fouled Osman. The Cavaliers forward missed his two shots as well, handing USA one last lifeline that Middleton was able to convert. 

The Milwaukee Bucks star led USA with 15 points while Walker added 14. Ilyasova had 23 for Turkey to lead all scorers.

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell paced the offense as the United States launched their FIBA World Cup campaign on Sunday with an 88-67 win over the Czech Republic.

Mitchell scored 16 points to lead the USA, while Sacramento Kings forward Harrison Barnes added 14. Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker got the team off to a fast start, combining for 20 points in the first half. Walker finished with 13 points and Tatum scored 10.

Myles Turner also had seven rebounds and two blocked shots for the US, who forced 15 turnovers.

Mitchell kept his dominating momentum down to the final minutes of the game in Shanghai.

For the Czechs, who played their first World Cup game since 1982, Chicago Bulls guard Tomas Satoransky led the team with 17 points.

The USA will play Turkey on Tuesday in Shanghai in a rematch of the 2010 World Championship final. The Czech Republic will face Japan on Tuesday.

It's football time in the US.

The NFL preseason wraps up this week and the college season really gets going on Thursday as the No. 1 team in the country Clemson opens up against Georgia Tech.

With that several storylines that have rumbled on throughout the offseason come into an even greater focus.

Here we look at some of the biggest news from this week in US Sports.

 

1. Contracts still up in the air as holdouts stand their ground

With the NFL season less than two weeks away, teams are starting to finalise their rosters. But what can make a franchise's job even harder is trying to come to decisions at key positions when players are not in camp, and in Texas, two huge players remain in a self-imposed exile.

Ezekiel Elliott continues to hold out in search of a new contract with the Dallas Cowboys and in Houston, Jadeveon Clowney still has not signed his franchise tender with the Texans and appears willing to wait into the season to make any kind of decision if he is not traded.

The argument could be made these two players are the best on the rosters of the Cowboys and Texans and it is very likely neither will be active in Week 1.


2. College football kick-off

Team USA still pose a threat at the FIBA World Cup even if Kemba Walker rather than LeBron James is their star man, says former Germany star Demond Greene.

Defending champions the United States, who have five titles to their name, have seen several world superstars such as James pull out of contention for the tournament that starts on Saturday.

But Greene, who played at two World Cups, famously blocking Dwyane Wade in 2006, acknowledges players such as Walker and Khris Middleton could still have a huge impact on the finals.

"It's not their 'A-team'. I would not even say it's their 'B-team'," Greene told Omnisport. "It's a mix between 'B' and 'C-team'. Despite this, they are still dangerous."

Greene added: "You must never underestimate them. [The players] are still playing in the NBA.

"They've got players who average 20 points per game like Kemba Walker. They are All-Stars and leaders in their teams which proves that they are high quality players.

"The problem is that we are spoiled from the previous years, when players like James Harden, Kevin Durant or LeBron James played.

"Now you have players like Khris Middleton, who many won't even know. You have to be a basketball expert to know Khris Middleton, maybe even Kemba Walker.

"That's the problem, that many look at who's not in the team, rather than who is."

Greece are another potential contender due to the presence of Middleton's Milwaukee Bucks team-mate and reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Greene believes they can be successful but says the team's big European stars must get used to playing second fiddle to Antetokounmpo, who will dominate the narrative.

"The important thing is that all players understand their role," Greene said. "The years in which Giannis didn't play, all the players had another role.

"He is the top star on and off the court. When there are press conferences, there are going to be 50 cameras around him and the other players will get what is left. You have to handle this.

"They have to understand that even if they play a totally different role in Europe and are top stars here, like Nick Calathes at Panathinaikos. He is a team leader there and also still for Greece. He may even be the heart of the team.

"They all have to cope with that. If this works out, then they can get very, very far with Giannis as their power machine.

"But it all has to work out internally and they will have to let him walk in front and let him be the leader with Calathes at his side.

"Then they can be a very dangerous side, especially in defense. Offensively, they are not that strong, but in terms of defense, they can really hurt other teams."

Players for Team USA are well aware of the opportunity they have coming up in the 2019 FIBA World Cup.

Not just to represent their country, but to learn from coaching greats like Gregg Popovich and Steve Kerr.

"I've really tried to kind of pick their brains," Team USA guard Donovan Mitchell said during training camp in Las Vegas earlier this month. "Picking everybody’s brain, coaches that have had such impact on this game, figuring out how to be a better overall player. Whether it's my approach to the game, whether it's a decision I make in the game defensively, offensively, whatever it may be."

Everyone wants to learn this year on Team USA. Mitchell said so on more than one occasion and plenty of players echoed the sentiment. Every single one of them talked about their excitement, specifically when it comes to playing for Popovich.

It's not hyperbole to call the San Antonio Spurs coach an NBA legend.

Popovich has won five NBA titles in San Antonio and three Coach of the Year awards. Only two coaches in the history of the league have more titles than him (Phil Jackson with 11 and Red Auerbach with nine) and two more have tied him in championships (Pat Riley, John Kundla).

He has as much respect as anyone in the NBA and his level of knowledge can be magnetic.

"We all grew up watching Pop, now we're playing against him," Boston Celtics guard Kemba Walker said. "We know how much of a legend he is, he's just an unbelievable coach, so for me to get the opportunity to play for him, for him to pick me to be a part of this team, it's a blessing."

This isn't the first time Popovich has been in a situation to rub off on players from around the NBA. He also was an assistant for the national team in the early 2000s and was on the bench when Team USA earned a bronze medal in the 2004 Olympics.

That was a tough moment for Popovich, even though he was only an assistant on Larry Brown's USA staff. The bronze medal broke a string of three straight golds for Team USA at the Olympics and it remains the only time the United States has earned less than gold in the last seven Games.

Mike Krzyzewski's decision to step down as Team USA head coach after the Rio Olympics opened up an opportunity for Popovich to take over, but he has his hands full in San Antonio and taking the head coaching job for a national team is a big decision. It was not guaranteed he would coach this team in 2019 at the FIBA World Cup in China but, eventually, he gave in.

"I thought about it," he said earlier this month, via ESPN. "I met with Mr. [Jerry] Colangelo [Team USA's managing director]. I took a little bit of time. We talked several times. I knew what I was getting into. It's your country. You say yes. You man up and try to surround yourself with as much brainpower as you can."

In a way, the role provides Popovich with a shot at redemption for his country. It's a tough shot as this FIBA roster was marred by withdrawals and injuries and goes into the World Cup lacking the usual star power of a USA team.

Team USA will have to figure some things out and has dealt with some challenges on the court already with a loss to Australia last week, which broke a 78-game winning streak in international play.

Kerr put the state of this team — and Popovich's foray back onto its coaching staff — into great perspective as the World Cup creeps closer.

"The whole game is trying to put the puzzle together," said Kerr, the Golden State Warriors head coach who is assisting Popovich.

It is a puzzle Popovich was willing to figure out and one his players are embracing alongside him as he shows them how to fit the pieces into place ahead of Sunday's tournament opener against the Czech Republic in Shanghai.

"Seeing him when you play against him, you don't get to see this side of Pop that those guys in San Antonio see," Celtics guard Marcus Smart said. "So being here and able to play for him, he's a fun guy, he jokes a lot, I didn't know he was a jokester like that.

"He jokes a lot, but he's about business … you know he's really good about making sure to have fun and just staying loose and get you right, (and) he's a guy you really want to have coach you."

Kobe Bryant said there is no "beef" with Shaquille O'Neal and he has "nothin but love" for his former Los Angeles Lakers team-mate.

O'Neal responded to comments made by five-time champion Bryant, who thought he could have won 12 NBA titles if his team-mate shared the same work ethic.

During an interview at the 10th annual PHP Agency Convention in Las Vegas, Bryant seemingly took another shot at O'Neal.

Bryant was asked what would have happened if O'Neal had his work ethic. Bryant replied: "He'd be the greatest of all time".

"He'd be the first to tell you that," Bryant added. "I mean this guy was a force like I have never seen. I mean, it was crazy. A guy at that size…. Generally guys at that size are a little timid and they don't want to be tall. They don't want to be big. Man, this dude was… he did not care. He was mean. He was nasty. He was competitive. He was vindictive.

"I wish he was in the gym. I would have had f****** 12 rings…. It wouldn't even be close. ... Me and Shaq sit down all the time and I say 'if your lazy a** was in shape'."

The video surfaced on Instagram earlier this week and four-time NBA champion O'Neal responded with a comment of his own.

"U woulda had twelve if you passed the ball more especially in the finals against the pistons #facts. ... You don't get statues by not working hard," O'Neal wrote.

Bryant later tweeted on Wednesday: "There is no beef with @SHAQ I know most media want to see it but it ain't gonna happen. Ain't nothin but love there and we too old to beef anyway #3peat."

O'Neal then responded to Bryant's tweet, writing: "It's all good bro, when I saw the interview, I thought you were talking about Dwite, is that how u spell his name lol."

Bryant and O'Neal became known for their "beef" when they played alongside each other for the Lakers from 1996-2004. The two earned three straight championships before O'Neal was traded to the Miami Heat in 2004.

Jeremy Lin won the NBA championship with the Toronto Raptors in June but will spend next season with the Beijing Ducks.

Lin joined the Raptors after being waived by the Atlanta Hawks in February, adding backcourt depth behind Kyle Lowry and Danny Green.

He became the first Asian-American player in league history to lift the Larry O'Brien Trophy, but he struggled in 23 regular-season games with Toronto and has found a new home in China.

"Thanks to the NBA and everyone who's supported me the last 9 years! Will always cherish being able to rep Asians at the NBA level. Excited for the next step with the Beijing Ducks. Excited to make more history," Lin wrote on Twitter. 

The guard remained unsigned when free agency began and last month described how he felt like he hit a new level of "rock bottom" after receiving little interest from teams in the NBA.

He said: "In English, there's a saying, and it says, 'once you've hit rock bottom, the only way is up.'

"Rock bottom just seems to keep getting more and more rock bottom for me. So free agency has been tough, because I feel like in some ways the NBA's kind of given up on me."

Lin, who turned 31 last week, played nine seasons in the NBA for eight different teams, never spending more than two years with one franchise.

NBA superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo sat out Greece's final FIBA World Cup warm-up match against Venezuela on Tuesday.

The Milwaukee Bucks forward is set to be his country's main man at the tournament in China after an outstanding season in the United States in which he was named MVP.

But Antetokounmpo was not available to face Venezuela after complaining of irritation in his knee and opted not to take the risk with the World Cup beginning on Saturday.

Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Giannis' brother, had been dealing with a foot problem but was included in the team.

Greece begin their World Cup campaign against Montenegro on Sunday, with further group stage games against Brazil and New Zealand following next week.

Dwight Howard's return to the Los Angeles Lakers was confirmed by the NBA team on Monday.

Howard will head back to the Lakers for the first time since the 2012-13 season, when he spent one year with the team.

After the center cleared waivers, Los Angeles quickly made the well-reported move official.

Howard planned to sign a non-guaranteed deal with the team, according to an earlier report from ESPN. 

Los Angeles lost DeMarcus Cousins to an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear earlier this month, leaving JaVale McGee as the only active center on the Lakers' depth chart.

Joakim Noah and Marreese Speights were also considered as potential replacements for Cousins.

Howard, 33, averaged 12.8 points and 9.2 rebounds for the Washington Wizards last season but only appeared in nine games because of a back injury he suffered early on in the year.

He was traded to Memphis following the 2018-19 season. The Grizzlies recently negotiated a buyout with the big man so he could rejoin the Lakers.

Los Angeles have seen some major turnover on their roster, as they traded Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and multiple future first-round picks to the New Orleans Pelicans to acquire Anthony Davis to pair with LeBron James.

The Lakers finished last season with a 37-45 record and missed the playoffs and will look to improve upon that mark with their new personnel in 2019-20.

Caris LeVert has agreed a "multi-year" contract extension with the Brooklyn Nets, the team confirmed on Monday.

The terms of the deal were not announced, but ESPN reported late on Sunday that LeVert had agreed a three-year, $52.5million extension that will begin with the 2020-21 season.

Levert, the number 20 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, finished last season averaging 13.7 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.9 assists in 40 games, having missed three months with a dislocated foot.

"Caris personifies what it means to be a Brooklyn Net, and we firmly believe his best basketball is in front of him," general manager Sean Marks said as the new deal was confirmed.

"The growth he has displayed in his first three seasons is a testament to his tireless work ethic, along with an unrelenting will to maximise his talents and achieve team success.

"Our entire organisation is excited to continue to have Caris as one of the leaders of our programme moving forward."

The Nets have completely rebuilt their roster this close season to potentially put themselves in position to be in title contention for the next few seasons.

They landed a pair of stars, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, in free agency and also signed veteran center DeAndre Jordan.

"I feel everyone has a chip on their shoulders from one to 15 before those guys, and I know those guys do, too," LeVert said, via the New York Post.

"I feel everyone at this level, that's kind of what you have to have to be one of the top players. That's our identity. I know we won't lose that."

LeVert is looking forward to eventually sharing the court with Irving and Durant, who is expected to miss most of 2019-20 after rupturing his Achilles in the NBA Finals.

"Honestly I was a little surprised," LeVert said. "I'm definitely very excited because those are two guys I like to play against and watch a lot of film on. Obviously, I can't wait to play alongside those guys."

The Nets finished last season with a 42-40 record and made the playoffs for the first time since 2014-15, where they were eliminated by the Philadelphia 76ers in five games.

The Sacramento Kings and NBA announced on Friday they have cleared coach Luke Walton after a four-month investigation into allegations of sexual assault and harassment.

Kelli Tennant, a former Spectrum SportsNet reporter, sued Walton on April 22, accusing him of sexual assault, verbal and physical harassment and unwanted physical contact over a three-year period.

A day later, Tennant held a press conference and recounted an alleged incident at a Los Angeles hotel in 2014 during which, she said, Walton pinned her to a bed.

At the time of the alleged incident Walton was an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors.Tennant's lawsuit and news conference came only a week after he was named the Kings head coach.

Her allegations prompted the NBA and Kings to launch a joint investigation. Almost two-dozen people were interviewed during the investigation, but despite "repeated attempts" to interview Tennant, she did not participate on the advice of her legal team, according to an NBA statement.

The statement read: "Based on this and the available evidence, the investigators determined that there was not a sufficient basis to support the allegations made against Coach Walton."

Tennant's civil suit is believed to still be active. Tennant's attorney, Garo Mardirossian of Los Angeles, did not immediately respond to a request for comment by the Sacramento Bee.

Walton, who coached the Los Angeles Lakers for three seasons before parting ways with the team in April, takes over a Kings club that finished 39-43 last season.

"I am 100 per cent focused on coaching the Sacramento Kings and energised to work with this incredible group of players and coaches as we start this preseason," Walton said in a statement on Friday. "I will have no further comment."

"Luke Walton is our head coach and we support him and his team as they continue to prepare for the upcoming season," the Kings said in a statement.

The Minnesota Timberwolves need Andrew Wiggins to be more consistent, according to president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas.

Wiggins signed a five-year, $146.5million extension with the Timberwolves in October 2017, but the 24-year-old regressed over the last two NBA seasons. 

Rosas was asked about Wiggins – the 2015 Rookie of the Year – and his development during an appearance at the Minnesota State Fair on Thursday.

"Andrew in particular with his talent and physical abilities, the potential he's shown, we've got to get that on a more consistent basis," Rosas told the Star Tribune. 

"He's focused on it as well. In order for us to have the success we want to have, he's got to be a main contributor. He understands that, we understand that."

The Timberwolves acquired Wiggins from the Cleveland Cavaliers before his rookie season as the centrepiece of the Kevin Love trade.

Wiggins averaged 18.1 points and 4.8 rebounds while shooting a career-low 41.2 per cent from the field in 2018-19.

Rosas thinks Wiggins will benefit from playing under Ryan Saunders, who was named the Timberwolves head coach after serving in an interim role to end last season. 

"To be fair to [Wiggins], he needs some continuity in terms of coaching, philosophy, strategy and style of play," Rosas said. "We think he's going to be one of the better beneficiaries of this style of play.

"His physical tools, talent and skill. We do feel there's a lot of upside for him. He's worked very hard this summer. He's been committed to everything that we've done."

The Timberwolves finished 2018-19 with a 36-46 record and missed the playoffs.

 

James Harden believes a media narrative was behind Giannis Antetokounmpo beating him to being named NBA MVP for 2018-19.

Houston Rockets guard and 2018 MVP Harden averaged 36.1 points in the regular season – the most since Michael Jordan tallied 37.1 in 1986-87 – and went on a stunning run of 32 30-point games in succession.

However, Antetokounmpo was the best player for the Milwaukee Bucks, who finished the regular season with the best record of any team. He averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.3 steals per game.

"[It was] one for the books. Even when I'm gone, they're going to talk about it," Harden said to 97.9 The Box of his season, before offering his thoughts on how the MVP race unfolded.

"It's out of my control. Once the media, they create a narrative about somebody from the beginning of the year, I think they just take that narrative and just run with it the entire year.

"I don't want to get into details. All I can do is control what I can do, and I went out there and did what I was supposed to do at a high level. There's only a few other seasons that anybody has ever done that before.

"People were tuned in to how many points I was going to score the next game. It was a thing. But I can't control that. The only thing I can control is coming back next year and being better than I was, and winning a championship."

The Rockets dealt Chris Paul to the Oklahoma City Thunder to add 2017 MVP Russell Westbrook to their roster for 2019-20 and Harden is eager to get going.

"I'm excited. Obviously, Chris did an unbelievable job the two years that he was here. He's helped our organisation and team a tremendous amount. But we have most of the same core guys coming back, and then we add Russ," he said.

"We all know how Russ plays, and he's even a greater guy off the court. It's difficult playing against him, just because he plays with that aggression. He plays with that anger. But it's going to be better to have him on our team now.

"Now we've got him and PJ [Tucker] … crazy together. We've got a lot of guys who are return and then you add Russ, it's something special."

On potential opponents in next year's playoffs, Harden added: "It don't even matter because we focus on ourselves. We've got so much talent in that locker room, and our organisation is so great.

"We don't pay attention to other teams. We just focus on what we control, our team, and being the best we can be. Whoever we face, let's get it on."

Damian Lillard does not intend to move on from the Portland Trail Blazers to team up with other NBA stars any time soon.

The guard signed a four-year, $196million extension with the Trail Blazers and refuses to "sell out" for championship rings by leaving the city that picked him sixth overall in the 2012 NBA Draft.

Lillard spoke with Complex on Wednesday and discussed his thoughts about super teams.

"I think people are taking control because there's no greater time to do it than now," Lillard said.

"And I don't have a problem with that, but the way I see stuff is, like, I don't prefer to go that route. Just like they're choosing to do this stuff for their career, I'm choosing to do what I want for mine, too."

This offseason was an eventful one in the NBA. Kevin Durant elected to part ways with the Golden State Warriors to join the Brooklyn Nets, Anthony Davis forced his way to the Los Angeles Lakers via trade request and Paul George leveraged his way to an ideal situation when he joined Kawhi Leonard on the Los Angeles Clippers. 

The balance of power has shifted in the NBA because of these moves, but Lillard wants to stay put and win it all on his own terms.

"To leave, what did I invest all this time for just to leave, you know?" Lillard said. "If I go play with three other stars, I don't think that many people would doubt that I could win it. We would win it, but what is the challenge or the fun in that?"

Lillard, a four-time All-Star, has consistently been one of the best guards in the NBA in recent years. He has career averages of 23.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 6.3 assists and has developed a reputation for knocking down clutch shots – like the signature dagger that eliminated the Oklahoma City Thunder from the 2018-19 playoffs.

"I wanna be the one, the star that wants to be here [in Portland]," Lillard said. "I wanna be the one that embodies all of those things and then be a part of the rise from 'we haven't won since '77, and now we won, and Dame's everything to our city'. I just am who I am, and that fits here."

Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward hopes Kyrie Irving is successful with the Brooklyn Nets.

Irving left Boston and inked a four-year, $140.6million contract with Brooklyn this offseason.

Hayward was asked about Irving's departure when he met with reporters on Tuesday. 

"The interesting part of the league is the drama that happens every offseason," Hayward said, via NBC Sports Boston. "I don't know if there's any league like that, where you have major guys moving teams.

"I wish [Irving] the best of luck as he goes to Brooklyn."

The Celtics also lost Al Horford (Philadelphia 76ers) and Marcus Morris (New York Knicks) in free agency.

But, they signed three-time All-Star Kemba Walker and added center Enes Kanter.

"As a team, we're excited about who we have coming in," Hayward said. "I'm more than excited to welcome Kemba and Enes, and all the other guys that are new for us."

Hayward was inconsistent last season after he missed almost all of 2017-18 with a devastating leg injury. He averaged 11.5 points and 4.5 rebounds in 25.9 minutes per game while shooting 33.3 per cent from three-point range. 

Hayward said he has spent the offseason focusing on bouncing back.

"More than anything, just building back some confidence; being able to do everything that I'm used to doing," Hayward said. "Reps is what gives you confidence, being able to do things over and over and over and not worry about how my ankle is feeling or having to be cautious with it, has been really good for my confidence.

"That has felt really nice, being able to train how I'm used to training. Not having to worry about doing stuff for only 10 minutes, only doing a certain amount of reps. It's been really good from that standpoint."

The Celtics entered 2018-19 as the favourites to win the East but finished with a 49-33 record and were eliminated by the Milwaukee Bucks in five games in the conference semifinals.

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