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Charles Barkley, Stephen Curry replace Tiger Woods, Tom Brady for latest charity golf match

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Phil Mickelson will take part in another high-profile charity golf match, but this time Tiger Woods will not be part of it.

Charles Barkley will partner with Mickelson in a match against Stephen Curry and Peyton Manning on Nov. 27 at Stone Canyon Golf Club in Arizona.

Called Capital One’s The Match: Champions for Change, the format will be modified alternate shot and will begin at 3 p.m. ET the day after Thanksgiving. The event will be televised by Turner Sports on TNT.

Mickelson and Woods staged a high-profile match two years ago in Las Vegas, with Mickelson emerging as a $9 million winner.

They joined forces again in May with Manning and Tom Brady in a match that raised more than $10 million for coronavirus relief efforts.

Proceeds for this November’s match will go to historically Black colleges and universities.

“While we may need a handicap for Chuck, I’m looking forward to playing with Peyton and Stephen and to help raise money for another important cause,” Mickelson said in a statement. “It’s also going to give fans and viewers an up-close look at Stone Canyon Golf Club, a place that I’m extremely proud of and excited to show how special it is.”

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Jared Dudley thinks Los Angeles Lakers teammate Anthony Davis primed for MVP season

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LOS ANGELES — Anthony Davis might have filled his bank account by signing a five-year, $190 million extension with the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday, but one of his teammates now wants him to fill his awards shelf, too.

“I’m expecting AD to go for the MVP,” Lakers forward Jared Dudley said on a videoconference call with reporters Thursday. “I’m expecting him to set the tone. We know [LeBron James], his years playing this league, accolades he has, but AD doesn’t have some of the accolades. He has the talent, he has the determination. … He’s the future and he’s the now.”

Davis, 27, finished sixth in MVP voting last season, his first with the Lakers. His best finish for the award was third in 2017-18.

He’ll have competition in James, who finished second behind Giannis Antetokounmpo for the Maurice Podoloff Trophy last season. James also signed a contract extension with the Lakers this week, a two-year, $85 million deal that will keep him in L.A. through 2022-23.

“We’re led by the best player in the world, and then the second-best player in the world,” Markieff Morris said Thursday, not distinguishing who was best between Davis and James. “Or 1A and 1B, however you want to do it.”

Morris said he re-signed with the Lakers in search of another trophy: the Larry O’Brien, presented to the league champion. Any individual accolade that comes along for the Lakers in 2020-21 would be welcome, of course, but the group’s focus is on repeating.

“Shoot, we have LeBron James,” Kentavious Caldwell-Pope said Thursday. “His mindset and the way he approaches the game, it’s just going to rub off on everybody else. I know he’s coming back ready to compete. Especially for that second championship, and he’s going to let us know from the jump what time it is. As our leader, you got to respect that. For me, I respect that as a young guy looking up to him.

“So, that man, LeBron James, I feel like he’s going to keep it as simple as possible. He’s going to make it simple. He’s our leader and all we got to do is be ready. Be mentally ready and be ready to play.”

Davis, in his first comments since signing the extension Thursday, told Spectrum SportsNet that the championship is already on his mind, as well.

“I’m very motivated, I want to do it again,” Davis said. “When we won the Western Conference finals, Bron said, ‘Just wait until you win a championship and you hold that trophy, your love for winning just grows.’ And ever since holding that trophy, I just want to do it again.

“You want to do hold that trophy over and over and over. You get addicted to winning. So I want that feeling again. I want to hold that Larry O’Brien Trophy again and become a meme where I’m crying and people are using it for everything. Those are good memes.”

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Nigeria coach Mike Brown is leaving no NBA stone unturned to find D’Tigers stars

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Golden State Warriors associate coach Mike Brown took charge of the Nigeria national basketball team for the first time this past November, in the first round of the 2021 Afrobasket qualifiers, and got off to a 3 and 0 start.

With no time to scrimmage, and only a handful of practice games before the tournament, Brown’s 20-man roster could have been forgiven for squeaking through, maybe even dropping a game.

Instead, they beat South Sudan (led by Brown’s former player Luol Deng), Rwanda, and Mali by margins of 20, 21 and 23 respectively, leaving Brown drooling over the heights they can scale in the immediate future.

After leading an essentially second string team to an unbeaten record on his very first bite at the cherry, Brown is feeling bullish enough to contemplate not just a medal for D’Tigers at the Olympic Games, but also becoming a FIBA top five team.

“Our goal is to finish on the podium,” Brown told ESPN after completing the third of those wins. “We want to show the world that we can compete with the best of them.

“And I think, with the talent that we have, it’s a realistic goal for us.”

This constant pivoting now appears to be a theme running through his still-short tenure as Nigeria head coach.

When Brown agreed to coach the Nigeria team in February this year, his brief was only to lead them to the Olympic Games, then still set for mid-2020 before the coronavirus pandemic struck.

A few months later, he was thinking more medium term development for the program, and now, after having worked at close quarters with the team, Brown’s sights have evolved and now are set much further down the road than even he can see.

He explained: “We want to be a power house, we want to be mentioned with the best in the world and in other to do that, you need to be sure the players are taken care of and the standards are set at the right level.

“You look at the players in the Nigeria basketball team, it is amazing the number of talents. So, I felt with a little bit of organization, a little bit of structure and a little bit of continuity, we can make this thing very special.

“So, long term, we’re striving to get some continuity at a high level, so that we can not only be ranked number one in Africa, but throw that number 23 ranking in the world out the window, and give us a top five ranking year in, year out.”

Those ambitions are helped in no small part by the number of players coming through the conveyor belt for Nigeria. During the 2020 NBA Draft, a record number [nine] of players of Nigerian origin were drafted.

Brown has been doing his homework, speaking to each of those players in turn: “As the head coach, I am allowed to talk to the younger Nigerians about playing for the Nigerian national team.

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Olympic basketball coach Mike Brown wants to show that Nigeria “can compete with the best” in 2021.

“I can’t talk to them about playing for the Golden State Warriors. And so every single one of these drafted guys, I have been talking to since they have been in college. And when they got drafted, I texted them congratulations and a couple of their coaches too.

“It shows how deep the talent pool is. This is just in one draft. And there are other guys in college that I am talking to that will come. This makes me extremely excited.

“I have had some coaches call me and ask if they could help out with the program and I am talking about high level coaches, NBA coaches, high division one college coaches.

“People want to be part of this because they can see the potential, they feel the potential but more importantly, they understand the love of excellence that Nigerians bring to the table in all fields and not just basketball.

“That strive, that passion, the urge to want to be great is a common thread of the Nigerian people.

“And now when you have guys that are talented like this, if I could get them connected, we could take this team to another level and this could be really special for a long time.”

Ambitious as this may seem, Brown has a clear idea for how to accomplish these objectives, and it starts with building the foundations, starting from under 16s all the way up to the senior team.

Brown said: “That continuity is extremely important. We want to build a program the right way, we want to have a u16 team, we want to have a u17 team and u18 teams, so these kids can start coming up in the system.

“And when they get to the senior national team, like all these other countries have, it’s just like clockwork, they already know what we’re running offensively, they already know what we are running defensively, we know them as coaches, they know us.”

Speaking to youngsters is all well and good, but one of the reasons many felt Brown was hired was to use his profile to attract and convince established stars like Victor Oladipo or even Bam Adebayo to consider playing ball for Nigeria.

Brown has tried, he says: “We reached out to the representatives to Adebayo and Victor. Bam, he was obviously born in the US and, and he was raised by his mom who’s an American citizen, and he didn’t really know his dad. And so the connection for him in Nigeria isn’t quite there.

“And you know, he’s going to play for Team USA, I can’t see him not being on that team. And so, there’s not much of a chance to get him to come play for Nigeria.

“And then with Vic, it’s, you know, it’s similar from the standpoint that because I think he’s played, maybe in college or coming up, he’s played for the US before and from my understanding, at least what his representatives are saying, he wants to try out for Team USA. He wants to play for Team USA.

“But obviously for both those guys, the door is open. if they do want to come in play for the Nigerian National Team, I think obviously they would have a great experience and they would be able to be a part of something new and special for many years to come.”

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Steph Curry describes how James Wiseman will fit on the Warriors and what he’d have to accomplish for his rookie season to be deemed a success.

Continuity is not just about the players, but also the coaching staff. Alex Nwora, the man Brown is taking over from, but who remains on the staff, has been extremely helpful in getting him up to speed.

Brown said: “Alex has been here for the last couple of years. And so he knows most of the players extremely well, not just their game on the floor, but even how they are as people, what makes them tick, what makes them go.

“For me to be able to get that type of information from Alex on each individual, about what they can do on the floor to help us out, but how to push. That was priceless.

“Alex is the perfect guy for it because he did a heck of a job when he was the head coach. I’m looking at it is not necessarily, quote unquote, replacing him with being better than him, but just continuing to build on the foundation that he already laid.”

In addition to Nwora, Brown has also overhauled Nigeria’s coaching staff, bringing in backroom experts from the NBA to help with his detail-focused approach.

Brown says he will be unavailable for the second round of the Afrobasket qualifiers which take place in February, but says he has more than enough quality in the staff he has to get the job done.

He explained: “There are player development coaches on the Warriors staff that will be helping me during the Olympics, as well as Darvin Ham, who’s associate head coach in the Milwaukee Bucks and Jordi Fernandez, who is the second assistant for the Denver Nuggets and James Laughlin, Golden State director of video operations.

“So, we got a nice staff, including an analytics coach from the Detroit Pistons, so a lot of different NBA coaches from different staff will help us out.”

It is a stacked deck indeed, one which, along with the talent on the floor, should be good to make a run at that podium place in Tokyo next year.

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Nikola Jokic ready to help Denver Nuggets take next step

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Nikola Jokic pulled out his new wedding band to show reporters during his virtual media session Thursday.

After a nail-biting run to the Western Conference finals, Jokic got married, and he now hopes to help the Nuggets take a step closer toward winning a championship ring this season even though the star center feels some still don’t view the Denver Nuggets as title contenders just yet.

“Even now, they are talking about how Clippers lost, they don’t think about how Nuggets won,” Jokic said, referencing Denver’s erasing of a 3-1 series deficit against the LA Clippers in the West semifinals in the NBA bubble at Walt Disney World this past season. “We don’t care that nobody gives us some kind of whatever, respect. We’re going to be there. We were in tough situations last year. We fight.

“Just [because] someone doesn’t give us respect doesn’t mean that we take their opinions. We know what we are capable of.”

Denver is riding the momentum of back-to-back 3-1 series comebacks — it did the same against the Jazz in the opening round — before falling to the eventual champion Lakers in the conference finals. But it certainly has felt like the Nuggets’ historic comebacks were overshadowed by the Clippers’ playoff meltdown.

Denver, though, has gotten a taste of being on that conference finals stage and is hungry to get back there.

“It is not like we won the championship last year,” point guard Jamal Murray said when asked about the current perception of the team. “We are going to keep grinding and keep going through kinks.”

Clippers forward Marcus Morris, meanwhile, was asked about his team’s motivation entering this season after losing to Denver and the veteran said he felt the Clippers were the better team.

“I think it hurt people being up 3-1,” Morris said. “It’s not about the losing it’s about how we lost and I think that’s the biggest motivation for this team because at the end of the day, that team wasn’t better than us. We all knew that. To be up and to lose I think that put an extra sting in our mentality.”

The Nuggets leaned on their continuity last season, but they return with some changes to the cast around Jokic and Murray. While the Lakers made significant additions in the offseason with Dennis Schroder and Montrezl Harrell, the Nuggets lost Jerami Grant, Torrey Craig and Mason Plumlee in free agency., while adding JaMychal Green and Argentina’s Facundo Campazzo.

“To be honest, I don’t care about Lakers,” Jokic said when asked about trying to keep up with the champs. “They’re going to be good probably anyways. About us, I like it. I think sometimes change is really good for the team. Just to bring some new energy, new guys, new individuals, I think it’s going to be interesting and I’m looking forward to see how we’re going to be.

“I don’t know how we’re going to be. Are we going to be better? Are we going to be worse? I’m just looking forward to see how we’re going to do this season in all these weird times (with COVID-19).”

The Nuggets are banking on Michael Porter Jr. to continue his ascension from injury and into the starting lineup. Porter Jr. averaged 11.4 points and 6.7 rebounds in his first postseason after shining in the seeding games portion of the NBA restart in Orlando.

“We are going to need Michael to take the next step,” Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly said. “That is a poorly kept secret.”

And of course, it’s no secret that the Nuggets will go as far as Murray and Jokic take them. Coming off his 19-game playoff run in the bubble, Jokic feels like his improvement this season will come from his experience of playing in his first conference finals.

“How I can get better?” said Jokic, who averaged 24.4 points, 9.8 rebounds and 5.7 assists in his second postseason. “I think it goes back to experience. My body is going to be a little bit kind of used to all the contact, all the physicality, how the game is fast, just by experience. I learned a lot from the last playoffs and just kind of growing up. Individual-wise, shooting better, be aggressive, whatever, but I just think experience is going to be the most important key.”

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