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NBA rules could see Nigeria field two men’s national teams this year



Nigeria coach Mike Brown has confirmed to ESPN that he may be forced to pick two different teams in the coming two months, as the Olympics and Afrobasket tournaments are within two weeks of each other.

The Afrobasket tournament starts in Rwanda on August 24, two weeks after the Olympics end in early August in Tokyo, which would trigger an NBA rule prohibiting Nigeria’s players from too much international game time.

Brown, an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors, told ESPN: “It is my understanding that NBA players that play in the Olympics won’t be able to play in the AfroBasket because they can only play a certain number of days of international competition in a year.

“For the days of training per year, I’m not sure there is a limit of days per year, but there is usually a limit of 28 practice days leading up to the Olympics and World Cup competitions.

“If there are two significant competitions in one year, like the Olympics and AfroBasket, NBA players are often limited to participate in only one of those competitions.”

This means Brown could be forced to form two teams, of equal strength, to compete for two medals just weeks apart. D’Tigers are ranked 22 in the world by FIBA, so aren’t just making up the numbers in Tokyo, while they’re former Afrobasket champions and tanking there isn’t an option either.

Brown said: “Yes, there could be two teams. But we have not decided who will be on the roster yet so that decision is still some way off.”

As for which players could be affected by this rule, it’s an ever-increasing list as players eligible for Nigeria, by birth, parentage, or naturalisation, pick D’Tigers over other options.

From the NBA comes not just veteran campaigners like Al Farouq Aminu, Chimezie Metu, Josh Okogie, Jordan Nwora, and Gabriel Vincent, but newbies like the rookies drafted in the 2021 class. This includes Precious Achiuwa, Zeke Nnaji, Udoka Azubuike, Aaron Nesmith, and Desmond Bane.

They could also be joined by the potential naturalisations of Denver Nuggets’ Monte Morris and Brooklyn Nets’ Spencer Dinwiddie, if he can get back from injury ahead of schedule to play a part in the Nets’ Playoff run.

Brown says he has made no decisions about which players are going to be selected until they get to training camp.

“Right now, nobody has been picked yet. We will have to go to training camp, look at everyone and then make the best decision about who goes where to give us the best chance of winning at both tournaments,” he said.

Difficult as that selection job will be, NBBF President Musa Kida insists that the selection will be done on merit.

“This is the golden era of Nigerian basketball,” Kida told ESPN. “Many high profile players who would have turned us down in the past if invited, are now hustling to get our attention, and that is a good thing for us.

“All eligible players have an equal chance of getting invited to camp and making the final list. And it will be up to the coaching staff to select the best because they are in the best position to do so.”

Nigeria became the first country to qualify for the Afrobasket and they did so in some style, winning all six qualifying games over two windows.

Last week, the draws for the AfroBasket were made in Rwanda. D’Tigers – Africa’s top-ranked team, were placed in Group C with Cote d’Ivoire (ranked 50th, and 5th in Africa), Mali (ranked 77) and surprise package Kenya (ranked 112 and 19th in Africa).

For the Games in Tokyo, Nigeria — currently on a nine-match winning streak — open their Olympic campaign on July 29 against number 3-ranked Australia in a group B fixture at the Saitama Super Arena in Tokyo.

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NBA playoffs 2021 – Trae Young, Ja Morant weigh in on Nikola Jokic ejection



Game 4 of the NBA playoff series between the Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns took a dramatic turn when Denver big man Nikola Jokic, the league’s newly crowned MVP, was ejected for a flagrant foul 2 with 3:52 remaining in the third quarter and the Nuggets trailing the Suns by eight points.

Jokic took a wild swing at the Suns’ Cameron Payne, hitting Payne across the face as he made a hard swipe to knock the ball loose. The foul came after Jokic didn’t get a call on a one-handed runner, as he briefly glanced over at a referee and gestured.

Suns star Devin Booker immediately confronted Jokic, as the teams briefly scuffled before being separated.

After he was ejected, Jokic appeared to apologize to Payne.

Folks quickly weighed in on social media, with NBA stars Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks and Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies among those who felt the ejection was too harsh, particularly in an elimination game. Denver was down 3-0 in the series entering Sunday night’s Game 4, and Phoenix completed the sweep with a 125-118 decision.

There were some who backed the ejection, including New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, who we should point out is from Arizona and a Suns fan.

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Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic ejected with Flagrant 2 foul for hard swipe at Phoenix Suns’ Cameron Payne



With the Denver Nuggets on the brink of playoff elimination, league MVP Nikola Jokic was ejected from Sunday night’s game with a Flagrant 2 foul after taking a wild swing in frustration at Phoenix Suns guard Cameron Payne.

After a lengthy review, Jokic was handed the Flagrant 2 and ejected from Game 4 of Denver’s Western Conference semifinal playoff series with 3:52 remaining in the third quarter and the Nuggets down eight.

The foul came after Jokic didn’t get a call on a one-handed runner, as he briefly glanced over at a referee and gestured. In apparent frustration at the no-call, he ran over to take a hard swipe at the ball, hitting Payne across the face.

Referee David Guthrie could be heard on the broadcast explaining the decision saying, “After replay review, there is wind up, impact and follow-through.”

Suns star Devin Booker took immediate exception to the play from Jokic, confronting the big man as both teams briefly scuffled before being separated. Booker was assessed a technical foul.

A Flagrant 2 is defined as being “unnecessary and excessive contact committed by a player against an opponent.”

The Suns lead the series 3-0 and have had complete control since Game 1, winning all three games by double figures.

Jokic left with 22 points on 9-17 shooting, plus 11 rebounds and 4 assists in 28 minutes.

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Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving exits Game 4 with right ankle injury, X-rays negative



The Brooklyn Nets first lost James Harden 47 seconds into their Eastern Conference semifinal series with the Milwaukee Bucks. Now, after the Bucks evened the series at two games apiece with a 107-96 victory at Milwaukee’s Fiserv Forum Sunday afternoon, the Nets are headed back to Brooklyn, New York, for Game 5 on Tuesday facing the possibility of playing the biggest game of their season without two of their three superstars.

Kyrie Irving was unable to return to Sunday’s game with a sprained right ankle. After Irving made a layup midway through the second quarter, he landed on Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s foot. Irving’s right foot bent significantly and he immediately appeared to be in considerable pain. He stayed on the court for several minutes before eventually getting to his feet and walking back to the visiting locker room without assistance but with a pronounced limp.

Brooklyn ruled Irving out for the rest of the game just before the start of the second half. Nets coach Steve Nash said after the game that X-rays on Irving’s ankle were negative. Irving left the building using crutches and with his ankle in a walking boot, sources told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols.

“I have no idea what is going to happen with [Irving] in the coming days,” Nash said. “We will cross our fingers and hope that it is better than I don’t know — better than what — better than missing the next game?

“We all have to pitch in. We all got to play together.”

When interviewed on the court by Nichols after the game, Antetokounmpo said that he wasn’t even aware of what Irving hurt when he initially hit the floor.

“I really don’t know,” Antetokounmpo said, when asked what happened from his perspective on the play. “I thought he got hit in the groin at first. When I went back to the locker room, they said that he sprained his ankle. I wish him a quick recovery, and hopefully he can be ready for Game 5. Wish him nothing but the best, but we have to keep focusing on ourselves, keep focusing on the task at hand, keep having fun and try to win games.”

Over the next two days, an already intense focus on Brooklyn’s injury situation, with Harden recovering from right hamstring tightness — the same hamstring injury that kept him out for several weeks late in the regular season — in the opening moments of Game 1 in Brooklyn will intensify if Irving is on the shelf, as well.

Before Sunday’s game, Nash — who had said multiple times in recent days that Harden has been “progressing,” offered up some more specifics, saying that he’s doing on-court work, including shooting, and still working through his rehabilitation. Nash said that while Harden was progressing toward a return, he didn’t have all the details of the exact work Harden is able to do.

When asked about the potential for Harden to return in Game 5 Sunday evening, however, with the knowledge that Irving, too, may be out for some time, Nash said that whatever decisions that will be made with regard to Harden’s availability would be made independently of anything happening with Irving.

“I don’t want James to be rushed back,” Nash said. “If he’s able to play next game, or the game after, that’s fantastic. If he’s not, we don’t want to rush him back and jeopardize doing something worse or making this a long-term injury.”

After the Nets controlled the first two games in Brooklyn – even with Harden sidelined for virtually all of them – this series is now in an entirely different place after the Bucks held serve and won both games in Milwaukee, squeaking out a victory in a defensive slugfest Thursday night in Game 3 before the Bucks finally saw their offense come alive in Game 4.

Milwaukee finally started to see some perimeter shots fall in Game 4, as the Bucks went 16-for-47 from 3-point range in their victory. And while that 34% hit rate from deep is still nothing special, it was a vast improvement from the 24.7% clip (22-for-89) that the Bucks shot at through the first three games of the series.

But with the possibility of both Harden and Irving being sidelined, Milwaukee will now be able to throw even more attention than it already was in the direction of Brooklyn’s remaining superstar, Kevin Durant, who had 28 points in Sunday’s loss but went 9-for-25 from the field, and shot a combined 20-for-53 in the Nets’ two losses in Milwaukee to even the series.

Nash took exception with some of the defense Brooklyn is playing against Durant – specifically that played by his longtime friend, and fellow Texas Longhorn, P.J. Tucker, of whom Nash said was bordering on “non-basketball” physicality with his aggressive defense against Durant the past two games.

“He’s playing extremely physical, and made it difficult,” Nash said. “That’s his role on their team and I thought it was borderline non-basketball physical at times, but that’s the playoffs. You have to adapt and adjust. Something definitely in a sense changed from the way the game was played in Brooklyn and here in Milwaukee.”

For his part, Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer scoffed at the idea that Tucker was doing anything out of line with his play.

“He’s just guarding him,” Budenholzer said. “If that’s not basketball, I don’t know what is. So, I think we’ve got to just keep the same mindset, to guard him, to make everything tough, so nothing changes.”

While nothing may change with the approach to guarding Durant, obviously everything changes for the Nets as they will wait to see what the prognosis on both of their injured stars. Bucks guard Pat Connaughton, however, said that Milwaukee can ill-afford to overlook the rest of Brooklyn’s roster – much of which played a part in dismantling the Bucks in the first two games of this series.

“We actually said it doesn’t matter who is out there,” Connaughton said. “We want to make sure we continue to play our type of game. Obviously James went down in Game 1, Kyrie went down at one point today, but they have a lot of talented individuals and a lot of talent as a collective unit on that team.

“For us, it’s about continuing to focus on our brand of basketball. The toughness on the defensive end, the things we instill in ourselves and in each other, and the ball movement, player movement that we have on the offensive end. I think that is the most important thing as we continue to move forward.”

Still, it was clear the Nets were – understandably – impacted by Irving’s departure from the game. While Brooklyn opened the game 6-for-14 from 3-point range, the Nets were just 4-for-19 after Irving’s injury, and committed 10 turnovers over the final 30 minutes of action.

“We missed him, obviously,” Nash said. “It was a big adjustment tonight to play without him and James, but we’ve had that type of year. So, we have to find a way to figure it out, to look at the tape and get better.”

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