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USA Basketball sets plan for Olympic camps in Las Vegas

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For USA Basketball, the last stop before the Tokyo Olympics will be Las Vegas.

The men’s and women’s national teams will hold training camps in Las Vegas in July, they announced Thursday, and they’ll be playing seven exhibitions there against other Olympics-bound national teams as well.

USA Basketball will open its men’s training camp, led by coach Gregg Popovich, in Las Vegas on July 6. The Olympic men’s teams from Australia, Nigeria, Argentina and reigning Basketball World Cup champion Spain will also be spending some time in Las Vegas; Argentina will start its training camp there this month.

The U.S. women’s training camp under coach Dawn Staley will likely open around July 12; the WNBA break for the Olympics starts after the games of July 11. The Olympic women’s teams joining the U.S. in Las Vegas are Australia and Nigeria.

It’ll all take place at the MGM Resorts, which was announced as USA Basketball’s training camp home and resorts partner with the sides having now agreed to a multi-year sponsorship deal.

“USA Basketball is proud to expand its partnership with MGM Resorts,” USA Basketball CEO Jim Tooley said. “We’re excited to bring our national teams to their properties as we prepare for the challenging competition that lies ahead this summer.”

The U.S. men are seeking a fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal, the U.S. women their seventh in a row. Both will enter the Olympics ranked No. 1 by FIBA, the sport’s international governing body — though it remains unknown who the Americans will have on their rosters for the rescheduled Tokyo Games.

Those rosters could be set by the end of June. Some top NBA players such as Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors, Kawhi Leonard of the LA Clippers and Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers have expressed some interest in being part of the Olympic team; others, such as LeBron James and Anthony DavisLos Angeles Lakers teammates who were dealing with injuries when their season ended last week — are not planning to join the team.

All teams in Las Vegas will be taking part in what USA Basketball described as “comprehensive health and safety protocols … including mandatory and regular COVID-19 PCR testing, administered to athletes, coaches, officials and staff in accordance with FIBA and USA Basketball recommendations and CDC guidelines.”

Those concerns are why the international teams opted to spend time in Las Vegas. Argentina’s men’s team is conducting the entirety of its three-week camp there before flying to Tokyo, simply because it believes a controlled environment and less traveling between different countries will minimize virus-related risks before the Olympics.

“We were lucky and, at the same time, we deserved it to get an organization like USA Basketball to extend this invitation to us,” Argentina coach Sergio Hernandez said. “In such a complicated context it doesn’t get better than this.”

The games are set up as part of five doubleheaders, and fans will be able to attend the matchups at MGM’s Michelob Ultra Arena. Tickets go on sale next week.

GAME SCHEDULE

July 10 — U.S. men vs. Nigeria, Argentina vs. Australia

July 12 — Argentina vs. Nigeria, U.S. men vs. Australia

July 13 — U.S. men vs. Argentina, Australia vs. Nigeria

July 16 — U.S. women vs. Australia, U.S. men vs. Australia

July 18 — U.S. women vs. Nigeria, U.S. men vs. Spain

PREQUELS

The Nigeria-U.S. women’s game will be a prequel to the teams’ Olympic meeting on July 27 in Tokyo, the first game there for both of those teams. Nigeria and the U.S. are both in Group B at the Olympics, along with Japan and France.

The Australia-Nigeria men’s game is also the warmup for an Olympics-opening matchup. They’ll play in a Group B game on July 25.

The men’s teams from Spain and Argentina — the teams that played in the World Cup final at Beijing in 2019 — are both in Group C for the Olympics. They’ll both spend some time in Las Vegas but are not scheduled to face off there before flying to Japan.

FIBA RANKINGS

Las Vegas will see the top four men’s teams in the FIBA rankings there for the exhibitions: The U.S. is No. 1, Spain No. 2, Australia No. 3 and Argentina No. 4. Nigeria is ranked No. 22.

The U.S. women also hold the No. 1 FIBA ranking, and their July 16 opponent Australia is ranked No. 2 in the world. Nigeria’s women are ranked No. 17.

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Sources — Alex Rodriguez, Marc Lore approved as limited partners of Minnesota Timberwolves, WNBA’s Lynx

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The NBA board of governors approved Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez as limited partners with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Lynx in a vote on Tuesday, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Lore and Rodriguez join Glen Taylor’s ownership group as part of an anticipated succession plan that includes a 2½-year pathway to control.

Taylor announced in July 2020 he was looking for a buyer. The terms of the sale are similar to talks Taylor had in the past year with billionaire Ryan Smith, who walked away from a potential deal to ultimately purchase the Utah Jazz for $1.66 billion in October.

Taylor, 80, saved NBA basketball in Minnesota when he bought the team for $88 million in 1994 after it nearly moved to New Orleans. But he has had an unspectacular ownership run in the 26 years since, missing the playoffs in 16 of the past 17 seasons and advancing past the first round only once.

Taylor has had a much more successful tenure owning the Lynx, who have won four WNBA championships in the past 10 years.

He has discussed keeping the Timberwolves in Minnesota with new ownership, but Rodriguez’s ties to Seattle and that city’s desire for a return of an NBA franchise could become an issue in the long term.

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Sources — Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green, Evan Mobley among 20 invited to NBA draft green room

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Twenty players have received invitations to attend the 2021 NBA draft and sit in the green room, sources told ESPN.

Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green, Evan Mobley, Jalen Suggs, Jonathan Kuminga, Scottie Barnes, Davion Mitchell, James Bouknight, Keon Johnson, Franz Wagner, Josh Giddey, Jalen Johnson, Corey Kispert, Moses Moody and Kai Jones received the first batch of 15 invites last week, with Alperen Sengun, Cameron Thomas, Ziaire Williams, Chris Duarte and Isaiah Jackson receiving the final five nods.

The green room is a staging area in front of the NBA draft podium where players, families and agents await the moment when commissioner Adam Silver calls a player’s name upon selection.

The process of deciding which players to invite to the draft involves communication with general managers of teams picking throughout the first round. Teams are asked to vote on the top 25 players they expect will have their names called first. This is to ensure that players aren’t sitting for very long under the bright lights before a national television audience as the second round approaches.

Receiving an invitation is considered a positive sign for a player’s draft stock, although there have been plenty of instances in the past of prospects falling to the second round while sitting in the green room.

All 20 players invited are projected to be picked in the top 25 of the latest ESPN mock draft.

Usman Garuba, considered a likely top-20 pick, is currently with the Spanish national team as part of its preparations for the Tokyo Olympics and would have been unable to attend if invited.

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Top European prospect Tudor Somacescu signs with Overtime Elite

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Tudor Somacescu, one of Europe’s most promising prospects, is signing with Overtime Elite, the league told ESPN Tuesday.

Somacescu is the 12th player to sign with Overtime Elite, bringing them halfway to their stated goal of 24 players for the upstart league’s inaugural season.

The Romanian-born Somacescu, who turned 16 last month, spent this past season as a freshman at Sierra Canyon high school in Southern California alongside top-five recruit Amari Bailey and Bronny James, son of LeBron James. He is currently the youngest player on Overtime’s roster.

He gained notoriety as the youngest player in FIBA history to average double-figure scoring in a European Championship, which he did just weeks after turning 14 years old, playing up two age categories at the U16 European Championship Division B in 2019. Somacescu made his debut in the Romanian first division competing against professionals last winter before departing for the U.S.

Somacescu, at 6-foot-2, is a creative point guard with strong ball-handling and passing ability who stands out with his competitiveness and feel for the game which has allowed him to hold his own against older players from an early age.

Overtime Elite has made significant headway since its inception in March with its goal of becoming a legitimate alternative pathway for elite high school and international prospects to use as a training program and exposure platform. Thanks to significant financial backing and the hires of former national championship winning coach Kevin Ollie and several former NBA executives, OTE has signed five five-star recruits in Jalen Lewis, Amen Thompson, Ausar Thompson, Matthew Bewley and Ryan Bewley, while also landing a projected top-20 pick in 2022 in Dominican guard Jean Montero.

OTE says they will continue recruiting another 12-18 signings before their teams assemble in Atlanta in September to begin training and playing games against prep schools in the US and international teams abroad.

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