Depth and unselfish nature carry Team USA

admin   •   September 15, 2014   •   2471

Coach Mike Krzyewski (R) of the U.S. celebrates winning their Basketball World Cup final game against Serbia in Madrid September 14, 2014. CREDIT: REUTERS/SERGIO PEREZ

(Reuters) – A spate of late withdrawals, a serious injury to Paul George and several marquee names missing appeared to put Team USA under a cloud for the 2014 Basketball World Cup and for future international competition.

Instead, a group of sharp-shooting NBA regulars were unbeaten in Spain and produced a 129-92 victory over Serbia in the final to underline the depth the U.S. have at their disposal.

Stalwarts LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul were missing from the initial training camp, with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love and Blake Griffin bowing out late in the process before Indiana forward George broke his leg in training and could now miss the NBA season.

Instead, James Harden, Anthony Davis, Klay Thompson and Kenneth Faried, who along with dynamic guards Steph Curry and Kyrie Irving, were blended into a band of brothers by coach Mike Krzyzewski and his staff.

Krzyzewski, however, did not see it as an onerous task to customise and then build a team for the competition.

“There’s always a different team,” he said of USA Basketball’s strategic plan to pick from an enlarged roster for international competitions.

“We had a different team in Beijing. We had 12 different players in Istanbul, we had five guys from the Olympics and five from the world championships in London.

“Here we have four guys who have been at least on one of the teams and the rest are new. That’s just what’s going to happen in our program.”

UNSELFISH NATURE

Bereft of iconic scorers, the team had to share the ball with Harden, the top U.S. scorer with an average of 14.2 points, the 18th best in the competition.

Thompson averaged 12.7, Faried 12.4 and Davis 12.3, while the backcourt of Irving and Curry contributed 12.1 and 10.7, respectively, for a well balanced, unselfish team that also shared minutes to stay fresh and aggressive.

The U.S. still averaged more than 104 points in an unbeaten 9-0 run to gold, topping the team scoring by more than 21 points per game.

Krzyzewski said they needed to be team focused given how competitive their opposition was – pointing to Olympic silver medallists Spain, who boasted NBA players Pau and Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka and Ricky Rubio yet did not make the semi-finals – to illustrate the point.

“We know how good everyone is,” he said after the final.

“I don’t think any gap has been widened. I don’t think there’s a gap.

“Spain is a magnificent team and it just takes one bad day, so what we’re trying to do is make sure we don’t have bad days.”

TUMULTUOUS RUN-UP

The team could have experienced bad days given their tumultuous run-up to the tournament, which had observers questioning the commitment of U.S. players to the World Cup, while even NBA Commissioner Adam Silver acknowledged that to Americans, the Olympics were far more important.

“There’s no question that the Olympics has been historically a bigger event,” Silver told reporters before an exhibition game at Madison Square Garden before they left for Spain.

After the sickening injury to George, which led to Durant dropping out, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban railed about risks taken by NBA teams in supplying players for events where the proceeds are pocketed by international organizations.

Silver acknowledged the debate would be renewed at the next NBA owners’ meetings.

“I do anticipate that it’ll be a hot topic at the competition meeting and at the Board of Governors meeting, just because it always has been,” said Silver.

Silver said that while stakes were high for the league, so were the benefits to players and to growing the game globally.

Silver stressed it was a personal decision for players, who under the current agreement can choose to play so long as there is not an injury concern by his NBA team.

“They come out better young men as a result of having participated in these events,” asserted Silver.

(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)

Fire in Liberia school kills at least 27 children

Robie de Guzman   •   September 19, 2019

A fire at an Islamic school in Liberia has killed at least 27 children, police said on Wednesday (September 18).

The police spokesman Moses Carter said the blaze was caused by an electrical issue and the kids were learning the Koran when the fire broke out. He added that further investigations were ongoing.

Carter had originally said 30 children were killed before revising the death toll down to 27. Two survivors were taken to the hospital, he said.

The fire started late on Tuesday (September 17) in the suburbs of the capital Monrovia, President George Weah said in a tweet.

“My prayers go out to the families of the children that died last night in Paynesville City,” Weah said. “This is a tough time for the families of the victims and all of Liberia.”

It is common for buildings to collapse in blazes linked to faulty electrics in Liberia’s big cities, however, these are rarely deadly. (Reuters)

(Production: Soraya Ali)

India becomes latest country to ban sale of e-cigarettes

Robie de Guzman   •   September 19, 2019

India became the latest country after Brazil and Thailand to ban the sale of e-cigarettes in what could potentially be the biggest move against vaping globally over growing health concerns.

The ban, which also covers the production, import and advertising of e-cigarettes, cuts off a huge future market from e-cigarette makers at a time when the number of people smoking worldwide is declining.

“There has been a 77 percent increase in addiction of e-cigarettes among school-going or college-going young adults, teenagers, and children because nicotine addiction is quick and it is harmful as well,” Indian Secretary of Health and Family Welfare Preeti Sudan said.

India has 106 million smokers, second only to China.

The ban could also dash the expansion plans of companies such as Altria, backed Juul Labs, and Philip Morris International into the country.

“$150 billion opportunity, now that’s what is estimated, the nicotine market is going to be, why are we denying our farmers that, why are we denying our citizens a right to a less harmful product, these are questions that I would really like to ask the government,” Praveen Rikhy, Trade Representatives of endsin India said. (Reuters)

(Production: Soraya Ali)

Facebook unveils new Portal video chat, TV streaming devices

Robie de Guzman   •   September 19, 2019

Facebook Inc. unveiled new models of its Portal video chatting devices on Wednesday (September 18), making the company’s first foray into TV streaming hardware but offering a limited selection of subscription services.

The launch comes as Facebook is trying to pivot toward more private forms of communication, after years of slowing user growth, data-sharing scandals and calls for change to its hands-off approach to content moderation.

The company is already one of the biggest global players in private messaging, with its WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram apps used by 2.4 billion people each month.

It is keeping the focus of its new Portal line on video calling, adding the capability for WhatsApp calls along with improvements to a wide-angle camera that keeps users in focus as they move about a room.

Facebook is also expanding Portal sales into countries including the UK, France and Australia, while lowering prices to more closely compete with industry-leading smart speakers from Amazon and Google that sell for under $100.

Standard models of the Portal, which ship on Oct. 15, will come in $129 and $179 versions. Portal TV will cost $149 and hit the shelves on Nov. 5.

Facebook is hoping the social nature of its products will be their selling point, allowing users to watch shows together while interacting via video call on the same screen.

“I think that in a couple years’ time, if you have a smart streaming device that doesn’t have a camera allowing you to video call people, you’re not going to have a competitive product,” said vice president of AR/VR Andrew Bosworth. “I think this is the killer feature for a device like this.”

Bosworth also touted privacy protections like local processing of smart features on the devices, which means most user data will not be sent back to Facebook servers.

But Portal TV offers only a few music apps and has limited options for TV programming, meaning it could face a stiff challenge in attracting consumers used to content-rich rivals like Apple TV, Netflix and Roku.

At a demonstration in San Francisco on Tuesday, the only way to stream shows appeared to be via Facebook’s Watch app. Executives said Portal TV would have Amazon’s Prime Video app loaded by the time it is available.

The company declined to say whether it had approached other content providers like HBO, Hulu or Disney.

Facebook does not disclose how many Portals it has sold since the device’s launch late last year, but hardware accounts for a tiny slice of the company’s total sales.

The social media giant makes less than 2 percent of its revenue from non-advertising sources. (Reuters)

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