Grand Slam champions Osaka, Raducanu, Wozniacki and Kerber receive wild cards for Wimbledon

Britain’s Emma Raducanu in action during her women’s singles semi final match against Katie Boulter at the Nottingham Open — Nottingham Tennis Center, Nottingham, on Jun. 16, 2024. (Reuters)
Updated 19 June 2024
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Grand Slam champions Osaka, Raducanu, Wozniacki and Kerber receive wild cards for Wimbledon

The grass-court tournament starts on July 1
Osaka — a four-time major champion and former No. 1 player — and three-time Grand Slam winner Kerber returned from maternity leave at the start of this season

WIMBLEDON, England: Former Grand Slam champions Naomi Osaka, Caroline Wozniacki, Angelique Kerber and Emma Raducanu have all been awarded wild cards for Wimbledon.
The grass-court tournament starts on July 1.
Osaka — a four-time major champion and former No. 1 player — and three-time Grand Slam winner Kerber returned from maternity leave at the start of this season.
Currently ranked 113th, Osaka was the only player to take a set from top-ranked Iga Swiatek at the French Open and followed that up with a quarterfinal spot last week in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, a warm-up event for Wimbledon.
Former US Open champion Raducanu made her breakthrough at Wimbledon by advancing to the fourth round in 2021. She will be playing there for the first time in two years after undergoing wrist and ankle surgery in 2023.
Kerber won the 2018 Wimbledon title and was runner-up at the All England Club in 2016. She is also a former top-ranked player.
Wozniacki returned from maternity leave last August. She’s never got past the fourth round at Wimbledon, where she will be playing for the first time since 2019.
British players Francesca Jones, Heather Watson and Yuriko Miyazaki were also included in the initial list of invitations. One main draw wild card remains to be allocated. Seven British players have been invited to play in the men’s draw, including last year’s junior champion Henry Searle.


The Olympics are coming to the capital of fashion. Expect uniforms befitting a Paris runway

Updated 19 sec ago
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The Olympics are coming to the capital of fashion. Expect uniforms befitting a Paris runway

  • When it comes to high-end Olympic fashion — be it for festive opening ceremonies, or for competition — all runways lead to Paris
  • Stella Jean will be there, styling each of Haiti’s dozen or so athletes herself
  • Ralph Lauren says it will be fitting each athlete personally

PARIS: Sure, they call it the City of Light. But Paris is also the City of Fashion, one of most influential fashion capitals of the world for decades, no, centuries (remember Louis XIV?)

So it’s no surprise that fashion designers across the globe are busy getting their national team uniforms ready for their unique spotlight. When it comes to high-end Olympic fashion — be it for festive opening ceremonies, or for competition — all runways lead to Paris.

Stella Jean will be there, styling each of Haiti’s dozen or so athletes herself. Jean, an Italian-Haitian designer based in Rome, figures she has exactly two seconds, on opening ceremony night, to make an impression on the world — an impression that may reverberate for years. “For these athletes, it’s a victory just to be here,” says Jean, whose vivid, colorful design is intended to highlight the cultural vitality of the Caribbean nation.

On the other end of the size (and budget) spectrum is Ralph Lauren, who will outfit hundreds of athletes of the US team at opening and closing ceremonies, for the ninth time. Lauren, who’s presenting a casual look of blue jeans and blazers, is of course one of the world’s richest designers, along with Giorgio Armani, who has been designing Italy’s uniforms since 2012.

Countless other designers have gotten involved — including, this year, more young, “indie” labels eager to make a splash. It’s also a chance to emphasize qualities such as sustainability in fashion and adaptability, too, as in designs for the Paralympics.

“Designers and manufacturers now realize this can be a huge platform for them, for many things,” says Alison Brown, who co-hosts a podcast on all things Olympics, “Keep the Flame Alive.” For example: “Sustainability is a huge buzzword now for this whole Olympics,” she says.

And so is style — because, well, Paris.

“You always want to represent your country, and you want to represent the athletes. But it seems like this time, the pressure to do it well has been turned up a notch,” Brown says.

Some emerging details on various uniform designs:

Canada: A focus on inclusivity, adaptability

During the design process, the team from Lululemon, outfitting Canada’s athletes for the second time, says they listened carefully to the athletes, and how they felt in the clothes. “When you feel your best, you perform your best,” says Audrey Reilly, creative director for Team Canada at the athletic apparel company.

She recalls listening to Alison Levine, a Paralympian who uses a wheelchair, and learning the athlete had nothing suitable to train in — so she wore medical scrubs.

“I was shocked that a professional athlete had to do that,” Reilly said in an interview. So we said, “Let’s investigate.” One result was a “seated carpenter pant,” part of a collection intended to be inclusive and adaptable. Other features include special closures to facilitate putting on and taking off garments, and pockets at the knees so an athlete like Levine can access her phone when training.

The collection covers all aspects of Team Canada’s journey, from travel to the games, to opening and medal ceremonies, to training — everything except competition. To combat the expected searing Paris heat, Lululemon, which has a four-Games deal with the team, paid special attention to ventilation and wicking.

And for opening ceremonies, designers created what they call a “tapestry of pride.” Hand-drawn and engineered into the fabric, it includes 10 animals — nine representing the provinces of Canada and one representing France. “We wanted to evoke all of Canada, coast to coast and north to south,” Reilly says.

Haiti: “They know their bodies are a flag”

Stella Jean is used to designing beautiful clothes. But beauty for beauty’s sake was not a consideration in her designs for Haiti’s team. It was all about the message.

“This will be the first good news coming out of Haiti in at least the last three years,” she says, the athletes’ appearance a counter-message to news about political turmoil, poverty or natural disasters. “So, I felt the responsibility to say as much as I can about the country.”

For that, Jean is collaborating with Haitian artist Philippe Dodard, whose vibrant painting will be incorporated into the ceremonial uniforms — a brightly hued skirt for women and pants for men, paired with traditional items like a chambray shirt. The designs have been constructed from “leftover” fabric — sustainability, yes, but not because it is trendy, says Jean, but because in Haiti it’s both a tradition and a necessity.

Jean calls the Haitian athletes “ambassadors.”

“These ambassadors will be there, in Paris,” she says, “and they all know, even if they are very, very young, how important their presence is — and that it’s not just about performance. They know their bodies are a flag.”

USA: “Nothing says America like blue jeans”

For the last summer games in steamy Tokyo, Ralph Lauren outfitted athletes with something cool — literally — a technology that directed heat away through a fan device at the back of the neck.

For steamy Paris, he’s introducing another type of cool: good old American jeans.

“Nothing says America like blue jeans, especially when we’re in Paris,” said David Lauren, the label’s chief branding and innovation officer and the founder’s son, upon revealing the design in June.

For its ninth turn dressing Team USA for opening and closing ceremonies, Ralph Lauren says it will be fitting each athlete personally. For the opening ceremony they’ll be wearing tailored navy blazers with blue-and-white striped Oxford shirts — and those blue jeans.

For the closing ceremony, the team will wear white jeans with matching jackets in red, white and blue. Lauren called the closing ceremony looks “more graphic, more fun, a little more exciting.”

India: Mixing old and new

Indian designer Tarun Tahiliani is known for his ability to meld traditional elements with a modern sensibility. And that’s what he and his menswear brand Tasva has tried to do for his country’s Olympic team.

Tahiliani told GQ India that when he began doing research for India’s opening ceremony uniform, he noted a trend of countries incorporating their national flags into the design. So he began working on a design featuring the tricolor hues of saffron, white and green.

For men, Tahiliani began with a kurta, the typical Asian long and loose shirt. He paired that with a bundi, or traditional sleeveless jacket. He told the magazine he wears a bundi every day, inspired by his father, who was an admiral in the Indian navy.

After feedback from the Olympic committee, the designer moved away from a uniform-like look for women, opting for a sari, which he says “can flatter any body type, and that’s exactly what we want for our female athletes.”

All the designs incorporate embroidery of saffron and green. “The goal is to create outfits that empower our athletes to represent India with pride and confidence,” Tahiliani said.

Italy: A mix of elegance and tradition

Italian athletes will be elegantly attired in Emporio Armani uniforms, as they have for every Olympics since 2012.

The podium tracksuit is emblazoned with “W Italia,” shorthand for “Eviva Italia,” or, “Long live Italy.” The motto could extend to designer Giorgio Armani himself, who turned 90 on July 11.

“Seeking new solutions for the athlete’s kit, which must blend elegance with practicality, is always an exciting challenge for me,″ Armani said last year when the national kit was presented at the Spring-Summer 2024 runway show for the youthful and sporty Emporio Armani brand.

The athletes’ tracksuits are in Armani blue, which has long been the color of the designer’s daily uniform, either as a T-shirt or fine pullover.

Athletes will have no excuse for not knowing the national anthem: the beginning is printed inside the collar of the polo shirts, and the entire first verse is inside the jackets.

Britain: Four nations, not one

The 60-year old British clothing brand Ben Sherman, known for its menswear, is creating Britain’s Olympic uniforms for the third time, and this year wants to remind the world that Britain is four nations, not one.

Its design for the opening and closing ceremonies “represents the unity and diversity of the UK, reflecting the rich tapestry of our nation’s identity.” says the label’s creative director, Mark Williams.

Williams described in an email his new four-nation floral motif, featuring a rose, thistle, daffodil and shamrock, serving as “a nod to the unique identities and histories of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.”

Williams stresses the motif is not purely decorative, but meant to send a message of collaboration and unity. His floral motif appears is in colors of blue and red — on polo shirts, worn with a bomber jacket, and also on colorful socks, in a collaboration with the Happy Socks brand.

South Korea: Inspiration from a national symbol

South Korea’s athletes will sport uniforms inspired by the country’s national “taegeuk” circular symbol, which occupies the center of its flag. The red-and-blue circle connotes harmony between the negative cosmic forces of the blue portion and the positive cosmic forces of the red.

The motifs on the North Face-branded uniforms also include one of the four black trigrams (groups of bars) from the flag’s corners, according to Youngone Outdoor Co., an official partner of the country’s Olympic committee which produces and distributes North Face clothing in South Korea. The trigram being used symbolizes water.

A uniform for medal ceremonies features a jacket depicting the indigo blue waters off the country’s east coast in an ink-wash painting style, a red belt and black pants, Youngone says.

Team Korea’s uniform for opening and closing ceremonies was designed by Musinsa Standard, a private-label brand run by South Korean online fashion store Musinsa. The all-light blue uniform includes a blazer, its lining engraved with traditional white and blue porcelain designs, a traditional-style belt and slacks.


Pogacar closing in on third Tour de France title after dominant win in the Alps

Updated 20 July 2024
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Pogacar closing in on third Tour de France title after dominant win in the Alps

  • The Slovenian looks almost certain to reclaim the Tour crown from Vingegaard, the two-time defending champion from Denmark, and in doing so secure the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France double
  • Saturday’s 20th and penultimate stage stays in the southern Alps and features three hard category 1 ascents, the last taking the riders up Col de la Couillole

ISOLA 2000, French Alps:  As the finish line approached, Tadej Pogacar looked over his shoulder and saw an empty road.

Moments later, he was a giant step closer to clinching a third Tour de France title by winning another tough mountain stage on Friday. Pogacar pulled away from Jonas Vingegaard to be 5 minutes, 3 seconds ahead of his main rival with two days left.

“Now I have a good lead,” Pogacar said. “I will do the last two days of the Tour on the roads where I have trained my entire professional career.”

The Slovenian looks almost certain to reclaim the Tour crown from Vingegaard, the two-time defending champion from Denmark, and in doing so secure the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France double.

Behind a fading Vingegaard sits Tour debutant Remco Evenepoel of Belgium, who is 7:01 adrift in third place.

Pogacar attacked with about nine kilometers (six miles) left on the final climb of 16 kilometers (10 miles) to the Isola 2000 ski resort. Vingegaard could not follow as Pogacar chased after the Dane’s Jumbo Visma teammate, Matteo Jorgenson. The American rider was alone in front with Richard Carapaz and Simon Yates just behind him.

Carapaz and Yates were caught by Pogacar, leaving just Jorgenson ahead. He was overtaken with two kilometers left as the UAE Team Emirates leader soared to his fourth stage win this month — holding up four fingers to the fans — and 15th Tour stage victory of his career.

“As I approached the last two kilometers, I felt a little drained. I still caught Richard Carapaz and Simon Yates and I could catch up with Matteo Jorgenson,” Pogacar said. “When it was time to pass him, I pushed as hard as possible to overtake him with speed. He was very strong today, as were all the guys in the breakaway. Hats off to them.”

After four hours in the saddle, Pogacar raised both hands in the air as he crossed the line. Jorgensen was 21 seconds behind and Yates 40 seconds back in third. Carapaz was 1:11 back in fourth spot.

“I knew today’s last climb very well. With the team, we planned it well and we did exactly as we said,” Pogacar said. “Our race was 100 percent perfect.”

Evenepoel placed fifth ahead of a disconsolate Vingegaard, with both riders timed at 1:42 behind Pogacar.

Saturday’s 20th and penultimate stage stays in the southern Alps and features three hard category 1 ascents, the last taking the riders up Col de la Couillole.

The Tour ends on Sunday on the French Riviera with a time trail from Monaco to Nice, and not in Paris as it usually does because of the Olympic Games.

Friday’s high-altitude stage may have been Vingegaard’s last chance to take significant time back from Pogacar.

Two of Vingegaard’s Visma teammates — Jorgensen and Dutchman Wilko Kelderman — positioned themselves at the front of a small breakaway and set a strong pace in hot conditions.

The 145-kilometer (90-mile) trek featured two huge climbs known as “hors categorie” (beyond category).

The first came early in the stage, up Col de Vars, and the second just after halfway, to Cime de la Bonette, France’s highest road at an altitude of 2,802 meters.

Despite having two riders at the front, Vingegaard did not attack Pogacar.

After a long descent, there was another hard grind to Isola 2000. Vingegaard could not catch Pogacar and, instead, found himself under pressure from Evenepoel, who just beat him in a sprint to the line.

It was a day to forget for Vingegaard, and another one to savor for Pogacar.

“Reaching the score of 15 Tour stage victories is quite formidable,” he said.
 


Argentina apologizes to France in football-chant row

Updated 20 July 2024
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Argentina apologizes to France in football-chant row

BUENOS AIRES: Buenos Aires apologized to France after Argentina’s vice president called the European country “colonialist” and its people “hypocrites” in an argument over alleged racist chants by Argentine footballers.
President Javier Milei’s office said Friday it had sent a senior official to the French embassy to explain that Victoria Villarruel’s angry statement on social media was made in her personal capacity.
FIFA has announced an investigation into the chants sung by Argentina players, including Chelsea and Argentina midfielder Enzo Fernandez, 23, after they won the Copa America.
The chants were heard on a live video posted on social media by Fernandez from the team bus in the wake of the Copa victory over Colombia in Miami on Sunday.
The song targets France’s star striker Kylian Mbappe among others and includes racist and homophobic insults.
Fernandez has apologized, but Chelsea have launched an internal disciplinary procedure against him. The French Football Federation (FFF) has complained to FIFA.
On Wednesday, Villarruel expressed support for Fernandez on X, saying: “No colonialist country is going to intimidate us because of a stadium chant nor for speaking truths that they do not want to admit. Enough with feigned outrage, hypocrites.”
The diplomatic incident came just days before Milei is due to travel to Paris to attend the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.
“Diplomatic relations with France are intact,” presidential spokesman Manuel Adorni said Friday.
Argentina’s under secretary for sports, Julio Garro, was dismissed from his post this week after saying captain Lionel Messi and the Argentine Football Association should apologize for the chants.


Shane Lowry keeps calm and carries British Open lead at Troon

Updated 20 July 2024
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Shane Lowry keeps calm and carries British Open lead at Troon

  • Lowry had a two-shot lead over Justin Rose and Daniel Brown going into the weekend
  • Tiger Woods missed another cut, along with nine of the top 20 players in the world — including Rory McIlroy, Ludvig Aberg and Bryson DeChambeau

TROON, Scotland: Shane Lowry was a surprising model of calm amid all the calamity in the British Open on Friday.
Lowry was not immune from the endless punishment Royal Troon dished out on a day when Tiger Woods missed another cut, along with nine of the top 20 players in the world — including Rory McIlroy, Ludvig Aberg and Bryson DeChambeau.
He was close to losing his cool with a photographer who distracted him, a shot into the gorse bush, a beautiful provisional shot to the 11th green that didn’t count when his lost ball became found and a double bogey that wiped out his two-shot lead.
Lowry steadied himself with two birdies on the last three holes for a 2-under 69, leaving him in a familiar position as he chases that silver claret jug he first won at Royal Portrush five years ago. He had a two-shot lead over Justin Rose and Daniel Brown going into the weekend.
“I was in control of my ball, did all the right things for a lot of the round. Then when I got in a bit of trouble, I feel like I really finished the round well,” Lowry said. “I’m pretty happy with the day. To be leading this tournament after two days, it’s why you come here. It’s why we’re here.”
The shocker at Royal Troon — there were a lot of them Friday — was how many of the top players were leaving.
DeChambeau, the USOpen champion with top 10s in all the majors this year, managed only one birdie in a round of 75. McIlroy would have needed anything under par, and those hopes ended with a triple bogey 8 on his fourth hole. He shot 75.
“I’d much rather have a disappointing Sunday than going home on Friday,” said McIlroy, who was coming off a late collapse that cost him the US Open.
Woods had a 77 to miss the cut in his third straight major, this one by eight shots. His 36-hole score of 156 matched his highest as a pro.
Lowry was at 7-under 135, and only nine other players remained under par after two days of havoc-wreaking wind off the Irish Sea.
Brown, playing in his first major championship, held it together for a 72 that puts him in the final group on the weekend with Lowry. Rose wasn’t even sure he would be at Troon until he went through 36-hole qualifying at the start of the month. He went 29 holes before finally making a bogey, and then he finished strong for a 68.
Masters champion Scottie Scheffler found a pot bunker off the tee at the downwind 18th and made bogey, but otherwise was solid as ever for another 70. He was tied for fourth just five shots behind, along with Billy Horschel (68) and Dean Burmester (69).
“I know tomorrow is going to be a long day, but I’ve done it before,” Lowry said. “For me, it’s just about going out and playing my own game, shooting the best score I can. Try not to worry about what other people are doing and just trying to take care of your own personal stuff.”
It was best to keep blinders on at Royal Troon. There were some harrowing scenes.

McIlroy ended a torrid two days at Royal Troon on 11 over par. (Reuters)


Justin Thomas, who opened with a 68 to get himself in the mix, shot a 45 on the front nine and played his best golf from there to salvage a 78 and make sure he at least made the cut.
Robert MacIntire had an even tougher start. Scotland’s biggest star after winning his national Open last week, MacIntire was stuck in pot bunkers and high grass. He was 8 over for his round through four holes — four holes! — and then played 4 under the rest of the way for a remarkable 75 to make the cut.
The cut was at 6-over 148.
Aguri Iwasaki had them all beat. He took a 9 on consecutive holes and shot 52 on the back nine for a 91. One of those 9s was on the par-3 14th, where he took four shots out of two bunkers and once had to go backward toward the fairway.
McIlroy, who started with a 78, needed a good start and instead got a triple bogey. He barely moved the ball out of thick grass on the par-5 fourth. Once he got back to the fairway, he pulled another shot into the rough, chipped that into the bunker and ended the sad tale by missing a 4-foot putt.
“Once I made the 8 on the fourth hole that was it — 22 holes into the event and I’m thinking about where I’m going to go on vacation next week,” McIlroy said.
PGA champion Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay were in the group at 1-under 141.
Another shot back was Joaquin Niemann. He had another 71 despite taking a quintuple-bogey 8 on the par-3 eighth hole — the Postage Stamp — that measures a mere 123 yards. He was in three bunkers around the tiny green and three-putted when he finally got out of them. Niemann also made six birdies in a most remarkable round of level par.
So much chaos across the century-old links, and it looked for a brief moment like Lowry might take part. He was in the right rough, but he was distracted by a photographer and angry at himself for not backing off the shot that he tugged left toward a clump of gorse.
Figuring it would be lost in the prickly mess, Lowry hit a provisional for a lost ball onto the green, a terrific shot. One problem. Someone found the ball. It was no longer lost, so the provisional ball was not in play.
Lowry took a penalty drop from the bush, going back to find a place where he had a swing, put it short of the green, chipped on and salvaged a double bogey 6.
“To be honest, I was happy enough leaving there with a 6. It wasn’t a disaster. I was still leading the tournament,” Lowry said.
And now comes a big opportunity for Lowry to reclaim that claret jug. He’s not alone in the chase, especially with Troon’s ability to make anyone look silly. Scheffler has quietly avoided some of those moments.
“I’ve played two solid rounds and it put me five shots back, and I’ll continue to try to execute and just continue to try to hit good shots and hit good putts,” Scheffler said, making it all sound so simple on a day when nothing felt easy.


7 talking points from USA Basketball Showcase in Abu Dhabi

Updated 19 July 2024
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7 talking points from USA Basketball Showcase in Abu Dhabi

  • After wins over Australia and Serbia at Etihad Arena, Team USA have matches in London ahead of the Olympic Games in Paris

After a productive and jam-packed five days in Abu Dhabi, Team USA have moved on to London, where they will play two final exhibition matches —against South Sudan and Germany — ahead of their Olympic Games campaign starting on July 28.

There is a lot to unpack from the US’ victories over Australia and Serbia this week in the UAE capital.

Here are some of the main takeaways as the Americans head to Paris searching for a fifth consecutive Olympic Games gold medal.

Curry, James, Embiid likely starting trio

It is taking Joel Embiid some time to adjust to this American super team —and to international basketball in general — but US head coach Steve Kerr has made it clear the 2023 NBA MVP will be an integral part of his starting unit.

Despite Anthony Davis shining for the US so far and outperforming him, Kerr has started Embiid in all three exhibition games they have contested.

Making his Team USA debut this summer, Embiid has averaged 6.5 rebounds per game across the three friendlies he played (versus Canada, Australia and Serbia) and has combined for nine turnovers.

Kerr believes it is only a matter of time until the Sixers center hits his stride.

“He’s getting better and better every day,” said Kerr. “It usually takes big guys longer to get rhythm and flow. I love Joel. He’s a dominant player.”

The three constants in Kerr’s starting five so far throughout the team’s exhibition schedule have been LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Embiid, as the Golden State Warriors coach continues to tinker with his lineup for the remaining two spots.

“I like those three guys in the starting lineup. We’ve been looking at other guys around them and we obviously have a lot of great options, but I do like those three guys in the starting lineup,” said Kerr in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

 

 

For someone who is used to carrying the Warriors offense year-round, Curry did not make a huge impact in the first two games but caught fire against Serbia on Wednesday with 24 points in 21 minutes and going 6-9 from beyond the arc.

Curry explained after the Australia clash that making sure Embiid is well-utilized has been a main focus for the starters.

“He demands a lot of attention so you have to utilize that and get him in position,” said Curry.

“We still have to figure out our spacing around him to give him looks, whether he shoots and scores, whether he kicks it out. And then if he’s not in the post, we’re trying to figure out different looks, and the chemistry of that group.

“I think we got a little bit better and we’ve got more games to get even better with it and utilize the threat of everything he can do and everybody else out there.”

Embiid having ‘time of my life’

While things have yet to click for Embiid, the 30-year-old American-Cameroonian player has enjoyed every moment of this training camp so far.

“It’s been good. Obviously it’s new, so we’re still working on the chemistry, reading each other. Some of the turnovers that we had, most of them have been miscommunication,” he said on Wednesday.

“But it’s good, I’m having the time of my life, I don’t have to do anything. I’m happy just chilling, just hanging out, dealing with the little things, and then just play together and win.”

Curry on adjusting to the FIBA game

With the FIBA game known to be more physical and with a faster pace compared to the NBA, players have to make significant adjustments in order to excel in this format.

For Curry, who is making his first national team appearance in 10 years, this is not necessarily the main challenge.

“The biggest difference is from game to game, there’s just such drastic different styles from country to country, the way they play,” said the 36-year-old point guard.

“That’s the biggest adjustment. Physicality, the speed, all that, we can adjust to whatever but to focus on game plan and being disciplined on that front from game to game, that’s tough, because everybody plays so different.”

The US have Serbia, South Sudan and Puerto Rico in their pool at the Olympics, meaning they will face three teams boasting basketball schools from three different continents.

We have not seen US’ full potential yet

As Bam Adebayo and James both said after their win over Serbia, we have not seen the best from this squad just yet.

The Stars and Stripes beat a Nikola Jokic-led Serbia by a 26-point margin but are not reading too much into it ahead of their rematch in Olympic pool play next week.

“Not at all,” responded Adebayo when asked if the US’ performance against Serbia reflected the team’s potential.

“We still have work to do. We still got some turnovers to clean up, we still got some defensive schemes to clean up and we still have one guy that’s still working his way back.”

James echoed Adebayo’s sentiments: “We’ve still got so much room to improve but we want to continue to get better and not waste the opportunities. I felt like tonight we got better.”

Kerr is likely to continue with the hockey subs strategy, replacing all five starters with a second unit and alternating between both groups throughout the game.

“I think the identity of the team is our depth, the strength of the team is the depth. And so, if we can play in four-, five-minute bursts of just playing intense defense, hitting bodies, rebounding, being physical, then it makes sense to play that way,” said Kerr.

“We’ll see if we keep doing it but for now, it’s allowed groups to get together, AD (Anthony Davis) and Bam (Adebayo) for example, Steph and LeBron, kind of learn how to play together, having a better feel for each other. The strength of our team is just the depth and so if we have to play that way, we’ll play that way.”

KD still out, but making progress

Three-time Olympic gold medalist Kevin Durant is still nursing a calf strain and has yet to feature for this US squad but coach Kerr is hopeful the Phoenix Suns forward will be ready for Paris.

“Kevin’s been doing more the last couple of days and he’s trending in the right direction,” said Kerr on Wednesday.

As America’s all-time lead scorer at the Olympics, Durant brings a wealth of experience to this squad and will no doubt make an impact should he be ready to play.

Ant-Man made for the big stage

Anthony Edwards has evolved into one of the best players in the league this past season and the 22-year-old is bringing confidence and explosiveness to the team.

He has averaged 14.3 points per game during this preparation period for the Olympics and is delivering whether he is a starter or coming off the bench.

“I thought he took his experience in the World Cup last year and got much better and became one of the best players in the whole NBA last season,” said coach Kerr of Edwards.

“He still has things to improve on. I talk to him about it frequently, rebounding and defense, not letting anybody get behind him, keeping vision defensively.

“He’s so talented, he’s a great, great player. But the best players always get better. Every summer they keep working on new things. So I’m going to encourage Anthony to keep getting better.”

 

 

Another slam dunk from Abu Dhabi

The UAE capital continues to solidify its position as the hub for international basketball in the Middle East and has once again delivered a stellar event.

After hosting preseason games between the Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks in 2022, and the Dallas Mavericks and Minnesota Timberwolves in 2023, Abu Dhabi has also proven to be the perfect spot for national teams to hold training camps and prepare for big competitions.

Before last year’s FIBA World Cup, teams including the US, Greece and Germany trained in Abu Dhabi and played exhibition games. And the Americans returned this year with the same agenda ahead of the Olympics.

Etihad Arena was sold out for both US games this week and it will no doubt be at full capacity when reigning NBA champions the Boston Celtics and the Denver Nuggets come to Abu Dhabi for preseason games in October.

“We’ve had an incredible five days here. The hospitality in Abu Dhabi has been amazing, the people are wonderful. We just had a great trip and we really appreciate how welcomed we felt from everyone here,” said Kerr.

Embiid added: “It’s been amazing. I got here and called my wife and I told her it’s really beautiful here. I’ve been having the time of my life just meeting different people.

“I’m all about culture, me being African, learning about other people’s culture, that’s big for me. So being here, seeing how beautiful it is has been an amazing experience.”