Can Team USA be better than 2008 champs?

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Can Team USA be better than 2008 champs?

From Comcast SportsNet
LAS VEGAS (AP) -- They lost Dwyane Wade but gained Kevin Durant. Dwight Howard's size has given way to Russell Westbrook's speed. The Americans know their men's Olympic basketball team will look much different than the one that captured gold four years ago in Beijing. Three of the most important players from that team were unable to return, but the carryovers keep talking about being better now than they were then. "I think it has the potential to be that if we learn to use our versatility. It's a more versatile team than 2008. Now does that translate into being better?" coach Mike Krzyzewski said Sunday. "Although we don't have the center, that team didn't have Durant or Westbrook. So it's a different team and we'll see if it becomes better, but it can be. It could be." In some ways, that's difficult to envision. Wade was the team's leading scorer, averaging 16 points in just over 18 minutes per game off the bench. Howard started at center and averaged 10.9 points while shooting 74.5 percent from the field. Chris Bosh, also out this summer, backed him up and shot even better, knocking down 24 of 31 shots (77.4 percent) and leading the team with 6.1 rebounds per game. How can any team make up for all that? "Well, we have some guys that can pick that up," LeBron James said. "I mean, D-Wade was our leading scorer, but we didn't have Kevin Durant on our team. We didn't have the activity of Tyson Chandler on our team as well and the athleticism at the point guard position." Westbrook is an offensive upgrade over Jason Kidd, the point guard not back from 08, and is seen by teammates as the player who could most easily fill Wade's role as the game-changer off the bench. As James sees it, Andre Iguodala is more athletic than Tayshaun Prince, and James Harden can do more things offensively than Michael Redd. Prince and Redd, along with Carlos Boozer, were reserves on the 2008 team but were not retained. Kidd retired from international competition after winning two gold medals. "If you match us up, we have so many great pieces that guys can just play to their strengths, and I think we can be better," James said. Having Durant is a start. The NBA's three-time scoring champion had the best tournament ever by an American player at the world basketball championship two years ago, scoring 22.8 points per game. But the biggest difference could be James, who was already a great player in 2008 but has grown into the best in the world by now. Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Deron Williams, the other young players from that team, have made similar leaps toward superstardom, and Kobe Bryant has held steady where he was. "First of all, you have to look at the guys who are with us from the 08 team. They were 21, 22 years old back in Beijing. They're now in the prime of their careers, so they're a lot bigger, stronger, better basketball players today," USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said. "Those players by themselves are much better and I look at the players we've added. We have much more depth, much more talent than we had in 08 when I look at this roster versus that roster, and I'm not looking to make comparisons, but when asked the question, I'll put this team up against anyone." Center remains the biggest question mark. Chandler was the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year and has become more of a weapon offensively in recent years, but he's still not quite Howard. Kevin Love and Blake Griffin will have to show they can handle the move to center as well as Bosh did. The Americans averaged 106.2 points in 2008 and smashed their opponents by nearly 30 per game. Nobody was close to them until the gold-medal game, when Spain was within four points with 2 minutes left before the U.S. pulled away to a 118-107 victory. Playing at that level again won't be easy. So no matter what the expectations are now, none of them matter until the games start in three weeks. "We didn't do nothing yet," Anthony said. "So until we go out there and we win the gold medal, then people are going to talk, going to speculate, but we'll see after we win the gold medal if we determine if we're a better team than 08."

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Allen is saying the Redskins want to keep Cousins but what is he doing?

Allen is saying the Redskins want to keep Cousins but what is he doing?

Redskins president Bruce Allen said that the organization doesn’t want to trade Kirk Cousins even though they don’t appear to want to do what it takes to keep him around in the long term.

Despite all the media buzz surrounding a potential Redskins trade of Cousins in 2017, Allen says that the team has firm plans to have Cousins behind center in Week 1.

“That’s why we franchised him,” Allen told CSN on Sunday at the NFL owners meetings in Arizona.

What about all the trade talk in the media?

"We haven't talked to anyone [about a trade]," he said.

So it sounds like you can take a Sharpie and put Cousins as the starting QB. Or maybe not.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 6.0

The period of time from around mid-February until the end of the draft is known around the league as the lying season. The words uttered by the people in Allen’s position are not always put out there in the interest of disseminating the truth. In fact, what is said by NFL executives and coaches is more often about subterfuge and trying to gain leverage than about painting an accurate picture.

The fact remains that trading Cousins could be the smart thing for the Redskins to do if they don’t believe they will be able to come to a long-term contract agreement with their quarterback. They would run a very real risk of losing him as a free agent in 2018 with the only compensation being a 2019 third-round compensatory draft pick.

According to Allen, the organization wants to get Cousins to sign a long-term contract.

“Our goal from the beginning was to sign him long term, July 15 is the league wide deadline to get that done so I’m hopeful and confident we’ll do it,” said Allen.

MORE REDSKINS: Need to Know: Year 3 huge for Preston Smith

It remains to be seen if the Redskins are going to put forth a contract offer that would make sense for the Cousins camp to consider. Cousins will make nearly $24 million fully guaranteed this year on the franchise tag and the Redskins would have to offer him about $28 million guaranteed on the transition tag to prevent him from becoming a free agent next year. Working off that, the Redskins’ offer needs to come up with around $52 million fully guaranteed in the first two years. In early March the team was reported to be offering around $20 million per year with unspecified guarantees. There is Grand Canyon of a gap between that offer and the reality of what it would take to get a deal done.

So the Redskins’ end game remains unclear. Allen says Cousins will be behind center in 2017 even though a trade might make more sense. The team president says he wants to get Cousins signed to a long-term deal but there hasn’t been a report of a contract offer that would even come close to getting that done.

The adage to keep in mind here is that you should not listen to what they say but watch what they do. Allen could be telling it like it is but the situation still bears watching.

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Morning tip: Pressure lightens for Wizards' starting 5 to be great every time

Morning tip: Pressure lightens for Wizards' starting 5 to be great every time

LOS ANGELES -- During their previous five-game road trip, the Wizards were able to pull out four heart-stopping victories with two of them comebacks in overtime. That was two weeks go, and they've begun this one by upsetting the Clevlend Cavaliers on their home floor.

What set up that 127-115 win Saturday was what took place Friday in the first game of a back-to-back. They routed the Brooklyn Nets 129-108 in a game in which they never were threatened. No starter played more than 24 minutes. That made it easier for the reerves to step in.

"We really locked in, did our job, got the guys some extra minutes rest and it paid off," coach Scott Brooks said. 

This is how elite teams are able to develop their benches heading into the postseason. The Wizards (45-28) didn't have thier leading bench scorer, Bojan Bogdanovic, vs. Cleveland because of lower back stiffness the following night but that was OK.

Second-year forward Kelly Oubre filled that void by shooting 7 of 8 for 16 points and a team-high seven rebounds. Jason Smith continued to show three-point range and an ability to switch onto perimeter players. His play gives Brooks options in the middle behind Marcin Gortat. He can go to Smith or starter Markieff Morris with his smaller lineups or Ian Mahinmi who is a traditional big.

They Wizards have been able to win with Gortat, Morris and even Otto Porter not producing the type of offense now that they posted before the All-Star break. More than any other team in the NBA, all starting five for the Wizards have posted more double-digit scoring games than any other in the NBA. Gortat has stuggled the most and has seen his minutes reduced significantly.

"You don’t need everybody to play at a high level offensively. They just have to play at a high level energy and commitment, focusing on doing the things to help the team win. It’s not about  minutes," Brooks said. "I keep telling all of our guys, 'If you want minutes, you just play well. You get extra minutes. And if you play we’ll you’re still going to get some sub time.'

"We have a good bench and we’re going to use it. Ian has done a great job. Jason has done a good job. It’s not what March has done. He hasn’t played well but our guys have stepped up and played well but he’s going to bounce back."

The Wizards scored 40 points in the first quarter in Cleveland. John Wall set the tone by pushing the tempo even when they didn't have numbers in transition and still got uncontested layups.

Tuesday, it's a game at the L.A. Lakers in the first game of a back-to-back. They should put them away early, too.