You can’t blame US Olympic men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski if he’s rooting against the Heat in the NBA playoffs.
An Indiana victory will free up LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh to join newly sprung Blake Griffin and Chris Paul of the Clippers.
Also still playing are Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden of the Thunder, Kobe Bryant of the Lakers, and Andre Iguodala of the 76ers.
After the league’s truncated, cram-jammed season, Krzyzewski would love for his 18 candidates to have as much gas in their tanks as possible before camp starts in Las Vegas July 5 and the squad is named two days later.
Already out of commission are four original candidates - Derrick Rose, Chauncey Billups, Dwight Howard, and LaMarcus Aldridge.
The Olympians will be scrimmaging against a select team including Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving, the Rookie of the Year, and New York’s Jeremy Lin . . .
Drug tests from 2004 in final lap
Hold those winning tickets from the 2004 Olympics for a bit longer.
With the eight-year window to catch drug cheats from those Games closing Aug. 29, the International Olympic Committee will be re-testing samples this summer to see if recent technology can nab athletes who were able to beat the system back then.
President Jacques Rogge said that while he doesn’t expect a flood of positive cases, “one can never be fully sure.’’
The Athens Games set a record for positives with 20 (not counting horses), nearly double the previous high from Los Angeles in 1984. While there were only a dozen non-equine positives in Beijing, five came later when further testing found that those athletes, including track-and-field gold medalist Rashid Ramzi, had taken CERA, the next-generation blood-booster to banned EPO.
The five-way race to host the 2020 Summer Olympics will be narrowed Wednesday when the IOC’s executive panel decides on its short list. Madrid and Tokyo, which finished second and third in the 2016 chase that went to Rio de Janeiro, are the front runners in a group that also includes Doha (Qatar) and Baku (Azerbaijan), which didn’t make the cut last time, and Istanbul. The IOC will choose the winner a year from September in Buenos Aires . . . After jumping off to their best start (6-1) at the world championships since 1939, the United States men’s ice hockey team ended up seventh after a shocking quarterfinal loss to host Finland, which the Yanks had bashed, 5-0, in the prelims. “Unlucky for us the way it ended here,’’ observed goalie Jimmy Howard, whose teammates were hoping for their first medal since 2004 but fell to the Finns, 3-2, with nine seconds to play. The Russians, who claimed their third title in five years, dominated the tournament, becoming the first team since their 1989 Soviet predecessors to win every game in regulation. “We are the Big Red Machine just now,’’ declared defenseman Nikolai Kulemin after his mates had crushed Slovakia, 6-2, in the final. It still was the best showing in a decade for the Slovaks, who got both goals from Bruins captain Zdeno Chara.
Esparza’s ticket is punched
With their placements at the world championships in China, US flyweight Marlen Esparza and 17-year-old middleweight Claressa Shields both earned tickets to the inaugural women’s boxing tournament in London. Lightweight Queen Underwood, the former world medalist, will join them if the IOC’s tripartite commission chooses her when it rounds out the field next month. The US males, meanwhile, went six for seven at the regional qualifier in Rio de Janeiro as lightweight Jose Ramirez, light welterweight Jamel Herring, middleweight Terrell Gausha, light heavy Marcus Browne, heavyweight Michael Hunter, and super heavy Dominic Breazale - all made it. It was redemption for Hunter, who didn’t qualify in 2008 after winning the trials, and bliss for Breazale, a former Northern Colorado quarterback who’s only been boxing for three years. “It’s like a dream,’’ said Breazale. “Pinch me, wake me up.’’ The men will have representatives in all but the light flyweight class in the Olympic tournament, more than any other country but Australia.
Is eight enough?
Last chance for London for half a dozen US boats comes at this week’s rowing qualifier in Lucerne, Switzerland. If the men’s eight, which won in Athens and was third in Bejing, doesn’t beat New Zealand and France, which it swamped in Sunday’s race for Tuesday’s lane assignments, it’ll miss the Games for the first time. Newton sculler Gevvie Stone needs to finish in the top three and both doubles, the men’s lightweight double, and four in the top two. Harvard sophomore Andrew Campbell is in the lightweight double and Weston native (and Crimson grad) Will Newell in the four. Next weekend sculler Ken Jurkowski, the pair of Charlie Cole-Glenn Ochal, and the lightweight double of Kristin Hedstrom of Concord and Julie Nichols will be in Lucerne for the second World Cup. If they finish in the top four, they’ll qualify for London. If not, they’ll have to go through trials again next month in New Jersey . . . All six members of the gold-medal team from last year’s world gymnastics championships, most notably all-around titlist Jordyn Wieber and Aly Raisman of Needham, plus Beijing all-around champion Nastia Liukin and teammates Chellsie Memmel and Bridget Sloan and former US victor Rebecca Bross will be competing at Saturday’s US Classic in Chicago, the final qualifier for next month’s domestic championships in St. Louis. Winchester native Alicia Sacramone, who’s still rounding into form after tearing an Achilles’ tendon before last year’s global meet, will skip the Classic but compete at the nationals.
Question for Felix
After beating all of Jamaica’s 100-meter medalists from Beijing at the recent Diamond League meet in Doha, will Allyson Felix go for the double in London? “The 200 is my priority,’’ says Felix, who won silver in 2004 and 2008. “I will run another event and [coach] Bobby [Kersee] will make the decision when we’re a little bit closer.’’ Felix, who earned golds in both the 4 by 100 and 4 by 400 at last year’s world championships, should be in the relay pool. “I’ve done the obligations that were necessary,’’ she says. “It’s really in their hands now.’’. . . The Ethiopians went for recent speed for their Olympic marathon squad selecting Ayele Abshero, Getu Feleke, and Dino Sefer for their men’s team and Tiki Gelana, Aselefech Mergia, and Mare Dibaba for the women’s. Passed over were Beijing bronze medalist Tsegaye Kebede, Rotterdam winner Yemane Tsegay (who’d run two 26-milers in four months), and Firehiwot Dado and Buzunesh Deba, who were 1-2 in New York last November.
Fighting through it
Who says judokas aren’t hardcore? Travis Stevens, who tore a hamstring in January and needs surgery on the big toe that he trashed in March, still will be fighting in Russia, the Czech Republic, and Brazil before he heads to London. “I need to compete,’’ says Stevens, who trains with Olympic teammate Kayla Harrison at coach Jimmy Pedro’s Wakefield dojo. “That’s more important than anything.’’ Stevens, who broke the bone and tore the top ligaments when his foot struck a matside metal chair, kept training for three weeks before he went out to Colorado Springs for a diagnosis. “I already have to have surgery, so whatever damage is done we’ll deal with it after,’’ Stevens says. “The Games are what’s important now.’’ . . . Hunter Kemper, who hadn’t competed since fracturing an elbow last October, earned a ticket to his fourth Games recently by finishing fifth at the ITU triathlon event in San Diego. Making it, too, was Cuban emigre Manuel Huerta, who was ninth. Odd man out was Beijing veteran and Sudbury native Jarrod Shoemaker. Laura Bennett earned another Olympic trip, joining previous qualifiers Sarah Groff of Hanover, N.H., and Gwen Jorgensen . . . It took a while, but the US men’s volleyball team, the defending Olympic champions, made it to London by beating Canada at the regional qualifier in Long Beach. The women, who were second in Beijing, got it done at last year’s World Cup . . . April Ross and Jen Kessy, who just missed making the Beijing beach volleyball team, grabbed a spot this time alongside two-time Olympic gold medalists Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor. Either Beijing veterans Sean Rosenthal and Jake Gibb or Nick Lucena and Matt Fuerbringer will join defending champions Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser on the men’s team.John Powers can be reached at email@example.com.