Joakim Noah unlikely for EuroBasket, in doubt for Olympics

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Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah is reportedly unlikely to play at EuroBasket in September, a tournament the French national team director has said is mandatory for players who want to make the French Olympic team.

Noah, 30, is averaging 7.9 points and 10.1 rebounds per game this season, following offseason arthroscopic knee surgery.

“The French team is a great experience, but it has never been my priority,” Noah told L’Equipe, according to The Associated Press.

Noah played at 2011 EuroBasket, helping France qualify for the 2012 Olympics, its first Olympic berth since 2000, when it won silver. But Noah missed the 2012 Olympics due to an ankle injury and did not play in 2013 EuroBasket or the 2014 FIBA World Cup.

The top two nations at EuroBasket will earn trips to the Rio Olympics. Spain and co-host France are favorites. If France fails to qualify through EuroBasket, it could still make the Olympics through a last-chance qualifying tournament in 2016.

San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker, who led France in scoring at the 2012 Olympics, reportedly plans to help qualify France for the 2016 Olympics at EuroBasket in September.

The San Antonio Spurs guard would be 34 come the Rio Games. He led France with 15.7 points per game to a deceiving quarterfinal exit at the 2012 Olympics.

France could have easily been the third best team in London. Its only losses were to the gold and silver medalists, the U.S. and Spain.

In 2013, Parker was MVP as France won EuroBasket. Parker sat out the 2014 FIBA World Cup to rest, and France won bronze without him and Noah.

Parker could be the veteran leader on a potential 2016 France team with Portland Trail Blazers swingman Nicolas Batum, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert and Washington Wizards power forward Kevin Seraphin perhaps taking on bigger roles.

Video: Usain Bolt calls out Tony Parker, swishes unbelievable basketball shots

Teri McKeever fired by Cal as women’s swimming coach after investigation

Teri McKeever
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Teri McKeever, the first woman to serve as a U.S. Olympic swimming head coach, was fired by the University of California at Berkeley after an investigation into alleged verbal and emotional abuse of swimmers that she denied.

McKeever was put on paid administrative leave from her job as head women’s swimming coach in May after an Orange County Register report that 20 current or former Cal swimmers said McKeever verbally and emotionally bullied her swimmers.

Cal athletics director Jim Knowlton wrote in a letter to the Cal team and staff that a resulting independent law firm report detailed “verbally abusive conduct that is antithetical to our most important values.”

“I strongly believe this is in the best interests of our student-athletes, our swimming program and Cal Athletics as a whole,” Knowlton said of McKeever’s firing in a press release. “The report details numerous violations of university policies that prohibit race, national origin and disability discrimination.”

The Orange County Register first published what it says is the full independent report here.

“I deny and unequivocally refute all conclusions that I abused or bullied any athlete and deny any suggestion I discriminated against any athlete on the basis of race, disability or sexual orientation,” McKeever said in a statement Tuesday confirming her firing and expressing disappointment in how the investigation was conducted. “While I am disappointed in the way my CAL Career will conclude, I wish to thank and celebrate the many student-athletes and staff that made my time in Berkeley a true blessing and gift.”

McKeever’s lawyer wrote that McKeever “will be filing suit to expose the manner in which gender has affected not only the evaluation of her coaching but harmed and continues to harm both female and male athletes.”

McKeever led Cal women’s swimming and diving for nearly 30 years, winning four NCAA team titles and coaching Olympic champions including Missy FranklinNatalie Coughlin and Dana Vollmer.

In 2004, she became the first woman to be on a U.S. Olympic swim team coaching staff, as an assistant. In 2012, she became the first woman to be head coach of a U.S. Olympic swim team. She was an assistant again for the Tokyo Games.

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Diana Taurasi returns to U.S. national basketball team

Diana Taurasi
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Diana Taurasi is set to return to the U.S. national basketball team next week for the first time since the Tokyo Olympics, signaling a possible bid for a record-breaking sixth Olympic appearance in 2024 at age 42.

Taurasi is on the 15-player roster for next week’s training camp in Minnesota announced Tuesday.

Brittney Griner is not on the list but is expected to return to competitive basketball later this year with her WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury (also Taurasi’s longtime team, though she is currently a free agent), after being detained in Russia for 10 months in 2022.

Taurasi said as far back as the 2016 Rio Games that her Olympic career was likely over, but returned to the national team after Dawn Staley succeeded Geno Auriemma as head coach in 2017.

In Tokyo, Taurasi and longtime backcourt partner Sue Bird became the first basketball players to win five Olympic gold medals. Bird has since retired.

After beating Japan in the final, Taurasi said “see you in Paris,” smiling, as she left an NBC interview. That’s now looking less like a joke and more like a prediction.

Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve succeeded Staley as head coach last year. In early fall, she guided the U.S. to arguably the best FIBA World Cup performance ever, despite not having stalwarts Bird, Griner, Tina Charles and Sylvia Fowles.

Taurasi was not in contention for the team after suffering a WNBA season-ending quad injury in the summer. Taurasi, who is 38-0 in Olympic games and started every game at the last four Olympics, wasn’t on a U.S. team for an Olympics or worlds for the first time since 2002.

Next year, Taurasi can become the oldest Olympic basketball player in history and the first to play in six Games, according to Olympedia.org. Spain’s Rudy Fernandez could also play in a sixth Olympics in 2024.

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