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Is Diana Taurasi the GOAT? Who is the best player today? Kara Lawson reflects on FIBA World Cup

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After the U.S. women’s basketball team again won the biggest tournament outside of the Olympics — the FIBA World Cup — 2008 Olympian and NBC Sports Washington Wizards TV analyst Kara Lawson discussed noteworthy topics within the U.S. team and the sport abroad with Tokyo 2020 in mind (questions and answers lightly edited for clarity) …

OlympicTalk: Overall impressions from worlds aside from more U.S. dominance?

Lawson: The turnover from 2016 in Rio to this year’s roster. Six players that helped the U.S. win gold [at the Olympics — Tamika Catchings (retired), Lindsay Whalen (retired), Seimone AugustusSylvia FowlesAngel McCoughtry and Maya Moore (all resting)] now turned over to six new players. They’re starting to integrate that next generation of players like A’ja Wilson, Jewell Loyd. Obviously Breanna Stewart was on the 2016 team, but was a young player then. She’s still young, but she’s asserted her dominance. You can see her becoming a focal point. There will probably be more tweaks [for Tokyo 2020]. I would anticipate seeing some of the familiar faces that we didn’t see in 2018. The U.S. is well positioned to bring home a seventh straight gold medal.

OlympicTalk: Who is the world’s best player?

Lawson: I would say probably Breanna Stewart [WNBA and FIBA World Cup MVP]. Also, the way Brittney Griner played inside. Also Diana Taurasi. To me those are the three players. You look at their performance in the World Cup. They’re able to change the game in different ways. Brittney Griner’s stats aren’t eye-popping, but what she was able to do was be the backstop back there and really solidify the U.S.’ defensive prowess, then offensively in the semis and finals. Stewart and her all-around game playing out of position for most of the tournament [at small forward]. Of course you had the experience of Taurasi, how she played in the semifinal, particularly out of halftime [when the U.S. led by just one point over Belgium] and the third quarter.

OlympicTalk: What happens with the starting lineup — in particular Stewart at the three — when Maya Moore returns and Elena Delle Donne isn’t coming off a knee injury?

Lawson: That’s going to be something the committee has to look at going forward. Stewart’s going to be on the floor. What position she is, it really doesn’t matter. But there are a lot of post-up players. With Delle Donne not fully healthy [at worlds] and how strong this team was, if she’s healthy that’s a whole new ballgame. There’s a lot of options, and they can bend their rotation any way they want to go. If Maya Moore’s back in the mix, that helps to upgrade this roster’s wing depth and obviously athleticism and shooting. There were definitely some flaws in the roster in terms of wing depth not a ton of athleticism at guard.

OlympicTalk: Is Diana Taurasi, now with seven global gold medals in addition to her club accolades and likely one final Olympics in 2020, the greatest player of all time? 

Lawson: She’s definitely in the GOAT conversation for sure with the likes of Cheryl MillerLisa LeslieTamika Catchings. At every level, she has achieved what those stars have or more. There is a winning component to a GOAT conversation. By the end her college career, she put herself in position to be talked about as one of the greatest college players ever [three NCAA titles at UConn]. In the WNBA, it took her four years to make the playoffs, but in her first year in the playoffs she won a championship. You look at all the international success, not just with the U.S. team but the EuroLeague, then playing at this level at this age [36], it’s incredible. I don’t know if you’re going to find a better résumé than what Diana Taurasi has to be the greatest of all time. In the top group of players, you can say this player or that player was a better player, and those are all reasonable arguments. What’s not reasonable is that Diana Taurasi would not be in the conversation.

OlympicTalk: It seemed like four years ago there was a question if a young point guard could supplant Sue Bird before Rio. She’s still the No. 1 point guard on this team at 37. Do you see anybody challenging her before Tokyo?

Lawson: If she’s healthy, I expect to see her in Tokyo with that wealth of experience she brings. With the U.S. enjoying as much depth as they do at these competitions, she’s not needed to play 40 minutes a night. I think [a young point guard] is still a question mark for the roster. I don’t think anybody’s solidified themselves as a point guard behind Sue quite yet. It’s still kind of murky, but there’s so much growth that happens year over year in the WNBA.

OlympicTalk: Is guard depth the biggest question for this team?

Lawson: Diana Taurasi played backup point guard in the medal rounds. Obviously she’s perfectly capable of filling that role. It’s something they can work around with all the talent that they have. The biggest question is you want to be sure and hope that Bird and Taurasi are healthy for Tokyo. Not that I’m questioning them, because they have great attention to detail, discipline and focus in taking care of their bodies, but you get into your late 30s and your health is a key all the time.

OlympicTalk: Who’s the silver-medal favorite right now?

Lawson: It’s pretty even. The group of favorites might depend on which European teams qualify [at global 2020 tournaments]. Australia, obviously, with Elizabeth Cambage, the team the U.S. played in the FIBA gold-medal game, that’s going to be a team to watch. France, which lost in the quarterfinals to Belgium, is a really good team. Belgium is up and coming. Spain has medaled in three straight global competitions.

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2019 Vuelta a Espana TV, live stream schedule

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The Vuelta a España, the cycling season’s third and final Grand Tour, airs live for every stage between NBC Sports and Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA the next three weeks.

NBC Sports Gold streams live, commercial-free coverage of all 21 stages via the “Cycling Pass.”

NBCSN and Olympic Channel will combine to air daily TV coverage of the Spanish Grand Tour.

Colombian Nairo Quintana headlines the field, eyeing his third Grand Tour title and his first since the 2016 Vuelta. Perhaps the most most accomplished rider is Movistar teammate and world road race champion Alejandro Valverde.

Steven Kruijswijk, who was third at the Tour de France, and Primož Roglič, who was third at the Giro d’Italia, are other podium contenders.

Tejay van Garderen is the most accomplished of the nine U.S. riders in the field, coming back from a crash that prematurely ended his Tour de France in July.

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MORE: Chris Froome: Crash was like ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ scene

Date Time (ET) Stage Platform
Sat., Aug. 24 12:35 p.m. Stage 1 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
4 p.m. Stage 1 Olympic Channel
Sun., Aug. 25 1 a.m. Stage 1 NBCSN
9 a.m. Stage 2 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 2 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Mon, Aug. 26 1 a.m. Stage 2 NBCSN
9 a.m. Stage 3 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 3 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Tues., Aug. 27 9 a.m. Stage 4 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 4 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Wed., Aug. 28 9 a.m. Stage 5 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 5 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Thurs., Aug. 29 9 a.m. Stage 6 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 6 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
12 p.m. Stage 6 NBCSN
Fri., Aug. 30 9 a.m. Stage 7 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 7 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Sat., Aug. 31 9 a.m. Stage 8 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 8 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Sun., Sept. 1 9 a.m. Stage 9 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 9 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Tues., Sept. 3 9 a.m. Stage 10 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 10 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Wed., Sept. 4 9 a.m. Stage 11 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 11 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Thurs., Sept. 5 9 a.m. Stage 12 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 12 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Fri., Sept. 6 9 a.m. Stage 13 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 13 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Sat., Sept. 7 9 a.m. Stage 14 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 14 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Sun., Sept. 8 6:35 a.m. Stage 15 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 15 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Mon., Sept. 9 1 a.m. Stage 15 Olympic Channel
7:05 a.m. Stage 16 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 16 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Wed., Sept. 11 9 a.m. Stage 17 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 17 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
12 p.m. Stage 17 NBCSN
Thurs., Sept. 12 6:05 a.m. Stage 18 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 18 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Fri., Sept. 13 9 a.m. Stage 19 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 19 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
12 p.m. Stage 19 NBCSN
Sat., Sept. 14 5:40 a.m. Stage 20 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
10 a.m. Stage 20 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
Sun., Sept. 15 10:45 a.m. Stage 21 (LIVE) NBC Sports Gold
1 p.m. Stage 21 (LIVE) Olympic Channel
3 p.m. Madrid Challenge – Women’s Race Olympic Channel
Mon., Sept. 16 1 a.m. Stage 21 NBCSN

Noah Lyles a must-see in Paris; Diamond League TV, live stream schedule

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The last time Noah Lyles raced a Diamond League 200m, he became the fourth-fastest man in history. His follow-up comes against a field of similar strength in Paris on Saturday

Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA airs live coverage from 2-4 p.m. ET. NBC Sports Gold streams live coverage starting at noon.

Lyles could look to improve on the 19.50 he ran in Lausanne on July 5, when he moved to No. 4 on the all-time list behind Usain BoltYohan Blake and Michael Johnson. There’s reason to believe he can, given the Swiss race was into a slight headwind.

And because most of the major players from Lausanne are back for Paris. That includes Turkey’s Ramil Guliyev, who won the 2017 World title while Lyles was out injured.

Two more notables — Olympic bronze medalist Christophe Lemaitre of France and Nigeria’s Divine Oduduru, the third-fastest man this year — are in Saturday’s field after missing the July event.

Lyles may also be looking at Paris as a lead-up to the two biggest international meets of the year — a Diamond League final in Brussels on Sept. 6 and the world championships in Doha three weeks later.

Here are the Paris entry lists. Here’s the schedule of events (all times Eastern):

12:02 p.m. — Men’s Shot Put
12:35 — Women’s Triple Jump
1:17 — Women’s Discus
1:40 — Women’s Pole Vault
2:03 — Men’s 400m Hurdles
2:09 — Men’s High Jump
2:14 — Men’s 800m
2:24 — Women’s 100m
2:32 — Men’s Triple Jump
2:35 — Men’s 1500m
2:48 — Women’s 400m
2:57 — Men’s 200m
3:06 — Women’s 800m
3:29 — Men’s 3000m Steeplechase
3:50 — Men’s 110m Hurdles

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s Pole Vault — 1:40 p.m. ET
All six women who have cleared 4.80 meters this season are here, topped by world leader and London Olympic champion Jenn Suhr. But Suhr hasn’t won a top-level meet outside the U.S. since 2012. Watch out for Rio Olympic and world champ Katerina Stefanidi, the Greek who beat Suhr in Birmingham, Great Britain, last Sunday. And Olympic and world silver medalist Sandi Morris at her first Diamond League in two months.

Women’s 100m — 2:24 p.m. ET
Olympic champ Elaine Thompson takes her No. 1 world ranking into her first Diamond League 100m in two and a half months. Thompson rebounded from a blemished 2018 to win June’s Jamaican Championships in 10.73 seconds, cementing herself as the world championships favorite. Three other women in this field have a personal best in the 10.8s, including 2018 U.S. champion Aleia HobbsTeahna Daniels, the surprise 2019 U.S. champ, is coming off a third-place, 11.24 finish in Birmingham against a largely unaccomplished field.

Men’s Triple Jump — 2:32 p.m. ET
Americans Christian Taylor and Will Claye go head-to-head for the 48th time in this event, according to Tilastopaja.org. Taylor, who owns five combined Olympic and world titles, has a 25-22 edge and hasn’t lost to his countryman on the Diamond League level in five years. But Claye, who owns five combined Olympic and world medals (but no gold), ranks No. 1 in the world this year with his personal-best 18.14-meter mark from June 29. The winner here is likely the favorite for worlds.

Men’s 200m — 2:57 p.m. ET
Lyles has never lost to anyone in this field in senior competition. In fact, only one man has beaten him in a 200m in the last three years, countryman Michael Norman, who is focusing on the 400m this summer. Last year, Lyles made a statement by breaking 19.8 in the 200m on four separate occasions, something only Usain Bolt had previously done. Lyles is at three sub-19.8s so far this season with at least three meets left.

Men’s 110m Hurdles — 3:50 p.m. ET
Grant Holloway
, the only man to break 13 seconds this year, makes his Diamond League debut after turning professional following his junior season at Florida. He takes on the second- and third-fastest men this year, including former NCAA rival Daniel Roberts, who upset Holloway at the USATF Outdoor Championships.

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