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James Harden, Damian Lillard lead USA Basketball candidates for FIBA World Cup roster

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James HardenDamian Lillard and Anthony Davis headline 20 candidates for USA Basketball’s 12-man FIBA World Cup roster.

The players will attend an Aug. 5-9 camp in Las Vegas. The final roster will be named Aug. 17 for September’s FIBA World Cup in China.

It’s the first opportunity for nations to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. The U.S. will do so if it is one of the top two teams from the Americas at worlds.

The 20 players going to camp:

Harrison Barnes, Sacramento Kings*
Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans**
Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
Eric Gordon, Houston Rockets
James Harden, Houston Rockets**
Tobias Harris, Philadelphia 76ers
Kyle Kuzma, Los Angeles Lakers
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Brook Lopez, Milwaukee Bucks
Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers**
Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors*
C.J. McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers
Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks
Paul Millsap, Denver Nuggets
Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz
Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
P.J. Tucker, Houston Rockets
Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers
Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets

*2016 Olympian
**2012 Olympian

Harden passed on the Rio Olympics. As did Lillard, who was a late addition to the Rio Olympic finalists list in February 2016, then withdrew from consideration four months later to rest. Davis missed the Games due to knee and shoulder injuries.

The U.S. is loaded with Olympic guard options, including every player from the All-NBA teams: Harden, Lillard, Walker, Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving and Russell Westbrook. Not so much at center. The three All-NBA selections were Serbian Nikola Jokic, Cameroon’s Joel Embiid and France’s Rudy Gobert.

No players from the Golden State Warriors are on the World Cup finalist list, but that’s not a shock. No players from the NBA Finals were finalists for the the last World Cup roster in 2014.

There is typically a lot of turnover on the U.S. roster from the World Cup to the Olympics. In the last cycle, four players carried over — DeMarcus CousinsDeMar DeRozanKlay Thompson and Irving.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will make his U.S. head coaching debut at the World Cup, succeeding Mike Krzyzewski, who led the Americans to Olympic titles in 2008, 2012 and 2016.

LeBron James, who skipped the Rio Olympics to rest after winning an NBA title, has said Popovich being in charge “factors a lot” in whether he will be available for Tokyo 2020. James called Popovich “a great mastermind of the game of basketball” in January 2017. James’ lone FIBA Worlds appearance was in 2006.

Curry, who has never played in the Olympics, wasn’t a finalist in 2012 and withdrew from consideration before the 2016 team was named.

MORE: How U.S. Olympic 3×3 teams will be chosen

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Richard Callaghan, figure skating coach, banned for life

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Richard Callaghan, a figure skating coach best known for helping Tara Lipinski earn 1998 Olympic gold, was ruled permanently ineligible for violations including sexual misconduct involving a minor.

Callaghan can still appeal the sexual misconduct violation, according to the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a watchdog for U.S. Olympic sports organizations that updated Callaghan’s status Wednesday.

He was first suspended in March 2018 pending an investigation into allegations first made against him more than 20 years ago.

Earlier this month, another former skater, Adam Schmidt, said in a lawsuit that he was sexually molested as a teenager by Callaghan starting in 1999.

Callaghan was previously accused of sexual misconduct in April 1999 by Craig Maurizi, one of his former students and later an assistant to him in San Diego and Detroit.

Maurizi told The New York Times that Callaghan had engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with him beginning when he was 15 years old. The alleged misconduct had begun nearly 20 years earlier. Callaghan denied the allegations.

In March 2018, Callaghan told ABC News: “That’s 19 or 20 years ago. I have nothing to say.”

Maurizi’s previous grievance against Callaghan with the U.S. Figure Skating Association, the precursor to U.S. Figure Skating, was dismissed on procedural grounds.

He was Callaghan’s assistant at the Detroit Skating Club until they split after Lipinski turned pro, left Callaghan and decided to train with Maurizi.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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MORE: Eight matchups to watch in figure skating Grand Prix Series

Pita Taufatofua, Tonga flag bearer, finishes last in kayak debut

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Pita Taufatofua, the Tonga Olympic flag bearer who went viral in Rio and PyeongChang, began his quest to make a third straight Olympics in a third different sport with a last-place finish in his opening-round heat at the world sprint kayak championships in Hungary on Wednesday.

The start of the heat appeared delayed as Taufatofua struggled to get his kayak into position in the water. He was left at the start as the other six kayakers raced out and finished between 33 and 40 seconds. Taufatofua took 58.19 seconds, the slowest of 53 finishers among seven total heats.

“Well that was slightly better than the first time I competed in Taekwondo or skiing,” was tweeted from Taufatofua’s account. “Would have liked to start facing the right way but that’s life.”

Taufatofua, 35, was the oldest athlete in the heat by nearly a decade. He is also entered in doubles races with Tonga canoe federation president Malakai Ahokava with heats Thursday and Friday.

Taufatofua hopes to compete at the Tokyo Olympics in taekwondo, where he competed in Rio, and in sprint kayak.

But he hasn’t competed in taekwondo in three years and just started training kayak this spring. At worlds, Taufatofua told the BBC he is still having trouble staying afloat in the water.

Taufatofua said in announcing the new sport in April that it would be “largely impossible” to qualify for Tokyo. He could be the first athlete to compete in a different sport in three straight Olympics (Summer and Winter) since the Winter Games began in 1924, according to the OlyMADMen.

“It’s certainly going to be the greatest challenge that I’ve ever had to embark on,” he said then.

Taufatofua’s results at worlds this week has little bearing on his Olympic qualifying prospects. Rather, he just needed to compete in Hungary to stay eligible for the Olympics.

The key will be an Oceania qualifying event early next year, where one Olympic bid is available. He will likely have to beat the best kayakers from Australia and New Zealand to grab it. Australian Stephen Bird placed eighth at the Rio Olympics and 11th at the 2018 World Championships.

If Taufatofua fails, he could receive a special tripartite invitation sometimes offered to smaller nations like Tonga.

Taufatofua became a social-media celebrity by marching into the Rio Olympic Opening Ceremony shirtless and oiled up. He then lost in the first round via mercy rule in his taekwondo tournament.

He made a quixotic bid for the PyeongChang Winter Games in cross-country skiing — and accomplished the feat, barely, in a sport that has lenient qualifying requirements for nations with a lack of Winter Games depth.

Taufatofua finished 114th out of 116 in his 15km Olympic cross-country skiing race, nearly 23 minutes behind the winner.

If Taufatofua is able to carry the Tongan flag at a third Opening Ceremony, he will definitely be shirtless again, in a similar outfit to what he wore in Rio and PyeongChang, he said last year.

MORE: Five-time Olympic kayak medalist banned four years

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