Kevin Durant plans return to Team USA for 2016 Olympic Games (September 30, 2014)
Marc Stein [ Source: ESPN ]

Kevin Durant says he intends to return to Team USA for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil after withdrawing from national-team duty in August shortly before the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain. Ethan Miller/Getty Images

OKLAHOMA CITY -- While LeBron James is undecided, reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Kevin Durant told ESPN on Monday that he intends to return to Team USA for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.

Durant withdrew from national-team duty in August shortly before the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain.

"Hopefully I'll be there. It's whoever Mr. [Jerry] Colangelo and Coach K [Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski] pick," Durant said in‎ an interview on his 26th birthday scheduled to air later this week on SportsCenter. "I would love to have the chance to play in another Olympics."

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Greg Monroe of Detroit Pistons focused on upcoming season (September 30, 2014)
Associated Press [ Source: ESPN ]

NBA

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Greg Monroe had a clear message for Detroit Pistons fans Monday.

"This doesn't mean I'm leaving," Monroe said at the team's media day.

What he didn't say, though, was that he was staying.

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Byron Scott -- Los Angeles Lakers as underdogs adds 'fuel to fire' (September 30, 2014)
Arash Markazi [ Source: ESPN ]

One of the reasons Byron Scott believes the Lakers will be better than most think is the return of Kobe Bryant, who was limited to six games last season. AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- No one expects much from the Los Angeles Lakers this season and that's just fine with the Lakers heading into the start of training camp on Tuesday.

"I love the fact that pretty much everyone has written us off," Lakers coach Byron Scott said. "That's obviously fuel to the fire. Obviously I'm going to use that to my ability to talk to our players about how people are viewing us as a basketball team. We're going to go out there tomorrow and get a lot of work in. I love the fact that everybody is doubting us."

One of the main reasons Scott believes the Lakers will be better than most think is the return of Kobe Bryant, who played in only six games while recovering from a torn Achilles tendon and then suffered a fracture in his left knee when he returned.

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A "missing child alert" was issued Monday by former Pacers star Reggie Miller and others for the TNT analyst's niece, who sparked a police search after she went missing from her home, the Orange County Sheriff's Department said.

Nikki Miller, 16, is believed to have intentionally run away from her Yorba Linda, California, home, prompting detectives to decide against treating the case as an abduction, Lt. John Roche told the Los Angeles Times on Monday.

Miller is about 6 feet tall, weighs 150 pounds and has dark hair and brown eyes, police said.

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NBA

CHICAGO -- Joakim Noah is hopeful that his body is ready to withstand the grind of an 82 game season, but as he continues rehabbing from arthroscopic left knee surgery from early May, the All-Star isn't sure exactly how that knee will respond heading into the Chicago Bulls' first practice of the 2014-15 season on Tuesday.

"Obviously this is the first time I've ever had surgery on my knee so I'm hoping there's no limitations," Noah said during Monday's media day at the Advocate Center. "But I just have to be a little bit more cautious. But it's exciting, it's really exciting. I know that this is a long journey we're about to embark (on) and I just want to be as ready as possible."

Noah put together the best season of his professional career last year earning first the Defensive Player of the Year award along with first-team All-NBA honors. But Noah limped badly at the end of the year during the Bulls' first round loss to the Washington Wizards -- admitting Monday that his knee was hurting more than he led on during the playoffs.

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Time for Blake Griffin to lead the Clippers (September 30, 2014)
J.A. Adande [ Source: ESPN ]

NBA

PLAYA VISTA, Calif. -- If the can't-get-past-the-second-round label affixed to Chris Paul is not unfair but "the truth," as Paul himself acknowledged, then it's equally truthful to say it's up to Blake Griffin to take the Los Angeles Clippers deeper into the playoffs.

While Paul once again lived up to the biggest knock against him, Griffin just shed some of the nagging critiques of his game.

The all-he-does-is-dunk tag is long gone for Griffin, and you can't just foul him and consider it a defensive stop anymore. He expanded his shooting comfort zone last season, making an additional 59 midrange jump shots from the previous season, according to data on vorped.com. He shot a career-high 72 percent from the free throw line. He has gone from a guy who can get 20 points easily to a guy who can get 30 regularly. He scored 30-plus points 16 times last season, after hitting that mark only three times in 2012-13.

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Derrick Rose of Chicago Bulls confident NBA title within grasp (September 30, 2014)
Nick Friedell [ Source: ESPN ]

Derrick Rose's title proclamation came on a day in which confidence permeated the Advocate Center, the Bulls' sparkling new downtown training facility. Jerry Lai/USA TODAY Sports

CHICAGO -- Derrick Rose's confidence remains high despite the fact the former MVP has played just 10 games in the last two years because of two major knee injuries.

He made that clear during Chicago Bulls' media day on Monday when he reaffirmed his belief that a championship is in his future.

"I try my hardest to stay away from (the predictions)," Rose said. "But we know we have an opportunity ahead of us. It may not be this year, it may not be the next year or whatever, but I know that we have one (in us). I know I'm going to win a championship soon so I'm not worried about that."

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Russell Westbrook is the only player other than LeBron James to average at least 20.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists over the past four seasons. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Thunder coach Scott Brooks believes that Russell Westbrook is the "best point guard in basketball" -- and Westbrook couldn't argue with his coach's assessment Monday.

Brooks almost seemed eager to bestow the label on his player as the coach addressed reporters at the team's media day.

"I believe Russell is the best point guard in basketball," Brooks said, unprompted. "That's happened over time. I've seen Russell every practice, every game, every film session, and he's really put a lot of time into being the best point guard in basketball."

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NBA

PLAYA VISTA, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Clippers officially added Sam Cassell, Lawrence Frank and Mike Woodson as assistant coaches, the team announced Monday.

The trio joins current assistant coaches Armond Hill and Brendan O'Connor as well as assistant player skills coaches JP Clark and Dave Severns on Doc Rivers' bench.

"We have an impressive and experienced group of coaches who are excited to get to work," Rivers said. "Mike and Lawrence have enjoyed tremendous success as head coaches and Sam is someone who I coached as a player and respected as an assistant with the Wizards. I am excited to continue to work with the entire staff as we prepare for the season."

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Clippers look calm, cool, collected (September 30, 2014)
Kevin Arnovitz [ Source: ESPN ]

Though last season ended in disarray, everything now appears to be in order for the L.A. Clippers. Jeff Gross/Getty Images

PLAYA VISTA, Calif. -- A year ago at media day, Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers set the franchise's preseason talking points with the polish and discipline of an electoral candidate.

From that point forward, young center DeAndre Jordan would join Chris Paul and Blake Griffin as a member of the team's big three. Griffin would have the full confidence of his coach to assume his place as the best power/finesse big man in the game. The team would implement a brand of defense that won a championship in Boston and fashioned new trends on whiteboards across the NBA.

Above all, the team would instill a new kind of process whereby players would take their work seriously but nobody would sweat the small stuff. Sounds basic, but for Griffin and Jordan in particular, it was a new mindset.

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